The so-called “living” wage

I’ve seen this for a long time, and it’s annoyed me for a long time, so I figured I would finally respond to it. Thanks to Billy, aka Amidst the Noise, for indirectly giving me the idea for this blog post.

Here, Ana Kasparian of TYT uses the phrase “living wage” in reference to McDonalds and Walmart paying their employees minimum wage. This is a bit of a tangential away from the main point of the video, in which Kasparian and Jimmy Dore discuss a lawsuit against Carrols Corporation, Burger King’s largest franchisee, for sexual harassment.

Kasparian states  (3:05)

For instance, if you just look at McDonalds alone, the amount of profit they made last year and how they still continue to pay their workers minimum wage. I mean, it’s the same situation that you see with Walmart as well, right? And then basically the government subsidizes them because they have no choice but to help these individuals with healthcare or public assistance, so, um,  there needs to be more regulation into these types of businesses so they don’t pay this so-called “minimum wage”. Minimum wage is not a living wage. [my emphasis]

What is a living wage? The obvious answer is a wage that allows a person to live. But how much money does a person need to really just survive?

Well, with perhaps under 5 dollars you could go buy some bread and peanut butter from the grocery store. Another option would be to buy sandwiches from the very fast food chains Kasparian is criticizing for not paying their employees high enough wages. So food could be managed for under 10 dollars a day. With some water and a make-shift shelter in the woods, you could definitely get by for not a whole lot more.

Now, considering the federal minimum wage is $7.25/hr, it would not take many hours at all to accomplish this amount of money. But aren’t progressives implying that the living wage is much higher than the minimum wage?

What they’re really talking about, is not a living wage, but a living-well wage, or a living-decently or ok one. Of course, these alternative terms don’t have the same emotional appeal that the term “living wage” does, and so it’s doubtful they will be adopted.

What progressives actually do, when they throw out terms like this, is end the argument without having a proper argument at all. I don’t think they do it on purpose. I don’t believe progressives literally think in their heads “Ha! Got those damn conservatives/libertarians again! I’ve avoided talking about the real issue, the fact that we all want people to have higher real wages and the proper method of achieving that!” But it is a bit of a “Ha! People arguing against a higher minimum wage don’t care about the poor!” moment. And that’s how they make their opponents look to anyone listening to them.

If we want to move forward and have a real discussion about how to improve everyone’s lot, we have to abandon these nonsense phrases used solely for emotional appeal.


Posted on January 12, 2013, in Economics, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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