It has been a quite some time since I was directly affected by minimum wage. The last time I had a minimum wage job, or one based on minimum wage, was when I worked in the computer labs of the University of Toledo. It helped pay the room, board and tuition, but was far from enough to pay all of it. If I hadn’t saved nearly every penny from jobs I held since I was 14 years old mowing lawn and eventually working at a garden center, McDonalds then a local grocery store, I wouldn’t have been able to afford even the relatively cheap tuition at a state university. I don’t know how anyone could afford to pay even half what I did now that most things are more expensive and minimum wage isn’t much more than was in the early 90′s.
So there is no question that minimum wage is too little to make a living from in most areas of the country. And in some areas you would have a hard time finding a cardboard box to live in a minimum wages. And while everyone seems to aggree that it needs to be raised, no one can agree how, and business argue that they need employees at substandard wages (ensuring a high turnover rate and guarenteeing continuous training expenses and poor customer service). I can understand some worry about large jumps affecting their bottom line (increasing $5 to $7, a 40% increase), but does it really need to be so complex as a congressional action and large increases every 9 to 10 years. Don’t most non-minimum wage jobs get a raise every year, even if it’s only a cost of living increase?
Many contractors that work with the covernment (with the Ohio Department of Transportation for example) must pay prevaling rates. These prevailing rates are maintained by the state for dozens of different jobs, with varying rates by county that are updated frequently (montly I think). So why can’t minimum wage be maintained similarly? The mechanism is already in place. Just correct the minimum wage, adjust it regionally by state and county, then update it for the rate of inflation yearly thereafter (also kept the the US government montly) And the yearly increase may also need to reflect the cost of living in each county to keep pace with local development or deflation.
But that would be entirely too simple, and would probably be a permanent fix (something congress really hates). It would mean people would get a wage they could survive on where they lived, and possibly even live in the community they work in (impossible in many areas of the country). It doesn’t mean anyone is going to get rich (except perhaps the minimum wage poster venders who would now have an entire poster for minimum wages to cover all 88 counties of ohio), but it means people would earn enough to get by. It wouldn’t be enough to prosper, but just enough to put a roof over their head, put food on the table, clean clothes to wear and bus fare to get to work, just the bare minimum. Enough to make it worthwile getting up in the morning to go to work, the bare minimum. Isn’t that what minimum wage should be?