How is it possible for a minimum wage to be true social justice? Serious question. Allow me to pose these two points to illustrate.
I assume the point of a minimum wage is to allow the breadwinner of a household to be able to live at or above poverty when working a full work-week (by law, that is defined as 40 hours a week).
Point 1. What is poverty for one may be luxury for another…depends upon the family circumstance.
The Federal Poverty Level for 2014 is defined as:
(I figure if you want somebody lifted “out of poverty”, then 1.5X poverty is a reasonable, although admittedly arbitrary factor. I imported the data from the link above into Excel and did formulas to multiply the numbers by 1.5…the hourly wage came by dividing that number by 2080: 2080 = 40 hours a week X 52 weeks a year)
Point 2. Geography matters.
Let’s take a family of 3 making 1.5 times the level of poverty. They need a place to live, right?
Let us not get too fancy and help them look for a 2 bedroom apartment. I chose to use apartments dot com for our search.
First, let’s look at my neck of the woods. We’ll keep it low rent and look for a place in Northeast DC and surrounding suburbs, like Mt Rainier, Hyattsville, Chillum, and the like. You will have a hard time finding one for less than $1,200 a month.
On the other hand, in RIchmond, Virginia, you can likely find one for $600 a month.
They say that you should have an annual income of 40X the monthly rent to make sure you can afford the place.
So $1,200 X 40 = $48,000 annual income.
$600 X 40 = $24,000 annual income.
So our friends, who make 1.5 X the level of poverty would have enough income to rent a 2 bedroom place in RIchmond, but nowhere near enough to rent a place in Northeast DC or the shady suburbs that are right outside of Northeast.
So the Point 2 question is: should the minimum wage be set to allow people to have housing in the DC metro area or to allow them to do so in Richmond?
(And in case you’re tempted to say that it should be set state-by-state, I suggest you look at the cost of living differences just within Virginia. It’s a world different living in Richmond, Bristol, Virginia Beach, or Arlington)
My answer is that no law set by the government is going to make people act justly. And if people act justly, there is no need for a law to regulate it. So maybe we should concentrate on trying to convert peoples’ hearts.