Renting the American Dream on $15/hour (Caution: Harsh Logic and Adult Reasoning)

Earlier Brian and I showed on a simple level, using a company’s own numbers how a better world and livable wages were possible. By paying just a couple of pennies more for food that is essentially toxic waste we showed that society would benefit, poor people would benefit and that corporations would get to maintain their profits. We did that to shut up Righties who filter ethics, morality and social evolution through the prism of “profits.”

Before I get to the reality of living on minimum wage, there is one more issue I would like to dispel. Again and again comes the refrain from Righties arguing against the minimum wage. These are the same people who throw around vague terms like “market” and “capitalism.” Maybe this is why our economy isn’t fucking working, except for the wealthy. Keep pumping pennies into your 401k, though, that’s the lube for the 77% of the stock market owned by the wealthiest 10%.

If I’d heard this on FOX or from Limbaugh, Hannity or hundreds of others on the Right just once I might have let it go. But when they repeat again and again and that raising the wage of a mother who works for shit at a lunch counter then returns to a homeless shelter at night will double the price of your hamburger I begin to understand a bit why as an economy we are screwed. If you believe that the 6 people making and serving 1000 hamburgers at lunchtime will cause the price of that burger to double because their wage doubles, you should have taken the special bus to school. With news this week that the most popular degree is the MBA, what the hell are these schools teaching?

One thing obviously is not critical thinking. And where is the media in helping to clarify the issue over fight for 15. Revolution and Beer showed that a few pennies would transform the nation by putting 100% of that communal investment back into the economy and community, unlike the stock market or other investments that are simply non-productive vehicles to further enrich already wealthy people. In fact, the numbers seem to indicate that $15/hour might not be enough, and that the real number might be closer to $17-18/hour.

The key is, what does $15/hour purchase? In a word; nothing, really. What we’re after in this exercise is not to impoverish rich folks, but rather to illustrate that economy runs like an engine, in which capital must move efficiently throughout to maintain the efficiency of the engine. Currently we have a growing pool of fuel, about 80%, collecting in about 7% of the engine, while the engine must run on less and less fuel. Come on all you mechanics out there! Doesn’t that sound like a recipe for a disaster?

At 40 hours worked per week at $15 bucks an hour, that works out to $600 gross/week, $4800 monthly or $31200 annually. That presumes fulltime work, with paid sick, holiday and vacation days. Now, no one takes home the actual amount of money you are paid. Social security, State and federal taxes all come off the top. Even if you get all your state and Fed taxes back at the end of the year, you still have to budget to that weekly deduction. SSI is just gone. A refund for most working people is simply damage control, and doesn’t help much with that brutal 11 month budget before the refund. At 2014 tax rates those total deductions are about 7500, give or take a hundred or so. From your $600 weekly you lose $121 right off the top. You are effectively living off of about $1920 a month.
In Chicago, as of April 2014, the average rent for a 1 bedroom apartment is $1508 Add to that tab, $30 each for electricity and gas, $100/week for food, $95 for a CTA or Metra Pass, $60 for the phone and $40 for internet. These are simple basics in surviving in modern society. Your furniture will be second hand and you’ll be restricted to buying only a few clothes/underwear and one pair of shoes throughout the year. Good luck buying a television or a computer, but then again, you’re a dreamer…an American dreamer!

Then maybe you got lucky and found an apartment in a bad neighborhood for a thousand a month, and as luck would have it there are no bed bugs because the rats ate them. So now you can afford an extra pair of shoes a new coat and real food, instead of the high fructose, high sodium, low nutrition crap you’ve been buying all these years. You can also afford the high blood pressure medicine because of years of unhealthy eating. But, hey, that’s what you could afford. And then you got mugged for your rent money, because you don’t make enough to keep a bank account, and the thugs followed you home from the currency exchange. So see, all of that $15 an hour really does go to the community. Luckily though, the rich people are still okay.

Truth is, it is less about the dollar amount paid as it is the efficiency of the economic engine. Instead what we’ve seen are so-called capitalists who view the market separate from the economy. That is fundamental. They talk of one in specifics and the other in abstracts, despite that they are one in the same. That is insane. It also should exclude them from any reasonable discussion about the economy, the same way we’d pass on the guy with the tin foil hat giving you fashion advice. Then again…

WC Turck is the author of 4 books, including the critically acclaimed Bosnian War Memoir “Everything for Love,” and Broken: One soldier’s unexpected journey home, at Amazon and Barnes and Turck wrote and produced two critically acclaimed plays, “Occupy my Heart: A Revolutionary Christmas Carol” and “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden.” The most dangerous voice on the Left, he can be heard Mon, Tues, Thurs and Fridays from 9-11am in Chicago, and 1-3pm on the Revolution and Beer show with partner and cohost BL Murray.

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