John Henry’s article A Coalition For Me, But Not For Thee was starting to get highjacked by the discussion of a just wage, mostly because of me, so I offer this now as a place to openly discuss what a just wage is. I don’t mean ideally in terms of a wage that provides for the family, leisure, and savings, but down and dirty numbers.
For example, let’s look at some budgetary numbers I deal with. Renting a two-bedroom apartment in Laramie, Wyoming, costs about $600, with all utilities except phone and internet paid for. Two people can eat comfortably, though not fancy by any means, at $50 a week. (No fast food, no eating out, but still fairly healthily, if one doesn’t mind oatmeal every morning, spaghetti and ramen often, and only two pieces of fruit a day.) Because Laramie is small, one can travel back and forth across town quickly, and thus gas only comes to about $60 a month. But throw in $40 every three months for an oil change, and $40 twice a year for new wipers. We’ll leave major repairs under emergency funds.
Now let’s consider appointments, namely dental and eye, which run about $120 a pop, but only needed a total of six times a year (hopefully). Let’s throw in car insurance, at $100 a month. Let’s throw in health insurance, at about a comparable price. Let’s also throw in a phone, at $60 a month. Next is toiletries, at about $40 a month. Also is clothes, which we do well with at about $100 each, twice a year, and shoes, at $100 each once a year. And then consider about $20 a month on laundry.
The total amount is $15,920. If we throw in $100 a month for miscellaneaous spending, $100 a month for emergency funds, and $50 a month for charity, this comes to $18,920.
The next step is going to raise some contention, but I’m going to assume 60 hours a week, not 40, because that still allows time for leisure and it isn’t unreasonable to hold one 40-hour-a-week job and another 20-hour-a-week job, when one is trying to scrape together enough money to get by. I’ll also assume 50 work weeks, and 15% taken in taxes.
I come up with $7.42 an hour as a needed wage.
What other factors would people like to throw in, or how do these numbers change in different places? And should minimum wage start here, or should a couple work to get by until one or the other starts earning this hourly rate? How many hours of leisure should a person have a day? When you count 8 hours of sleep, 3 hours for personal time (showers, meals, etc), and 12 hours a day working, 5 days a week, that leaves one hour a day, but the weekends free. If you consider 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, then that’s 3 hours a day, with one day free. Is it reasonable or unreasonable to ask for more leisure time?
I mean for this to be just an open discussion of what, numerically, seems reasonable. I appreciate any CST guidelines thrown in, but we can argue all day about ideals, and I would appreciate seeing numbers other than what I work with. I hope follow this up later with a more theoretical discussion of a just wage.