You hear a lot about earning a living wage. I like the idea, meaning I want a family to be able to live on what they earn. Now, I am also honest enough to admit I do not know at the moment what we should do about a job that does not provide a living wage. Anyway, I thought I would try my hand at what seems to be a living wage to me.
I would hope that if a family had two adults and two children, that if one of the adults worked a full 40 hours a week, they could:
Live in a small home (apartment if in NYC, San Fran, etc.) Probably 2 bedrooms. Basically safe neighborhood.
They could afford one 5-10 year old used car.
They could go to eat at a medium price restaurant maybe twice a month (thinking Chili's on the expensive side, maybe Country Buffet)
Their children could go to school through 12th, and then could attend some 4-year institution (not necessarily any 4-year, just some decent 4-year place)
They are able to save for their own retirement so that they do not lose their home and can make it for a couple decades after 65.
They have one TV in the home, and it's 30" max - probably use the antenna.
Each person would have a couple nice pieces of clothing, and everything else is basic.
Medical care - I don't know here. I just don't. I am not convinced good medical care is a right, but it is awfully sad if Americans' mortality rates are based on income level.
So, if someone works full-time, I would want their wage to allow them to live about like this, no worse. However, there would be times when it is tight, and to make it all work, they would have to manage their money well. This is what minimum wage for a worker should provide.
Of course, I would hope lots of people can work for above minimum wage so they can do more, but in this vision a person could raise a small family, providing food, shelter, clothes, basic transport, with any full-time job. This seems to be about what those old union jobs you used to hear about where their old man worked in the factory for 40 years got you - just the basics. And I would like that to still be the case. You could push me and make a case that I am asking too much. Perhaps an extra part-time job should be necessary to live this life. The other adult could work as well, increasing the earnings. However, it is ideal if that is an honest choice - it is not necessary for both adults to work full-time to lead this basic life - but if they do, then they can live in a little more material comfort than I have prescribed here. In the end, it just seems right if one salary can make ends meet for a family - all families.
So who cares? The reason I am thinking of it is due to all the discussions lately of taking reponsibility for oneself or having an "ownership" society. I would be much more open to such concepts if everyone who works 40-60 hours a week can really make a life. But if our jobs are such that not everyone even can provide for their families with hard work, then the "ownership" idea seems to be no more than just letting some people fall by the wayside.
All this depends on the idea that someone will have the minimum jobs. Sure, a single individual can work super hard and get a better paying job, but someone is still left handing out the fries. They need to be able to live too.