$7.25 Per Hour is a Joke

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Is the Federal minimum wage, $7.25 per hour, enough to live on in 2019? If the answer is yes, the possibility of you holding down more than one job is significantly high because there is no way one could afford to live in any part of these United States on a single income.

Maine is one of a few states where, if the Federal minimum wage were set higher than that seen in the state, the state’s minimum wage would automatically be replaced. Fortunately for Mainers, the state currently has the minimum wage set to $11 per hour. In a similar fashion to Maine, but not the same, residents of both Connecticut and Massachusetts see automatic increases in their state’s minimum wage if the federally set minimum is increased beyond that set by the state.

When was the last time the Federal minimum wage saw an increase? Not recently, that much is certain. Research shows, not that everyone has the time to spend conducting research, we are now living in the longest period in American history since the Federal minimum wage was established that it has not been raised. Pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), in 1938, the national minimum wage was set at a staggeringly low $0.25 per hour. The original rate set by the FLSA, $0.25 per hour, was the equivalent of $4.45 seven decades later.

The Federal Minimum Wage…

It has been almost a decade since the last time the United States Congress voted on raising the Federal minimum wage. On the Federal level, the last time these United States saw an increase of the minimum wage go into effect was 24 July 2009.

Wait a moment, President Donald J. Trump and his supporters will possibly say. “Are you telling us President Barack Obama is responsible for the federal minimum wage being so low?” Republicans will undoubtedly remind everyone, probably in countless Fox News appearances, Obama took office on 20 Jan. 2009. Obama’s last day as president of these United States was eight years later, on 20 Jan. 2017. Blaming Trump for the lack of a minimum wage increase during that period will not fly, loyal Trump supporters will say.

No one is blaming Trump for what did or did not occur during the Obama Administration. Because the U.S. Congress was controlled by the GOP, let’s not forget how well these people agreed to work with the then sitting president, the blame lies with Republicans.

The most recent Federal minimum wage increase took effect on 24 July 2009. The vote for this increase took place in 2007. If you are wondering which person occupied the White House in that period, it was President George W. Bush.

Even though Obama took office on 20 Jan. 2009, it has been Republicans which have been controlling Congress since 2009. Republicans, not Democrats, have been mainly responsible for not having a vote on the Federal minimum wage. The GOP, possibly because it favours so-called job-creators over employees, have no interest in seeing the Federal minimum wage raised.

There is Blame on Both Sides of the Political Aisle…

Even though the lion’s share of the blame for there not being an increase in the Federal minimum wage resides at the feet of Republicans, one cannot ignore the fact that certain centralist Democrats have been less than cooperative in seeing an increase implemented. There have been proposals placed in front of congressional members suggesting $15.00 per hour would be an acceptable Federal minimum wage but Republicans and centralist Democrats have baulked at it.

$7.25 per Hour…

Federal minimum wage... Image Credit: Business Insider/Andy Kiersz, data from EPI and Wolters Kluwer
Image Credit: Business Insider/Andy Kiersz, data from EPI and Wolters Kluwer

Since 24 July 2009, the Federal minimum wage, even though eighteen states saw in 2019 with an increase in the minimum wage, no fewer than 13 different states within the Union still holds their minimum at $7.25. This $7.25 per hour is pre-tax deductions.

Before taxes, based on a 40-hour work week, that is $290 gross pay per week. Since no one in their right mind would budget their household expenses on gross income, one needs to understand the difference between gross and net pay. While gross pay is what one makes before taxes, if one has direct deposit to a financial institution, net pay is the amount of money one sees arrive in a bank account. Surprisingly, even in the current century, there are businesses which do not offer employees a direct deposit option. It seems these businesses do not feel their employees valuable enough to grant them such a benefit.

Personal Anecdote…

Back in the day, not too long ago, I can personally recount a story of working for $7.25. Prior to transferring to the University of North Texas, I was a Texas Christian University student. I put in an application for a position with the bookstore’s café. Consequently, I found my application successful. In retrospect, there is a good chance the only reason I was hired is because I am friends with a department manager. That is a different story entirely. I digress…

When working on the employment paperwork, the café manager said, “the bookstore was unable to pay more than $7.25 per hour because that was the minimum wage.” What is the difference between minimum and maximum? Even though I remember thinking he was joking, there was no sign of a smile on his face. I recall suggesting he seems to have confused the definitions for minimum and maximum. When challenged on this, he said, “That’s a liberal view.”

Since Barnes & Noble is a bookstore, I made reference to the available dictionaries. Bookstores do sell dictionaries. Everyone knows this is true. We could have picked up any one of these to verify the definitions of minimum and maximum.

When I was a TCU student, the bookstore was managed by Barnes & Noble. Since 2016, when the university broke affiliation with the bookstore giant, Follett Higher Education Group took responsibility for managing it.

Could there be a worse Minimum Wage?

Is it possible to not have access to a minimum wage? In these United States, anything is possible. Even though states such as Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin have $7.25 state minimum wage levels, there are states within the Union that do not have a minimum wage. With no state law mandating a minimum wage in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee, the Federal law should in theory apply. We have yet to speak of either Georgia or Wyoming. In both Georgia and Wyoming, the set minimum wage is $5.15. How can anyone justify such a low figure?

Not all States are the Same…

People living in either Montana, Nevada and or Ohio will correctly observe their respective state has a minimum wage set to $8.50, $8.25 and $8.55 per hour. This is true. The state minimum wages for Montana, Nevada and or Ohio are $8.50, $8.25 and $8.55 per hour, respectively. Nothing in these United States is ever that simple.

In Montana, the state requires businesses grossing $110,000 or less in salve annually to pay employees no less than $4.00 per hour. Anyone that the $4.00 state minimum wage applies to should see in their pay-checks the Federal minimum wage applied to them.

Nevadans, if one is fine with working a job that does not have health benefits attached, will see in their pay-checks a minimum wage higher than that federally mandated. If one requires health benefit, and many people do, the Federal minimum wage applies.

The $8.55 per hour Ohio set for its state minimum wage only applies to individuals working for a business grossing $299,000 or more per year. Are you one of the lucky Buckeyes? Does the business you work for gross $299,000 or more per year? Ohioans employed at companies that do not meet the state-mandated threshold are stuck on the Federal minimum wage.

Final Thoughts…

Let’s be 100 per cent clear. The people elected to the United States Congress have failed to represent the best interests of American families. What is the point of having public servants if they are not going to serve the best interests of the people they serve? That’s the electorate, not corporate fat cats. Instead of helping the working class, Republicans and centralist Democrats would rather pander to corporate giants because not doing so might endanger their re-election prospects.