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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Poor for a week

This stunt has gone way beyond tiresome:

Former Ohio governor Ted Strickland ran out of money and walked instead of taking taxis. Rep. Mark Takano of California tweeted a picture of the black beans and rice he ate for dinner, while Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio learned buying pizza and fast food aren’t good choices when every dollar counts.

These Democrats and others lived on minimum wage for a week to highlight the need for an increase in the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour — something that hasn’t occurred in five years. They had $77 to spend, the average weekly amount a minimum-wage worker has to spend after taxes and housing, under the Live the Wage challenge.

“I didn’t make it,” Strickland wrote Monday in Politico, chronicling his struggles with eating healthy and learning he couldn’t stretch his budget.  “I know I’ll never be able to truly walk in the shoes of a minimum wage worker, but experiencing just some of the decisions this income requires on a daily basis is enough to understand that we need to do better for these hardworking families.”

It's a stunt -- designed to make us feel bad rather than think -- because all these people are privileged and have very high salaries and a lot of perks. Of course they're going to have trouble adjusting to a minimum wage; they have no experience in being poor. When you're actually there for real, it becomes part of your mindset. You have a feel for what you can and cannot do. I know. I've been there.

God, there are so many reasons this is all wet that it's hard to list them all.

1. Most of the people getting the minimum are not those poor "hardworking families." They teens in high school or college or just starting out in the work force.

2. The minimum is meant as an entry point; most people quickly rise above it.

3.  The small percentage of minimum wage workers who are heads of a household (about 5 percent, I've read) do not have to live on that $77 a week. They have access to a host of programs, including food stamps, housing vouchers, the WIC program, utility assistance, etc., etc., etc.

4. Because of the inflationary effect that ripples through the economy whenever you increase the cost of a major component (like salaries), everything will go up in cost by the same relative amount, so people earning the minimum wage will soon be in exactly the same financial situation they started in.

5. . . . Oh, hell, you get the point.