Friday, March 8, 2013

Number crunching

There's a video going around, Wealth Inequality in America.

It reminds me of a sermon I heard at the UU church in Lafayette, Indiana, when I was an undergrad.  The co-speakers were talking about poverty.  There's this persistent myth, that people are poor because they're lazy.  The women pointed out that the poor are working their hineys off just trying to get by.

That fit, with what I saw in my senior year of high school, when my parents were working three jobs each.  Dad had a full-time day job, a part-time afternoon job, and then a part-time evening job.  Mom's schedule was very similar.

This line of thinking continued as my husband and I entered the workforce.  I have been very blessed with a full-time job that is a career, offers benefits, and so forth.  My husband, has mostly worked service jobs close to the minimum wage.  Right now, he's working part-time and has no benefits.

As I've talked with people working full-time, part-time, with benefits and without benefits... it seems to me that the families doing fine with them have those types of jobs as "second income" jobs.  Like me and my husband, one person has benefits while the other makes some extra money.

This also affects children, and education.  Someone recently told me that they believed education is the parent's responsibility.  I don't disagree, I just have a lot of thoughts about that.  I recently read an article about a Latin@ outreach program, to remind parents that they are their children's first teachers.  A mother asked the question, when is she supposed to help her children learn when she is working 3 jobs just to survive.

And then there's the lack of sick leave.  I've heard of several employers that require employees to provide 48-hours notice when they are going to be sick.  Which really does a lot of good when the employee wakes up feverish one morning.

Again, the lack of sick leave affects more than just the employee, it also affects children, and education.  That senior year of high school, we woke up to find our youngest brother feverish.  No regular childcare provider will take a feverish child, they're required to send them home to minimize risks to the other children.  My parents wanted me to stay home with my baby brother.  I begged off, since I had a calculus exam that day, and this time my sister stayed home to babysit.  Dad told the school she was home with "a little fever."

A few years later, some child at their daycare pulled off his shirt to show off his chicken pox.  Daycare pretty much had to close for two weeks.  Without sick leave, or enough of it, my parents took my brothers down to Grandma & Grandpa's house.  I got a note for my professor, and went to help.

It was fortunate we were back in the same state.  By that time, Grandma & Grandpa were not traveling much, it was harder to get around.  One might still have been driving, just barely.  But when I think of the extended family, living all over the country.  My husband and I, when we lived in Houston, no family around... these policies can create such STICKY situations, where people are trapped, caught between loss of their job and care of their child.

And that also gets to the minimum wage.  Some Google-fu gives various numbers.  If the minimum wage had just kept up with inflation, it would be about $10.55 - $10.60 according to "Raise the Minimum Wage" and the AFL-CIO.  If the minimum wage had kept up with workers productivity, it would be closer to $21-22, according to the Huffington Post and
  • At 40 hours a week, 52 weeks per year, $10.55/hour, the employee would make $21, 944 per year.
  • At $22 / hour, the employee would make $45, 760 per year.
  • Right now, the median household income is $46,326.
  • While a Princeton study showed that a family income below $75,000 increased stress.

This is more than enough for today... I have other things I need to do, and it will take more research and calculating before I'm ready to post about what a "living wage" might look like for various careers.