Recently, I ran across a story in the DailyMail about a Mexican immigrant by the name of Maribel who organized a strike against a McDonald's in her Los Angeles neighborhood. Her grievance was that she and her two toddlers couldn't live on the $9.35/hour that McDonald's was paying her. Which, by the way, is 35 cents higher than California's minimum wage of $9/hour, which is set to be $10/hour as of 1/1/16.
Because of her situation, she says she needs $15/hour. Not $10. Not $12. But, exactly $15. Which is what apparently the magic number that everyone in the U.S., who is earning a minimum wage, thinks they should be making in order to live. This despite the fact that the cost of living varies widely in this country; from state to state and, from urban areas to rural America.
My biggest problem with the $15 minimum wage is that it is higher than the average annual income of everyone living in the County of Los Angeles. In that county of 10 million people, the average per capita income was $27,749 in 2013. When broken down to an hourly wage, it is equal to $13.34. As such, are we then supposed to believe that as many as 5 million Angelenos, making less than $15/hour, are unable to live?
My other problem is with Maribel's story itself. While it was never stated, it is obvious that she is living in this country illegally because her mother brought her here from Mexico when she was just 7 months old. That's a problem for a lot of people like Maribel. Because, if she was a naturalized citizen and given the fact that she had two children and is only making $9.35/hour -- even if she worked a full 40 hour week -- she would be eligible for all kinds of state and federal welfare programs. Programs that have an aggregate worth in the tens of thousands of dollars.
Also, because she is in poverty, she will not have to pay any federal taxes. Something that wouldn't be the case if she made $15/hour. She is also eligible to get money back from the IRS by filing a tax return and by claiming Earned Income Tax Credits for herself and her children. An amount that could be as high as $3300; something she would lose when making $15/hour.
Once again, the $15 minimum wage proponents don't seem to see what many single parents, assuming they are citizens, will be giving up by going to this level of a minimum wage. As is often said: Be careful of what you wish for.
Maribel vs McDonald's: Single mother of two goes on strike against fast-food giant demanding $15 minimum wage and a union for employee: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2878565/Maribel-vs-McDonald-s-Single-mother-two-goes-strike-against-fast-food-giant-demanding-15-minimum-wage-union-employees.html
2014 Poverty Guidelines: http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/14poverty.cfm
Welfare In California: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welfare_in_California
Cost of Living Calculator - CNN Money: http://money.cnn.com/calculator/pf/cost-of-living/
"Poverty" pays better than middle-class employment: http://humanevents.com/2012/11/28/poverty-pays-better-than-middle-class-employment/
Policy Basics: The Earned Income Tax Credit: http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=2505