Recent arguments about raising the minimum wage and ‘turn the minimum wage into a living wage’ have me realizing I’ve never heard anyone lay out what a ‘living wage’ actually means.
Not looking for a dollars and cents amount, rather exactly what that wage is supposed to cover.
Somewhere to live? Does that mean able to buy their own house? Cover the rent on an efficiency apartment? Pay half the rent of a shared apartment? Rent a room in someone else’s house? Buy an RV and pay for a slip to park it? Slip a few bucks to some property own to be let set up a tent in their back yard?
Food? Does all the beans and rice you can eat plus a vitamin pill a day cover it? Or three solid meals and two snacks a day, plus maybe a dinner out at a nice restaurant every week?
How about indulgences/addictions? Should it cover booze/pot/tobacco/other recreational drugs?
Clothes? Are we talking shopping at Lord & Taylor or Goodwill?
Transportation? A monthly bus pass or your own car plus gasoline and maintenance costs?
And so on, and so on. Medical costs? Cell phones? Cable television?
And all those amounts will have to vary depending on where the person lives, of course.
On top of that, do we assume we are just talking about the worker supporting himself? Or is one person supposed to bring home enough to support a partner and a child or two or more as well?