July 22, 2008

Minimum Wage Living

I found an article the other day where a millionaire US Senate candidate worked as a janitor for a day to see what life as a working man was like. The article is HERE. I applaud the man's effort, but it really doesn't go far enough, in my opinion.

My idea is that every single person voted into office should have to spend AT LEAST a month working at a minimum wage job and living solely off their income. If it's found that they use their influence to get out of it, or to get a better place to live, or to do anything that would not give them the full experience, they would be held out of office. Hell, I'll even GET the job for them and help them out the first day, just to be charitable! But I think most, if not all, of our elected officials are so out of touch that they have no idea what being a lowly citizen is all about. This goes for my country and to my neighbors down to the south. I would bet that you could pay them DOUBLE minimum wage and they'd still struggle to survive.

As a disclosure, I have never worked for minimum wage while I've lived on my own. I lived with family and after I had a better job, I moved out on my own. I know that not all have had it as easy, though. A few years back, I happened upon a book called Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. It's a fun, but eye opening look at what it's like to live on minimum wage. Barbara Ehrenreich went out, looked for minimum wage jobs and then tried her hardest to live on what she made. The results, for a great many people, will be surprising (maybe not for us social workers, though).

Ok, so I know that my proposal will never gain traction and be implimented. But can I maybe at least ask every politician to read this book? A glimpse of what it's like to be poor is better than nothing...


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the thoughts! Great idea!

Reas Kroicowl said...

I read it years ago. Indeed, a great read. Her next one focuses on middle class people losing their jobs and trying to get back in the work force: "Bait and Switch: The (Futile)Pursuit of the American Dream"

antiSWer said...

Ah yes, I saw that one in the bookstore yesterday. Maybe I'll pick that one up for when classes are done for the summer (1 more week!).

cb said...

It's a wonderful idea. Here, there was an MP that spent a couple of weeks living as a 'single mother on benefits (welfare)' for a TV programme. It was fascinating viewing as they quite obviously chose an MP whose political views lie on the Right. He came out of it quite well though as there was a lot of sympathy and humanity that he appeared to (well, it was on television and he is a politician) gain.
I'll come back and see if I can find the link when I'm not in a rush to get to work :)

Amy said...

I've also read the book...very good read! And very interesting idea. Every once in awhile the governor of our state will take his family grocery shopping with the equivalent of a week's worth of food stamps...on the local TV news of course.

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