Can a person survive on $77 a week?
Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, are going to try.
The liberal advocacy group Americans United for Change says $77 is how much a full-time worker earning the $7.25 federal minimum wage has to spend each week after taxes and housing expenses are paid.
It challenged leaders to try to live on minimum wage for a week. The theory is if lawmakers see how hard it is to live on minimum wage, they will vote to increase it. Strickland and Ryan already support raising the minimum wage to $10.10.
Ryan, whose congressional wage is $174,000 a year, says it’s important for elected officials to understand such issues in more than an intellectual way.
“A lot of times our friends in the tea party movement or in the conservative political movement try to marginalize these men and women who work extremely hard in many jobs that those of us in Congress wouldn’t dare dream of doing,” he said during a conference call announcing the challenge.
According to Rea Hederman, executive vice president of the Buckeye Institute, a free-market group in Ohio, the average household income for a minimum-wage earner is $65,900.
“They are not the breadwinners of the family,” said Hederman, a former analyst at The Heritage Foundation. “They are second-income earners, teens, college kids or seniors supplementing their retirement income.”
Michael Tanner, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, said wage hike supporters don’t make sense.
“How are you taking care of the poor by killing jobs?” he asked. “Compassion is an individual virtue, not a government one. You can’t be compassionate with other peoples’ money.”
Besides, he added, “Why are they stopping at $10.10? Why not $100 or $1,000 an hour?”
Tanner said since supporters readily admit a $100 an hour minimum wage would cost jobs, they’ve already conceded the principle and are now just quibbling over the numbers.