Dumb questions about the US political system.

Reply Wed 23 Feb, 2005 05:38 pm
dlowan wrote:
That is interesting - we tend to believe that you have none.

So - people cannot, legally, be paid below a certain amount?

Why do we hear so much of folk working 2/3 jobs just to stay alive?

There are some jobs where people can be paid less if they are in service industries where tips make up at least the difference.

People work multiple jobs for a number of reasons. Most of the minimum wage jobs aren't full time positions. They are largely part-time retail or very low skill jobs. If you are woking one than you probably aren't making more than $6,000/year so you'd need several to survive if you aren't living on someone else's paycheck.

Here in Boston you'd be hard pressed to find any job that pays only minimum wage. Even fast food places pay their counter help over $10/hour and the local Home Depot (home improvement super-store) pays shelf stockers $18/hr. BUt you can't really live in/around Boston for under $30,000/year without some sort of other income either. Even at $30,000 you'd be hard pressed most of the time.

It's a bit of an odd situation. There are places where you can live fairly cheap in this country but people have come to believe that because they were born somewhere it is up to the government to provide them with a job that pays enough for them to remain in the level of comfort they grew up with. The idea of moving to someplace you can afford to live offends a lot of people.
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Merry Andrew
Reply Wed 23 Feb, 2005 06:44 pm
The minimum wage -- as others have already said -- does not apply to "customarily tipped" employees e.g. waiters/waitresses or bartenders. Nor does it apply to people whose income derives primarily from receiving a commission from sales, e.g. car salesmen, some other kinds of salesmen. Last time I checked, the Federal poverty level was tagged at $12,000/year or less. If you make that small a wage, you are eligible for relief in the form of food subsidies, rent subsidies etc. etc. The previous posters, I think, are exaggerating how hard it is to get by on, say, $30,000/year. That was the average salary of all Federal government employees last time I checked. That is the starting salary for new teachers in Massachusetts (after they've spent some six years at university to get a Master's degree and fulfilled all certification requirements.) There are teachers in many backwaters who earn a hell of a lot less than that.

A dozen years ago I was self-employed as a translator/interpreter and p.r. consultant. I needed major surgery but had no health insurance. When the hospital and surgeon's bills arrived I went to all the local welfare offices, including the Social Security Admin. to see if any help was available. One young woman at the Social Security office, with literally tears in her eyes, told me there was nothing she could do for me because my income had been too high the year before. That year I had had an income totaling a municifcent $20,000 (a little less actually, if I recall correctly). I filed for bankruptcy. It was the only way out of the hole, short of selling the house I had at the time.

But this is all a long way from the general discussion of the US political system, isn't it?
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Reply Wed 23 Feb, 2005 08:42 pm

I think that is very relevant to understanding your system - and the meaning of a basic wage.

That is, to Oz eyes, absolutey terrible, MA!!!!

We would have that sort of issue re access to various forms of social security assistance (eg my partner is a freelance sound engineer - who has developed an illness which suddenly means he cannot work much at all. His health costs, of course, are generally no issue - since we have a universal health scheme - but he is unable to access any income support because, as a self-employed person, he is assessed on his previous year's income! The fact that he has been able to make next to nothing this year does not count. Anyhoo - he is going to university, so he is happy - but he is living on savings meant to be his income for his old age....so now he is likely to need a pension - which, if he had a little money to help through this illness, he would not have needed) - but never for health.
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Reply Wed 23 Feb, 2005 09:56 pm
Merry Andrew wrote:
The previous posters, I think, are exaggerating how hard it is to get by on, say, $30,000/year.

If it's an exaggeration it isn't by much. If I total my current basic living expenses and gas to get back and forth to work it comes up right at $20K/year and I live in an extremely cheap rent on the I-495 loop 20 miles outside of Boston and I drive a 14 year old car. If I traded this place for a studio in the city my costs would go up by almost $4K/year. Add in a newer car (with payments and/or higher insurance costs) and some new clothes each year and there wouldn't be much left out of $30K.

If I were 25 and could deal with living with roomates I could cut some costs but I'm just a bit past that stange in my life. Smile $30K/year is do-able but I wouldn't want to be there trying it around here. When I lived in Northern Maine or rural Oklahoma $30K/year was a good wage and fairly average but costs for things like rent are 1/4 of what they are around here. I pay $400/month for my daughter's 2 bedroom apt. which is a block away from her college campus in Oklahoma.
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