Why the proposed minimum wage hike on the ballot gave me pause

I will admit, right here and now, that I did not keep up with all things election-related this year.

OK.  This is actually true most years.

I had my judge cheat-sheet.  I was as prepared as I generally am for these things.

Then the question about minimum wage came up and I had to pause for a moment.  Should the minimum wage be raised to $10?


I read the question a couple times.  I was trying to figure out if there was something in the wording that would clue me in on what exactly I was voting for.

I was worried that it would be one of those things where the ballot says “Vote YES if you think men and women who love each other should be able to get married.”

And you’re like, “Yes.  of course.  If you love each other, get married.”  And then you find out while watching the election returns that you accidentally voted against same-sex marriage.  They are tricky about the wording sometimes.

So, like, raise the minimum wage?  Hell, yeah.

Raise it to $10?  Ummm…. I don’t know.

I’m not voting against it being raised to $15, right?

Because, let’s face it, $10 an hour ain’t nuthin.  You can’t live off of that.  You can’t raise a family on that.  This is just another vote for the cycle of poverty we like to call The American Dream.  We raise it to $10 an hour and then we get to hear “The minimum wage was JUST RAISED.  We can’t raise it AGAIN!”  for the next seven years and, in the meantime, $10 an hour isn’t going to do much for your family right now and in a few years…well… start looking for discarded refrigerator boxes and a nice spot under a bridge.

Let’s take a look at a hypothetical situation of a single mom with two school-aged children.  $10 an hour/40 hours per week is $400 (hey, at least it makes the math super easy)

If this mom gets a job working 9 to 5, she requires both before and after school care.  Because school starts at 9:05, see?  And gets out at 3:35.  And, if her school district is anything like ours, the kids get out at 12:05 one day per month.  And there are also days off for various federal holidays or teacher in-service days or whatever.  Since she generally doesn’t require care throughout the day, however, the best bet is to do the before and after school programs at the school.  Siblings get a 5 percent discount.  Thus the per-month cost for before-school care is $397 per month.  The per-month cost of after-school care is $496.  The total for the optional care on the half-days and days off is $703 for the school year or $78 per month for the 9 months they’re in school.  Cause we aren’t even discussing what happens in the summer when they are out of school all day.  We aren’t even going to go there.

So the total cost of child care for a single mom is $971 per month.  Understand, it’s actually more than that.  Because this assumes that both children have perfect attendance and no one ever gets sick and there are no snow days (last year we had four) and it doesn’t include the child care needed for things like winter break and spring break and…..


So if mom works a 22 day month (22 weekdays/8 weekend days = 30 days) she will bring home $1,760.

I mean, she actually won’t.  Because taxes will come out off the top.  But mom is really poor, obviously, and so she will get a refund.  So let’s say she pays no taxes just to make the math easier.

After child care, mom has $789 for food and rent and utilities and clothing for a family of 3 per month.  That’s a studio apartment, yáll.  A studio apartment, food stamps for the food, the bare minimum of utilities, a cell phone plan with no internet.  The kids can get their health insurance through the state of Illinois.  Maybe mom’s comes out of her pay – so maybe she doesn’t bring home the whopping $789 per month after all.  Or it isn’t offered and she goes without and just pays the penalty.  She might be able to get it from the state as well because clearly she can’t afford private health insurance.

Totally forgot about mom’s car, guys.  Mom can’t afford a car with this money but she can’t really afford the train, either.  Hope mom can hoof it to her job.

Mom should get a second job, maybe?  Another $10 an hour job?  OK.  So let’s say mom works another 20 hours at night.  Who is with the kids?  A sitter?  Well, let’s pretend she can get one who will work for less than what mom is bringing in…say, $9 per hour (which hasn’t been the going rate for baby sitters in these here parts since 1998).  The sitter has to get there a half hour before mom leaves and mom has to get home once she’s done with work (and I think she’s walking) so the sitter works another half hour on that end as well.  So the babysitter works one hour more than mom does on each day that she has this other job.  So if mom is working an extra 5 hours per day 4 days a week, she is making $200 and the babysitter is making $216.

Maybe mom should become a babysitter and leave her kids with a sitter while she goes and watches someone else’s kids.  Cause then she could make, like, $16.

I scrutinized my ballot – looking for the tiny print that said, “Or do you think maybe minimum wage actually needs to be $15?”

It wasn’t there.

So I voted for the $10.  I voted for mom to be able to buy 6 extra packages of ramen.

And it passed.  Yay.  Victory for the Maruchan company!

(that’s the company that makes the cheap  ramen.  I know this because I just pulled a package out of the pantry).
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