Minimum Wage Life

I could tell she’d reached critical mass. No smile today. Her rigid jaw seemed frozen. I slid into the booth across from her and didn’t bother with the formalities. Splayed across the small table were piles of bills.

“There’s no way I can pay rent and buy food.”  Carlie jabbed her finger at just one glaring example of financial ruin—her power bill. Even though she wasn’t using air conditioning, her summertime bill was more than she spent on groceries.

Cutting costs? Don’t even mention her car. She can’t afford her car and can’t afford not having it. Her two minimum wage jobs are miles from her low-rent apartment and the bus doesn’t run after hours—when she gets off work.

Without a car, she’d be late to work after dropping her son off at the government-subsidized daycare. And by the time she pays for the mandatory car insurance, frequent repairs, and fuel, NOTHING is left over for life’s incidentals.

Which is what today’s drama is all about. Carlie had budgeted every dollar and the power bill pushed it over the edge. She’d lost hope, along with her frayed patience. Her life was a cage and her frequent despondency over money already had her child repeating phrases no two-year-old should speak.

Trapped in a lifestyle she hates and seeing no way to escape isn’t helped by a few extra dollars per hour.

Carlie needs a career not another low-paying job. She’s been earning minimum wage since high school. But she thought life would be different in her 20’s. Talking to her about attending college is like reading a romance novel—the warm feelings only last so long. Carlie can’t envision college because, #1 she can’t afford it and #2 she has no time to attend classes. So instead she continues to live a hopelessly gritty life.

Carlie knows that she’s trapped and the paltry $50.00 extra each week won’t free her. She works hard, but her life is going nowhere.

Raising the minimum wage isn’t the real solution, America. Our Millennials need more than minimum wage jobs; they need financially-supporting careers. We can’t expect America’s future to depend on a minimum wage life.  As Carlie will tell you, it’s not a life; it’s a cage.

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