Fast Focus: 'What should determine the minimum wage?' Chance to earn a living wage

June 15, 2014 

The United States of America was founded upon the principle of the "American dream," the idea that anyone who is willing to put in hard work and work full-time will be able to achieve prosperity. It is evident, however, that the American dream is declining, as demonstrated by the rising income gap. Today, many people working in the fast-food industry can barely make ends meet. Meanwhile, the top 1 percent of Americans earn 24 percent of the nation's total income.

The term minimum wage is misleading. Rather than a minimum wage, I think the lowest paid workers should earn a "living wage." At the very least, hard-workers willing to work full-time deserve enough money to live comfortably -- albeit minimalistically -- and make ends meet. In American society today, this bare minimum should include rent and utilities for a one-bedroom apartment, transportation to and from work, groceries, basic personal necessities and health insurance. The amount of money required for these varies from region to region, as rent in the Tri-Cities certainly does not compare to that in New York City. Therefore, people working a job in New York City should earn more than their counterparts working the same job in another place where the cost of living is lower. In many places, $7.25 is simply not sufficient. Those who work full-time yet still cannot make ends meet have no option but to resort to welfare, of which rising enrollment engenders compounding effects on the government and the taxpayers of the United States. Improving the financial situation for the working poor will either fall into the hands of taxpayers (through welfare and the Earned Income Tax Credit) or business owners (through a higher minimum wage). The bottom line, however, is that even the least fortunate deserve a shot at the American dream.

-- ANNIE LAI, Richland

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