The other night I was channel surfing and came across a program called 30 Days. It was a real eye-opener.
It’s a reality program—only, this is the real thing. In this episode, a young couple [Alexia and Morgan] moved to Cincinnati, Ohio and tried to live on the minimum wage.
They left their credit cards behind. They found an ant-infested apartment upstairs from an apartment that had, until a few days earlier, been a crack-house. And they were glad to get it because their landlord allowed them to pay the deposit over time.
A few days into their adventure, they found a free store. They got their first furniture [they had been sleeping on the floor and eating while sitting on the floor or standing at the sink.] Suddenly, they had a kitchen table with two chairs, a mattress with sheets and a blanket, a couch, two end-tables and two lamps. They felt as if they’d died and gone to heaven.
A few days later Morgan sprained his wrist at his landscaping job. He tried to ignore it—since he didn’t have health insurance. The following day, though, he decided that he couldn’t risk losing the use of his hand. After all, he was working two manual jobs.
So, he went to the free clinic. They were accepting only 20 patients that night and he was 38th in line. With no other options, he went to the emergency room. Just to walk in the door cost him $551.00. I don’t remember what the doctor’s fee was. His ace bandage cost $40.00. And he was told to stay home from work the next day. Two jobs—16 hours—about $118.00 in lost wages.
If they hadn’t had bad luck, Morgan and Alexia would have had no luck at all. Alexia came down with a urinary tract infection a few days later. Walking into the emergency room cost $448.00. The trip to the drug store cost them $.85 [they had only one bus pass]. Her prescription cost $24.00. And another $.85 to get home.
As you can see, they were behind the eight ball—and they were one week into their experiment.
Not having children of their own, and wanting to experience what people with kids go through, they borrowed a niece and nephew for a weekend. Before they arrived, Morgan went to the library to research free recreation to take them to. He found things like: ‘Call your bank and ask for a tour. If you’re wearing a ski mask, take it off before arriving at the bank.’ ‘Call a bakery and ask for a tour.’ ‘Call a manufacturing plant and ask for a tour.’
In other words, there are no free activities available in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Buying blankets and sheets at the Salvation Army before the children arrived and taking them to a movie during their visit cost about $80.00.
If Morgan and Alexia had had children of their own, daycare would have cost about $833.00 for the month [10,000.00 per year]. One job at minimum wage brings home about $15,000.00. Would it have been worth going to work outside the home in order to pay 2/3 of their wages to daycare? No wonder so many couples work different shifts from each other — in order to care for their children at home — and rarely get to see each other.
Here’s something I hadn’t known.
The minimum wage was last raised in 1997. Since then Edward Kennedy has introduced bills EVERY YEAR to raise it again. None have passed. Meanwhile, Congress has voted itself a “cost of living” raise every year.
Yes, the cost of living has gone up. Who do you suppose is having a harder time keeping up with it—Congress or people who are living on the minimum wage?
Alexia and Morgan survived for the month. Their relationship was strained—but they made it through. They don’t know if they would have remained together if they hadn’t been doing this as only a 30 day experiment.
In fact, couples who make less than $25,000.00 per year experience twice as many divorces as couples who make above $50,000.00.
Interestingly, as I was hunting for pictures to include here, I found numerous photos of homeless men, men holding signs asking for help, men in unemployment lines and food bank lines. Women and children were notable only by their absence.
This is one way we continue to ignore the issue. If we pretend women and children are not affected by poverty, it’s easier on our consciences.