Recent data highlight the disparity between American incomes and the cost of living.
The report, initially published by The Hill, showing average incomes aren’t enough led the internet to a collective eye roll and an apt response:
This is News?
Americans already know that wages aren’t enough to survive. It’s an everyday reality.
“The only thing surprising about this is that they consider it news,” commented one.
“In other news, water is wet,” joked another.
The Minimum Wage Hasn’t Kept Up
One Reddit user compared minimum wage and expenses from 1974 and today, highlighting that it hasn’t kept up with inflation.
“The national minimum wage should be about $20 per hour,” they shared.
Naysayers will claim that minimum wage was never intended to be a living wage, but those folks are grossly misinformed.
The entire point of the 1938 Fair Labor Act was to ensure that everyone earned a living wage. When signing the law, Roosevelt said, “It seems to me to be equally plain that no business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.”
This statement shows that the minimum wage is supposed to be a living wage.
It’s Impossible to Get Ahead
Others commented that even a good salary isn’t enough, as it’s nearly impossible to obtain a sense of financial security because the barriers to entry are too high.
“Yeah, you make $100k a year, but good luck saving up that $100k down payment on a $500k house because your $2k rent is devouring everything after taxes and retirement,” they said.
Their statement ignored that most Americans are one or two emergencies away from complete financial ruin, making financial security even more difficult.
A person working minimum wage would need to work 234 hours per month to afford rent. That’s 58 hours per week just for a roof over their head.
That’s not affordable, nor is it sustainable.
“I’m making $60k which 2 decades ago meant you could buy a 3 bedroom house. Today it means I can barely afford an apartment that isn’t in a sketchy part of town,” said one user.
“When most people in the USA with a full-time job can’t even afford a studio or 1br apartment and almost 53% of homeless people in the USA are employed, there’s a serious problem with the cost of housing,” stated another.
Trapped in Debt
Large incomes aren’t enough partly because people must take on massive debt loads to achieve them. People with college degrees outearn those without them; however, if you aren’t wealthy enough to afford an education outright, you must take out loans to pay for your schooling.
Borrowers got a nice reprieve during COVID, but many don’t know how to manage once payment restart in the fall.
Inflation a Giant Problem
Inflation on essential items like food is a growing problem as well.
“A box of cereal was over $9 today,” shared one user.
“I know the $7 eggs and $10 bacon and $4 loaf of bread are not a viable option either for most,” added another.
Where Do We Go From Here?
The situation in the US is untenable. If prices continue to increase exponentially while wages remain stagnant, more and more of the population will become destitute.
Solutions exist, such as raising corporate taxes, tying the minimum wage to inflation, or canceling student debt and capping education costs, but they’re not politically popular.
We may all have to make compromises to maintain America’s status as the best country in the world.