Politicians' Minimum Wage Challenge Only Proves Politicians Don't Know Jack About Budgeting



Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland two other Democrats, Rep. Tim Ryan (Ohio) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), staged a publicity stunt last week that really didn't prove much except that they don't know jack about budgeting. Strickland, who is president of the pro-minimum-wage-hike Center for American Progress Action Fund, and the others "tried" to live on the minimum wage for a week. All they proved was that they either don't know how to budget, or they think their constituents are dumb enough to believe their conceit.

Amid a bunch of stiff indignation and self-congratulation, the ex-governor detailed in Politico his crazy difficulties like having to take off his jacket and walk over a mile in 90-degree heat because he couldn't afford a cab to his office. What he and the other #LiveTheWage challengers really hit on, though, was food.

"I truthfully rarely think about how much it costs," said Schakowsky, who invited cameras into his home to document the horrors of eating tuna sandwiches.

Apparently Ryan doesn't either, because he "spent about seven bucks … on a couple cans of sardines and a bag of crackers from the convenience store up the street." Then, just before quitting the challenge early, he used his "last couple of dollars to buy trail mix."

Similarly, Strickland, who blasted other pols as living in "a bubble," blew his money on meals from McDonald's and other highly processed and expensive foods like bologna.

He failed his challenge and concluded that "raising the minimum wage to $10.10 will increase the average annual salary of a minimum wage worker to $19,777, hardly a living wage, but a major step forward for the 30 million hardworking Americans who live in poverty while earning the minimum wage." Not according to the Congressional Budget Office, which says that it would push a much more modest 900,000 people above the poverty line, at the cost of about 500,000 jobs. 

It's been so well established that home-cooked meals are more nutritious and less expensive than processed junk food, it's absurd that Strickland and company have to be debunked yet again. Watchdog's Maggie Thurber today published a far less dramatic chronicle of planning, couponing, and budgeting so she'd have some cash left over after purchasing plenty of healthy food as well as gasoline to drive to work. Even the left-sympathetic Cleveland Plain Dealer pointed out how unrealistic the politicians' spending habits were.

Thurber points out some important facts, too:

Only 1.7 percent of Ohioans are single parents earning minimum wage, while less than 5 percent nationally are heads of households earning minimum wage. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 4.3 percent of those in the workforce earn at or below the federal minimum wage.

And those individuals are eligible for several other government benefits like SNAP, Aid to Dependent Children, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, utility vouchers and transportation vouchers. They're not really getting by on just $77 a week.

Nobody wants people to be stuck in poverty, living off junk food. A lack of good-quality food in urban areas is a serious problem, but these politicians aren't part of the solution. Rather than promoting policy changes that would reduce regulatory barriers to work, they want to hike the minimum wage, which is effective at increasing unemployment pricing young people and low-skilled workers out of jobs and guaranteeing that small, local businesses cannot compete with bigger companies.