Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Living Wage: Good for Business

(This is the latest installment in the Think About It - Pray About It -Act on It series sent out by Carmelite Sister Jane Remson)

After the Farm Bill failed in the House, House Republicans passed a version of the bill that excluded SNAP/Food Stamps. The bill has moved to the Senate. SNAP/Food Stamp recipients “aren’t living high on the hog,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR). SNAP/Food Stamp participation increased 80% during the recession in DeFazio’s district. The area lost thousands of well-paying and reasonable-paying jobs during the economic downturn. It’s a struggle for a lot of people to make SNAP/Food Stamp benefits stretch for a month. More than 95% of SNAP/Food Stamp households in the U.S. have incomes below 95% of the poverty level ($28,680/family of 4), according to Politico.

A recent Oxfam America poll found that 84% of respondents thought that addressing the problems of low-wage workers should be a top or important priority of government. Only 2% said that government should not have a role. The minimum wage, according to 65% of respondents, should provide a salary that a full-time worker can live on.

The SNAP/Food Stamps program provides “tens of billions of dollars to supermarkets and food business.” Recently Wal-Mart threatened to close three of six planned superstores if the city council passes a bill that would raise Washington D.C.’s minimum wage to $12.50/hour. Wal-Mart’s promise to bring “everyday low prices” and jobs to cities across the nation comes at a high price. Studies show approximately 80% of Wal-Mart employees are forced to use food stamps because of low wages and cost taxpayers an average of $1.02 billion in healthcare costs annually.

While Wal-Mart claims the hike in minimum wage would compromise its ability to create jobs, its competitor Costco disproves the theory that corporations cannot pay livable wages and earn profits. Wal-Mart workers typically earn $8.81/hour in contrast to the average Costco worker’s $21.96/hour and most are eligible for benefits.

“Because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God.” Romans 13:6-7

Let your member of Congress know increasing the minimum wage to a living wage benefits the corporation, the workers and the tax base.

Family of 4 in Orleans Parish  (Basically City of New Orleans)
Minimum Wage - $7.25 Poverty Wage - $10.60 Living Wage - $20.66

Family of 4 in Louisiana (averaged) 
Minimum Wage - $7.25 Poverty Wage - $10.60 Living Wage - $18.99

(The author is director of Bread for the World New Orleans)

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