— Rep. Keith Ellison (@keithellison) June 30, 2014
U.S. Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Keith Ellison and Tim Ryan — all Democrats from Illinois, Minnesota and Ohio respectively — are taking the “Live the Wage” challenge, documenting their efforts to live on the minimum wage for one week. You can find their comments on their respective Twitter pages and on the Live The Wage website.
The goal is to raise awareness about the hardships associated with trying to make ends meet on the current federal minimum wage. Working full-time at the minimum wage means making $290 per week ($7.25 per hour), not nearly enough to live in most places in the US, not just a major city. The minimum wage hasn’t gone up in the past five years. According to the site, once you subtract housing and taxes, that leaves $77 for all other necessities. Biking, walking and using coupons are suggested to make it through the challenge.
Of course, for a politician, this is a stunt mostly done to generate awareness about the issue and goodwill among voters. But it’s a clever stunt. Any further understanding that our elected officials have about how the ordinary person lives — or in this case, some of the poorest among us lives — is a positive.
This isn’t the first time elected officials have challenged themselves to live on very limited means. Back in 2012, Sen. Cory Booker (Mayor of Newark at that time) lived for a week on the same amount allotted to food stamp recipients. You can see here, the result is a lot of beans, potatoes and lettuce. Perhaps the challenge was made easier for the Senator since he’s a vegetarian (meat is pricey), but it still looks pretty spare.
Thirteen states have raised their minimum wage since the beginning of the year. Massachusetts was the last state to do so. And just today, there was a new report that shows a higher minimum wage actually contributes to job growth.