Governor Ted Strickland recently penned an essay on Politico, highlighting the results of his “Live the Wage” challenge. During the challenge, the Ohio Democrat tried living on a minimum wage salary for a week — $77 for food, gas, and other necessities. Any amount that was leftover would be used to go towards bills.
The challenge is a stunt (an effective one, if you ask us) to raise attention to the Democratic effort to raise the federal minimum wage by showing the impossibility of living off of the current rate of $7.25 per hour.
“It’s un-American that you can work and work and work and not get out of poverty,” Strickland says.
Limiting himself to the budget of one who earns $7.25 per hour, who works 40 hours per week, he soon discovered why many who live on minimum wage turn to cheap, unhealthy meals: “Because fresh fruits and vegetables are hard to find at a price within a minimum wage budget, I turned to bread, peanut butter, bananas and bologna more than anything else.”
He describes trips to McDonald’s, a trip to the grocery store cutting into a significant part of his budget for just a few items, and having to walk to save on gas and transportation.
“I would normally take a cab, but this time, I took off my jacket and walked the mile in 90-degree heat, then walked back almost 2 miles to my office. Walking made me late to my meeting, but a minimum wage budget doesn’t allow for extra transportation costs, making it my only option,” he writes.
Strickland also faced challenges when it came to things like sudden health emergencies, highlighting that when he felt himself catching a cold, the only thing he could rely on was some medicine he already had. There was no room in the budget for a trip to the doctor or to buy medicine.
Ultimately, Strickland failed at successfully surviving a week on minimum wage, and despite his attempts at budgeting, he ran out of money by Thursday.
“I know I’ll never be able to truly walk in the shoes of a minimum wage worker, but experiencing just some of the decisions this income requires on a daily basis is enough to understand that we need to do better for these hardworking families.”
Other politicians jointed Ted Strickland in the effort to highlight the struggles those who rely on federal minimum wages for survival faced, including Jan Schakowsky, Keith Ellison and Tim Ryan. Gov. Pat Quinn from Illinois is also going to take part in the challenge to raise attention to minimum wage on the November ballot.
As the President of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, this issue is one that is a pressing matter for Governor Strickland, who vows to keep raising awareness to the issue until it is rectified. He says, “Washington is in a bubble that keeps our representatives away from the experiences of those they actually represent.”
The International Monetary Fund has also urged Congress to increase the federal minimum wage as well, claiming that the current wage of $7.25 an hour is low based on historical and international standards. Having one of the lowest minimum wage rates among rich countries, the IMF believes their suggestion will be well received by the Obama administration, which has been pushing for an increase to $10.10.