These days there is a lot of debate about the Minimum Wage. Some see it as unimportant, or even a hindrance to business. They want it abolished. The argument is that if businesses could pay people less they would hire more people, as they could afford it. Of course, no one bothers to ask the one important question: How do you live on so little money?
That might sound surprising, but there’s a good reason for it: I don’t earn the Minimum Wage; I earn less. As with so many aspects of life, today, conservatives and the tea baggers have a distorted view of the wage. They seem to think that everyone makes at least that much, but nothing could be further from the truth. As with every other law passed by Congress, all manner of special interest groups made sure there were loopholes big enough to drive a truck through the law; in my case, big enough to pass several positions through.
My glamorous day job is as part-time bartender, which is a tipped position. For those of you who don’t know it, a tipped job is one of those exceptions to the Minimum Wage. I earn less than minimum wage on the assumption I make up the difference in tips. Many people will give a server, waiter, bartender and so on, a fifteen-to-twenty percent tip; this is standard.
Ah, but there’s that phrase: “supposed to.” You see, it doesn’t always work out that way. In my case, typically, I only make about ten percent tips. Yes, you read that right: ten percent. As a result, I don’t exactly make a good wage. Now, Republicans, that is, conservatives, and most especially, Tea Baggers, will look at that and conclude that something very simple is at work here.
I’m not a hard worker. I’m not a good and upstanding person. The reason is simple: if I were such a person I’d be a success, I’d make enough to support my family. Only dirty, no-good lazy forty-seven-percenter takers can’t make enough money to live on. My response to this argument is to tell a little story I heard. If all it takes to succeed is hard work, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire.
For me, whether the Federal Minimum Wage goes up or not is not that important. It will not raise my income. In fact, the government decided that I made more money last year than I said I did. I learned this from my accountant when my wife and I filed our taxes.
It seems the IRS looks at what I reported as my income, looked at the place I worked and concluded that I must have under reported my tips. This, of course, is because I’m a dirty, no-good lazy forty-seven-percenter and taker. I must have done.
Only such a person would ever dare hide their income. A rich person or a large corporation wouldn’t do such a thing. No, they would never hide money in say, an offshore account or a Swiss bank. Don’t be silly, rich people don’t steal, they don’t have to. Only someone like me would do such a thing. My income got boosted on my return and my tax refund was reduced to next to nothing.
Ah well, it was probably for the best. After all, I would have blown it on drugs or gambling anyone, right? That’s what poor people do with money. It’s just as well; we don’t bother trying to raise the Federal Minimum Wage.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
Click above to tell a friend about this article.