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The Budget Does Not Compute

by Shanon Marie Norman 7 months ago in opinion
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Rent and Wages are not Alligned

For the past three years I've said over and over again to people complaining about wages, "It's not the wages. It's the Rent Prices." Some understood and some didn't. I was homeless for a long time and I searched high and low for affordable "housing" which means a rent that can be paid each month with the minimum wage. It was nowhere to be found. That is a serious problem. The minimum wage set by the federal government is at $7.25 per hour. I am a recipient of Social Security. A full-time minimum wage worker and I have about the same budget to work with each month. What does that mean to us? It means that unless we live with our parents, a spouse, or a generous roommate, we will be homeless. Something is very wrong with that picture.

Even if the financial structure is set up by society to motivate coupling, the roommates don't do much better for their sharing or compromising, at least not in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. A one-bedroom apartment rents for about $1100 per month. A minimum wage worker or a retired fixed-income elder can not afford that. A two-bedroom apartment rents for $1300. After the additional expenses of utilities, the roommates monthly bill is $750 each for their shared space and compromising. How is that fair to your hard-working employees? How can I demand that my burger is made correctly when that burger flipper is one argument or one paycheck away from homelessness? I'll say it again -- It's not the wages, it's the rent prices! You can't tell the restaurant to pay the crew more money when the restaurant knows it's not going to make any more money than it already makes. Even if the restaurant figures out a way to increase profits and give the employees a raise, the landlords will just raise the rents again. It's a vicious cycle and it won't end with the minimum wage increased. That just hurts the business owner and doesn't solve the homelessness problem which is the heart of this argument.

We do not become homeless because of minimum wage. We become homeless because of slumlords or greedy landlords who are allowed to charge outrageous rents because no one challenges them. The hard-working employees think the protest of the minimum wage is the solution when it is not. If you really want to stand and shout and protest, call the land owners and rental offices and tell them they are the reason why people are striking or quitting their jobs or going off the grid or sleeping on the sidewalk or committing suicide. I'm sick of it. I know basic math. I know how to make a budget work. I know Economics. When the minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, a one-bedroom apartment should cost $350 per month. A two-bedroom apartment should cost $500 per month. That is logical, doable, and acceptable for the greater good of civilization.

Yesterday I was watching the local news on television. It was reported that in Florida the current minimum wage is set at $10 per hour and there are plans to have it increased to $15 per hour by 2026. That's all well and good in regards to hearing the voices of the workforce, but it doesn't change my opinion. Perhaps there will be those who disagree or challenge my opinion with an opinion that my voice or advice doesn't count because I'm "retired". I am retired and on a fixed income. It took 30 years of minimum wage employment to reach that "status" and I've seen "recruits" who couldn't make it to work on time for their first day or couldn't get through one week of employment. Mock or demean me or my opinion if that makes you feel better for being part of the "rent injustice" or "homelessness problem", but my opinion is based on 50 years of experience living in the American economic climate.

My final word on this topic is a plea and my advice. America once was proud of being a country with the best "Standard of Living" and I believed that meant we had the best opportunities here and the best luxuries available to the most people. Whether that is still true or not is up for debate. Increasing the wage or providing retirees with an increase in their monthly check is a disrespectful and sarcastic way of saying, "Well, that's what you asked for and that's what you got." I beg both sides to hear and understand what I am asking. I am asking for rent caps. A 100 unit apartment complex that receives $30000 per month in rents, does not need to ask for more rent money. That landlord just needs tenants who can abide by the rent that is set.


About the author

Shanon Marie Norman

Who knows why we read whatever we read? Why did I like eating Chef Boy R Dee for fifty years and then decide it was gross last month? I don't even know why.


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