Disparity or determined to derail?

Charlie the retail salesman (as opposed to Joe the plumber), a working-class American like so many out there, makes $7.25 an hour – minimum wage – and works 40 hours per week. He’s a single dad (mom ran off with Mike the milkman years ago), 25, and father to a five-year-old son, Charlie Jr. Believe it or not, the elder Charlie has a college education (not paid for, of course) and would love nothing more than to teach elementary school.

Unfortunately for him, inequities in state aid and the loss of federal dollars have resulted in major cutbacks by the local school district; the powers that be are firing teachers, not hiring.

So Charlie goes to work each and every day, even when he’s ill, he pays his taxes, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink, doesn’t golf and simply wants to raise his son in the kind of America he grew up in.

Charlie’s situation is a perfect example of why we need to raise the minimum wage, as proposed recently by Representative Jesse L. Jackson Jr., an Illinois Democrat.

Why? It’s simple, really.

At $7.25 an hour, Charlie brings home approximately $300 per week ... before taxes. That’s $1,200 per month. For the sake of argument, let’s ignore the taxes (and his health insurance costs) and go with those numbers. Charlie’s rent is $400 a month, which is fairly cheap nowadays, but hey, he and Charlie Jr. don’t need a lot of room. Charlie drives ten miles round trip to work, five days a week, for a total of 50 miles. However, his son is on the T-ball team, which adds another 50 miles every week, for games and practices. On weekends, Charlie and his son visit his mom and dad, who live about 20 miles away, a total of 40 miles travelled per week.

All in all, Charlie drives roughly 140 miles per week. His two-door Ford gets approximately 25 miles to the gallon, so he needs around six gallons of gas every week, 24 gallons a month. With gas prices hovering around $4 where Charlie lives, that’s approximately $100 a month.

As we now stand, Charlie spends $500 of his $1,200 in monthly earnigs (no taxes yet) on gas and rent, which leaves Charlie $700.

Now, because it’s just the two of them, food costs are relatively low, except the prices in the grocery store keep climbing up and up. The two Charlies, however, manage (somehow) to get by on $100 per week in groceries, $400 per month.

That leaves Charlie with $300 ... still no taxes or insurance costs figured in.

Cable and Internet, because Charlie wants his son to be educationally competitive as he grows up, is $80 a month, leaving $220. As I said, however, Charlie went to college, and his college loans are due, $150 per month.

Charlie is now down to $70.

Electric bill? Fifty bucks, because Charlie has no air conditioning and keeps it ... cool ... in the winter, and now Charlie’s got $20.

Phone bill? Well, that’s another $80 a month for Charlie’s cell, which he feels he needs in case there’s an emergency with Charlie Jr.

The result? Charlie’s broke. And we never did figure in those taxes – or insurance costs – did we?

Look at it this way ... bumping the minimum wage up to $10 an hour would mean an extra $400 for Charlie and his son, every month. And with that money, Charlie would be able to pay his bills, help out the government (you know, taxes), care for his son, get to work, feed the two of them and maybe, just maybe, have a couple of bucks left over to save for a rainy day.

There are a lot more retail salesmen like Charlie out there than there are Bob the CEOs of multi-billion dollar corporations. We’ve been forced to bail out the rich guys, but we don’t seem to have time for the rest of us.

You know, the middle class? Your every day, working-class Americans?

We the people?

Follow me on Twitter ... @evesunbrian

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