January 17th, 2022


'Living wage' for whom?

Greg Crosby

By Greg Crosby

Published August 26, 2016

'Living wage' for whom?

As a young man I worked at lots of jobs. I was a high school dropout, I had no special skills, and I had no connections. What I did have was a strong will to work.

I took whatever jobs I could get. I worked as a pizza delivery boy, usually working until 3:AM. I flipped pizzas and was a short order cook. I bussed tables. I worked the night shift at a fast food drive-thru. I worked the beer bar at a pizza chain. I worked at a discount department store as a stock clerk and later as a checker. I worked at a printing plant where I had to get up before 4AM every morning to be at work by 5AM. I worked at a movie theater taking tickets, selling refreshments, and sweeping out the seats.

In my off times I drew cartoon gag panels and sent them out on spec to magazines (at that time there were a lot of national periodicals that bought cartoons) hoping they would get published. All this before I turned 21.

I never had the expectation that any of these jobs would be the job I would do for the rest of my life. These were jobs that put money in my pocket for my own expenses and personal needs and took some pressure off my parents, who never had much money. The thought that any of these jobs should pay me a "living wage," a wage that I might raise a family on, was a ridiculous idea. But these low paying jobs helped support me until I could find a way into the real occupation that I wanted for my life's work. I always knew that in order to make more money I had to pull myself up into something better. As a matter of fact, I believe it was the meager money I earned at these jobs that inspired me to want to do something which would pay more.

Eventually I went back to school, got my diploma, and set myself on a path that would lead me to my chosen career. I worked hard and I succeeded.

I don't say this to show how wonderful I am, I'm not. The point is, if I can do it anyone can do it who is willing to work and put in the time and effort.

Much as been said and written about the "American Dream," especially during presidential election cycles. It seems that most candidates have a plan to help all citizens achieve the American dream, that ideal that anyone can gain success and prosperity in our country, no matter who you are or where you came from. This has always been a noble and uniquely American value.

There's a second part to the "American Dream," however. A part that the politicians seldom mention, and that is for a person to achieve success and prosperity he must be willing to work hard for it. The American dream was never intended to be a "right" in and of itself, handed out to everyone like a social security card.

The American dream is simply a pathway to success for those who are willing to do what it takes to make it happen for themselves. Working one's way up was a large part of the American dream. Raising the minimum wage is once again a talking point in this election year.

The current federal minimum wage is set at $7.25 an hour, unions and other lobbying groups are pushing for a $15 minimum nationwide. In California the minimum wage is $10 an hour, although several cities, including Los Angeles, have adopted $15 an hour ordinances. Many other states have set minimum wages higher than the feds.

New York will raise the minimum to $15 by the end of 2018. Both presidential candidates have been falling all over each other to show their support for raising the minimum wage. Hillary Clinton's official web site states: "Hillary will work to raise the federal minimum wage to $12, and support state and local efforts to go even higher-including the "Fight for $15."

A Trump spokesman said, "On the minimum wage, Mr. Trump has voiced support for raising it to $10 at the federal level, but believes states should set the minimum as appropriate for their state." It's always been my contention that if you aren't happy with a low paying job it's your responsibility to find a way to get a better paying job.

People shouldn't be expected to raise a family by working at a crap job. But the answer isn't to give them more money for the crap job; it is for the individuals to better themselves by working their way up.

That's the American dream.


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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. He's been a JWR contributor since 1999.