Democrats to Spend Week Living on Minimum Wage Budget

Campaign sponsored by liberal orgs, labor unions

July 21, 2014

A slew of prominent Democrats will spend the next week on a minimum wage budget as part of the Live the Wage campaign that is being orchestrated by cash-heavy astroturf groups.

Live the Wage is sponsored by more than 60 liberal organizations, labor unions, and other Democratic interest groups. Participants are asked to live on $77 for one week, claiming that is the average budget for someone earning the current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Brad Woodhouse, president of labor-funded front group Americans United for Change, called on Congress specifically to take the challenge before debating a potential 40 percent minimum wage hike.

"To the members of Congress who draw a six-figure government salary and say $7.25 an hour is a livable wage, I say walk the walk," Woodhouse said in a statement announcing the campaign. "Live the wage before refusing to raise the wage. These tone deaf members might just change their tune if they had a little perspective."

Woodhouse’s invitation has been met with enthusiasm by Democrats supportive of the $10.10 wage proposed in the Senate. Illinois Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky took up the challenge in order to stand "in solidarity with hard-working families who are trying to make ends meet," according to the release.

Michael Saltsman, research director of the Employment Policies Institute, said that the congressmen were responding to an astroturf effort, rather than genuine grassroots push for wage hikes. He said that the grand gesture of "living on the wage" fails to address the majority of academic studies that have found that raising wages for low skilled workers cuts job openings and opportunities.

"Instead of a substantive discussion about whether a higher minimum wage is the best way to reduce poverty, labor unions and the mind-boggling array of groups they fund have organized an election-year publicity stunt," he said.

The Live the Wage website bears no identifying information about its sponsors and is registered privately with Domains by Proxy, a service that allows site hosting to remain anonymous. The supporting documents on the site, however, are hosted on the same site used by President Obama’s reelection campaign, A spokesman for Organizing for Action, the non-profit extension of Obama’s reelection campaign, told the Washington Free Beacon that the group is involved in the campaign, though he could not confirm the origins of the Live the Wage website.

OFA has been a vocal supporter of raising the minimum wage throughout the 2014 election cycle. The front page of features a petition urging congress to pass the wage increase.

"The federal minimum wage hasn't kept pace with the rising costs of basic necessities for working families, and today is worth even less than it was in the early 1980s. That means someone working full time for the federal minimum wage makes just $14,500 a year—which is below the poverty line for a family of four," the petition says.

Saltsman accused the wage hike proponents of omitting key provisions in the social safety net that help alleviate poverty for low-skilled and less experienced workers. The annualized salaries and weekly $77 budgets used by these liberal groups ignore the reality of the modern American workforce.

"This misleading exercise doesn’t account for the substantial income supplement provided by programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, for instance, or the fact that a majority of minimum wage-earning employees aren’t single earners," Saltsman said. "More importantly, it ignores the conclusive findings from the Congressional Budget Office that any reductions in poverty from a $10.10 wage hike come at the expense of up to one million lost jobs."

Published under: Minimum Wage