It's always fun to watch those who are at least moderately well off condescendingly draw up budgets to show how the less fortunate don't really need a wage increase. Kind of like Jason does here:
The Ontario NDP has come up with a crazy proposal to raise the minimum wage in Ontario from $7.75 to $10.00...
Don't get me wrong. I do not think the minimum wage should stay where it is. The Ontario Liberals have passed a law to raise the minimum wage to $8.00 on February 1. This is a reasonable increase and I support that.
Whoo hoo! 25 cents an hour! You're too kind, Jason. Really. And even offering to crunch the numbers:
The Ontario NDP keep talking about how you cannot live on minimum wage. If you figure 40 hours a week at $8 an hour, you are looking at about $16,500 in income. I won't deny it - that would be awfully tough to live on. However, it is not impossible if you are single and without loans to pay. After $9,600 in rent, you would still have around $200 a month for food after taxes. If you are a parent, then you will have other resources such as the child tax benefit to help you.
I mean, that's mighty white of you, Jason, old sport. But getting back to our original point, it's amusing to watch the well-heeled and well-meaning magnanimously offer to draw up "budgets" (for other people, of course) to demonstrate how it's not really that hard to live on $8.00 an hour. Sort of like .. . well, sort of like this:
When the dispute over the Means Test was in progress there was a disgusting public wrangle about the minimum weekly sum on which a human being could keep alive. So far as I remember, one school of dietitians worked it out at five and ninepence, while another school, more generous, put it at five and ninepence halfpenny. After this there were letters to the papers from a number of people who claimed to be feeding themselves on four shillings a week. Here is a weekly budget (it was printed in the New Statesman and also in the News of the World) which I picked out from among a number of others:
3 wholemeal loaves 1 0
1/2 lb. margarine 0 2 1/2
1/2 lb. dripping 0 3
1 lb. cheese 0 7
1 lb. onions 0 1 1/2
1 lb. carrots 0 1 1/2
1 lb. broken biscuits 0 4
2 lb. dates 0 6
1 tin evaporated milk 0 5
10 oranges 0 5
Total 3 11 1/2
Yes, it's always nice to have other people tell you what you really need to survive ... provided, of course, they have the freedom to cut a few corners. After all, it's not like they have to live on that budget, do they?
Please notice that this budget contains nothing for fuel. In fact, the writer explicitly stated that he could not afford to buy fuel and ate all his food raw. Whether the letter was genuine or a hoax does not matter at the moment. What I think will be admitted is that this list represents about as wise an expenditure as could be contrived; if you had to live on three and elevenpence halfpenny a week, you could hardly extract more food-value from it than that. So perhaps it is possible to feed yourself adequately on the P.A.C. allowance if you concentrate on essential foodstuffs; but not otherwise.
Now compare this list with the unemployed miner's budget that I gave earlier. The miner's family spend only tenpence a week on green vegetables and tenpence half-penny on milk (remember that one of them is a child less than three years old), and nothing on fruit; but they spend one and nine on sugar (about eight pounds of sugar, that is) and a shilling on tea. The half-crown spent on meat might represent a small joint and the materials for a stew; probably as often as not it would represent four or five tins of bully beef. The basis of their diet, therefore, is white bread and margarine, corned beef, sugared tea, and potatoes--an appalling diet. Would it not be better if they spent more money on wholesome things like oranges and wholemeal bread or if they even, like the writer of the letter to the New Statesman, saved on fuel and ate their carrots raw? Yes, it would, but the point is that no ordinary human being is ever going to do such a thing. The ordinary human being would sooner starve than live on brown bread and raw carrots. And the peculiar evil is this, that the less money you have, the less inclined you feel to spend it on wholesome food. A millionaire may enjoy breakfasting off orange juice and Ryvita biscuits; an unemployed man doesn't. Here the tendency of which I spoke at the end of the last chapter comes into play. When you are unemployed, which is to say when you are underfed, harassed, bored, and miserable, you don't want to eat dull wholesome food. You want something a little bit 'tasty'. There is always some cheaply pleasant thing to tempt you. Let's have three pennorth of chips! Run out and buy us a twopenny ice-cream! Put the kettle on and we'll all have a nice cup of tea! That is how your mind works when you are at the P.A.C. level. White bread-and-marg and sugared tea don't nourish you to any extent, but they are nicer (at least most people think so) than brown bread-and-dripping and cold water. Unemployment is an endless misery that has got to be constantly palliated, and especially with tea, the English-man's opium. A cup of tea or even an aspirin is much better as a temporary stimulant than a crust of brown bread.
I'm guessing I don't really need to continue here, do I? Perhaps before Jason Cherniak makes such an utter ass of himself in public again, he might avail himself of the literature. Orwell would be a good place to start.