The plight of the middle class

According to statistics, my family is living in the middle class.

Between my wife and I, we bring home better than $50,000 a year and we have a family of four.

We’ve got debt, perhaps more than most, but we pay our bills every month – house rent, utilities, car payment, insurance, school loan, credit cards.

Yet, somehow, I feel we’re more confined to our town more than ever before. If there’s two things that have extremely hurt my family’s bottom line it’s these two: the raising of the minimum wage and the rise in gas/fuel prices.

I’ve firmly been against all raises in the minimum wage, and for a variety of reasons. The minimum wage should be seen as the baseline for pay with employers paying more for experience, dangerous conditions, seniority, job position, etc. People should want to either stay at a company that pays well and rewards hard work with raises and/or bonuses or use the experience they’ve accumulated to find a higher-paying job in that particular field, if one is available.

Employees who do a poor job should either continue to earn the minimum wage or fired for someone who will do the job and seek to improve, which in turn gives them a raise. When the basement of the wage-earners, though, is raised artificially, it raises the costs that go into some of the most basic jobs, goods and services we all want and need to live by. That’s part of the reason things such as food has gone up in price. What’s more, the guy who has been in a company for several years doesn’t get the same kind of raise in his pay. If anything has shown, while the minimum wage went up a few years ago, I specifically received a pay freeze from my employer. Sure, I was free to work for whichever company wants me, but while some of the lowest-paid people received great raises based on percentages, my best pay raise in my 11-year career was tied to either 2 or 3 percent annually as a “cost of living” raise. The minimum wage should be set low so as to help motivate people away from that basement so they want to achieve a greater pay.

Gas prices are beyond horrible or terrible. For months, the price of gas in my burg has hovered around $4 a gallon. The other day at the gas station, I remarked I payed between 79 and 95 cents a gallon and that was in the late 1990s. Since Sept. 11, 2011, gas has skyrocketed from more than $2 a gallon to around what it is today. The past four years have been the worst. Because of this high price, it makes it less possible for people to move about the countryside, seeing the sites of this great country. I have to pick and choose when I go where and if that means not visiting with family or friends because of the price at the pump, then that’s what’s has to happen.

What made our country great was that we had incentives to achieve something greater and raising the minimum wage runs counter to that. What made our country great was the ability of middle class families, families such as my own where we have that so-called median income, to be able to move about the country and take a family vacation or do a movie night once a month or even take the kids out to a ballgame. None of that is possible with the stagnating gas prices that are out there now and have been for the past several weeks.

Somehow, in the 1990s, we saw gas prices tumble downward from around $1.80 to those 75 cents and then back up again. It’s not like we can’t get our gas prices, or a solid wage with companies that give incentives for greater pay, back to where they need to be again. Hopefully, it’ll happen within the next year. We’ve already spent several years in a so-called “recovery” that’s truly nonexistent.

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