The $15/hour Minimum Wage, Part 2

This composite image showed up on my facebook page, posted by a few of my Republican friends.  It was hard to ignore, the juxtaposition created a political meme.

The jarring combination of a MacDonald’s employee fighting for $15 an hour wage and a wounded soldier actually accomplished what a meme should do:  get your attention with a short, memorable message.  Whether you are an underpaid food service or retail worker,  member of the military, or a hard-working middle class employee who hasn’t seen a raise in years, it resonated with many Americans.  It was also floating around Twitter.


 But these professions shouldn’t be compared like this.  $15 an hour is not more than marines earn and a MacDonald’s worker will not be making more money than the wounded soldier in the meme.

I did some research. The meme isn’t really telling the whole truth. An E4 rank Marine STARTS at $1,916.10/monthly. Marines don’t get paid per hour, but assuming he did get paid by the hour, his pay for a 40 hour work week would be $11.97 an hour.  That’s the first half of the story you are getting from this image. The other half though…In addition to basic pay, Marines receive pay allowances for food, housing, clothing, cost of living (aka, rent, power bills, etc.) moving, family separation, as well as special incentive pay for hostile fire and dangerous duties. Add to that they also get pay raises the longer they serve. So if they did get paid by the hour, (which they don’t) they have the potential of making $23.97 an hour.

So if we are going to compare two very different professions, a $9.00 an hour minimum wage is fine, but only if employers are going to be like the Marine Corps and give allowances for food, housing, clothing and cost of living.

Myth : Marines only make $11 an hour. FALSE

Myth : $15.00 overnight. FALSE

Myth : Minimum wage jobs are for teenagers. FALSE


Without getting into the name calling and hair pulling that comes along with this issue, there are a number of downsides to raising the minimum wage. Costs are going to go up some, most likely by a dollar or less. Wages have gone up before and people have lost work in some cases, in other cases more jobs have become available, because employees can finally afford to buy groceries. Minimum wage going up is a mixed bag. But the number one takeaway is that if Minimum wage doesn’t go up, than the cost of living needs to go down. And that is even harder to coordinate. 

I’d like to end with a quote from Barbara Ehrenreich’s book, Nickel and Dimed on (not) getting by in America.

“Someday, of course – and I will make no predictions as to exactly when – they are bound to tire of getting so little in return and to demand to be paid what they’re worth. There’ll be a lot of anger when that day comes, and strikes and disruption. But the sky will not fall, and we will all be better off for it in the end.” 


photo credits:


Anja Niedringhaus/ASSOCIATED PRESS  This photograph was shot by Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus. Who was killed April 4, 2014. She was shot to death by an Afghan policeman while covering the upcoming national election.   In the photograph United States Marine Cpl. Burness Britt is on a medevac helicopter on June 4, 2011. Britt was wounded in an IED strike in Afghanistan. A large piece of shrapnel cut a major artery on his neck. During his first operation in Afghanistan he suffered a stroke and became partially paralyzed on his right side.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.