The fast-food workers strike in the US raises an economic question. Should people be paid their market value or an income that ensures a dignified lifestyle? But defining the latter isn’t so easy. The Economic Policy Institute recently calculated how much a household needs to earn to get by. A “secure and modest” income for New York family of four topped $93,000—nearly double the median household income. That suggests most New Yorkers live in dire poverty.
Estimates like this show that living wage measures are completely arbitrary and that members of the upper middle class, both conservatives and liberals, aren’t well qualified to determine what’s an acceptable lifestyle for other people. The fast-food worker strikes began eight months ago in New York and later spread to other cities. Tensions rose further after a sample budget, put together by Visa and McDonald’s, demonstrated that a fast food job is not enough to cover basic living costs.