The elected deputy Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has embraced her role as de facto spokesperson for the progressive arm of Democratic freshmen headed for Washington in January. He has not completely chosen that role; it seems that every one of his affirmations or actions is amplified by both his supporters and critics in a way that is … unusual for a new member of the House.
The result, however, can be a spotlight that shines on things that are otherwise in the dark.
Consider the revelation that Ocasio-Cortez was having trouble supplying housing in Washington. Over the past week, this concern has expanded: on Twitter, he pointed out that she was not alone and that many Hill employees had to secondary work afford to live in the city.
"Time to walk", she he wrote. "Very few members of Congress actually pay their interns, we'll be one of them."
It was right, he said in another tweet, that Congress paid the staff "a real wage in DC".
That concept – a high enough salary to actually support someone – is not new to Ocasio-Cortez. It has been a battle cry among the progressives for a while, emphasizing that the minimum wage in many places is not enough to support a family once housing, food and other expenses have been taken into account. In many places, it's not even enough to support a young adult without children, presumably like many of the people who could intern at Capitol Hill.
The MIT salary calculator assesses the cost of living in each county of the country, determining the hourly wages needed for people and families everywhere. Mapped and important urban areas are distinguished as more expensive than others: New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area and, of course, D.C.
The subsistence wage in D.C. It is estimated to be just under $ 18 the hour for both parents in a family of four.
The residents of D.C. they have an advantage that people in those other cities do not have. In the capital, the highest minimum wage means that the gap between what an employee does at a minimum and what he or she needs to pay for and rent food is lower than elsewhere. In D.C. the gap is $ 5.34. In San Francisco, it's almost $ 13.
But of course, that higher minimum wage does not help interns who do not receive salary.
If we compare the subsistence wage in each county for a single adult with the minimum wage, the region of D.C. in general – including the suburbs of Virginia and Maryland – it is negatively distinguished by the way in which the minimum wage is compared to what is actually required.
The gap between what is offered and what is needed is generally higher in urban areas than in rural areas, a function, in large part, of those housing costs that have frustrated Ocasio-Cortez.
In Tulare County, California, for example, part of the Central Agricultural Valley in that state, the minimum wage is $ 11 an hour and the living wage is $ 16.74 for both parents in a family of four people. Housing costs in the county make up less than half of an annual salary on the minimum wage.
Head northwest for an hour or two and arrive in San Mateo County on the San Francisco Peninsula. There, the minimum wage is the same, but the subsistence wage jumps to $ 23.79 – mainly due to housing. In San Mateo, accommodation consumes more than 150% of an annual minimum wage.
The D.C. area has a similar problem: housing consumes much of a basic salary. The region of the capital, like the Bay Area, stands out.
How much is the accommodation? Ocasio-Cortez represents parts of the New York City boroughs of the Bronx and Queens, counties where 90% of annual wages of minimum wages would cover average housing costs for a family of four.
When New Yorkers are struggling to understand the cost of housing in another city, there's a problem.