Seattle recently put its minimum wage on a track to reach $15 an hour over several years from its comparatively high $9.32 today. Is public conscience and modest mathematics strong enough in just a few places in this great United States of America to end gross human exploitation and widespread economic suffering?

Some say that Americans are failing mathematics. From the oddly heated crossfire around minimum pay, we are failing not only mathematics but also Decency 101. Some among us seem unable to fathom what a minimum-wage income pays for. As well, these same “some” cruelly assert that 40 hours of labor might justifiably earn a laborer less than what is necessary to survive with dignity.

Actual numbers are not that complex. A person at minimum wage (Maine’s $7.50) and working full time would make a gross annual income of $15,600. Studio apartment rent averages $850 a month or $10,200 annually, leaving $5,400 for Social Security tax, food, clothing, heat, transportation, health care, family birthday gifts, postage, sales tax, vehicle registration and other sundries. That’s the mathematics.

Why, then, must any person considered worthy of operating a business and responsible enough to hire and direct the labor of any other person have to be encouraged to pay what is reasonable for living? To claim that paying a decent wage would harm potential profit shows a willful lack of understanding of the lives of those whose labor makes that business succeed.

There is math and there is human decency. Current views of the minimum wage lack both. All need to look within ourselves to appreciate what the more fortunate ask of others and what all share with fellow humans. Perhaps then we will do what is just and right. Perhaps.

Diego Gonzalez