For most Americans the word “poverty” suggests an inability to provide a family with food, clothing, shelter, and other basic necessities. Many Americans live in impoverished conditions, which include people who are economically disadvantaged despite the fact they are employed. These particular individuals are living check to check on what the government deems sufficient to provide reasonable living standards in a society where the cost of living increases every half decade.
Morgan Spurlock, creator of the show 30 Days, features an episode called “Minimum Wage,” in which he and his fiancé, Alex, live on minimum wage for thirty days in the heart of America; Columbus Ohio. Morgan and Alex subsist on forty dollars a day, relying on public transportation to get to and from work. Morgan and Alex fully immerse themselves into the life of the working poor, are not part of this socioeconomic status, but from a wealthy class who undertake the role of the working poor to show viewers certain aspects of life while working for minimum wage.
There is one instance in this episode where Morgan receives his medical bill for an emergency room visit costing $551 and an ace bandage cost him $40. One of the major issues in America is the high number of our own citizens who do not have health insurance. Many of these individuals are from the working class. These are people who are fully employed; yet do not receive benefits from their employers, or simply cannot afford to pay the premiums.
Morgan and Alex both made emergency visits to the hospital in this episode. Neither had health insurance and in Alex’s case she developed a urinary tract infection and Morgan had a severe swollen wrist. There hospital bills alone totaled over $1000. Such a rate is impossible to pay on a salary in which only the basic expenses, such as rent, can be covered. Medical insurance is not affordable for a large part of our society. Morgan speaks to a doctor in the film who says almost anyone can come in to the emergency room and get open heart surgery. But what they cannot get is the medication to prevent infections.
Although minimum wage has increased slightly over the years it still does not compete with the rising cost of living. A statistic taken from the series states that although Congress has continually declined the Kennedy bill, which advocates for a 41% increase in minimum wage, they have accepted the terms of rising cost of living by $27,000. As Morgan and Alex both experienced, the cost of living in the richest country in the world is out of reach for a large segment of society.
This episode raised three profound issues: the plight of the working poor, the lack of affordable medical health insurance in America, and the rising cost of living. Solutions to these issues are outside the scope of this author’s reflection. Nonetheless, this episode underscores the gap between the rich and the poor, the medical establishment’s capitalistic nature, and the government’s lack of power to solve real problems through legislation and taxation.