I am a single, childless 32 year-old female. I’ve made wages between $2.63 and $11.00/hour since I started working half my lifetime ago. I have worked 50 to 60 hour work weeks, become injured on the job, and been so tired at the end of the day that I could barely cook for myself before falling asleep, only to wake up at 5 the next morning. I have no savings, a laughable retirement fund (less than $500), and a car I make payments on every month.

But. I make it work. I’ve always found affordable rent, letting rooms in shared houses that sometimes had leaks, non-functional appliances and other quirks. I live simply, spend little, and have been fortunate enough to be able to grow much of my own food. Not everyone is so lucky.

It was appalling to me to hear some of the post-election responses to the so-called leeches living off of the government that elected our current president. Looking at the minimum wages across our country, it’s hard to believe that more people do not seek government assistance. There are Americans who work full-time, and still can not afford to pay rent, or even begin to think of purchasing a home. They are not lazy freeloaders. They are hard-working citizens, that no matter how hard they work, can barely take care of their daily needs.

If we, as a nation, are so focused on individual independence, why are our billion-dollar businesses so hesitant to pay their employees a livable wage? There is a lot of talk about the importance of the private sector. More private sector, less government. It does not take an economic genius to see that making the individual citizen independent requires providing them with earned income sufficient to meet their needs.

As many of our jobs in the U.S. are non-government positions, it follows that the private sector could, by increasing wages, eliminate a large portion of this dependence on the government. Not to mention add incentive for workers to labor longer and harder.

And, not to be naive, but wouldn’t an ease on the finances leaving government pockets put the national economy on the upswing? And isn’t that good for the private sector?

This just makes sense. If the private sector does not trend towards fair wage increases, relative to company loyalty and work ethic, than perhaps the federal government can take a swing at the minimum wage. It is in our better interests to reward active participation in society and encourage education for our citizens, but still we focus on welfare and supplemental food programs. These assistance programs exist only because people can not supply themselves with the necessities of daily life.

In time, however, if we make fair wages and just working conditions our priority now, we can alleviate the need for these end of the road programs. Because throwing food, money and shelter at people is not an answer that satisfies anyone, and it does not adequately address the problem. The question is not do these people need these basics, it’s why.