How long would someone working at McDonald's be expecting to earn minimum wage? I'm asking, not sure I've got a reference point there, as never worked there. Assume you're 19 or 20, high school diploma, and generally show up on time and aren't a fuckup. I wouldn't think minimum wage would be your permanent wage, there should be raises over time, no? My high school/summer job started me pretty close to minimum, but while working there a few years, got several bumps up and was making a few bucks an hour more than when I started. Grocery store vs. fast food, but still.
And yes, home ownership at that salary is a dumb assumption, and not worth discussing. You can MAYBE work out kids, but spouse needs to also work full time, and there's likely assistance of some sort involved at that point, too.
Gets back again to the question i keep trying to ask: what's the minimum expectation? If your primary attribute is "generally shows up, (probably) has high school diploma", SHOULD we be talking about houses, vacations, etc.? Argue how much the cable tv bill really is, but it's stupid and irresponsible if someone in this position actually HAS that bill, should be watching broadcast TV and saving the money to try and do more important things. HBO isn't a necessity. Cell phone? maybe, but gotta be a cheap one.
Not voting for 'starve on the street', but if we're talking the bare minimum of entry level work, it kinda SHOULD be the bare minimum of reward for that work, no? It would be great if everyone was rewarded with a minimum $40k/year salary, but it's not realistic.
your incredulity is really a sign of the changed economic environment that we live in now. There was a time, not too long ago, that a person with nothing more than a high-school diploma COULD indeed find a blue-collar job that required no specific skill and yes, they could support themselves, even a family, and afford to save money and go on vacations.
This was during the great post-WWII economic boom, prior to the collapse of unions, globalization, de-regulation, and the onset of wage stagnation. It's not like there's some iron-clad rule of economics that those without a college degree who have low-skill jobs are doomed to crappy pay, we've just chosen policies that make that the case.