The minimum wage is 75 years old—and back to its 1950 level
Posted in the Minneapolis Forum
#1 Oct 22, 2013
With the minimum wage having its 75th birthday this week, it's hit something of a milestone. Unfortunately, considering the extremist Republicans in charge of the House, you know it's a bad milestone. Today's minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is now equal, adjusting for inflation, to the minimum wage of 1950.
When Democrats control both Houses of Congress, minimum wage increases pass with large majorities, because Republicans don't want to be seen voting against it. When Republicans get to choose what comes up for a vote, though, the minimum wage stays the same while prices keep on rising. That's a very intentional strategy on their part:
"If we would have had our druthers," said Murray Weidenbaum, chairman of President Ronald Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers, "We would have eliminated it." But, as the Wall Street Journal reported, "Because that would have been such 'a painful political process,' Mr. Weidenbaum says that he and other officials were content to let inflation turn the minimum wage into 'an effective dead letter.' "
The two longest periods without a minimum wage increase have both occurred since 1981. We're on that road again with a $7.25 minimum wage since 2009. The minimum wage has lost nearly a third of its value since its 1968 high point of $10.75 in today's dollars.
At this point, a full year of working full-time at the minimum wage pays below the poverty line for a family of two. On top of that, many minimum wage jobs offer only part-time, unpredictably scheduled hours.
As on women's rights, civil rights, and so much more, Republicans want to drag us back—and have dragged us back—to 1950 when it comes to the minimum wage. Now if only they'd work on getting us to 1950-level union density.
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