The Minimum Wage Lie
When “progressives” say “the minimum wage hasn’t kept up with inflation”, they’re lying.
Not shading, the truth, exaggerating, or interpreting things differently… they are flat out lying.
… And what’s more, the ones who made up the lie in the first place, know they’re lying (the rest mostly just parrot what they’ve been told).
What exactly would “keeping up with inflation” mean?
The minimum wage has been $7.25 an hour since 2009.
In 1938, when the federal minimum wage was established, it was $0.25 an hour. In constant dollars (adjusted for inflation) that’s $4.19 as of 2014.
So, not only has the minimum wage kept up with inflation, it’s nearly doubled it.
Ok.. well what about more recently?
Minimum wage 15 years ago in 2000: $5.15, or $7.06 in constant dollars
Minimum wage 20 years ago in 1995: $4.25, or $6.59 in constant dollars.
Minimum wage 25 years ago in 1990: $3.80, or $6.87 in constant dollars.
Minimum wage 30 years ago in 1985: $3.30, or $7.25 in constant dollars.
Funny… that’s exactly what it is today… How shocking.
So, for 30 years, the minimum wage has not only kept up with inflation, for most of that time it’s been ahead of it.
So, how are they lying?
The way “progressives” claim minimum wage hasn’t been “keeping up with inflation”, is by comparing today, with the highest level it has ever been; almost 50 years ago, in 1968, when the minimum wage went to $1.60 an hour ($10.86 in constant dollars).
This was a statistical anomaly.
There’s a long and loathsome tradition of lying with statistical anomalies.
At $1.60 an hour, the minimum wage in 1968 was a huge 20% spike from what it had been just 3 years before in ’65, more than 40% above what it had been in 1960, and nearly double what it had been 12 years before in 1956 when politicians started throwing minimum wage increases faster and bigger (again, all in constant dollar terms. The minimum wage at the beginning of 1956 was about $6.30 in constant dollars)
In constant dollar terms, the minimum wage today, is about the same as it was in 1962 (and as I showed above, 1985).
It just so happens that from 1948 to 1968 we had the single largest wealth expansion over 20 years, seen in the history of the nation (about 5-8% annual growth)… Which then crashed hard starting at the end of ’68.
From 1968 to 1984, the U.S. had 16 years of the worst inflation we ever saw, and the purchasing power of ALL wages fell significantly, as wages failed to come even close to keeping up with inflation (we saw 13.5% inflation in 1980 alone, which is about what we see every 4 years today).
It took until 1988 for real wages to climb back to their 1968 constant dollar level, because we were in a 20 year long inflationary recession, complicated by two oil shocks and a stock market crash (actually a couple, but ’87 was the biggest one since ’29).
However, the minimum wage was boosted significantly in that time period, far more than other wages rose, and stayed above the 1962 water mark until the end of that high inflationary period in 1984, declining slightly until 1992, then spiking and declining again until 1997 etc… etc…
By the by… household income in 1968? appx. $7,700, which is about the same as today in constant dollar terms… About $51,0000 (about 8% more than it was in 1967, at $47k). Which is almost exactly what it was in 1988 as well. Household income peaked in 1999 and 2007 at around $55,000, and troughed in 1975 at around $45,000
Of course, income was on a massive upswing from 1948 to 1968 (and in fact had been on a massive upswing overall since 1896 with the exception of 1929 through 1936). In 1941 household income was about $1500 ($24,000 constant), in 1948 $3,800 ($37,000 constant).
Like I said, it was the single greatest expansion in real income and wealth over a 20 year period, in American history.
1968 was a ridiculous historical anomaly… Not a baseline expectation.
So, From 1964 to 1984, the minimum wage was jacked artificially high (proportionally far above median wage levels), and “progressives” chose to cherry pick the absolute peak in 1968 from that part of the dataset, in order to sell the lie.
A living wage?
As to the minimum wage not being a living wage… No, of course its not. It never was, its not supposed to be, and it never should be.
The minimum wage is intended to be for part time, seasonal workers, entry level workers, and working students.
Only about 4% of all workers earn the minimum wage, and less than 2% of full time workers earn the minimum wage.
Minimum wage is what you pay people whose labor isn’t worth more than that. Otherwise everyone would make minimum wage. But since 98% of full time workers can get more than minimum wage, they do so.
What should the minimum wage be?
Wait, won’t everyone become poor suddenly?
No, of course not. Literally 98% of full time workers already get more than minimum wage. If we abolished the minimum wage, most of them wouldn’t suddenly be paid nothing.
Wages should be whatever someone is willing to work for. If you’re willing to work for $1, and someone else isn’t, you get the job. On the other hand, if an employer is offering $10 and no-one is willing to take the job for that, they need to offer $11, or $12, or whatever minimum wage someone is willing to take.
If you don’t want to work for $7.25 an hour, don’t take the job. If nobody offers you more than that, too bad, but that’s all your labor is worth.
If you are willing to work for someone for $7.00, and they’re willing to pay you $7.00, what right does some “progressive” have to tell either of you, that you can’t work for that much?
No-one is “exploiting the workers”, if those workers took the jobs voluntarily, and show up for work voluntarily… If all you can find is a job for less than what you want to work for, you’re not being exploited, THAT’S ALL YOUR LABOR IS WORTH TO THOSE EMPLOYERS.
You may think your labor worth more, but things aren’t worth what you want them to be worth, they’re only worth what someone else is willing to pay for them.
But let’s be generous…
All that said, I don’t think we’ll be able to eliminate the minimum wage any time soon.
So, to those “progressives” who would say “let’s make the minimum wage keep up with inflation”, I agree wholeheartedly… Let’s make it $4.19.
Oh and if you don’t believe me on these numbers, they come from the department of labor, the department of commerce, and the census. If I’m lying to you, it’s with the governments own numbers… the same ones “progressives” are lying to you with.