Minimum Wage

I was recently thinking about the country’s minimum wage. Don’t even start with the “it’s not supposed to be a living wage; it’s just a starting point”, or “raising the minimum wage causes everything else to go up” crap. The point is that in 1981, the minimum wage increased from $2.30/hr to $3.35/hr. Adjusting for inflation, that $3.35 an hour 39 years ago ($9.59 in today’s dollars) is still more than today’s minimum wage of $7.25. How pathetic that in 40 years, the minimum wage’s buying power has actually gone WAY down. Put another way, in 1968, the minimum wage was $1.60 per hour. In order to have the same purchasing power, minimum wage today would have to be $11.97. When I graduated high school in 1990, the federal minimum was $3.80. The inflation-adjusted amount for 2020 was $7.57. Not as much as 1968’s wage, but still higher than today’s wage, in terms of buying power.

Baby Boomers and their parents of the Silent Generation brag about being able to afford a house, car, health insurance and put their kids through college while the father only worked one job and the mother stayed home. That’s because the dollar was much stronger and worth much more than now. In 1950, a house averaged $7350. Today, the same house averages $320,000. That’s a 4300% increase, when wages have not increased anywhere near that. The prices of everything else keeps going up and up, but the minimum wage remains stagnant.

In fact, the minimum wage has been $7.25 for nearly the last 12 years. Granted, there aren’t many places that still pay that—here in southern Utah, many employers are paying $10 – $13 to start. Unfortunately, to afford the average 2-bedroom rent in Utah, one must earn $17/hour for rent not to exceed 30% of income. California is even worse at nearly $31 an hour to afford the same rent.

Servers have an even more hellacious time making ends meet. The federal minimum wage for tipped employees is a slave-like $2.13 per hour plus tips. It is sad that a server must depend on their tips to make any kind of money, as their meager paychecks are usually completely eaten up in taxes. I have heard of servers who received a $0 paycheck. If the tips don’t make up the difference, the employer must chip in to get to that $7.25 level. It is shocking and utterly embarrassing that tipped minimum wage has remained at this paltry level since 1991. Go look it up if you don’t believe me. On 01 Apr 2021, it will mark 30 years since server wages federally have increased. Not only is that immoral, it’s reprehensible. No cost-of-living adjustment, no increase (while the federal minimum has gone up more than once since 1991). The only thing tipped employees get is a big ol’ corporate dick jammed up the asshole. No kiss, no Vaseline, no spit, nothing. They get raped, and they get it totally dry. Some states actually pay their servers a normal wage, with tips added on top. That gives the server an incentive to do a good job. But when they have to depend on the good graces of the customer to deem them worthy of receiving a couple of dollars’ appreciation, just to get them to a break-even point, what then is the incentive?

Now, here is the quote of the day:

“How can anyone live off of minimum wage?”

Tom Douglas

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