In the summer of 1971 I worked as a construction laborer for $2.50/hour. The next year before college I worked the same summer job for the same rate. Those two summers allowed me to save up for my first few years in college. Not only did I work 40 hours/week, but I had plenty of opportunities to work overtime at either time-and-a-half, or if the job was really important, double time. On average I would work 50 to 60 hours/week, usually five, and sometimes six days/week.
The standard of living was quite low during that period; gas was 25¢/gallon, a Whooper with fries and a shake was 99¢, Levi jeans were $5/pair at Sears and JC Penney, and I was living at home with my parents which made my living expenses non-existent (i.e. no rent or utilities). Taxes were quite low, and after essentials, I saved up enough for nearly two years of college. Living was radically cheaper back then, even college.
So how much would you have to pay me today in 2021 dollars to match what I made in 1971 and 1972? Let’s find out from the U.S.Bureau Of Labor Statistics ( https://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm ).
Oh my! To match what I made in 1971 you’d have to pay me over $16/hour! Now let’s look at 1972.
Even to match my 1972 hourly wage you’d have to pay me nearly $16/hour. Today’s federal minimum wage is $7.25, or less than half of the $15 people are asking for. And nearly a buck less than what I was making in 1972, adjusted for inflation. John Thune, that 60-year-old Republican senator spoke of how he made $6/hour as a cook in the 1970s. Well, I’m 67, and I was making those wages in the early 1970s. I know how the 1970s started out, and what happened during the Arab Oil Embargo in 1973, the so-called first oil shock. The second was the in 1979, triggered by the Iranian revolution, which then triggered a drop in overall oil production by 4%, which then triggered a doubling of crude oil to nearly $40/barrel, which was still serious money back in the 1970s. In both cases we got shortages, long gas lines, and paid outrageous prices for a gallon of gas. And that’s ignoring Watergate and Nixon and the fall of Saigon and all the other disasters and atrocities of the 1970s. But I digress…
After a half-century of living (1971 to 2021) there is no way to compare what I made as a minimum wage in 1971 with what is being offered now. Necessities are so much more expensive a half-century into the future than they were in 1971. It’s obscene not to pay people a decent minimum wage, and when multi-millionaire Republican senators make damning comparisons with what they made against what’s offered now, it only illustrates how out of touch they are with the very people they claim to represent. They represent no-one but themselves and only a very few like them. In other words, all the rich white multi-millionaire dudes, of which there are very, very few indeed compared to the rest of us.