— submitted by Rich Dunn, RNDC 2nd Vice Chair
I’m old enough to remember when the minimum wage was raised from $1.40 to $1.60 in 1968, but I don’t remember anybody saying that the increase would cost jobs or drive small businesses into bankruptcy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculator, $1.60 in 1968 translates to $11 today, so the $7.25 minimum wage actually represents a 34% pay cut.
Even an $11 minimum wage would only bring purchasing power back to where it was in 1968, a year when GDP was $910 billion. That’s equivalent to $6.15 trillion now. The GDP is currently over $16 trillion, an increase of 180%. Had the rising tide actually lifted all boats, the minimum wage would have to be $30 an hour for workers on that wage to realize their fair share of the wealth.
When progressives call for the minimum wage to be adjusted for inflation, conservatives usually accuse them of engaging in “the politics of envy” and “class warfare.” They need to be reminded that the war on the poor has been raging non-stop since 1968, but in the absense of a ceasefire in Washington, the living wage battles have moved to the state and local levels. That’s where we now hear about “radical” proposals for the wage floor to be raised to $15 an hour, which would only account for inflation plus half the increase in labor productivity. How radical can you get?
In 2013, Rep. Amodei voted against raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 over two years. Meanwhile back in Nevada, his lobby group has been advocating for repeal of the state’s $8.25 minimum wage. Apparently he thinks it’s just fine for low-wage workers to be paid a third less in real terms than they were in 1968, even as the economy has grown nearly three fold. I don’t think the average Nevadan would agree with him on that if they knew the facts. But they don’t.