Rethinking Our Minimum Wage

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In this Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013 photo, Kassandra Guzman of the Corona section of the Queens borough of New York, poses at the Legislative Office Building in Albany, N.Y. Guzman, an 18-year-old high school student, works seven days a week and said she still has trouble saving for college after helping her parents pay their bills. As with other low-wage earners, the proposed hike in New York's minimum wage won't erase all her financial worries, but it would help. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

Kassandra Guzman, an 18-year-old high school student from Queens, N.Y., works seven days a week and said she still has trouble saving for college after helping her parents pay their bills. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

Today, a single parent earning minimum wage takes home $15,080 a year. That’s $3,400 below the federal poverty line for a family of three. President Obama noted the statistic in his State of the Union Address — “That’s wrong,” he said, calling for an increase in the minimum wage to $9 an hour because “in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty.”

The minimum wage has not always left a single income-earner for a family of three so far below the poverty line. In 1968, when minimum wage was at it’s highest point ever, that same breadwinner would have made $19,245 a year in today’s dollars — roughly a third more than he or she makes now.

In 1981, in an attempt to fight inflation, the minimum wage was frozen at $3.35 per hour despite the rising cost of living. It wasn’t bumped up until 1990, by which point it had fallen well below the poverty line for a family of two (about $2,500 lower than for a family of three). From 1997 to 2007, the minimum wage remained stuck at $5.15 per hour, as, once again, the cost of living continued to increase.

Between 2007 and 2010, the federal minimum crept up to $7.25 per hour, though individual states were given the power to raise the minimum wage above the national one, and nineteen have taken that opportunity. Now, Obama says, it’s time for the minimum wage to increase again nationally.

Source: EPI, using poverty thresholds for 2012 for family of two (one adult, one child) and three (two adults, one child) from U.S. Census Bureau. Minimum wage from U.S. DOL, deflated using CPI-U-RS. Annual earnings calculated assuming workers work full-time (40 hours per week) and 52 weeks per year (i.e., with no vacation.)


Obama also suggested in his State of the Union Address that, going forward, the minimum wage should be tied to the cost of living — an idea, he pointed out, that both he and Mitt Romney agreed upon. “Working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher,” he said.

In a blog post, Economic Policy Institute analyst David Cooper explored that idea further. He ran the numbers on some other possible indices to which minimum wage could be tied. The chart below shows his work.

Source: EPI analysis of data from Kopczuk, Saez and Song (2010) and Social Security Administration wage statistics, Total Economy Productivity Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Labor Productivity and Costs program, Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Employment Statistics, and U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (2012)


The “real average wages” line shows what would have happened if, starting in 1968, the minimum wage increased at the same rate that American workers on the whole saw their wages increase. The “productivity” line shows what would have happened had the minimum wage been tied to the economy’s “overall capacity to generate income.” The dark blue line shows what would have happened if, in 1968, the minimum wage had been tied to the income of the top 1 percent. If minimum wage workers saw the same massive increases in income that the America’s richest have enjoyed since the 1970s, the lowest-paid worker in America today would be making $28 an hour.

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  • stephen miller

    tie it to CEO pay!

  • Richard Saulnier

    1968 – 19k+ … something is very wrong with this data

  • Richard Saulnier

    my bad … $19,245 a year in today’s dollars

  • Marvin Wagner

    I wish that the article would have covered jobs included in the law. Not all are. I also wish that the impact of immigrants were explained. Many immigrants depend on below minimum wage work. Employers also depend on paying less than minimum wages. Hence citizens cannot find jobs and work for less when they do.

  • Fran Gouveia

    I’m no data geek, but I bet there’s never been a time in history when companies employed so many part-timers just to avoid paying benefits.

  • James Q. Jacobs

    Correction: This quote, “Between 2007 and 2010, the federal minimum crept up to $7.25 per hour,
    though individual states were given the power to raise the minimum wage
    above the national one” is incorrect. The states had that power all along. In 1988, I filed the first minimum wage initiative petition in history, in the State of Oregon. That same year following on my initiative filing, Washington state’s initiative drive succeeded at the ballot box by a wide margin, ushering in the series of subsequent successful initiative petition drives in other states. In 1989. the Oregon legislature passed the raise proposed by our Minimum Wage Coalition, a coalition of activists and groups led by Oregon AFL-CIO chair, Irv Fletcher. Oregon became the state with the highest minimum wage in the nation and Oregon law was later altered by ballot initiative to both raise the minimum wage and include periodic cost of living adjustments in the minimum wage..

  • Anonymous

    By my calculation, this is almost $54,000 full time, before taxes. At this rate, more people could afford to work part time, spending less on day care, more time with their kids, and providing more jobs for everyone. I would personally prefer to work a couple/few different part time jobs, and this would make it easy.

  • Anonymous

    That chasm between actual minimum wage and the wage tied to the earnings of the 1%? That is the wealth that was redistributed upwards over the past 40 years. But that wasn’t enough- financial institutions also had to turn poverty into an opportunity to profit further by charging interest on the credit people needed just to maintain the decent standard of living that their wages failed to provide for. The real “takers” are the ones who have kept all of these gains for themselves. Don’t let anyone call “class warfare” for pointing out facts like this- given this data that is the most disingenuous and hypocritical accusation of all time for what amounts to the most parsimonious approach to profit-sharing that exists in the industrialized world.

  • Becky Spoon

    $28/hr. would be $1120/wk or $58,240/yr. full time. Imagine tax revenue for public services had that been the case. We’d all be doing well, instead of only the top 1%.

  • Curtis Lester

    Greatest country in the world?

  • Joe Ipp

    Min wage is mostly for teens, etc in their 1st job. You basically get paid what you are worth. Where would additional money come from? Who? Would you pay $5 for a McD’s hamburger?

  • Zora

    Every raise by minimum wage, COLA, or other not based on increased productivity merely devalues the currency. Thus, every saved dollar is diminished by a like percent. This is hardest on the elderly who worked a lifetime for a fraction of the current minimum wage. The dollars they saved have lost most all of their purchasing power. Plus the Fed has reduced the earnings of savings below 1% a fraction of inflation. Reduce the poverty level by increasing the value of the currency and paying a fair return on savings. Every public corporation job should pay a fixed number of shares per pay period and all must sell their shares in the same market to raise cash. Raises, thus, come from increasing the value of the shares. Likewise, do not extend unemployment benefits without requiring some engagement in public works for tax dollars expended.

  • Dan Paralanguage

    obama is going to get so much criticism for this from fox news and the tea party (who really are fighting against there own best interests) that he really should be raising it to something that will actually help out the lower class. like 15 dollars an hour. more money in peoples pockets, more people buying things.

  • Wordsmith818

    Maybe in your neighborhood. Min. wage is the pay of probably 25% of the workforce in mine. And in states like California, where kids can’t quite school until they’re 18? That’s so they won’t compete with their parents for the minimum wage jobs. Don’t trust those middle class perceptions of yours; they’re skewed by the world promoted by the 1% culture-makers. More than half of all earners make less, and a huge percentage way less, than what is presented as the norm.

  • Kaki

    The point is that people COULD pay $5 for a McD’s hamburger if the minimum wage had risen commensurately with, at least, the cost of living. That Americans making 1968-level minimum wages have no buying power for today’s market.

  • Nate

    Devaluation and depreciation are different. Raising the minimum wage can in no way devalue the dollar, seeing as devaluation/revaluation are a part of monetary policy.

    And your point falls flat anyway because productivity has raised steadily while wages have stagnated. Did you see the second chart? It clearly illustrates that fact.

    We should just pay people on Social Security a living wage equivalent income monthly. The fact is that the only people hurt by minimum wage gains are the rich, whose wealth comes from systematically under-paying their workers and pocketing the profit.

  • indigovagrant

    I’m all for indexing the minimum wage, Only problem with indexing it to the top 1% is it would harm small business owners who do not make anything near what the top 1% make.

    You’d have to tie it the the pay of the individual CEO’s/owner-operators of each business rather than have a flat wage.

  • Nate

    “You basically get paid what you are worth” – really? Is the measure of a human beings value the wage they get paid? Is that really the world we want to live in?

    “Where would additional money come from?” – I assume you mean who would pay for the increased minimum wage. Employers, that’s who. Look at the second chart. On average, people are producing about $18 dollars an hour and getting paid around $8. That extra $10 dollars of surplus value goes to the bosses’ bank account as profit.

  • Riley O’Neill

    Not exactly. That extra $10 per hour goes to paying for their insurance, social security, savings for future times when their productivity may be less than $18 per hour, rent, marketing, legal fees and various other costs of business. As the profit incentive for an employer to hire an employee diminishes employers will be less likely to hire people to begin with. There are other non-wage costs to employing someone that seem to always be omitted from the picture as people assume that it is pure profit.

  • Joe Ipp

    So if someone is producing $18 an hr, and getting paid $8, you think $10 goes to owners bank acct? Now I see the mentality here. It’s all about being a victim, about blaming someone else for your shortcomings.

    What about cost of goods or services, what about overhead, insurance, matching taxes, debt service, etc?

  • Joe Ipp

    So make min wage $100, or even $1000. That should solve everything right? Dollar will soon be worth very little because of the excessive debt rung up under BHO, let’s make it $2000 an hr, they people could pay $100 for a


  • Joe Ipp

    Everyone is in sales, whether you believe it or not. Best workers will usually get paid more. If you feel you are worth more than min wage, then find another employed to pay up. ‘Sell your labor’, sell the results of your hard work. Employers these days are craving ‘good’ help. Not some clown who shows up late, checks email every 15, can barely speak proper English, who moves at 5 mph, etc. When was last time you were in a hardware store, Home Depot, fast food place, etc and you saw a teen hustling? I can’t remember when.

  • Wordsmith818

    “Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing
    exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the
    well-housed, well- warmed, and well-fed.”

    Herman Melville

  • Winton Schoneman

    From the Bureau of Labor statistics…”In 2011, 73.9 million American workers age 16 and over were paid at
    hourly rates, representing 59.1 percent of all wage and salary workers.1
    Among those paid by the hour, 1.7 million earned exactly the prevailing
    Federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. About 2.2 million had wages
    below the minimum.2 Together, these 3.8 million workers with wages at or below the Federal minimum made up 5.2 percent of all hourly-paid workers”. There is no 15 million people making minimum wage. It also turns out that 60% of the 3.8 million minimum wage and below workers are single, under 20 years old and working part time….further…raising the minimum wage 10% results in a 4% loss in jobs for these youth. Guess where they go and what they do with no after school jobs…these are statistics not some economists guesses.

  • Lindsay

    Have you seen the price of a Big Mac lately?

  • Anonymous

    I watched the segment on the current show concerning the food workers’ protests. Over time it has become nearly the law of the land that if you go out to eat, you need to leave your server a tip. This is a fine idea, but it can turn into a zero sum game. If the standard tip is raise from 15 percent up to, say 24 or 25 percent, than most of us who have not yet acquired the proverbial silver spoon will cut back accordingly on the number of times we go out to eat, negating said benefit to server.

  • chrisnfolsom

    If the wealth of the 1% was reduced and distributed downward how much actual difference would that make? I also find it interesting that the “right” says that reducing the profits of “hard working businessmen” would be a disincentive to them although they don’t say what level is acceptable, just don’t take any more…. Seems strange as would they be that much more productive if we let them keep everything, or that much less if they kept nothing? Where is the magic number? I don’t think you can help all people, but it’s hard when those who want to work and modest have skills who used to make $15+ an hour with some benefits and now are looking at jobs for less, part time and with lower benefits – and yes, resent it when minimum wage is so close to what they make as “skilled labor”.

  • Margo Nielsen

    I live in a town where minimum wage jobs and slightly above are all the jobs there are. A Superwalmart shut down other businesses and now nobody can afford to buy much of anything. Half the children in public school are on some form of public assistance. Their parents are always working, usually multiple part time jobs, just to make ends meet. Most teens and younger people leave town for bigger cities… they know enough to not stay in a town that offers no opportunities. This is a predominantly Caucasian population, and this situation is no longer rare in the U.S.

  • Charles Arthur Soule

    Please have your Maine branch organization join the Maine; Independent Party of Lewiston, Maine, Re

  • Kb Cash

    Minimum wage is just that. The minimum. It is not designed to support a family of three. Some responsibility lays upon the individual, who finds himself unable to earn a wage above the minimum for whatever reason, to not have additional children.

  • Anonymous

    If it had been tied to CEO pay in 1997, it would now be at over $25 an hour.

  • Marianne

    How has this low minimum wage affected Social Security payments and benefits? With the reduction in the minimum wage affecting some individuals life time earnings ie. 30 years, does this also create the situation where the low income earners do not have an adequate social security benefit to contribute to their retirement.

  • Dan Sullivan

    I would like to see the minimum wage compared to apartment rental charges and to the price of land. People who collect revenue from merely holding land and leasing it out are contributing zero to warrant their incomes.

  • umabird

    How about tying the minimum wage to the average total compensation of the CEO/s and top management within an industry, or a company (if it is large enough)?

    For example, if the average CEO of a fast food company makes $2 million a year in salary, stock options, perks, etc. (the total compensation as calculated by the IRS), then the lowest wage would be say, 0.025%.

    This works out to $50,000 a year, or $25/hr. (50, 40 hour weeks.)

    It is time we made the minimum wage be something more than just a wedge issue, to be played when we need the base to rally around something!!!

  • Mikeguru

    Wal-mart pays low wages, like low prices and limits full time hours to leess than 39 as to not pay benefits. Most of the workers at Wal-mart work another job, not having enough time to spend with their famiilies aka “teh Working Poor”.

    I talked to a fellow yesterday saying “Gee, if they raise my wages to $10 an hour, Everything will cost more”.

    I said “not true, maybe a little but not that much”.

    I told him of my visit to Australia where they have Medicare, Single payor Medical care where a family of four, reporting $50,000 taxable income pay $62.50 a month for their health care with little out of pocket and No one in Austrailia has to go through a bankruptcy like in the USA with One Million families every year that do, declare bankruptcy to pay for medical bills.

    I told him of Austrailia’s “Minimum LIvable Wage” where at age 16, the minimum wage is $7.55 an hour and “Graduates Up” to a “Livable Wage” of $15.96 an hour at Age 21 and older. I also mentioned that I saw lots and lots of businesses selling the same products as I see on the shelves at Wal-Mart in the USA, made in China. I did not see a Wal-Mart but I sure saw a lot of Small Businesses with lots of employees working selling, what Wal_mart sells and the prices were comparable to the USA. Purchasing power of the Australian Dollar is about equal to the USA dollar. Gas was $6 a gallon is about the only really expensive commodity. McDonalds Big Macs were about the same as in the USA.

    The Point is, raising the minimum wage is imporatant, people qualify for Food Stamps working at MInimum wage in our state, the Corporations are being subsidized by the Federal Government. Having a ‘Gradual Livable Minimum wage” to $15.96 would eliminate the need for Food Stamps.

    Need Proof?

    Wal-mart Exposed

  • Mikeguru

    Ever heard of Slavery?
    Our country has demonized and legislated the Minimum Wage, destroyed every effort to negotiate for better working conditions and wages, and convinced those who find themselves in poverty accepting it.
    History should have taught us that when people see no way out, feel the system is rigged against them, eventually rise up in Rebellion. Just like people did in France and Russia.
    Do we, in the USA, want to experience a Rebellion?
    THINK about it.

  • Mikeguru

    See how Australia “Legislates” the Minimum Wage:

  • Gerry

    Gerry, raise the minimum wage to $18 Hr thats fear , so we can, pay our rent amd buy good food and other bills, so these greedy business owners cant rob the people thanks. anymore

  • Daniel

    Lol so your argument is that if minimum wage went up, there would be more jobs? If the cost hiring workers went up, so would the cost of products of any industry that employs minimum wage workers.

  • Daniel

    Yeah and $280/hr would be $11,200/wk or $582,400/yr full time. Imagine tax revenue for public services has that been the case. We’d all be doing well, instead of only the top 1%.

    Lol now do you see the flaws in your statement?

  • Daniel

    Yeah so lets adopt that policy and then see every business fire U.S. workers because they’d cost so much more than workers in other countries. We are talking about unskilled labor. Anyone in the world can do this, so why not hire someone who would be ecstatic to work for just $5 an hour or even less?

  • Daniel

    I have two questions:
    Does Wal-Mart force anyone to buy their products?
    Does Wal-Mart force anyone to work for them?

  • Mikeguru

    I for one, don’t shop at Wal-mart on a frequent basis. Wal-mart, like other successful Corporations are pretty Clever. They install stores, get tax breaks that “defunds local schools” transfers tax burden to home owners, drives local businesses out of business and their prices are not really all that hot. Because of their size, like most monopolies, they pressure manufacturers to “modify” packaging of a product. I looked at a HP Personal Computer printer I bought at Best Buy. The Printer had the same Number but had a different suffix. The Printer I bought at Best Buy included the Cable to hook up to the Computer. The Printer, with the same number at Wal-mart, did Not include the cable and was $5 cheaper. The cable was $20 more to buy.

    When I was at Wal-mart, I asked an employee where the Salsa was. She told me “No Speak English”. Oh, she probably had ID to get hired but was probably stolen from a kid.

    The jobs in our state, last year that were created, Three out of Four were Minimum wage which if they were single, automatically qualfied these workers for food stamps. Employees are provided information on how to qualify for Medicaid.

    Let me bottom line it.

    We, the People< of the USA are being "Managed to our detriment for the benefit of Corporations". We are no longer managing our Country for the benefit of its People. We need to turn the Corporations stranglehold on the USA OFF. We need to educate our elected Officials to Legislate for the benefit of its people and Not the Corporations.

    The definition of Fascisim is a Government run by Corporations.

    Wal-mart and large Corporations have slowly, but been successful, in robbing the 99% for the benefit of the 1% (half of which are Corporate Former and Current Executives).

    Become educated and learn, THINK, and be informed.

  • PJ

    In productive economies, minimum wages should keep going down and PURCHASING POWER should keep going up.
    Stop rewarding the wrong companies and vote with your dollar

  • Fed Up Taxpayer

    I guess my question is, and one that everyone is afraid to address, is why is someone with a minimum wage job producing babies in the first place ?
    If you are minimum wage, sex and making babies should be the last thing on your mind.
    How much should someone be paid to ask “can I biggie size your fries ?” or to drag an item across a scanner at Wal-Mart ?

  • Mikeguru

    I attended a City Council meeting where the “Cash Store” was applying for a conditional use permit to put one of their stores in a neighborhood that had home valued at $500,000 and $750,000. One of the Council asked him if he knew how much interest he charged at this store. The guy was from out of state and said it varied from state to state. He could not remember what the interest rate was.

    I was in the audience and looked up the interest of the store.

    If you borrow in a 140 day contract, there are 10 payments due every two weeks.

    The Interest if you pay with a debit card or credit card is 520% (Five Hundred Eighty Percent).

    The interest if you pay with cash is 780% (Seven Hundred Eighty Percent).

    Many of these “Cash Stores” are owned by banks like Wells Fargo. The spokesperson would not disclose who the owners were as they were a private company.
    When are we going to stop the manipulation of our country by Banks, Wall Street, Billionaires, and Corporations.
    Borrow $1000 at 780% Interest over 140 days at Cash Store
    Every two weeks payment – $577
    Total Interest charged – $4770.
    Total Payments over 140 days (3.5 months) – $5770.

    Annual Percentage Rate (APR) 140 days 10 payments

    Cash Advance Installment Loan Title Loan

    Idaho 521.43% 519.99 – 780% 304.17 – 365%

    Illinois 404.11% 403% 325 – 390%

    Michigan 324 – 391.07%–

    New Mexico- 520.04 – 780% 304.17 – 365%

    Texas 533 – 533.16% 611.69 – 611.77% 286.42 – 590.07%

    Utah- 519.99 – 780% 304.17 – 365%

    Wisconsin- 519.99 – 650.02% 325%

  • Answer Please

    I’m a student and have been reading some of the comments and wondered if raising the minimum wage has so few effects on prices why not just raise it to something crazy like $500 an hour making everyone make 1 million dollars a year sure prices would rise and there would be inflation but as I have read it wouldn’t be near as bad as the benefits that would come from the wage increase.

  • Renata

    So who do you want to take your order at McDonalds or to clean up after you when you stay at a hotel or to ring your purchases at Walmart? Are you saying that all of these people who make your life convenient don’t deserve children? It’s simply immature and short sighted to not make the connection that you benefit from companies that “steal” the time labor of their workers in order to “redistribute the wealth” to you!

  • Renata

    How about graduating the minimum wage by age then?

  • Fed Up Taxpayer

    I don’t care who takes my order or cleans my room so long as the wage they are paid is commensurate with their skill. And those jobs are not worth any more than 7 bucks per hour.
    And yes, having kids is luxury you should not participate in if you cannot afford to take care of them without assistance.

  • dirtydeeds210

    Are you also aware that in Australia, the average home price is 6 times the average annual household income, as to where in America it’s only 3 times the amount? You may also want to brush up on their tax system sense you like to preach about down unda. You know gas there costs about triple what it is here or that a head of lettuce costs $9?. Didn’t think so.

  • Trista Buskohl

    Which will in turn raise the cost of living. If you want to raise minimum wage and still have it be proportionate to what you think people spend, then you should freeze prices as well. If no one freezes the prices then the prices will go up furthering our inflation and we will still be earning the same amount to the cost of living that is proportionate to what we are earning and paying now. Say we double the minimum wage then cost of living will double too thus we are still earning less then we are paying and it lowers the value of the American dollar. That is ridiculous. If we freeze prices and raise minimum wage then businesses will lay off more people and with the benefit packages people will have to add to their employees income that already will cause layoffs. If we keep gouging the businesses that help generate income and the economy we will have a crash. More money doesn’t mean more people buying things if more people are unemployed and businesses collapsing, and if they do buy things it doesn’t help the economy when the value of the dollar keeps dropping and prices keep rising. Economics 101.

  • Trista Buskohl

    The value of the dollar is based on import and export, if we raise minimum wage and that inflates the cost of living through further rising prices to accommodate for this, then what we pay to outsiders will also affect their economy in a negative way unless they lower the value of our dollar and make us pay even more for what they pay less for. This does lower the value of the dollar and devalues it. Which is part of devaluation and revaluation. Productivity will also have to include outsourcing comparisions versus what we pay for each and honestly to outsource we pay less for higher productivity when it’s the other way here. So before judging the wealthy look at the taxes they have to pay, plus the soon income packages. They pay business taxes, property taxes, import/export taxes, etc.. and they don’t get much if any of their taxes back from rebate. If they get tax cuts it’s far less than proportionate to the average person getting most of their taxes back. They also never collect Social Security, but still pay on it. Those middle class and poor pay on taxes mostly comes back to them in the rebate and they also are able to collect on Social Security with the taxes they don’t get back through rebate. Most don’t have to pay for all the taxes.

  • Trista Buskohl

    My family is not well housed, well warmed, well fed. My mother works hard with no insurance benefits to live in a costly apartment which is one of the cheaper and more affordable ones in town, my sister works minimum wage to feed two children and has gone to college, my other sister makes a lot of money and most of that goes to taxes she won’t get back, paying bills like the high rent she pays and a lot of her bills goes to childcare because she works many hours and she makes a lot of money she earned her income through skills because she went to school to become a nurse. I am disabled and raising a child of rape. I love my daughter and still want to go to school and get off disability which is from my deceased father who never collected on his Social Security. I’m lucky to live in low income housing. We all stress all the time over money, we also acknowledge the cost of business because our mother’s ex paid a lot of money to own a green energy business that ended up being of such low value compared to oil companies he had to sacrifice it for his retirement money and still lives off the land to survive his retirement.

  • aaltenbu
  • Art P

    In some towns, they have driven local shops out of business. When they are the only game in town, where do you shop? where do you work? What choice to you have other than move?

  • Art P

    So the family of four, where the primary earner has had their job eliminated, and has to work two or three part time, minimum wage jobs and still has to choose between food, medical or housing, should kill off their children so they don’t have to go on public support?

  • bilbo baggins

    What else can you do for fun that is within your budget?

  • Mikeguru

    Baloney, I was there on site, you obviously have only priced items in cities near airports, if you have been there at all.

    Lettuce is $1.50 a head, not far from us I think.
    Housing Prices are high, but Australia did Not have a housing Scam that put so many people into foreclosure, flooding the market with homes in the USA that could not be built for what the foreclosure price is today. Once the inventory gets eaten up, the cost per foot in the USA at $110 a square foot and higher will equal, or come close to Australia.

  • Fed Up Taxpayer

    tough shit….life aint fair….if you don’t plan for contingencies, it should not be my responsibility to pick up the ball for you

  • Fed Up Taxpayer

    The library, the parks, the beaches, etc. are free.

  • Truth Be Told

    That’s a disgusting comment. Full of ignorance.

  • Karla Marie Robinett

    I agree. A living wage is not too much to ask. These jobs may not require a college education,although more grads are unable to find work and are in fact doing these jobs with a mountain of debt,but they are the backbone of society in many cases and they do grueling,dirty work oftentimes. All those who work in our fields,maintain hotel rooms,cashiers and checkers,etc. should quit and see if anyone misses them. I’m sick of this American attitude toward the poor. Wait until the middle class is reduced to poverty and let’s see how their attitude changes. It’s bound to happen since crony capitalism is destroying our economy.

  • Art P

    That’s the irony of your position. You would deny someone a livable wage and force them to depend on taxpayers to support them, rather than be productive taxpayers themselves. With an “I’ve got mine, screw everyone else” attitude, eventually you are the one that gets screwed…. Unless of course, you’re the CEO w plenty of offshore tax shelters.

  • Karla Marie Robinett

    Yeah. These types are a dying breed though,I’m thinking,as more of them are going to the government for help these days. Funny,the same ones who diss the poor are now standing in the welfare lines.

  • Scott Koontz

    I bet I pay more than you, gripe less, and understand the situation much more. If you’re so fed up with taxes now, how angry must you have been in previous decades when taxes were higher? You’re a bit crazy now, so I can’t imagine you paid taxes in the 50s. Or 60s. Or 70s. Or 80s. Or 90s. Am I right?

  • Fed Up Taxpayer

    Sorry Gramps, I highly doubt you are making more than I, if so, some company is getting seriously ripped off

  • Fed Up Taxpayer

    And just how much should someone be paid to drag an item across a scanner at wal-mart ?
    If they did not take advantage of a taxpayer provided eduation and learn skills that would enable them to do better in life, thats their problem.

  • Fed Up Taxpayer

    It is ignorant to be screwing and making babies you cannot afford.

  • Scott Koontz

    I own a small company, therefore I pay plenty in taxes. Hired a new employee recently and we doing just fine — thanks for pretending you’re somehow better than me in some way. I’ll assume by your non-answer (and the fact that you are now paying the least in taxes ever unless you were working more than 60 years ago) that you’re just a Tea Partier with his ear to Fox News. You haven’t been around long enough to know that your taxes are low. You’d be a whiner no matter what you earned or what you pay, so I’m guessing you simply like kicking people when they’re down.

  • moderator

    There is a ZERO-tolerance policy when it comes to personal attacks. If you cannot follow the comment policy you will no longer be able to participate in our community.

    Thank You,

    Sean @ Moyers

  • Anonymous

    who are you to say what someone else’s time is worth? How much would you charge me to clean my room? Whatever it is, clean it anyway and I’ll give you 7 bucks.

  • Shroudwoman

    Yes. Walmart because destroys American small towns .They put every small business from grocery store to hardware store to nursery out of business leaving the Walmart as the only employer in the town (besides public servants and drug dealers) . So YES – Walmart “forces” communities to work for them and buy their cheap Chinese made products because they have destroyed every small town in the USA. .

  • Shroudwoman

    Im with you. I am patriotic and I NEVER shop at Walmart. I support local businesses and American made goods.

  • Shroudwoman

    The corporations have won your mind. They have destroyed the unions, the corrupt banking system has destroyed the middle class, moving US businesses off shore to China, etc. has destroyed the US economy leaving no jobs anywhere and you nice person, are successfully blaming the poor just like they want you to. Perhaps forced sterilization of the poor would be good. OH! They already do that in the South , i forgot. The corporations have been made legal “people” and it is over for the REAL humans in the US until they decide they want something better.

  • b dussan

    It would be nice to tie the minimum wage to the earnings of the top 1 %, but it would require an act of economic transformation the likes of which would be violently opposed by those above the 1 %ers on grounds that it would be the death of the “free enterprise system” [RIP].

  • T. E.

    i worked at Wal-Mart while in school so that i could get the education to make a living wage. Wal-Mart is not a living wage. could i have worked somewhere else… maybe but after a solid year of job hunting i took what i could get to have at least some money coming in. So here i am a full time student, working as many hours as i was allowed to work, and you know what i was still on food stamps and SINGLE. I don’t have children and i still couldn’t afford both rent and groceries. So to all of those out there talking about how it’s only families and if they didn’t have kids they could support themselves… Minimum wage supports NO ONE. period.

  • s thompson

    An important point to remember is that many companies who pay minimum wage or slightly above do not hire many full time employees. They offer part time positions, often allowing employees to work so few hours that even though insurance benefits are offered, the coverage is so poor and premiums so high that employees cannot afford the insurance. Scheduling is done in such a way, with work hours varying greatly week to week that having a second part time job is very difficult. So you end up with a population of self pay patients who wait until a health problem escalates to a serious illness before seeking medical care and have to use emergency rooms as family physicians because private practice physicians require payment at time of service. When these patients are unable to pay, who do you think absorbs the cost? It is passed along to everyone. There are few services for the working poor. I am fortunate to be well paid in the health care industry and I see and care for these people everyday. Someone told me something recently that I found eye opening: It would be more expensive to own a slave than to pay minimum wage. Think about that for a minute.

  • Anonymous

    Start your own business. I did. You can too.

  • Kb Cash

    The corporations that are destroying the middle class are not doing so through reduced wages. You are doing it for them. You do not need every new iphone, the largest TV, the Hummer when gas is $4.00 a gallon.

    If people could decide to buy food instead of getting tattoos, or decide not to have children if only one is working and she’s making minimum wage, we wouldn’t have as much “poverty” in this country.

  • John Ross

    CEOs make a lot of money for their companies and themselves by cutting wages – so tying the minimum wage to CEO pay would have allowed CEOs less room to cut wages, thereby keeping the minimum wage a lot lower than the graph would suggest. Tying CEO pay to the minimum wage on the other hand might have a sizeable impact on our political will in the USA. The option I like best on the graph is tying minimum wage to productivity. As strange as it seems such a solution has strong Marxist overtones without the inefficient and heavy handed central planning of Leninism.

  • Vik Karode

    Kassandra works seven days a week – really would like to know how many hours in a day does she work? Journalist – please provide complete information supporting facts. If she works only an hour a day, then the story leans one way if 5 hours a day, it leans the another way.

  • Anonymous

    One must note in the last graph that the way we measure inflation has no relevance to real life where everyone needs food & energy to survive and does not take in to account other modern day necessities like internet access without which one cannot find a job.

  • Captive in Kern

    And what about custody court abuse victims, like myself, who find themselves living in poverty and dependent on public assistance? Whom after you’ve found the courage to leave the domestic abuser who was likely going to kill you are then prevented by the court system from moving out of state with your children because it will interfere with said abusers visitation. I wouldn’t need assistance if I could take my children and go home to live with family, but I refuse to abandon them to have to live with an abuser. Don’t be so quick to judge as you don’t know the circumstances that led to a persons need for assistance.

  • Stephen Stempo

    ok so i have 2 employees at 9 dollars and hour each. minimum wage goes to 18 dollars. I fire one and keep the other one. I pay the same and he’s out of a job.

  • Stephen Stempo

    I think you’re a touch off on where that rebellion is actually coming from.

  • Stephen Stempo

    what does patriotism have to do with it? :)

  • Stephen Stempo

    hmm You’re right a higher minimum wage would never put a small mom and pop store out of business! All small stores on shoestring budgets can afford to pay workers more! Eureka! :)

    You won’t like the truth but really more than likely what happens is wal-mart pays better than most of these “local businesses.” They sell goods.. specifically food.. cheaper to people crushed by credit card and student loan debt (itself heaped on them by the american lie of NEEDING a college education for even the most mundane of jobs and a liberal progressive president who’s in bed with insurance and credit companies who are never punished by the market for giving out bad loans and bad lines of credit thus leading to insane inflation devaluing the measure of saving and increasing the costs of goods.) So really it’s the federal government putting small businesses down, but that doesn’t fit with the narrative does it?

    I mean you do realize that one of the biggest lobbying companies for INCREASING the minimum wage is WAL-MART? They want the minimum wage increased…why? They can afford it and their competitors most likely can’t.

  • Daniel Embody

    The good news is that the government can force the rich to give a bigger share of the pie to the workers. The bad news is that the government can’t force the rich to make the pie. And if the government asks too much, the rich will stop making the pie.

  • Butch Davis

    why not simply remove taxation from the people and tax big business.. thats the way it was originally before WWI and we had zero debt….but then, people weren’t free loaders & illegal immigrants on the taxpayers backs like we have today.

  • Anonymous

    I get really frustrated with this whole minimum wage argument because it appears that most of the people arguing for a higher minimum wage are missing the real problem of upward mobility, and reacting with emotion, which results in a situation where overall wages will decrease, and most people will suffer more, so that a small minority can perceive to be doing better (well, in the short-run).

    Firstly, the statistics that have been thrown out to support minimum wage have been vastly misrepresented and more often taken completely out of context. Just look at this article… which begins by implying that most people making the minimum wage are full-timers with families to support, yet the example that they use in the argument is of a high school student working 7-days a week, who may or may not be full-time (article does not say, but it would seem reasonable to believe that she’s probably working part-time for an hour or two after classes.)

    Then it goes into this whole argument of judging minimum wage based on productivity, which is rather silly because we are not talking about the productivity of the individual worker, but the productivity of the overall economy, which has been exponentially increased NOT by workers working harder, but more so by the introduction of technologies that make jobs easier on employees. The technology, itself, costs a lot of money (however, there are many good careers created by the increased demand for technology… someone has to design, build, and implement those technologies.) But where a fast food worker in the 1960s actually had to know how to cook food, add and subtract, write orders, and deliver them, today, we have pre-cooked foods that are prepared in machines that automatically time and prepare foods. Workers only have to punch in pictures of the foods that people order, and the machine does all of the rest. In other words, productivity is a rather silly way to judge things, and if it were actually used properly (judging the individual’s actual productivity, not the overall productivity of an economy where expensive equipment grossly increases said productivity), you may find that people are LESS productive than they were in the past, just because machines have become MORE productive.

    But in the end, raising the minimum wage actually hurts the poorest the most, and the middle-class the second most. Here’s why: The minimum wage, by definition, will always be the LOWEST WAGE POSSIBLE. No matter how high you raise the minimum wage, it will always remain the lowest wage possible, and the economy will adjust for that valuation. Raising the minimum wage only allows employers to be more selective when hiring new employees, and expect more from their current minimum wage earners. For instance, an employer, in the short-run, will be more likely to hire someone with no skills and little to no work experience at a lower minimum wage than at a higher minimum wage. But, once a worker has a job, even a minimum wage job, that same worker gains more work experience and skills, which will make it easier for him or her to find a higher paying job in the future. If the worker never gets the job in the first place, their income remains at zero.

    There is a lot of talking about the income gap between the lowest and highest earners, but how about the income gap between the lowest and the average worker? In the article cited in this column, by David Cooper, Mr. Cooper points out that the gap between the lowest wage possible and the average wage of non-supervisor workers has INCREASED since the 1960s. While he strangely presents this statistic as a negative, this is actually a positive. While it may sound bad to hear any income gap increasing, what this statistic actually illustrates is that either more people are earning higher wages or less people are earning the lowest wage possible, or a combination of the two. Both of these scenarios are a good thing! We should want to see average wages rise faster than minimum wage. That means that more people are earning more than the lowest wage possible, or that their wages are increasing as they should. The problem with minimum wage increases is that it actually closes this gap, putting more lower wage to middle income families closer to the lowest wage possible. This is not a good thing for anyone.

    Rather than focusing on raising the minimum wage, one should be focusing on how to move people from the lowest wage possible (minimum wage) to a reasonable career that can pay an honest, long-term living.

  • Corbin Nevermore

    the fact that you think internet access is a necessity shows how disconnected humanity really is. you do not need the internet to survive.

  • Torsh Johansen

    Actually, most full-time minimum wagers are over the age of 20. I would say there should be some exceptions for mom-and-pop places, or summer-only jobs, etc. It can definitely get complicated.

    But the point is simple: Minimum wage carries less weight now than it did in decades past. No, not making $15/hr, but making a little over $9/hr.

    Problem is lack of required jobs with technology booming. It makes the top 1% grow even more, while also having the “bottom” being much less.

    In 1970, you could work part-time, live at home, and pay for College without any loans. You can’t do that now.

    In some important ways, the dollar has less pull too, like when it comes to getting trained/educated PLUS there’s not as much need for zombie labor, comparatively speaking.

    So it’s a combo of things. I think the least the govt can do is set it up so that minimum wage is on par with both inflation + CPI of good years in decades past… which would be about $9.15/hr. Or possibly lower the taxes on bigger businesses while also having it a bit higher on them, while allowing mom-n-pop stores to have a lower wage amount (like BB=$10.00/hr, Mom-N-Pop=$8.75hr).

  • Caddy Jim

    What You Suggest At 1990 Would Be For Some Benefit 1968 Is When CBO Stated Recording the Info..

  • David Mowers

    WRONG! Every economic study shows that employment numbers are not negatively impacted by minimum wage rises.

  • David Mowers

    So will the employees…

  • Anonymous

    Productivity in the majority of minimum wage jobs has actually decreased in the last few years. Would you suggest lowering the min wage to accommodate that?