The minimum wage is not a living wage

Minimum wage workers are screwed. While Republicans in Congress want to drop or throw away the federal minimum wage – new data shows that the minimum wage in America is woefully inadequate. The current minimum wage is pegged at $7.25 – but given the price increase of pretty much everything over the last few decades – from healthcare to housing to education – that $7.25 doesn’t get you very far.

In fact – today’s minimum wage needs to be nearly ten dollars to have the same buying power as it had in 1968. The Center for Economic and Policy Research found that somebody earning the minimum wage would wipe out an entire year's income JUST to pay for a family health insurance plan. During the heyday of the middle class – from the 1940’s to the 1970’s – one good union job could support a family of four and provide all the basic essentials.

That doesn’t exist anymore – and now we’re a nation made up of the working poor who are collecting wages that give them no chance of chasing down the American Dream. Economies grow when working people have money in their pockets – not when the super-rich are given trillions of dollars in tax cuts and are expected to trickle that money down to the rest of us. It’s time to put in place a real living wage that a family can actually live on.


David S. Lynch's picture
David S. Lynch 12 years 11 weeks ago

The minimum wage has been below the poverty line since its inception in 1938.

A living wage would allow a primary breadwinner to provide food, clothing, shelter, health care, education and a few modest frills for a family of 4.

Another interesting factoid: if minimum wage had grown at the same rate as CEO pay (starting in 1990 and going through present day), minimum wage would be over $24.00!

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 12 years 11 weeks ago

But the Casino Economy requires more bubbles and bursting bubbles for the rich and powerful to skillfully play the game. They win...we lose. And even if they do lose...they can count on the bought off politicians to bail them out with tax-payer's money.

They have all the marked cards and we have only hope.... hope that Obama and the Democrats in Congress will stand up against the all the other cheating players and call them out. Maybe the best thing is just to walk out of the casino and don't play the crooked game in the first place. Then commandeer some bulldozers and destroy the casino..with the mob bosses still inside (all figuratively speaking, of course).

Maxrot's picture
Maxrot 12 years 11 weeks ago

So what is the hourly rate for a Living Wage?


Pulladigm's picture
Pulladigm 12 years 11 weeks ago

I read recently that if the minimum wage kept pace with corporate executive salaries from the early '90s to today minimum wage would be $23/hr. Hmmm.


If you want things the way they used to be- tax a millionaire, support a union and buy American.

Gregory Wonderwheel's picture
Gregory Wonderwheel 12 years 11 weeks ago

And of course, if we established a ceiliing income then minimum wage could be set as a percentage of the ceiling.

How do we establish a ceiling wage? Like the tax codes of the 1950's we tax the upper bracket at 90% which makes the income curve flatten out to approach a practical ceiling and that number could be used as the ceiling with the living minimum wage being set as a realistic percentage of the top income.

kencoenen 12 years 11 weeks ago

When I first started driving, and had a job (1970), my minimum wage job paid per hour enough to buy at least 4 gallons of gasoline for the car. If the minimum wage was somehow pegged to this now commodity, one should be able to afford 4 gallons of gas for each hour worked. Sounds fair to me.

Gregory Wonderwheel's picture
Gregory Wonderwheel 12 years 11 weeks ago

Minimum wage should be set by a consumer index formula. I haven't done the extensive math but I think one of two types of formulas would work: (1) a specific itemization formula or (2) a formula based on Consumer Price Index.

First example using current average prices:

(1 loaf of bread + 1 gallon of gas + 1 gallon of milk + 1 month rent + 1 pair of blue jeans + 1 pair of shoes) / 80 hours x = living minimum wage per hour.

Example, (3.00 + 4.00 + 2.50 + 1,200.00 + 45.00 + 75.00) / 80 = $16.62 per hour.

Second example usig CPI:

Using 1967 CPI = 100 as the base, in 1967 the minimum wage was $1.40 per hour. If we assume that it should have been at least double that to approach a living wage, then $2.80 per hour is the base for 1967.

Today, CPI is 653.198% compared to 1967, so today's living minimum wage should be $2.80 x 6.53198 = $18.29 per hour..

These are two approaches that have as their basis consumer expenses and rely on establishing a formula based on realities rather than politics and corporate conivance.

a2phil's picture
a2phil 12 years 11 weeks ago

So WHAT are the SPINELESS IDIOTS in Washington (AKA the Democrats) going to do about it??


So why worry about it??

I'm voting straight Socialist this November...I've officially given up on the Democrats...

Nuula's picture
Nuula 12 years 11 weeks ago

Hi Thom, newly relocated to Edmonton from Ontario, Canada, like so many American citizens, I know first hand working for minumum wage with a good and ongoing eductaion by my own means. To be "under-emplyed" as our Conservative Government coins the phrase, I adapted to working multiple jobs since I was in high school, to make ends meet and more-so raising two boys. When my last "career" position (4 of us in total) was eliminated three yearsago as a Supervisor in a Senior Retirement and Assited Living facilicy, with no options to apply within for a differnt, lesser position, I went almsot two years with no work, grovelling for the most minimum wage positions to save self and home. Though I DID establish 3 part-time jobs, I was again, laid off for the winter due to "renovations" of the hotel I was cleaning rooms in, the second decided to close her doors of the unique deli she had oppened only months before, leaving me working as Supervisor in Concessions at the local Arena, evenings and week-end. Not enough to save my home. I sold for no loss except legal fees, stayed with a friend paying rent for 6 weeks, roomied with ex-husband for several more weeks paying half the rent and all utilties, as he too had just got laid off, wating for unemployment for 10 weeks and then packed two suitcases and came to Edmonton. In 3 moths I established a full time job at a Shell station, for $11.50 p/hr less than a week of being here and have since found a one bedroom apartment as of March 01/12, an hour's commute from work. Still under a Conservative Provincial and Federal Government, I'm doing ok for now, but of course, all subject to change, given the times we live in. A friend used to say "we're ALL just one pay-check away from being homeless". How sadly true!

I have an Education Assistant Diploma (I used to make $16.00 per hour, early Nineties, I worked in Respite for Persons with Special Needs same time, same wage, that I took night courses and such to develop skills to do more than just in the stifling school system. At 34, I put myself through College, still raising children who were 9 and 10 years of age, and also a Superintendent of a 29 unit apartment complex which reduced my rent by half to $350. per month. now pays $8.00p/hr if I want to work with persons with Special Needs in Respite Care, due to Government cuts for the same work. So, I volunteer instead. I also have 35 years in Professional Cooking. I left $18.00 p/hr that I had to work all hours, day and night, 24/7 365, that I was working for a Charitable Govt. Casino. LOL Ironic. It was costing me my health so greatly I'd ne recourse but to leave or die way too young. | at that time returned to being a Tutor of Adult Literacy, completing ten years prior to this move. I tutored children at home as well, privately, having ongoing, updated training in this marvelous Volunteer program. A good frind of mine took up my case here when she retired. She now trains the Tutors and serves on the Board of Directiors, giving her valuable knowledge and skell as an exceptional person to my "most important mission" of life. My thinking has for many years been, "if you can learn to read, you can learn about what-ever your heart desires", and SO many adults cannot read, in SO many countires, Canada included. Speaks volumes to me about the lack of interest in education the masses, but rather those who can "afford" an education. I'd have fully home-schooled my own, but I had to work so, we studied at tome in the evenings together. They'd no no success in life without such. School was essentially, putting in time with frinds and some social networking. They thank me often for such.

About to turn 54, all savings exausted during my drout of employment, no retirement plan, I continue to assist my adult, professional sons with theirs lives financially, as they are my future, so to speak. If they can't make it post myself, it's NOT for lack of effort, ability, tenacity and intelligence. It's ONLY because we don't come from a legacy of status quo. THAT correlates direcly to all that is wrong regarding SO may subjects of topic today. I high school, I told my boys revolutions were coming to change what they were living. I didn't know if I'd see it in my life-time, but here it is, full circle, round the globe. Sad but marvelous, That we're all sci-fi readers among others subjects... I am angst, but holding onto my believes that Gene Rodenbury's version of our future, via Star Trek... the world of MANY great writers of fore-sight, Robert Heinlen, on and on, I believe in the Human Spirit prevailing in a positive outcome. THAT part I won't see in my life, but knowing it's finally happening ... I smile!

The city I come from blocks channels such as yours. My long establisehed penchant of Political Scince, well, haven't I just latched on to RT and made it my place of in the know! You spare me the difficulty of researching the world, living in a silenced and forbidden community. I thank you and the whole team at RT for your enlightening presentation of world events, uncensored! I did a project on Myanmar during my College years of a certain woman who is now.... oh my goddness, on the ballot doesn't begin to describe the elation I felt seeing her, via your channel. What an exceptional person. What an example for others. A Mendalla of the female persuasion! My heart sings for her and the people of Myanmar. I was SO insulted, seeing it headlined in Canada as the Free Election of Burma. Says it all. I'm embarrased to be Canadian at times! I was to be failed in Grade Eight for refusing to retract a paper on my views of Communism. It was 1972. I didn't retract it! The Cold War lives on.....

Regards to you and all persons who share voice, ideas and much effort to make the world inhabitable and sustainable! It's a good start!

Mary Anne (C) Finnemore

Nuula's picture
Nuula 12 years 11 weeks ago

By the by, I live with a progressive Autoimmune disorder, so my errors are many, though my "words" come through. I appreciate other's tollerance of my diffiulty very much so. This Editor in Chief has some acceptance struggle with such a personal challenge!


Mary Anne

Nuula's picture
Nuula 12 years 11 weeks ago

My problem with your effort is simply that - it's not relevant because we, the people, aren't relevant in "their" equasion, period. The current revolutions around the world are the only means to bring dumb-founding change. We've a long way to go. May I suggest reading The Stand (long and dry but... life shall be come hither, too) or The Postman, Steven King. He's speaking of our immediate future. Lo'ts of pearls of wisdom if we read "between the lines".

Knowledge is freedom, Action is choice. We each decide our own future at this point. Part of the problem or part of the sollution. Who's sollution is the testy part. The many versus the few wins every time, if we are the many together.

mauiman58's picture
mauiman58 12 years 11 weeks ago

Sorry the minimum wage was never meant to be a living wage. If you are unhappy with what you are getting paid, get some new skills and find a new job. No its not easy, but what are the alternatives? Bitching and moaning that the minimum wage is not high enough isn't going to get you anywhere.

Katshores's picture
Katshores 12 years 9 weeks ago

We have a Walmart Store where Walmart pays $13.50 per hour; entry level positions pays everyones health care in full who works their and required to work full-time and their is a waiting list to join the ranks; it was delayed to open (but open since) due to the citzens needing people to read the applications for them and now the leaders where this Wamart is located wants more pay for the employees saying its racist for paying them a "low per hour rate" At $28K per year. with free health/dental and possible retirement I wouldnt mine that to start.

Thom's Blog Is On the Move

Hello All

Thom's blog in this space and moving to a new home.

Please follow us across to - this will be the only place going forward to read Thom's blog posts and articles.

From The Thom Hartmann Reader:
"Never one to shy away from the truth, Thom Hartmann’s collected works are inspiring, wise, and compelling. His work lights the way to a better America."
Van Jones, cofounder of and author of The Green Collar Economy
From Cracking the Code:
"In Cracking the Code, Thom Hartmann, America’s most popular, informed, and articulate progressive talk show host and political analyst, tells us what makes humans vulnerable to unscrupulous propagandists and what we can do about it. It is essential reading for all Americans who are fed up with right-wing extremists manipulating our minds and politics to promote agendas contrary to our core values and interests."
David C. Korten, author of The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community and When Corporations Rule the World and board chair of YES! magazine
From The Thom Hartmann Reader:
"Thom Hartmann channels the best of the American Founders with voice and pen. His deep attachment to a democratic civil society is just the medicine America needs."
Tom Hayden, author of The Long Sixties and director, Peace and Justice Resource Center.