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The minimum wage has put a floor under workers’ wages since taking effect 75 years ago on Oct. 24, 1938. But at $7.25 an hour, today’s federal minimum wage is the same as it was in 1950, after adjusting for inflation.
Too little, too late minimum wage raises are the next best things to eliminating it for minimum wage opponents.
“If we would have had our druthers,” said Murray Weidenbaum, chairman of President Ronald Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers, “We would have eliminated it.” But, as the Wall Street Journal reported, “Because that would have been such ‘a painful political process,’ Weidenbaum said that he and other officials were content to let inflation turn the minimum wage into ‘an effective dead letter.’”
The two longest periods without a minimum wage increase have both occurred since 1981. We’re on that road again with a $7.25 minimum wage since 2009. The minimum wage has lost nearly a third of its value since its 1968 high point of $10.75 in today’s dollars.
As the wage floor has sunk below poverty levels, millions of workers find themselves with paychecks above the minimum, but still earning poverty wages.
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