Thursday, June 26, 2003

I'm Not Micheal Savage, I've Never Known Michael Savage, Michael Savage Is Not A Friend Of Mine, And You, Dear Reader, Are No Michael Savage

But that doesn't mean we can't take his name in vain. in honor of this glorious day when the sanctity of privacy, in order for we, the people, "to be secure in our persons," has been upheld FOR ALL AMERICANS by those funky 'Supremes,' God love'em.

And what better way than to commemorate the anniversary of the establishment of a minimum wage in this country. Okay, Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act on June 25, 1938, but I just know FDR wouldn't mind us being a day late if it means our memory of him can be included when we take Michael Savage's name in vain.

Roosevelt signed the law in order to assure American workers of "a fair day's pay for a fair day's work."

The minimum wage today is $5.15 an hour; that's a yearly income of $10,712 a year. Think about that for a moment. Think about the average rent in your neck of the woods. In mine, rental prices have gone through the roof. Think about what you pay for food. Maybe you think these minimum wage workers don't have families? Maybe you think they are mostly teenagers? Or undocumented workers who risk their lives to be able to come here and earn it? As Holly Sklar insists, think again.

Think of adult women working at checkout counters and in childcare, of healthcare aides taking care of your parents or grandparents – without employer health benefits, paid sick days or paid vacation.


A single parent with one child needs to work more than two full-time minimum wage jobs to make ends meet. It takes more than three jobs at minimum wage to support a family of four. Maybe the Bush administration's marriage promotion programs will push polygamy.

See if you can make ends meet on minimum wage with a new interactive wage and household budget calculator on the web at Or will you be choosing between food and rent, healthcare and childcare?

Think about all those single mothers who managed to find jobs after the welfare reform bill put time limits on eligibility, and think about what the unemployment rate was then, and what it is now.

So why should we care about any of this, other than for "compassion" purposes, (a word I've always thought was used wrongly in discussions of what is a just society, even before Bush got hold of it)? Turns out there's a reason that we all prosper in a society that cares about fairness for all wage earners:

Roosevelt knew that to stimulate the economy, you boost workers and their families, you don't pile on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.

For decades, the minimum wage and worker productivity rose together. Between 1947 and 1973, worker productivity rose 108 percent while the minimum wage rose 101 percent, adjusting for inflation.

Since then, workers have put in their fair day's work without getting their fair day's pay. Between 1973 and 2000, worker productivity rose 52 percent, but the minimum wage fell 17 percent and hourly average wages fell 10 percent, adjusting for inflation. Between 2000 and 2002, productivity rose 6 percent; the real minimum wage fell 4 percent.

The current minimum wage of $5.15 an hour is lower than the real minimum wage of 1950 ($5.71).

There's no surer way to stimulate an economy than to get money into the hands of families who need to spend it to make ends meet. And then there's this, too:

When the minimum wage is stuck in quicksand, it drags down wages for average workers as well. About one out of four workers makes $8.70 an hour or less. That's not much more than 1968's real minimum wage.

It doesn't have to be this way. Go see why, and in the bargain, Sklar will give you a good reason for indulging yourself in a fast food burger. Like Lambert, I'm a devotee of the Slow Food movement, but every once in a while, if I'm assured that the help is being well paid and fairly treated...