(Let me encourage you to watch John Oliver’s excellent take on income inequality above before you read the following post.)
Earlier today, a friend posted a link from the satirical Andy Borowitz written for The New Yorker which led me to do just a little bit of research on the income disparity between the earnings of minimum-wage workers in America vs. those who work in the American congress. Below you will find just a few sample years of comparison between the two, along with the earnings adjusted for inflation to approximate what that amount would actually look like today.
I have worked a number of close-to-minimum-wage jobs in my life and I know firsthand the difficulty of earning “just enough to get by” (which usually means “not enough to get by”). Keep in mind that these numbers do not include the federal/state/city/everything taxes that are automatically removed from a minimum wage-earners paycheck, so when i mention that a worker in 1992 made about $14,000 in that year, you can safely assume that they only took home around $11,000 of it. And keep in mind that employees of Congress are paid with those very taxes and they these people earn enough to be able to use all of America’s finely established tax breaks for the rich so they will often be taking home more money than I am reporting…you can’t forget about the bribes and the lobbyists “gifts”, as well. Anyway, here are just a few examples of this disparity over the last 38 years.
In March 1977 the minimum wage in the US was $2.30 while members of congress earned $57,500/year. When adjusted for inflation to compare these numbers with the value of a dollar in 2015, that would be $8.99/hour resulting in yearly earning of ~$17,970 for a 40-hour-a-week laborer and $224,625/year for members of congress.
By January 1992, those numbers were $4.25 for minimum wage and $129,500 for Senators and Representatives ($7.17/hr and $14k/year for the minimum wage earner, $218,512 in 2015 dollars).
In 2005: minimum wage was $5.15 ($6.24/hr and $12,485/year in 2015 USD) whereas congresspeople earned $162,100 (Roughly $196k in current dollars).
Today, a $7.25 minimum wage earns about $15,000/year and our hardly-working congressmen and -women earn $174,000/year.
These “public servants” could increase the minimum wage any time they like, yet it stays well within the range of “unlivable” even as they earn 12 times as much (from the American taxpayer, no less) in a year as the country’s laborers.
Do you think that congress deserves to take this much of the “piece of the pie”? I sure as hell don’t. Most politicians work for nothing beyond continuing to hold their positions of power (replete with a cushy salary and half-the-year vacation time), lying and double-speaking and simply not caring about their constituents and fellow-citizens. They
I encourage you to fight to increase the minimum wage to (at least $15 an hour). While it might not affect you, it is worth standing with your fellow 99-percenters who are being abused by the inherent racism/classism/sexism of the American capitalist system.
If we aren’t going to burn it to the ground, we might as well fight for more people to have a decent life.