by Steve Miller
In 1968, when I graduated from high school, the minimum wage was $1.60 per hour. Working a 40-hour week, a minimum wage earner would earn about $3,328 per year. The economy was different then; gasoline was around 35 cents per gallon and the median household income was just under $8,000 per year. In today’s dollars, adjusted for inflation, that dollar sixty works out to around $7.75 per hour. It wasn’t a livable wage then and it isn’t now, nor was it ever meant to be.
Let’s go back a few centuries and look at when government first got into the business of regulating a worker’s wage. King Edward III, in 1349, issued a decree setting a maximum wage. It seems that the Black Plague had wiped out most of the work force and the short supply of workers drove up the demand. Consequently, wages skyrocketed, putting a dent in the good king’s wallet along with that of other wealthy landowners who depended on serfs to work their land. Setting a ceiling on what a worker could demand as compensation, and also what an employer could pay, put things back in perspective and kept the rich wealthy and the poor underpaid. So much for supply and demand. Continue reading