obama, minimum wage, fellow democrats, and the hershey bar index

Es­ti­mated reading time is 6 min­utes.

A FEW YEARS AGO, my daughter en­tered the work­force. We had sev­eral con­ver­sa­tions on her ex­pe­ri­ences and those of mine when I first took a job at 17 in the summer of 1969. I ex­plained that while she was being paid con­sid­er­ably more per hour in dol­lars than I had been, these dol­lars had lesser pur­chasing power than those of my youth.

Based on memory, I told her that the cost of every­thing needed on a daily basis by Joe Av­erage had in­creased ten to fif­teen times what it was in ’69. Meaning that those things that a con­sumer needs or wants on a reg­ular basis had in­creased in cost by an av­erage of 1,200-1,300%.

Every­thing, that is, ex­cept workers’ wages: the fed­eral min­imum wage in 1969 was $1.60 per hour; in 2018, it is $7.25. So, the min­imum wage has in­creased by ap­prox­i­mately 450%. 

Using the of­fi­cial Con­sumer Price Index (CPI) cal­cu­lator, $1.60 in 1969 is worth $11.19 in 2018. This means anyone working for the cur­rent min­imum wage of $7.25 is working for about 60% of the min­imum wage of fifty years ago!

The CPI vs the HBI

Now, anyone old enough to re­member earning and spending money in 1969 knows that the CPI fig­ures are lu­di­crous. Things cost a whole hel­luva lot more today than then, pe­riod. The CPI takes into ac­count count­less items that simply do not figure into the everyday spending needs or habits of the vast ma­jority of Amer­i­cans. Hence their fig­ures are so low that they don’t rate even being called ‘con­ser­v­a­tive.’


Using the real-world in­fla­tion re­flected by the Her­shey Bar Index, we find that the min­imum wage in 2018 should be at least $20 an hour.


A more re­al­istic as­sess­ment can be found using the won­der­fully un­of­fi­cial “Her­shey Bar Index” for com­par­isons of this sort. The HBI mea­sures the growth of an item that is a staple of vir­tu­ally every gro­cery store, su­per­market, drug store, gas sta­tion, etc., in the country and is con­sumed by the mil­lions every day of the year.

Using the HBI, we find that their candy bar weighed 1.5 ounces and cost 10¢ in 1969. That same bar in 2018 weighs al­most the same (1.55 ounces) but costs $1.29-1.49, es­sen­tially a 1,300-1,500% in­crease in cost. Many food and sundry items have in­creased since then at a sim­ilar pace.

Using that rate of in­fla­tion, that $1.60 min­imum wage then trans­lates to a $20.00 an hour today!

Obama wants to raise minimum wage

The fol­lowing para­graphs were lifted from an ar­ticle ti­tled “Obama shifts focus back to economy” by Justin Sink for The Hill’s Briefing Room web­site (April 2, 2014).

“After a month dom­i­nated by the crisis in Ukraine and final weeks of Oba­maCare open en­roll­ment, Pres­i­dent Obama will look to re­turn focus to the economy as he travels to Michigan on Wednesday. 

During an event at the Uni­ver­sity of Michigan, the pres­i­dent will re­it­erate his call on Con­gress to raise the fed­eral min­imum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour.


The pres­i­dent will re­it­erate his call on Con­gress to raise the fed­eral min­imum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour.


So far, Senate De­moc­rats have strug­gled to gather enough votes to pass a bill that would set the min­imum wage to $10.10 per hour. Senate De­moc­rats in­di­cated they could target a lower rate that would not open them up to charges that the hike would costs jobs.

A non­par­tisan Con­gres­sional Budget Of­fice re­port re­leased ear­lier this year es­ti­mated half a mil­lion jobs [500,000] would be lost if law­makers passed the president’s pro­posal. The White House has dis­puted the analysis, ar­guing it does not ac­count for enough fac­tors and pointing out sim­ilar hikes in the past have not re­duced em­ploy­ment levels.”

The Pres­i­dent’s pro­posal ap­pears to be a com­pro­mise of the two. The real problem is that the 1,000% in­crease re­ally isn’t enough—it should be higher, per­haps as high as 1,500%. The other problem is that the 1969 min­imum wage was in­sult­ingly low even then. But we could go on for­ever teasing the numbers.

Fellow Democrats sticking with raise

Part 1 of this two-part piece (above) was written be­tween 2:00 and 4:00 AM this morning. I fi­nally got a few hours sleep and this was in my email:

“Reid and the bill’s chief sponsor, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, both say they won’t budge on a rate of $10.10 an hour, even as Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) tries to write a pro­posal that Re­pub­li­cans can sup­port. ‘I was told by two leading Re­pub­li­cans two nights ago that we are not going to get 60 votes on min­imum wage and so we’re sticking with 10.10,’

[Sen. Chuck] Schumer said, adding that he ex­pects more than 50 De­moc­rats to sup­port the bill next week. And if Collins’s package could draw some fence-sitting De­moc­rats, Reid won’t be one of them. He said on Tuesday he is ‘wedded to $10.10′ and re­it­er­ated his hard-line on Wednesday.”

Per­haps I am cyn­ical here (the com­plete ar­ticle reads some­what dif­fer­ently), but doesn’t this sound like now that the Dems know they CAN’T win they are growing the balls to fi­nally stand their ground and fight for what they be­lieve in and what’s good for the country?

A protracted fight over workers’ income

The fol­lowing para­graphs were taken from an ar­ticle ti­tled “Leaders of both par­ties re­sist wage com­pro­mise” by Manu Raju and Burgess Everett for Politico (April 3, 2014). 

“The small number of sen­a­tors who are open to com­pro­mise on a min­imum wage hike are facing stiff re­sis­tance: their own party’s lead­er­ship. On the De­mo­c­ratic side, mod­er­ates like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and those facing re­elec­tion like Mark Be­gich of Alaska are open to finding a middle ground with Republicans.

But they are up against Senate Ma­jority Leader Harry Reid and his lead­er­ship team, who are re­fusing to en­ter­tain any wage in­crease below their party’s target of $10.10 per hour.


Many wealthy Re­pub­li­cans “philo­soph­i­cally” op­pose any min­imum wage!


A sim­ilar dy­namic is un­folding on the GOP side where law­makers like Bob Corker of Ten­nessee are willing to at least open de­bate on the plan. But he’s not finding a re­cep­tive au­di­ence from GOP leaders, who are sig­naling they are pre­pared to block the mea­sure from even coming to the floor. ‘I can’t imagine not wanting to de­bate the best way to im­prove wages in America.’

Top Re­pub­li­cans, how­ever, said blocking a min­imum wage bill is the best way to tele­graph the party’s frus­tra­tion with the Democratic-led Senate’s priorities.

But there are po­lit­ical rea­sons on both sides for re­fusing to com­pro­mise. Many Re­pub­li­cans, who philo­soph­i­cally op­pose the min­imum wage, would rather just take one un­pop­ular vote now—and lit­i­gate the rest of the elec­tion year over more po­lit­i­cally palat­able fights over Obamacare—rather than en­gage in a pro­tracted fight over workers’ income.”

Rep*blicans not interested in compromise

The fol­lowing para­graphs were taken from an ar­ticle ti­tled “Cen­trist Re­pub­li­cans cool to min­imum wage hike com­pro­mise” by An­drew Bolton for The Hill web­site (April 4, 2014). Click on over to The Hill and read the en­tire piece.

“Senate Re­pub­lican cen­trists are re­acting coolly to Sen. Susan Collins’s (Maine) ef­fort to reach a com­pro­mise on the min­imum wage, im­per­iling progress on Pres­i­dent Obama’s top eco­nomic agenda item. Collins needs to bring along at least four Re­pub­lican col­leagues and per­haps five—depending on how Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) votes on the issue—to move a min­imum wage boost through the Senate.

Cen­trist Re­pub­li­cans who teamed up with Collins to forge a bi­par­tisan deal to ex­tend un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits for five months say they are not in­ter­ested in an­other com­pro­mise to boost the min­imum wage. . . . Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who spear­headed the ne­go­ti­a­tions on un­em­ploy­ment as­sis­tance, said the min­imum wage is an issue best left to the states in­stead of the fed­eral government.


One Rep*blican said the min­imum wage is an issue best left to the states in­stead of the fed­eral government.


Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio), an­other cen­trist Re­pub­lican who sup­ported this week’s agree­ment on un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits, said he would not be in­clined to sup­port a min­imum wage com­pro­mise. ‘I don’t think so. Ohio has a higher min­imum wage ac­tu­ally in­dexed to inflation.’

The first hurdle to passing the De­mo­c­ratic leg­is­la­tion will be to muster 60 votes to pro­ceed to the mea­sure. Collins warned that Reid will not get enough Re­pub­lican sup­port un­less he promises to allow amend­ments to the min­imum wage bill. ‘That de­pends on whether or not Sen. Reid is going to allow amend­ments and so far he hasn’t said.’

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Reid’s deputy, said De­mo­c­ratic leaders have yet to de­cide how to handle the process for con­sid­ering the bill.”


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