Political Animal


February 15, 2013 4:54 PM Back in 19 and 70….

By Ed Kilgore

Think Progress sure nailed Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), supposedly one of the sharper tools in the Tea Party shed. Blackburn lectured today’s workers that they needed to learn responsibility like she did when she worked retail as a teenager, before expecting any socialistic increase in the minimum wage.

Trouble is, she forgot about that old debbil inflation, and didn’t seem to realize the $2.15 an hour she was getting paid in that worker’s paradise of Mississippi would in today’s dollars be worth significantly more than the wage Obama is calling for now. Even the minimum wage of $1.60 in 1968-70 was the equivalent of $10.56 today. So Blackburn was inadvertantly making Obama’s point for him.

As it happens, I’m the same age as Blackburn, and at roughly the same time as her I started working as a part-time school janitor at the princely sum of $1.30, because there was a separate, lower minimum wage then for local government employees. Even that crappy wage is worth $8.13 now, or well above the $7.25 minimum wage.

Sometimes the “good old days” really weren’t that bad by comparison to conditions today. You’d think a “conservative” would understand that.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Ron Byers on February 15, 2013 5:13 PM:

    Blackburn was making $2.15 per hour back then. That is something north of $12.00 per hour in today's money. That isn't much money, but I know people who would kill for $12 per hour in today's economy.

    I don't blame Blackburn for being clueless. After all she is a Republican Congresswoman. I blame Chuck Todd for doing a lousy interview.

  • SteveT on February 15, 2013 5:22 PM:

    Back when I started driving, gasoline was only $1.22 per gallon.

    If the oil corporation executives ran their companies responsibly they should still be able to charge that amount.

  • Richard W. Crews on February 15, 2013 5:37 PM:

    In 1968, I made $1.60/hr. 33 hours (gross) paid my half of $100 2br/1bath run-down upper duplex. Gas was 33 cents = 5 gallons an hour. 2eggs/toast/coffee was 53 cents at diveCafe near me. That's compared to today maybe making $10 and working 50+(+++) hours for (cheap!)split rent, getting half the gas/hr, but the cheap breakfast is probably $2.99, surprisingly same.

  • Richard W. Crews on February 15, 2013 5:44 PM:

    there's been a LOT of poor-bashing lately, and it's cruel and ignorant. Food, at least calories, are still cheap in America. I've seen Republicans say that people aren't poor - look at them! they're fat! they have plenty of money.
    Or, they all have TVs! And computers! Well, TVs are free in my neighborhood. It costs $5 to get rid of them! So power-using CRT Tvs are set out on the curb for free. Same with old computers that are outmoded. I see full setups; keyboard/monitor/mouse/desktop just set out. ( I assume HD is cleared.)Printers same.

  • greennotGreen on February 15, 2013 6:05 PM:

    Blackburn is originally from Mississippi? Can we send her back?

    -- a Tennessean

  • c u n d gulag on February 15, 2013 6:14 PM:

    I joined the work-force (part-time while I was in HS and college) back in the mid-70's, when the minimum wage was right around $2.00.

    Gas was usually under $0.40.

    So, your minimum wage salary paid for more about 5 gallons of gas.
    AND - as a part-time worker at Sears back then, as long as my average weekly hours were over 25, we got HEALTH CARE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Today, with gas at around $3.50 in many states (mearly $4.00 in NY State), you'd need to make about $17.50 to $20.00 an hour.

    And, let's not talk about the price of food, home heating oil, insurance, HEALTH CARE, and other necessities!

    If they could afford it back then - then they can certainly more than afford it now!!!


  • Stella B. on February 15, 2013 6:47 PM:

    Yep, I made $2.75 an hour and paid for a university education at one of the finest university systems in the world for $238 per quarter. Since then the minimum wage has tripled and UC tuition has gone up by a factor of ten or twelve. Damn kids, I don't know why they can't make ends meet!

  • schtick on February 15, 2013 6:55 PM:

    Chuck the toad "both sides do it" Todd couldn't interview a tadpole.

  • Anonymous on February 15, 2013 7:27 PM:

    I started at $1.25 circa 1973.

    And I was a farm worker so was getting below minimum wage.

    By High School 1976-78, we were getting $2.00

  • R on February 15, 2013 9:35 PM:

    Just because she can't do basic math doesn't disqualify her from being "one of the sharper tools in the Tea Party shed." She's in there with a bunch of other blockheads.

  • del on February 16, 2013 12:21 AM:

    thank you. thank you. thank you. a point well made. an economy that has stagnate growth amongst those that most consume the product brought to them by local providers, will soon find imbalance that is not sustainable. this is when the desire to have the most out of limited resources, because we have limited them over time, this model is not sustainable.