Tiny wages

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Recent commentaries by George F. Will, syndicated columnist (“Raise the Minimum Wage?,” Dec. 16), and Gene Barr, president and CEO of the PA Chamber of Business and Industry (“Higher Wages Would Hurt Small Business,” Jan. 3 letter), warned of the dangers of raising the minimum wage. Mr. Barr claimed doing so would cripple small businesses and Mr. Will listed 13 reasons why it is a bad idea. My rebuttal is that any worker deserves an hourly wage of more than nine Hershey bars.

When I was in high school and college in the 1950s during the Eisenhower era, I worked minimum-wage jobs in the summers for $1 an hour. My hourly wage could buy four gallons of gasoline, 20 Hershey bars or four sizable hamburgers. Today’s minimum-wage earner’s $7.25-an-hour can buy two gallons of gasoline, about nine Hershey bars or two hamburgers. The point is that I was twice as rich as today’s minimum-wage worker.

It became more lopsided when I worked on a survey team for the U.S. Department of Agriculture one summer and did construction on a post office the next. Those were federal jobs paying a minimum wage of $1.50 an hour. I could then buy six gallons of gasoline, 30 Hershey bars and six sizable hamburgers. For those two years, I was thrice as rich as today’s minimum-wage earner.

People may ask how a kid who spent all his money on gasoline and junk food could grow up to think himself wiser than George F. Will, but I know that nine Hershey bars an hour is not enough nourishment. As they say in legal circles, res ipsa loquitur, the thing speaks for itself.

Forest Hills

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