Minimum Wage

WHYY Duped by Fake Research Director at Fake Think Tank Citing Fake Poll

No one takes the Employment Policies Institute seriously

I grew up in Philadelphia, so I’ve got a ton of respect for WHYY, the local NPR and PBS affiliate (perhaps best known nationally as home to Terry Gross’ award-winning Fresh Air). Which is why I was so sorely disappointed to see WHYY’s “Newsworks” website give op-ed space to fake-think-tank anti-minimum wage shill Michael Saltsman: “Op-ed: Raising minimium wage won’t flip the Senate.”

I mean, for chrissakes, why not just print a goddamn press release?

Saltsman claims to be the research director at the mendaciously-named Employment Policies Institute, which likes to describe itself as a “non-profit think tank” while in fact being neither. Indeed, Saltsman’s faux-think-tank is actually just one of several profitable front groups run out of the DC-offices of lobbying and PR firm Berman and Company. And if the editors at WHYY think I’m exaggerating, they might want to listen to this 2014 interview with Terry Gross, in which the New York Times‘ Eric Lipton explains how this scam works:

LIPTON: Yeah, I was – you know, set up an interview with the research director. I got the address of his office. I went to the eighth floor of the building on Vermont Avenue, like four blocks from the White House. The elevator opens, and it’s Berman and Company. And I go in and, you know, there’s a bunch of awards on the wall, advertising awards, public relations awards that Berman and Company has won for its work, you know, doing ad campaigns on behalf of various industry groups.

And so I didn’t see any evidence at all that there was an Employment Policies Institute office. And in fact when I started to interview the people there, they explained that there are no employees at the Employment Policies Institute and that all the staff there works for Berman and Company, and then they sometimes are just detailed to the various think-tanks and various consumer groups that he operates out of his office.

And he bills them, sort of like a law firm would bill various clients.

Wow. What a great scam. And it has been from the Employment Policies Institute’s start. (Note: I refuse to refer to the organization by its three-letter abbreviation, EPI, because it was obviously named to sow confusion with the real EPI, the pre-existing and pro-minimum wage Economic Policy Institute. Hell, not-EPI even apes EPI’s favicon, causing me to repeatedly click on the wrong browser tab.)

A Tale of Two EPIs

What a bunch of shameless trolls.

Legally, not-EPI is registered as a tax-exempt 501c3 (or, illegally one might reasonably argue), so it doesn’t have to report the names of its funders—though it’s safe to assume its money mostly comes from the restaurant, accommodations, and retail industries. As for how it spends its money: “more than half” of its multi-million dollar budget is paid to for-profit Berman and Company for staffing and operations, an “atypical” arrangement that prompted Charity Navigator to issue a “Donor Advisory.”

For WHYY to allow Saltsman to misrepresent himself as a “research director” at an “institute” is just out-and-out irresponsible. He’s a PR flack, period. And as for the content of Saltsman’s op-ed, well, that’s just as bullshitty as its author.

Saltsman argues that Republicans shouldn’t run away from their longstanding opposition to the minimum wage, based on the thesis that opposing the minimum wage didn’t hurt them 2014. Oh please. First, even without Trump tearing apart the fragile Republican coalition, 2016 was always going to be an entirely different electorate than 2014; Democrats simply turn out in far greater numbers during presidential elections than they do during the midterms. Second, there has been an undeniable and dramatic shift in public opinion over the past couple years in favor of substantially raising the minimum wage.

Those are just facts. There’s no disputing them. Which perhaps explains why Saltsman felt forced to resort to inventing a poll:

This matters. My organization used Google’s consumer survey tool to survey 500 Pennsylvanians who plan to vote this fall. Over 40 percent of respondents said they were no more or less likely to vote for a candidate based on their opposition to minimum wage.

Well, if his PR firm conducted an online poll, I guess we should just take his word for it. It’s almost as ridiculous as his anecdotal citation of a single business closure in booming Brooklyn as evidence that a higher minimum wage is wreaking havoc on the New York economy.

I can sum up Saltsman’s “research” in six words: No data. No methodology. No credibility.

Saltsman is nothing more than a fake “research director” at a fake “institute” citing a fake “poll.” WHYY and other media outlets should be ashamed for allowing him to present himself as anything other than what he really is: a paid spokesperson for the hospitality and retail industries.

 

Chris Christie Is In The Minority On Minimum Wage

chris christie minimum wage

Yesterday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie did two things that surprised no one: He went to a Springsteen concert and he shot down the NJ legislature’s attempt to raise the statewide minimum wage to $15.

What do these two things have in common? Both Springsteen and raising the minimum wage are very popular with The Common Person. And while Governor Christie appears to be on the right side of history with his love of the Boss (he claims to have seen the man in concert over 100 times), he’s swimming upstream in his opposition to an increased minimum wage.

Chris Christie knows all the words

A video posted by Luc Cohen (@luccohen92) on

In his statement about the decision, Christie cited speed of the increase—to $15 over five years— as his reason for vetoing the bill, stating that it “fails to consider the capacity of businesses, especially small businesses, to absorb the substantially increased labor costs it will impose” adding that it would be responsible for “killing jobs and erasing gains of more than 275,000 private sector jobs since 2010.”

Aside: He said “killing jobs”! Do a shot!

The New Jersey business community immediately rushed to express support for the decision; the New Jersey Business & Industry Association agreed with Christie, calling the proposed increase “too much, too fast.”

Which is basically exactly what business leaders always say—whatever you propose, regardless of the phase-in period or any other considerations, it’s too much and it’s too fast.

How much of a minimum increase would be just right? That’s a little harder to pinpoint (since, you know, trickle-downers are pretty slippery) but thanks to leaked polling from this spring, we know that the support—even in the business community!—is definitely there80% of respondents to a survey for business owners said they supported an increase to their state’s wage.

If business owners are anything like regular people—and let’s assume they are, since that’s what they always tell us—they probably support a minimum wage of at least $12 or more, depending on which polling you look at.

For literal decades, a majority of Americans have stated that they support raising the minimum wage—and the degree of the increase has been going up and up over time.

A 2013 Gallup poll found that over 70% of Americans supported an increase to $9 per hour.

“Raising the federal minimum wage is typically a crowd pleaser when it comes to policy prescriptions, and Obama’s proposal to push the rate from the current $7.25 to $9 is no exception,” wrote Gallup at the time. “The 71% vs. 27% balance of U.S. public opinion in favor of passing it is convincing, particularly when considering that even half of Republicans are in favor.”

Just one year later, a Pew poll reported that 73% of respondents said they’d support $10.10 per hour (which is just slightly more than findings from a Rutgers poll which looked just at New Jersey voters).

A Rasmussen poll from this year found that 71% supported an increase of over $9.50, and 59% want at least $12.50. That poll also found just 12% support for a full $15—but in the same month, a HuffPo/YouGov survey was released which reported that 48% of respondents supported $15.

Which is to say: Public support for increasing the minimum wage has been strong for years, and as income inequality increases and the poor get pushed further to the margins, the voting public is looking for something more sweeping than just $9 or $10.10. Within a few more years—like, around the time that California, New York, and Oregon’s wages hit their full peak—it’s not unlikely that the majority of supporters will get behind wages of $13.50 or more.

Hell, even Christie’s #MCM political ally, Donald Trump, recently switched his position ever so slightly to propose a slight increase to the minimum wage. Why? Because Trump knows how to please people, and this is what the people want.

And while most the people may not be quite on board with a federal $15 yet, that’s kind of what state and local lawmakers are for—to do things that are future-thinking and will go down in the history books as good things that helped people right at home.

Christie may think he’s pleasing the business community with this vote, but when voters in New Jersey head to the ballot with an increase (which they’ve pledged to do, much like Maine, Washington, Colorado, and Arizona), it seems like he may realize just how wrong he is on this issue.

Damn You, $15 an Hour Minimum Wage!

Seattle Food Service Employment

Courtesy of friend of the blog, Invictus.

Anybody who actually lives, works, or eats in Seattle knows firsthand that our local restaurant industry is booming. But for those of you on a raw data diet, the Federal Reserve of St. Louis serves up the above bland-if-nourishing graph that confirms the intuition of our eyes and tastebuds: Seattle’s restaurant industry is booming. In fact, despite the doom and gloom predictions of minimum wage opponents, food service industry employment in the greater Seattle metropolitan area has actually accelerated since adopting our phased in $15 ordinance.

Damn you, $15 an hour minimum wage!

Of course, the graph above represents all of King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties, so what about Seattle proper? That’s not as easily discernible from the Fed data, but as Paul pointed out last week, a new report from the University of Washington finds wages, jobs, and hours up for Seattle’s low-wage workers over the first year of phase-in, without any observable negative impact on businesses:

The data are coming in, and they prove that contrary to the empty threats we’ve been hearing from conservatives, the sky has not fallen. Our job market is strong. Our workers are working more hours and making more money, which they are then spending locally, which allows employers to hire more people to meet with increased demand. Seattle’s march to the $15 minimum wage is right on track.

Yeah, I know, it’ll take years to tease out the full impact of the $15 ordinance, and even the analysis will be somewhat speculative and subjective. But so far, predictions of job losses remain theoretical while workers’ wage gains are very, very real.

Study: Raising the Minimum Wage Is Good For Babies

minimum wage infant mortality

We already know that increasing the minimum wage would help working familiesreduce childhood poverty (and thus, make kids healthier), and generally make life better for parents and kids. But a new public health survey released in May found that the impact of raising the minimum wage isn’t just positive for families as a unit—according to the study, a raise of just $1 could actually reduce infant mortality.

The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, sought to “investigate the effects of state minimum wage laws on low birth weight and infant mortality in the United States,” according to the authors, Kelli A. Komro, PhD, MPH, Melvin D. Livingston, PhD, Sara Markowitz, PhD, and Alexander C. Wagenaar, PhD. 

Their findings?

“If all states in 2014 had increased their minimum wages by 1 dollar, there would likely have been 2790 fewer low birth weight births and 518 fewer postneonatal deaths for the year.”

All things told, the researchers found, that same dollar increase would decrease infant mortality by as much as 4%.

This is hardly the first study that’s linked higher wages to improved public health. A 2015 report published in The Nation’s Health, Minnesota State Health Commissioner Edward Ehlinger called the state’s minimum-wage increase a greater benefit to public health than a tobacco tax increase enacted that same year. From that report:

“If you look at the conditions that impact health, income is right at the top of the list,” Ehlinger said. “Anything we can do to help enhance economic stability will have a huge public health benefit. This is a major public health issue.”

It’s not a huge surprise; wealth and public health are linked in a variety of ways.

People living in poverty are more susceptible to obesity, heart disease, and lower life expectancy. And while these links are due to myriad factors, almost all of them can be solved or at least ameliorated just by putting a little extra money into peoples’ pockets. From greater access to basic necessities, like housing that isn’t infested with mold or pests or food that’s high in nutritional value and low in fats, sugars, and preservatives, to more nuanced lifestyle changes, like regular exercise or cleaner air, the ability to spend more of your income to better your environment has a huge impact on the lives of working individuals and families.

Additionally, the direct link between poverty and infant mortality is well established, particularly in urban areas. One 2015 report found that children born to poor families in Washington, D.C., are 10 times more likely to die in infancy than babies born to the area’s most wealthy.

Ten. Times.

It would be willfully ignorant, then, to assume that allowing workers to put in full 40-hour workweeks (or more) while paying poverty wages wouldn’t, in some way, impact the health and wellness of infants and children—and even moreso to assume that fighting minimum wage increases would somehow help, rather than continue to harm, poor families and their children.

Conservative lawmakers may love to tout the ways their poverty platforms are “good for families,” but until they propose literally just paying people more money for the work they’re already doing, those plans not only ignore the lived experience of the working poor, they ignore the science, as well.

 

With a Tipped Wage, Customers Are Stuck Picking Up the Tab

tipped wage unfair

I have written before about tip crediting and how I wish more politicians—specifically, those who are running for, you know, President—would come out against it. At the time, I noted that it’s a policy which fosters the race and gender income gap by disproportionately impacting women, which remains true.

What I did not mention—because, I don’t know, it didn’t seem to bear repeating—was that it’s also actually just kind of mind-boggling that anyone would argue in favor of a wage of just shy of three American dollars per hour in a place like Washington, DC, where the tipped wage is $2.77 and the minimum wage is $10.50.

For a full-time worker, that’s a paycheck of a scant $443.20 per month.

$443.20.

Per.

Month.

Of course, the assumption with the tipped wage is that a server is probably making the $7.73 in tips she’d need to to round herself up to $10.50 (if not, her employer is required to float the rest although anyone who’s looked into this in even a cursory manner could tell you that often doesn’t happen).

Again, let’s look closely at that:

  • Base wage: $2.77 per hour
  • Required tipped income to make minimum wage: $7.73 per hour
  • Total base wages required to be paid by employer:  $22.16
  • Total required tips to even make minimum wage per eight-hour shift: $61.84

Which means a) as a patron in Washington DC you’re expected to float restaurant owners to the tune of 73.6% of their employee payroll costs, and b) as a server, your actual base wage is less important than the amount of money you can pull from a customer’s wallet.

If this is surprising to you, you’re not alone; D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser has recently proposed a change to the area’s minimum wage laws, which would raise the base minimum wage to $15 over several years, and gradually increase the tipped wage from $2.77 to $7.50 over the next six years.

DC has been gradually increasing its base wage, but not its tipped wage, since 2013.

In the previous times I’ve written about this subject, I didn’t feel the need to go into too deep of detail on what the sub-minimum wage actually looks like and how truly bonkers it is, because I assumed (wrongly) that most people can see what a clearly ineffective system this is—a system which allows restaurants to charge whatever they like, keep most of the money because they’re not paying it in payroll costs, and expect customers to cover the bulk of the costs not only by paying their tab but by tipping their server.

Forgetting the fact that tipping’s history is racist as hell, this seems antithetical to what we typically think of as the point of tipping. Tipping is meant to be for a job well done, not so that a server isn’t making what is very obviously an unlivable wage.

Whether or not you believe in abolishing tipping, balancing the budget on the backs of tips—essentially relying on the kindness of restaurant patrons—seems like a poor way to do business.

And yet, there are people who will fight tooth and nail to convince you that this is a system that works. Like this guy from a fake think-tank, who recently wrote a piece in the Washington Post going to bat for the tipped wage in DC. Here’s what he had to say:

In reality, those take-home wages for tipped employees are many times larger than the required hourly minimum. In testimony before the D.C. Council, restaurateurs in the District reported that their employees earned anywhere from $20 to $35 an hour when tips were included. (If a server sells $100 in food, he typically gets an 18 percent to 20 percent tip; the restaurant may make 5 percent profit on a $100 meal.)

Of course restauranteurs would testify that their servers are raking it in with their tips. They’re literally financially incentivized to say that.

This particular fellow goes on to note that increasing the tipped wage from $2.77 to $7.50 (because that’s the proposal on the table) “threatens [DC’s] vibrant foodie culture”:

It’s easy to forget during a bustling Friday night, but the average profit margin at a full-service restaurant is in the low single digits. Labor costs make up about one-third of restaurant expenses. Nearly tripling the hourly wage for tipped employees would force dramatic changes in service, food prices and employment levels.

This is uncomfortable, I know, but stick with me:

Restaurant owners are actually not entitled to turn a profit.

There! I said it! Turning a profit as a restaurant owner is not something that is required by law. No one owes you a profitable business—and if paying just a quarter of your servers’ total salaries is what’s holding your business together and expecting patrons to literally pick up the tab on the rest, maybe your business model sucks.

What is required by law is that workers who do work are entitled to be paid for that work, and the current law is only barely requiring employers to do that. If they make 18% off a $100 tab, bully for them. That’s great. However, there are plenty of DC servers who are decidedly not working in restaurants where the tabs are routinely $100.

According to a 2015 report from PayScale, the median income for a server is about $13.80 per hour; over 60% of their income is from tips, which means they actually only earn about $8.50 in tips per hour on average.

The funny thing about averages is that they indicate that a whooooole lot of people are well below that figure.

Additionally, it’s important to note that $13.80 is only barely above the city’s actual minimum wage, and that $8.50 per hour in tips is only a hair over what is required by a server to essentially break even.

And yet, restaurant owners and anti-wage lobbyists insist that this is a fine system, that this works, and that it’s perfectly acceptable to require servers, bussers, bartenders, and other tipped workers to not only sing for their supper, but sing exceptionally, lest they barely be paid at all.

When you leave a tip, you expect that it’s an extra bonus for your server because they delivered a service well. With the tipped wage, though, you’re actually just paying their salary on behalf of their boss, who get to collect the money from the tab and from the cost-savings of not paying their employees.

And they expect you, as a customer, to be happy about it.

The $15 Minimum Wage Is Apparently a Time Traveler

Raising the minimum wage is powerful. Powerful enough to lift millions out of poverty. Powerful enough to reduce dependence on social services, such as food stamps. And, apparently, powerful enough to go back in time and change unemployment numbers for teens and also spur lawmakers to create policies to address those numbers.

At least, that’s what the conservative bloggers over at ShiftWA seem to think—which would certainly explain their apparent fear of a minimum wage increase. I mean, if it’s so completely able to change the arc of time, what can’t it do?

teen unemployment minimum wage

Their most recent example of the minimum wage’s might is Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s youth employment initiative which, they say, is a direct response to the massive decline in youth employment as a direct result of the gradual ascent to $15. First pointed out by right-wing think tank the Washington Policy Center, the initiative is designed to help encourage businesses to hire more youths, and to train young people to make them more job-ready. Because, according to WPC and Shift, it’s the minimum wage that has made it so hard for them to get hired.

Nevermind the fact that Washington’s schools are literally criminally underfunded, which could contribute to a dearth of teens with necessary skills the join the workforce (according to the Mayor’s office, “nearly 70% of employers report graduates are deficient in critical thinking and problem solving skills essential to successful job performance”)—no, the reason teens and other young folks can’t get hired is because of a law that went into effect just about 400 days ago.

That makes perfect sense, assuming that the minimum wage increase was somehow impacting employment long before it actually became a law, let alone went into effect.

Washington state has had high numbers of teen unemployment for years; a 2011 report found that “Washington teens are only slightly better off than teens in Georgia when it comes to unemployment rates” (for reference, the 2011 minimum wage in both of those states was and $8.65 and $5.15, respectively, so it’s safe to assume that was not wage-based, either). A few years later, in 2014, Washington’s minimum wage had gone up, while its teen unemployment rate had gone down to about 25%.

Today—post minimum wage increase—it’s 13%, according to the city.

Part of the reason for the decrease? Youth employment initiatives like the Mayor’s, which have existed for years and are kind of a staple in city, county, state, and federal politics. Programs like Youth at Work and the (partially) privately-funded Summer Youth Employment Program have been actively trying to place kids in jobs because it’s good for the economy, not because the minimum wage has made them impossible to hire.

Murray’s youth employment initiative is likely not intended to cover up the blunder that is the minimum wage ordinance, but rather, to fulfill a promise he made in his State of the City address this year, wherein he addressed the racial achievement gap that has plagued Seattle since long before anyone uttered the words “$15.” From his speech (wherein he announced the doubling of the youth employment initiative among other investments in racial equity programs that have nothing to do with the minimum wage):

I believe that when our young black men are at their best, Seattle is at its best. My vision is that in 10 years, all of Seattle’s young people will have the opportunity to enjoy the benefits that come with a growing city and a growing economy.

Yes, that definitely sounds like an elaborate coverup of a failed policy and not, you know, a politician addressing a systemic issue that is failing thousands of King County residents.

Unless, of course, you believe that the minimum wage is so vastly powerful that it has managed to reach back through decades to change the course of history specifically to ensure that at this very moment, the Mayor is forced to (horror of horrors) take affirmative action to help vulnerable community members find jobs because some other community members are now pulling down what’s close to a wage they can live on. Yes, that explanation makes sense.

minimum wage facts

The minimum wage: It’s magical AF

Why Minimum Wage Opponents Are Dropping Big Money to Trick You

minimum wage facts

The deeply ironic act of spending money to avoid paying workers even a cent more is not new; conservative think tanks, lobbyists, and industry groups have been shelling out money in the form of campaign donations, legal services, and “educational” materials for ages. Just look at how far the airlines and Port of Seattle went just to avoid paying SeaTac airport workers $15 an hour. That couldn’t have been cheap. And we know from a ROC report that the National Restaurant Association had (as of 2014) spent close to $13M on political donations since 1989, largely to fight proposed labor laws like increased minimum wage and sick leave.

But they’re not just throwing money at guys in suits to argue that this country is becoming a nanny state, damnit! No, they are also spending decent dollars on campaigns to actively mislead you—with clever names that sound like they may be quite scholarly.

Like, you know, MinimumWage.com:

minimum wage facts

…Which is paid for by the very-rational-sounding Employment Policies Institute (EPI—not to be confused with the other EPI, who actually do good work), who are in fact a right-wing think tank whose major focus is ensuring the minimum wage stays as low as possible.

Another “winner”: MinimumWageFacts.com:

minimum wage facts

…Which is a product of the Freedom Foundation, a Washington-based conservative think tank which has fought the unions at every possible turn.

And to be honest, I have to recognize the hustle that these groups are demonstrating. It’s extremely clever to just snatch up a domain knowing full well that people will be Googling exactly that fact. Plus, buying domains is fun! I recently did it myself!

But truly, the idea of spending real American dollars for the express purpose of spreading misinformation (more on that later) about a policy that could legitimately help people is just upsetting. And lest you think it’s not that much cash, allow me to examine.

Even just buying a website with a domain as coveted as that—hello, minimum wage dot com? Who wouldn’t want that? — is expensive, and having it designed and built is even more costly. In fact, according to a website that literally just estimates the worth of a site, MinimumWage.com is like, pretty spendy:

minimum wage facts

Yowza! $2,160? Why, that’s 298 hours worked at the minimum wage! Or, it’s how much more a worker currently making $7.25 would have after seven weeks of work if they were making $15. But of course, that’s not how much EPI actually spent; according to a 2014 tax filing, they dropped $1.7M “to maintain EPIonline.org, minimumwage.com, and tippedwage.com” as well as to do other things, like buy advertisements.

minimum wage facts

 

That’s 234,483 hours worked at the minimum wage—or about the cost to employ more than 4,500 workers full-time for a  year—but who cares? That’s chump change to an organization (which is exempt from income tax!) whose gross receipts totaled over $3.6M.

And while all of that is a sincere bummer, and also really fishy—have you ever stopped to wonder why someone would spend more money than a minimum wage person will see in a lifetime to keep those same people from making an extra few dollars each year? Like maybe, I don’t know, racism, classism, misogyny, or greed?—the truly sad part is that they’re not even doing a good job of it. I mean, EPI has an infographic with little to no information on it and their blog posts on the subject routinely ignore very salient research from the University of Washington, UC Berkley, the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, and other valuable resources.

And the Freedom Foundation’s site is a true nightmare. The FAQ is literally dummy text:

minimum wage facts

…and their research page may as well be, as it’s more than half full of citations from the same researcher who—surprise! Works for EPI!

minimum wage facts

 

Now, I am sure opponents of the minimum wage will gleefully point to the fact that as we speak, I am getting paid real American dollars to write this blog post. And that SEIU and other labor and interest groups have also spent money to further the idea that it’s good for the economy when workers have more money. But if that is your counterpoint—that we, too, are making it rain to push our agenda—consider who that agenda helps. I have literally no financial stake in whether or not the minimum wage goes up or down. I’m doing this because I believe that people should be able to support themselves with full-time work, and that the economy is better off when people have more money in their pockets to spend on stuff in their community. Interestingly, there’s a large body of evidence from think tanks, universities—and the U. S. government—to back me on that.

So when someone tells you a scary story about how raising the minimum wage will cost you your job, ask yourself: What are they getting out of it?

 

 

$15 Then! (Yet Another Reason Why a $15 Minimum Wage Isn’t as “Insane” as You Think)

15Now.org

Last night during the Democratic debate, when asked if she would sign a $15 an hour federal minimum wage should the bill come across her desk, Hillary Clinton snapped back, “Of course I would … if we have a Democratic Congress, we will go to $15.” Clinton has previously backed state and city efforts to raise the minimum wage to $15, but this is the first time she’s on the record supporting that number at the federal level.

My, how far the $15 movement has come. And yet, not quite so far as it first appears.

Back in 2012, when New York City fast food workers first walked off the job demanding a $15 minimum wage and the right to organize, the political and media establishment collectively rolled its eyes at such an “insane” demand. But that was back when $15 was still worth, well, $15 — at least in 2012 money. Four years later, adjusted even for our current anemic rate of inflation, those same three five-spots are only worth about $14.46. And not even Bernie Sanders is talking about jumping to $15 now. He proposes a gradual phase-in through 2022 (a full decade after that first fast food strike!), when $15 will only be worth about $12.80 in 2012 dollars.

That’s not nothing. But in today’s money, it’s about $4,600 a year less than what those fast food workers were striking for. Because inflation!

So yeah, the rapid progression of $15 from fringe idea to the most loudly shouted about point of agreement in the Democratic debate is nothing short of amazing. Still, whatever your first impression of the proposal, it’s important to remember that $15 now isn’t the same thing as $15 then.