In the late 1960s, a full-time job at minimum wage could almost lift a family of four above the poverty line. By the late '80s, however, it left them 40% below it. And that's about where things stand today.
Likewise with the stingy payments of Aid to Families with Dependent Children: The value of such payments (between 1974 and 1995, when Clinton abolished the program) went down by 60%, in purchasing power.
As to the question, "can the minimum wage be raised without causing wholesale layoffs," that has not really been controversial for many years. Every time the minimum wage has gone up, both federally and locally, the proto-fascist "reicht' has screamed that it's a job killer; but not once have their dire predictions been borne out -- and that doesn't stop them from falsifying figures and screeching about every new proposal, including a recent rise in the min wage in Albuquerque, San Jose and Long Beach that has not adversely affected businesses.
In Australia, which has an economy comparable to that of the States in terms of its economic footprint, the minimum wage is now $16 an hour, and is the only rich country -- perhaps as a result? -- that was able to dodge the global recession. McDonalds in Australia had to raise their price for a Big Mac by the astounding sum of 20 cents.
In order to regain the purchasing power it had fifty years ago, the minimum wage in the US would today have to be around $22 an hour. And the piddling amounts of increase now being proposed would hardly put a dent in the gigantic profits of America's great chain stores.
This indicates that the opposition is not on purely economic grounds: Rather, the corporate plutocracy is so used to having its way that it is simply unthinkable that their upstart "serving class" could successfully demand an increase, however paltry, in their below poverty-level compensation.
It is, as in Orwell's classic '1984,' "the principle of the thing," and the principle is that the ruling classes are not happy with merely taking home virtually all of the increase in productivity benefits since 2010. No, that's apparently not enough, for it seems equally important to them that they grind the faces of the proles into the dirt and then sneer at their ruined visages. Quite appropriately then, their symbol, in "1984,' is a boot grinding the face of the human race into the dirt, forever.
For this first page or so, on class warfare, we must thank Ron Reed over at the New Cafe, from whom I lifted much of what you've just read.
To understand more about what Ron describes, check out this eye-opening YouTube interview about the Pathology of the Rich. Chris Hedges is interviewed by Paul Jay.
Three Ways the Super-Rich Suck Wealth Out of the Rest of Us
The facts are indisputable, the conclusion painful. The wealthiest people in the U.S. and around the world have used the stock market and the deregulated financial system to lay claim to the resources that should belong to all of us. And this is not a matter of productive people simply benefiting from their great contributions to society. This is a relatively small number of people extracting massive amounts of money, through the financial system, in return for personally contributing almost nothing.
1. They've Taken $1.6 Million Per Family in New Wealth Since the Recession
It is noteworthy that most of their windfall came from stock market gains rather than from job-creating business ventures. The stock market has, once again, been forming an overblown bubble of wealth that does not reflect the relative degrees of productivity of workers around America. The market has more than doubled in value since the recession, and the richest 5% own about 80% of all non-pension-based stocks.
2. They Create Imaginary Money That Turns Real
The speculative, non-productive, and fee-generating derivatives market has increased to an unfathomable level of over $1 quadrillion -- a thousand trillion dollars, twenty times more than the monetary value of the world economy.
3. They've Cheated the Most Productive Americans