As the fight continued this week over whether to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15, GOP Sen. John Thune of South Dakota weighed in against such a hike with a story from his boyhood. He said he started out busing tables at a family restaurant for $1 an hour before eventually moving up to $6. That story led to Thune being "rightly and roundly roasted for innumeracy," Binyamin Appelbaum writes for the New York Times—because, as Appelbaum points out, Thune was a teen in the '70s, which means the $6 an hour he mentions would be more than $20 an hour today when adjusted for inflation. Appelbaum argues that Thune and others telling similar stories are taking the "wrong lessons" from such narratives, specifically when they try to portray an increase to $15 an hour as "a journey into uncharted waters" that will hurt small businesses.
That's not how they should be looking at it, Appelbaum writes, noting the minimum wage "has been in decline" since Thune's job as a teen. "A full-time worker earning the minimum wage does not make enough to afford a typical one-bedroom apartment in almost any part of the country—let alone college at current prices." Appelbaum also dismisses the idea there shouldn't be concern about pay for such jobs, as they're just a "gateway" to better-paying ones down the road. "The truth is considerably bleaker than that," he writes. "Most workers who earn less than $15 an hour are adults in their prime working years ... and millions of Americans remain in low-wage jobs throughout their careers." Steve Benen concurs with Appelbaum's assessment, writing for MSNBC that such arguments against a wage hike actually make the opposite point, "reminding us, once again, that the nation is overdue for an increase." More from Appelbaum here. (Read more minimum wage stories.)