Thank you, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn

Chuck Sheketoff

In criticizing President Obama’s call for a $9 minimum wage, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) said that as a teenager in Mississippi, she was glad to have a job at $2.15 an hour.

As noted by

Making $2.15 an hour certainly does sound worse than today’s minimum wage, which federal law mandates must be at least $7.25 an hour. But what Blackburn didn’t realize is that she accidentally undermined her own argument, since the value of the dollar has changed immensely since her teenage years. Blackburn was born in 1952, so she likely took that retail job at some point between 1968 and 1970. And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculator, the $2.15 an hour Blackburn made then is worth somewhere between $12.72 and $14.18 in today’s dollars, depending on which year she started.

At that time, the minimum wage was $1.60, equivalent to $10.56 in today’s terms. Today’s minimum wage is equivalent to just $1.10 an hour in 1968 dollars, meaning the teenage Blackburn managed to enter the workforce making almost double the wage she now says is keeping teenagers out of the workforce.

President Obama’s proposal is less than he campaigned on in 2008. More importantly, as explained by Shawn Fremstad of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, President Obama’s proposal doesn’t go far enough.

Rep. Blackburn, thank you for driving home that point.

Oregon Center for Public PolicyChuck Sheketoff is the executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy. You can sign up to receive email notification of OCPP materials at

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