President Obama, five years late, decried the terrible income gap in the US, which has worsened during his years in the White House, and offered the puny “fix” of raising the minimum wage paid to employees working on federal projects from its current $7.25 to $10.10 per hour. This executive order, which could have been done when he took office in the depths of the Great Recession back in 2009 would be not immediate but would be phased in over the next three years.
What a pathetic joke!
As the New York Times pointed out the next day in its report on the president’s State of the Union speech, the “raise” by the president would only apply to “a few hundred thousand” workers. If we assume that “few” to be 300,000 people, and that each of those people works a 40-hour week 50 weeks per year, that would mean that in the first year, when the incremental increase will be 95 cents/hour, each worker currently earning $7.25 per hour will earn an extra $1900, for a total gain by all the impacted workers of $570 million.
Just to give a sense of how little $570 million is, it works out to just over one-third of the unit cost of one F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. That’s the Pentagon’s latest new fighter jet, designed and built by Lockheed-Martin, the one that has no enemy to fight and that is probably to flawed and too costly to ever risk in battle anyhow.
What is really obscene about the president’s token wage-increase gesture is that the $10.10 wage that he is saying the federal government will ultimately its contract workers in three years would, in constant dollars, still be less than what the federal minimum wage was back in 1968, almost half a century ago!