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Wages up 3 pennies an hour

By Dian Vujovich

That old Great Depression song, “Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime?”, seems to be coming around again.

Along with the good news of a positive jobs report for the month of October came news that hourly wages had increased too. At first hearing, that sounds like news worthy of a big, “Whoppee!” But look closer at the hourly wage increase and it’s almost laughable— 3 cents.

An hourly wage increase of three cents is only three pennies away from no increase. Then again, add that amount up for an eight-hour workday and you’ll have earned 24 cents. That’s still one penny shy of a quarter and there’s not very much one can buy with it either—even the cost of one stamp takes almost twice that amount.

Yes, television commercials say you can feed a child for 25 cents a day, but I’m not really sure that’s true. With that amount I do know for sure that I can only buy a few minutes of time using parking meters in downtown West Palm Beach. But as for the penny, well, penny gumball machines don’t exist any more and just like brick-sized mobile phone are relics of the past.

Once upon a time, in the 1960s I was able to put 25 cents of regular gas into my VW Bug and have it run for miles, but that can’t happen any more. Even with the price of gas dropping, putting 25 cents worth of petrol into a vehicle is close to impossible given how quickly the counter on the meter at the pump works.

Nope, three cents an hour won’t make much difference in anybody’s life today expect for the bean counters and CFOs calculating how much a company is spending on employee payrolls.

Which brings me to the title of another popular Depression-era song, “Ten cents a dance”. Even if that were happening today, you’d have to work half a day to be able to afford it.

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