Adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage today is lower than it was in 1965—about 24 percent lower. That job at Sears allowed my mother to eke out a living for a family of three; today, a mother working full-time and getting paid the minimum wage cannot afford the rent on the average two-bedroom apartment anywhere in America. In Oklahoma, where I grew up, that mother wouldn’t even come close to providing a poverty-level income for her family. Paying rent, keeping groceries on the table, having a little money left over for school shoes or lunch money—those are all out of reach. Today a mother who tries to break her family’s fall simply can’t grab the same branch that was there for my family.
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