Is lying OK when it’s done in the service of a good cause? I think not. So, while I am whole-heartedly in favor of raising the minimum wage, I have to point out that this meme is bullsh*t. This one’s personal, too, because I was a student at Michigan State University in 1978 and struggled to stay afloat.
Here are the facts. In 1978-79, the national average for just tuition and fees at a 4-year public university was $2,303. Minimum wage in 1978 was $2.65 per hour. I don’t recall how long of a summer break we had back then, but my son’s summer break at the University of Wisconsin this year is 14 weeks long. To earn $2,303 in just 14 weeks at the rate of $2.65 per hour, a student would have to work 62 hours per week (62 x $2.65 = $164.30 and $164.30 x 14 = $2,300).
The meme was easily busted, but hang, there’s more!
The reality is far worse, because every penny earned working those 62 hours per week for 14 straight weeks would have to be saved for the school year’s tuition and fees. But our hard-working student will have state and federal taxes withheld, as well as contributions to Medicare and Social Security.
Presumably, this student will, during those 14 weeks, pay rent (average rent was $260, or about 25 hours of summer work for our student), pay for utilities, buy groceries, incur transportation costs (oil prices skyrocketed in 1978), and spend at least some small amount on entertainment (maybe just $2.30 to see Grease?). Let’s just round it up to 80 hours a week and call it even.
Of course, we’re making a huge assumption our student could find the equivalent of two full-time jobs, because the US was experiencing one of its worst economic crises since the Great Depression: In 1975, 120,000 Americans declared bankruptcy; in 1978, unemployment was at 6.1 percent. (Things got so bad and stayed so bad during the Reagan Recession in Michigan, that I had to flee to California to finish my undergraduate degree.)
Once school starts and our exhausted student hands over every cent saved, there are costs still to be met. Students do not live by tuition and fees alone. There’s room and board to start with, and then books, pens, paper, transportation, clothing, medical costs, insurance costs, club or frat fees, gym or pool fees, sporting events or other entertainment, beer and pizza on the weekend (or a little bit of weed and some rolling papers), and more.
So, no — a college student in 1978 could not cover school costs (either just tuition or a whole real-life student budget) with a minimum wage summer job, and you make our very serious cause look foolishly uninformed with your dishonest Facebook meme. Look, the Right is much better at lying than the Left, because the Right gets so much more practice, so it’s probably best to stick to the truth and leave the lying to the other guys.