Here is the meat of the nut:
"50 years ago, America's biggest employer was General Motors, where workers made the modern equivalent of $50 dollars an hour. Today, America's biggest employer is Walmart, where the average wage is $8 dollars an hour."
This is just an enormous pile of stinking doo doo, which is now making the rounds of FB and other social media, often as a picture or infographic, sometimes with the "50 years ago" being replaced with "1979", which SERIOUSLY NOT 50 YEARS AGO WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE, turns out, 1979 is the mostly likely contract to pick to input into the CPI inflator to make it look like $50 when you do the adjustment.
Let's walk this sucker back with some real data, SHALL WE?
Oh, hey, a little too academic there, how about something with a chart and all the adjustments prepared ahead of time.
Do you see anything like $50 on that table? I don't. I see a lot of stuff about half that. True, those are 2011 dollars, not 2014 dollars, but the difference is not huge (inflator tool sez 6%).
I'm leaving out the fact that this is UAW workers, and General Motors used to employ tons of non-union labor (you know, women, like in the typing pool and administrative and reception and general office and so forth, never mind janitorial etc.) and they didn't make anywhere near what the production workers were making. I'm also leaving out the fact that GM has been shrinking since the time of peak pay, and a bunch of other stuff too, because, seriously, with that table, who needs to nitpick.
I fully support legislative, ballot and other initiatives to raise the minimum wage. I'm prepared to defend the practice of calling members of the Walton family "deluded nitwits" in the service of politically motivated commentary.
But GM line workers didn't make $50 in 2014 dollars. No, they did not. Also, comparisons of full time male northern union workers in the (high inflation expectations built into the contracts) 1970s to part time female rural and/or southern non-union workers in the (low inflation and recently deflationary) 20 teens does seem problematic on any number of levels, ESPECIALLY WHEN ALL THOSE ADJECTIVES ARE INVISIBLE IN THE DISCUSSION.
Are you having trouble finding an inflator? Here it is!
Do you think the government statistics are lying about inflation currently or in previous years? Please don't share that belief with me.
Oh, and don't go thinking that Remapping Debate is a bunch of crazy, untrustworthy rightwingers. They are not. Quite the opposite, if anything. I have no idea why Bill Maher and a bunch of other people are tracking that particular stink all over social media but I hope they stop soon, because it makes us all look bad.
ETA still more:
This is Reich. Do I have to now treat Reich as Just Another Stiglitz? Can we please have some commentary on Oh Woe Is the Middle Class that doesn't treat the wage story as the story of white, male workers who do not have a college degree? Because the middle class has some woes, and I don't see these stories as particularly helpful.
"Fifty years ago, when General Motors was the largest employer in America, the typical GM worker got paid $35 an hour in today’s dollars. Today, America’s largest employer is Walmart, and the typical Walmart workers earns $8.80 an hour."
I'm wondering if the fifty years ago turned into $50 -- but it hardly matters. The peak pay year wasn't 50 years ago -- closer to 40 or 45.
USA Today even picked it up in October: