Fox News host Neil Cavuto has a special message for living-wage activists: Deal with it. “It’s like jobs aren’t enough these days,” he said on Tuesday. “They better pay well, or folks just aren’t applying for them at all.” As proof, he cited his own teenage years serving fried fish in Connecticut:
Only in America today, can our politicians bemoan a livable wage, forgetting a lot of folks would be grateful for any wage, any chance, any job, anytime. All I know is as soon as I turned 16 and heard a fast food chain called Arthur Treacher’s was opening a store in my town of Danbury, Connecticut. I stood in a line for a position—any position. I got the job, and soon rocketed to relief manager, then weekend manager, then by 16 and a half, full-time store manager! And it all started at two bucks an hour. And all the fish I could eat.
That’s a good story. But the math makes the opposite point Cavuto intended—adjusted for inflation, he made a lot more money as a teenager than the fast food employees who walked off their jobs in seven US cities this week. Cavuto says he made $2 per hour when he was 16, which would have been around late 1974. That’s $9.47 per hour in today’s dollars—or $.28 per hour more than Washington state’s minimum wage, which is the nation’s highest. Cavuto made the equivalent of $1.02 per hour more than the current minimum wage in Connecticut today and $2.22 per hour more than the current federal minimum wage. His starting wage was $2.17 more than Saavedra Jantuah made at the Burger King on 34th St. in New York City before she walked off the job in protest last November because she was unable to feed her son.
Cavuto’s riff also misses the larger point, which is that the living-wage fight isn’t about 16-year-olds with no kids whose parents cover their basic living expenses. The median fast food worker is 28 years old, and the median female fast food worker is 32. Their wages have dropped an average of 36 cents since 2010. And they’re making less than Neil Cavuto ever did.
Watch the segment: