Sen. John Thune, Opposing $15 Min Wage, Says He Earned $6 As a Kid—That's $24 With Inflation

In a tweet voicing his opposition to raising the national minimum wage to $15 an hour, Republican South Dakota Senator John Thune said he made $6 an hour working at a restaurant as a "kid." Adjusted for modern inflation, using June 1978 as a baseline, that would be $24 an hour today.

Congressional Republicans have largely opposed the Democratic proposal to raise the minimum wage. They argue a wage hike will harm small businesses who have already been economically harmed during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"I started working by bussing tables at the Star Family Restaurant for $1/hour & slowly moved up to cook – the big leagues for a kid like me– to earn $6/hour," Thune wrote in a Wednesday evening tweet. "Businesses in small towns survive on narrow margins. Mandating a $15 minimum wage would put many of them out of business."

I started working by bussing tables at the Star Family Restaurant for $1/hour & slowly moved up to cook – the big leagues for a kid like me– to earn $6/hour. Businesses in small towns survive on narrow margins. Mandating a $15 minimum wage would put many of them out of business. pic.twitter.com/izQDOGRAH1

— Senator John Thune (@SenJohnThune) February 24, 2021

It's unclear which years Thune worked at the restaurant in his hometown of Murdo, South Dakota, where he attended high school.

However, Thune was born in 1961. Assuming he was earning $6 an hour by the time he was 17—the last year one is still considered a non-adult under the national age of consent, which is 18—the year would have been 1978.

A $6 an hour wage in June 1978, adjusted to modern inflation rates, would equal $24.07 an hour in January 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A person making $24.07 an hour, working 40 hours a week and 52 weeks a year would earn over $50,000 annually before taxes.

John Thune minimum wage increase kid childhood
Republican South Dakota Senator John Thune has opposed raising the national minimum wage to $15 an hour. In his message opposing the wage hike, Thune said he only made $1 to $6 an hour at a restaurant as a "kid." Adjusted for modern inflation, that would be between $3 and $27 an hour today. In this January 26, 2021 photo, Thune speaks during a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing on Governor Gina Raimondo's nomination to be Commerce secretary on Capitol Hill in Washington,DC. Tom Williams / AFP/Getty

A person working the same hours and earning the Democratic-proposed wage of $15 an hour would earn just over $31,200 a year, before taxes. A person working the same hours and earning the current national minimum wage of $7.25 an hour would earn just over $15,080 a year, before taxes. The Department of Health and Human Services lists the poverty line for a single-person household in the contiguous 48 states and District of Columbia is $12,880 per year.

On Monday, Republican Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Mitt Romney of Utah introduced a $10 national minimum wage plan. It is called the Higher Wages for American Workers Act. The GOP plan would gradually raise the federal minimum wage from its current rate of $7.25 an hour to $10 an hour by 2025.

A person making the GOP-proposed wage of $10 an hour, working 40 hours a week and 52 weeks a year would earn over $20,800 annually before taxes.

The plan was criticized by Democratic legislators and others for being lower than the minimum wage in Cotton's home state—$11 an hour.

Romney and Cotton's plan would only raise wages for around 3 percent of American workers, compared to 21.2 percent of workers under the Democratic proposal, according to an analysis published Wednesday by the Economic Policy Institute.

Senate Budget Committee chairman Bernie Sanders and Democratic Illinois Senator Dick Durbin have both pledged support for passing the $15 hourly minimum wage through a procedure called budget reconciliation, which would bypass the need for Republican support.

However, even this procedure would require a majority of House Democrats and all Senate Democrats to approve the measure, and Democratic West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin has said he wouldn't assist in passing the measure without Republican support. Manchin has said he does support raising the wage, calling the current $7.25 an hour "poverty wages."

Some progressive Democrats may also be opposed, believing that a minimum wage increase should be more than $15 an hour. As proof, they have cited studies that show only a handful of states have one-bedroom apartments affordable to those working 40 hours on $15 hourly wage.

On February 1, Congressional Republicans introduced their own $618 billion economic stimulus bill that completely removed any mention of a minimum wage hike.

In response, Biden said he would "not settle" on his pandemic relief bill.

Newsweek contacted Thune's office for comment.

Update (2/25/2021, 6:00 p.m.): This article has been updated to clarify that the calculations were based on comparing June 1978 to January 2021, based off the inflation calculator from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.