Photo by Morgan Housel on Unsplash

Inequality On The Scale Of Time

Oh, how the distribution of income is disconnected from our production of wealth.

5 min readJun 14, 2021


So I’m thinking of the minimum wage. I’m thinking of how much time it takes to make a living on the federal minimum wage. You know, those people working 2–3 jobs who don’t have time to help their kids with school. I’m also thinking about how much the minimum wage has moved over the last 40 years. Not. Very. Much.

Presently, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Amazingly, the minimum wage for tipped workers is just $2.13 an hour, but that comes with a caveat. From the Department of Labor:

If an employee’s tips combined with the employer’s direct wages of at least $2.13 an hour do not equal the Federal minimum hourly wage, the employer must make up the difference.

So there’s a requirement that is not usually stated in political discourse, a sort of floor that says that the employer can’t starve the employee. That means there is an “effective” minimum wage for all employees of $7.25 an hour.

I think it’s important here to look at the state minimum wage laws, too. You know how Republicans are about states’ rights. It’s important for some Republicans that they can have a captured audience of employees that will work for less, you know, to grow the economy. And they really want to beat the crap out of China and win the race to the bottom. Check out this map:

U.S. Department of Labor

Just a quick side note. The richest states in the nation have a state minimum wage that is higher than the federal minimum wage. California now has the highest minimum wage in the nation at $14 an hour. Note also that some of the poorest states in the nation, like Kentucky, Luisiana, Mississipi, and Alabama, all have either no state minium wage, or one that matches the federal minimum wage.

Now let’s look at the time required to become a billionaire on a state minimum wage. I’ve been thinking about this a lot since America leads the world in the number of billionaires inhabiting the land between our shores. We have 614 billionaires, and some of them are worth more…