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Neil Cavuto Remembers When He Held a Job Once




Today’s employment figures show that 162,000 jobs were added to U.S. payrolls last month – enough, when combined with the number of people simply dropping out of the work force altogether, to tick down the national unemployment rate to 7.4 percent. But these gains hardly met analysts’ expectations of 185,000 employees being added to American payrolls in July. Most of the new jobs were in the low-wage-paying restaurant and retail sectors.

This last detail comes just as fast-food workers have been staging one-day strikes to protest their miserable existences as low-wage earners and to demand the minimum-wage be doubled to $15 per hour. The strikers’ actions met with condescending sneers from the usual quarters of conservative punditry. Wall Street speakerphone and Fox News business seer Neil Cavuto laid on an especially thick heaping of scorn.

“It’s like jobs aren’t enough these days,” harrumphed Cavuto. “They better pay well — or folks just aren’t applying for them at all . . . 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.”

He then told Fox listeners a campfire story of a long-ago time when young men were full of spit and vinegar – and old-fashioned moxie. It was the story of a teenaged Neil Cavuto, no less, and how gosh-darn lucky he felt to be given money for the hard work he performed:

. . . 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.

But then mean-guy and socialist bean-counter Tim Murphy at Mother Jones began looking into the arithmetic behind the Horatio Alger Cavuto saga and had this to say:

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 U.S. 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.

Neil Cavuto may be considered a business expert at Fox News, but his sloppy math makes you wonder how he ever made it past relief manager.

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