There are all kinds of different possible ways to interpret President Obama's call last night, in his State of the Union Address, to increase the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour by 2015 from the $5.85 an hour at which it stood in June 2007.
But the way that makes most sense is as a measure of the decline in the purchasing power of a dollar.
One can look at this from the perspective of an employer, and say that the $5.85 that bought an hour of labor in June 2007 will, by the end of Mr. Obama's presidency, buy only 39 minutes of labor. In other words, in a mere 8 years, an entire 21 minutes out of the hour's worth of work has been taken away from the employer by the Federal Reserve to which Congress has delegated its power to "coin money" and "regulate the value thereof."
Or one can look at it from the perspective of an employee, and say that to live by the minimum wage standard that required $5.85 an hour in 2007 will take $9 an hour in 2015, or that it requires a 53.8% raise in monetary compensation just to keep pace.
For an observer, it's hard not to become cynical. We live in a world in which the price of a gallon of gasoline has increased to $4 a gallon from $2 a gallon, the price of a Manhattan studio apartment without a kitchen or a private bathroom for a homeless person is $3000 a month, private school tuition is approaching $40,000 a year, the minimum wage is going to $9 an hour from $5.85, a beer at the Barclays Center costs $9.50, and all along the "experts" assure us, don't worry, there is no inflation.