Several years ago, a few of us sailors were sitting around sipping suds and complaining about the fate of those at the lowest end of the pay scale.

“Inflation is killing us,” one of the youngest lads commented.

“There’s no such thing as inflation,” replied Yancy, the chief petty officer who was my immediate supervisor.

 “But prices keep going up more than my payraise,” the kid said.

“The real measure is not how much money you pay for a loaf of bread,” Yancy explained. “It’s the number of hours you have to work for the loaf of bread.

In the early 1970s, I was in California and women were reentering the workforce. They had been in the workforce during World War II, when they built warplanes, then flew those planes to the war where they turned over the keys to men who flew into battle.

When the war ended, women were sent home with barely a “job well done,” forced to vacate the jobs they had taken while the men were busy on the killing fields. Women needed to be home, they were told, tending the kids and having dinner ready for Dad when he returned home from work.

By the 1970s, amid considerable turmoil and social change, women finally had a chance to bolster their family’s income. They could, they thought, afford some “extra” things.

It made sense at the time. My mother, once we kids had left the parental dinner table, worked for a florist. The money she earned allowed her to buy the plane tickets for her and Dad to fly to my wedding in Florida. By the time the Navy moved me to California, that idea – that women could earn spending money for their families – had taken solid hold.

But that was not how it worked out. The kid had it right: Every payraise resulted in dozens of people with their hands out. The larger paycheck was soon shared with the tax collector, the landlord, the grocer and the gasoline merchant. A 1973 gasoline shortage many car drivers thought, as they watched through their televisions at the armadas of oil-laden tankers waiting at anchor on both coasts, was contrived, resulted in prices going up at the pump while cars sat in long lines waiting their rationed turns, then not coming back down when the fuel started flowing again.

Meanwhile, much-touted “across the board” military pay increases resulted in those at the top of the pay scale seeing increases that were multiples of the entire paycheck of those at the bottom. It was an object lesson in basic math: four percent of nothing is nothing, while four percent of, say, an admiral or industrial CEO’s pay is a bunch.

The best a low-rated sailor could hope for is he would work the same number of hours for a loaf of bread.

A politician this week commenting on calls for assistance such as food and child care, said, “but they’re staying on it for the rest of their life.” Clearly he had not met the single mom who earns enough money to put gas in the junker to get to work to make money to put gas in the car to get to work to …

We don’t need a minimum wage increase that ignites a hike all the way up the chain to the One Percent, sitting in a penthouse, ordering another Gulfstream, and complaining about how the company is losing money.

What we need is a way to share the wealth of those on the top floor who collect it with those on the bottom who create it.Thanks for coming along. Please leave a comment, and take a moment to share it with your friends.