Monday, June 9, 2014

On the Minimum Wage Debate

Do not fear, readers, my blog is not about to become solely focused on the policy debates of the day. But I do want to offer comment on an editorial from Friday's The New York Times -- a publication whose editorial board is almost always my ideological opposite (perhaps, if someone reminds me, I will write later about why I force myself to read it).

Anyway, please first read this brief editorial commenting on the recent decision by the city of Seattle to enact a $15 an hour minimum wage.

And now, a comment:

In the fourth paragraph, the editorial notes: "...there is no substitute for a robust federal minimum wage, because broad prosperity requires a solid wage floor, not a patchwork." I submit that in a nation as diverse as ours, prosperity means different things -- has different definitions based on quantifiable measures -- in different places. The cost of living is different in Midtown Manhattan than in Laurel, Montana (a city near Yellowstone National Park). So New York and Montana do not need the same minimum wage. And truthfully, the cost of living is different in Midtown Manhattan than in Albany, New York's state capital, so New York City and Albany do not need the same minimum wage. Thus, a state-by-state and even municipality-by-municipality patchwork would be just fine for "broad prosperity."

Minimum wage should be among the most locally-decided issues in public policy -- not least because a high percentage of earnings will go directly back into the local economy. States with lower populations (put another way, without dense urban areas in contrast to rural areas within the same state) may find it efficient to consider the matter at the state level, as the cost of living is more uniform throughout their border. It is decidedly something that the federal government, however, absolutely does not need to spend time addressing.

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