A sensible compromise on the minimum wage

By Tom Quiner

My favorite Iowa liberal, Rekha Basu, hammered conservatives today.

Ms. Basu is a columnist for the Des Moines Register, and is a very fine and likable person.

However, not only does she disagree with our position on the minimum wage, she calls a hike on the minimum wage a moral issue. She didn’t hold back:

“It’s nothing short of obscene that America’s low-wage workers are so disregarded, only to be lectured about the need for better budgeting by those who are exploiting them. The situation also points to the need for vigilant awareness building and advocacy on behalf of those too busy trying to make ends meet to lobby for themselves.”

Think about it: she says if we pay people what they’re worth, we are immoral.

Only if we pay them more than what the marketplace says they are worth can we rise to the ranks of the civilized.

On the other hand, conservatives are concerned that if the government forces you to pay someone more than the marketplace says they’re worth, then some will be overpriced and will lose their jobs.

In other words, conservatives believe that a hike in the minimum is a job-killer. We believe in the dignity of work. So we believe it is a moral issue just like liberals do.

Who is right?

I present a modest proposal on how to resolve this conflict: simply adhere to the Constitution and abolish it at the federal level.

Keep in mind, the minimum wage wouldn’t go away. States would be free to continue setting their own minimum wage at whatever level they thought best for their citizens.

What business is it of the federal government anyway? Some say their authority to set the MW is vested in the Commerce Clause of the Constitution which allows them to regulate interstate commerce.

What does the minimum wage have to do with interstate commerce? It is a stretch.

If the feds get out of the way, states are free to better serve their own citizens. They are closer to the economy in their area. Even more, it would create a healthier economic climate by encouraging increased competition between states.

States with a higher wage might be able to attract more and better workers.

States with a lower wage might be able to attract more new business start ups seeking lower labor costs.

There is a direct correlation between a higher minimum wage and higher unemployment rates. Back in May of 2009, the five states with the lowest unemployment rates had a state MW lower than the federal wage.

But five of the six states with the highest unemployment rates had a higher MW wage than the feds, suggesting there is a correlation between artificially high wages and high unemployment.

Let the states decide.

The federal government should get out of the way and let individual states determine what is best for their citizens.


  1. Mark on July 31, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    Often the most profound insights are made by articulating good sense. Our best leaders in government are the ones who are there to serve and not to be served. There are many bright and good people in this country who know infinitely more about their business than our elected representatives in Washington, and the best elected representatives are willing to acknowledge that and get government out of the way.

  2. Tom Maly on August 1, 2013 at 11:49 am

    Seems to me that the commerce clause has been stretched soooooooooooo far in so many directions to justify federal intervention!!