By Tom Quiner

A gallon of gasoline in New York is $3.70 per gallon. In Iowa, it is $3.25.
In Texas, it is only $3.13 per gallon, while in California it goes for $3.65.
These numbers come from the AAA Fuel Gauge Report which came out on December 31st, 2013. They point out the obvious:  the price of living varies dramatically by state. For example, the cost of living in liberal states like California, New York, and Massachusetts is twenty to fifty percent higher than in more moderate states such as Oklahoma, Kansas, or North Dakota.
The price of groceries is much higher in San Jose than Denver.
Utilities are cheaper in Seattle than Portland.
Healthcare is cheaper in Des Moines than Boston.
I mention this in light of the minimum wage debate taking place right now. Liberals want to increase it at the national level; conservatives don’t.
Liberal columnist for the Des Moines Register, Rekha Basu, called the minimum wage a moral issue:

“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. The cost-of-living varies dramatically by state. We don’t  need the federal government imposing another one-size-fits-all approach on the states when each state is so different.
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 based on the cost-of-living standards in their own region.
The federal government should get out of the way and let individual states determine what is best for their citizens.

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  1. Tom Maly on February 10, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    Thomas,
    Seems to me the federal government is doing MANY things under the guise of it being authorized by the commerce clause or to “promote the general welfare. i have long wondered how big a role federlistas should have in education, for instance. The further the $$$ get from the bloody beaten hands of the tax payer, the more of it lines the pockets of program managers, consultants, outside experts…….you get the idea! i think the Catholics have a notion called subsidiarity!?!?

    • quinersdiner on February 10, 2014 at 3:58 pm

      Subsidiarity makes so much sense. Thanks for writing. You’re spot on!

  2. […] As this blog has written before, a one-size fits all approach is illogical when you consider the cos… […]

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