On The Minimum Wage, Federalism Won

Conn Carroll
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Posted: Nov 05, 2014 2:00 PM
On The Minimum Wage, Federalism Won

One of the few life preservers Democrats are grasping for in the midst of this 2014 Republican wave, is that voters across the country voted for a higher minimum wage.

And it is true, voters in four states, red states no less, passed minimum wage hikes Tuesday, as did three cities in deep blue California.

But what liberals leave out when they trumpet these minimum wage hikes, is that each state and locality raised their minimum wage if not to a different level, then at least on a different schedule.

South Dakota and Arkansas, for example, both hiked their minimum wage to $8.50. But South Dakota will make the leap in just one year (2015), while Arkansas will give businesses three years to adjust (2017).

Nebraska, meanwhile, will raise its wage to $9.00 by 2016 and Alaska will raise theirs to $9.75, also by 2016.

And in California, Eureka will hike its minimum wage to $12 by 2015, Oakland will go to $12.25 by 2015, and San Francisco will go to $15 by 2018.

Raising the minimum wage is never the free lunch liberals claim it is. For example, when SeaTac raised its minimum wage to $15, some restaurants closed, other businesses tacked on a "living wage surcharge," while other businesses cut back on advertising

But whatever the harms and benefits of each minimum wage hike are, it is pretty clear that a one-size fits all minimum wage makes no sense. The cost of living, and the cost of running a business, is just far higher in San Francisco than it is in Eureka, or South Dakota. There simply is no justification for raising the national minimum wage.

Let the states, or even better the cities, decide if their minimum wage needs raising. That way, if the policy is a mistake, it will be that much easier to undo and far fewer people will be harmed.