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Minimum wage rules should be set by the states

By Devin Keehner
On February 27, 2014

A federal minimum hike isn't just a bad idea, but it's also a gross usurpation of state rights. If a minimum wage is to be set at all, then, surely, it should be set by the level of government most capable of addressing the needs of its people.
Otherwise, why not set a global minimum wage? After all, the argument for a minimum wage should hold. Are not the workers of the world underpaid and impoverished? Well, there are two very good reasons why not.
First, there exists no legal means of establishing and enforcing a global minimum wage. The United Nations for instance has no such authority.
Second, the economic situations of various countries would make a single minimum wage across the globe a disaster. Surely, it would be madness to hold non unindustrialized nations to the same standard as first world ones. After all, the prices of basic necessities are not constant throughout the globe, nor are wages and joblessness.
The net effect of such an action would be to make work illegal in the poorest of nations. The people of the world would grow poorer and not wealthier as job after job would be lost.
These are, however, the same reason a federal minimum wage is ill advised.
First, the federal minimum wage violates the spirit if not the language of the constitution. The Founding Fathers wanted the federal government to have minimal impact on the economic activity of everyday Americans. However, they recognized the need for the federal government to regulate certain aspects of the economy.
To this end the Founding Fathers included the Commerce Clause among the enumerated powers granted to the federal government by the Constitution. The clause reads," [The Congress shall have the Power] to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes."
This is problematic for those who support a federal minimum wage. A worker's wage (in the vast majority of instances) is not a matter of interstate commerce, nor is a workers wage related to interstate commerce in any significant way.
At least, that's how the Supreme Court felt in 1935 when it unanimously struck down the National Industrial Recovery Act. It wasn't until 1941 after Roosevelt's attempts to pack the Supreme Court and the appointment of five Supreme Court Judges that the ruling was overturned.
It's beyond safe to assume that the latter ruling should be invalidated. It wouldn't be the first time that the Supreme Court has chosen to follow the Constitution more strictly than its predecessors.
Second, states are in a better position to gage where the minimum wage should be set.
Each state and even each city finds itself in a unique economic situation. A state with high unemployment is less able to stomach a raise in the minimum wage. The communities hurt worst by a hike in the minimum wage would be those already steeped in poverty, unemployment and economic inequality. Moreover, the unemployment rate is not the only economic factor that should be considered.
The cost of living can be significantly different from one state to another. For people in lower cost states like Texas, the current minimum wage is significantly more helpful than to those in higher cost states. Any minimum wage set high enough for high cost states will have a negative impact on low cost states.
The minimum wage does not help the poor, instead as Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer points out "when you raise the minimum wage, you're redistributing income from one set of low income people to another set of low income people." Unskilled white workers with high school educations will benefit, but those with minority status or without a high school degree will suffer.
So why then should it be the federal government that is setting the minimum wage? Wouldn't it make more sense to have the government closest to the people deciding the minimum wage? After all, it would provide a fantastic chance for the economic experimentation that make our country unique.
 


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