Federal lawmakers shouldn’t impose arbitrary minimum-wage standards


Minimum-wage standards have long been a polarizing topic in political debates, with conservatives and liberals often pigeonholed into their separate camps on the issue. But it’s more complicated than that. Some Democrats on Capitol Hill are stumping for an arbitrary increase to the federal-minimum wage. More reasonable people, however, know that what works in one state doesn’t always work in another.

As attorney and former Labor Department administrator Tammy McCutchen recently testified before a House committee, labor laws cannot and should not be one-size-fits-all and, rather than blanket the entire U.S., should fit every individual state.

“[W]e must remember that the [Fair Labor Standards Act] needs to work throughout the country without adverse impact on local economies and jobs. It must work in every state and in every industry—in large cities, in tiny towns, for small businesses and large, for-profits and non-profits,” she said.

Creating a federal minimum-wage standard doesn’t account for the many states where the cost of living is lower. A $15 minimum wage make more sense in California, for example, but it doesn’t work in other parts of the country. If such a law does go into effect, long gone will be the days of dollar menus and buy-one-get-one deals.

States have the liberty to set their own minimum wage, a threshold informed by people who work and live in the area in which the minimum is being set—not by wealthy out-of-touch congresspeople trying to score a political advantage for the next election. Federal lawmakers should not be setting arbitrary minimum-wage thresholds that make little-to-no sense in most parts of the country.

As Larry Fox, a businessman with restaurants in Florida and Alabama, says in a recent opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, a $15 minimum wage would “almost certainly” force him to “close up shop and look for another line of work.”

Such a federal increase would mean Mr. Fox’s 600 employees would be out of jobs that allow them flexibility and sizable income from gratuities. “If this bill passes, [lawmakers will] soon be hearing from a lot of ex-restaurant owners like me—not to mention angry tipped employees who want to know where their income has gone.”