Cities all over the United States have been boosting their minimum wage. It’s up to $15 an hour in Seattle, but it’s going in the opposite direction in St. Louis, Missouri.
Amer Hawatmeh’s family-owned restaurant in downtown St. Louis is struggling.
Along with rising sales taxes, and meat prices, a minimum wage hike to $10 an hour two months ago made it expensive to stay open. So he’s cut back from five to two days a week for lunch. His hamburgers are smaller, his entrees pricier and his customers scarcer.
Hawatmeh believes it’s not the government, but a combination of worker determination and customer demand that should set the correct wage.
“That’s how I built myself,” he said. “That’s how I’m teaching my children to build themselves. Don’t ask what do I get, ask what can I do.”
This news comes on the heels of a study that found that Seattle’s $15 minimum wage was costing the city jobs.
“According to the study, pay for low-wage jobs in Seattle has increased by about 3% since 2014. However, that wage increase has been accompanied by a 9% reduction in hours for such jobs, which comes to a loss of about a $125 in earnings per month for the workers.”
Merits of the minimum wage aside, the action taken in Missouri should give libertarians and conservatives some pause. Proponents of limited government often complain that the federal government tends to wade into territory better left to state and local governments; but in this case, the state is using its power to trump the will of a local government.
To complicate matters, it’s not as if Missouri is against the minimum wage in theory or practice. Lawmakers merely disliked the figure St. Louis had established as the wage floor. It bears asking: Why are lawmakers in Jefferson City better equipped to set a minimum wage than lawmakers in St. Louis?
There is evidence that many people’s exuberance for economic equality has led to public policies that, in the words of one Twin Cities progressive, rely on “arithmetic [that] doesn’t work.”
But instead of debating the degree to which government should require one private party to compensate another, perhaps it’s time to begin asking a new question: Why do we continue to use force or the threat to compel one private person or entity to compensate another?
[Image credit: Daniel Schwen [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons]