Poorer states should be pushing for a flat national minimum wage above what their local wages are. The difference in regional costs of living mean that places like West Virginia become much more attractive for low-wage workers. Pushing wage growth in poorer places is exactly how you grow those economies and increase population.
Boomtowns are characterized by demand-driven wage increases that pull in labor, but the salient part of the story is that the high wages drive growth. The difference with boomtowns is that they’re demand-driven (a gold rush, a railway being built). A minimum wage change would mean that businesses that can’t afford to pay the higher wage either cut workers, cut hours, or even shut down.
But work that cannot be done for good wages is not work. It’s effectively private charity for the business owners. The main modern fights for unions have been against that. Workers need to be paid reasonable wages for reasonable work. And those businesses that need to automate or otherwise reform to support growth wages will do so, even if some struggle or shutter. That’s supposed to be part of capitalism with a safety net.
Work that can sustain good wages is work that affords for growth in the economy. People moving up from shacks to finished structures are growing the construction industry, the furnishings industries. They might have an extra child who will need sneakers and toothbrushes.
Meanwhile, under textbook economics, those from wealthier states with higher costs of living should be arguing for regional minimum wage. They want to retain their populations, which relies on the fact that while it’s expensive to live there, the wages are typically higher to match. If poorer states are paying better wages, the richer states lose people (and growth) to those states where growth will be higher.
This kind of backwards politics isn’t uncommon, but it is also not rational in the economic sense of the word. Business owners are quite often choking out their own growth because they can’t see beyond their quarterly report that they want to say something like “Cost of labor: $0; Earnings: $100,000,000,000,000,000,000.” And since those same rich fools pay for campaigns for politicians, the politicians can’t correct them.
We see this in other places in politics, like those critics who say the Republicans who voted against convicting Donald John Trump put their party before their country. It’s in the interest of the Republican party to have a functional party not run by a maniac. Those who voted against convicting that maniac voted against even an inch toward restoring the party’s sanity.
What they put before country was not party, but was a cruel notion that all they are good for is to cheer for a maniac. They put their own individual weakness ahead of country, saying they are no better than that, they can be no more than that. But that matches with their legislative record: almost nothing but tax cuts. Modest sentencing reforms were the highlight of the past four years from a good-government perspective, amid an avalanche of terrible executive policy that went unchecked.
It was in their party interest to conduct reasonable oversight of a bad president, and they did not. The one thing the Republicans almost never do is put their party’s interests first. They put their own, individual interests in being reelected to do a poor job first. They are the Ayn Rand party, after all.
And it’s certainly true for some of them, that the state Republicans are not sending their best to Washington, DC. They’re sending fools that flee to Mexico, rather than turn to face a crisis, for example. Those fools know they aren’t up to the job, so they want a weak and servile party that stands for nothing but being rowdy and pompous and whiny.
Republican voters are better than this. They should reject these fools.