Minimum Wage, Federalism, and Regional Standard of Living

In my adult life, I’ve lived in Charlotte, NC; Chattanooga, TN; and Jackson, MS. (And a very brief stint in the Mansfield area, and I was actually born around Biloxi, though I don’t have any relatives there.) They are all three very different from each other. Especially Jackson. I really don’t think my ROK writing would have had the same fire and despondency if I wasn’t in Mississippi. There’s a reason that place invented the blues.

The movement to double minimum wage has the same over-arching flaw as all of liberalism: it assumes that all of America has the same culture and the same standard of living. And really, this is what is wrong with federalism. Different parts of the country are radically different from each other but for some reason have to duke it out every four years over who gets to control the government.

Even here in the writhing south, you have significant differences. I would say that $12hr in I-20 Mississippi is about $15hr in southeast Tennessee. And both are less than Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, where the Charlotte government makes a point to inflate the property value on the south side so as to keep the minorities out (one reason why it’s the only southern city in recent decades to have a race riot).

Even if we were to assume that grocery and housing prices wouldn’t rise (because, you know, leftists want to push minimum wage because the next step is controlled prices which is just a hop and a skip away from the Soviet Union), $15hr minimum wage isn’t the same everywhere you go. Here in Chattanooga, a decent one bedroom apartment that isn’t infested with roaches will usually cost you at least $600 a month. In the broader Jackson area, that will get you a three bedroom trailer in a white-majority ex-urb. I moved to North Georgia mainly because housing is a little cheaper.

San Francisco and New York City are known for insane housing prices. I would imagine — though I don’t know, so feel free to enlighten me in the comments — that fast food jobs there pay a bit more than elsewhere in the country. There’s no way you could live on $15hr in San Francisco, much less federal minimum. Do people really drive an hour into the city to work ten cents above minimum wage at Taco Bell?

The odd thing, though, is the standardization of products. The cost of potato chips or a dvd player is probably the same everywhere in the country. Especially if you buy online. And wages at the mainstream franchises are surely about the same. So perhaps the best economic plan is to move to Brandon, Mississippi; get a job stocking shelves at the Walmart; and rent a trailer a mile away. And you’ve got an Applebee’s and a Wendy’s in walking distance, so what more would you want? The horrors of living in Mississippi (both socially and environmentally) would be off-set with the cheap housing costs. And when the depression hits you too hard, you can just go to the casinos for the free booze.

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