Did you know that Washington State has the highest minimum wage rate in the nation ($9.32 an hour)? It is also a relatively healthy state economically-speaking according to this article from Bloomberg. As an aside, Washington has not one, but two, big-time entrepreneurs with New Mexico ties…two of the richest men in the world: Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos.
Does Washington State’s economic success mean that minimum wages aren’t harmful or that they are actually good? Of course not. It just means that other aspects of Washington’s policy/social climate are more attractive. Remember, minimum wages are one, small economic policy. And, while proponents of the free market may oppose them on principle, because they disproportionately impact low-income workers, by definition, the impact of minimum wages on the overall economy is relatively small.
What’s not small? How about the fact that Washington State has no personal income tax?
As Art Laffer and our upcoming speaker Stephen Moore noted in a paper done for RGF, having no personal income tax results in both greater economic prosperity and population growth. In other words, the positive impact of not taxing the productive activities of 60+ percent of the population that works (thus encouraging more of them to enter the work-force because they can keep more of their money) is far more important to a state’s economic growth than the tiny fraction of workers that make the minimum wage (or anywhere near it).
In other words, even though I remain 100% convinced that minimum wages are bad policy, I’d happily accept an increase in New Mexico’s minimum wage to $10 an hour or more in exchange for elimination of the personal income tax.