COMMENTARY | In a bit of irony, Oklahoma conservatives have turned the “states’ rights” debate on its head by going all “big government” on local liberals, passing a law to ban municipalities from raising the minimum wage for workers, reports CNN. The law, allegedly created as a pro-business measure, also prevents local governments from requiring businesses to provide set numbers of vacation days or sick days, even if they are unpaid. Critics claim the law is a knee-jerk overreaction to a petition that would put a state minimum wage increase on the ballot in November.
Obviously, Democrats nationwide are unhappy and liberals in Oklahoma are gearing up for a fight.
One thing liberals have in their arsenal is conservatives’ hypocritical violation of their own oft-touted “small government” principles. If the conservatives in Oklahoma were truly supporters of free-market capitalism they would allow local governments, and local voters, to risk businesses leaving their communities after a minimum wage hike. Nothing is preventing disgruntled businesses, or investors, from leaving those communities which decide to raise their minimum wages.
Local communities will know whether or not local businesses can afford a minimum wage hike and citizens will vote in their own economic self-interest, weighing the increase in wages, corresponding increase in prices, and other factors. Why not let them? Oklahoma Republicans are violating some of the most basic conservative principles: Limited government and local self-determination.
This hypocrisy will likely be a political talking point this fall.
Furthermore, the law could backfire if investors and businesses feel that Oklahoma is prone to knee-jerk political reactions and imposing those reactions statewide. While this reaction might be more pro-business than anti-business, what about future reactions? Radical legislation, on either side of the political aisle, is often bad for business and consumers. And businesses might prefer to avoid the bad press of moving to “anti-worker” Oklahoma, choosing to pay slightly higher wages in more worker-friendly states and reap good PR.
And, as a Texan, I don’t think Oklahoma needs any more unfriendly press…