A Casada Primer on the Minimum Wage



I wrote a profile piece on Glen Casada in yesterday’s dead-tree version of the Scene because, in part, I figured readers would want to understand the man who’s trying to strip Nashville and other Tennessee cities from some of their most essential rights of self-governance. I certainly wanted to learn about the guy. And I did, as you’ll see in that piece.

During our interview, in which we discussed the three bills (HBs 601, 1088 and 1345) he’s filed to require that the state dictate once-local policies like those prohibiting discrimination or setting a minimum wage, we got into a little thought experiment about the latter. I didn’t have the space to get into it in the dead-tree piece, so I just transcribed that portion of the interview and am posting it here, unedited.

Scene: It seems like [your bills are] aimed at Nashville. Nashville is the city that’s doing this stuff. You’re saying it’s not?
Glen Casada: Absolutely not. For example, I think Memphis has a living wage right now on the books [Ed Note: They do. So does Shelby County. If Casada’s bill passes, wages for some workers could drop by 40 percent, according to the Workers Interfaith Network]. And so I guess Memphis could say you’re coming after us. But no, to make sure that all cities are homogenous in their HR policies, if you will, when it comes to those areas.

Do you think that’s good for people who live in those cities?
I do. And as a parallel example, I would say this: The Interstate Commerce Clause that dictates the way we do commerce in the United States is one of the reasons why we are such a prosperous nation. We have the same laws from state to state. And I would contend that applies to the state of Tennessee in that you must have the same laws from city to city on areas related to doing business.

(Read the rest after the jump)

What are some areas where you would say we don’t have to have the same laws from city to city?
You know, that’s a good question. Maybe, I mean, there’s probably myriads. Traffic laws. Maybe there’s one-way streets and not-one-way streets, that’s one example. Maybe the way we elect our officials is — it’s just like there’s differences from state to state on a lot, a whole host of issues. So there can be differences between cities on a whole host of issues.

A lot of people have said that this is government overreaching, and you as a conservative lawmaker have worked toward smaller government. This is bigger government.
Each level of government should not be competing with the other level but they should be totally separate. In other words, the state does certain things well, locals do certain things well, and the feds do certain things well. So I think the state should be responsible for commerce within the state, and a few other things — like education — these are all state-driven. Where, again, back to traffic laws, that would be more local-driven. And again, that’s just an example off the top of my head. And the feds, they should be more responsible for defending the borders in federal court. Just one example of many, but just an example.

Let me throw out an example. Obviously cost of living in Nashville is much different than it is in a rural part of the state, or Memphis, or even Knoxville. Would you acknowledge that?
That is a fact, yes.

Well then, if you’re left with a state-determined minimum wage, doesn’t that hurt workers in places where the cost of living is higher? Or is there some way “the market” works that out in your mind?
Actually, I think that having each community — because if I had to do business in just Nashville, Franklin and Murfreesboro, for me to comply with what each city wants to do different in the area of minimum wage, for example, or family leave or a whole host of issues, it’s more than my little company — it would force me to have at least one attorney on staff full-time. And that, to me, takes precedence over what’s minimum wage, where should it be and that kind of thing. I feel like I’m looking at the big picture, not the individual picture.

But if individuals are hurting — and that is the case, in the example we’re working with now — aren’t we talking about serving a few and hurting many?
I would contend the opposite. If hypothetical company says I can’t afford $11 an hour, and if I’m going to do Memphis, which has a minimum living wage, I can’t afford it and I’m just going to pull out and lay the guys off that work in Shelby County because I can’t afford that. So I would contend it hurts business creation, job creation.

So those businesses just wouldn’t want to go into the big cities then?
But if they’re having to pay more than what they’re turning a profit on, then no, they would not.

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