Minimal Flexibility

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In a country as vast as these United States, national economic policy can't accurately reflect local conditions. A family of four would certainly be scraping by with two earners pulling the minimum wage in New York City, even though its combined income of around $20,000 would be above the federal poverty level of $17,050. Yet the same family making the same money would live far more comfortably in the next four biggest American cities: Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Philadelphia.

Such thinking drives a bipartisan House bill, dubbed "State Flex," that would allow states to opt out of a virtually certain increase in the federal minimum wage. But House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), a former wrestling coach and self-proclaimed advocate of federalism, has body-slammed State Flex, urging all representatives to sign on to a plan to increase the minimum wage from its current $5.15 an hour to $6.15 an hour over the next two years.

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