Mayor Bloomberg has been adamant in his resistance to a New York City Council bill that would require certain businesses in the city to pay their employees a "living wage" of at least $11.50 an hour, or $10 an hour plus benefits. On Friday he essentially called the bill Communist and threatened to veto it, asserting, "The last time we really had a big managed economy was the USSR and that didn't work out so well."
I thought this was principled opposition to the government interfering with a private employer and employee's right of contract and was all set to applaud, but, to judge by an editorial in today's Bloomberg View, I was wrong. The Bloomberg view editorial says, "Let us hope that states lead the way on the minimum wage, and that they tie increases to the cost of living, making endless rounds of legislation unnecessary." If the editorial accurately represents the mayor's view, which is what the Bloomberg View editorials are supposed to do, it turns out that Mr. Bloomberg doesn't actually oppose a higher minimum wage — he just wants the state government to impose it on all employers, rather than the city government to impose it only on certain larger businesses that get city subsidies, which is how the City Council legislation is written.
There's a certain pragmatic logic to this position, at least from Mr. Bloomberg's perspective as the mayor. With statewide legislation imposing a higher wage on everyone, the city wouldn't have to worry about businesses and their customers or jobs deciding to locate in lower-wage jurisdictions such as Westchester or Long Island rather than within the five boroughs. And making the law apply statewide to all businesses would avoid some of the perverse effects attendant in the City Council bill, which would essentially take tax money from low-wage New York small businessmen and use it to subsidize larger businesses to pay above-market wages to compete with the the small businesses. But, again, if the Bloomberg editorial accurately represents the mayor's views, it suggests that his objection to the higher minimum wage rules that the City Council is pushing isn't so much that they represent a USSR-style managed economy approach, but that he wants the management to take place at the state rather than at the city level.