From the Government Accountability Office's (GAO) June 2011 report on the devastating effects of Congressionally-mandated increases in the minimum wage in American Samoa by 56% and in the Northern Marian Islands by 66% since 2007 (see chart above):
"In 2007, the United States Congress enacted a law incrementally raising the minimum wages in American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) until they equal the U.S. minimum wage. American Samoa’s minimum wage increased by $.50 three times, and the CNMI’s four times before legislation delayed the increases, providing for no increase in American Samoa in 2010 or 2011 and none in the CNMI in 2011 (see chart). As scheduled, American Samoa’s minimum wage will equal the current U.S. minimum wage of $7.25 in 2018, and the CNMI’s will reach it in 2016.
Here are some of the key findings from the GAO report:
1. In American Samoa, employment fell 19 percent from 2008 to 2009 and 14 percent from 2006 to 2009. Data for 2010 total employment are not available.
2. GAO questionnaire responses show that tuna canning employment fell 55 percent from 2009 to 2010, reflecting the closure of one cannery and layoffs in the remaining cannery. Private sector officials said the minimum wage was one of a number of factors making business difficult.
3. The employers reported taking cost-cutting actions from June 2009 to June 2010, including laying off workers, reducing overtime hours, decreasing benefits, temporarily closing and freezing hiring. The employers attributed most of these actions largely to the minimum wage increases. Cannery officials expressed concern in interviews about American Samoa’s dwindling global competitive advantage.
4. In the CNMI, employment fell 13 percent from 2008 to 2009 and 35 percent from 2006 to 2009. In discussion groups, private sector employers said minimum wage increases imposed additional costs during a time in which multiple factors made it difficult to operate.
And here are some of the blunt comments about the report from the Governor of Samoa (Appendix VII) and the devastating effects of the mandated wage increases on the Samoan economy:
1. The draft report itself does not capture or convey the magnitude of the economic disaster that has befallen American Samoa.
2. It is absolutely clear that American Samoa's cannery employment losses, plant closures and and other adverse actions were attributed significantly and most often to the minimum wage increases.
3. There is more than enough evidence in the report to support our recommendation to terminate the increases in the minimum wage immediately in American Samoa.
4. Application of the U.S. minimum wage to American Samoa, pursuant to the scheduled increases mandated by Congress, continues to have devastating effects on American Samoa's economy. It is causing severe distortions in American Samoa's labor market. It has driven up labor costs such that businesses are being forced to cut employment, close or relocate.
What's amazing is that it apparently takes 142 pages of government-based analysis in this GAO report to come to the following conclusion: "Demand curves slope downward."
In an amazing flash of economic lucidity back in 1987 during its pre-Krugman era, the New York Times actually got it exactly correct in an editorial titled "The Right Minimum Wage: $0.00
"The idea of using a minimum wage to overcome poverty is old, honorable - and fundamentally flawed. It's time to put this hoary debate behind us, and find a better way to improve the lives of people who work very hard for very little."
Given the economic devastation the minimum wage has caused for American Samoa, I'm pretty sure its Governor, employers and most employees would agree that the right minimum wage for American Samoa is $0.00 per hour, just like it's the right minimum wage for the entire planet.