The opponents of raising the minimum wage always use the tried and untrue arguments used to protect corporations from any “government interference.” Any regulation–the pro-corporate cant insists–just drives out business and jobs and efficiency and all the other good things the free market is alleged to provide. Sometimes looking at what’s really happening in the real real economy is bracingly informative. FORBES has just provided a list of the highest and lowest wages, sorted by urban area. What a story this chart tells.
Of course, many of the highest paying areas are involved in the tech industry. It is an industry, let us note, that depends on highly educated and highly skilled individuals, a vast majority of whom who educated at taxpayer expense in public schools. De-funding education and de-valuing teachers would seem to run counter to having successful, high-paying industries.
San Jose and San Francisco lead the list, paying an average salary more than double those in the depressed and depressing cities at the bottom.
Six of the top fifteen urban areas in the U.S. are in California. That shows two things: the demise of California as touted by right-wing media is hooey. It has been salvaged from Detroitism by a Democratic state government and private industry. Secondly, it has a high minimum wage (compared to most other parts of the U.S.) which seems to encourage–wait for it–higher salaries all around.
Texas stands tall as the capital of the wage gap. Duh.
Houston with its oil company headquarters stands third highest on the list, Dallas-Fort Worth is 13th, while the state also has two of the six worst-paying metros (McAllen and El Paso).
Most of the top-paying urban areas are dominated by brain work: government, tech, financial industry: Washington D.C., Seattle, Hartford, Bridgeport, New York City, San Diego, Oxnard, Los Angeles, Boston.
Needless to say, the Old Confederacy and Rust belt cities drag the bottom: Youngstown, Little Rock, Lakeland (Florida), Scranton, Bradenton (Florida), Columbia (SC), Toledo, Lancaster (PA), Birmingham, Buffalo.
Some conclusions: education is a great INVESTMENT for a region, a polity and an individual. Smart people want to live around other smart people and that helps generate good jobs with higher pay. The next FACEBOOK or TWITTER isn’t going to come out of Akron or Little Rock. A higher minimum wage is at least neutral in affecting economic growth in an area, perhaps a bit positive. Lower minimum wages probably help insure greater poverty for a region. Too many people continue to live in urban areas with little or no economic future. Get mobile and get educated. Poverty, both personal and regional, makes education harder to get. If your city is already in the tank, it is probably best to get educated somewhere else and not go back. El Paso is not the future of America. Oil is not a guarantee of success. Houston and Bakersfield are in the top 20 cities but Oklahoma City and Tulsa are both in the bottom quartile.
Rent control is not an economic destroyer. Both New York City and San Francisco are in the top 9.
“Detroit is dead” is also a political myth. It comes out very high on the chart but all those good jobs are not inside the city limits. Maybe a little need for regional government? Detroit scores 16th on the list, far ahead of allegedly healthy cities like Austin, Albuquerque, Richmond, Kansas City, Colorado Springs, Honolulu, Tucson and Madison.
San Diego and Washington are the only cities with a large military presence that are near the top. They are both “headquarters” cities. San Diego has that beloved climate, Washington has those legions of highly paid lawyers, contractors and lobbyists that are subsidized by all of us taxpayers thanks to the rigged corporate tax system in the U.S. As long as the direction of government is to overpay private contractors and not hire civil servants Washington will be the capital of tax-supported largess for private “enterprise.”
Finally, this chart shows the economic backwardness of many of the right-wing’s favorite social issues. Gay marriage, availability of abortion and birth control, gun control and even big “liberal” universities do NOT destroy the fabric of society as some would say. If all those things were true economic evils, Salt Lake City would be near the top instead of comfortably middling (at 27th) behind blue cities like Minneapolis-St. Paul, Chicago, Austin, Sacramento, Baltimore and Philadelphia. So let’s finally admit that all these nasty social values battles have NO ECONOMIC REALITY except to make some places less attractive for anybody who is not a fundamentalist, thus forcing out of an area a width swath of educated Americans. Is it any wonder that a large percentage of educated, under-40s are opting to live in center cities in blue states, from Boston to Portland? Would your college-educated, ambitious grand-daughter want to actually live in Chattanooga or Akron (both in the bottom quartile)?

In fact, college-educated couples are more likely to get and stay married than the less educated and poorer. If the Bible-beaters in politics really cared about families and their ability to make it in today’s world, they would push for universal, heavily-subsidized college and graduate education. They would want to ban the proliferating for-profit, debt-mills that pass themselves off as competitive universities.
Now where’s the chart that shows wages in areas with Walmart within 10 miles, and those without. I’m waiting. Title of study could be “Blight and the Big-Box BS.”

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  1. Roger Forsberg Says:

    ‘The opponents of raising the minimum wage always use the tried and untrue arguments used to protect corporations from any “government interference….” ‘

    As always, you’ve done nice job of representing one particular viewpoint, but WITHOUT addressing an aspect of unemployment & the minimum wage ‘debates’ that’s absolutely critical; namely, how do we as a society address the situation of many unskilled workers the value of whose labor is not as high as the minimum wage?

    If we didn’t have to worry about this issue of ‘value-added labor’ perhaps we could simply place the minimum wage at $35/hour and bring all of those people at the bottom rungs of the economic ladder solidly into the middle class.

    However, you know, Harry, as well I that many of those who work in the most menial don’t ‘add value’ to their employers’ businesses at the rate of $35/hr — and thus those persons either won’t be hired or will be laid off from their work.

    Now, I would completely agree with you that for those whose ‘added value’ is around $33/hr, a minimum wage of $25/hr (all other things being equal) would not oust them from their jobs. However, if my added value is ‘legitimately’ at $33/hr I should be able to find a job somewhere that pays substantially over the minimum wage prevailing in all states & at the national level.

    You tell me, Harry: if you have an employee whose cost to you as an employer EXCEEDS his/her incremental value in increasing your firm’s revenues, how long do you plan to retain this employee’s services?

    Best — Rog F.

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