I was perusing the latest news on jobs and wages this morning, and I have been intrigued by the happenings in Seattle recently – the city council’s approval to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour (phased in over seven years) and now a proposed plan for free universal pre-school paid for with a $58 million increase in property taxes that would be put on the November ballot (there is also a union-backed alternative plan that would likely cost considerably more). Seattle is on the cutting edge of “progressive” policies designed to ensure that people are paid fairly and receive free and equitable education for their little tykes, but at a steep cost.
Seattle is a beautiful city with lots of culture, delicious food and walkable weather (when it’s not raining). Having been there a few years ago, I did not spend near enough time taking in all of the sights and scenery and fish-throwing at Pike’s Market. I would love to go back. Before I go further…let me backtrack….to Midland, Texas.
Midland, Texas, does not have the bells and whistles of Seattle. Having been to the city many times, it is not a mecca of hip culture or fancy food. The landscape is not that pretty. I would generally call it “50 Shades of Brown.” During the 1950’s it became a booming oil town and an enclave for some of Texas’ wealthiest families, but that prosperity started to fizzle by the 1980’s as oil prices collapsed.
Now Midland has made a comeback. How do I know, you might ask? Because Midland and its sister city, Odessa, have repeatedly appeared in news articles as two of the nation’s fast-growing areas, in terms of population and job growth. Seattle has appeared in – well – articles about raising the minimum wage. Compare and contrast the two cities:
- As of April 2014, the unemployment rate for Seattle/Bellevue/Everett area was 4.8 percent. Not too bad for today’s economy, but the unemployment rate for Midland/Odessa was 2.6 percent, one of the top 3 lowest unemployment rates of metropolitan-statistical areas in the country.
- A search of Seattle jobs on the website Indeed.com found that their job listings contained a higher share of internships, part-time jobs, contract jobs and temporary positions – in other words, more uncertainty. 83 percent of Seattle’s job listings were full-time (compared to 86 percent for Midland), 13 percent were part-time (compared to 11 percent for Midland), 6 percent were contract (compared to 3 percent for Midland), and 3 percent were temporary (compared to 2 percent for Midland).
- While Midland does not have a $15 an hour minimum wage that progressives covet, the cost of living is slightly lower than the national average. Seattle’s cost of living is about 20 percent higher.
It could very well be that Midland will experience another boom and bust as it did decades ago. But it could also very well be that Seattle will soon become yet another San Francisco – a city that houses wealthy elite and drives out working middle-class Americans.