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Whats better: Economic growth or mandated minimum wage?
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The unemployment rate in Manteca is 9.6 percent.

The per capita median income is $23,715 with the household median income at $62,411.

The minimum wage in Manteca is $10 an hour. Rarely will you find entry level jobs such as a cashier at Wal-Mart paying more than that per hour. People practically beg for jobs.

The unemployment rate in Williston, N.D., is 0.9 percent.

The per capita median income is $35,658 with the household median income at $69,557.

The minimum wage in Williston is $7.25 an hour. Nobody can afford to pay employees only minimum wage. Wal-Mart starts out entry level employees at $18.40 an hour.  Jobs go begging.

Before you pack up the bags and move 1,422 miles to Williston at the heart of the Bakken Shale oil boom, apartments rent between $2,000 and $3,000 a month. And it gets cold, very cold as many workers have discovered due to the shortage of housing that forces them to live in their vehicles for months on end until something becomes available.

Williston had 13,000 residents in 2008, 26,000 in 2013 and is expected to reach 52,000 by 2016.

Housing prices have driven long-time residents and retirees out of town. The labor shortage is so acute at times that the McDonald’s has to close their dining room during the daytime and only serve customers through the drive-up windows.

It’s not cheap living in Williston. That said, it is the Mecca for upward mobility.

Why Williston matters has everything to do with the growing chorus to raise the minimum wage. California’s went from $8 to $9 an hour on July 1 of this year and is scheduled to reach $10 an hour by 2016. Some California cities have decided to take economics into their own hands.

San Francisco currently has a minimum wage of $10.74 an hour. If voters approve a ballot measure on Nov. 4, the minimum wage in San Francisco will go to $15 an hour by July 1, 2018. Meanwhile, the typical starting hourly wage for entry level workers in Williston is $17 an hour.

More than a few politicians and minimum wage activists will argue comparing San Francisco and Williston is like comparing apples and oranges. And that’s precisely the point.

Both cities are boom towns. San Francisco is cashing in on the high-tech, Internet and  bio-genetic engineering boom and Williston on the oil boom.

The big difference is how much each jurisdiction is micromanaging — or not micromanaging — the economy.

The economic growth is robust enough in Williston that wages don’t have to be manipulated. That means businesses that use entry level workers have no choice but to raise wages in order to retain and/or hire people. The booming economy also allows them to raise prices.

In San Francisco, the boom isn’t so robust that it is lifting up many others outside of the narrow confines of the high tech fields. Janitors, for example, at such companies aren’t sharing in on the wealth. In Williston, they’re making close to $20 an hour.

Decisions to mandate minimum wage increases forces small brick and mortar businesses that provide the bulk of the jobs while often competing against Internet firms that provide significantly less jobs in relation to consumer dollars spent as well as dealing with a maze of regulations can squeeze their margins into oblivion.

That forces them to raise prices, find more ways to automate and shed jobs, cutback hours where possible or close up shop.

You do not gain upward mobility, generate tons of new employment opportunities for entry level workers, or improve many people overall financial well-being by mandated pay increases.

Growth brings much more livable wages. It also downplays the death spiral of minimum wages going up and then services, products and such going up as well to negate minimum wage hikes or to turn them into a negative.

Williston is not the answer. Economists will tell you zero unemployment may sound ideal but it doesn’t works well in realty. It triggers higher inflation and sends the price of goods soaring as what has happened in Williston which is now the most expensive place in America for basic housing.

What is needed is a reasonable robust economy.

Not that you want to simply deregulate business. Enron, PG&E, and a history of other companies that were driven by massive profits now over long-term stability and returns  have proven that can be damaging to the financial well-being of the entire marketplace. But at the same time regulations that shackle business are just as counterproductive.

We don’t really need government to increase the minimum wage.

What we need is a government that creates an environment ideal for economic growth that is a right fit and not one that’s too hot or too cold.

Propping up the minimum age isn’t the cure. It is an addiction. It is much tougher to determine just how far government should or shouldn’t go in regulating business. But that being the case wages that rose due to the marketplace benefit more people and create upward mobility and more entry level jobs.

Williston, with much less regulation than San Francisco, is proving that.

And although it is just about as expensive to live in either place, the lowest entry level workers are paid in Williston is $17 and hour compared to $11 in San Francisco.


This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.