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Nonsense can be stunning

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By Harold Morgan

Sometimes the amount of dissembling nonsense thrown at us is just stunning. Metaphorically stunning, that is.
Some Department of Transportation genius decided to cite people supporting pilgrims making the Holy Week walk to El Santuario de Chimayo if the supply stands happen onto highway right-of-way. Safety was the excuse.
A recent report (“The Economist,” Feb. 18) discussed the Obama administration’s “generous use of ancillary benefits, or ‘co-benefits’” and “private benefits” in proclaiming the bounteous gains from new regulations. The issues cover so-called gains from a regulation directed at something else.
Around 90 percent of the gains from new auto fuel-economy standards go to individuals who don’t buy fuel-efficient cars.
Signs provide a small example. Near my house a sign warns that a vehicle might appear on a road. A remote Interstate 40 interchange in the Texas panhandle has a grove of signs.
In Santa Fe, the city is suing Aeropostale, a national retailer, (OMG, a “corporation”) claiming failure to pay the required minimum wage of $10.29 per hour, the nation’s highest.
Changes in the City Different’s minimum wage link to the Consumer Price Index’s West Region, which fails to specifically break out Santa Fe and therefore may or may not relate to Santa Fe, not that much does.
One other business, a fast-food restaurant, previously got Santa Fe’s attention but escaped by successfully arguing it employed fewer than 25, a category then exempted from the regulation. Santa Fe, ever clever, changed the rules to include all businesses, meaning also the usually sanctified local little guys.
Economic activity gets much nonsense. Political blogger Joe Monahan wrote recently that “the growth engines of (Albuquerque’s) past — booming housing construction, expanding government employment and a growing retail sector are idled.”
The devils here aren’t even in the details. Housing and retail are almost never “growth” engines of anything. They function in support of the primary or basic sectors of the economy — the sectors producing things such as semiconductors, canned chile, oil or research reports.
Government is more complicated. Government in New Mexico does three main things: national defense; big science, much of it focused on national defense; and what could be called regular government.
The national defense portion has two main units — Cannon Air Force Base and Holloman Air Force Base. Military jobs are left out of the usual job numbers.
Big science does much more than national defense emphasizing nuclear. Much more could happen, but a Sandia National Laboratories president explained that the secrecy of defense work locks minds outside the entrepreneurial box.
Still, good things happen. Sandia’s latest self-congratulatory tech transfer news release is about a powerful, quiet, zero emissions mobile light using a hydrogen fuel cell instead of a diesel generator.
Good things happen in the large, unappreciated sector of land, people and culture businesses. Chile might be considered a “growth engine.”
Mostly we hear about New Mexico farmers growing less chile. That’s true and bad.
Chile also means technology: research at New Mexico State University and expertise centered on the Chile Pepper Institute. And marketing: The 2012 National Fiery Foods and Barbecue Show attracted 17,500 people in March, a 24 percent increase from 2011. Vendors came from around the nation.  And cuisine: Chile is central to our unique cuisine, which in turn is central to the Enchantment.
And manufacturing: food processors such as Bueno Foods and Border Foods. And literature: books and cookbooks.
Retail can play in the primary economy if sales go to visitors. The St. Clair bistros in Mesilla and Farmington and the Deming tasting room probably sell mostly to visitors, as, I suspect, does Hogback Trading in Waterflow.
Our world is complex. The sweeping nonsense doesn’t help.
Harold Morgan
New Mexico News Service