Two equally clueless views of New Mexico

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By Harold Morgan

The New Mexico economy is doing better. That’s one view in recent days from the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research.
Another view is that, well, yes, while very rural areas have some problems, the life is nice. A third view holds that recruiting businesses is the answer, the only answer, for the state economy.
Numbers support BBER. We have added wage jobs all year, on a monthly year-over-year basis. An August statistical cloud appears in the drop in the labor force from 934,930 to 927,009. This means that while some people are getting jobs, the trend continues of fewer thinking it is worth looking.
The Atlantic provides context in a forecast from IHS Global Insight, an international economics firm, placing New Mexico among the eight states comprising the second slowest group for recession recovery, defined as returning to the pre-recession employment peak. We will take until 2016. Only Nevada, Michigan and Rhode Island will take longer.
The states will still be behind because there will be more people than before the recession, but the old number of jobs.
The Atlantic writer, Matthew O’Brien, observed that flexibility is a great American thing. Unlike Europe, families easily move to pursue jobs. We see this with New Mexico’s “negative net migration,” a technical term meaning “people are leaving.”
Within that framework are contrasting views.
Details such as a totally marginal economy aside, the view that rural life is fine and pure comes from Sen. Pete Campos, a Las Vegas Democrat, in an op-ed that appeared in the Albuquerque Journal Sept. 22. Geographically, Campos’ topic is the northeast: the counties of Colfax, Guadalupe, Harding, Mora, Quay, San Miguel and Union. Population and income numbers long ago led me to place these counties in the band of decline crossing the state from northeast to southwest.
Government provides, Campos seems to believe. He offers only government examples to support the statement, “Our ingenuity and creativity will help us overcome the issues that still confront us.” He lists a water pipeline, schools, a community center, a senior citizens center, a state police building and a fish hatchery. The latter may be useful in that it will produce a product—fish—that will support the private sector.
Campos’ perspective may have to do with not only being an elected official but working for the government as president of Luna Community College in Las Vegas. Campos’ annual salary is $150,000, the Las Vegas Optic reports, real money by even New Mexico standards.
The claim that recruiting businesses is the answer, almost the only answer other than cutting taxes, for economic improvement, also appeared in the Albuquerque Journal Sept. 22. The writer was one Bradley Day, indentified as a member of the New Mexico Business Coalition, a group as mysterious as Day. Check it out at nmbizcoalition.org.
You will find some nice conservative positions, but nothing innovative or exciting. You will not find staff, names of directors or financial supporters. You will find that the website was designed by DW Turner, Inc., and that four companies, some associations and a couple of issue groups were “event sponsors” of a $55 luncheon event to honor “heroes,” people “who serve the public and routinely go beyond the call of duty.”
That’s jolly, but credibility vanishes when there’s no answer to the nagging question of who are these guys.
While recruiting businesses is totally good, the existing economy produces nearly all the jobs. Further, the odds of a recruited business going to one of the “big” places in Campos’ world are small. Day’s op-ed focus on business recruiting (and tax cutting) misses point as much as Campos’ government focus.