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Today's Opinions

  • Revisions show rural areas doing better

    Our rural counties did better last year than we first thought.
    The news is due to the annual revisions called “benchmarking” to the initially reported job numbers.
    Statistics get revised; it’s a rule. Frustration results and becomes anguish in our current situation. We get reports of one number, but no mention that it really is “the number,” plus or minus, depending on the mechanics of the survey. When more and better information becomes available, the number is revised. So it is with job numbers.
    The complication is that the numbers and associated expectations drive policy and business decisions. Change disrupts the decisions.
    The newest revisions, published in mid-March, take our monthly average employment for 2015 down by 3,000 to 825,600. The state’s job performance started decently and eroded during the year. Nine of 2015’s 12 months were revised downward. The numbers come from the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the state Department of Workforce Solutions.

  • With job creation on a wing and a prayer, we inch out of the recession

    Two recent headlines say it’s time to talk about our economy. One is, “NM second in fed dependency,” written like that’s a bad thing. The other: “We must reduce NM reliance on oil revenues.”
    New Mexico has a lot of pieces to its economy, and we’re getting a little smarter about promoting them. It’s late, slow and done on a wing and a prayer, but it’s movement.
    One of those segments is federal spending, and last week the website Wallethub said New Mexico is the second-most federally dependent state after Mississippi. Last year we were first. This is because of federal installations, agencies and labs, but also because we’re poor (Medicaid) and have an aging population (Social Security, Medicare).
    Looked at another way, federal dollars create jobs (28,000-plus in 2015), and we could do better.
    Terry Brunner, state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, recently wrote that every year his agency returns unused federal funds to Washington for lack of projects, and so do other federal agencies.

  • First ladies, both real and imagined

    I come from a long line of Republican matrons. These were ladies whose courtesy toward those with political differences at odds with their own was nonetheless genuine and sincere.
    Mind you now, neighbors were courteous to one another, irrespective of partisan differences.
    Still, they were born and bred to hold their tongues, keep the peace when in the company of persons with political opinions significantly different from their own.
    One of my grandmothers even learned to tolerate the brash young Democrat her pretty daughter, Elizabeth, brought home during spring break from college and who shortly joined the family as her new son-in-law.
    They may have exchanged diverse views on social and political matters, but they were muted and circumspect, never confrontational. The president, “Ike,” was always spoken of admiringly and with respect for his courage and wartime heroism.
    Mrs. Eisenhower, the first lady, was routinely admired for the fussy little hats with which she adorned herself. Otherwise, she was simply Mrs. Eisenhower, the “first lady” who as far as my parents were concerned was known to be a “smoker.”
    As a child that was a shocker.

  • Letters to the Editor 4-1-16

    We all need to talk about nuclear weapons

    The current presidential race is chaotic, and the public doesn’t realize how close nine different world leaders are to their nuclear launch triggers.
    We all worry about Kim Jong Un’s plans, but we are not aware of what U.S. presidential candidates, if elected, could do with our nuclear arsenal.
    We, the people, have an opportunity to make our voices heard if we speak up.
    We can’t remain quiet in this volatile world. Why spend $1 trillion, as Obama has suggested, to modernize our nuclear arsenal, when that money could be used for education, renewable energy development, or diplomatic aid to other countries.
    We should push all political candidates to take a stand in favor of the elimination of all nuclear weapons. The thought that 15,000 massively destructive weapons can whisk around the world in minutes is much more terrifying than any candidate’s antics.
    Every American president going back several decades has tried to reduce our arsenal, and substantial progress has been made.
    But what worries me is that one doesn’t hear much from the current Republican and Democratic candidates.
    Make yourself heard around the world, and pressure the candidates to address the elimination of nuclear weapons.
    Chris Warren

  • Letter to the Editor 3-30-16

    No straight answers with roundabout project

  • Giving voices to the voiceless, the mentally ill tell their stories

    If you’re mentally ill or addicted, getting help means getting in to see your CSW, your community support worker. Your CSW understands you, understands your history, knows which medications have or haven’t worked. If you can’t see your CSW, it’s like being in your own sci-fi movie where you’re untethered in deep space.
    And if you even have a CSW, you’re one of the lucky ones.
    This is a little of the cold reality of what we like to call our behavioral health system after the state’s 2013 suspension of funding to 15 providers after accusing them of fraud. They provided 87 percent of services for the seriously mentally ill, substance abusers and emotionally disturbed children. They had served their communities for an average of 37 years.
    From news accounts we have an arsenal of smoking guns: Audits supporting the state Human Services Department’s accusations were doctored, the substitute Arizona providers were lined up BEFORE the audits, managed-care company UnitedHealth Group steered HSD to its conclusions and donated to the state Republican Party, the Attorney General cleared 13 of 15 providers of fraud, and a departing Arizona firm sued UnitedHealth saying its subsidiary OptumHealth accused the New Mexico providers of fraud to mask its inability to pay them.

  • Fewer work here: proportion of employed New Mexicans is 48th

    One number and one question.
    Those are where the New Mexico economic discussion goes.
    The number is the ratio of employment to population. The question is why we are so low.
    A second number lends insight. That is the percentage of our population on Medicaid, which is approaching 50 percent. That half our population needs a form of welfare is astonishing, but the situation goes back to work. If more people were working for more money, there would be less Medicaid.
    Employment occupied 53.5 percent of the population in 2015. Our average employment ratio for 2014 was 56.6 percent, a decline from 2013. The definition is what you would expect. The Pew Research Center defines the ratio of employment to population as “a measurement of employed people as a percentage of the entire adult civilian non-institutional population” 16 and over. Nationally the ratio is 59.8 for February and has been nudging fitfully up since mid-2011.
    For employment-to-population, we placed 48th nationally, our usual position. Two of the other states in the bottom four—West Virginia and Kentucky—have coal as a simple explanation for their troubles. Check with Barack Obama on that issue. Mississippi’s explanations appear more complicated, although, from what I have read, racial legacies are a big part.

  • Finally, a new workers’ comp drug and alcohol law

    Warning to everybody who goes to work: New Mexico finally has a workers’ compensation drug and alcohol law that almost makes sense. If you are irresponsible enough to drink or use drugs at work, or before work, or you are an employer who allows that sort of behavior, it’s time to shape up.
    WORKERS: If you get injured at work, do not refuse to take a drug test. If the test shows you were drunk or stoned, your workers’ compensation cash benefits will be reduced. If you refuse to take the test, you’ll get no money.
    EMPLOYERS:  If you do not have a drug-and-alcohol-free workplace policy, you need one. The law takes effect July 1, but don’t wait to do this. Model policies are available online, or contact your insurance carrier (contact information should be in a poster on your wall that you should have put there). You can also check with the New Mexico DWI Resource Center (dwiresourcecenter.org).