Bipartisan, creative, thoughtful D.C. group provides NM insights

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By Harold Morgan

As governor, Bill Richardson had ideas. He gave us commissions for this and that. There was something about a national football league franchise. Somewhere. He gave us the spaceport and the commuter railroad, both heavily subsidized by taxpayers—me and thee. An added bonus from the railroad is the opportunity for people to die along the tracks.

Just about all of our so-called leaders have ideas about sunsets and little else.

There are some people with real ideas in Washington, D.C., of all places. Ideas of substance, not the sniping about the failed policies of Gov. X or Sen. Y.

The two-year-old Economic Innovation Group (eig.org) seems to have mixed people from across the various spectra.

The website headline is, “Empowering entrepreneurs and investors to forge a more dynamic U.S. economy.” EIG calls itself “a bipartisan public policy organization, ​founded in 2013, ​combining innovative research and data-driven advocacy to address America’s most pressing economic challenges.”

Notice that it says “bipartisan” rather than “non-partisan.” New Mexico could learn from EIG.

The distinction recognizes that factions—parties—won’t go away.

EIG founders include early Facebook alumni and investors. An especially famous founder is Dan Gilbert, founder and chairman of Quicken Loans who is rebuilding downtown Detroit. The economists come from the American Enterprise Institute, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the University of Chicago and Harvard. The economists have worked for George Bush, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and Joe Biden.

Policy advisors include mayors, one economic developer (Chris Camacho of Phoenix), and Jimmy Kemp, founder of the Jack Kemp Foundation. Jack was Jimmy’s dad.)

In all, quite a mix.

EIG’s Index of State Dynamism tells us something important. We know people are leaving the state. The discovery is that just four states have more leavers by percentage. Alaska, the leaver leader, might be considered a special case. But the other three – Connecticut, New York and Illinois – are old economies beset by high and increasing taxes, and entrenched unions and bureaucracy unwilling to consider functions state government might NOT perform.

New Mexico is in an ugly club.

Dynamism factors are business churn (firms opening and closing), change in the number of “employer firms,” jobs in new companies, jobs in existing companies, labor market churn, labor force participation and domestic migration.

Declining dynamism is nationwide. Performance considered minimal in the 1990s led the nation in 2014.

The dynamic states are in the West with younger people, more foreign-born people, newer housing, less manufacturing and more information services. Three of the ten most dynamic states border New Mexico.

New Mexico dropped more than half of its measured dynamism between 1992 and 2014 to rank at 29th on the dynamism scale, our all-time low.

“New Mexico may be the most interesting case study,” the dynamism report says. “The state began the 1990s as a classic western knowledge economy that appeared primed for continued growth. But, with no major metro area and a relatively undiversified technology sector, the state fell further and further behind its neighbors over the years that followed.”

Note: no comments about “over dependence” either on oil or government.

Over the 22-year study period, New Mexico is the only state that dropped from above the national average to below.

Another EIG report is “The 2016 Distressed Communities Index: An Analysis of Community Well-Being Across the United States.” Yes, our communities are distressed, some severely so.

EIG proposes allowing temporary deferral of recognizing capital gains if the money is invested in a defined “opportunity zone.” Interesting. Not a tax cut, just a deferral.

EIG calls itself an “ideas lab.” Bipartisan, creative, thoughtful. We could do that, if we just would.