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Today's Opinions

  • Jobs numbers are up 2%! No, wait! It’s 1%.

    Remember 2018? Remember the reported wage job growth for the second half of the year? Borderline euphoric it was, by New Mexico standards, anyway. Six of the last seven months of 2018 showed job growth above 2 percent.

    Perhaps forgotten in the slosh of oil revenue tossed around by the recent Legislature is that last year the economists were standing in a corner, saying quietly—economists tend to speak quietly—that the 2% growth was….ahhhh….preliminary and wouldn’t last. The economists were right, of course; they know how these things work.

    There were 20,400 new wage jobs (2.4%) claimed in the first release of job growth figures, seasonally unadjusted, for the period from December 2017 to December 2018.

    A month later, the report for the year between January 2018 and January 2019 said New Mexico added 9,200 wage jobs for a 1.1% increase. We’re back to preliminary numbers now. For February, year-over-year, the growth was 7,400 jobs or 0.9%.

    The growth rate did not suddenly plummet. The difference is statistical. It happens every year.

  • WIPP accident response was costly overkill

    Dr. T. Douglas Reilly
    Columnist

    This is in response to the Monitor article, and others, regarding the 20th anniversary of WIPP. In particular, I write regarding the incident of St. Valentine’s Day 2014. Shortly after this, I wrote a Letter to the Editor of the Albuquerque Journal that they published as the lead editorial of a Sunday Journal. The title of this was “Media, ‘watchdogs’ make mountain of WIPP molehill.”

    Little did I know at the time how big that mountain would grow to be. As you know, WIPP was shut down for three years and $500 million were spent in the process of reopening it. I chalk this up to what I call “the high cost of ignorance.”

    I believe the WIPP incident could have been handled without, or with only a short, shutdown of the facility and at a far lower cost. Allow me to defend this statement.

  • Socialism and the new left: Real hard times and Utopia

    By TOM WRIGHT
    Columnist

    The Roaring Twenties came to a sudden halt in ’29, giving way to the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl of the ‘30s.

    By 1933, 25% of Americans were unemployed and farmers in the central plains from Texas to Canada suffered ten years of the worst drought in modern history. Books like Erskine Caldwell’s Tobacco Road told the stories of economic struggle and survival.

    Tobacco Road was adapted into a Broadway play that ran for eight years. The dire straits of the time had everyone’s attention and FDR was doing something about it. It was called the New Deal.

    Due to austere economic restructuring in the closing days of the Hoover administration, veterans who were promised bonus benefits feared their loss and opened a protest camp of 17,000 veterans and 25,000 civilians outside Washington, DC. The Secretary of War ordered General Douglas MacArthur and Major George Patton to lead regiments to attack and burn the encampment. Several veterans and civilians were killed. The following week, angry veterans marched on the Capitol building, causing the members of Congress to leave town until the riot could be quelled.

  • Plain old rhubarb has a world-class heritage

    “Rhubarb,” the name, has a history as strange as the vegetable itself. The eastern border of Europe at one time was the Rha River, one of the early names for the Volga.

    The region was wet and cold enough that barbarians and wild rhubarb both did well along the river. Things led on as they would. An outcome seen in stores today is fresh produce whose tag still displays signs of that barbarous past along the Rha; the tag says “rhubarb.” This spelling fits with enough history to be credible.

    Rhubarb plants have three main parts – roots, stalks and leaves. Depending on varieties, clusters of flowers bloom at times. The roots were a cathartic from ancient China. The stalks became a popular food after 1800 and the leaves are toxic.

    Medicinal uses of dried rhubarb root were known in China 5,000 years ago and were well documented over 2,000 years ago. The dried root came to Europe via the routes that brought silk, spices and other precious items of trade. The trade routes by land from China to Europe came to be known as the Silk Road. Certain spices came largely by sea from India.

    In the 1400s, these east-west trade routes were menaced by the growing influence of Islam.

  • Small size no deterrent for nonprofit lender Accion

    BY ROGER MAKIN
    Finance New Mexico

    Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes, but they all share a love of what they do and the desire to further their endeavors.

    For Charles Riley of Carrizozo, entrepreneurship began at an early age. He built his first house at age 21 on land donated by his parents. It was at that time he also started building and selling furniture as a hobby.

    While serving as a firefighter in Stratford, Connecticut, Riley simultaneously worked a full-time construction job. As he put it, “I loved the job as a firefighter, but it also had very flexible hours.”

    At one point he owned an art gallery in Sun Valley, Idaho. But Riley’s path eventually led him to Carrizozo, New Mexico, where he offered to build a house for his daughter. The construction project became his when his daughter decided to move back to Vermont. Riley finished the house, moved in and stayed.

    Carrizozo has turned out to be a good working environment for the artist-entrepreneur. Rather than building houses, Riley now focuses on wood and steel sculptures he calls solarlites. Made of quarter-inch welded steel and wood — materials he salvages from the automotive industry — the sculptures enhance rooms and outdoor spaces by illuminating in the dark.

  • Spoons walk during session, enchanting many but not all

    The day after the legislative session ended, I happened to glance at the framed Agnes cartoon on my office wall. Agnes says, “Someday I will visit New Mexico… It is the ‘Land of Enchantment.’”

    Agnes’s friend Trout asks, “What’s enchantment?”

    Agnes provides a definition. “That’s like when you see spoons walk around or hear the towel whisper your name as you dry your hair.”

    Trout responds, “You do that here.”

    Agnes says, “Yes, but New Mexico has low humidity.”

    The spoon walk during the session was busy. I watched from a distance. With the near disappearance of Republicans from the House, the stage was set for Democrats to roll. (In the 2018 election Democrats took their House majority to 46 of the 72 seats, up from 38.)

    In a late session constituent letter, Rep. Gail Chasey, my representative, a quiet establishment liberal, called it “the most exciting, fast-paced, and productive session I’ve ever witnessed.” Chasey has been witnessing since 1997.

  • Socialism and the new left

    Western proponents say socialism started with first-century Christians, when everyone sold their goods and gave to those in need. But they did this freely. There was no government demanding their wealth and redistributing it. Today’s U.S. socialists complain of a dystopian country full of injustice, misery, poverty, oppression, income inequality, broad racism and failing government institutions. Their answer to reform is democratic socialism and it takes on many forms and political initiatives.

    Social democrats may not want to own the means of production, but they regulate the production and control the distribution of goods and services. They are the “new left” and they are running as progressive Democrats and with some success in getting elected.

  • Session a bust for New Mexico economy

    New Mexico House speaker Brian Egolf, upon completion of the 2019 legislative session, said, “We’ve done more in the last 60 days than I’ve seen in the last 10 years put together.” On this point, it is hard to disagree with Egolf. I’d go even further to say that Democrats in New Mexico’s Legislature were disciplined and used their numerical advantage to impose their will on an array of New Mexico public policy issues.

    Of course, governing is not just about passing bills. Egolf and his Democratic allies may be very pleased with their work, but how will the policies adopted during the 2019 session impact New Mexico families?

    I go through a few of the major pieces of legislation dealing with economic issues below.

    * SB 489, the so-called “Energy Transition Act” is a classic case of “logrolling”: placing numerous items in a bill to build support for the legislation. More importantly, the law’s provision that mandates 50 percent renewable electricity by 2030 will have dire impacts on New Mexico electricity prices. A study by Arizona State University estimated that a similar mandate would more than double electricity bills. Those impacts will be fully-recognized over a decade, but the shuttering of San Juan Generating Station will immediately impact the Four Corners.