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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Amid The Pain: Ideas To Move Us Forward, Plus: GE Layoffs Fuel Spirited Media Debate On NM Economy; Also: Going Gaga Over Martin 

The recession is cutting deeper into the once booming city of Rio Rancho. Government workers could usually take for granted an annual pay raise of at least a couple of percent. But that was then. This is now. No pay raises for city workers.

But at least they have jobs. The news this week that the ABQ GE plant would close next year throwing 400 out of work in mid-2010 got us thinking again. Better minds than ours are working on New Mexico's future economy. But the news flow--galloping unemployment, crashing tax collections--you know--all that joyous stuff--- prompts us to offer--and perhaps repeat--some of our favorite ideas for the uncertain future of our beloved Land of Enchantment.
  • Build a dental school at the University of New Mexico to encourage the development of the professional classes here as we did with the UNM law and medical schools.
  • Think as big as our New Mexico skies when it comes to the southern NM Spaceport. It could become a tech center like our great national labs.
  • Concentrate on bringing more health care jobs to the state. ABQ business was kick-started a century ago by TB patients seeking relief. The health industry is still a natural.
  • Take a sledge-hammer to the educational model that is not working for Native American and Hispanic students whose high school dropout rates are so much higher than their Anglo counterparts and who make up a majority of the public school population.
So it would be if we ruled the world. And you?

OUR TOWN IN OUR TIME

The loss of a major blue-chip company like General Electric takes a psychological toll as well as an economic one. Reader Melanie Majors makes the point.

The GE blow is more than just economics. While my son was in college he worked with GE on his senior engineering project. His contact really spent a lot of time with the students and gave them valuable experience. It helped give him some real world engineering experience before entering the real world...

The GE plant operated here since the late 60's and was one of the few companies in the 30 company Dow Jones Industrial Average with a major ABQ presence. But the wheel turns and the parade passes...

THE RACE AND GE


We haven't seen anything yet from mayoral candidate Richard Berry on the GE layoffs, but Dem mayoral contender Richard Romero did cite the layoffs and earlier ones at Eclipse Aviation in a campaign news update he sent out Wednesday:

In my administration, we will spearhead efforts to bring real, lasting green collar jobs to Albuquerque. These are design, installation and manufacturing jobs that require the same skilled workforce that has just been sent to the unemployment office. Our current Mayor has had three terms in office to build a secure economic future for our city. His record, however, is a monument to failure. There are no jobs at Eclipse Aviation, no jobs at Advent Solar, no jobs at Tesla Motors and now there are no jobs at GE.

We have not seen Mayor Chavez quoted anywhere on the GE layoffs.

THE BLOG, THE JOURNAL & GE

Joe and the Journal
We heartily disagree with the ABQ Journal's Wednesday critique of our blog's assessment of where the New Mexico economy stands and the significance of the GE layoffs. The paper continues to hang its hat on the argument that the recession "is not as bad here as elsewhere." Okay. For argument's sake, let's cede the point. For example, certainly the recession is worse in California and Arizona. But it is still bad here--quite bad by all historical measures. That's why there are government cutbacks at all levels, a probable October special session of the Legislature to deal with the state's economic crisis and continued widespread layoffs in the private sector (including a bunch at the Journal) that have taken the official unemployment rate in ABQ to levels not seen in decades (7.0 percent in May; 6.8 in June). Job growth is at a 55 year low. Imagine if our government jobs sector was a smaller part of the economy. Yes, it could be worse.

However, the issue is not exclusively the severity of the recession; the issue is acknowledging the severity of our economic problems and getting on with the necessary hard choices of restructuring this state's economy for the future. That, we believe, is the ideological chasm between our perspective and that of the state's largest newspaper which we happen to respect.

Also, we are not arguing the GE layoffs are the "harbinger" of gloom. The gloom is already here. The GE layoffs are simply more confirmation. (Also, the Journal erred when it reported we omitted the fact that GE says the plant will close in mid-2010. It was clearly stated in the section of the blog headlined: "A Play For Richard?")

THE WORST OVER?

We also do not necessarily agree with the Journal's retort to our analysis that New Mexico has seen the worst of the recession. We are hopeful, but unlike the paper we are not going to take the word of the same economists who failed to predict how deep and long this downturn would be. In particular, we await the outcome of Congressional funding for the national laboratories for the next two fiscal years before reaching any firm conclusions about our long-term growth outlook. We also are uncommitted on the scope of this recession as long as oil and natural gas prices--the primary funder of state government--remain in a bear market.

But you know where we stand, so we'll stop there. Here's another link to the Journal's critique. While we disagree, we found news reporter Charlie Eisenhood's approach thoughtful and provocative. Also, we are defenseless to the argument that our writing is hyperbolic, but we believe our premises about the state of our state's economy are anything but.

ANOTHER PRETTY FACE?
Rep. Heinrich
Maybe the R's will start calling him just another pretty face. ABQ Dem US Rep. Martin Heinrich has been named #1 on the list of the top 50 beautiful people on Capitol Hill as compiled by the Hill newspaper. How being named a hottie by the Hill helps him handle the hot potato of health care reform--for which he has been getting his share of heat--remains an open question. Wednesday night he was on the New Mexico phone lines holding a town hall on the question. As for his Hill award, the new congressman, 37, is happily married and the father of two. His wife, Julie, we're confident, would be pleased to point that out to readers of the paper.

By the way, here is the place to sign up for the Heinrich Headliner, the Rep's new e-newsletter. Action photos included.

ALSO FROM THE HILL


The R's say:

The National Republican Congressional Committee
(NRCC) has officially announced Jon Barela (NM-01) as an ‘On the Radar’ candidate, the first step of its Young Guns program...The Young guns program is a member-driven organization dedicated to electing open-seat and challenger candidates nationwide.

CQ has more.

And, we're sure Mrs. Barela would say, that if elected, Jon would also be competitive for a spot on the Hill's list of beautiful people. Hey, what else do you want from a congressman? A recession ending economic plan with good jobs? Health care reform? An end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Hey, Martin. Can you get those on that Hill list?

THE BOTTOM LINES

And we thought we had a nice strong "lead" to Wednesday's blog, but our spell checker allowed us to call General Electric "General Election" and we did not spot it until later. Reader Joaquin Guerra, among others, did not let it go unnoticed.

For a second I thought the Alligators came together to form an aviation company. That would be something, no?


Joaquin, I can assure you that if the Alligators owned an aviation company it would not lack for personnel. Every one of their relatives would be on the payroll and layoffs would be unheard of.

Mark Bralley took the photo of me announcing election returns that is posted on today's blog. This is the home of New Mexico politics. E-mail your news tips, comments and photos.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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