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Thursday, December 27, 2012

What Happened To The State Motto? Growing As We Go? Not Anymore; Population Stagnates; Our Continuing And Exclusive Coverage Of The Big Story Of 2012; The Forlorn Economy And How It's Still Ignored 

What happened to the state motto: "It grows as it goes?" Suddenly and ominously we've stopped growing. The news:

New Mexico’s population grew by 6,864, or .33 percent, in the 12 months ending June 30, the U.S. Census Bureau said Thursday. The state’s population is 2,085,538.

That is yet another of a series of prescient reader predictions made here on the blog ever since the Great Recession locked us in its embrace three years ago and has refused to let go. Other predictions included the widespread loss of government jobs, anemic tax collections for ABQ, falling home prices, skyrocketing commercial vacancies, record home foreclosures etc. etc. etc...

Not that it's fun being right when the news is so dreary but realistic coverage of the New Mexican economy seems as sparse as snow in Tucumcari in July. But that's news as old as a day old newspaper. Let's get back to giving you more of the real action and turn it over to reader Phillip Leckman:

Joe, the US Census estimated population growth figures for 2012 show that while NM is still growing (barely), population increased by only 1/3 of one percent. This is good enough to put us at #35 nationally, right between New Jersey and Iowa. That's better than it could be, I suppose, but a far cry from the vigorous growth we experienced in the 2000's.


Governor Martinez and the state's other leaders like to blame our stagnation on President Obama, the gridlock in Washington, and the state of the national economy. But take a look at the ten states with the highest population growth rates overall and you'll find *all* of our neighbors: Texas is #3, Utah is #5, Colorado is #7, and Arizona is #8. We're lagging far behind our neighbors in the region and losing ground against the country as a whole.

The Governor offers nothing but excuses…she'd seemingly rather spend her political capital on score-settling and pursuing right-wing talking points than actually make an effort to reinvigorate the state's economy. Platitudes about the need for more private jobs aren't going to cut it in the absence of any real effort to bring good-paying jobs in. And dozens of important state jobs continue to go unfilled, essentially pulling those salaries right out of the local economy.

I have always been bullish on New Mexico's future but the Martinez administration's inertia and lack of any sort of economic vision for our state is rapidly destroying that optimism. The state's prosperity is drying up and blowing away and our citizens are following.

Mr. Leckman, we don't know what you do for a living, but we sure wish you were covering the Mayor or Governor of this state, or giving lessons on how to do it. You nailed it, dear reader.

HOW BAD? THIS BAD

Bill Croft writes to us to say "Joe, you've been telling it all along and the High Country News has picked up the story, in an online blog:

 ...Then there’s Albuquerque, New Mexico... It is not only near the bottom in the U.S., but at 282nd place it’s competing with Athens, Naples and Madrid as one of the worst performing economies in the world. It has lost employment, lost GDP and shows absolutely no signs of recovery, remaining in full recession. It’s true that New Mexico’s economy has never been the healthiest -- it has chronically high poverty rates, and the biggest gap in the nation between the rich and the poor (or between the people living on Santa Fe’s hillsides and those who commute into town to serve them in the snazzy restaurants). Now, however, the state’s economy not only seems to be staggering along far below that old, already low standard, but it isn’t even stumbling in that direction. New Mexico, it seems, has already fallen off the dreaded fiscal cliff...

Okay. We've got both Bill Croft and Phil Leckman covering this stuff for us like Pulitzer winners. If they can do it, why is it so hard for the state's political leadership to do it--and for our seemingly starstruck media to make a go of it?

NO SMELLING SALTS NEEDED

McClure
Not all of our economic leadership needs smelling salts to wake them up to read the economic tea leaves. A far-right think tank got her thinking all wrong so we want to clarify what Beverlee McClure, head of the Association of Commerce and Industry of NM, recently said. Better yet. Here is a direct news report on what she said:

"We are not ready yet to end” the state’s dependency on federal dollars because “the private sector isn’t strong enough,” McClure said. However, the effects of sequestration have already hit New Mexico because the government sector, which accounts for 24 percent of the state’s jobs, has shed more than 15,000 jobs over the past year, McClure added. 

In the upcoming 60-day legislative session, ACI will be supporting a variety of economic development legislation.. McClure said New Mexico needs to develop a state-wide economic development plan that identifies the jobs and industries it wants to attract. Once a plan is in place, lawmakers can work to pass tax and other bills to attract those industries, McClure said.

You mean a business leader who doesn't see the billions of federal money pouring in here as tainted by the "evil" hand of Washington? And one who agrees with our longstanding belief that rapidly shedding that federal funding would be a disaster--not a panacea for a private sector paradise?

Bless you, Bev, but good luck in Santa Fe. What passes for planning there is looking over an advance copy of the Rio Chama lunch menu.

THE BOTTOM LINES

A reader writes:

Joe, Your Holiday Greetings of Dec. 21 bring to mind a quote from the highly respected former U. S. Senator Everett Dirksen, who reportedly said, "If you want to get your B.A. in Politics, you need to come to my home state of Illinois.  If you want to get your Master's degree in Politics, you'd better go to Louisiana.  But if you want to get your Ph.D., you're gonna have to go to New Mexico!"

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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