Monday, March 28, 2016

Call It What You Like: "Era Of Uncertainty," "The Remaking Of New Mexican Society" Or "The Great Downsizing"; Latest Population Stats Tell The Tale In Our Hard Hitting Econ Coverage  

We start the new week with our no-holds-barred, real deal biz coverage. It's the straight talk and facts you'll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else and brought to you with a little help from our friends. . .

What appears for the foreseeable future to be irreversible forces have collared New Mexico and ABQ and are shaking it to its core. We now appear to be in what future historians may call the "Era of Uncertainty," a time when no matter what your vocation, you are skating on ever thinner ice.

The latest population stats show the ABQ metro essentially in a no growth mode (a .27% increase from July '14 to July '15). It means the slow, downward economic spiral will continue to spin like a roulette wheel. Where it stops nobody knows.

The latest trend in the state's downsizing is in higher education, with NMSU, UNM and CNM shedding hundreds of well-paying jobs as budgets and student populations shrink.

The latest state jobs report says we are adding thousands of health care jobs but most of them are low paying and due to the explosion of Medicaid eligibility as the state grows increasingly poorer.


Veteran NM journalist and economy watcher Wally Gordon thought he saw some green shoots appearing in the economy last year, but no longer. He writes:

Joe, In 2005, 871,248 New Mexicans had jobs. In January of this year, however, only 855,781 men and women were at work. Pessimists used to talk of a lost decade. Now optimists hope that we will only lose two decades before we recover our footing. Almost as troubling as the numbers is what they reveal about the way the economic hard times are remaking New Mexican society.
  • (State reports show) a shift of most jobs from rural areas and small towns to the Albuquerque-Santa Fe area.
  • The movement of thousands of jobs from mining, manufacturing and related fields to health care for the elderly.
  •  A related migration of jobs from well paid, semiskilled predominantly male occupations to worse-paid, marginally skilled and predominantly female jobs. 
  •  Loss of jobs over the previous 12 months remaining among the worst in the U.S.—the third highest in January
  •  If it weren’t for new jobs caring for the elderly, mostly paid for by Obamacare and federal Medicare and Medicaid dollars, the loss of jobs would have been twice as great.
  • More people are now moving out of the state than moving in. One study suggests that the people we are losing are largely the young and well-educated, precisely those the state most desperately needs to build a new economy on the ruins of the old one.
Well, that' s a heavy load you unpacked, Wally. And you nailed it by calling it the "Remaking of New Mexican Society." It's a story that must be told (repeatedly) if we are to make the political class act act instead of looking like bystanders at a gruesome auto accident, either frozen in horror at the sight or looking away to avoid the grisly scene.


One of the more egregious errors being made is the putative attempt to reverse the economic decline here by celebrating entrepreneurship as the answer to our woes. This is a top down strategy that cherry picks the very small portion of the population motivated to start their own business, and having the economic and educational background to pursue the opportunity. 

But our experts say the state needs to be aggressively pursuing a bottoms up strategy, investing heavily in early childhood education and workforce training to make us more attractive to entrepreneurs and others.

Encouraging entrepreneurship is great, but putting it forth as an answer to the systemic economic dysfunction here is like putting swimming pools in a drought zone. It diverts your attention, but the drought remains.


Allen Sanchez, CEO of St. Joseph's CHI and who we work with on advocating for a state constitutional amendment that would ask voters to tap a small portion of the state's $15 billion Land Grant Permanent School Fund for very early childhood programs, sends this article:

. . . Poverty and other social determinants of health adversely affect relational health. Poor relational health, particularly the absence of emotional support by a nurturing adult, increases the risk of childhood toxic stress and difficulties in emotional regulation, early child development, and eventually, lifelong health. Prolonged activation of the body’s stress response becomes intolerable in the absence of the buffering effect of a supportive adult relationship.


Reader Jim McClure has been assessing the state's future and the ongoing downsizing. He blogs in with this:

Joe, the state funding crunch could be the best thing that happened to UNM if it prompts a serious reassessment of higher education in New Mexico. New Mexico spends more than twice as much per capita for higher education as do Arizona and Colorado: That may be because we have six state universities (to Arizona’s three) and branch campuses everywhere: three in Rio Rancho alone. My impression is that the primary mission of higher education in New Mexico is building campuses and providing jobs for administrators and faculty. Educating students, not so much: Our graduation rates are among the lowest in the nation.

What’s needed is a process like the feds use to close military bases: an independent commission to review needs, assess performance and come up with a plan to consolidate, re-purpose or close branch campuses or entire universities. The result could be fewer, stronger colleges — with some of the savings diverted to K-12 and vocational education. 

This probably will not happen, but it needs to.

Jim, before this great "Era of Uncertainty" is over we feel confident in predicting that the changes you suggest will be made--willingly or unwillingly.


Here's an update on a story we broke here last week: From the Secretary of State:

Secretary of State Winter announced that candidates eligible for public financing under New Mexico’s Voter Action Act would receive 100 percent of their projected financing, thanks to a $314,739 grant approved unanimously by the State Board of Finance. This move ensures public financing in the primary and general election for qualified candidates. Previously, the Secretary of State’s Office had prepared to allocate only 68 percent of possible funds to eligible statewide judicial and Public Regulation Commission candidates, due to budgetary constraints within the fund. The following offices are eligible for public financing in the 2016 primary and general elections:Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice of the Court of Appeal, Public Regulation Commission, District 1. Public Regulation Commission, District 3

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