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Friday, February 10, 2017

Leaving New Mexico Behind; Latest Numbers Confirm The Exodus Continues; Our Once Humming Sunbelt State Settles Further Into Economic And Social Stagnation 

This column is also running in the current edition of the weekly ABQ Free Press.

Well, better late than never. The newspaper finally got around to reckoning with the grim reality that New Mexico's population has flatlined, that those getting out are our best and brightest and the tiny population growth we are experiencing is from mainly impoverished and welfare dependent families having more children.

Now the reluctant experts and media are finally throwing in the towel. Perhaps we finally get a real discussion about what ails the state and what needs to be done to finally start the Great Turnaround instead of wallowing in the Great Stagnation? Reader Alan Schwartz, writing on social media, picks up on that thread:

Does this mean we can finally call to account our Pollyanna economic development gurus that constantly forecast 2% annual growth to justify taxpayer investment in speculative ventures from soccer stadiums to ART? The website for Albuquerque Economic Development states "The Albuquerque metro area's population totals 908,252 residents and is growing at a steady pace of 1-2 percent per year." Census figures for five years ending in 2015 for Albuquerque show 0.46% per year. Perhaps the first step to economic recovery should be to stop promulgating "alternative facts."

New Mexicos' growth industries are crime, drugs, unemployment and moving companies:

According to the Census Bureau, New Mexico added 59,585 people due to natural growth (births versus deaths) from 2010 to 2016. During the same time period, however, 37,780 more people left the state than moved in, resulting in a total population increase estimated at only about 21,000. The resulting 1 percent rate of growth puts New Mexico at the other end of the spectrum from its neighbors.

It's easy to abandon ship. Colorado, Texas and Utah are growing at a 10 times faster rate than New Mexico. David Packer is one of those packing up. He writes on social media of the New Mexiodus:

My kids will leave soon after finishing degrees at UNM. I plan to leave soon after they figure out where they want to be. NM was an attractive, vibrant place of such promise, but so much of what it lost was replaced by too many who lost their souls to substance abuse and now run rampant on our streets. NM is now just too scary and dangerous a place for its magnificent beauty to be enough to keep us here. 

FIGHTING OR SURRENDERING?

Meanwhile, at the legislative session lawmakers continue to look at the state's death spiral with bemusement or not at all.

The Governor deflects any responsibility for the state's failures by citing cutbacks in federal spending and the oil price crash but she continues her austerity policies that have done nothing to ameliorate the outside events that have pummeled the state. The legislative leadership essentially acquiesces, with both sides braying that they are "fighting" for New Mexico. No, they are surrendering.

New Mexico's problems are anything but insoluble. They require an investment in its increasingly disadvantaged people. To get that you will need a new generation of leadership that views their jobs as taking risks to reverse the old order and rejecting the notion that political office is more than taking self-important selfies and warming a chair.

The cozy talk of "bipartisanship" was promising but has now become an excuse to do nothing and let everyone off the hook as the death spiral continues. What we need is leadership that engages in a knock-down, drag out fight over the tarnished soul and bleak future of New Mexico. In other words, we can continue to fill the void with more green chile contests and photos of blazing sunsets or choose to have a collective consciousness that says enough is enough. It's up to us.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017
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