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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

End Of The Year Econ Beat: More Stagnation And Comments From A "No BS" Economist, Plus: At The Movies This Holiday Season With Top Political Picks 

Economist Erickson
As of July 1 New Mexico's population was 2,088,070, a mere increase of 2,638 people, or 0.1 percent from July 1 2016. People were still leaving during that time---4,666 more left than came in, according to the US Census estimates. The increase was due to there being more births than deaths.

The glass half full crowd will point out that the state has actually lost population in several years past, but there's no denying the trend. The best educated and employable New Mexicans continue to migrate to nearby states where good paying jobs are more plentiful and where crime is less of a concern.

The AP does a yearly list of top state stories. This one didn't make the list. But it is the story of the decade. The wondrous vistas, the temperate climate, the cultural diversity, the unique cuisine--none of it is good enough for educated, working age Americans who want a slice of the economic pie and a better shot at success for their kids.

Chris Erickson of NMSU, a charter member of our list of "No Bullshit Economists," says while the outmigration continues, the problems for those remaining fester:

Our productivity in the state is falling. . . Our workers are less productive today than they were a few years ago. . . That's impinging on our ability to produce and make income. . . We can trace this back to our very poor K thru 12 education system. . . Every indication you look at tells you that K-12 education is critical for economic development. . . We are one of the few states where the local school board has almost no taxing authority. . . We fund our budgets thru gross receipts taxes collected by the state and rebated to the locals and that rebate comes with a lot of bureaucratic overhead. . . Another problem is we underpay our teachers. . . When you pay people well you are able to attract high quality people and retain high quality people to the profession. . .

And that's no BS.

The state has been transitioning to an even lower income economy in recent years and that is continuing. That's our take on the latest NM employment numbers for the month of November:

Government employment contracted by 3,000 jobs, or 1.5 percent, over the year. Local government reported a loss of 1,500 jobs, or 1.4 percent, with local government education down 300 jobs, or 0.5 percent. State government contracted by 1,400 jobs, or 2.3 percent, with state government education down 900 jobs, or 3.1 percent. Federal government employment was down by 100 jobs, or 0.3 percent.

Those government jobs are the ones with the best benefits and often the best pay. The jobs being created, for the most part, continue to be in low paying sectors such as tourism and medical services. No wonder ABQ's gross receipts collections continue to be anemic. People making less money spend less.

RICHARD PRIEM

Word comes to us of the passing of Richard Priem, the 2016 GOP congressional candidate who was defeated by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Priem had been in failing health for some time and he died Friday of cancer.

He first gained public notice when he was awarded nearly $2 million for his role as a whistleblower:

Priem, a former project manager for Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), will be awarded $1.88 million for his role in instituting an investigation of the company’s billing for training first responders under grants administered by the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.

Priem was a 21 year Army veteran. News of his death was relayed by his daughter on Facebook. She says Priem will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery "sometime next year with full military honors." Priem was 68.

THAT'S COOL. . .

From Santa Fe:

NM Film Office Director Nick Maniatis announced that the state will be celebrating the 120th year of filming in New Mexico beginning in December. This milestone in New Mexico film history will be commemorated at events throughout 2017 - 2018.

"For 120 years, New Mexico has been at the heart of the film industry. We are continuing to build on that strong tradition by attracting new productions to New Mexico and creating the film industry's greatest economic impact in New Mexico history, three years in a row." Maniatis said.

Which reminds us that we're still looking for the poster for the 1948 movie "Albuquerque" although it wasn't shot here.

AT THE MOVIES

Reader Eric Lucero is back to assist those with a yen for a trip to the theater this holiday season. He says there are some outstanding films of a political bent to pick from:

“Darkest Hour” (PG-13) ***** Stars out of 5. Feast your eyes on Gary Oldman’s tour de force  and Oscar worthy Churchillian performance in Darkest Hour. Oldman’s visage as Churchill is powerful, complex, and thoroughly dominates this picture. Joe Wright’s direction and writer Anthony McCarten’s script allowed Oldman to play the role of a lifetime. A strong supporting cast as well as a flowing narrative makes this two hour film informative, gripping and entertaining.

The irascible Sir Winston Churchill made his own history as he struggled valiantly to hold the British Empire together during its darkest hours. For good or bad, Churchill’s leadership and manic verve in 1940, while head of state of the world’s first superpower, altered our planet’s history forever.

The Shape of Water (R) **** Stars out of 5. Guillermo del Toro’s cinematic obsession with monsters (Pan’s Labyrinth, 2006; Pacific Rim, 2013) continues in this re-imagined homage to the 1954 classic horror "B" film Creature From The Black Lagoon. Toro’s story is set in Cold War America circa 1963, replete with all its heightened social, economic, and political hang-ups.

Toro’s bottom line is this: "What if the creature gets the girl?" A classic love story Water is not! Toro breaks all the horror/fantasy/romance genre rules, such as they are, to propel ‘Water’ as a commentary about sex and disability today.

As an added bonus, expect African-American actress Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures, 2016) to make Oscar history in 2018 in her role as Zelda. You be the judge if the Shape of Water is just and humane.

The Post (PG-13). We'll have to wait for a film highly anticipated by the political community. The Post is not yet in wide release. This Steven Spielberg historic epic is based on actual events from 1971 involving Katherine Graham, publisher of the Washington Post. She is played by Meryl Streep who equals her fine portrayal of British PM Margret Thatcher in 2011's "The Iron Lady."

The film focuses on Graham's bold decision to print specific parts of what today are known as the Pentagon Papers. What ensues is Spielberg’s own version of the 2015 award winning investigative journalism movie "Spotlight."  Expect awards galore for writer Josh Singer, for actors Streep, Tom Hanks, who plays legendary Post Editor Ben Bradlee, and, of course, for the film itself.

I’d expect to rate this film at a minimum **** Stars out of 5, when I finally get to see it in early January 2018.

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