Latest Member Analysis
by Harvey E. Yates, Jr.
A version of this was printed in the Espanola Rio Grande Sun, the Las Cruces Sun News, the Santa Fe New Mexican and was published on the Searchlite website.
The number of people living in extreme poverty in the world has been markedly reduced in the last couple of decades. This wonderful result has arisen, in large part, from unleashing the entrepreneurial drive and the work ethic of millions of individuals by beefing-up their property rights, by lessening regulatory restraints, and by diminishing the legal insecurity which arises from political and regulatory capriciousness. As poverty declined in much of the world, the well-being of millions of children improved.
Though New Mexico has not known the depths of poverty suffered in much of the world, still, recently, when on the average poverty diminished and child well-being improved worldwide, the same did not happen in New Mexico. Here poverty increased and child well-being seems to have declined. Why?
There is a virus in New Mexico’s programming. Our plan seems to be to leash rather than unleash entrepreneurial drive and to stifle work ethic rather than to promote it. Here, property rights have been diminished and legal insecurity has risen as political and regulatory capriciousness are too often the norm.
New Mexico’s programming for failure is not new. Upon the conquest of the Southwest the US pledged in the Treaty of Guadalupe to honor the Spanish and Mexican land grants. In other areas, such as California, perhaps it did that, but in New Mexico its commitment to the treaty was wobbly. Here, confirmation of a significant portion of the land grants lingered until land was dispossessed to make it available for federal purposes such as National Forests. This action warmed the hearts of Progressives such as Teddy Roosevelt, who felt they had a national vision which justified the political capriciousness which led to the land takings. But, for the land-grant families the dispossession too often meant impoverishment and dependency. Of course, the well-being of children was affected.
Though the ownership of the land had changed, many families continued to make their living from the forests. Then a new Progressive initiative arrived – the Endangered Species Act. Under the act thousands of acres were set aside for the Mexican Spotted Owl which caused dozens of sawmills to close, companies to fold and thousands of workers to lose their jobs both in northern NM and elsewhere.
Great Society Programs melded well with these circumstances. The capriciousness which resulted in the Land-Grant takings and then the Endangered Species Act, moved families away from self sufficiency toward dependency and there waiting were the welfare programs. Boys who used to learn a trade – logging, farming, ranching or a related trade – from their fathers, now had little opportunity to do this. The government edged in on the father. It too often became the family supporter with the consequent effect on the family.
A child who has learned to work is on the way to success. On the other hand idle children are particularly susceptible to the drug culture. It should have been no surprise to us that Rio Arriba County became one of the nation’s heroin overdose capitals.
Progressive initiatives haven’t ended. Soon we will sacrifice hundreds of Navajo coal jobs to the god of Global Warming. The expansion of the oil and gas industry outside of the traditional oil basins has been stopped. A significant gas discovery in Otero County still sits idle two decades after its discovery. Progressive driven hysteria has killed drilling in southern Sandoval County. No new mine over 10 acres in size has been permitted in the state since the passage of Progressive’s mining act, so with closure of the molybdenum mine many miners will move to another state or be driven to dependency.*
Much more can be written about the decline of child-wellbeing in New Mexico. We put patches on the problem. In the meantime child well-being, on the average, improves in the world because political and regulatory capriciousness has declined. In New Mexico an increase in such capriciousness has led to the opposite result.
Harvey Yates Jr. is the national committeeman for the Republican Party of New Mexico and a Board Member of Adelante Now.
News & Reports
Albuquerque has the 10th lowest student debt in the country, according to a LendingTree report. Washington, D.C was first among metros with high median student loan balances, where nearly 10 percent of loan holders owe more than $100,000.
The cost of a four-year education has increased by five times in the last 20 years, and student-debt is a $1.5 trillion industry, a huge leap compared to $600 billion a decade ago, says LendingTree.
The median balance of student debt in Albuquerque is $15,549. The average number of student loans held by a single person is 3.5. Nearly 19 percent of people in Albuquerque owe more than $50,000 and roughly 6 percent of people owe more than $100,000 in student-loan debt.
The New Mexico Public Education Department is launching a three-year training initiative for 10 high schools in the state.
The schools chosen by PED are: West Mesa, Belen, Bernalillo, Cuba, Española Valley, Rocinante, Miyamura, Gilbert L Sena Charter, Health Leadership and Las Montanas Charter high schools. PED picked the schools, which were identified for Comprehensive Support and Improvement or CSI, to be the first to partake in the inaugural New Mexico High School Redesign Network.
Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski said the program aims to help the schools move out of CSI, a category for low-performing schools.
One of the main goals of the redesign network is to help raise graduation rates, as the schools’ rates are below 67 percent.
As is typical with so many other policies, federal meddling in what should be a local matter leads to poor results.
This is the conclusion reached Monday by a Heritage Foundation panel about a school discipline initiative, launched by the Obama administration, that suddenly became the subject of national debate after the Feb. 14 massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
Earlier this week, CBS’ “60 Minutes” grilled Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on why she supports the idea that families like the Richardsons should be able to choose where and how their children learn. Reporter Lesley Stahl said traditional public schools are doing better today at educating students, and that allowing families to make choices results in less money for traditional schools.
Stahl didn’t provide evidence for these claims, so her line of questioning is worth a closer look.
Economy and Job Creation
When the stampede for acreage in the Delaware Basin began in 2016, many across southern New Mexico had already given up on the state’s oil patch and left for jobs elsewhere. Despite a steady recovery, the previous two years of free-falling prices clearly took a toll on the local economy.
Eighteen months later, New Mexico is firmly at the center of a broader national comeback by the oil and gas industry. Last year, New Mexican output was nearly 470,000 barrels a day, up 17 percent from the previous year and more than doubling since 2011. New Mexicans haven’t seen an upswing in output like that since the 1960s.
The revival of the state’s oil sector has brought new employment and investment opportunities. Those opportunities are increasingly among the oilfield service companies that handle the drilling and day-to-day operational activities for the big producers.
(Part 4 in a 4 part series)
Government work. That’s the past and present of the New Mexico jobs story.
So, what’s the future of that story?
In the short term, health care looks likely to boom, along with the hospitality industry and education.
But what about the jobs that aren’t in the Land of Enchantment yet, the ones that might bring the state’s stubbornly high unemployment rate closer to parity with the national average?
While it is difficult to quantify an intangible, there are educated opinions on what might narrow the current jobs gap. New types of technology may bring job types to the state that aren’t here now. More mid-level careers could bolster a market already represented on the higher and lower ends. And getting significant numbers of people to relocate to New Mexico to make up for the young people who leave because they perceive a lack of opportunity would generate additional long-term jobs in existing categories like construction and health care.
President Trump issued an executive order Tuesday encouraging federal agencies to adopt more-stringent work requirements for various welfare programs. What can Congress do to encourage work? Two possibilities are increasing the minimum wage and expanding the earned-income tax credit. My recent research shows that these two policies can have very different, and perhaps unintended, effects on the ability to become economically self-sufficient over time.
Carenet Healthcare Services, a Texas-based health care support company, is expanding to Albuquerque with plans for 244 jobs over the next five years.
The San Antonio-based firm will also invest $3 million in the former Bank of America building at 303 Roma NW. The sum includes a 10-year lease, tenant improvements, furniture, fixtures and equipment, according to information provided by Albuquerque Economic Development Inc.
Gov. Susana Martinez, at a news conference Tuesday, called the Carenet announcement a “positive result of the reforms implemented to grow and diversify our economy.”
In response to public concern and questions over how Albuquerque police handled a teacher’s child abuse report, all Albuquerque police officers have been issued what the mayor called “common sense” new orders.
Police Chief Michael Geier issued three special orders on Wednesday that require all officers called to a possible child abuse call to collect any possible evidence, preserve all on-body camera footage indefinitely and access a law enforcement portal that provides police with information on prior contact between the family and social workers.
A common refrain from businesses is that they can’t find enough workers. The unemployment rate is a low 4.1%, but one reason for the shortage are government benefits that corrode a culture of work. So credit to House Republicans for trying to fix disincentives in food stamps amid what are sure to be nasty and dishonest attacks.
New Mexico was at the bottom of the list again this year, while Massachusetts was named the best state to raise a family, followed by Minnesota and New Hampshire.
Not helping New Mexico's case is having the highest unemployment rate in the country (6.1 percent), high child care costs, the state's violent crime rate and the percentage of families living in poverty. New Mexico had the second-highest rate of violent crimes per capita and the second-highest percentage of families living in poverty. New Mexico's median household income is $45,674 and 36.2 percent of children under the age of 5 in New Mexico live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census. Violent crime in the state rose by 6.8 percent between 2015 and 2016, according to the FBI.
The New Mexico Senate on Wednesday approved a two-pronged measure to provide “immediate relief” to those who have struggled for years with the abuses of a closed legal guardianship/conservator system, while creating the framework for a comprehensive system overhaul by 2020. Under the measure approved Wednesday, court hearings that are now closed would be open to the public as of July 1. Family members would have more access to guardianship records and visitation wouldn’t be as easily thwarted by commercial guardians, who also have been accused in some cases of profligate spending and excessive fees. Nonfamily conservators would have to post bonds in case financial impropriety occurred.
Adelante Now Foundation’s overall mission is to help improve education in the state of New Mexico. For over a decade Adelante Now funded tutoring in a few Rio Grande valley public schools. The tutoring was directed at elementary school children who were not reading at grade level or who were not grasping the elements of math. The tutoring program was rewarding to most of the tutored children – and to us. Yet, each year we were reminded that there are many more fundamental problems with New Mexico’s education system than our tutoring program was capable of remedying. We found that the problems are often circular in nature and often have unexpected causations.
Education problems in the state often are affected by family problems. Family problems often are connected to the lack of job availability. The lack job availability arises from the lack of sufficient job creation in the state. The lack of sufficient job creation arises from multiple problems including the lack of a sufficiently educated workforce to support broad job creation. Again, the problems appear to us often to be circular in nature.
We asked, “Would it be possible to devise a long term plan to move New Mexico away from many of these problems? Could a plan be devised that would improve educational outcomes in the state, improve job creation in the state, and strengthen families in the state?
Our new mission is to answer these questions. We started our new mission in 2015 by contracting with the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of New Mexico to compare job creation in New Mexico with job creation in surrounding states. This was step one. Now for step two.