Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings

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Why is New Mexico not realizing its potential?
Updated: 54 min 5 sec ago

RGF President Paul Gessing to Talk Transparency at “Sunshine Week” Event in Las Cruces

Mon, 2016-03-21 08:29

Okay, technically Sunshine Week was last week, but it was also Spring Break at NMSU. So, 2016’s Sunshine Week celebration will be held this Wednesday, March 23rd at 5:30 p.m. at Zuhl Library on the New Mexico State University Campus. Aside from Gessing, panelists will include: Sen. Joseph Cervantes, Daniel Chand of the NMSU Government Department, Viki Harrison of Common Cause and City Councilor Gill Sorg.

The primary topic of discussion will be the influence of “outside groups” in the 2015 Las Cruces municipal election. There are some in Las Cruces who would like to see local election laws changed to prohibit “outsiders” from engaging in Las Cruces area municipal elections. I’m not sure how this topic is even tangentially related to shining light on GOVERNMENT, but it is the topic and you can bet that the Rio Grande Foundation will defend the 1st Amendment right of individuals to engage in the political process no matter where they reside.

You can also bet that this will (sadly) be a minority position on the panel.

The event is free and open to the public.

New Mexico/Albuquerque Latest Economic Data

Fri, 2016-03-18 13:11

The latest unemployment rate data are out and there is some good news. New Mexico’s rate in January of 2016 dropped to 6.5%, that’s down from 6.8% just in November.

New Mexico’s rate is now 48th-best in the nation beating out Alaska and Mississippi. Sadly, our rate is more than double the rate of neighboring Colorado. Ouch!

In terms of the Albuquerque economy, which is likely to outperform the New Mexico economy as a whole due to its relative insulation from oil and gas prices, the Albuquerque Biz First economic dashboard can be viewed below. Remember, this index is based on previous highs, so in the case of the drop in flights in and out of the Sunport, we are at 71% of where we were more than a decade ago. Obviously, New Mexico’s economy remains anything but healthy with the full impact of lower energy prices still to be fully felt.

We’re No. 3! We’re No. 3!

Fri, 2016-03-18 13:00

Economic-development crisis solved? Maybe that’s what New Mexico’s politicians and bureaucrats are thinking, with the state losing its worst-in-the-nation unemployment rate. Joblessness is now worse in both Alaska and Mississippi.

But as the Foundation has argued many times, unemployment is just one way of gauging a state’s economic health. The Pew Research Center recently updated its analysis of the employment-to-population ratio, “which measures the share of people in their prime working years who have jobs.”

Between 2007 and 2015, New Mexico’s unemployment-to-population ratio plunged from 79.1 percent to 71.9 percent. The Land of Enchantment’s drop was, by far, the largest in the nation.

As even the Albuquerque Journal‘s Winthrop Quigley admitted this week, “the state lost 1,800 jobs in the 12 months that ended in January.” Viewed from the broadest perspective, New Mexico continues to be the most employment-challenged state. Aggressive, immediate implementation of proven economic-development strategies remains as imperative as ever. Is anyone in Santa Fe listening?

Robert Zubrin’s Presentation “Merchants of Despair”

Fri, 2016-03-18 09:13

Author and scientist Robert Zubrin discusses his book “Merchants of Despair” which connects the modern environmental movement all the way back to the eugenics movement of the early 20th Century. His presentation is available below and his slides are here.

Medicaid’s Insolvent? Raise Booze Taxes!

Wed, 2016-03-16 16:30

The Foundation is always grateful when we’re allowed to present our research and analysis in the Albuquerque Journal. But sheesh, the paper sure has let some nutty ideas cluster on its editorial page lately.

Today’s kookiness arrives courtesy the “Alcohol Taxes Saves Lives & Money coalition,” which is pushing a “25-cent-per-drink increase in alcohol taxes.” The reason? The state’s unsustainably crushing Medicaid expenditures.

Citing the “Center [sic] for Disease Control’s Community Advisory Panel,” Peter Debenedittis argues that “raising alcohol taxes is the most effective way to reduce the health harms caused by excessive drinking.”

Maybe not. As the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity’s Jason Stverak noted: “Research by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has found that hardcore alcohol abusers are affected little by increases in price, which have a greater effect on light and moderate drinkers. Additionally, studies show that beer taxes have an insignificant effect on underage drinking.”

Besides, it’s not as if New Mexico’s alcohol taxes aren’t high already. The beer tax is the same as Utah’s, but it’s higher than those in Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, and Colorado. The Land of Enchantment’s levy on wine is greater than those found in each of its four neighbors that imposes a tax. (Utah controls all sales of wine.) And distilled spirits are taxed at a higher rate here than in Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, and Colorado.

Hiking booze taxes to cover Medicaid’s profligacy is an excellent example of how Big Government perpetuates itself. One unwise public policy (expanding Medicaid) creates a fiscal crisis that makes another round of meddling (higher alcohol taxes) “necessary.” It’s a cycle that never ends — unless an informed and active citizenry sees to it that government is confined to its proper sphere.

Tell ABQ City Council: Let the People Vote on ART

Tue, 2016-03-15 14:24

The Albuquerque City Council will likely vote on Albuquerque Rapid Transit for the first and only (direct) time this Monday, March 21.

While it appears that a majority of the City Council will blindly follow Mayor Berry and grasp for the “free” $69 million in federal money attached to the project, no matter how much it harms mobility on Central and the cultural uniqueness of Route 66, the best we can hope for (from City Council) is that they will put this proposal on the ballot for the voters to have a final say on.

This project represents nothing less than a transformation of Albuquerque’s most iconic road. There are also high costs for local taxpayers that will be borne into the future both in terms of cost-overruns and operating expenses. We should have a final say as taxpayers on this issue. If you agree, either show up at City Council on Monday, March 21st at 5pm or send Mayor Berry and your Councilor a note telling them that “we the people” need to make the final call on this project.

To his credit, Councilor Dan Lewis has already come out and said he opposes the project, but it is still worth asking him to put it on the ballot as it is doubtful that four other councilors will oppose it outright.,



New video: Obama’s Clean Power Plan and its Negative Impact on the Navajo

Tue, 2016-03-15 11:15

The Rio Grande Foundation has submitted comments on and filed suit against the Obama Administration’s “Clean Power Plan.” The Supreme Court has issued a “stay” to prevent implementation of the plan.

While the Rio Grande Foundation is mostly concerned about the economic impacts of the plan on the State as a whole and the Constitutional overreach it represents, our friends at the Texas Public Policy Foundation have put together a powerful video including interviews with Navajos and their political leaders decrying the potential impact the Clean Power Plan will have on them and their livelihoods. There are two major power plants on Navajo lands, Four Corners Generating Station and Navajo Generating Station, both of which employ hundreds of mostly tribal workers and generate a great deal of tax revenue and economic activity on tribal lands.

A Monorail for Central? Really?

Mon, 2016-03-14 21:15

Give the Church of Transitology credit. It never lets facts get in the way of dogma.

A good example of faith-based transportation can be found in today’s edition of the Albuquerque Journal. Max Macauley, “a retiree with a journalism background,” recommends that the city scrap its plan for “bus rapid transit.” He wants Albuquerque to follow the example of other cities with “authentic world-class public transit systems,” and build — this isn’t a joke — a monorail.

If Macauley had done even the slightest bit of research on the systems he admires, he would have discovered their many problems. First, the Seattle Center Monorail, built as an attraction for the 1962 World’s Fair, is only a mile long. In 2005, after years of support, voters in the notoriously “progressive” city torpedoed an effort to expand the system. (The price tag had risen to $11 billion.) In 2014, voters annihilated another expansion proposal.

Las Vegas’s monorail began as a short connection between MGM Grand and Bally’s. In 2000, Nevada authorities signed off on tax-free bonds for an extension that backers claimed would provide “significant public benefits.” Ridership never approached estimates. In 2010, the public-private Las Vegas Monorail Company filed for Chapter 11. It emerged from bankruptcy in 2012. Dead-ender supporters are dreaming of an extension to McCarran International Airport, a project that the Las Vegas Review Journal reports “is estimated at $500 million — more than the initial cost of the system when it was built.”

Finally, in 2010, The Florida Times-Union‘s Larry Hannan called Jacksonville’s monorail a “joke for a generation”:

Look up at its silent, almost-empty cars and you can see the failure of downtown as a place to live and work. The dingy stations reflect Jacksonville’s inability to come up with a successful long-term transportation plan.

More than 20 years after it opened, the number of people who ride the Skyway remains low. The Jacksonville Transportation Authority originally promised 100,000 riders per month, but its average last year was less than a third of that.

And it loses money — a lot of money.

The system that was built for $183 million, more than half from the federal government, needs $14 million to operate each year — $1.5 million of that from Washington for maintenance alone.

In 2009, it generated only $431,000 in revenue, less than a 4 percent return. Most public transit systems lose money, but by comparison JTA’s bus system made back more than 20 percent — $6.2 million — of its $30.2 million cost in 2009.

Grassroots activists are working overtime to stop “Albuquerque Rapid Transit,” and the Foundation wishes them well in their campaign against the boondoggle-in-the-making. But believe it or not, Albuquerque could do worse than ART. It could build a monorail.

Analysis: Medicaid Expansion Will Break New Mexico Budget

Mon, 2016-03-14 16:33

According to a recent analysis from Key Policy Data, Medicaid is already in the process of putting New Mexico’s budget behind the proverbial “eight ball.” The Albuquerque Journal’s editorial board has also caught on to the problem per their recent editorial. As the Key Policy data report notes:

  • When New Mexico adopted Medicaid Expansion the enrollment forecast was at 147,000;
  • In 2015 that number was 46 percent higher, with 215,000 people having signed up for Medicaid Expansion.

In the last two years alone (before the state had to pick up one cent of ObamaCare expansion), Medicaid grew 10.4% and 11.1% annually.

The report concludes with these not-so-encouraging words:

With long-term weakness in revenue growth, the last thing a state should do is take on responsibility for new spending programs. New Mexico has already rolled the dice with Medicaid Expansion; what matters there is to rein in the costs as best possible. Other states, still not having accepted the program, should cautiously watch – and learn from their mistake.

As Medicaid consumes more and more of New Mexico’s budget, other priorities including education (the largest single component) is going to be on the chopping block. This could all be justified if Medicaid had a positive impact on health. Unfortunately, the results of the “gold-standard” study on the issue are hardly convincing.


A tale of two states: Indiana v. Illinois

Fri, 2016-03-11 13:27

Indiana is one of America’s most economically-free states. It also embraced “right to work” in 2012.

Illinois is relatively un-free (although not as bad as New Mexico). It is also not “right to work.”

Our friends at the Illinois Policy Institute put together the following chart to illustrate how manufacturing is thriving in Indiana but not in neighboring Illinois. Is this entirely due to Indiana having “right to work?” Maybe not, but it is definitely part of the reason and it certainly hasn’t hurt (perhaps there’s a lesson for New Mexico?):

Real Economic Development for Sierra County

Fri, 2016-03-11 12:09

Kudos to the New Mexico Business Coalition for drumming up support for the reestablishment of the Copper Flat Mine, which promises to “employ approximately 270 full and part time employees with an average annual salary ranging from $35,000 to $60,000 plus benefits.”

The Bureau of Land Management has extended the public-comment period for the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement until April 4th. New Mexicans who support expansion of the Land of Enchantment’s private sector should weight in.

It’s been a horrendous five-year run for copper — the commodity’s price has dropped by about half, and the industry’s layoffs are mounting. Last year, Freeport-McMoRan let more than 200 workers go at its Tyrone mine in Grant County.

In New Mexico’s moribund economy, every job counts. With $55 million already spent on making Copper Flat active again, let’s hope that the project is allowed to move forward.

OEA Bucks for New Mexico’s DOA Economy

Wed, 2016-03-09 17:34

Can Pentagon funding help a state kick its addiction to Pentagon funding?

New Mexico’s Economic Development Department thinks so. It’s conducting “a series of community meetings” to “bring stakeholders together to share information and encourage participation to keep communities informed and prepared regarding defense contractors and subcontractors, related service and goods providers, and other businesses and organizations that could be affected by federal defense cuts.”

The gatherings represent the kickoff of the “Defense Industry Adjustment Supply Chain Map and Portal Project,” an effort being funded by $1.4 million grant from the DOD’s Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA). According to state economic-development commissar Jon Barela, “New Mexico is proud of our military bases and national labs,” but they face “persistent challenges from the federal government,” requiring subsidies to “better support communities in improving their resilience to federal cutbacks.”

Today’s session, held in Santa Fe, was sparsely attended, and the overwhelming majority of those who showed up were economic-development bureaucrats and other government officials. The audience was subjected to a torrent of corporatist jargon — e.g., “strategic planning,” “targeted assistance,” “web portal connectivity,” “deliverables,” “ecosystems,” “incubators and accelerators,” “areas of vulnerability,” “industry clusters,” “SWOT analysis,” “continuum of development.”

Patricia Knighten, who heads up the department’s Office of Science & Technology, stipulated that the billions of dollars in national-security spending New Mexico annually receives from Washington have not translated into “economic prosperity.” The answer? More planning, of course, in the form of government connecting entrepreneurs to federally funded technology developed in the Land of Enchantment.

The “Photonics Commercialization Pilot Program” is one example. The state has 54 firms in the field, and department literature claims optics and photonics “are cross-cutting, with wide-reaching defense and non-defense applications.”

The meeting’s highlight was an overview of the anti-donation-clause-avoiding “New Mexico Catalyst Fund.” Backed by $10 million from the State Investment Council, $5 million from the federal State Small Business Credit Initiative, and $5 million from private sources, it “will be deployed via local funds across the state” and focus “on seed- and early-stage investments.” Knighten admitted that it “was not an easy sell to the U.S. Treasury,” which was justifiably wary about investments in the risky tech sector. Supported by Governor Martinez — who, unfortunately, is reliably susceptible to dodgy economic-development schemes — the fund will be managed by Santa Fe-based Sun Mountain Capital.

There’s no question that New Mexico must diversify its economy away from federal spending on missiles, space systems, nuclear bombs, sensors, lasers, and the like. Washington is broke, and the days of a seemingly endless stream of DOD (and DOE, and NASA) revenue making its way to the state are over.

But New Mexico’s economic-development brain trust has demonstrated a frightening predilection to pursue disastrously unsuccessful policies. The “Encanto” supercomputer, “green” energy, the spaceport, “transit-oriented development” — there’s no shortage of examples. If the state’s community of defense contractors is to transition to business models more reliant on the marketplace, the change isn’t likely to come from additional OEA grants and more busy work for bureaucrats. It will result from pro-investment, pro-entrepreneur, pro-consumer public policies. And the time to act is now.

Grow economy, don’t mandate sick leave

Wed, 2016-03-09 10:32

The aftermath of the 2016 Legislative session is still being discussed and parsed, but the liberal New Mexico Voices for Children think tank is already clamoring for the next expansion of New Mexico government. The issue this time is paid sick leave. Naturally Voices, which views every societal “nail” in need of a government “hammer,” has a government-driven solution.

New Mexico private sector workers are, according to a new report, offered sick leave at a lower rate than similar workers in any other state. To be honest, we at the Rio Grande Foundation share the concerns expressed by Voices on this. We’d like to see more workers paid better and offered employee benefits.

The difference lies in our proposed solutions to the problem.

We view the issue through the lens of recent news reports that an astonishing 10,000 people applied for 290 job openings at the new Cheesecake Factory in Albuquerque. Obviously, there is an over-supply of relatively low-skilled labor in both Albuquerque and New Mexico as a whole. This is a market reality driven by New Mexico’s historical over-reliance on federal dollars and extractive industries.

Voices wants to simply impose a new regulation demanding that businesses offer workers no less than one week of paid sick leave (their report does not differentiate between full and part-time workers). Their own data claim that this will cost New Mexico businesses $240 million annually.

What they don’t seem to understand is that businesses — especially mom-and-pop restaurants and other small businesses — aren’t just going to take this $240 million out of their bottom-lines. Often, they don’t have profits to speak of. So they will lay off the very workers that this proposal is supposed to help. And if part-time workers are included in the proposal, that means part-time workers just starting out in the work force will be the hardest hit.

The real problem with Voices’ proposal is not its unintended consequences, but rather its the lack of vision inherent in it and so many other similar proposals — like the misnamed “Fair Workweek Act” — which was proposed in the Albuquerque City Council in 2015.

Voices sees the economy as a fixed pie. If you take away from labor, you give more to capital, and vice-versa. We at the Rio Grande Foundation see innovation and productivity as beneficial to everyone.

What Albuquerque and the state of New Mexico desperately need is not more government regulation: it’s more and better jobs of all kinds. It is no surprise that New Hampshire, the most economically-free state in the nation (lacking both a sales and an income tax) has the most generous sick leave policies according to the Voices report.

Unfortunately, when businesses or entrepreneurs look at our state they see onerous and often arbitrary regulations, they see a gross receipts tax that makes doing business here more costly than other states. They see a workforce and school system that are not up to preparing workers for the modern economy and they see high crime rates. Lastly, they see a population — especially in the Rio Grande corridor — that tends to be both suspicious of outsiders and highly sensitive to land use and economic development proposals.

These problems are not unique to New Mexico, but New Mexico is unique in possessing all of them in spades. Addressing some or all of these issues in ways that make New Mexico more attractive to business would grow our economy and make it more likely that workers receive competitive wages and benefits.

For many years, New Mexico has enacted policies that make our state less attractive than many of our neighbors for private sector development. Another new regulation isn’t going to change that. Instead, it is time to move in the opposite direction towards economic freedom and competitiveness. This will make jobs more plentiful leading to higher pay and more competitive benefits for New Mexico workers.

The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to “promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility.”

Adding Insult to Fiscal Injury

Tue, 2016-03-08 17:00

New Mexicans shouldn’t feel too bad about the early box office for Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. At just $8 million, it’s unlikely to recoup its $35 million budget, at least not while the film is in theaters.

Starring Margot Robbie and Tina Fey, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot was shot in the Land of Enchantment, where taxpayers are compelled to subsidize Hollywood to the tune of tens of millions of dollars each year. During the post-Super Bowl broadcast of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the following exchange took place:

COLBERT: Where was it actually shot? ‘Cause it really looks like it’s in Afghanistan.

FEY: Thank goodness, we shot it in New Mexico, here in the United States of America.

COLBERT: That took a lot of courage, for you guys to go to New Mexico.

FEY: I was so worried about a Breaking Bad scenario happening.

ROBBIE: Lotta missing teeth.

It’s not the first time that entertainers have insulted New Mexico. As the Albuquerque Journal reported in 2010, during an E! interview, Mary McCormack, of In Plain Sight, “appeared to cringe when mentioning Albuquerque, and agreed with host Chelsea Handler when she said the city is ‘boring.'” The following month, the Journal noted that “Jessica Alba … said that we have bad food and that the highlight of her time here was hanging out at Walmart. Tommy Lee Jones chimed in, saying Albuquerque is simply too loud and inhospitable.”

So New Mexico’s taxpayers provide revenue for tourism promotion, while at the same time subsidizing actors who insult the state. Nice going, economic-development “visionaries.”

Sen. Michael Sanchez: critique of NM’s economy has merit, but he should look in the mirror when assigning blame

Tue, 2016-03-08 11:29

We don’t often agree with Sen. Michael Sanchez, but his article in Sunday’s Albuquerque Journal makes some good (if obvious) points about New Mexico’s struggling economy. You can read the article for yourself, but it is no secret that New Mexico is struggling. Naturally, Sanchez blames Gov. Susana Martinez for everything and (somewhat ironically) points to Texas and Colorado as states that are “doing well economically.”

That last point is especially interesting as Texas and Colorado have followed very different economic development routes from that of New Mexico. These policies were not the work of Gov. Martinez, rather they have been in place for decades. Decades during which Democrats controlled New Mexico’s levers of power.

So, as you can see below, New Mexico is heavily-reliant on government (compared to any state, including Texas and Colorado).


And, Texas lacks an income tax (on both personal and corporate income), is “right to work (a policy Sanchez abhors),” has aggressive tort reform laws on the books, and is generally a very free market place to do business (unlike New Mexico).

Colorado, (like New Mexico), does NOT have a “right to work” law, but they have the “gold standard” of taxpayer protections in their State Constitution. All tax hikes must be voted on by the people (at every level of government). And, if the government collects taxes above and beyond the combined rates of inflation and population growth, taxpayers receive a refund. It’s called the “Taxpayers Bill of Rights” and we’d love for Sen. Sanchez to endorse this for New Mexico but we’re not holding our breath.

Yes, Colorado has legalized pot and we’d support that for New Mexico, but in the overall scheme of a state budget, tax revenues from legalizing pot are small as even proponents of legalization acknowledge.

Lastly, Sanchez touts the Democrats’ “Economic Opportunity Plan.” Unfortunately, this hodgepodge of big-government proposals would do further harm to New Mexico’s economy rather than helping it. Sanchez and the Democrats love to blame Gov. Martinez for New Mexico’s economic woes, but our state’s problems preceded Martinez into office and, when she has put forth reforms like “Right to Work,” Sanchez has led the opposition to reforms that would make New Mexico’s economy look more like its successful neighbors (including Texas and Colorado).


Why Isn’t New Mexico a Manufacturing Powerhouse?

Mon, 2016-03-07 14:26

In a blog post last week, the American Petroleum Institute’s Mark Green noted:

Energy isn’t just used to keep machines running or factory lights shining. It also provides the heat necessary to shape metal and the building blocks to create chemicals, refined fuels, plastics and fertilizers. Energy is the lifeblood of what we make, and affordable domestic energy is now providing an important leg up for domestic manufacturers. Thanks to the U.S. shale revolution, this newly affordable and abundant energy is making U.S. manufacturers increasingly competitive, or even more competitive, than overseas rivals. The shale revolution has reshaped the playing field and has made the U.S. the place to be for energy-intensive manufacturing.

All true. Green cited a 2014 PwC study that estimated that “continued shale gas development in the U.S. could generate 930,000 new manufacturing jobs by 2030 and 1.41 million by 2040.”

New Mexico is a leading producer of natural gas, and the price of the fuel for industry was halved between 2008 and 2015:

So manufacturing jobs boomed in the Land of Enchantment during that period, right?

Not exactly.

Here’s annual manufacturing employment in New Mexico (average of all months, seasonally adjusted, in thousands), as determined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Corporate welfare isn’t boosting manufacturing jobs here. Neither is huge subsidies to government schools. And neither is cheap natural gas.

Maybe it’s time to consider tax simplification/relief, deregulation, school choice, and a right-to-work law?

NM’s SNAP Rules Are a Step Toward Dignity, Responsibility

Sun, 2016-03-06 12:03

The following op-ed ran in the Albuquerque Journal on March 6th.

Taxpayer compassion is reaching its limits.

U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) has sponsored HR 4540, a bill that permits states to drug-test beneficiaries of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as food stamps.

“If a welfare recipient has the money to buy drugs, then they have the money to buy food,” Aderholt said. “The federal government should not be enabling people to fund their drug addiction at taxpayer expense.”

Maine’s governor is asking Washington to allow his state to waive the rules that allow the purchase of candy and soft drinks with SNAP benefits.

“Multiple Red Bulls in one purchase, Rock Star energy drinks, 1-pound bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and 3 gallons of Hershey’s Ice Cream in one purchase,” an official with Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services testified at a hearing last year. “We have all seen these types of purchases occur — and it’s unacceptable.”

Here in New Mexico, Ty Vicenti, president of the Jicarilla Apache Nation, claims that “the New Mexico Human Services Department implemented a harsh federal penalty in most of the state that limits unemployed adults without children to just three months of SNAP benefits in three years unless they do 80 hours of unpaid work activity each month.”

Wrong and wrong.

The Martinez administration’s “harsh federal penalty,” as the SNAP website explains, “has been part of the law since 1996.” Welfare reform was sponsored by U.S. Rep. John Kasich, now a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, and signed by Bill Clinton, a Democrat.

As for “unpaid work activity,” the able-bodied adults without dependents being asked to step up can be either employed, in job training or perform community service. The requirement does not apply to those who are pregnant, disabled, addicted to drugs, under 18 or over 50.

Unreasonable? Cruel? Onerous? Hardly.

In 2009, at the height of the Great Recession, New Mexico and many other states asked D.C. for permission to grant unrestricted SNAP benefits to the able-bodied. According to a Human Services Department spokesman, the request “was only temporary and was never intended to stay indefinitely.” On Jan. 1, limits were restored.

New Mexico is hardly alone in returning to standard SNAP practice. According to the Pew Research Center, only California, Louisiana, Nevada, Michigan, Illinois, South Carolina and Rhode Island have yet to lift requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents. Forty-three states now require work/training/community service, either entirely within their borders or in certain regions.

As the press secretary for Wisconsin’s governor put it, “We aren’t making it harder to get benefits — we are making it easier to get a job.”

In New Mexico, that goal is imperative. The labor-force participation rate in our state is disturbingly low and welfare has become a way of life for far too many of our neighbors.

Dependency is rampant, in part because New Mexico’s taxpayers are more than generous to the state’s low-income community. Medicaid, housing subsidies, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, energy assistance, food stamps and other welfare programs have stitched together a sturdy safety net. A 2013 Cato Institute analysis found that the “hourly wage equivalent” for major welfare programs was $13.41 — within striking distance of the state’s median hourly wage.

No one would argue that New Mexico’s economy is strong. But that’s no reason to continue incentivizing SNAP benefits for the able-bodied. As the Foundation for Government Accountability explained: “Fewer than three percent of all non-disabled, full-time, year-round workers are in poverty, compared to nearly a third of non-workers.”

With revenue shortfalls mounting at the state and federal levels, welfare programs are facing increased scrutiny. More requirements, rules and eligibility limits are likely in the future.

Asking able-bodied New Mexicans to work, or prepare to work, in order to obtain food stamps is neither mean-spirited nor unworkable. It’s a step toward individual dignity, economic development and fiscal responsibility.

D. Dowd Muska ( is research director of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, an independent, nonpartisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility.

A Valentine to the Right to Work

Thu, 2016-03-03 17:43

The Foundation is tracking announcements of expansions, relocations, and greenfield investments published on Area Development’s website. Founded in 1965, the publication “is considered the leading executive magazine covering corporate site selection and relocation. … Area Development is published quarterly and has 60,000 mailed copies.” In an explanation to the Foundation, its editor wrote that items for Area Development’s announcements listing are “culled from RSS feeds and press releases that are emailed to us from various sources, including economic development organizations, PR agencies, businesses, etc. We usually highlight ones that represent large numbers of new jobs and/or investment in industrial projects.”

In February, of 9,591 projected jobs, 7,276 — 75.9 percent — were slated for right-to-work (RTW) states:

Fifteen domestic companies based in non-RTW states announced investments in RTW states. Just one announcement went the other way.

RTW prevailed in foreign direct investment (FDI), too. Nine projects are headed to RTW states, with seven to occur in non-RTW states.

Marquee RTW wins included a manufacturing facility for Rhode Island-based Textron Specialized Vehicles in Georgia (400 jobs), the decision by New York-based NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises to build its new headquarters in Florida (150 jobs), and Swiss-Canadian startup GF Linamar’s pick of North Carolina to make “light-weight powertrain, driveline and structural components” (350 jobs).

Methodological specifics:

* All job estimates — “up to,” “as many as,” “about” — were taken at face value, for RTW and non-RTW states alike.

* If an announcement did not make an employment projection, efforts were made to obtain an estimate from newspaper articles and/or press releases from additional sources.

* If no job figure could be found anywhere, the project was not counted, whether it was a RTW or non-RTW state.

* Intrastate relocations were not counted, interstate relocations were.

Millennial: Proposed bus system will turn Central into a “safe space”

Thu, 2016-03-03 10:33

Supporters of the new bus system are grasping for straws and making ridiculous arguments even though others claim the project is a “done deal.”

According to an opinion piece written by a UNM student in today’s Albuquerque Journal:

I believe the closer we can get to a no-car zone the more attractive this part of town and this city will be for the younger generation.

Central doesn’t need more cars, it needs to be urban. The ART will show Millennials that Central is safe, urban and easily accessible area for them to be, learn and grow into contributing members of Albuquerque’s working population.

What is UNM itself but a relatively large area free of cars? And, while college students undoubtedly enjoy the bars, restaurants, and other offerings along Central, those will certainly go away if cars on Central are eliminated. The increased traffic and general difficulty of getting from place to place along Central is the primary objection of business owners already. I’m at least glad to see someone clarify where this new bus system is taking us.

And, while we in Albuquerque know it as “Central,” people the world over know it as Route 66. Sad to see Albuquerque’s elected leaders deforming “the Mother Road” into a “safe space.”


One More Reason to Go RTW

Wed, 2016-03-02 14:38

Albuquerque Business First had an interesting quote from Sherman McCorkle earlier this week. Back in January, the chairman and CEO of the Sandia Science & Technology Park Development Corporation observed that “for many legislators, more than half of their campaign funding comes from unions. So they’re not going to vote for right-to-work unless each of us … talks to their legislator and reaffirms that something like a third of Fortune 500 companies in America will not even look at New Mexico unless it’s right-to-work.”

McCorkle’s statement was gutsy, but it’s accurate only to a point. Campaign cash is nowhere near the determining factor that Common Cause and its allies claim. (Ask Jeb Bush.) In New Mexico and elsewhere, unions use their forced dues in far more politically effective ways, including newsletters, lawn signs, phone banks, precinct work, voter-registration drives, and get-out-the vote efforts.

That kind of electoral muscle contributes heavily to unsustainable spending and higher taxes. For example, in a 2014 analysis, the National Institute for Labor Relations Research found that of “the nine states with the most debt relative to personal income, eight (Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico, Ohio and Oregon) lack Right to Work laws. Mississippi is the only Right to Work state among the nine most indebted. In stark contrast, of the 11 states with the lowest percentage debt-to-income burdens, 10 (Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee and Virginia) have Right to Work laws on the books.”

So while a RTW law is a key tool to attract businesses, investors, and entrepreneurs, it’s also a means to de-fund a coercive political apparatus that hurts New Mexico’s competitiveness through relentless advocacy for bigger government.