Earlier this week, the latest unemployment numbers were released and New Mexico remained stuck with the highest rate in the nation (6.7%). That's obviously not good news.
But, as we've pointed out in the past, unemployment numbers only tell part of the story. If people have dropped out of the workforce, they are not included in the unemployment rate. So, it is important to consider the workforce participation rate as well.
And, as the chart below which tracks US and New Mexico workforce participation rates dating back to 1976, New Mexico (finally) saw a rebound in 2015 after years of decline.
Before you get too excited, it is worth noting that New Mexico still trails every other neighboring state:
Is this just a "dead cat bounce" or is it a sign that more New Mexicans are getting back to work? It's hard to say. What we know is that New Mexico's economy needs some dramatic free market reforms that push our unemployment rate down and increase the numbers of New Mexicans who are "makers" as opposed to "takers."
COMMENTARY: “States may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory.” Justice Louis Brandeis in New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann
When it comes to economic policy issues, the states are supposed to be the dominant actors. This is the view laid out by Justice Brandeis. It flows seamlessly from the United States Constitution’s design which emphasizes “federalism.”
But this isn’t another article about how Washington is overstepping its bounds. Rather, it is about how New Mexico’s Legislature might want to keep closer tabs on policymaking activities of local governments.
Local governments derive their powers from the states within which they are located. In some states they are given broad latitude. In others, like Virginia, their power is strictly limited. Virginia’s minimum wage and other employment-related policies are set by the Legislature.
For simplicity’s sake, this is a good thing, regardless of your views on the minimum wage.
Watch “Joy in Our Town” with host, Ebony Romero, and guest, Paul Gessing, President of the Rio Grande Foundation, as they talk specifically about the MEDICAID expansion in New Mexico.
Posted by KNAT - TV 23 on Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Driving under the influence is a problem throughout America, but in New Mexico, the toll is severe. The Land of Enchantment consistently ranks among the worst states for DUI accidents and fatalities.
While there are no failsafe solutions — with the possible exception of self-driving cars — one significant way to address the DUI problem is ride-sharing services such as Lyft and Uber.
Evidence is mounting that the availability of ride-sharing services reduces DUI incidence. A study by Temple University found that the presence of Uber led to between a 3.6 percent and a 5.6 percent reduction in alcohol-related driving homicides. Noting that there are 13,000 DUI-related deaths a year, researchers estimated that nationwide availability would save 500 lives annually and the economy $1.3 billion in losses.
Considering the seriousness of the DUI problem, it is unfortunate that New Mexico’s Senate has been a major obstacle to ride-sharing in our state.
Over the years, New Mexicans have grown used to seeing their state at the bottom of a lot of good lists and at the top of many of the bad ones. This long-term systemic problem has grown worse due to declines in federal spending and employment at the Labs and military installations as well as plunging prices of oil and natural gas.
There are a lot of great people in New Mexico. We have a unique culture, internationally-recognized events and attractions, all topped off by incredible weather and landscapes. Unfortunately, for decades many believed that federal largess and mineral wealth were adequate bases for our economy. Business-friendly economic policies were ignored in favor of finding ways to tax and redistribute resources from these two industries.
This phenomenon is quite common. The list of resource-rich, but economically-backward nations is long including Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Nigeria, Libya, and Iraq (to name a few).
In just the span of a few weeks New Mexicans found their state ranked poorly on a series of national reports:
With the 2016 election right around the corner, the candidates are searching for wedge issues to appeal to large swaths of the electorate. Medicaid expansion, particularly in New Mexico and other states that have already participated, is proving to be a major sticking point.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) contains a provision that expands Medicaid coverage to almost all individuals with incomes below 138 percent of the poverty line. But in the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision to uphold the ACA’s constitutionality, the court ruled that the federal government could not compel states to expand their Medicaid programs. At this point, 30 of them have done so (New Mexico chose to in early 2013).
The arguments over whether to expand Medicaid vary by state, but proponents often point to the federal government’s offer to foot almost the entire bill. For example, Ohio Gov. John Kasich supported Medicaid expansion as a way “to bring Ohio money back home” — that is, avoid bearing any of the cost.
My latest research suggests that this argument may be lacking, since it doesn’t account for associated increases in state and local spending.