It’s October morning. The smell of roasting chiles permeates the air, and the sunrise gives off stunning pink and purple hues that blend over the mountains. Temperatures have finally cooled from the scorching summer heat, and crisp air has settled in until the eventual return of spring. The occasional hot-air balloon drifts along in the morning sky, floated by the seemingly ever-present winds. New Mexico, the land of enchantment, gives another beautiful day. Even though it is often forgotten, it is indeed an important part of the United States. It is best known for its beautiful landscapes, green hatch chile, hot-air balloon fiesta, atomic milestones, and the occasional close encounter. To the casual observer, NM would seem like a wonderful place to move to and settle down.
Unfortunately, there is more to the story than charming October mornings. The state has perpetual problems with crime, poverty, drug addiction, and a lock of any real economy. According to the usnews.com ranking of best states, NM is # 46. This is largely due to its lackluster healthcare (#34), education (#49), economy (#47), opportunity (#48), fiscal stability (#47), and crime/corrections (#49). This mediocrity did not happen overnight, in fact, this has been the trend for decades. Why? Why does New Mexico continually end up on the bottom of every ranking that matters (sunsets and IPAs excluded)? In my experience, the citizens of the state are often exasperated and confused at the cause of these issues. Very often they find themselves as victims of crime, sub-par schools, and low paying service jobs with no way of advancing up the economic ladder. However, they should not fear, because the state government claims it can easily alleviate every concern.
The state government alleges that the solution is “new and improved” government policies. With high state revenue due to the oil and gas boom, a newly elected big government tax and spend democrat governor, and a democrat controlled legislature; there is just unlimited potential for the government to do some “real good’ for the state of New Mexico. Some of the policies put forward include free college, mandatory state fuel standards, higher taxes, wellness programs for state workers, increased spending, and government worker raises. Unfortunately for the citizens, these policies will not only not produce the intended outcomes, but will also exacerbate the existing problems.
The truth is that New Mexico is in such dire straits in the first place due to an overwhelming government presence and a lack of any real industry and lagging economic growth. The state’s largest employers are the federal and state governments respectively. Military bases, Sandia national laboratory, Los Alamos national laboratory, ever-expanding universities, and an extensive state government make up the bulk of employers. New Mexico also boasts as being one of the highest spending states on welfare recipients in the country as well as having a substantial amount of citizens on federal programs. With the poverty rate nearing 20%, it seems you either work for the government (contractors included) or reside yourself to low paying service jobs or destitution.
What’s worse is that the citizens seem to not realize that they are voting for the very policies that doom the state to perpetual mediocrity. They simply want the state to improve, a noble goal, but their faith in big government is misplaced. Education will NOT improve by sending more money to already bloated public schools. Healthcare will NOT improve by subsidizing more people and increasing administration. The economy and opportunity will NOT improve by taxing small businesses and pushing away industries that won’t bend to the state’s demands. Fiscal stability will NOT improve by promising state workers more pay for less work. New Mexico has always been a big government state, and it has always lagged behind nearly every other state in the nation on nearly every vital metric. Isn’t it time to be brave, go against the grain, and try something new? Isn’t it time to finally forget the mantra of “this is the way we’ve always done it”? The solution is simple, yet difficult in practice. More government isn’t the answer; low taxes, fewer regulations, personal and economic freedom, and economic growth are.
This is the first in a series on the state of New Mexico. Be on the lookout for future entries surrounding specific policies.