Missing the point on economic development

One of the tricky things about economics is that isolated instances or well-publicized stories (like a factory closing or a big store opening) can lead to inaccurate assumptions about the world around us. I today’s Albuquerque Journal business section, I attempt to explain that we need to use data not anecdotes when dealing with New Mexico’s economy and overall economic health.

Letter writer Christopher Timm misunderstands the work of my Foundation and others who are concerned about New Mexico’s weak economy. He cites the fact that new businesses open in our area “all the time” as a refutation of our repeated statements that our state’s economic situation is dire.

In a state of more than 2 million people, jobs and businesses will come and go. Usually no single business opening or closing will by itself drive the economy. The question, rather, is “how does New Mexico stack up relative to other states?” On this score we don’t fare so well.

Our poverty rate is the highest in the nation according to the Census Bureau; Economic freedom (according to the Canadian Fraser Institute) is worst among the states; according to The Economist, New Mexico is the most economically-reliant state on an increasingly erratic federal government, and our state has been losing jobs year-over-year since June 2011 while states throughout the west have been adding jobs. We were also named the top “Death Spiral” state by Forbes and made it onto the list of states from which people are moving (the only western state to do so) in a recent United Van Lines report.

Most depressing is the fact that the leadership in our Legislature would rather raise the economically-harmful minimum wage and throw more money at the film industry and a broken education system than make the tough choices needed to turn our state around.

Paul J. Gessing
Rio Grande Foundation
PO Box 40336
Albuquerque, NM 87196

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