What Would Truly Benefit ‘Those at the Bottom’?

Source: “Big Government Policies that Hurt the Poor and How to Address Them,” Heritage Foundation

Twenty-five Democratic members of New Mexico’s House of Representatives have issued a boilerplate denunciation of the governor, charging that she’s “decided that government must continue to fail” and assaulting her obtuse “tax cuts and loopholes for the wealthy and well-connected.”

Preening over their legislative priorities — restoring “funding to our schools,” assuring “our local communities that we are ready to be their partner in creating neighborhoods and businesses where people can feel proud” — the pols pledged that any special session will see them “fight for our kids and our seniors.”

Whatever. Bernie-style rhetoric surely works in deep-blue districts, but here in the real world, some data-driven, specific policy recommendations would have been nice. Fortunately, the Heritage Foundation has produced just such a list: “Big Government Policies that Hurt the Poor and How to Address Them.”

Written by 12 scholars from a number of disciplines, the report notes that “public investment” shibboleths aside, “in many cases, government policy can make it more difficult for those striving to make ends meet.” So it recommends a plethora of federal and state reforms┬áto benefit “those in need” via “curtailing cronyism, eliminating unnecessary regulations, and eliminating other government interventions that needlessly drive up prices.”

Several of the suggestions would be particularly useful in New Mexico, including:

* Avoid sweetened-beverage taxes, which “disproportionately hurt the poor.” (HB 430 would have banned municipalities from placing excise taxes on “food or beverages.” It was DOA in Santa Fe.)

* Don’t raise the minimum wage, since┬áthe mandate kills jobs and makes it “more difficult for workers to move into higher-paying positions.” (Two minimum-wage bills, including one to hike it by 23.3 percent, made it to the governor’s desk. To her credit, both were vetoed.)

* Restore some sanity to licensing regulations, given that private entities “can, and already do, certify individuals to practice many occupations, signaling to consumers that they are qualified without the need for government-issued occupational licensing.” Progress on this issue was all but nonexistent during the session, with only eyebrow-threaders getting freed from licensure.

* Scrap “smart growth,” which “is a pleasant name given to an unpleasant planning philosophy that seeks to promote high-density development, and through a centralized approach, determine where — and how — people should live in their communities.” Planning run amok isn’t as bad in New Mexico as it is in other states, but it’s still a liability, and Santa Fe usually assists, rather than retards, the practice.

Read Heritage’s full report here. It’s a handy primer for policymakers looking for effective, low-cost tools to boost New Mexicans of modest means.