Sometimes it seems that New Mexico’s economic-development cheerleaders live in an alternate reality. We all want New Mexico to be prosperous and wealthy, but anyone who believes that the state’s economy is doing well these days is simply not paying attention.
Paul Gessing is the president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, a libertarian-oriented think tank based in New Mexico.
Gary Tonjes of Albuquerque Economic Development, writing in the Albuquerque Journal, touted New Mexico’s “business-friendly” environment, including corporate-welfare programs like LEDA and JTIP and their role in attracting business. He says that the Facebook win “sends a message to other employers that this is a great place for business.”
Unfortunately, the reality is far different:
- As of August, New Mexico’s 6.6 percent unemployment rate is the second highest in the nation;
- From 2004 to 2015, during the era of the “High Wages Jobs Tax Credit,” real median hourly earnings in New Mexico grew by less than a quarter;
- According to Forbes’s “Best States for Business” 2016 report, neighboring Utah, Colorado, and Texas rank 1st, 5th, and 6th, respectively, while New Mexico is 47th;
- CNBC has another “Top States for Business” index. On that one Utah, Texas, and Colorado rank 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. New Mexico ranks 39th.
And let’s not forget that New Mexico is facing massive budget deficits. Even if we wanted to spend more money to bring in more businesses, we don’t have the money available to do it.
It is easy to sympathize with Tonjes and New Mexico’s economic development cheerleaders. It must be a real challenge to compete with our more economically free neighbors. It is frustrating to see them growing while we remain stagnant and impoverished. But to say that throwing massive subsidies at one company and getting them to come here “vindicates” anything is just silly.
New Mexico has a long way to go to develop a private sector. Our leaders should be explaining what that means and educating the public, not encouraging complacency.