Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Wake Continues

Last week, I wrote a blog about the declining business conditions and job market in New Mexico and the resulting stagnation in the state’s population growth.  I was surprised when the post went viral. 

The short blog post, R.I.P. New Mexico, was read by 50,000 people within three days, the majority of whom live in New Mexico.  For my blog, at least, this was a record.  Obviously, I had unwittingly hit a nerve.  I was surprised by the response and pleased about the new subscribers and the nice jump in revenue from the advertisers who pay to push their wares on my blog (I'll be careful to not spend the $17 all in one place!)

And then the letters started pouring in.

The response was out of this world.  Hundreds of messages came in, as well as several hundred comments on Facebook, over a hundred emails directly to me (my email address is at the top of the page) and a few dozen comments posted directly on the blog’s webpage.

Overall, the messages were heartbreakingly sad.  When I wrote the original piece, I was talking about tax rates and population growth among age groups….and I was emotionally detached from the piece, as if I were a spectator watching a slow motion car wreck staged in an action movie.  That was before all those New Mexicans wrote to me about the reality of their situation.

Almost every week, people write me about something I have written.  A large number of astute people passionately believe that I’m an idiot and take the time and trouble to tell me so.  I get the occasional death threat (I once even got a fatwa from someone claiming to be an Imam from Saudi Arabia).  Lots of people do not appreciate my sense of humor and many people are alarmed at my disregard for the rules of grammar.  (They should see the original draft before my patient and loving wife labors mightily over my writings.  She claims I mix tenses on purpose just to annoy her.)

Occasionally, I do get friendly letters.  I received a very nice letter last night from a lady who had read something I wrote to my granddaughter, Alice.  She said it was just the thing she needed at the end of a long and hard day.  Her letter was exactly what I needed, too.

The letters this last week are different.  To be sure, I had quite a few from people who were angry with me.  My ideas were denounced by county political party leaders from both political parties.   I was called a socialist, a liberal professor, and a secret paid blogger for a right-wing conservative think tank.  One letter suggested I go home to Berkeley.  To set the record straight, I’ve only visited the Berkeley Library, and if I’m working for a think tank, it’s a secret from me, too.  (Though they should feel free to send me my paycheck.)

I got a few angry responses from those who support employee unions because I suggested that more employers might move to the state if we were a right-to-work state.  None of those writers seems to have noticed that I actually proposed a compromise that would keep the existing public service unions—the only large unions in New Mexico—as closed-shop unions while allowing new unions to be right-to-work.

Overwhelmingly, the angriest letters of the week defended turquoise.  To be exact, I said that New Mexico sells mountains of ugly turquoise to tourists.  I did not say that all turquoise is ugly.  And whether you like it or not, some of the tourist shops in Santa Fe are peddling mountains of Chinese imitation turquoise, some of it just polished and dyed concrete.  (Don’t take my word for it, do a Google search or read about the investigation done by Albuquerque’s KRQE.  The television station discovered that both the Smithsonian store and the Museum of New Mexico were selling fake turquoise).

The remainder of the letters were the ones that were tragic to read.  I received letters from parents who told me about children who had been forced to move out of state to find jobs.  Dozens of heartsick parents wrote that they missed their children, but were glad they had found jobs, even if out of state.  A lot of the letters were similar to this:

…the cost of living keeps going up year after year and your pay keeps going down year after year. That's why I made sure my son pushed him self in school he's now a junior at highlands university and I been preaching to him get your education and move to different state a state that will pay you good money for your education. A place to raise a family so your kids will have a future. So you won't have to live paycheck to paycheck.

An almost equal number of letters were from people who had moved out of New Mexico to find work.  Some of them owned homes back in New Mexico and dreamed of the day they could move back.  More than one letter discussed the possibility of moving back after retirement.

Was born and raised there and headed to Texas at the age of 28 because of lack of opportunity. Like everyone else, I'll move back when I'm ready to retire.

Many people wrote to justify why they had already moved.  You could tell they wished they were still in New Mexico, but felt they really had no choice.

So I was born and raised in New Mexico and it was great growing up but as soon as I graduated from college in Albuquerque I immediately was ready to move out because there is literally nothing there and they have no promise of growing…

Try living in Las Cruces and Raising a family on $2000 a month. This place is a joke! I recently traveled to Oklahoma and decided to take a look at jobs and there are plenty , not your typical Las cruces $9 an hour job either.

With federal/state/GRT (Gross Receipts Tax) many of the so called professionals pay more than 50% income tax rate on income. Why would you do that if you could pay 10% less tax living in a neighboring state with a thriving economy and many more choices of big cities to live in?

I am NM born and raised. I left as soon as my children were school age. We chose Colorado because it was in the top tier education wise, decent cost of living, and at the time in the bottom tier for DWIs and drug usage. Exact opposite of NM.

The letters I remember best were from people who wanted to move out, but felt they couldn’t because they had to stay and take care of family.

I am stuck until my mother passes away. I try and try to get good work and it just does not happen. I will leave as soon as I can family cabin in Eagle Nest since 1956 but living and surviving here is damned difficult. I vote and try to change things but it seem our politicians do not care about anything but lining their own pockets.

I’m no longer dispassionately removed from the problem.  Although I am retired, I can’t ignore the lack of employment in this state anymore.  I am tired of politicians who argue about the issue without being willing to try new ideas.  This is not a debating issue where you win points against your opponent.  We are long past this being a partisan issue where politicians give rote lip service to approved talking points just before an election, only to ignore the problem afterwards. 

From the data Google provides me, roughly one out of every 50 people in New Mexico read last week’s blog.  More if you consider the population of the state includes a lot of children, university administrators, and other people who either cannot or won’t read.  Can you guess who didn’t write me during this week?  Not a single elected official.

If you want to know what is really ugly, it’s not New Mexico turquoise.  It is the poverty in the state.  It is the families divided because their children cannot find good jobs in the state, so they must leave the state to find good jobs.  Why do our politicians rail about the division of the families of undocumented immigrants who face deportation, but ignore the plight of the divided families who have elected them to office, whose children suffer "economic deportation"?


  1. It was fun watching your "comments" section blow up last week. I posted a meme on Facebook last week that garnered a similar response. It said, "One cannot reason with someone who thinks only with his feelings."

    You'd think that was obvious, but I got a bunch of hate mail from liberals over that one. Which sort of proved my point rather eloquently.

    Keep writing, Mark. I enjoy your posts.

    Tom King (fellow troublemaker)

  2. Besides turquoise, corals are fake here too. Just be real and think about how much of them are for sale in all the tourist attractions in NM. If they were all real, probably you should have dug half the state away!