Ever since I began covering politics for this paper 20 years ago — and I assume years before — candidates, especially those in the party out of power running for state offices, are fond of saying they are tired of New Mexico “being at the top of all the bad lists and at the bottom of all the good lists.” The implication, of course, is “vote for me and that will change.”
And yet, that never seems to happen.
A brand new “bad list” was published last week, this one declaring New Mexico the “Worst-Run State Government in America.”
We’re No. 1! Take that, Mississippi!
This list was published by an online financial news site called 24/7 Wall St. Here’s what it said about this enchanted land:
“New Mexico is one of the poorest states with 19.5 percent of the population living below the poverty line — the second highest poverty rate after only Mississippi. Due to the pervasiveness of serious financial hardship, 17.3 percent of state residents rely on SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps, the highest of any state. A stronger job market could go a long way to reduce SNAP dependence and poverty. New Mexico’s annual unemployment rate of 4.9 percent is one of the highest in the country, and well above the 3.9 percent national rate.”
The publication also talked about our crime problem, noting “not only does New Mexico have one of the nation’s highest jobless rates, but it also has the second-highest violent crime rate.”
According to 24/7 Wall St., New Mexico has the fourth-highest unemployment rate, the second-highest poverty rate, the second-highest violent crime rate and the 23rd-highest gross domestic product growth rate.
Hey, at least we’re in the top half of that last one.
This 24/7 Wall St. report comes just a few months after another financial news site, WalletHub, ranked New Mexico as the third-worst state to live in. That list found us just slightly less bad than our old rivals Mississippi and Louisiana.
Let the finger-pointing begin.
Republicans may be tempted to blame Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for being chief executive of the “Worst-Run State Government in America.” However the data that earned us that dubious honor was from last year and earlier, when there was a Republican governor, Susana Martinez. Of course, the GOP can honestly say for all but a couple of years in recent history, the Democrats have controlled both chambers of the Legislature.
Some conservatives will claim the fact that New Mexico doesn’t have a so-called “right to work” law is what led us to this “bad list.” However, five states of 24/7 Wall St.’s bottom 10 do have “right to work,” while four of the top 10 best-run states do not.
As with most things, reality is far more complicated than ideology.
We might even hear some buzzing from that old saw that our horrible violent-crime rating could be due to the fact New Mexico doesn’t have the death penalty. That claim has been discredited so may times I won’t dignify it by refuting it again.
Democrats might try to argue that financial sites like 24/7 Wall St. and WalletHub, while not outright ideological, tend to lean conservative, at least in fiscal matters. However both the best and worst states in these studies are well represented by both red and blue states.
Despite my age and wisdom, I don’t know what the answer is to New Mexico’s permanent perch at the top of the “bad lists.” Maybe we should take a cue from the commander in chief and leader of the free world and declare such lists as “fake news” from “enemies of the people.”
How come there are no categories for “Best Taco Joints Per Capita” or “Greatest Sunsets,” Mr. Smarty-Pants List-Maker?
The only surefire way would be federal legislation banning publications from publishing lists that rank states. I’m sure our congressional delegation could drum up some bipartisan support from their colleagues from Louisiana and Mississippi.
On the web
• Read the 24/7 Wall St. report at 247wallst.com/special-report/2019/11/12/best-and-worst-run-states-in-america-a-survey-of-all-50-2