According to the latest unemployment figures (for August), New Mexico’s unemployment rate is 11.3 percent. Only 5 states, all of them locked-down “blue” states, have worse rates. And, there is a distinct pattern in which only such states have unemployment rates in the double digits.

Interestingly, the performance of those states when it comes to deaths from COVID-19 (the cause of the lockdowns) is statistically all over the place. Notably, New Mexico is right in the middle nationwide when it comes to saving its citizens from the worst impacts of the virus. Some of the worst-economic performing states (New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts) have also been pummeled by the virus that has affected all of us. Hawaii and California, on the other hand, have been locked down and face major unemployment issues, but have performed relatively well insofar as the virus is concerned.

The case for locking down state economies and demanding entire states like New Mexico remain shut and healthy people quarantine themselves will be studied for years to come. The relationship between aggressive lockdowns and success in reducing the virus are questionable at best. Similar studies will also undoubtedly be needed with regard to the social and academic impacts of keeping children at home and attempting to have them learn in an exclusively virtual environment while also being locked out of most normal youth activities.



What we do know is that New Mexico’s economy is suffering. Large parts of our economy (including most tourism venues and all entertainment centers) have been shut down by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham since March. This is starting to have a big impact on our economy.

The most notable illustration of that impact are high unemployment rates. In February, before the COVID-19 outbreak began, Utah’s unemployment rate was an amazingly low 2.5 percent. New Mexico’s was a respectable 4.8 percent. Utah’s rate has since jumped to 4.1 percent, but that remains far better than New Mexico’s elevated rate. And, while it is easy to get caught up in rates and numbers, it cannot be forgotten that these are real jobs and livelihoods that are being impacted. Hundreds of New Mexico businesses have closed due to the governor’s lockdown.

Worse, during the Q&A period at the end her news conference on Sept. 17, Lujan Grisham was asked about reopening bars, entertainment venues, and theaters.

Her response was that many such venues will not reopen until there is a vaccine. Unfortunately, no one knows when a vaccine will be available, but current estimates are that one will be coming by the second or third quarter of 2021. That means that numerous New Mexico businesses, many of which have been shut down since March, may not open until April or even as late as October 2021.

Most New Mexicans, especially small businesses, cannot hang on that long. And, traditional New Mexico events, from Bataan Death March commemorations to the Gathering of Nations and even the 2021 State Fair and Balloon Fiesta simply cannot be canceled for a second consecutive year.

We must deal with both the virus AND the economic impacts it is having on our state. We shouldn’t expect Washington to go even further into debt to bail us out. And the governor simply can’t keep large portions of New Mexico’s economy (including tourism) locked down until a vaccine is widely available.

A federal judge threw out Pennsylvania’s lockdown, saying, in part, “The Constitution cannot accept the concept of a ‘new normal’ where the basic liberties of the people can be subordinated to open-ended emergency mitigation measures. Rather, the Constitution sets certain lines that may not be crossed, even in an emergency.”

When they head to the polls to vote this November, New Mexicans must balance the economy and constitutional liberties along with well-intended attempts to overcome the virus.

Paul Gessing is president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation. The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, nonpartisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility.

(6) comments

Lee DiFiore

The founding fathers of this country and I assume this state envisioned a three-tier system of government where power was balanced between the executive, the legislative and the judicial branches. Their most ardent fear was that a single individual (monarch, if you will) would have absolute power to rule as they see fit.

Although the left would have you believe the president is, at times, acting like a monarch, it is quite clear that both the legislature (U.S. house) and courts have, for the most part, stymied his agenda at almost every turn. No matter which side you're on, it is the balance of power as laid out at our founding at work.

No such checks and balances are in place in NM with regard the pandemic and health orders issued by one person, the governor. No input from the legislature has been provided or asked for. The issues that have risen to the NM courts have been rubber stamped. And we know the governor cares not one wit what the people think. We are now in the 7th month (almost 15% of MLG's first term in office) of these business and employment crushing lockdowns with no end in sight. Dictatorial rule by a single person without checks and balances was never imagined by our founders.

Enough is enough. Emergency powers were never envisioned to last indefinitely as these seem to be. Since there appears to be no recourse for these dictatorial powers, come November it is time to restore some checks and balances. NM is not a monarchy unless we the people want it to be.

Paul Gessing

Thank you. Agree 100%.

Jim Klukkert

The Rio Grande Foundation describes itself as ‘an independent, nonpartisan … educational organization.’ In fact it is part of a nationwide partisan network of hyper-conservative ‘influencers,’ funded in large part by the same ultra-wealthy billionaires pouring untold amounts into their decades long propaganda war on the American People.

The goals of this effort are: denying climate change and rolling back environmental protections; opposing health care reform; supporting voter suppression and disenfranchisement; maximizing private prison industry profits by increasing incarceration; weakening the political power of workers by attacking unions; and limiting the power of legislatures to raise revenues through taxes.

The Rio Grande Foundation does not disclose its donors, but some of its funding sources are known through other tax filings. RGF's known funders include:

Cato Institute: $50,000 (2006)

Charles G. Koch Foundation: $30,000 (2015)

DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund: $584,500 (2010-2013)

State Policy Network: $10,250 (2014)

Charles Koch is the right-wing billionaire owner of Koch Industries. As one of the richest people in the world, he is a key funder of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN).

DonorsTrust functions as a large "donor-advised fund," cloaking the identity of donors to right-wing causes across the country. Mother Jones Magazine called DonorsTrust "the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement" in a February 2013 article.

The Rio Grande Foundation has ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council through its founder, Hal Stratton. Stratton received the ALEC Legislator of the Year award in 1981.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) describes itself as the largest “membership association of state legislators,” but over 98% of its revenue comes from sources other than legislative dues, primarily from corporations and corporate foundations. ALEC’s agenda extends into almost all areas of law; it’s chief function is as a corporate bill mill. ALEC is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators “model” bills to benefit their bottom line.

Learn more on ALEC at the Center for Media and Democracy's ALECexposed.org.

Charles Koch is the right-wing billionaire owner of Koch Industries. As one of the richest people in the world, he is a key funder of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN).

DonorsTrust functions as a large "donor-advised fund," cloaking the identity of donors to right-wing causes across the country. Mother Jones Magazine called DonorsTrust "the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement" in a February 2013 article.

Much of the above material is directly quoted from Source Watch.

https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=American_Legislative_Exchange_Council

Stan Biderman

Thanks Jim. Couldn't have said it better.

Paul Gessing

Do you have an actual critique of the opinion piece and what I am saying or are you just going to recite a hostile organization's attacks?

Jim Klukkert

@Paul Gessing- As was said regarding Nixon and the Watergate Scandal: Follow the Money.

Mr. Gessing, the funding for, and the history of, your organization give lie to the claim that “The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, nonpartisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility.”

Your organization is dependent upon science-denying billionaires, is totally partisan for their narrow interests, promotes their prosperity at the expense of the planet and the rest of its inhabitants, and is based in individual greed and avarice over social and environmental resposibility.

I thought the above critique was self-evident. Forgive me for being subtle.

Today, in a post regarding The Consumer Energy Alliance, another non-profit looking out for the interests of billionaire investments in New Mexico, I did add the following regarding your piece:

"Gessing’s attack on the able leadership of our Governor and her team to stem the Pandemic, placed NM as doing only average in its death rate, yet failed to note how the deaths of the Dine Nation skews the NM rate dramatically downward. That so many of the Dine live without running water in a 'food desert,’ and lack adequate health care is drives this death rate. This sad reality seems outside of the Foundation’s concern, but makes New Mexico's record combating Covid-19 an easy target for opportunists like Gessing."

As far as I am concerned, one should never do businesss in the Americas without considering the plight of the First Nation’s. That you should comment regarding the Pandemic in New Mexico, without mentioning the Dine, is irresponsible.

So Paul, thanks for asking.

Best,

Jim Klukkert

Welcome to the discussion.

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