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Sherry Robinson Commentary

My friend and long-time colleague Harold Morgan passed away last month. Harold started writing for this small syndicate in 2004.

He spent a career in numbers as founding editor of New Mexico Business Journal and Sunwest Bank’s chronicler of New Mexico’s economy, although he once wrote, “Grains of salt should be issued with the first unveiling of all numbers. Full salt tablets should come with more complex numbers.” He loved wading into data in a search. As a tribute to Harold, I’d like to share some excerpts from his 17-plus years of columns.

In his first column on Feb. 4, 2004, he reported state job numbers: “It’s a performance just above mediocre and nowhere close to the claim, promoted in August by Gov. Bill Richardson’s staff, as ‘one of the most dramatic economic turnarounds in U.S. history.’”

A year later, he pierced the “tax-cut brouhaha” in the Legislature. Tax cuts were “offset by the Richardson administration’s long list of tax and fee increases.” This sword cut both ways. In 2017 he punctured Gov. Susana Martinez administration’s claim that they cut taxes 37 times by looking at each bill. He concluded, “With a few exceptions, the much celebrated tax cuts, overall, mean little to the state.”

Harold, an admirer of the late Republican Sen. Pete Domenici,” sadly reported in October 2007 that Domenici “departs the New Mexico political scene with grace and dignity, the same way he has served for 35 years as United States Senator.”

Domenici was frank about the incurable brain disease that forced his retirement. “Confronting mortality is somewhere between strange and unpleasant for any individual,” Harold wrote. “Doing so in public, in front of television cameras, adds dimensions difficult to comprehend.”

Harold followed economic development closely. In 2011 he skewered Gov. Martinez and her economic development secretary whose only proposals were recruiting companies to the state. “Recruiting is good and necessary, but for that to be the only topic massively misses the point,” he wrote. Recruiting had no impact on the smallest communities.

That year Harold surprised everyone: “Legalize marijuana. There! I said it! In public! Conservative me!” His reason was that “the social costs of legal marijuana, however high, would be less than the social costs of illegal marijuana.” He meant that illegal weed brought otherwise law-abiding citizens into contact with criminals. “In my brief, long ago marijuana flirtation, my supplier was a Washington-based federal prosecutor. This nicely defines the potential for societal rot.”

In 2012 Harold wrote that Martinez’s thin agenda lacked values. “Republicans must bring a framework of values to the conversation.” Run articulate Republicans for office, starting with grassroots positions. “But, remember, ground everything in values. Dump the extremism.”

Harold was the only business writer I knew who followed population growth. When he reported in 2014 that New Mexico topped 2 million people, he added that since 2011 more people had left New Mexico than had moved here. Why? Economic downturns and nonexistent job growth.

Civility was a regular subject. Deb Haaland, then Democratic Party chairwoman, said in 2016 that Martinez’s policy priorities were “exactly in line with the reckless and racist priorities of Trump and other Republican candidates.” Harold responded, “While it’s tough to argue Donald Trump is anything other than reckless and racist, pasting that label on Martinez is hardly civil.” He added, “Republicans say the same stupid stuff.”

When Steve Pearce announced his run for governor in 2017, Harold wrote: “I like Steve Pearce.” But he wondered if Pearce could win a statewide general election. “For sure he will be toast if he only presents voters the standard list of right-wing talking points.”

Harold’s last column was June 28, 2021. He stepped down for medical treatment and then decided to devote himself to a book on New Mexico’s uranium industry.

Nobody else covered the state’s economy in such depth and gusto.

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