As state riddled with problems, focus is on the nation

I don’t think I’m alone in being more concerned about our nation than our state these days.

Sure, New Mexico is riddled with problems. Our unemployment rate is the one of highest in the nation. Our poverty rate is one of the worst. And our schools—the greatest hope we have for a better future—are either underperforming or falling apart (see Anton Chico, where a new school building is cracking up, literally).

It’s not that there’s nothing that concerns us locally or around the state, it’s just that the larger world seems more intrusive these days. North Korea is deadly serious about having a nuclear bomb and we can’t seem to stop it. Super-sized hurricanes have devastated three regions of our country. And we just had a super-sized mass shooting, as if we needed one more slaughter to convince us that we must have some reasonable gun control measures in place.

Maybe it has to hit close to home to really wake us up. When President Donald Trump honed in on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the issue was personal for about 8,000 people in New Mexico, and their families. That issue certainly got our attention, as is obvious by the outcry from around the state.

And when Congress almost dumped the Affordable Care Act, which has been a benefit to thousands of New Mexicans, the citizenry woke up for that one too. Expanding Medicaid in our state has been a lifesaver for a lot of people, so when the Republicans tried to make good on their seven-year promise to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, a lot of New Mexicans joined with others around the nation to put a human face on the issue and derail its passage.

Meanwhile, Susana Martinez is coasting into her final year as governor, less popular than she used to be and seemingly burned out. Political veterans and wannabes alike are jockeying for a chance to replace her, but what’s really on the minds of New Mexicans these days isn’t next year’s election, but this year’s president.

When Donald Trump made a bigger deal out of NFL players kneeling for the national anthem, it became a bigger deal here too. After one of New Mexico’s favorite teams, the Dallas Cowboys, knelled in unison following Trump’s tweets, it seemed that everyone had an opinion about whether to stand, sit, kneel or boycott. A few New Mexico high school and college football players began to take a knee too. What started as a protest has become more of an act of defiance, both here and around the nation, against our meddling, divisive president.

Now, in our nation’s capital, Republicans are promising to get on with tax reform, something else they’ve also been promising to “fix” if only they had the votes. Well, they’ve got the power now.

We’ll see if the average New Mexican will give a flip about the noise surrounding this tax issue, but I’m betting they will. After all, it’s a pocketbook issue, particularly for the middle class.

New Mexico has long been known as “the land of mañana,” but now that “tomorrow” is tenuous at best, today takes on much more importance. We can’t let the national issues pass us by, lest we wake up tomorrow with a big, big mess on our hands.

Besides, the nation’s troubles are ours as well. Washington’s dysfunction seems to have trickled down to Santa Fe, where the governor and lawmakers can’t get a budget passed without a special session. Meanwhile, we agonize over our schools and our children’s welfare and then we practically invent new ways to fail them.

New Mexico is good at throwing money at a problem by feeding a bloated state government, instead of figuring out ways to streamline services and encourage enterprise. Thank goodness we have all that federal money coming into our state, or else we’d really be in trouble.

Maybe that’s why New Mexicans are so plugged into the national issues—we’re so heavily dependent on Uncle Sam’s purse strings.

Of course, New Mexico’s concern about this nation’s problems isn’t altogether about money. Love of country is also front-and-center, and in that way, we’re no different than any other state.

The Land of Enchantment has its own stack of problems but, for better or worse, we’re used to them. The nation, however, seems to be coming apart at the seams—and that’s a real wakeup call. I’m sure paying attention, and I’ll bet you are too.

Tom McDonald is editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchanges. He can be reached at tmcdonald@gazettemediaservices.com.

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