Poverty Report Tells Troubling Story of Life in New Mexico
September 20, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A recent Census Bureau report shows middle incomes down, upper incomes increasing and lower incomes pretty much unchanged.
It's a trend that concerns Ona Porter, president and chief executive of Prosperity Works, who says the situation represents a foreclosure on the future of New Mexico's families and children.
"The opportunities for economic security and growth are clearly not present in our current structure."
Porter says a fundamental part of the problem is leadership.
"The way that leadership behaves is as if there is a percentage of our population that is expendable and always will be, as opposed to all people as important and valuable resources to the future of our state."
We cannot treat people as "the other," Porter says, adding that we cannot afford to write off part of our population as if it doesn't matter what their future is.
New Mexico has the nation's third-highest level of poverty, Porter says, following Mississippi and Arizona. She says the job growth areas now are entry level, without basic benefits, often coming from out-of-state companies. The new jobs often exploit unemployed and marginal workers, she says, producing more pockets of poverty without providing the resources necessary to address the problems created by such circumstances.
"We have to adopt a principled position around fair wages for fair work. We need to focus on all jobs being good jobs, a fair wage, and opportunities for people to move ahead."
Porter says New Mexico needs to concentrate on building a workforce capable of participating in the new economies and then grow its industries around that.
Porter offers a personal story to illustrate what can happen when part of the population is left without opportunities.
"I just had very dear friends who were killed in a head-on automobile accident by somebody who was driving on a suspended license on her way to see her boyfriend in jail. Uninsured."
Porter says this tragic situation epitomizes the idea that we are all affected by one another.
The report is online at census.gov.