Making Chorizo

February 16, 2015

Voices, Politics / Current Events

Geez it’s depressing watching the legislature. It’s never pretty. Bismarck supposedly said those who like sausages and laws shouldn’t watch either being made. And Dios sabe we’re all used to how ugly DC looks. But somehow, in New Mexico, you expect more humanity, more empathy, when the human issue is laid on the table. Sure, there will be different ideas of how to solve problems, but people will be more likely to understand them in terms of what it means to be a human trying to make it through the day. 

But this pack of Republicans, I dunno. 

For example, undocumented immigrants are a problem. I’m not sure from the rhetoric exactly why. Most of the ones I’ve seen are working hard trying to make a better life. But ok, say they are. What do we do about it? That’s easy. Take away their driver’s license so that everyday life becomes impossible.

New Mexico kids aren’t doing well in school, statistically speaking. Why not? I’m not sure. No one seems to have done the research to really know, but it’s pretty obvious it has to do with a lot more than just classroom drills and standardized test results. In this case, clearly a problem. What do we do? Punish the kid who can’t read by condemning him or her to third grade, I don’t know, maybe for life? Nothing else changes?

Or drug courts, about which I already wrote a letter to the New Mexican. I worked for decades in the substance abuse field and drug courts were one of the few effective innovations that came along, in 1989, in the Miami that Don Johnson made famous in the TV series. The courts worked better than prison and parole, and less expensively, to help the addicted make their way back into a saner life. So obviously that’s where to cut the budget, in New Mexico, where the heroin overdose rate is among the highest in the nation.

Then there's minimum wage. New Mexico pays 7.50 per hour, 25 cents more than the federal minimum. At 40 hours a week for 52 weeks that’s a gross of 15,600. Keep in mind, working all day every possible workday, no time off, no sick days, no holidays, probably no benefits. In return for a “right to work” law maybe the legislature would increase it to 8.00 per hour. By the same calculation that comes to 16,640. The federal poverty line for a family of two lies right in the middle, 15,930. Everyone knows about the increasing wealth divide, the decline in good jobs in spite of rising employment, and the decline of middle and working class incomes and benefits. How do we fix that? Give the horde of cheap labor another half a buck an hour.

There’s more, like protecting the payday loan sharks. But the question already comes clear. Is this who we are? Are these New Mexican values?  I don’t want to see a call here for either a private management firm or a new government program. It’s a call for a pragmatic argument to figure out how to solve problems rather than punish those who have them, and—as the old cliché goes—to walk a mile in their moccasins before claiming that a new piece of legislation doesn’t just make things worse. 


(Sausage image by Ryan Snyder / CC)

This piece was written by:

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Mike Agar

Mike Agar is an emeritus anthropology prof who works independently as Ethknoworks. He has been researching water governance in New Mexico for a few years and continues to climb the aquatic learning curve.

Contact Mike Agar

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