COMMENTARY: “I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun.” – Thomas Edison
The New Mexico Legislature has ended and there are people in our state who were wanting those politicians to change the sad plight of New Mexico, which is last in almost every category in our nation. They are disappointed that despite the politician promises at election time New Mexico remains poor.
If past performance is a predictor of future performance it is a good bet that New Mexico 10 years from now will still be last in most categories. Why? Because the Legislature does not have a magic wand to wave over the Land of Enchantment to bring wealth to every citizen.
Yes, legislation can help citizens who want to lift themselves out of poverty. Legislation can make New Mexico more attractive for businesses. But the heavy lifting of changing the fortunes of New Mexico must be done by the citizens themselves.
It starts with a work culture. New Mexico suffers from a culture of not working. Right now many New Mexicans are not working instead of working. The poverty programs in our state make it hard to take a job for pay when the pay will nullify benefits. And the state does nothing since the poverty programs employ many people and give power to the leaders.
Question: When do most people who get a job do so? The week after their unemployment benefits end. Or, and this is important: They get a job almost immediately after losing a job. One or the other. I’m painting with a large brush, but we have two cultures.
One says “I work proudly.” The other rides government programs until they end and then despairs. Those who go for a year between jobs while milking the system find it hard to get a job when benefits run out.
However, some sectors such as the agriculture industry are full of proud workers. If they do not like a job they hunt another before moving on. The oil and gas industry has men and women who do not watch the clock — they get the job done.
But as an employer myself and manager of hundreds of workers over the last 40 years I find many young people are not taught to work. No, not that you need a 13/16 socket to take out a spark plug. They do not know you must be on time always. In fact, be five minutes early so if traffic snarls you are not late.
This all starts in public schools, which should not propagandize but should provide many examples of enjoying work. The magic wand, if you want to think of it as such, is attitude. Thomas Edison looked forward to going to work each day because he liked to work. Those people who enjoy being employed are important.
Many people in New Mexico think that wealth comes from the government and all you have to do is have one of your relatives get elected to some office and the wealth truck will make regular deliveries. And in our crony, corrupt state that is more true than not. But it cannot and will not last.
What happens to these people when their relative is caught and cannot provide any more loot? Then they turn to drugs for quick cash. Some New Mexicans have no Social Security benefits because they never have worked officially.
The attitude that is important is to find things about the job that prepare you for the next job. We hear so much about minimum-wage jobs but most people only make the minimum wage for a few months and then are promoted beyond it if they apply themselves.
If it is easier to float on the government programs than actually go to work this will come to the end at some point. At some point the problems of our budget and debt will intrude. We are spending money that we do not have.
Who will ride out the hard times the best? Those who can hunker down working at any job and being satisfied with making money rather than having it given to them. They have the magic wand of work.
Michael Swickard is a former radio talk show host and has been a columnist for 30 years in a number of New Mexico newspapers.