“New Mexico has some of the worst poverty in the nation” says Steve Pearce, candidate for Governor. The statistics from the US Census bureau are startling. Nearly 1 in 5 New Mexico households are below the poverty level. The only state that has a higher level of poverty is Mississippi.
Discussions about widespread poverty in New Mexico have been around for years. Lack of a strong economy, a weak state education system, a history of poverty on reservations and small towns, and a lack of business capital to promote local small businesses all get some of the blame. The problems existing across many fronts have been made worse as the national economy has modernized in the last few decades, shifting jobs to major metropolitan suburbs like Dallas, Denver and Phoenix.
Steve Pearce sees the challenge of poverty through his own family’s eyes. When Steve was born, his father was a failing sharecropper. His family had to work their way out of poverty. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, but it does mean that Pearce feels a moral obligation for government to stand alongside and support people so they can work their way out.
“Many of the people in poverty have lost their courage to fight their way out. They’ve been set back so many times because they don’t have the job skills and support. We can step in, with job skills so they can regain their courage.” Pearce says.
The value of earn success is a powerful emotion. Equipping men and women with the skills to get and hold a job puts them on the ladder of success to a better life. Pearce outlines; “We can’t expect people to get that first step by themselves. They’ve faced too many setbacks.”
Programs to help lift people out of poverty need to work on many fronts. Matching people with available jobs. Teaching people skills for job available around them. Apprenticeship programs for new graduates to learn skills and trades. Expanding rural jobs in agriculture, farming, oil and gas, and timber. All these are part of the network that needs to be established to help people. “There isn’t one silver bullet solution that magically fixes everything for everybody. It’s hard and you need a variety of plans to help people across New Mexico”
Steve Pearce tells the story of Fito. “He had tattoos up and down his arms. People thought looking at him that he didn’t carry himself with pride that he wasn’t worth hiring. But we took a chance on him and hired him, first cleaning floors, then moved up to the steam bay, cleaning petroleum off tools and equipment with a steam hose and on to driving a truck.
Months after being hired, he came to me and said, “I am over 40 years old, have been in and out of prison and this is the first job I have ever had.” A job transformed him. It allowed him to take pride in himself. It helped remind him that he was worthy of the success he could earn. From there he provided for himself and his family. We need to help more people like Fito.
Programs to train people in job skills are successful all around the country. We need to copy them in New Mexico. As Governor, Steve Pearce will come and stand alongside the people working to get out of poverty and say, “if you want out, I will be by our side. And we will deliver the jobs to make it happen and help you with the skills to take advantage of it.”