Democracy and lots of money are at stake for New Mexico in the upcoming census

Pop quiz. Which of the following statements are true? The census is constitutionally required in order to count every person in the U.S.
The census determines how much federal money—more than $6 billion—flows into New Mexico’s economy every year. New Mexicans are more at risk of not being counted by the census than are people in most every other state. The census is in jeopardy—and that puts New Mexicans in jeopardy.

UNM AD Eddie Nuñez offended by the five players’ actions

The University of New Mexico once again demonstrated it’s disconnect with the community of Albuquerque with its response to the protest against the continued practice of racial inequality in the United States. Athletic director Eddie Nuñez apologized on Tuesday to those who were offended by the five players’ actions referring to the taking of knee during the playing of the national anthem. He went on to say that UNM and the athletic department must earn back those fans’ trust. Elder Michael Jefferson is a minister at Procession Ministries in Albuquerque. Athletic director Eddie Nuñez’s apology only serves to further the marginalization of African-Americans, People of Color and the real issues of racial inequality and police brutality.

Coal. Guns. Freedom?

I saw these three words on a little sticker affixed, discordantly, to the window of a car in a small Colorado town. It struck me as funny at first: Coal and guns being elevated to the status of platonic ideals or, even more loftily, the refrain of a bad country song. All it was missing was Jesus, beer and Wrangler butts. A few days later, though, as I sat on a desert promontory overlooking northwestern New Mexico, the sticker didn’t seem so funny. As the sunrise spilled across sagebrush plains and irrigated cornfields, it also illuminated a narrow band of yellow-brown clouds on the horizon.

Lifeline for New Mexico: New international treaty bans nuclear weapons research and production

On Wednesday September 20 at the United Nations, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will open for signature. For signatories, this treaty prohibits nuclear weapons altogether. Its explicit goal is a universal norm against all forms of participation in the nuclear weapons industry. Designing, testing, producing, possessing, threatening with, deploying, and using nuclear weapons are to be banned. Crucially, assistance or encouragement in these illegal acts will also be banned, as will stationing of nuclear weapons, both of which impact U.S. nuclear alliances including NATO.

Don’t let Martinez politicize science education

Next Generation Science Standards focus on hands on, problem solving based learning rather than rote memorization and teaching to a test. They also equip students with the updated science information and skill sets needed to compete for 21st Century jobs. Unfortunately, Susana Martinez has failed over the last four years to put these new standards in our classrooms, even after her own staff professionals recommended them. That’s why we sponsored the Next Generation Science Standards bill in this past year’s legislative session. During one of the committee hearings, a former member of her staff admitted the reason for the governor’s decision.

New Mexicans can help bighorn sheep recovery

I stood motionless, afraid to even blink let alone breathe. His bulbous eye focused on the off-colored rock sitting before him. His 220-pound frame was sleek and well-defined but nothing compared to what it would be in a few months when he bulked up to begin defending his right to breed. The Rocky Mountain bighorn ram standing before me was already a fine specimen, he was soon going to be a fierce competitor as well. Imagining the thunderous clap resounding from his mighty horns as he beat down his rivals, I had little doubt he would maintain his bloodline this coming breeding season.

Social Security works, let’s make it stronger

On August 14, 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law.  Today, some 82 years later, the program is strong—and its protections more important than ever. By any measure, Social Security has been a resounding success.  Prior to its enactment, 50% of Americans above the age of 65 lived in poverty.  That number has dropped to 9.5%, thanks to Social Security.  The program provides critical support to retirees, widows, and widowers, as well as to younger families when a breadwinner has experienced a serious, work-ending disability or premature death. The program’s impact in New Mexico is difficult to overstate.  Statewide, hundreds of thousands of people receive Social Security benefits, including 267,000 retirees, 65,000 individuals with disabilities, and 30,000 children.  Without these benefits, 155,000 people—about 7.4% of our population—would fall below the poverty line. Social Security has proven to be remarkably reliable: in 82 years; it has never missed a payment.  It is also remarkably efficient:  With administrative expenses constituting less than 1% of total expenditures, Social Security puts even the most efficient private insurance to shame. Despite the program’s tremendous success, it is perennially under attack from the right.  Proponents of Social Security “reform” argue that it is necessary to cut benefits and raise the retirement age to avoid bankrupting the program.  Not so.  Social Security is expected to be able to pay all benefits and all associated administrative costs, in full and on time, without any changes whatsoever, through 2034.  Even after that the program will be able to meet 77% of its obligations through existing revenue streams.

The projected shortfall is modest—approximately 1% of GDP.  And eliminating that projected shortfall is simple:  fund Social Security the same way we fund Medicare.  Both programs are funded by payroll taxes.  But while the Medicare tax applies to all earned income, the Social Security tax applies only to the first $127,200 a worker earns in a year.  And while the Medicare tax applies to investment income for individuals earning over $200,000 a year, the Social Security tax does not apply to investment income at all.  Funding Social Security the way we fund Medicare would eliminate the impending shortfall and allow Social Security to remain strong for generations to come, without any increase in taxes on the middle class.

The Joe Arpaio I knew

For most of Joe Arpaio’s two-plus decades as Maricopa County sheriff, he directed operations from the top floor of a downtown Phoenix tower, worlds away from the jails overseen by rank and-file deputies. The executive offices wrapped around an expansive conference room, where I spent weeks in early 2008 with banker boxes full of arrest records, and hanging out with Arpaio himself, a politician who built his career on bashing immigrants long before the rise of Donald Trump. Back then, I was working for the East Valley Tribune, then a daily newspaper in the Phoenix area. I had filed a public records request for all documents from deputies’ immigration operations. Teamed with Paul Giblin, a fellow Tribune reporter, we were trying to figure out how the sheriff was enforcing immigration laws, and what effect their monomaniacal focus was having on regular police work — like solving crimes.

Trump needs to go

I’m Jewish.  I’m proud of being Jewish.  In fact, being the only Jewish member of the State House of Representatives is a special source of pride.  But there is always that concern — what if? When I was growing up and we would read about what had happened in Germany during World War II, my father would warn me — it could happen here.  I have never believed him.  Our institutions, our culture, our history and our people are too strong.  There will always be those who embrace hatred over understanding and love.

Sen. Mimi Stewart is indeed New Mexico’s most effective legislator

Senator Mimi Stewart of Albuquerque recently was named New Mexico’s single most effective legislator – indeed, one of the most effective lawmakers in any state – by FiscalNote. The national, non-partisan organization knows what it is talking about, representing many of the most successful Fortune 500 corporations. Most recipients of the award were Republicans. It was given on how successful a legislator is at sponsoring and steering legislation through each crucial step of the legislative process, all the way through enactment. This complex process requires strong bipartisan skills, and often goes completely unnoticed by the general public.