Photo via Flickr by Erik (HASH) Hersman

The presidential race and the politics of division

There were much more than just candidates for president on the ballot this year. The very values upon which this country was founded were on the ballot. Values like inclusion, equality of opportunity, and equal protection under the law. For the winning candidate, this presidential campaign was not about public policy, partisanship or even personality. It was about fear.

Photo Credit: Reinis Traidas cc

The futility of New Mexico’s Jobs Council

New Mexicans are desperate for some good economic news (see the grasping for straws over the Facebook “success”). Paul Gessing is the president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, a libertarian-oriented think tank based in New Mexico. Unfortunately, the path forward involves making hard and politically-difficult moves that involve standing up to special interest groups whether they be the unions, the film industry, or business advocates for more “corporate welfare” like LEDA and JTIP (to name just a few). Unfortunately, the free market path to reform isn’t going to be the first choice of a Council stocked with dozens of politicians and interest group representatives. So, according to today’s Albuquerque Journal, here is what they came up with followed by a brief statement added by the author:

Expanding broadband access: This CAN be done by removing regulatory barriers, but we know they are really looking for tax dollars (that we don’t have);

Marketing New Mexico to retirees: An obvious idea because retirees don’t NEED jobs and New Mexico has nice weather.

Monica Youngblood (r) and expert witnesses on death penalty reinstatement take a selfie before debate on the bill during the 2016 special session.

The House’s surreal, marathon floor session highlights the end of the special session

The final hours of  the 2016 special session were among the most surreal I’ve spent at the Roundhouse. The strangeness peaked just before 12:45 a.m. The House sent a bill to slash the budget back to the Senate, with some changes after hours of debate. After just minutes of discussion, a tax package went from the House over to the Senate. Then, the House kept going—for the rest of the night. Let’s back up.

The New Mexico State Capitol, or Roundhouse, via Wikicommons.

Let’s be clear: Governor Martinez put us in this mess

As lawmakers head to the roundhouse to address our state’s budget woes, the question keeps coming up: how did we get here? How did our state come to a place where we face a deficits of half a billion dollars? Juan Sanchez III is the  Vice Chairman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico
Several issues combined to create the perfect storm. Our state suffers from a significant dip in oil prices, a shrinking workforce, and severe mismanagement in the Governor’s office. Let’s be clear—if Governor Martinez had made the economy the focus of her administration, we would not be in this mess. New Mexico depends heavily on revenues from oil and gas.


Enough with the happy talk about New Mexico’s economy

Sometimes it seems that New Mexico’s economic-development cheerleaders live in an alternate reality. We all want New Mexico to be prosperous and wealthy, but anyone who believes that the state’s economy is doing well these days is simply not paying attention. Paul Gessing is the president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, a libertarian-oriented think tank based in New Mexico. Gary Tonjes of Albuquerque Economic Development, writing in the Albuquerque Journal, touted New Mexico’s “business-friendly” environment, including corporate-welfare programs like LEDA and JTIP and their role in attracting business. He says that the Facebook win “sends a message to other employers that this is a great place for business.”

Unfortunately, the reality is far different:

As of August, New Mexico’s 6.6 percent unemployment rate is the second highest in the nation;

From 2004 to 2015, during the era of the “High Wages Jobs Tax Credit,” real median hourly earnings in New Mexico grew by less than a quarter;

According to Forbes’s “Best States for Business” 2016 report, neighboring Utah, Colorado, and Texas rank 1st, 5th, and 6th, respectively, while New Mexico is 47th;

CNBC has another “Top States for Business” index.

Donald Trump at Arizona rally in March, 2016. Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore cc

Donald Trump and the return of seditious libel

In 1733, New York printer John Peter Zenger began publishing the eighth newspaper in the American colonies, and the first willing to venture criticism of the government. The New-York Weekly Journal was the second paper in a city of 10,000 or so people, 1700 of them slaves. As we are reminded in Richard Kluger’s comprehensive new book, “Indelible Ink,” the first full-length account of Zenger’s travails, by 1735, Zenger (and the likely editor of his paper, James Alexander) had so offended Britain’s royal governor of New York and New Jersey, William Cosby, that Cosby brought suit against Zenger for seditious libel—the crime of criticizing the government. Under the law then in effect in Britain and its colonies, truth was not a defense to this charge. The leading legal treatise of the day explained that “since the greater appearance there is of truth in any malicious invective, so much the more provoking it is.”

Rory Rank

Editorial should have looked at data on longer prison sentences

The Albuquerque Journal’s editorial calling for tougher criminal penalties has crystallized its primary objective: the defeat of Democrats in the New Mexico Legislature.  It is premised on an emotional, misdirected response to recent, horrific tragedies.  It is also designed to deflect attention from the causes of these tragedies and inaccurately portray the motivation and character of Senate Democrats at the polls, just one month before voting begins.  They have been a target of the Journal editorial writers before, but this time the Journal’s political and personal assassination attempt has exceeded the bounds of journalistic integrity and fair comment. Rory Rank is an attorney from Las Cruces.

Bag o Cash

Time to put budget cards on the table

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold – William Butler Yeats

New Mexico’s budget is in crisis and like a mushroom the public is being kept in the dark and fed…
Paul Gessing is the president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, a libertarian-oriented think tank based in New Mexico. The Rio Grande Foundation has been out in front on the budget issue discussing it since the 2016 legislative session concluded. We have applauded Gov. Martinez for pledging not to raise taxes and have put forth a variety of budget cuts that would more than fill the current $600 million deficit. Unfortunately, rather than having an open and honest discussion about the difficult decisions facing our state, both sides seem more content to sling mud and bury their heads in the sand. The reality is that New Mexico government is far too big.

Courtesy photo

In solidarity with Standing Rock

Over the weekend my family along with other Aztec Dancers from across the US made our way to Standing Rock Reservation to show our solidarity with Dakota relatives who are taking a stand against a crude oil pipeline that will (and has already) cut across their sacred land and river. We were there not only to offer our support through sacred dance, but some of us undertook the long journey to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota because we are immersed in our own battles to protect water here in New Mexico. That was the driving force for many of the other People who were there as well – indigenous People and communities across the nation facing an onslaught of water battles. It is vital to understand that what is happening in Standing Rock is not just a get together, it is a serious demonstration of solidarity among People who understand that communities and their livelihood are being threatened (again). Across the U.S. and the globe, the Water Wars are waging on and what is happening in Standing Rock is yet another blatant in-your-face example of corporations and monied interests coming into communities to take for the sake of continued profit.

Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, speaking while Sens. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, (l) and Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe (r) look on.

State needs responsible plan to fix budget crisis

New Mexico is facing a budget crisis of historic proportions, one that must be dealt with now, not later. The state budget crisis requires responsible cuts and reliable revenue sources. Michael Padilla is a Democratic state senator who represents the 14th district in New Mexico. Padilla is the Senate Majority Whip. For reasons that are difficult to fathom, the Governor and her Republican allies in the House of Representatives have been downplaying the seriousness of the budget crisis.