Clear thinking and straight talk from the top of a mountain.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Could This Happen Here?
Because of the large amounts of government revenue flowing into New Mexico, our state has always been insulated from extreme economic fluctuations. But, you've got to wonder with the federal government taking an ever increasing share of ownership in business and industry across the nation, from Wall Street to Main Street, if that might not all change.
Think about it. If banks, automobile companies, insurance conglomerates and healthcare providers are all federally owned, doesn't that change the whole dynamic? In the new U.S. economy, one which we are moving towards at an alarming pace, the government owns most major industries. Everything becomes a government job.
I know there are some of you reading this blog that thinks that's a good thing. But, I wonder if you've really thought about what that transition is going to look like. Of course, you don't have to imagine, you just have to look around the country at places where it's occurring:
Mercy James thought she had lost her rental property here to foreclosure. A date for a sheriff’s sale had been set, and notices about the foreclosure process were piling up in her mailbox.
Ms. James had the tenants move out, and soon her white house at the corner of Thomas and Maple Streets fell into the hands of looters and vandals, and then, into disrepair. Dejected and broke, Ms. James said she salvaged but a lesson from her loss.
So imagine her surprise when the City of South Bend contacted her recently, demanding that she resume maintenance on the property. The sheriff’s sale had been canceled at the last minute, leaving the property title — and a world of trouble — in her name.
And, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are whole cities that are now being abandoned. I can't help but think back to my days backpacking through Europe in the Summer of 1991. The Berlin Wall had fallen just two years earlier, and I was able to travel freely between East and West Berlin. The contrast was startling. I really hope we're not headed down that road.
There is a right way and a wrong way to do things. When it comes to passing laws, that right way is to introduce a bill at the legislative level and let those for and against a particular bill make their case. Then, if the bill gets passed, it is up to the Governor to sign or veto it. Pretty simple to understand, right?
In the absence of state legislation, New Mexico officials will continue to try to work with other Western Climate Initiative members to flesh out details of the cap-and-trade system they still hope to pursue, said Sarah Cottrell, Gov. Bill Richardson's energy and environment adviser.
The state will also look at other steps that can be taken administratively, without the need for legislation, Cottrell said.
This administration, more than any other, has repeatedly tried to undermine the legislative process when they have been unhappy with the outcome of a particular bill. The bill in question HB653: Mandates Green House Gas Reductions, was widely considered "a Governor's bill" which makes this maneuver even worse.
This is not the first time this administrative slight of hand has occurred, and I've given an example before of why this should give everyone pause regardless of whether you support or oppose the bill in question. That example is worth repeating again here:
Before the environmentalists among you leave comments that support the Governor's mandate over the constitutional process we still have for making laws. Let me put this in another context for you. Let's take an issue like abortion that pretty evenly divides the population. Should a pro-life Governor be able to appoint a regulatory body to regulate abortion?
How supportive would those who are pro-choice react if this body some evening at midnight decided to ban abortion throughout the state? Would you be okay with the pro-life Governor's edict that:
“The Ban Abortions Program is a key part of our state’s effort to reduce the murder of the unborn to avoid the worst effects of a misguided planet,” said Governor Conservative. “Today’s decision by the Life Improvement Board means New Mexico can implement the most stringent standards for protecting the sanctity of life in the country. New Mexico is again taking action, when Washington won’t.”
Right now, you are carrying a burden of about $184,000. That is each and every American's share of the US government's approximated $56.4 trillion in current obligations. And every year in which no down payments or reforms are made to these obligations, the total grows by $2 trillion to $3 trillion – or $6,600 to $10,000 per person – on autopilot.
When it comes to the Constitution and our country, you are the first line of defense. As Principle #9 states: The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.
Our elected officials may forget this at times, so it is up to us to remind those who we sent to Washington and to our local offices that we expect them to represent OUR interests.
And, new opportunities to show your dissatisfaction are arising each day. If you're worried about the direction in which we are headed than you need to do something. You need to make your voices heard. Same old same old is going to put us in a world of hurt - emphasis on world.
The first opening of the doors to the New Mexico Legislature's long-closed conference committee meetings might have provided a glimpse into the future — and some lawmakers say that's a good thing.
But whether Gov. Bill Richardson will sign a bill to routinely require the opening of those conference committees — where designated House and Senate members meet to hash out differences in legislation — is uncertain. A top Richardson aide said Tuesday the governor wants to carefully scrutinize several perceived "loopholes" in the bill.
Yup, this is definitely the source of the stench. Members of the legislature voted 99-8 to open the conference committee meetings to the public. That is pretty dang near close to unanimous. The loopholes giving the Governor pause:
One potential loophole identified by Gallegos was a provision in the bill that the Legislature could move to close conference committees by adopting a rule change — an action, unlike the pending legislation, that wouldn't require the executive branch's approval.
"It just seems like common sense that either you would open them or not," Gallegos said.
The rationale Mr. Gallegos puts forth is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. Let's be real. The VAST majority of legislators voted to open the committee meetings. If they suddenly did an about face and opted a rule change to close the meetings, they would be crucified in the media and it would be easy to defeat them when they were up for re-election. The campaign materials practically write themselves.
On top of all this, the absurdity of proposing that the reasoning for not signing open meetings into law is that at some point someone might try and close the meetings is beyond understanding. Every law can be changed by a future law. It happens ALL THE TIME. If you bought into the Governor's rationale, well, then nothing would ever be signed into law because it might be reversed a future date.
This just stinks like nothing more than a rancid pile of political manure. Okay, I'll admit it. I'm a little more annoyed than usual.
Let me see if I understand this correctly. Mayor Martin Chavez successfully fought to have term limits removed, so he can run for a third consecutive term as Mayor. We know that this year, the City of Albuquerque is looking at a $20 million dollar budget shortfall because of the Mayor's spending sprees. We know that in all likelihood that budget deficit could double over the next fiscal year. Finally, we know that a temporary transportation tax that barely passed when it was introduced is set to sunset. And, now we learn:
Mayor Martin Chávez says he will ask city councilors to send renewal of the quarter-cent transportation tax before voters this fall, even though it won't be in time to keep revenue from the tax flowing uninterrupted.
The 10-year tax expires at the end of this year. If approved by voters in October, however, the renewal couldn't take effect until July 1 because of state rules on when the tax rate can be changed.
Chávez said Monday that the city can absorb the break in revenue. That's because revenue from the tax has generally grown faster than expected over the years, building up a balance in the "transportation infrastructure" fund.
Okay, I must be missing something. I'm trying really hard here to understand how this campaign platform is going to work: "Re-elect Mayor Martin Chavez, he promises to raise your taxes."
This is the time of year when Saturday's are dedicated to soccer games. With our ten year old playing in Bernalillo and our nine year old playing in Albuquerque that means a lot of drive time. This in turn can lead to some interesting conversations.
Take for instance this last Saturday. I don't remember how it started (maybe something was reported on the radio), but the conversation turned to the death penalty. The kids didn't really understand at first what the death penalty was all about. My wife dutifully explained then the conversation went something like this...
Manny Aragon was one of New Mexico’s most powerful law makers and power brokers. A former Senate president, Aragon was this week convicted and given a 67 month sentence for lining his pockets and that of his co-conspiritors with millions in fraudulently billed state contracting money.
While his “iconic” status is mentioned and his long standing position as a “Senate leader” is dutifully chronicled, his status as a Democrat doesn’t seem to make the cut of a large portion of the stories on his sentencing. This is a common practice of the Old Media. The word “Democrat” never seems to escape the editor’s cut in a story about a criminal Democrat.
Finally got around to opening that streaming video coming from the Senate. I think I finally understand why so many folks were resistant to the idea of the streaming video. Today is the last day (wishful thinking) We're in the final days of the legislative session, and the great debate on the Senate floor is on Senator Cisco McSorley's Senate Memorial 30... a push to start growing hemp in New Mexico and a lot of talk about Happy Milk.
Well, it looks like another victory for Senator McSorley. SM 30 passed. The next bill they're debating is a Medical Marijuana Memorial.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, enacted Feb. 17, gives $250 each to recipients of Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, Railroad Retirement and some veterans benefits. The state Aging and Long-Term Services Department estimates that 400,000 New Mexicans qualify for the payment, about 382,000 of them Social Security and SSI beneficiaries. Nationally, 60 million people are expected to get the payment.
First, off it is kind of amazing to think that approximately 20% of New Mexico's population live off of Social Security and SSI. Factor in those now collecting unemployment, we're looking at 25% - one quarter of our state population living on the dole. Wow.
The payments will be sent to eligible people automatically. Beneficiaries who receive checks will receive an extra check for $250. Those who receive their benefits through direct deposit will get an extra deposit.
"For a third of all Social Security recipients, Social Security is the only source of income," said Stan Cooper, AARP New Mexico state director. "For those who just have to pay their bills every day, this is going to help with groceries or utilities or prescriptions."
Okay, so at least two thirds of those folks are not completely on the dole. I guess that should make me feel better. It doesn't, but I guess it should.
Taxpayers who received stimulus checks last year mostly saved or paid down debt. Legislative Finance Committee chief economist Norton Francis expects these payments to be spent, because "people now are running out of money."
Francis said New Mexico's economy generates about $60 billion a year in spending, so an additional $100 million probably won't register as more than a blip. Even so, he said, "it will have a positive effect." Recipients will most likely spend the money with local merchants in multiple, small purchases, he said. "They'll go out to eat and stuff like that."
With all due respect to Legislative Finance Committee chief economist Norton Francis, you're only half right. The $100 million won't register as more than a blip, if that, is a true statement. That people will take it and go out to eat with it is wrong. It doesn't even agree with your previous statement that people are running out of money.
When people are running out of money, they don't take a VERY, VERY small one time payment and spend it. Quite to the contrary, they take the money and hoard it.
Ouch. Two readers took me to task yesterday for a post I put up last Friday not buying into the Chicken Little global warming scare:
Come on Mario, you're not really dumb enough to believe that global warming means that every day will be warm do you? This is the stupidest meme that the GOP ever came up with. The day-to-day weather effect of global warming is a higher incidence in extreme weather and climate scientists have never claimed otherwise. Dan | 03.16.09 - 10:23 am | #
I think this display of scientific ignorance is made all the more alarming that he is home schooling. qofdisks | 03.16.09 - 12:33 pm | #
As I understand it most of the home schooling crowd is doing so specifically to keep their kids from being exposed to scientific theories they don't agree with.
They sure do crank out spelling bee champions(who have no social skills whatsoever)though! Dan | 03.16.09 - 1:54 pm | #
Now, that I got that off my chest I can deal with the hurtful part of the posts. Namely, attacking my parenting abilities - low blow folks. There's a lot that I've gotten wrong in this life so far, but I think that's what department in which I'm doing okay.
But, this is not all bad. There is some humor to be found in these attacks. First, let me set the record straight on two counts. My own kids are not home schooled in the truest sense of the word. My youngest attends Family School and my oldest will start going there next year for Middle School. Surprise, surprise, Family School is an APS Charter school. The second thing is that I don't credit for meeting the parental committment to this education partnership. That credit belongs to my wife.
Now, with that cleared up, let me state that's not what actually has me grinning. No, I've saved that for last. You see the problem with personally attacking me is that you run risk of looking like a total fool. Criticize my positions. That's fair game. Actually, it's encouraged. However, ad hominem attacks just make you look foolish.
For example... the comments were left as a response to the fact that my kids and several of their home schooling friends (some truly home schooled) went up to Santa Fe to serve as legislative pages for the day. But, as luck would have it, it was the second time this legislative session that my older son, a fifth grader at San Antonito Elementary (an APS school), had reason to go up to the Roundhouse.
His first trip, a couple of weeks earlier was for a rather special occasion. Wait for it.... See, every fifth grader in the school was invited to come up to the Legislature. Wait, it's coming.... They were invited up to be honored. Are you ready?... Honored for the fact that as fourth graders the year before, they scored the highest in state on the standardized science tests.
The Rio Grande Foundation has a very cool project going, NewMexicoVotes.org, that you ought to check out. Basically, they realized that there wasn't any easy way for the general public (you know, the taxpayers that fund all of the goings on in the state) to look up how legislators were voting on the issues. So, the Rio Grande Foundation took it upon themselves to provide this service.
I hopped on last night, and looked up a few of my favorite legislators and was amazed at the ease of use of this site. As I started clicking around, I was surprised to learn that the vast majority of legislators only miss a handful of votes.
Well, before I knew it, I had clicked through every single legislator, and I was surprised to find that one legisaltor to date had missed SIGNIFICANTLY more votes than all of the others. And, the winner is... State Representative Eleanor Chavez from District 13.
Representative Chavez has MISSED A WHOPPING 64 VOTES so far this session. Overall, that looks to be somewhere between triple and quadruple the number of average missed votes by a legislator. Now, I don't know Representative Eleanor Chavez. I've never met her. I don't wish her any ill will, and I don't live in her district.
But, here is the thing. Representative Eleanor Chavez is a freshman legislator. This is her first session up in Santa Fe. She only sits on two committees, so committee conflicts can't explain the missed votes. So, I can't help but wonder if Representative Eleanor Chavez is not up their to vote on behalf of her constituents, then what is she doing up there?
Update: Ok, I have egg on my face. Just heard that Representative Eleanor Chavez spent about five days in the hospital with a major gall blader problem. My bad. Being hospitalized is about the best excuse I can think of. for missing all of those votes. I hope you're feeling better Representative Chavez.
Update to the Update: Hmm, now I've been informed the Representative Miguel Garcia was out at least three days due to food poisoning. Although, not hospitalized, it is, nonetheless, a good reason to miss some votes. My apologies to Representative Garcia. Feel free to contact me, and, as restitution, I'll take you out for a meal that won't give you food poisoning.
Well, at this point, I guess I ought to just leave the missed votes alone (I'm starting to feel a little like Jim Cramer). Instead, I recommend everyone use NewMexicoVotes.org as it was intended. Namely, to see how you're legislator voted on the issues.
I will now crawl back under the rock from which I came, and hope no one gives my number to Jon Stewart.
Ever Wonder Why Young People Turn to the Daily Show
I've heard more than one person comment with disdain that young people (younger than me) get their news from the Daily Show. Watch Jon Stewart rip Jim Cramer a new one, and it's easy to understand the appeal...
My two boys and a group of homes school friends headed up to Santa Fe early this snowy late March morning (how's that global warming thing working out?) to serve as pages. Special thanks to Representative Taylor and Representative Gardner.
So, you folks up in the Roundhouse today reading this, you know who you are, make sure to go over and say, "Hi" and a few nice things about me.
Well, it looks like one New Mexico bank has figured out there are more traditional ways to return to profitability:
First State Bancorporation has decided federal help is unnecessary after all.
The Albuquerque-headquartered company announced Wednesday it has agreed to sell its Colorado bank branches to a South Dakota bank. The deal will generate $16 million in pre-tax profit and beef up First State's balance sheet enough to eliminate any need to accept help from the federal government's Troubled Asset Relief Program.
Wall Street applauded the deal. First State shares closed up 74 cents at $1.54, a 92.5 percent increase. The bank's shares have traded for as little as 60 cents in recent weeks.
First State, which does business as First Community Bank, will focus its attention on its New Mexico market, which First State CEO Michael R. Stanford said "has significant growth potential and continues to outperform the nation as a whole in terms of (low) unemployment."
Last year, the company abandoned the Utah market. It still operates in Arizona.
My hat's off to Mike Stanford and Pat Dee. It's nice to hear about a bank that's not trying to be nationalized. And, speaking of strategies to make a profit, it looks like Steve McKee of McKee Wallwork Cleveland has his own ideas of how to deal with slowdowns:
At a time when business leaders are struggling with how they can return their companies to health in the midst of the worst recession in the post-war period, When Growth Stalls: How It Happens, Why You’re Stuck and What to Do About It, written by BusinessWeek.com columnist and marketing expert Steve McKee, is a particularly relevant new book. When Growth Stalls (Jossey-Bass; March 2009; $27.95) explains how leaders can reclaim control of their companies at a time when layoffs at major corporations such as Microsoft, CitiGroup and GM have become everyday occurrences. Local news regarding Eclipse Aviation and Intel are classic examples, as well.
Over the past six years, McKee teamed with international research firm Decision Analyst to study some 700 corporations struggling with growth issues. Through a combination of quantitative analysis, personal consulting, and one-on-one interviews, McKee identified seven characteristics most commonly to blame for lingering poor performance. In recent months we have witnessed the effects of the external forces McKee identifies—recession, competition, and changing industry dynamics—on countless companies.
While economic events often bring companies down, it’s four subtle, internal factors that keep them down—while their leaders scratch their heads about why renewed growth remains elusive. When Growth Stalls presents McKee’s groundbreaking findings about these destructive internal dynamics.
Why I'm shamelessly plugging a competitor in the advertising business? Simple, Steve's a good guy and a smart businessman, and I've never viewed advertising as a zero sum game. He's doing a booksigning/meet the author event on Sunday, March 15, at 3pm at Bookworks, on Rio Grande. Go out and meet him.
I wonder if I can get a free book and a zero interest loan out of this post.
Just under a week ago, I went after White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs for going on the attack against those in the entertainment news industry - keyword:entertainment - because I felt it was beneath the Office of the President, and just not a smart PR strategy.
Well, it looks like some of those same entertainment news guys who were on the attack are now making THE EXACT SAME MISTAKE as Press Secretary Gibbs. They're trying to defend themselves against a comedian. If you haven't seen this clip from the Daily Show, you have to watch it:
Wall Street snapped out of its stupor and posted its best performance of the year Tuesday, finding a badly needed glimmer of optimism in the most unlikely of places: Citigroup is actually managing to turn a profit. The 379-point gain for the Dow Jones industrials, a rally of almost 6 percent, was a welcome break from almost uninterrupted selling. But just as almost nobody expects the banks to snap back to health, almost nobody thinks the market has hit its bottom.
"One day isn't going to make a trend," said Kurt Karl, chief U.S. economist at Swiss Re.
Citigroup Chief Executive Vikram Pandit said in a letter to employees that the bank had operated at a profit for the first two months of this year and was on track, based on historical trends, to make $8.3 billion for the quarter.
Pandit said the bank has had its best performance since the third quarter of 2007, the last time it booked a quarterly profit.
Wow, it's a miracle. Citigroup says they made $8.3 billion for the quarter. What a turnaround. Amazing. Astounding. I am in absolute awe of the business acumen here...
The government will own up to 36 percent of Citigroup's common shares under the terms of the deal announced yesterday, which is designed to reassure investors that the troubled New York bank can survive the deepening recession.
The deal does not involve new funding from taxpayers. The Treasury Department already has invested $45 billion in Citigroup. The company may repay up to $25 billion with common shares rather than cash. The government will surrender billions of dollars in dividend payments on its original investment, but taxpayers will benefit directly if the company's share price recovers in the wake of the federal aid.
Huh. Who would of thunk it? Citigroup received $45 billion and the government surrenders "billions of dollars in dividend payments" and lo and behold Citigroup has billions of dollars in "profit." Wow, what a surprise! That's it everybody ought to jump back into the market.
Did I mention the strings that were attached to $45 billion of taxpayer money?
A key condition is that Citigroup must also convince investors to accept its common shares. The company must place $27.5 billion in shares with private investors in order to place the maximum of $25 billion with the government. If the company succeeds in full, its current shareholders will be left with roughly a 26 percent stake.
Mission accomplished! And, Wall Street emerges from its stupor. Please, if you bought into this yesterday, I've got some shares of Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, MCI Worldcom and Enron I'd like to offer you at an amazing price.
For those of you, who think I'm just trying to rain on the parade. Let's take a trip down memory lane. Don't worry, we don't have to go too far. Just need to look at reports from three years ago:
Citigroup Inc., the nation’s largest financial institution, on Monday reported its first-quarter profit rose 4 percent, beating Wall Street projections due to record investment banking returns.
Ah, but that's not the best part. For that, we have to read further into the story:
Citigroup joined other Wall Street institutions in reporting its strongest quarter of merger and acquisition activity since 2000, helping to offset the impact of rising interest rates on other businesses.
“We are seeing the benefits from our investment spending, which helped generate record revenues in our international businesses and record revenues globally in our corporate and investment banking business,” said Chief Executive Charles Prince in a statement. “Strength in these franchises more than offset weaker results in our U.S. consumer business.”
Corporate and investment banking profit increased 21 percent to $7.28 billion from $6.04 billion a year earlier. Citigroup has been one of Wall Street’s leaders in global debt and equity underwriting during the quarter, and has consistently led in announced global merger and acquisition deals.
Citigroup’s results come one month after Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. announced blockbuster earnings for the quarter that ended in February, buoyed by record revenue from equity sales and trading.
Imagine that. Those great results came one month after similar blockbuster earnings were announced by Lehman Brothers. Well, I guess we can expect to see history repeat itself, and in the next few weeks Lehman Brothers will be announcing blockbuster earnings.
SB523: Federal Income Deductions as State Income (Tax on Tax) sponsored by Sen. Otiz y Pino. This bill will require individual income taxpayers who itemize deductions on their federal return to add back any state and local taxes included in their itemized deductions in determining taxable income for the state income tax. Basically requiring taxpayers to pay a tax on tax.
Good to see the nice folks up in Santa Fe looking out for us.
I was on the phone with a friend, and I predicted as a nation we could hit 10% unemployment before we hit the bottom. A bottom I don't expect us to hit until after the 4th Quarter of 2009. This year's retail holiday season could be one that shrinks for the first time in a long time, and my guess is that next year will be worse.
Incidentally, during the same phone conversation I told my friend I expected we would see a 5,000 Dow Jone Industrial Average. He just called me last week to say, "Looks like you were right again." Have you seen this in the Wall Street Journal?
Dow 5000? There's a Case for It
Just how low can stocks go?
Despite Friday's small gain, the Dow Jones Industrial Average marked its fourth consecutive week of losses as it tumbled through the 7000-point mark and spiraled to new 12-year lows. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index is trading below 700 for the first time since 1996.
As earnings estimates are ratcheted down and hopes for a quick economic fix fade, the once-inconceivable notion of returning to Dow 5000 or S&P 500 at 500 looks a little less far-fetched.
Wells Fargo, a conference sponsor, expects the United States to lose 5.5 million jobs before the economy recovers in the second half of 2009, making this the worst recession since the 1930s. The United States lost about 2 million jobs in 2008.
Yeah, I didn't see us making a recovery in the second half of 2009 last year, and I still don't see it happening this year. I think I gave a pretty solid rationale as to why in January:
They're not painting a pretty picture, but they're more optimistic than I am. See, I don't think it matters how much money the government throws at the economy over the next two years. We're not going to see a rebound until 2012. Heck, we're not even going to hit bottom until second quarter of 2009.
Why? Simple, people are scared, and more importantly, they are debt laden. So, if they start earning more or receiving tax rebates, they are going to either save them, or use them to pay down debt. The result of this is the we will continue to see a decline in consumer spending.
By the third quarter of 2009, expect all of those people laid off in 2008 to see the end of their unemployment benefits and severance packages. That's when the real hurt will begin. The fourth quarter holiday season of this new year will significantly top the losses of this last one, and in the first two quarters of 2010, we will see even greater layoffs and bankruptcies.
BillionaireWarren Buffett said unemployment will likely climb a lot higher depending upon how effective the nation's policies are, but he remains optimistic over the long term.
Buffett said the nation's leaders need to support President Barack Obama's efforts to repair the economy because fear is dominating Americans' behavior and the economy has basically followed the worst-case scenario he envisioned.
"It's fallen off a cliff," Buffett said Monday during a live appearance on CNBC. "Not only has the economy slowed down a lot, but people have really changed their habits like I haven't seen."
Now, it is true that none of these premonitions have insulated me from the economic meltdown. However, I learned long ago to roll with the punches. As such, I wanted to put it out there that, for a generous fee, I can make myself available for guest a lecturer series on the U.S. economy. I will also entertain any offers for a tenured position at a University.
The U.S. economy continued to hemorrhage jobs in February, bringing total job losses over the last six months to more than 3.3 million, and taking the unemployment rate to its highest level in 25 years.
The government reported Friday that employers slashed 651,000 jobs in February, down from a revised loss of 655,000 jobs in January. December's loss was also revised higher to a loss of 681,000 jobs, a 59-year high for losses in one month.
Yet, the Albuquerque Journal has an article on a poll with the headline, Poll Shows Support for School Tax. For the life of me, I can't imagine who in their right mind would want two tax increase under these circumstances:
Proponents of a proposed new public school funding formula hope that results from a new poll will breathe life back into legislation stalled in a House committee.
The poll, conducted this week, found that 59 percent of registered voters surveyed statewide support a gross-receipts tax increase to pay for the new formula. The formula would add about $360 million to school budgets.
Amazing, a majority of registered voters surveyed support two tax increases. Wait a minute. Let me look at that again. Hmm, something's not right. Oh, I see.
Voters weren't asked about a proposed increase in personal income taxes, which is another component of the house bill.
Nice. A poll that only asks about one part of the proposed tax increases. Isn't that convenient. Funny how they didn't think to poll whether folks would support increasing personal income taxes on everyone in the state of New Mexico earning under $8 an hour.
What's even more interesting is the actual breakdown of those strongly supporting this half truth:
Of those polled, 23 percent strongly oppose the measure while 13 percent somewhat oppose it. Strongly supporting it were 36 percent, and somewhat supporting it were 23 percent.
Now that's interesting... only 36% strongly support it. I wonder how many of those somewhat supporting would drop if you asked them how they felt about the tax increase if they knew it was only part of the equation? I wonder how many of those somewhat supporting the gross receipts tax increase would still support it if you helped them do the math, and pointed out that the tax increase proposed would increase the percentage they pay in taxes by more than 10%.
If I were legislator considering this bill, I wouldn't let this polling change my mind. When it come time for re-election, you can be sure that the facts around this tax release will be presented in a lot more factual light. The 36% that strongly support it may still vote for you, but last I checked, that wasn't even close to a majority.
I've got to admit that I'm pretty amused by what is going with the White House, and their outspoken critics in the media. I don't think I've ever seen it happen before, and my gut reaction is that it seems to be beneath the office of the President.
It appears that the White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has decided that the best way to deal with critics in the entertainment news industry is to launch ad hominem attacks. From a PR standpoint, I'm not really sure this is an altogether smart strategic tactic. There's an old adage advising against picking fights with those who buy "ink by the barrel." Yet, that is precisely what is going on over the last few weeks.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs jumped at the chance Friday to rebuke a CNBC reporter whose attack on President Barack Obama’s anti-foreclosure plan caught fire on the Internet.
Gibbs took on CNBC’s Rick Santelli in unusually personal terms after being asked a question about Santelli’s bracing critique during a regular White House briefing.
I’ve watched Mr. Santelli on cable the past 24 hours or so. I’m not entirely sure where Mr. Santelli lives or in what house he lives but the American people are struggling every day to meet their mortgages, stay in their jobs, pay their bills, send their kids to school,” Gibbs said.
CBS News: Gibbs, pictured below, said Limbaugh "doubled down on what he said in January in wishing and hoping for economic failure in this country" during a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference this weekend.
The speech, Gibbs told reporters, appeared to be "quite popular at the room in which he spoke."
Limbaugh's dead right. I am a fight-not-flight guy, so I was on my hackles when I heard White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs' answer to a question about my pointed criticism of the president on multiple venues, including the Today Show.
"I'm not entirely sure what he's pointing to to make some of the statements," Gibbs said about my point that President Obama's budget may be one of the great wealth destroyers of all time. "And you can go back and look at any number of statements he's made in the past about the economy and wonder where some of the backup for those are, too."
This is all a bit ridiculous. What makes this even sillier is the fact that the people he is attacking are entertainers. Sure, they're programs are on news stations, but let's be real. They are in the entertainment industry. The news of the day, especially that which is viewed on these channels, is covered in about 20 minutes. The rest of the time is well meant to kept you entertained long enough to hear the commercials. Period, that's it.
The White House Press Secretary is going after these folks is just absurd. It would be right up their with attacking Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Just doesn't make any sense.
City Hall is lifting a ban on using public campaign funds to purchase alcohol.
City Clerk Randy Autio and others in the administration determined last month that the alcohol prohibition is illegal, based on language in the voter-approved "Open and Ethical Elections Code." The code makes no mention of alcohol, Autio said, and the city cannot enact a ban without authority to do so.
Ok, the way I understand it, we just need to collect about $5 per person from 3,500 (that works out to $17,500), and the the people of Albuquerque will fork over:
Under public financing this year, mayoral candidates are expected to receive about $328,000 to spend on their campaigns.
Dang, consider me converted. This taxpayer funded party idea sounds good to me. Let's find someone to run for Mayor and throw one killer party! My 40th is in April, and money is a little tight this year to throw a big bash campaign rally, but I think I just found the solution.
Morris, a disabled veteran who doesn't drink, was talking to people sitting near him at the restaurant when several men began yelling at him for talking to their girlfriends, family members told the Daily Times.
"My husband is the type of guy who never sees a stranger. If you're sitting in the table next to him, you're going to be talked to," the victim's wife, Kathleen Morris, told the paper.
When Morris and his wife tried to leave the restaurant following the altercation, the men followed him outside, the Daily Times said.
"He said, 'Just leave me alone, all I want to do is go home,'" Kathleen Morris said. "The guy that was in his periphery hit him in the temple and knocked him out., and all three or four of the young males started kicking him in the head, in the stomach, they stomped his hands, they took kidney shots."
As a reminder, this bill proposes the gross receipt tax rate (GRT) be increased by .5%. In addition the bill also proposes an increase in the personal income tax rate (PIT). The PIT would increase in tax year 2010 from 4.9 percent to 6 percent for married persons filing jointly with taxable income of at least $24,000 and for single persons with taxable income of at least $16,000. The additional revenue would be earmarked for public education.
That's right this one bill raises not one, but two taxes - a double whammy. And, before you folks jump in and say it's about time rich people invest in education, please review just who is getting hit with higher taxes right now.
The PIT is being raised on folks making $16,000 per year or more. That comes out to an hourly rate of less than $7.75. Of course, these same people are going to be hit with higher gross receipts taxes if this bill goes through. Talk about hitting people when they're down.
Among those speaking against the measures was Terri Cole, president and CEO of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce.
Cole said the proposed funding formula doesn't contain enough accountability. She said the amount the state spends on public education has doubled over the past 12 years to $2.4 billion, yet the dropout rate remains high. She noted that the number of students has, for the most part, remained flat during that time.
More evidence was provided recently b the findings of the American Legislative Exchange Council, the limited government-oriented national legislative umbrella organization based in Washington, DC.
That organization's recent study, the 15th edition of their "Report Card on American Education," shows that New Mexico's K-12 government-run education system is not only behind other states, but is falling further behind as time passes. According to the New Mexico-specific pages of the study which can be found here, The Land of Enchantment has fallen from 43rd to 48th since 1998 in ALEC's overall ranking. This, despite a more rapid increase in per-pupil spending than was found in other states (42% to 36.6%).
Of course, I left the best part for last. The rationale for introducing these increased regressive taxes on the poorest amongst us is to fund a new public school funding formula to help make up for a supposed underfunding for schools. The thing is that the new funding formula bill got tabled. This has spurred speculation that the new INCREASE YOUR TAXES BILL will be amended to remove the language to use the revenue for education and instead be used as a revenue generator the budget.
Yeah, that's just what we need during a time of economic crisis - more taxes.
I was born a New Yorker and have lived in more places than I can count on one hand. My wanderings included a total of more than two years in Ecuador and nine years in California. The latter being significant as that is where I met the love of my life. Of course, she determined that our progeny would be the tenth generation of her family to be raised in New Mexico. So, this is where my roots will grow long.