Here comes the bad part. When elected government officials raise taxes, we at least have an opportunity to vote them out of office the next election cycle. The same is not true for government created Authorities. These folks are appointed, not elected, so the taxpayer has no recourse whatsoever.
Now, enclosed in your most recent water bill from the government-controlled Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Authority, “customers” of the authority are receiving the following notices alerting them to the 1/4 cent transportation tax on the ballot with language that clearly endorses the tax. Check out both sides of the insert below:
Nothing like making taxpayers pay to promote additional taxes on taxpayers. Angry and want to take it out on someone? Well, you can't take it out on the folks running the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Authority because the state conveniently set it up so that these people are appointed and not elected to this fee increasing non-accountable entity.
But, don't bottle up that anger. Redirect it toward something useful. Vote one of the biggest proponents of this tax increase out of office - Mayor Marty Chavez. You know, the guy who has been trying for years to force this tax increase on the public in order to build his trolley on Central.
In fact, Mayor Marty Chavez is on the Governing Board of the organization, which means he approved this misuse of funds. Make no mistake, a water authority spending your money to push a transportation tax to build a trolley is a misuse funds. Just another example of politics as usual from Mayor Marty.
It's a tight race for mayor of Albuquerque, but Richard Berry appeared to have a slight edge over three-term incumbent Martin Chávez 12 days before the Oct. 6 election, a Journal Poll found.
Richard Romero was a close third in the poll, just two percentage points behind Chávez.
Thirty-one percent of the registered, likely voters polled last week supported Berry, 26 percent chose Chávez and 24 percent sided with Romero. Nineteen percent were undecided.
The race clearly isn't over yet, said Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc., which conducted the poll.
Now, my surprise does not come as a result that more voters think RJ Berry would make a better mayor than politics as usual Mayor Marty Chavez. I've always been a fan of RJ Berry's [disclosure: contributed to RJ Berry campaign in the past]. But, I was convinced that the limits imposed on the campaign as a result of public financing would provide a benefit for the incumbent that would be insurmountable.
This still may be the case. However, I do think there is something else going on here. A lot has already be written about the way that the two Democratic candidates in the race are splitting the vote and that the politics as usual incumbent is bleeding conservative votes to... well, to the more conservative candidate. But, I think there is something more going on here.
In 2008, incumbents were swept out of office. Sure, it was a huge Democratic sweep. But, it was just as much an anti-incumbent sweep. People wanted new blood. They voted for "change."
The Obama administration and the Democrats now in control of the Congress misunderstood this vote for change to mean the country was endorsing a shift to the left and bigger government programs. This wasn't and isn't the case at all. The vast majority of Americans are not extremist - neither right nor left. Instead, they are firmly planted in the center.
So, the change they were voting for was against the incumbents, and the direction in which they were taking our country, which ironically enough was towards bigger government programs. Now, it seems to me that the anti-incumbent sentiment has not subsided. It is still alive and well.
If the 12-year mayor rightly gets voted out of office, it should serve as a warning to the other incumbents running for office in 2010. Our budgets are in the red. Our school systems are failing. Everyday more of our family, friends and neighbors are losing their jobs and their homes while big government rewards big business with taxpayers funds.
It's going to be harder and harder for the incumbents to convince folks they're part of the solution when the the truth is that they created the problem.
When I watched the televised mayoral debate four years ago, I couldn't help but notice how more polished in front of the camera Mayor Marty Chavez was than his opponents at the time. Back then, he knew that the audience that counted was made up of those watching the debate on small screens from the comfort of their homes. In other words, he talked to the camera; whereas, his opponents were talking to the moderators.
Surprisingly, this was not the case in last night's debate.
Both Richard Romero and RJ Berry gave more polished and comfortable performances last night than the incumbent mayor. And, let's face it, that's what we're talking about in televised debates - performances. Whereas Mayor Chavez spent most of the night avoiding looking directly at the camera and struggling to defend his record, Richard Romero and RJ Berry looked comfortable, prepared and forward looking.
Watch the video, and you'll see what I mean. The incumbent mayor spends way more time than his opponents speaking to the moderators. At times, he also seems to be thinly veiling his anger at being held accountable for his fiscally unsound management of the city over all of these years.
Bottom line, last night's debate didn't nothing to help the Mayor's campaign. For those of us who have had enough of politics as usual, it showed that there are more qualified candidates for the leadership position.
The surveillance video of Bode Aviation's negotiations with the City of Albuquerque [hat tip: Peter St. Cyr], and the role Mayor Martin Chavez plays "messing with" contracts is unnerving at the least. Watch the video, and then ask yourself, "How does this guy get elected term after term?"
Why isn't this more front and center in the campaign? Oh right, publicly funded campaigns don't allow the campaigns enough resources to get the truth out. Explain to me again how this has improved the process?
Ever wonder why we have an economic crisis in New Mexico? Sure, it has to do with the spending spree of the Richardson Administration and the rubber-stamping legislature. But, the truth is that's only one part of the equation. Corruption and unethical conduct are undoubtedly costing the taxpayers million annually as well.
I'm not just talking about pay to play politics that have seen tens of millions in taxpayer "investment" funds gp up in smoke. I'm thinking about the low level corruption that is costing us a half million here and half a million there.
Block Jr. told the Santa Fe New Mexican he won’t resign from his $90,000-a-year job representing northern New Mexico on the powerful regulatory board.
“I’m elected, I’m here, I’m not going anywhere,” he was quoted as saying before closing his office door to the reporter.
The New Mexican broke the story via Twitter earlier today.
The charges stem from Block Jr.’s publicly funded campaign for office last year. According to the Albuquerque Journal, Block, who is in his first term on the PRC, paid a band to play at a rally that never took place. Block later had to pay a fine and return $10,000 of the more than $100,000 in taxpayer money he received for his campaign after admitting to filing false reports.
A Complaint to the Secretary of State: On September 24, campaign finance advocacy group Common Cause issued a formal complaint to the New Mexico Secretary of State regarding Block's apparent violations of the Voter Action Act in San Miguel county.
Attorney General Involvement: On September 27, the Attorney General stated that an investigation into Block Jr. lying about finances used in San Miguel County is on the "front burner."
That's got be worth at least another $150,000 when you factor in the loaded hourly rate of those involved in the investigation and ultimate prosecution of the case. Then, of course, you've got the taxpayer paid employees who were able to supplement their income with the taxpayer funded resources from the indicted commissioner Block's campaign:
Just Who Ain't on the Payroll?: On October 14, the first general election campaign finance reports for the district 3 PRC race indicated that Block Jr. payed Cordy Medina for "mailout assistance." What's the problem? Medina is the State Attorney General's consitutent services coordiantor--the person who picks up the phone when citizens call to complain about, um, political candidates having suspicious payrolls.
This part-time double dipping wasn't limited to the Attorney General's office. PRC staff also found a way to get on the PRC campaign payroll:
Campaign finance reports filed with the Secretary of State's Office show Block paid [Larry L. Lujan] Lujan at least $2,000 last year for campaign coordination. Lujan has previously said he campaigned for Block solely on weekends and on his own personal time.
Albuquerque's general-fund spending stood at roughly $325 million in the 2002 fiscal year, when Chávez returned to office. (He has won mayoral elections in 1993, 2001 and 2005.)
This year's general-fund budget totals about $475 million. That's a 46 percent increase from 2002.
Well, clear to anyone other than Mayor Chavez:
"Fiscally, I've been very conservative," the mayor said
Let's be real here. Mayor Chavez may be fiscally creative, but fiscally conservative he is not:
A sizeable chunk of Albuquerque's property-taxing authority has been switched from the capital program to the general-fund budget since 2003. The change provides about $48 million in annual revenue now, around 10 percent of the operating budget.
The result of this creativity?
The report, issued earlier this year by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation officials, said 36 percent of the Albuquerque area's roads are in poor condition, 18th worst among urban areas with a population exceeding 500,000. The analysis looked at cities and their surrounding suburbs, based on 2007 data.
Let's see if I've got this straight. Ten years ago a transportation tax increase was pushed by former Mayor Jim Baca. The idea was to raise money to improve the city's transportation infrastructure. It was a hard sell at the time, but one of the "selling points" was that it was a "temporary" tax increase with a ten year sunset provision.
Keeping the city's streets and intersections in good repair isn't a special project for a special tax; it is one of the most basic of city services. If City Hall had been doing its job (for many years before Mayor Baca came into office), street maintenance would already be getting done from the existing revenue sources Bregman and Brasher propose to harness.
After nearly six years, a quarter-cent tax for transportation has not caused an increase in the passenger service provided by the city bus system, a new audit says.
The tax has provided $28 million for the Transit Department, and $21 million should have been used for enhancing bus service under a policy approved by the City Council, the audit says.
However, the Transit Department "is not currently complying with this expenditure requirement, because the amount of passenger service being provided is currently at approximately the same level as existed prior to Transit receiving these quarter-cent tax funds," says the report from the city Office of Internal Audit and Investigations.
November 6th, 2006... the day before the election where Democrats took over both the House and Senate, the Albuquerque City Council passed an extension to the Transportation Infrastructure Tax. The Council and the Almighty Alcalde used the cover of the election to rail road the public and shove a tax hike through for the primary purpose of building Marty's little train.
The move outraged the public and a huge political brouhaha ensued. Months later bowing to public pressure, the council pulled the extension and created a marketing, uh... "task force" to sell, uh... "study" the trolley. All of that took place almost exactly two years ago.
Well, very few people were buying what Mayor Marty was selling, namely the need to build a very expensive trolley system down Central. Oh sure, the Mayor tried everything he could think of to convince folks it was a good idea. He even paid consultants to sell the idea:
The next eyebrow raising fact requires a little basic math. Keep in mind that the Albuquerque Metro Area population is up to around 800,000, and is expected to reach a million before long. Yet, this Streetcar is only going to be used by about 5,000 people. Put another way... 99.5% of the people are expected to pay hundreds of millions of dollars (these things never come in on budget - think train), so 0.5% of the population can ride a streetcar instead of taking the bus.
Mind you, whether you call it a streetcar or a trolley, or a light rail system, the reality is that we already have an economical way for the public to travel, and it's called the bus. If the Mayor and City Council really wanted to improve public transportation they would just increase bus routes. It's cheaper and heck of lot more flexible to deal with changing population centers in a growing city.
Even with gas prices plummeting from a July high of $4 per gallon to the current price of $1.84 per gallon — the lowest gas prices have been since 2004 — bus ridership in the Duke City is still up from this time last year.
Albuquerque city councilors are scrambling to reassure voters that a proposed $37 million-a-year transportation tax won't last forever.
Council President Isaac Benton and Councilor Ken Sanchez held a news conference Thursday and said they plan to introduce a resolution at Monday's council meeting clarifying that the quarter-cent gross receipts tax, which will be on the Oct. 6 ballot, will expire after 10 years.
The tax was first approved in a special election in 1999 and is up for renewal this year because of a 10-year sunset clause in the original ballot question.
But the ballot question councilors approved for the extension this year does not include an expiration date, meaning the tax could continue indefinitely.
We're supposed to forget that the Mayor has been pushing this tax increase for three years to build a trolley and believe it is for trails and roads. We're also supposed to forget that they once promised to make it temporary. What is it they say about history repeating itself?
Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it
. Now, you may be tempted to argue that this isn't really an accurate example of history repeating itself. After all, the first time, voters were asked to approve a tax increase that had a sunset provision. This time the voters are being asked to extend the same tax increase without a sunset provision, and believe it will only last ten years. Even more ridiculous is that we're supposed to believe the sunset provision was left out "accidentally" by our elected officials.
However, we now have undeniable evidence that our election cycles have been greatly expanded. This year's election day marked the official start not of Election Cycle 2009, but of Election Cycle 2010. Last night was the first debate of the Democratic Lt. Governor candidates of 2010. I know I keep repeating the year, but I just can't get over it. Seriously, it's not like these folks are running for President of the United States. They're running for a position that really doesn't do much other than collect a salary and break the occasional tie vote:
This money fits in well with the theme in a cable television ad from the state GOP last week lambasting [Lt. Governor Diane] Denish for casting tie-breaking votes on a bill to expand the hours of operations for nontribal casinos in the state while taking tens of thousands of dollars from gambling interests. The ads refer to statements Denish made prior to being elected that gambling was bad for the economy. The ad calls Denish's votes "a pay-to-play jackpot."
Several Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor who attended a forum Wednesday at the NEA building on Botulph Road said they'd like to repeal state personal income tax cuts for upper-income bracket taxpayers — a plan pushed at the outset of Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson's administration.
That's right, the state has gone an unrivaled spending spree over the last seven years, and rather than cut waste, these folks want to take more out of our pockets. Of course, some of the folks running for the relatively high-paying low stress job, are the same legislators that approved these massive budget-breaking spending sprees, so I guess its CYA time.
Attention candidates and potential candidates of any party: The Secretary of State’s Office is hosting “candidacy seminars” at the Roundhouse next week in an effort to teach budding politicians the basics of filing for public office and convey some general understanding of election laws and regulations.
The free three-hour workshops — scheduled for 9 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. Wednesday — will cover such topics as opening a campaign account, campaign finance reporting laws, withdrawal dates, hardship exceptions for online reporting, financial disclosure requirements, in-kind contributions, etc.
Wow, I wonder just how many people are going to show up for this? Now, don't get me wrong, people running for state offices have always started toying with the idea this early. It's not uncommon for them to put out feelers to check for support levels. But, this is way beyond that. This is full official campaign mode at a very early time. I guess on the upside if the Secretary of State asks budding candidates to sign in, a simple records requests will make it clear, which seats are in play for 2010.
Mayor Chavez is Right... Enough with Politics as Usual
With only a few weeks left until the Albuquerque City elections, the mayoral debates are coming with increasing speed. There looks to be an interesting mayoral debate coming up on Wednesday, September 16. Here is the info I received:
The Alibi is joining forces with KNME-5, the New Mexico Independent and KUNM 89.9 FM to bring you a free—totally free—mayoral debate on Wednesday, Sept. 16 (details below).
“The Line” host Gene Grant, KUNM’s News Director Jim Williams, New Mexico Independent Editor Gwyneth Doland and I will moderate. We'll pose your burning questions about your city to the candidates.
Audience members will be given notecards and can submit their queries at the start of the throwdown. Or, film a question, upload it to YouTube and send the link to email@example.com. (Extra points if your backdrop relates to the subject of your question.)
R.J. Berry, Martin Chavez, Richard Romero Submit video questions for candidates to firstname.lastname@example.org See what people are already asking at youtube.com/user/DebateHosts Wednesday, Sept. 16 National Hispanic Cultural Center 1710 Fourth Street NW Doors open at 6 p.m., debate at 7 p.m. Seating is first-come, first-served. About 300 available. Hear it live on KUNM 89.9 FM Watch it and live-blog it at alibi.com and newmexicoindependent.com See it Friday, Sept. 18, on KNME-5
After the mayoral debate, join Alibi and local politicos for discourse, libations and complimentary canapés. Municipal DJs play eclectic Americana and rare groove as citizens of Albuquerque snack and mingle.
Downtown at Blackbird Buvette (509 Central), Wednesday, Sept. 16, from 8:30 p.m. 21+
Now, it's not often that an after debate party complete with libations and complimentary canapés is advertised to draw in a crowd, but believe it or not, that's not what I think makes it potentially interesting. What makes it a potentially interesting debate is the timing.
The mayoral election is just now starting to get some attention. This is one of the effects of a taxpayer funded mayoral campaign. None of the candidates have really had the cash necessary to pound home the issues, or each other's shortcomings.
A lot of people might think that's a good thing, but the truth of the matter is, intended or not, this has worked to the advantage of the incumbent, Mayor Marty Chavez. If you're a fan of Mayor Marty, then it's great. If not, well, not so great.
Mayoral candidate and State Representative RJ Berry is starting to make some noise about the Mayor's "real record of accomplishment." Unfortunately, I'm not convinced the taxpayer funded campaign is going to provide enough resources for the message to get the penetration that is needed to be effective.
On the upside, the Mayor is spending his equally limited funds playing defense, which in a campaign is never a good thing. You can listen to the radio ad here [hat tip: New Mexico Independent]. In the ad, the Mayor denies ever turning Albuquerque into a Sanctuary City or pushing a trolley for Central, and implies that anyone who says otherwise is guilty of politics as usual.
Ok, first let me address the obvious. If anyone is to be equated with "politics as usual", it would have to be the Mayor who fought a legal battle to overturn term limits, so he could continue... Yup, "politics as usual." Geez, talk about opening mouth and inserting foot. Mayor Martin is practically the poster child for politics as usual.
Enough of that. Let's get to the meat of the matter. If there is one thing I hate, it is politicians who attempt to rewrite the history they helped create. Of course, I'm not the only one who has that pet peeve. I think you ought to take a listen to this segment from the Jim Villanucci show circa 2007 [hat tip: Eye on Albuquerque]
Effective immediately, Albuquerque police officers who find illegal immigrants will no longer contact either federal immigration agents or the border patrol.
Sorry Mayor Chavez, that politics as usual tactic of denying your record just doesn't work in the modern age. [side rant: This originally came from a KOB-TV news story, which is no longer available. Is it really too much to ask for MSM news outlets to keep their articles up in perpetuity?]
Now what's even funnier than Mayor Marty Chavez denying in his campaign ad that he is being maligned on his record of turning Albuquerque into a sanctuary city? It would be the Mayor pretending he doesn't want to build a trolley on Central. First, in order for us to all be on the same page, let's look at the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of a trolley:
Main Entry: 1trol·ley
Variant(s): also trol·ly\ˈträ-lē\
Inflected Form(s): pluraltrolleysalsotrollies
Etymology: probably from 1troll
1dialect English: a cart of any of various kinds 2 a: a device that carries electric current from an overhead wire to an electrically driven vehicle b: a streetcar powered electrically through a trolley —called also trolley car 3: a wheeled carriage running on an overhead rail or track 4chiefly British: a cart or wheeled stand used for conveying something (as food or books)
Streetcars feature a pole that touches an overhead wire, called catenary. Once the power reaches the streetcar through the trolley pole, it is fed to motors, which are called traction motors that are located on each wheelset.
Pretty dang close, wouldn't you say? Yet, the Mayor wants us to believe he doesn't want to reach into our pockets and pull out additional tax money to build a trolley. He can call it a modern streetcar. He can call it a light rail system. But, it doesn't change the fact that he's itching to build a trolley. Just another fine example of politics as usual.
What's that you say? You are still not convinced that Mayor Marty is a politics and usual kind of politician. Well, let's look at the other half of his claim. He only supports building a trolley system "if passed by the voters." REALLY?
[The transportation] tax was originally sold to the taxpayers as a means of modernizing the transit system and fixing streets, and it has done that. The tax has also "ballooned in dollars received." In other words, it brought in a lot more than expected. Yet, rather than let the temporary tax sunset, the Mayor and City Council want to make it a permanent tax while no one is looking.
It's the old bait and switch, and it is blatantly UNETHICAL.
So, the truth is that Mayor Marty only supported seeking taxpayer approval once he got caught with his fingers in the taxpayers' back pocket. C'mon everybody. It's time for the chorus... Just another fine example of politics as usual.
So, how about we close with the closing thought from Mayor Chavez's radio ad?
You mean a candidate would intentionally distort the truth just to get elected? Unfortunately true.
The Left has historically outperformed the Right in New Mexico when it comes to turning out crowds to rally behind political causes. However, it seems that the continued radical and extreme shift to the left of our federal government is beginning to change that.
More than 300 people from all over the state attended the rally, which was one of many held across the country on Sunday. The rally was organized by Grassroots4PublicOption, a nonpartisan New Mexico group.
While most members of New Mexico's congressional delegation support a government-run public option for health care coverage, nearly half of the state's registered voters don't want one, a Journal Poll found.
Forty-nine percent of the voters surveyed statewide said they opposed a government-run insurance program that would compete with private industry.
Forty-two percent said they favored a government-run program, or public option. Nine percent said it would depend or they didn't know.
Intensity also was apparent. Respondents who "strongly opposed" a public option outnumbered those who "strongly favored" such a plan by more than 3-to-2.
Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in the state. However, the majority of voters in New Mexico, with the exception of this last presidential election, seem to vote center/center-right. Factor in the growing legions of independent voters, and those in office who blindly rubber stamp the ultra-left agenda will likely find themselves in serious trouble come Election Day.
Speaking to reporters, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs pointed out that the most recent numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor indicate that “we continue to see a slowing of the pace of job loss.”
I've heard of putting a positive spin on something, but this is ridiculous. The White House actually wants the public to get excited about the fact that things are worsening, albeit at a slower pace. That's the equivalent of telling a terminal patient to feel good that he doesn't need a new pair of glasses.
Attempting to spin an economic reality does nothing to increase confidence in government. In fact, it has quite the opposite effect. People listen to our leaders saying things are getting better, yet those same people know that they're struggling to pay their bills. In New Mexico, you can combine that growing reality with the ongoing corruption scandals, and failing government programs (i.e. education), and we may just be at a point where folks feel enough is enough.
Today marks the eighth anniversary of the attacks of 9/11. It is a day that should always serve as a reminder of two irrefutable facts:
There are people in this world that hate America and the freedom it represents, and would do anything to destroy us.
There are unsung heroes that everyday put their lives on the line to safeguard our communities.
Let me first acknowledge that second point by thanking the firefighters and police officers that step up everyday when no one is looking to protect and to serve. Thanks for what you do.
As to the first point, I can't help but be concerned about the direction our country is heading. On 9/11, the terrorists failed to destroy America, but since that time, a greater and greater number of those elected to lead our country have made, and are making, decisions that might well accomplish what the terrorists failed to do those eight years ago.
The state's boating law says the operator of a vessel has 48 hours to provide information about an accident, and Condit complied with that, according to Jodi McGinnis Porter, spokeswoman for the energy and minerals agency.
Porter said Fay, the boat's owner, stayed at the scene and provided information to investigators, while Richardson, Condit, Miller and the state police officers left. They were not required to remain there, she said.
What's been largely missing from this discussion is not what is legal, but what is ethical. Legally, the perpetrators of the accident may not have been required to remain at the scene of the accident, but ethically, they should have remained.
Think about it.
There are only two reasons that the Governor and his staff fled. First, there was alcohol involved, and it would have been determined that a crime had been committed. Or second, they wanted to avoid the unfolding public relations nightmare that would have been made worse by having their pictures taken at the scene of the accident. I'm reasonably confident that if cell phone records were checked, one of the individuals in the party will be shown to have called for advice on whether or not they "had" to remain at the scene of the accident.
There is always a lot of gratuitous talk about the need to legislate ethics in this state. But, this is just another example of why you can't legislate ethics. Unethical people will act in their own self-interests, and the shrewdly unethical will do it in within the letter of the law. You probably also noticed that not one Democrat running to lead our state in 2010 condemned the blatantly unethical act committed by Governor Richardson and his staff.
A GAO report finds that illegal immigrants constitute more than one-third of all Medicaid-funded pregnancies in California. Elsewhere in the country, the GAO found: "From 1992 to 1995 in Texas, the number of Medicaid-funded births to undocumented alien mothers more than doubled, while the total number of births remained fairly stable." People respond to economic incentives. Even when the people and the incentives are illegal.
Missouri attorney general Chris Koster has estimated that one in ten Medicaid claims is fraudulent. How much of that fraud diverts money to illegal immigrants? Nobody knows for sure and don't ask the state bureaucrats for help in finding out: When the federal government passed new rules demanding better documentation of legal residency for Medicaid recipients, the states resisted. In California, officials representing the state's Medicaid program, Medi-Cal, wanted to use such lamentably inadequate documentation as insurance records and school report cards in place of passports and birth certificates. We are entitled to question their motives, and their prudence.
So, Representative Wilson could use a visit from Miss Manners. But he is telling the truth, and President Obama is not.
Of course, President Obama's dishonesty on this topic is not limited to the question of whether or not illegal immigrants will benefit from the healthcare changes being proposed. There were numerous inaccuracies his speech. For example, take this:
OBAMA: "Nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have."
THE FACTS: That's correct, as far as it goes. But neither can the plan guarantee that people can keep their current coverage. Employers sponsor coverage for most families, and they'd be free to change their health plans in ways that workers may not like, or drop insurance altogether. The Congressional Budget Office analyzed the health care bill written by House Democrats and said that by 2016 some 3 million people who now have employer-based care would lose it because their employers would decide to stop offering it.
In the past Obama repeatedly said, "If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan, period." Now he's stopping short of that unconditional guarantee by saying nothing in the plan "requires" any change.
Considering how much effort goes into writing a presidential speech, these careful manipulations of the English language cannot be considered accidental. Again, we deal with a question of ethics. Is it ethical to put something forward as factually truthful that is actually intended to deceive?
Of course, these unethical manipulations of language are not limited to our elected officials. They are also being used by "community organizations" to confuse the issues. Consider this taken directly from the ACORN site:
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now does not apply for nor does it receive any federal grants.
ACORN has had contracts with other nonprofit organizations to perform work on projects which received federal grant support.
In illegal circles, what ACORN is describing is called money laundering. Organized crime has been doing this for years. In the case of organized crime, dollars from an illegal activity, take prostitution as an example, are flowed through a third party entity before making its way to a "legitimate" business. In this way, the business has deniability about the illegal source of the funds. Much the same way as ACORN has deniability about the federal source of its funding.
Two staff members of the Baltimore office of ACORN were fired Thursday after they were captured on hidden camera appearing to give advice on evading tax laws to a man and woman posing as a pimp and a prostitute.
The video depicts a man and a scantily dressed female partner visiting the Charles Village office of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, where they appear to ask two employees about how to shield their work from state and federal tax requirements. The supposed pimp also appears to ask the employees how to conceal underage girls from El Salvador brought into the country illegally to work for him.
"If they don't have Social Security numbers, you don't have to worry about them," the employee says.
Of course, the only problem is that this isn't a comedy skit. It's actually real. Now, factor in the economy, our increasingly uncompetitive educational system, the ever-growing size of government, and the you'll see why I'm so concerned that America may be doing to herself what the terrorists failed to do on 9/11.
Aren't you a little curious? Did this right-leaning blogger, who criticizes just about everything this administration does, allow his young impressionable children to watch the President of the United States give his "first day of school" speech.
Teacher Lauradean Morganti used some of the U.S. Department of Education's lesson plans for the speech. She required students to complete the homework assignment: "Are we able to do what the president is asking of us?" "Does the speech make you want to do anything differently?" "What would you like to ask or tell the president?"
Suggested lesson plans had drawn fire, particularly for a section that said students could write to the president and tell him how they could help him meet education goals. That section was later removed.
I had a conversation with a fellow blogger the other day after I put up my last post on this matter. His thoughts were I was overreacting about the "you must listen to politicians" indoctrination being pushed by the federal government on school children. He felt this was especially true regarding young children. His argument was that elementary school children should be taught to listen to authority figures like police and politicians. It is not until they get older that they should be expected to think critically.
I disagreed. I think all children should be taught to be respectful of others, especially their elders. However, being respectful does not mean blindly following whatever an adult says. I shared the following story with my friend.
One day, a couple of years after 9/11, our family was driving north on I-25 by the Sunport. A plane was flying in low and getting ready to land. Our oldest son was looking out the window and commented, "Look at that plane, it kind of reminds me of when the Iraqis flew those planes into those buildings."
My wife and I looked at each other, and I responded, "It does. But, it wasn't Iraqis who flew the planes into the buildings."
Our son thought about this for a few seconds, and then asked, "If it wasn't the Iraqis, why are we fighting a war in Iraq?"
He was seven.
Kids are inherently curious. They constantly question the logic put forth by adults. The questioning starts shortly after they learn to talk. Anyone who has ever been around a very young child knows has heard, "But why?" more times than they can count. We don't need to teach our kids to submit and be blind followers. We need to teach our kids to respect, but to question.
Surely what spun out of control because of government indulgence and indolence needs to be repaired by government regulation and ingenuity.
This pretty much captures in a nutshell what I see as the basic problem with where we are currently heading on the road to bigger government. A great many of our current problems have been created by an overreaching and exponentially expanded government. Worse, government regulation heaped upon government regulation has done absolutely nothing to protect the general population. In fact, all it has done is to enrich those large enough to play the regulatory game, and put financial welfare of the nation at risk.
When the credit crisis struck last year, federal regulators pumped tens of billions of dollars into the nation's leading financial institutions because the banks were so big that officials feared their failure would ruin the entire financial system.
Today, the biggest of those banks are even bigger.
The crisis may be turning out very well for many of the behemoths that dominate U.S. finance. A series of federally arranged mergers safely landed troubled banks on the decks of more stable firms. And it allowed the survivors to emerge from the turmoil with strengthened market positions, giving them even greater control over consumer lending and more potential to profit.
J.P. Morgan Chase, an amalgam of some of Wall Street's most storied institutions, now holds more than $1 of every $10 on deposit in this country. So does Bank of America, scarred by its acquisition of Merrill Lynch and partly government-owned as a result of the crisis, as does Wells Fargo, the biggest West Coast bank. Those three banks, plus government-rescued and -owned Citigroup, now issue one of every two mortgages and about two of every three credit cards, federal data show.
Five more US banks shut down on September 4, pushing the total failures to a whopping 89 entities so far this year.
The count of collapses is more than three-fold that of 2008, when 25 banks went out of business in wake of the raging financial meltdown.
Even scarier is the fact that the worse is yet to come for the banking sector. Unemployment figures continue to rise, and with the rise of those unemployment numbers, it is only natural to expect that defaults on the unsecured debt represented by credit cards will increase. What does that mean for the remaining large banks that now issue "two of every three credit cards" remaining on the market? It's bad news. Now consider that defaulting credit card debt is not the only problem these bank behemoths are going to face:
Some $700 billion of option ARMs were written in the U.S. between 2004 and 2007. Most option ARMs are set to recast after five years -- meaning that the first wave of higher payments is hitting borrowers this year.
WaMu [now owned by Wells Fargo] -- which wrote $133 billion worth of option ARMs when house prices were at their peak between 2005 and 2007 -- said in its annual report last year that 13% of its option ARM loans are due to recast this year. The bulk of recasts are due to take place between next year and 2012.
Now, you don't need to be a PhD economists to see the writing on the wall. People's home costs are about to go up in a big way. At the same time, all indicators are that we are on the road to a "jobless recovery" of the economy:
Many experts envision a jobless recovery, in which the economy grows but job losses persist. That would reprise the end of the last recession in 2001, when payrolls continued to decline for nearly two years afterward.
Actually, maybe you do have to be a PhD to understand how it is possible for the economy to grow without jobs. We've lost over 7 million jobs since the recession began. I consider myself to be a reasonably well-educated guy, and I've got to tell you, I don't understand how the economy can truly recover when people are without jobs. But, I guess that the beauty of government ingenuity. It doesn't have to make sense.
Albuquerque parents will be able to opt out if their children's teacher wants to tune into President Barack Obama's back-to-school address next week, APS Superintendent Winston Brooks said.
"This is a politically fired issue," Brooks told the school board Wednesday during its regular meeting. APS offices received four phone calls and "a handful" of e-mails from parents concerned about the address, and officials checked to see how other urban districts were responding to the issue, Brooks said.
However, in the current environment, it is not surprising that some folks are feeling somewhat wary of the President's address to our nation's school children. The current focus on increasing the size and scope of government beyond it's already fantastically bloated and overreaching levels has made many people uneasy. Tactics used by the White House to track opposition to these efforts have done nothing but make people more suspicious:
The “flag” service was introduced Aug. 4, with a White House blog post saying: “There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finance to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health reform that seems fishy, send it to email@example.com.”
There have been numerous occasions in world history when what appeared at the time to be an innocent action, turned out in hindsight to be part of a larger plan. I am not saying that President Obama is hatching a big devious plan. I am just saying that as a nation, it is in our best interest to question the motivation behind any and all actions which expand government reach and influence. This is true regardless of which party is in control.
Now, if we take tomorrow's Presidential address to the nation's children as being exactly what it is stated as being, there is still a problem. States have their own standards. Why is the federal government "pushing" a lesson plan for the first day of school. Why does the lesson plan for children k-6 ask?
Why is it important that we listen to the president and other elected officials, like the mayor, senators, members of congress, or the governor? Why is what they say important?
Sorry, but I've taught at the those age levels, and this does smell a little like indoctrination. I can tell you first hand that a lot of what I've heard elected officials say is not important. And, there are lots of times when they SHOULD NOT be listened to under any circumstance. Again, many of you may think everything that our current political leaders are saying is just great. But remember, it wasn't that long ago when you felt otherwise.
Overall city revenues declined by 0.4%, even as expenses rose 2.5%, and city officials expect steep drops in tax collections in the next two years, making for the worst outlook in the 24 years the group has been surveying its members. Western cities were particularly downbeat.
The gloomy mood "is indicative of the depths of the downturn, that they have the worst ahead of them, and the fact that the recession is universally hitting their revenue sources," said Chris Hoene, research director for the league.
Because employee wages, health care and pensions are a major component of municipal budgets, two-thirds of the cities reported hiring freezes or layoffs. Almost as many cities said they were postponing big construction projects.
While a quarter of the cities said they raised property tax rates, far more -- 45% -- raised fees on everything from garbage collection to overdue library books.
Just a reminder folks, raising fees is the same as raising taxes. Actually, it may be worse because on occasion we hear about tax cuts, but I don't think I've ever heard of a fee cut. Once it goes up, it stays up.
Guest-blogging on the liberal Democracy for New Mexico Web site, state Sen. Linda Lopez wrote that her solution to the state’s budget problems is to “return to pre-2004 tax rates to fix the budget shortfall.”
A much better solution is available. Rather than raise taxes back up to pre-2004 levels, the Legislature should lower spending back to pre-2004 levels.
I'm just saying it sounds like a good idea to me. We've been on a binge for the last several years. Sometimes, you just need to cut the fat.
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.