"Errors of Enchantment" Latest Blog Postings

Steve Pearce and Rocky Lara agree on one bad policy

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Thu, 2014-10-23 20:12

Should insult be added to injury? Should federal taxpayers be placed on the hook for the costs of New Mexico’s Spaceport? Apparently, challenger Rocky Lara and incumbent Rep. Steve Pearce apparently believe so based on their discussion of the issue in their recent debate.

Taxpayer financing by New Mexicans for the Spaceport (totaling more than $200 million to date with little to show for it), long a point of contention with us at the Rio Grande Foundation, was bad enough, but adding federal funding to the mix here in New Mexico would invariably lead to other states getting in on the action, demanding funding for their own spaceport projects.

It is not surprising that a big-government liberal like Lara would endorse federal involvement in yet another area of our economy, but Pearce’s endorsement of the concept is truly baffling (aside from the misguided view that he’d somehow be bringing more “pork” into the district).

Rather than putting federal taxpayers on the hook for spaceport boondoggles nationwide, Pearce and Lara (not to mention other public officials) should embrace privatization of existing airports like those supposedly “socialist” Europeans. In fact, According to the 2010 ACI EUROPE report “The Ownership of Europe’s Airports, 80% of Europe’s airports operate as commercial companies (private or corporatised businesses). Moreover, nearly half of European air passengers currently travel through airports that are either fully or partially privatised.”

My Cato Institute podcast on the New Mexico economy

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Tue, 2014-10-21 09:34

At the recent State Policy Network conference, I had the opportunity to sit down and discuss New Mexico’s struggling and federally-dependent economy for a Cato Daily podcast. You can listen to the podcast which is just under eight minutes in length here:

By the way, Cato’s podcasts are a great way to keep track of some of the major issues impacting your freedom. You can subscribe or check out more of them here.

National Transportation Expert Randal O’Toole Weighs in Against ABQ BRT

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Mon, 2014-10-20 09:36

Randal O’Toole is one of America’s foremost transportation experts. Unlike most such experts, his primary goal is not to control people by directing resources to politically-favored modes of transportation and away from those that actually work. Unfortunately, dedicating precious traffic lanes on Central to buses will likely make mobility worse, not better.

O’Toole had an article in today’s Albuquerque Journal detailing some of the potential drawbacks to the proposed bus rapid transit system for Albuquerque.

If you have thoughts or concerns, send the City an email: theplan@cabq.gov

Albuquerque BRT system could worsen mobility in Central corridor

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Fri, 2014-10-17 11:23

I attended one of the ongoing public hearings on Albuquerques’s proposed bus rapid transit (BRT) system last night. And, while BRT would be an improvement over Mayor Marty’s ill-fated trolley/streetcar, the BRT plan is not ready for prime time.

For starters, the plan (information on which is available here) would reduce Central traffic by one lane each way in order to dedicate one lane of traffic in each direction to buses. In places, that means only one lane of traffic in each direction on Central. Simply put, that is not enough.

The other major issue is that motorists turning left onto Central will see their ability to do so severely limited except for at major intersections. In other words, you can turn left to Central at Carlisle, but not Cornell or on several other smaller roads. Additionally, left turns from Central on to these smaller streets or to simply get to a business on the opposite side of Central will be reduced significantly. Instead, motorists will be required to make a U-turn at a major intersection and then head back down Central to the business or side-street.

A Channel 13 KRQE story covers some of the concerns area business owners and residents have with the plan.

RGF has no problem with BRT as a concept (the current Rapid Ride system is a less costly variant of BRT), but it appears that the City is planning to spend $150 million for a system that will REDUCE mobility throughout the Central corridor. Seems like an unwise use of limited funds.

If you are concerned, please send a note to the Transit Department here. Mayor Berry is at least taking a slower, more collaborative approach to BRT. We can still modify or even convince the City to abandon BRT if it is not workable.

Energy Outlook Conference

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Thu, 2014-10-16 15:54

This should be an interesting conference, particularly given the recent gyrations in the markets and the oil and gas markets in particular. I know I’ll be there!

Come celebrate “Wilderness” with a guy who wishes humans were extinct

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Thu, 2014-10-16 09:20

The “National Wilderness Conference” is now under way in our fair city. For between $75 and $350, you too can celebrate LBJ’s signing of the Wilderness Act 50 years ago.

While I’m sure all of the participants walked or biked to our fair city for this event in order to not emit any more carbon into the air, one of the most radical speakers at the conference is a man named Dave Foreman who helped found the radical environmental group Earth First. Earth First members have repeatedly been jailed over the years for vandalism and the practice of tree-spiking (a practice designed to break logging equipment They have been labeled an “eco-terrorism” organization.

Anyway, you don’t need to do a bunch of research on the organizations he’s founded and been involved with to figure out that Foreman is a true anti-human, radical eco-nut. Just check some of Dave Foreman’s quotes which can easily be found on the Internet.

We advocate biodiversity for biodiversity’s sake. It may take our extinction to set things straight.

Phasing out the human race will solve every problem on earth, social and environmental.

We must make this an insecure and inhospitable place for capitalists and their projects . . . We must reclaim the roads and plowed land, halt dam construction, tear down existing dams, free shackled rivers and return to wilderness millions of tens of millions of acres of presently settled land.

With all of the talk of ebola right now, it seems that Mr. Foreman and some of the more radical attendees of this conference, now taking place in downtown Albuquerque, might be silently cheering it’s spread.

If you like your health care plan, you can’t keep it

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Wed, 2014-10-15 11:03

Repeatedly in defense of his marquee legislative accomplishment, President Obama claimed that “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”

I can’t read a man’s heart, so I can’t say with confidence whether Mr. Obama was simply lying or, like then-Speaker Pelosi, he actually hadn’t read the bill, but I can say that my family and I recently learned that under ObamaCare, you can’t keep your health care plan no matter how much you like it.

By way of background, I have had a “individual” health savings account through Blue Cross since I started with Rio Grande Foundation in early 2006. Health savings accounts are the most market oriented of health insurance plans because they provide relatively “bare-bones” insurance policies that are supplemented by pre-tax savings accounts designed to pay for day-to-day health care expenses.

Over the years I have added my wife and two young daughters to the plan. My family’s monthly premium is approximately $330 per month. Yes, we are relatively healthy, but we have used the plan and the thousands of dollars of health savings that we have built up for health care costs which included two ER visits during 2014 alone. We have also used those savings for chiropractor visits and physical therapy.

My point is that we were very happy with our insurance plan. It fit with my ideological desire to have something resembling a free market health policy that put me, not my employer or insurance company in charge of my health care decisions. It was also reasonably priced for my family and my non-profit employer.

While my plan was “grandfathered” for a year, I knew that it was scheduled to be canceled under ObamaCare at the end of 2014. I recently received a letter from Blue Cross to that effect.

I can’t even begin looking for a new insurance policy until mid-November. According to media reports, a total of 30,000 New Mexicans are in the same proverbial boat.

The good news is that more so than a vast majority of New Mexicans, I, my wife, and our kids are healthy and I know my way around government rules and regulations and, hopefully, will be able to figure out a decent new plan. The bad news is that I run a non-profit that can’t afford a massive increase in health insurance rates. I’d be “thrilled” if my monthly policy merely doubles in price under ObamaCare, but I have no way to know that until at least mid-November.

And this is the real issue with ObamaCare and so much of what government does both here in New Mexico and in Washington. Rather than setting basic rules and regulations under which all are treated equally and individuals are free to make their own choices, politicians seem to think they know more about what is good for us than we do.

ObamaCare is just the tip of the iceberg which happens to be impacting my family in a very real and personal way. Energy regulations and the blind push for politically-correct energy sources impacts our energy costs. Regulations on everyone from hair-stylists to ride-share firms presume that average people (you) are simply too stupid and ill-informed to make the “right” choice and that you need big-government there to tell you what to do.

And don’t even get me started on education which is a government-run monopoly with school choices dependant on where you live.

The Rio Grande Foundation is a think tank. We deal a lot in numbers, data, and abstract policy issues. But in this case bad policies in Washington have hit me and my family by interfering with our health care. It only makes me wish to work harder to bring more freedom to New Mexicans and ultimately our nation.

This November, I hope New Mexicans will vote for candidates that respect individuals and their choices, not the whims of bureaucrats and politicians.

Paul Gessing is the President of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation. The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility

What happens to the NM economy if the oil boom goes bust?

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Mon, 2014-10-13 17:28

New Mexico’s economy has been under-performing at a time when one of the state’s major businesses, the oil industry (31% of our tax revenue) has been booming.

Unfortunately (for the state at least), between slowing growth in Europe and China and an apparent willingness on the part of the Saudis to see oil prices drop further, oil prices could be in for further declines in the intermediate future.

As a motorist, I’m thrilled. As an extremely-interested observer of New Mexico’s economy and economic policies, I wonder what this means for New Mexico. Perhaps a 1980s style oil bust could create additional momentum for free market reforms like Right to Work and pro-growth tax and regulatory reforms? We’ll see.

Liberty on the Rocks – Albuquerque, this Thursday night

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Mon, 2014-10-13 12:03
Join the Rio Grande Foundation For an Evening of
Discussion and Fellowship at Liberty on the Rocks!

"Liberty on the Rocks" is a no-host happy hour discussion and information-sharing session.

Liberty on the Rocks will be held at Scalo Northern Italian Grill which is located in Nob Hill at 3500 Central Avenue SE in Albuquerque. A private room has been reserved for this event. In October, Liberty on the Rocks will take place on Thursday, October 16th from 6:00 to 7:30PM.

There is no cost for this public event, but attendees are encouraged to have dinner or drinks. Registration is not required but is much appreciated. Click here to register online … it's fast and it's free!

Come celebrate liberty with us!

Weh ad nails Udall on ObamaCare

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Mon, 2014-10-13 09:53

It is that time of year when the deluge of political ads becomes too much to bear. Part of the problem is that so many of these ads make wild claims and accusations that just don’t hold water or they take one statement, perhaps made years or decades ago, and twist it to the point where voters just tune them out. So, it is refreshing to see a political ad that relies on facts and even the statements of the opposing candidate in making the point. Those statements reveal an honest and real difference between the candidates on policy.

Allen Weh’s ad on Sen. Tom Udall’s support for ObamaCare is one fact-based ad that seems like it should be a template for conservatives running against liberal incumbents around the country. The ad is below:

This is all good. And, within the span of a 30 second political ad, it is about all that can be achieved. The bad news is that Weh hasn’t exactly fleshed out a lot of specifics in terms of what he’d like to see done to reform health care. On his website, his position is stated simply “Fixing the healthcare train wreck we’ve got now.” To his credit, Weh has stated elsewhere that he would repeal ObamaCare.

NM’s economy illustrated: UNM can’t sell naming rights for “The Pit”

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Fri, 2014-10-10 12:28

KRQE channel 13 had a fascinating story about UNM’s inability to sell naming rights for “The Pit” and “University Stadium.” It only backs up something I’ve long believed was an indicator of the troubles plaguing New Mexico’s economy: while other sports arenas are named after local businesses, the only local sponsor of a major sports arena is a law firm (Branch Field at University Stadium).

Now, I’m not a huge fan of corporate naming rights for sporting arenas: “Qualcomm Stadium,” FedEx Field, and the like, but in the case of UNM’s money-losing athletic department, dollars generated through naming rights don’t have to be taken out of the pockets of students or the taxpayers.

In summary, this is yet another way in which New Mexico and its institutions are held back by our history of left-liberal economic policies. After all, while we would be in unimaginably bad shape without the Labs, they aren’t going to sponsor these sorts of things.

Video: One bizarre why New Mexicans are losing their health insurance under ObamaCare

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Thu, 2014-10-09 14:43

As one of the 30,000 New Mexicans to have recently lost my health insurance due to ObamaCare, I was intrigued by the following video from our friends at the Mercatus Center which illustrates how pointless many of these cancellations may be in terms of “improving” or even impacting the quality of American health care. The stupidity of a system that is set up in such a way really can’t be overstated:

Las Cruces: Rumble by the Rio debate on NM economy between Paul Gessing and Alan Webber

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Wed, 2014-10-08 16:28

Check out this exciting free debate event taking place in Las Cruces on Tuesday, October, 21. See flier below for details.

This Saturday on the New Mexico Freedom Hour

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Wed, 2014-10-08 10:57

The New Mexico Freedom Hour is presented by the Rio Grande Foundation. It next airs on Saturday, October 11, 2014 from 12pm to 1pm on 770 KKOB AM. This week we are very pleased to announce that Albuquerque Mayor RJ Berry will be joining host Paul Gessing for the full hour.

The show will be focused on a variety of economic policy issues relevant to Albuquerque residents including the city’s overall economy, the Administration’s proposed bus rapid transit and wi-fi systems, “Innovate ABQ,” and the ongoing fight over “union time.” We’ll also discuss the bigger picture including the struggling state and local economies and what the Legislature and Gov. Martinez can do to help spur economic growth in New Mexico’s largest city.

Listeners are encouraged not only to tune in and listen, but to call in with questions: 505-243-3333.

Las Cruces: Rumble by the Rio debate on NM economy between Paul Gessing and Alan Webber

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Tue, 2014-10-07 15:00

Check out this exciting free debate event taking place in Las Cruces on Tuesday, October, 21. See flier below for details.

Leftists Report from Santa Fe

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Tue, 2014-10-07 13:56

On principle, I don’t think taxpayers should be forced to pay for public television or radio. It’s not really a big deal within the overall federal budget (only $500 million annually or so for PBS & NPR), but that’s not the point.

For starters, it is hard to justify state-owned media in a free society. But when it comes to New Mexico’s state-owned media, there are some extreme cases of bias. Take the show “Report from Santa Fe.” hosted by Lorene Mills. I don’t watch the show, but I get emails from Albuquerque’s PBS station KNME on a weekly basis touting the latest guest.

Most recently, economist Richard D. Wolff joined was interviewed to discuss his books: “Occupy the Economy” and “Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It.” I’m sure it was Wolff’s objective analysis of free market capitalism that generated favorable reviews from none other than Noam Chomsky.

To be fair, “Report from Santa Fe” is about more than politics and New Mexico politicians of both parties have appeared on the show, but when it comes to national luminaries of a philosophical persuasion, the direction is always left. If Wolff’s interview was balanced by a separate discussion from a free market economist exploring the benefits of capitalism, this would be less of an issue (I’d still want to end funding for public broadcasting for the reasons outlined above), but Wolff is only among the most extreme leftists to have appeared on the show recently:

Martha Burk, former head of NOW;
Ecologist Dr. Sandra Steingraber, described as the “new Rachel Carson”;
Tim deChristopher (radical environmental activist)
Gus Speth, Co-Founder, Natural Resources Defense Council

Rio Grande Foundation brings no less than four prominent conservative authors/luminaries to New Mexico a year including Robert Bryce on December 9 or 2014. What do you say to some ideological balance?

America: where luxuries are cheap and necessities expensive

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Mon, 2014-10-06 17:11

The phrase has appeared in several articles recently, most recently, this AP article which recently appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. The complaint behind the article is that “luxuries” like Iphones, cars, televisions, and computers are dropping in price while everyday expenses like health care and education are going up. The author seems oblivious, but quotes former CBO director Douglas Holtz-Eakin who notes that “colleges and hospitals — unlike automakers — rarely compete on price.”

That is a nice way of saying that education and health care are government-dominated while consumer products are generally produced in something approaching a free market. The image below illustrates the trend nicely.

Rather than the old line that “X is too important to be left to the private sector,” it would seem that essentials like education and health care are too important for the government to continue to play such a large (and increasing) role in their provision.

Recent Episodes of “New Mexico Freedom Hour” now available: exciting announcement about upcoming show

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Fri, 2014-10-03 14:03

Rob Nikolewski interviewed Senate Finance Committee Chair John Arthur-Smith on September 27, 2014. The discussion centered on New Mexico’s economy.

Paul Gessing interviewed Aloysius Hogan of the Competitive Enterprise Institute on government pension issues during the first half of the show and interviewed site selection expert John Boyd about the Tesla decision, why he thinks Tesla chose Nevada over New Mexico, and what New Mexico should consider doing to make it more attractive as a business destination in the future.

Gessing’s interviews are available here.

Be sure to tune in to 770 KKOB AM on October 11 from noon to 1pm as Paul Gessing is scheduled to interview Albuquerque Mayor RJ Berry on the Albuquerque economy and his efforts as Mayor of New Mexico’s largest city.

Don’t Roll Back Pension Reforms

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Fri, 2014-10-03 09:18

I’d typically say that the chances of my penning an opinion piece with a representative of the AFSCME government employee labor union would be as likely as my penning an article with the Easter Bunny (Like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, I don’t believe in unionizing government workers). Anyway, the pension reforms passed a few years back are worth defending even if they didn’t go nearly far enough.

AFSCME and the Rio Grande Foundation usually have very different positions on a wide range of issues including contentious disagreements over New Mexico’s government pension plans.

Even though we sometimes disagree on the scope and role of government, each of our organizations supports preserving the pension reform that was passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in both houses and signed by the Governor in 2013. Specifically, we oppose rolling back that reform in the name of recruiting and retention or special treatment for select groups of employees, including opposing the reintroduction of double dipping.

Prior to the bipartisan pension reform, the two funds were looking at a combined $12 billion in unfunded liabilities, and were on a trajectory to have over $60 billion in unfunded liabilities in the next three decades. While there is serious disagreement between us over whether the pension reforms went far enough, there is 100% agreement between us that the reforms were a step in the right direction.

Unfortunately, some groups may be trying to cut deals with politicians during election season to give their members special treatment and to worsen the solvency of the funds. There are legitimate recruiting and retention problems across state and local governments, but using the pension funds as a piggy bank to sweeten employee compensation packages is a terribly fiscally irresponsible idea.

Yes, the condition of the funds is improving — that was the entire point of our bipartisan reform – but we need to let the reforms work before there’s any discussion of undoing even small parts of the difficult and excellent work achieved by leaders in both parties.

Undermining a successful bi-partisan reform for the sake of small political favors during election season would be a disservice to New Mexico’s taxpayers and employees alike.

Paul Gessing is president of the Rio Grande Foundation, New Mexico’s free market think tank;
Carter Bundy is legislative director at the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, a union representing primarily government workers in New Mexico.

Syndicate content