Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings

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Why is New Mexico not realizing its potential?
Updated: 11 min 53 sec ago

RGF endorses ride-share companies Uber, Lyft; PRC says “no”

Sun, 2014-06-29 19:48

Check out the full story along with my comments on the proceedings in Santa Fe from Capitol Report New Mexico. This is yet another unfortunate example of policymakers in New Mexico choosing to protect special interests and existing businesses at the expense of innovators and consumers alike.

It is also hard to argue with Rep. Vickie Perea’s arguments in her opinion piece. I’d love to see what Gov. Martinez and gubernatorial candidate (and current Attorney General) Gary King have to say about this issue. Statements by either candidate would give voters a clearer understanding of candidates’ inclinations on the impact of government regulations on New Mexico’s economy. I’d also love to see a Democrat legislator (or more) speak out in favor of free markets and innovation as they have spoken out in favor of a more far-fetched effort to attract Tesla to New Mexico.

RGF study on New Mexico’s shrinking workforce makes KOB Channel 4

Fri, 2014-06-27 09:58

The Rio Grande Foundation report on New Mexico’s shrinking workforce attracted the attention of KOB TV Channel 4 News. The story appeared last night at 6pm last night.

New Mexico’s Incredible Shrinking Workforce

Thu, 2014-06-26 08:50

(Albuquerque) What happened to New Mexico’s workforce during and in the wake of the “Great Recession?” The tenor of that question might change dramatically with one look at the chart below. As clearly seen below, New Mexico’s workforce participation rate which had been on a general upward trajectory since the mid-1970s, dropped precipitously during the recent recession.

In a new policy brief (available at the following link), “The Troubling Case of New Mexico’s Disappearing Workforce,” Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing analyzes New Mexico’s workforce participation rate and how it compares to other states, explains why workforce participation is so important, and briefly outlines some ideas for New Mexico policymakers to consider to bring more of our state’s workers back into the workforce.

For Sen. Heinrich, the right amount of federal land holdings is “more”

Wed, 2014-06-25 13:27

Last week, I traveled around New Mexico talking to members of the public and county commissioners on the issue of transferring some federal lands back to state control. But there are some, especially in Washington, who oppose ANY effort to reduce the ever-expanding federal estate. Count New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich among them.

Heinrich has co-sponsored a resolution that would add procedural restrictions to any legislative effort to sell off federal lands to reduce the deficit. Ironically, it was Heinrich and his fellow Democrats in the Senate who voted just last year to REMOVE procedural obstacles to executive branch and judicial nominees.

The Rio Grande Foundation’s efforts are not designed specifically to address the federal deficit, but you can bet that ANY effort to reduce the federal estate will be subject to such procedural restrictions. One wonders why Heinrich would oppose fellow Democrat Ray Powell’s effort to restore some BLM lands to state control in an effort to fund a new pre-k program.

It would seem that Heinrich is simply pandering with this effort, but clearly he sees any effort to reduce federal land holdings as a very bad thing politically while expanding federal control as with the recent Organ Mountains Wilderness designation to be a good thing.

HT: Myron Ebell

Alan Webber: Another Democrat’s economic attacks fall flat

Tue, 2014-06-24 16:00

Another day, another attack by a liberal Democrat levied against Gov. Martinez on the economy. This time, liberal former Gov. candidate Alan Webber attacks Gov. Martinez in the Albuquerque Journal on what we can all agree on is New Mexico’s poor overall economic performance. As I’ve written before, this remains the Democrats’ best line of attack against Martinez in the 2014 election, but there are several issues.

1) The Dems offer no sound solutions. Gary King wants a higher minimum wage and laws mandating “equal pay” for women. Webber (as indicated in his article) wants “green jobs” despite repeated reports indicating that projections of “green jobs” employing massive numbers of people being overblown. Both are typical, central-planning ideas that put government in charge of picking and choosing the industries that are favored and those that should fail.

2) Government doesn’t create jobs. At the outset of his article, Webber notes the “unbelievable record Gov. Susana Martinez has of creating jobs.” Unfortunately for Webber, Gary Johnson had it best when he said, “I didn’t create a single job as Governor.” Government can set up reasonable tax rates, rules, and regulations that allow average New Mexicans to build businesses and create jobs, but by removing productive resources from the private sector economy, government mostly kills both wealth and jobs and sometimes diverts those resources to other industries whether those are actually desired or demanded by the marketplace.

3) Gov. Martinez is merely the Governor, not the queen or dictator. In other words, Martinez has controlled one branch of New Mexico’s government, the executive, for just less than four years. The Courts and Legislature, not to mention the PRC and most local bodies, have been controlled by big-government liberals for decades. New Mexico did have a good decade during the 2000s in part due to some serious income tax cuts, but it’s not like New Mexico was at the top of all the good economic lists before Martinez got elected.

Democrats, whether that means Gary King or anyone else, have a long way to go to convince New Mexicans that they have viable solutions for New Mexico’s economy.

Largest “company” by revenue by state

Tue, 2014-06-24 10:23

I’m not sure what it says about New Mexico’s economy that our largest “business” is a non-profit health care provider (Presbyterian), but it is not good. Actually, it is an indicator that New Mexico lacks a developed private sector.

Milton Friedman Legacy Celebration – Albuquerque

Tue, 2014-06-24 09:06

Celebrate Milton Friedman’s Legacy!

Click here for event registration form!

You are invited to join the Rio Grande Foundation for an evening celebrating what would have been Milton Friedman’s 102nd birthday with Timothy Sandefur, Principal Attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation. Along with Friedman’s legacy, Sandefur will be discussing is new book, “The Conscience of the Constitution.”

Sandefur’s book questions whether liberty or democracy is the primary constitutional value. At a time when Americans are increasingly facing violations of their civil liberties, Timothy Sandefur’s insightful new book explains why the Declaration of Independence, with its doctrines on the primacy of liberty, the natural rights of man, and the limits on legitimate government, should serve as the guidepost for understanding the Constitution.

  • When:  6:00pm to 7:30pm on Thursday, July 31, 2014.
  • Where:  Room 2401 at UNM Law School which is located at 1117 Stanford Dr. NE, Albuquerque, NM  87106.
  • Cost:  $10 which includes light appetizers and non-alcoholic drinks as well as birthday cake to celebrate Dr. Friedman’s birthday.

Timothy Sandefur is a Principal Attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation. As the lead attorney in the Foundation’s Economic Liberty Project, he works to protect businesses against abusive government regulation, and has won important victories for free enterprise in California, Oregon, Missouri, and other states.

Publications / Achievements

He is the author of three books, Cornerstone of Liberty: Property Rights in 21st Century America (2006), The Right to Earn A Living: Economic Freedom And The Law (2010), and The Conscience of The Constitution: The Declaration of Independence And The Right to Liberty (2013), as well as some 45 scholarly articles on subjects ranging from eminent domain and economic liberty to copyright, evolution and creationism, slavery and the Civil War, and legal issues in Shakespeare and ancient Greek drama. His articles have appeared in National Review, The Claremont Review of Books, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Times, and Regulation among other places.

He is an adjunct scholar with the Cato Institute and a frequent guest on radio and television programs, including John Stossel, the Armstrong and Getty Show, the Jim Lehrer News Hour and NPR's This American Life.

Click here for event registration form!

Slow growth v. Fast growth cities

Mon, 2014-06-23 15:27

Interesting story today from Daily Ticker via Yahoo on the fastest and slowest-growing cities in America. I’ve taken the liberty of posting the top and bottom 10 below:

Top 10 Fastest-growing

1. Midland, Texas 5.8%

2. Greeley, Colorado 4.8%

3. St. George, Utah 4.6%

4. Provo-Orem, Utah 4.6%

5. Naples-Marco Island, Florida 4.5%

6. Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, Texas 4.4%

7. Raleigh-Cary, North Carolina 4.3%

8. Laredo, Texas 4.3%

9. Palm Coast, Florida 4.3%

10. Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Ark.-Mo. 4.2%

Top 10 Slowest-Growing

1. Binghampton, New York 1.0%

2. Utica-Rome, New York 1.0%

3. Pine Bluff, Arkansas 1.3%

4. Johnstown, Pennsylvania 1.3%

5. Atlantic City-Hammonton, New Jersey 1.4%

6. Danville, Virginia 1.4%

7. Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas 1.4%

8. Kingston, New York 1.4%

9. Elmira, New York 1.5%

10. Buffalo-Niagara Falls, New York 1.5%

Notably, nine of the top 10 are cities in right to work states. Only Colorado is not (they have some other nifty pro-taxpayer protections). Seven of the bottom 10 cities are in forced-unionism states. Also, half of the top-10 cities are in states that both have no personal income tax and are right to work. Beaumont-Port Arthur is the only city in the bottom 10 located in such a state.

Correlation may not be causation, but eventually enough different data points should lead policymakers to wonder why states (and cities in states) that have adopted right to work and zero income tax consistently outperform their high-tax, forced-unionism peers.

Federal lands in New Mexico: Recent presentations

Mon, 2014-06-23 10:56

Carl Graham of the Coalition for Self Government and I had a whirlwind tour of New Mexico to discuss federal lands issues in the West and New Mexico in particular. We discussed New Mexico’s economy and how it is impacted by federal lands as well as solutions like “Financial Ready” and “Transfer of Federal Lands” (TPLA) legislation.

Carl spoke at a well-attended public meeting in Albuquerque:

Carl Graham of the Coalition for Self Government in the West speaks at Rio Grande Foundation event from Paul Gessing on Vimeo.

He and I (my presentation starts at 45:20) also spoke to the New Mexico Association of Counties meeting in Deming (the Association passed a resolution supporting TPLA):

Carl Graham of Coalition for Self Government in the West & Paul Gessing of RGF speak at New Mexico Association of Counties event from Paul Gessing on Vimeo.

Rob Nikolewski of Capitol Report New Mexico covered the Albuquerque event and interviewed Graham here.

More information will certainly follow on this important issue.

Liberty on the Rocks – Albuquerque (new location)

Thu, 2014-06-19 15:33
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.

We are changing locations for this event. From now on, 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.

Liberty on the Rocks is usually held on the third Wednesday of the month, but due to RGF president Paul Gessing's travel plans will take place on Wednesday, June 25th 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!

2 great op-eds in today’s ABQ Journal: Teacher federal lands & merit pay

Wed, 2014-06-18 17:03

The Rio Grande Foundation hosted a discussion in Albuquerque on June 17 with Carl Graham of the Coalition for Self Government in the West. Carl had an opinion piece in today’s Albuquerque Journal detailing the reasons and potential benefits were New Mexico to demand and receive lands currently owned and managed by Washington (BLM and Forest Service).

A second, equally important piece was written by my colleague on the Board of the virtual charter school, New Mexico Connections Academy, former New Mexico Sen. Mark Boitano. In his piece, Boitano outlined in detail why effective teachers are so important for improved educational results, how pay for performance can help improve the quality of teaching, and what Connections Academy is doing, within the limits of New Mexico law, to retain the best teachers.

Both initiatives have great potential to improve New Mexico economically and educationally (our federal lands can generate a far better return for schools and our education system needs to improve to build a 21st Century work force). Gov. Martinez has been supportive of both efforts (particularly the latter in approving Connections Academy over the objections of the PEC). It is time for the Legislature and the rest of New Mexico’s leaders to step up to do better.

Federal energy policy regulator could negatively impact New Mexico

Tue, 2014-06-17 21:47

Though many New Mexicans may not be aware of it, especially given our state’s ongoing economic struggles, New Mexico is in the midst of a boom in energy development. New Mexico has vast deposits of oil and gas that can help our state transcend its struggling economy, leading to better jobs and higher wages.

Just ask the people of North Dakota, whose oil and gas production has resulted in an unemployment rate of less than 3% and fast-food workers being hired at $15 per hour. How important is New Mexico’s energy development? Nearly one-third of all state funding to public schools, as well as to New Mexico’s higher-education institutions, comes from taxes, royalties and fees paid by oil-and-gas operations around the state.

The main threat to New Mexico reaping this huge windfall is an anti-oil and gas movement in our nation’s capital, the same one that has put the Keystone Pipeline project in limbo. Leading this charge is Nevada Senator Harry Reid, who wants hand-picked energy novice Norman Bay to lead the country’s premier energy agency, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). With Bay at the helm of FERC, New Mexico’s energy boom can be stopped,

FERC regulates natural-gas pricing and pipelines as well as natural-gas export terminals. New Mexico’s ability to stoke its economy through the exploration and production of clean, efficient natural gas hinges directly on decisions made by FERC.

The Commission’s current, acting chair, Cheryl LaFleur, is a seasoned veteran of the energy sector and a respected expert on energy regulation who is on record in favor of quickly processing new export terminals to sell natural gas from New Mexico and other states amid surging world demand.

The White House, however, has nominated energy novice Norman Bay to chair the commission and set the agenda on such crucial policies. Elevating the largely unknown Bay— Politico calls him a “man of mystery”—to the pivotal position of chair could have significant, negative impacts on our State’s thriving energy sector. The chair of FERC holds powerful sway over its agenda and staff in ways that average members do not.
Unfortunately, perhaps as a personal favor to a former colleague, Gov. Martinez has endorsed the appointment of Bay to the FERC although not specifically the powerful position of chair.

The Obama Administration has a dismal record on the development of America’s energy assets despite the obvious importance these strategic natural resources play to states like New Mexico. The Washington Post says, “If foot-dragging were a competitive sport, President Obama and his administration would be world champions for their performance in delaying the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.” Now the Obama White House—heavily lobbied on the issue by fringe activists—aims to do the same for liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals. As it is, there are two dozen applications for new export terminals awaiting FERC approval.

The Rio Grande Foundation has previously estimated that New Mexico could see an immediate increase in economic output of $200 million and the addition of 2,000 jobs immediately if LNG exports were encouraged rather than discouraged by Washington.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in an interview this week that he wants Norman Bay as Chairman of FERC, not Cheryl LaFleur. The last guy Reid picked for Chair, Ron Binz, could not get confirmed after calling natural gas “a dead end.”

An FERC chair who implements an anti-natural gas agenda—rather than serving as the neutral arbiter the FERC needs—could cut short our state’s strides in energy exploration.

To be sure, Bay’s appointment as chair over a commission on which he has never served, and has little background, makes little sense in terms of good government. Of even greater concern, though, are the troubling implications for New Mexico.

Ideally, Gov. Martinez should take a closer look at the views Mr. Bay holds as they relate to energy issues in general and LNG exports in particular. Absent a broader evaluation of Bay’s record, we hope that Martinez clarifies that her support for Bay is simply as a member of the FERC as opposed to its chair.

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

Can Gary King make hay on the economy? He needs to do better than his first ad

Mon, 2014-06-16 13:56

Today’s Albuquerque Journal contained the latest admission (this one by Republican legislator Jimmie Hall) that New Mexico’s economy stinks. The article made a bunch of points about our state’s poor economic performance, but almost willfully refused to come to conclusions (like blaming New Mexico’s lack of economic freedom).

Enter gubernatorial candidate Gary King and his first ad which can be seen below:

The good news is that King actually mentions two specific policy reforms that he’d support (I respect politicians that actually put specific ideas on the table): raising the minimum wage and mandating “equal pay” for women. The bad news is that not only are these policy ideas bad, but they are also exactly what one would expect from a “run-of-the-mill” liberal Democrat. At very best, raising the minimum wage will do little economic harm in terms of lost jobs while giving a small group of low-wage workers a small boost, but this is hardly a policy move that will turn New Mexico’s economy around.

The “equal pay” idea is even sillier. Passing a new regulatory regime to track the pay of men and women will do nothing for the economy.

Rather than burdening New Mexico’s struggling economy with even more regulations, I’d love to see King break free from the leftist “splitting up the fixed pie” mode of economic thinking and instead put forth some ideas that expand the pie by acknowledging that the private sector drives prosperity across all income levels and gender divides. Oh, and if you want to work at Wal Mart and make $17 an hour, you don’t need a higher minimum wage, you can do that right now in North Dakota.

Sen. Heinrich has it wrong on student debt: time to end the federal student loan program

Mon, 2014-06-16 08:54

There was Sen. Heinrich on the pages of the Albuquerque Journal this Sunday arguing for Congress to (again) intervene in the federal government’s student loan program. The idea of The Bank on Students Emergency Loan Act is to allow students to refinance their debts down to today’s market rates.

The bill before Congress merely rearranges the deck chairs on the Titanic and the sinking ship is the student loan program which seems to do more harm than good. Rather than making college more affordable, the loan program has helped drive tuition higher:

The truth is that Washington should find the quickest exit it can from any involvement in student loans. After all, if government needs to be involved at all, the states which run most of America’s universities, would be more innovative and realistic about getting students to attend college (or not) and financing it than Uncle Sam. Instead, Washington, with its ability to go into debt and print money just throws more money at the “problem,” the solution for which is negatively impacts large numbers of college loan recipients who don’t understand the importance of studying in a field with viable career prospects or the power of compounding interest.

New Mexico sticks out like a sore thumb on economic liberty in the Southwest

Fri, 2014-06-13 12:48

Recently, New Mexico saw the following bad jobs news. Specifically, New Mexico is losing jobs while its neighbors are gaining jobs.

But why is New Mexico economically-weaker than its neighbors? We have repeatedly made the case that New Mexico is less economically-free and is less friendly to business. This is not a view isolated to a few reports, rather it is a consistent finding of those who report on such issues. The Rio Grande Foundation recently looked at eight separate rankings of business friendliness and economic freedom (see them below with appropriate links). They measure different things, but consistently find New Mexico to perform worse than its neighbors.

Mercatus Center (personal freedom scores were eliminated from our state rankings): New Mexico’s score: 28; regional average: 16.
Fraser Institute Economic Freedom: New Mexico’s score: 50; regional average: 12.
Forbes: Best States for Business: New Mexico’s score: 45; regional average: 15.
CNBC: Best States for Business: New Mexico’s score: 36; regional average: 17.
Chief Executive Magazine: Best States for Business: New Mexico’s score: 30; regional average: 11.
Tax Foundation: Business Tax Climate: New Mexico’s score: 38; regional average: 17.
Federation of Tax Administrators (Taxes as Percent of Personal Income): (note, since FTA ranks heavier burdens with a lower number, we have inverted the ranking so as to make the lower number “good” or more friendly to business and work and the higher number “less-so”: New Mexico’s score: 36; regional average: 16.
ALEC Rich States, Poor States: New Mexico’s score: 37, regional average: 12.

We put together the following map which illustrates the average scores on these various reports below. Clearly, New Mexico trails its neighbors when it comes to business friendliness and economic freedom.

Oklahoma has adopted 401K-style retirement for new government workers…could New Mexico?

Thu, 2014-06-12 17:08

The Rio Grande Foundation recently proposed the idea of placing all new government workers into 401K-style “defined-contribution” retirement plans as a common-sense and relatively popular free market reform for New Mexico (number 9 on the list). After all, the concept is supported by 70 percent of workers nationwide with only 22 percent opposed, according to a recent poll. See graphic below for details:

Government workers have a bit more heartburn about the issue, but are still supportive by nearly 2:1.

The bad news is that a similar transition has not been floated by Gov. Martinez or any legislator/candidate that I’m aware of. The good news is that the idea is spreading and has spread to neighboring Oklahoma which recently adopted 401k-style pensions for new government hires. See the nifty graphic below which documents the spread of such “defined contribution” plans.

As I wrote in our recent issue brief on the topic, “A defined contribution system would allow those workers to save more or less based on their own needs at particular stages in their lives. Ultimately, while labor union leaders prefer to have their members’ interests tied to government and the political system (and the unions), a shift to individually-controlled accounts undermines the one-size-fits-all mentality perpetuated by unions while also empowering workers.” The other major winners are, of course, taxpayers, who no longer face the spiraling costs associated with “defined benefit” pension plans.

We’re number one? New Mexico has more MRAP’s than any other state….let alone per capita

Tue, 2014-06-10 13:02

According to the New York Times, it looks like the Land of Enchantment is also the land of Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) armored vehicles provided to local law enforcement units. See article here and graphic below:

According to the story, New Mexico has an astonishing 42 of these vehicles out of the 432 that have been distributed nationwide, and, while I’m a bit fuzzy at counting the squares, it looks like that gives us more of these vehicles than any other state in the nation. As if that weren’t enough, we have nearly 10% of these military vehicles for 0.6 percent of the US population.

From a taxpayer perspective, the use of this type of material is a questionable investment (especially in rural areas). From the perspective of police interaction with the public (an issue of some relevance here in Albuquerque), the use of such war machines also can’t be helpful. Where are New Mexico’s 42 MRAP’s? I don’t know for sure. There appears to be one in Hobbs and it looks like Clovis has one, but we’d be interested to know where they all are. Drop us a line in the comments section. Please provide a news link or some evidence if possible.

No need to raise property taxes in Bernalillo County

Tue, 2014-06-10 09:05

At tonight’s Bernalillo County Commission meeting, commissioners will be voting to put a $1.5 million property tax hike on the ballot. As the story below indicates, if approved, the tax hike will go to pay for “open space.”

There are several reasons to vote against a tax hike including the ongoing poor economic conditions in the Albuquerque Metro area, much of which is within Bernalillo County. Our city was recently ranked 360 out of 379 on several economic indicators. I’m sure a tax hike will not help turn around our economy.

Albuquerque already has the heaviest property tax burden of any city in the State. As of 2012, the millage rate (the rate at which property is taxed) for average property owners exceeded 41. The next highest rate in New Mexico was Rio Rancho’s 35. After that, Santa Fe weighed in with a paltry 20. Albuquerque residents also bear a property tax burden that is 20 percent heavier than the next-highest New Mexico city.

Lastly, Bernalillo County already spends $1.2 million annually on open space. If adopted, will County residents actually see any additional open space or is this simply a tax hike designed to increase overall spending or cover for recent financial troubles.