ObamaCare Panel Discussion Video Available

On August 22nd, Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation, Dr. Deane Waldman, a pediatric cardiologist at UNMH and an adjunct scholar at Rio Grande Foundation, and former US Rep. Bill Redmond, appeared on a panel discussion to discuss the health care law known as "ObamaCare."

The event was hosted by Libre Initiative and the panel is introduced by Michael Barrera of Libre.

8-22-12 Health care forum from Paul Gessing on Vimeo.

What Should New Mexico do about Medicaid?

(Albuquerque) One of the most important decisions facing state policymakers in the months ahead is whether or not to expand their Medicaid programs. Under President Obama’s health care law – as originally written – known as the “Affordable Care Act” or “ObamaCare,” the states would have been required to expand their Medicaid programs to 138 percent of poverty level.

This requirement was struck down by the US Supreme Court, but states are being strongly incentivized to expand Medicaid with the “carrot” of federal matching grants of up to 100% initially. Advocates say that New Mexico should take the “free” money and eagerly expand their Medicaid programs.

Dr. Deane Waldman, an adjunct scholar with the Rio Grande Foundation and a practicing pediatric cardiologist, has a different perspective. In his new report, “What Should New Mexico Do About Medicaid,” which is available here, he explains the issues with Medicaid from both the doctors’ and patients’ perspectives.

Waldman explains the major differences between Medicare and Medicaid, outlines some of the serious problems with Medicaid, and gives examples of Medicaid reforms that have worked in other states like Florida.

Argues Waldman of the Medicaid expansion decision, it “may look like free money, but we all know: a) there is no such thing; b) who will not get the money – providers; and c) who will not get services – patients. Medicaid will follow the same path as Medicare. More and more money will go to the bureaucracy, while less and less will go to people who actually care for patients.”

Minimum Wage Hike No Panacea

AFL-CIO affiliate Working America and associated organizations are currently pursuing an effort to raise the minimum wage in Albuquerque from $7.50 an hour to $8.50. Unlike past hikes in the mandated wage, this proposal would also increase the wage annually to mirror the rate of inflation.

The cause of improving low-income workers living standards is surely a noble one, but the rationale behind the proposed wage hike is riddled with misconceptions concerning the economics of labor. Well-intended policies do not necessarily generate positive outcomes, rather unintended consequences are inevitable.

Rio Grande Foundation Study Exposes Proposed Minimum-Wage Hike as Misguided, Harmful Policy

(Albuquerque) In response to efforts underway to raise the minimum wage in Albuquerque from $7.50 to $8.50 and indexing it to inflation, the Rio Grande Foundation has released a new report detailing the negative impacts of minimum wage hikes. The report, “Raising Albuquerque’s Minimum Wage: A Misguided Anti-Poverty Measure at Best, A Cruel Impediment to Work at Worst,” is available on the Rio Grande Foundation’s website.

Among the items to be found in the report is the fact that any increase in the minimum wage would be poorly-targeted in terms of reaching those who is supposed to benefit from the bump in wages.

  • “According to data from the Census Bureau, approximately half of all minimum wage workers are in what might be called their “prime working years (26-65).” Said Gessing, author of the report, “As one would expect, about half of New Mexicans working at the minimum wage are either just getting started in the workforce or are working “odd-jobs” that allow them to make some extra money as the move towards full retirement”;
  • Also, only approximately 20 percent of those currently earning the minimum wage in New Mexico are the breadwinner in their families and supporting children. More than 50 percent either live with their families, a spouse, or have some other family support structure in place to pay a majority of the bills;
  • The average family income of families with a minimum-wage earner exceeds $55,000 and the median exceeds $43,000 annually. Clearly, the archetypical single mom supporting kids on a minimum wage salary is not the norm.
  • Advocates assume no negative externalities of their preferred policies, but New Mexico’s teen unemployment rate is currently 22.6 percent – up dramatically from 13.2 percent in 2002 (prior to the last Congressionally-mandated bump in the minimum wage and the recent economic downturn). Increasing Albuquerque’s minimum wage could push even more young people out of the work force entirely.

Concluded Gessing, “Even if we assume nothing but benefits will accrue to those at the bottom rung of the employment ladder, an increase in the minimum wage is a poorly-targeted anti-poverty policy. After accounting for the fact that some otherwise employed individuals will lose their jobs as a result, a hike in the minimum wage becomes an impediment to the skills, discipline, and self-esteem associated with holding down a first job.”

Rio Grande Foundation Re-Launches User-friendly Legislative Tracking Tool, NewMexicoVotes.org

(Albuquerque) The Rio Grande Foundation has updated its legislation-tracking tool, a website called: www.NewMexicoVotes.org. The website includes votes and bills introduced dating from 2008 through the 2012 legislative session.

RGF launched the site in order to provide a more transparent window for New Mexicans to follow what happens in state government. The site is free and open to the public.

With plain English bill information for each legislator (as opposed to being in legalese and grouped by bill number in an unalterable pdf format), links that show everyone who has donated to each legislator and the amount of each donation, and a whole host of additional features, those who want to track what happens in Santa Fe will find New Mexico Votes particularly useful.

Paul Gessing, President of the Rio Grande Foundation, said of the public service, “‘Votes’ is part of our organization’s efforts to bring more transparency and accountability to New Mexico state government. While the Legislature has made great strides in recent years, a constituent looking for information on votes by their legislator will have a much easier time with our site than with the Legislature’s site.”

Continued Gessing, “We want everyone to be able to find out, with a few clicks of a mouse, what his or her legislator is doing, to be able to sign on and read plain English descriptions of what each bill does in a way that the average person can understand, and know immediately what our tax money is being spent on, or whether the bill increases or decreases taxation, regulation, or government transparency.”

Gov. Martinez should “Just say No” to Medicaid Expansion

It’s free money! That’s the line used by actor Jimmy Fallon in a series of credit card commercials. It is also the line increasingly being used by advocates of Medicaid expansion here in New Mexico and across the nation.

After all, who but a bunch of anti-social, uncaring, right wing conservatives could possibly turn down “free” money?

The answer is that anyone with even the most cursory knowledge of economics knows that there is no such thing as a free lunch or “free” money. Even barring that first-semester ECON 101 lesson, in this case the money doesn’t stay “free” forever. New Mexico taxpayers will be on the hook for hundreds of millions of additional dollars in Medicaid spending if they accept this money. Lastly, since when does Congress keep its promises?

Discussing the Railyards Redevelopment

Mayor Berry is a great guy and I love his vision for Albuquerque, but I think the Railyards redevelopment may be an overreach. Unfortunately, Mayor Marty already put us (taxpayers) on the hook for $8.5 million. Mayor Berry is looking for ways to use the property, but problems abound and it would seem that taxpayers might have higher priorities than what could be a costly redevelopment with an unclear vision in mind.

I discussed some of the issues with KRQE Channel 13 on last night's 10pm newscast.

Mayor wants $800k for Railyards

Marc Levin Discusses Criminal Justice Reform in New Mexico

The Rio Grande Foundation and Drug Policy Alliance recently hosted a briefing for candidates on criminal justice issues including civil asset forfeiture. Marc Levin of the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Right on Crime made the following remarks:

7-31-12 Marc Levin on Criminal Justice from Paul Gessing on Vimeo.

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