Obama’s pre-Kindergarten plan expensive, shows little results

Throughout the spring and summer, United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has travelled the country to build support for President Obama’s “Preschool for All” program. He has made stops in Colorado, Georgia, Minnesota, Wyoming, and several other states. Recently, he began his weeklong “Strong Start, Bright Future” bus tour of the Southwest. To kick off the tour, Duncan spoke at United Way of Santa Fe County Early Learning Center and at Emerson Elementary School in Albuquerque.

Secretary Duncan spoke mainly about President Obama’s early education program, which was introduced this past spring as part of the President’s fiscal year 2014 budget proposal. The program is designed to expand preschool access and would be funded with a mix of state and federal dollars. Over the first ten years of the program, the federal government has committed to spend $75 billion dollars, which would be raised by increasing the federal excise tax on cigarettes by 93 percent as well as increasing the tax rates on other tobacco products. The states that choose to participate in the program cover about ten percent of its cost in year one but their funding obligations increase steadily each year—rising to 50 percent in year five and a whopping 75 percent in year ten. So if our state participates in the program, New Mexico’s taxpayers will be responsible for funding the greater share of the program in the long-term.

Unlocking New Mexico’s Federal Lands Would Generate Economic Boom

(Albuquerque) New Mexico could see both an economic boom and improved management of the federally-controlled Forest Service and BLM lands within its borders. New data providing three different scenarios on the economic potential of New Mexico’s public lands from Dr. Timothy J. Considine, a professor of energy economics at the University of Wyoming, illustrates the vast potential of these lands for oil and gas production.

New Mexico








Value Added












Valued added and taxes are in millions of 2013 dollars

Notes Rio Grande Foundation president Paul J. Gessing, author of the brief, The Economic Possibilities of Unlocking Energy Resources on New Mexico’s Federal Lands, “Opening portions of New Mexico’s federal lands to resource development is not and should not be an open invitation to pillage the land.

“Rather,” argues Gessing, “oil and gas can be accessed in an environmentally-sensitive manner while some of those revenues could be used in prevent forest fires, improve wildlife habitat, and allow the public to access and recreate on those lands in ways that are not currently possible.”

In fact, the Rio Grande Foundation’s analysis indicates that BLM and Forest Service lands would be better managed by state officials here in New Mexico as opposed to federal bureaucrats from Washington, DC. Bi-partisan legislation, HB 292, to formally request the return of these lands from Washington was introduced during the 2013 legislative session. Similar legislation has passed in Utah and other Western states.

For an idea of the significance of this added economic activity relative to New Mexico’s economy, the number of jobs created could be as much as 7.8 percent higher and New Mexico’s gross state product would rise by a whopping 10 percent.

Considine's paper upon which this research is based is available here.

RR should strive for more government efficiency

Conservatives in Rio Rancho are attempting to heal some wounds in the wake of the failed ballot measure last month. While my organization endorsed the tax cut proposal, there were honorable people with reasonable views on both sides of the issue.
And, while tax policy is an important component of economic development policy, Rio Rancho’s city council should look beyond taxes (at least in the immediate future) to consider ways to improve governance in the city while also making it a more attractive place to do business.

One of the most important ways to do this is by having a more efficient government with improved cost-effectiveness.
In Indianapolis, former Mayor Stephen Goldsmith had an informal test called the “Yellow Pages Test.” The basic idea behind the test was that if more than one private sector provider for a given service can be found in the phone book, the private sector provider, not government, should be given the job or at least allowed to compete for it on an even playing field with government workers.

Upcoming RGF Events: The President Who Said "No": How an American Leader Can Cut the Budget, Save The Economy and Still Win Elections

Albuquerque Luncheon and Tularosa Dinner, Monday, October 21
The President Who Said "No": How an American Leader Can Cut the Budget, Save The Economy and Still Win Elections

amity_shlaesLeading economic historian, best-selling author, and award-winning journalist Amity Shlaes will be speaking on Calvin Coolidge and his legacy of limited government at events in Albuquerque and Tularosa, New Mexico, on Monday, October 21st, 2013.

Tickets for either event are available for $50 per person. A ticket and book combo is available for $80 which will get one person entry to the luncheon or dinner and one copy of Shlaes' book Coolidge. That's $5 off the book's cover price of $35. Shlaes will first speak at a luncheon in Albuquerque from 12:00 noon to 1:00PM at the Marriott Pyramid which is located at I-25 and Paseo del Norte.

Click here to make your Albuquerque luncheon reservations online. Shlaes will then speak at a dinner in Tularosa from 6:00 to 7:30PM at the Tulie Cafe which is located at 313 Granado St. Click here to make your Tularosa dinner reservations online. Giv us a call at: 505-264-6090 for sponsorship.

Books can be added to the table price for $30 per book. Click here to order additional books. amity_shlaes_coolidge_bookShlaes writes a syndicated column for Forbes, is Chairman of the Board of the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation, directs the 4% Growth project at the George W. Bush Presidential Center, and teaches at New York University's Stern School of Business in the MBA program. She is the author of the New York Times best-sellers, The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression (named by The Wall Street Journal as one of the best books to read during a financial crisis), The Greedy Hand, and her latest book Coolidge, a comprehensive biography and reassessment of President Calvin Coolidge.

The Wall Street Journal raves that it is "both timely and important ... As the nation faces a looming economic crisis wrought in large measure by mounting public debt, the Coolidge experiment offers insights into what an alternative course might look like. Ms. Shlaes has given us a detailed examination of that alternative course." Shlaes has written for Bloomberg, The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal, where she was an editorial board member, as well as for The New Yorker, Fortune, National Review, The New Republic, and Foreign Affairs. She has appeared on PBS's News Hours with Jim Lehrer, Comedy Central's The Daily Show, Fox News' Glenn Beck, ABC's Good Morning America, Charlie Rose, CNBC's Kudlow, contributes to Public Radio International's Marketplace, and appears frequently on Bloomberg radio. She chairs the jury of the Manhattan Institute's Hayek Book Prize and has won both the Hayek and the Bastiat Prize for Journalism.

Shlaes is a trustee of the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation. She graduated magna cum laude from Yale and studied at the Free University in Berlin on a DAAD fellowship. Yale named Shlaes to its "Who's Been Blue," list of most distinguished alumni. She lives with her family in New York.

Make Your Reservations Online:

Albuquerque luncheon reservations

Tularosa dinner reservations

Issues and Answers interview: Federal Lands, Milton Friedman, and New Mexico's economy

Paul Gessing of Rio Grande Foundation sat down with Diane Kinderwater recently to discuss a variety of issues of importance to New Mexico. See the full interview below:

Issues & Answers: federal lands, Milton Friedman, licensing, New Mexico, economy from Paul Gessing on Vimeo.

Paul Gessing's testimony on free market criminal justice reforms

Testimony Before Courts, Corrections, and Justice Interim Committee
Friday, August 23rd, 9am, Room 322

Rep. Gail Chasey, Co-Chair
Sen. Richard C. Martinez, Co-Chair


Good morning Madame and Mr. Co-Chair, members of the Committee. My name is Paul Gessing, I’m President of the Rio Grande Foundation, New Mexico’s free market public research institute or think tank. We’re based in Albuquerque, NM. Thank you for inviting me to participate in this hearing.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not an expert on criminal justice issues. That said, criminal justice issues are by definition economic issues. New Mexico’s economic policies are the bread and butter issues of my organization. Criminal justice policies impact the economy in three major ways:

1. Direct spending on the criminal justice system including everything from police to prisons;

2. Foregone revenues including everything from potential taxes paid (or not paid) by those who are incarcerated or unable to find work due to their criminal records to the economic potential to tax drugs like marijuana;

3. Lost economic growth due to crime/inadequate public safety.

While I don’t consider myself an expert on criminal justice issues, I am one of the original signatories of the Right on Crime statement of principles. This statement has now received support from 54 conservative leaders across the nation.

The basic premise is that the traditional “lock em up” mentality that has historically dominated conservative thinking on crime is too expensive and lacking in effectiveness to continue without a serious re-evaluation of the goals, tactics, and fiscal implications of our criminal justice policies.


To be clear, New Mexico is historically not a state that has followed conservative criminal justice policies. Incarceration rates, for example, are far lower here than they are in most surrounding states. That does not mean that New Mexico policymakers are doing everything right or as cost-effectively as possible, it just means that “lock em up” has not been the criminal justice model in New Mexico as it has been in Texas, for example. That also doesn’t mean that policymakers in our state can’t learn something from what other states are doing on criminal justice issues.

New Mexico should encourage for-profit digital education

During the 2013 legislative session and Hanna Skandera’s “confirmation hearings,” the issues of digital learning and private sector involvement in education took center-stage. Legislation introduced by Rep. Mimi Stewart D-Albuquerque would have banned for-profit companies from certain education-related activities (the bill was vetoed by Gov. Martinez).

Another bill, this one introduced by Rep. Mary Helen Garcia, D-Las Cruces (also vetoed by the Gov.) would have stripped authority from the Secretary of Education to approve charter schools over the objections of the Public Education Commission (PEC).

The PEC opposed several charter schools in the 2012-2013 approval cycle including Connections Academy, a “virtual” school that is up and running as of Fall 2013. Concerns over digital learning played a lead role in the PEC’s decision to deny the school’s charter. Full-disclosure, I am on the Board of Directors of the Academy which was approved by the Secretary over the objections of the PEC.

As I argue in a new Rio Grande Foundation report on digital learning, policymakers should drop their opposition to both digital learning and for profit involvement in education and instead embrace their potential for the good of New Mexico’s children.

For starters, digital innovation has enhanced all of our lives. The explosion in inexpensive, readily-available, digital photography has enabled average people to take high quality pictures and experiment in ways that weren’t available just two decades ago.

America’s education monopoly has been slow to adapt to technological changes. This is one reason why K-12 spending has exploded nationwide over the past 30 years while educational results have remained stagnant. Unfortunately, New Mexico is 50th in the nation in graduation rates according to the authoritative Diplomas’ Count report. Our policymakers should embrace needed reforms and innovations rather than fighting them.

In terms of for-profit involvement in K-12 education, the profit-motive, if harnessed appropriately to the education system can provide significant benefits. As Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute notes:

The watchful eye of investors can lend for-profits a healthy discipline. The prospect of returns means that promising profit-seeking ventures can offer employees lucrative long-term opportunities and can tap vast sums through the private-equity markets. For-profits have a relentless, selfish imperative to seek out and adopt cost efficiencies.

Nonprofits, by contrast, have little incentive to become “early adopters” of cost-saving tools and techniques such as online instruction.

For-profits are already involved in provide transportation services, computer software and equipment, and a wide variety of other learning tools including textbooks. They are an integral and even unavoidable part of our education system that, with proper management and incentives, could be a boon for New Mexico’s children.

When it comes to embracing digital learning, New Mexico is in the middle of the pack according to the latest report card put together by Digital Learning Now, a national organization dedicated to the expansion of digital learning. Two states, Utah and Florida are “running away from the pack” in terms of embracing online learning.

Utah’s ground-breaking Statewide Online Education Program was established by the Utah Legislature in the 2011 General Session. The program enables eligible students to earn high school graduation credit through the completion of publicly funded online courses. It is a national model that all states should pursue when it comes to digital learning.

Florida too has fully-embraced the digital learning revolution. The state which has seen rapid improvement in 4th grade reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress and been a model for education reformers nationwide (including New Mexico) has fully-embraced digital learning.

Rather than being afraid of and putting up barriers to digital learning and for-profits, Florida policymakers have been updating and expanding their laws governing digital learning for more than a decade as technology and the marketplace of digital providers continues to evolve and expand.

The way Americans access and use information is changing rapidly. Our schools must keep up or our children will be left behind in the 21st Century economy. It is time to embrace digital learning and for-profits in education. We have nowhere to go but up.

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

Government stimulus spending — BAD: We need fewer regulations, entitlements

This piece appeared as one half of a pro/con debate with Nick Estes, formerly of NM Voices for Children. His column can be found here.

President Obama is again touting the wonders of government spending and what positive impacts his “investments” in the economy would have if the Republicans would go along.

Unfortunately for Obama, government over-spending is a problem, not a solution when it comes to America’s economy. If Obama wants to get the economy moving, he needs to repeal the job-killing ObamaCare law, work with Paul Ryan to reform entitlements, reduce the burden regulations place on the economy, and embrace America’s newfound role as a major producer and exporter of energy.

Every penny of added government spending adds to America’s debt burden. More importantly, government spending typically redirects resources away from the more efficient private sector and into less efficient government.

Take the so-called “stimulus.” The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says it “created or saved” 2 million jobs. That may be true, but the stimulus spent $787 billion. That’s $393 thousand per job saved or created!

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