A Pattern of Selective Accountability

There is no question accountability and transparency are on the minds of New Mexicans, and rightfully so.  In this week’s news, accountability in our schools is the qualifier.

Yet, missing from this conversation is accountability for the state’s topmost administrators – those in the Public Education Department.

Simple questions: Who is ensuring that the PED audits are fair and objective?  The Governor? Somehow that’s not reassuring.

So, to the real question: does Secretary Designate Skandera and Governor Martinez’s political agenda truly align with the interests of the children being served by our public schools?

This is another example of selective accountability that is suggestive of a developing pattern.

Those of you who followed the recent legislative session can attest that this pattern of selective accountability is nothing new.  Call it convenience or self-selection – Governor Martinez is quick to tout accountability — so long as she is exempted.

Already, during her brief tenure in office, the Governor been presented with numerous opportunities to embrace greater accountability as applied to the conduct of her administration.

Unfortunately, she rejected the embrace of open government, opting to employ her veto pen instead.

Is your head ready to explode yet, Susana?

It’s another day in the movie entitled, “Cursed to Live in Interesting Times.”

For the Memo to Governor Martinez entitled, “New Mexico’s Race to the Bottom”, there’s this tidbit:

Five Reasons Why States Can’t Create Jobs by Cutting Business Taxes from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

In the “Baby, It Hurts So Good Department”, tough economic times couldn’t be working out better for Big Oil. Despite all those regulatory fetters, today Exxon Mobil reported a first quarter profit jump of 69%.

In view of the pain that motorists are feeling at the gas pump, along with the alleged focus of some in Congress to attacking the deficit, one would think Speaker John Boehner and GOP budget master Paul Ryan would be on the same page. But apparently, someone didn’t get the memo:

While Boehner rejects request to end subsidies for oil firms (The Hill)

Rep. Paul Ryan says it’s time to do just that. (Politico)

And what about “Drill Baby Drill” as a way out of the crisis?  Former Bush-McCain economic advisor admitted it wouldn’t make a dime’s worth of difference.

Meanwhile, don’t cry for Massachusetts! Despite being burdened with a state-imposed universal health insurance mandate (RomneyCare), the Bay State experienced an economic growth surge ahead of the overall United States in the first quarter of 2011. Oh, and as an added bonus (or rather “fetter”), the state’s uninsured rate is below 5%.

Back here in New Mexico, we’re bracing for the cut-off of federal stimulus funds that, according to UNM economists, paid for as many as 23,000 jobs through June of last year.

Tick, tick, tick.

 

Two Truths and a Lie

You know that fun (OK, somewhat corny) icebreaker game people play, usually at work conferences or meetings?  It’s called “Two Truths and a Lie.”  Everyone in the group is instructed to come up with three stories about themselves, one of which is completely fabricated.

The object of the game is for the remaining members of the group to call out the falsehood.  In the process of playing this game – theoretically – people have a little fun, they relax a bit and they learn a bit more about each other.

It’s now time to plan Two Truths and a Lie, Clearly New Mexico style.

Here’s how it works.  We’ll give you three news items and then you guess (to yourself, or in the comment section if you’d like) which of the three news items is based on a lie.

Let’s get to it!

First, Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget isn’t very fiscally responsible.

Second, the head of Tea Party Nation is still skeptical about President Obama’s “eligibility.”

Finally, Medicare will not “go bankrupt” in nine years.

So, which two are factual statements and which statement is based on a lie?

 

 

Ryan Plan: What’s so bad about raising Medicare eligibility age?

Plenty, it would seem.

For those of you that have been tracking the federal budget debate, The New Republic blog has an interesting post that examines this largely overlooked component of the Ryan Budget.

Jonathan Cohn writes,

So just to sum up: Raising the age at which Americans become eligible for Medicare, or whatever program Republicans put in its place, would make health insurance more expensive for businesses, workers, and their employees, all while leaving one-fifth of future 65- and 66-year-olds with too little insurance or none at all. And oh, by the way, this is all part of a Republican budget that enacts huge tax breaks for the wealthy. You don’t have to be a senior citizen to get grumpy about that.

Perhaps we should start calling this the “Oh By The Way Budget.”

Work Till You Die! – April 28

by Terry Schleder, NM Alliance for Retired Americans

Ever wonder why the Tea Party cries crocodile tears over the national debt while campaigning against the actual saving of money?  Perhaps it’s because the distraction has worked.

Progressive social programs that made the American Middle Class happen – Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid – are officially up for grabs, having been scapegoated since the 80’s (openly), and maybe earlier. (Disclaimer: I get nauseous when I research it any further back than my entire voting life.)

Tax Day came and went this year, but its theatrical backdrop of a budget “discussion” in DC rings hollow across the US in state capitols where middle class public employees are finally refusing to play the scapegoat. This pushback against the uber-rich puppeteers of the past four decades rocks, but is it enough to save our community programs?

In this particular time of crises, when States are feeling the abandonment of federal responsibility like a downhill-rolling M1 Abrams tank, is it also possible for Progressives to envision and protect a caring, strong government that enables us to keep our promises to a healthy middle class?

Some folks think so, so they’re hoping we all show up for the National Day of Action to save our community programs.

Work Till You Die!” actions in NM and across the US will happen on Thursday, April 28.  We’ll tell our lawmakers that we’re fighting back for strong community programs that strengthen the middle class.  Join the NM Alliance for Retired Americans , Ole NM and others as we thank our Congressional champions of middle class security and hold others accountable for abandoning us.

Thurs., April 28 – ABQ & Las Cruces – “Work Till You Die!” events

12 Noon – In Downtown ABQ in front of the SSA office on 5th & Lead

12 Noon – In Las Cruces Rally in front of Rep. Steve Pearce’s office.

Fortunately, it looks like some folks are, indeed, coming out of the fog of distraction to question the radical policies that do little more than preserve CEO vacations in the Cayman Islands.

In fact, there’s even reason to believe people in New Mexico are smelling a rat. This year’s Tea Party Tax Day protest was half the size of their same shindig last year.

And instead of encountering 30 rag-tag Raging Grannies and Retiree activists from our beleaguered public worker unions, the ABQ Tea Party this year faced hundreds who came out to protest corporate welfare.

Hell, even some young conservatives are starting to question the within their own hypocrisy.

Now if we can just get them to realize that – despite WI Rep. Paul Ryan’s awesome muscles – his budget plan will tank their Social Security & Medicare, maybe we’ll make some progress.

Terry is NM Field Staff for the NM Alliance for Retired Americans. He’s worked in public health policy, research and advocacy for too long in NM and a couple big cities. He holds an MPH degree from UNM but thinks his working class background taught him stuff, too.

Sin of Emission on Earth Day – Good Friday Edition

In celebration of Earth Day 2011, here’s a story courtesy of the Natural Resources Defense Council:

For Earth Day, Steve Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute posted this shocker:  “Energy Fact of the Week: Sulfur Dioxide Emissions from Coal Have Declined 54 Percent.”  He includes some nice government charts…

But from Hayward’s blog, you’d think this happened by itself!

The chief causes of this decline are technology—cost-effective “scrubbers” to remove sulfur dioxide from the waste stream—and resource substitution: we started using much more low-sulfur coal from the western United States.

No mention of the Clean Air Act’s acid rain program – the limits on sulfur dioxide emissions established in the 1990 Clean Air Act.  Without the Clean Air Act’s pollution limits, this scrubber technology and switch to lower-sulfur coal would never have happened.  Why install pollution controls or use cleaner fuels if you can dump all your pollution in the atmosphere for free?

Sounds like the corporate hacks at AEI are more adept at scrubbing history than scrubbing emissions. Wouldn’t want to let actual facts get in the way of the prime narrative denying government’s necessary role in protecting public health and enforcing the rules of the road for free market capitalism in all its majesty.

It’s about “promoting the general welfare” for those of us with a constitutional bent.

All of which reminds us of a light bulb joke, free market fundamentalist edition.

Question:  “How many free market economists does it take to change a light bulb?”

Answer:  “None. They wait for the invisible hand to do it.”

And in related news, check out today’s excellent post on DFNM:

Four Corners Power Plan Leads Nation in Smog-forming Pollution

Happy Earth Day, y’all.

Verde Interesting: Pearced Earmarks and Medicare Cuts

Today Politico came out with an interesting story on the controversy roiling around NM Congressman Steve Pearce’s failed attempt earlier this month to obtain an earmark that would have benefited some Texas-based land developers who happen to be his campaign contributors. Earmarks are supposed to be verboten under the new House rules. However, Pearce contended it wasn’t an earmark. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, along with a majority of the House, disagreed.

In other news:

Last week Pearce voted in favor of a budget plan that, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, would result in major reductions in Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

In the case of Medicare, the plan ultimately would shift increased costs to seniors, who would see their premiums go up, leaving them on their own to negotiate with health insurance companies.  And as for Medicaid, the states would end up on the hook, and be unlikely to cover, the big federal cuts.

It’s important to note that the Pearce-backed Medicare and Medicaid reductions will be needed to help pay for more tax benefits for the rich. The plan calls for making the Bush tax cuts permanent, and then reducing the rate for the top tax bracket even further.

So, if this budget plan ever does become law, perhaps the folks at Verde Realty will come out okay in the end.

 

 

 

 

Being Rich and Paying Less

There are a couple of telling charts we’d like to share with you today.  First, check out this one from a Derek Thompson piece in the Atlantic (1/11/11) on the history of U.S. tax rates. We could write several paragraphs talking you through the flattening of the federal income tax rate over the past thirty years.  That would likely lead to one of two outcomes.  You’d leave this site, or you’d fall asleep.

 

 

Instead, just let Thompson’s simple visual tell the story and then draw your own conclusions.  The conclusion we drew is the same one that 72% of those polled by the Washington Post and ABC news last week.  Namely, the rich in America need to start paying their fair share.

Asking the rich to pay their fair share is a necessary part of what should be a balanced approach to our budgetary woes in Washington, D.C., and here in our home state of New Mexico.

Given her fondness for reciting poll numbers to the press, we wonder if Governor Martinez will pay attention to the results of this poll.

We’re not holding our collective breath.

Reworking Clearly New Mexico

The Clearly New Mexico blog will undergo some changes over the next several weeks.

We anticipate that the look and feel of the blog will remain the same, as will our ongoing commitment to maintaining this site as a forum to raise issues, stimulate debate and provide thoughtful analysis on the issues impacting our lives.

We do, however, anticipate bringing some new voices to the conversation.  In the meantime, we look forward to generating daily content about the economy, jobs and state and federal budget debates.  We also look forward to holding public officials accountable for their publicly stated positions on key issues facing New Mexicans.  So, stick around, and as always, please share your thoughts through the comment section.

 

Join Prosperity Watch in Publicly Shaming PNM’s Overpaid Execs

By Tracy Dingmann

Outrage over the Public Service of New Mexico’s plan to raise rates on New Mexico customers while paying its top executives millions has prompted one local group to form a “Shame Campaign” against PNM.

Prosperity Works, a nonprofit that works to bring energy efficiency and economic stability to New Mexico families, recently launched the campaign after the Albuquerque Journal reported that PNM’s new top executive, CEO Pat Vincent-Collawn received a $1.22 million bonus in addition to her $550k salary, for a total compensation of $1.7 million.

The company’s other top four officers received bonuses ranging from $166,466 to $525,466, and the chairman of PNM’s board was paid $1.2 million, for a total of about $ 5 million in bonuses.

This news comes approximately one month before PNM’s hearing before the Public Regulation Commission regarding its request to raise New Mexico’s rates by $85 million, as well as charge an additional $20 million in fees and riders.

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