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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Rep. Raul Grijalva: I Will Not Support the Emerging Debt Deal! (Dem NM Delegation and Candidates Mute Except for Eric Griego)

There's at least one real Democrat left in the House -- the courageous and proudly liberal Raul Grijalva. I personally will not vote for any Democrat who votes for the "deal" that gives away the store on every core Dem value and extracts nothing of value in return. The "deal" contains provisions that are incredibly anti-working and middle class, anti-everything we believe in. Yet Obama and others are painting it as a victory for "compromise" despite the horrific content of the "compromise."

Obama has made a habit of putting process -- which he and his handlers think makes him look like a sensible, balanced centrist -- over content. Anyone even scanning the content that's emerging on this deal can clearly see that it will create an expanding nightmare for ordinary Americans for decades to come. It is profoundly anti-Democratic, and even anti-democratic with its "Super Congress" provisions and horrendous triggers. And yet I predict almost all of our Dem elected officials and candidates will tout it as a huge victory. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Our elected Dems and candidates should be pushing the President relentlessly to raise the debt ceiling using the 14th amendment and nothing else. I haven't heard a peep on that score out of Rep. Martin Heinrich, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, Sen. Jeff Bingman, Sen. Tom Udall, Senate candidate Hector Balderas or NM-01 candidate Marty Chavez. CD-1 candidate Eric Griego has been the only one pushing for the 14th amendment way out of this horror story. Bravo on that score.

Rep. Grijalva's powerful statement, released today:

I Will Not Support the Emerging Debt Deal

When a crisis faces our nation, and decisions have to be made, we look to our elected officials to provide the guidance and direction that will help us persevere. In the face of this manufactured debt ceiling crisis, many Members of Congress have failed to lead and are willing to substantially weaken many of the programs that make our nation great.

I will not support the emerging debt deal

I will have no part of a deal that cuts Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to appease the farthest reaches of the right wing of the Republican Party. It is unconscionable to put these programs on the chopping block and ignore the voices and beliefs of the millions of Americans who trust us to lead while continuing to give handouts to the ultra wealthy and the largest corporations. There is no human decency in that.

Rather than fly the standard of the working Americans who voted them into office, some Members of Congress are content to raise the white flag and call it “bipartisanship” or a “grand bargain”. Many elected officials yearn to be leaders, but this debt deal shows that too many of them settle for being politicians.

We Progressives have stood strong against the GOP’s shameless political maneuverings and disastrous ideas. When the GOP introduced the Ryan Plan to cut taxes for the rich and kill Medicare while adding $6 trillion in new debt over the next decade, we stood strong against their irrational and irresponsible plans. We offered another path and introduced the People’s Budget, a straightforward and realistic plan to address our nation’s short- and long-term economic needs without placing the burden on the backs of working Americans. It would balance the budget by 2021, protect the social safety net, end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and importantly, put Americans back to work.

We have made our position clear for months: any deal must balance cuts and revenue. It is morally unjust to ask those Americans who are hurting the most in this recession to shoulder the burden of the GOP’s irresponsible fiscal policies. Today, Progressives and everyone we represent were thrown under the bus. Rather than upholding the commitments made to our seniors and working families, this deal allows the wealthy and big corporations to keep their expensive federal handouts while cutting aid to the families who need it most.

My Progressive colleagues and I pressed Democratic leadership and the Obama administration to join us in opposing cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. To accept this deal is to weaken the credibility of the Democratic Party. If we do not stand up for working Americans now, who will be their voice? If we do not stand up for working Americans now, will they ever trust us to again?

I reject this deal, and the American people reject this deal. The only thing we have left to do is repair the damage the GOP has done to our nation as soon as possible.

July 31, 2011 at 06:48 PM in Children and Families, Corporatism, Democratic Party, Economy, Populism, Eric Griego, Hector Balderas, NM Congressional Delegation, Obama Administration, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Right Wing, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Sen. Tom Udall, Senior Citizens, Taxes | Permalink | Comments (8)

There Are No Good Jobs There Are No Good Jobs There Are No Good Jobs

I say again, there are no good jobs. And in many places there are no jobs period. Even where there are jobs, paychecks are stagnant or falling and benefits are going the way of ye olde pension plans, while the safety net for the poor, the sick, the elderly, the workers, the middle class, the retired is being demolished, along with unions, education, you name it. We need jobs and we need to get the economy working for people other than the investor class. Period. We need to invest in our people and our future. We have to stop rewarding the people and entities that got us into this jam in the first place and who intend to keep us there. And we need to end THE WARS right now.

You've heard the baloney coming from "our side" -- we ALL have to sacrifice, we have to compromise in the face of economic blackmail perpetrated by the GOP/Wall Street/banking/financial cabal. Excuse me, but Ameircan workers, middle class families and the downtrodden have already done more than their part in sacrificing down to the bone and sometimes beyond. Excuse me, but rolling over for extortionists used to be considered the most effective way to encourage more blackmail -- and was considered to be the path of pathetic cowards and appeasers.

We now have an allegedly Democratic President and way too many Dem 'leaders" insisting that the only positive way to end this manufactured "debt crisis" is to entirely capitulate to irrational forces that can only be defined, at this point, as economic insurrectionists. Our president and DC Dems appear to be joining forces with the worst of America to subject our already ruinous economy to massive cuts, and to target those cuts at anything and everything that in any way, shape or form helps ordinary people or serves to create jobs, improve our infrastructure or invest in a better future for ordinary Americans. And nobody better touch the extravagant tax loopholes, subsidies and incredibly low taxation rates of the rich and powerful, whether individuals, hedge funds or globally irresponsible corporate entities.

Yes, our President and Congress are now solely concerned with "deficit reduction" -- cutting spending that A) helps people who have no jobs and B) helps create jobs. A cardinal rule in dealing with recessions (or whatever this "jobless recovery" actually is) has always been that cutting spending during economic downturns is a no-no -- because it's economic suicide. Yet this is the priority of Republicans, most DC Democrats and certainly our President, who appears to be a member of the plutocrat/oligarch/Wall Street Party despite all his huffing and puffing during the campaign about change we can believe in. Community organizer my ass. This man is now trying to out right wing the right wingers. It's that bad. 

I can only hope that this response will continue and grow: Black Leaders Rebuke Obama. Excerpt:

Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit), a 24-term congressmember who is highly revered in the African-American community, is openly dissatisfied with the president’s handling of the self-inflicted debt ceiling crisis. Speaking of concessions the president is willing to make to avoid a default if the debt ceiling is not raised, Conyers told a reporter that he was angry.

We’ve got to march on him,” Conyers said. “We want him to know from this day forward that we’ve had it. We want him to come out on our side and advocate, not to watch and wait to see what [lawmakers] are doing in the House and Senate. We’re suffering.” Conyers and other leaders respected by the African-American community are voicing concern over the impact of the decisions of Obama’s Administration. They say the concessions the president put on the table will have the greatest impact on the most vulnerable in our society. Conyers and others are particularly concerned about the President’s apparent willingness during debt ceiling negotiations to make entitlement cuts and his lack of action on job creation.

“We’ve got to educate the American people at the same time we educate the President of the United States.” Conyers told a reporter this week. The Congressmember pointed out that the Republican leadership — neither Speaker Boehner nor Majority Leader Cantor — called for Social Security cuts in the budget deal. Says Conyers, “The President of the United States called for that, and my response to him is to mass thousands of people in front of the White House to protest this.[emphasis added]

Take heed, think-inside-the-box campaign strategists, advisers and presidential enablers:

“The activist liberal base will support Obama because they’re terrified of the right wing,” said Robert L. Borosage, co-director of the liberal group Campaign for America’s Future. [I'm not so sure of that myself.]

But he said, “I believe that the voting base of the Democratic Party — young people, single women, African-Americans, Latinos — are going to be so discouraged by this economy and so dismayed unless the president starts to champion a jobs program and take on the Republican Congress that the ability of labor to turn out its vote, the ability of activists to mobilize that vote, is going to be dramatically reduced.”

No More Excuses for Obama's Damaging Behavior
This needs to stop and ordinary people need to step up to the plate and stop it -- and stop making excuses for it because the man perpetrating these horrors is Barack Obama. We need to start treating him like any other servant of the plutocrats and oligarchs on the scene:

No matter how the immediate issue is resolved, Mr. Obama, in his failed effort for greater deficit reduction, has put on the table far more in reductions for future years’ spending, including MedicareMedicaid and Social Security, than he did in new revenue from the wealthy and corporations. He proposed fewer cuts in military spending and more in health care than a bipartisan Senate group that includes one of the chamber’s most conservative Republicans.

To win approval of the essential increase in the nation’s $14.3 trillion borrowing ceiling, Mr. Obama sought more in deficit reduction than Republicans did ... despite unemployment lingering at its highest level in decades, Mr. Obama has not fought this year for a big jobs program with billions of dollars for public-works projects, which liberals in his party have clamored for. Instead, he wants to extend a temporary payroll tax cut for everyone, since Republicans will support tax cuts, despite studies showing that spending programs are generally the more effective stimulus.

Um, does it really have to be pointed out to the President that the few dollars in payroll tax cuts instituted during his previous capitulations to the GOP don't help people without jobs because they aren't on any payroll? Again, take heed, Democratic establishment:

“The president’s proposing cuts to Social Security and Medicare has the potential to sap the energy of the Democratic base — among older voters because of Medicare and Medicaid and younger voters because of the lack of jobs,” said Damon A. Silvers, policy director of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. “And second, all these fiscal austerity proposals on the table will make the economy worse.

This should make every Democrat retch:

“Democrats created Social Security and Medicare, and we have fought for decades against Republican attempts to end these programs,” said Dan Pfeiffer, Mr. Obama’s communications director. “And President Obama believes that now is the time for Democrats to be the ones to step up and save Social Security and Medicare.”

Yeah right, save them -- using a right-wing frame, right-wing approach and right-wing policies. 

14th Amendment Now!
As John Judis writes in his excellent article arguing that Obama, who is always comparing himself to Lincoln, doesn't understand the essence and approach of Lincoln whatsoever:

I am not an expert on Lincoln, but I have a pretty good idea what he would say if he were to suddenly appear on the scene. He would reject the Republican majority’s attempt to blackmail the rest of the government and the nation. If, because of Republican intransigence, the Congress were unable to raise the debt ceiling by August 2nd, I suspect he would follow Bill Clinton’s advice and raise the debt ceiling unilaterally on the grounds of the fourteenth amendment, which says that “the validity of the public debt … shall not be questioned.”

That’s certainly a risky move. If Obama were to do it, he could eventually face a hostile Supreme Court majority, just as Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus aroused the ire of Chief Justice Roger Taney in 1861. But, given the dangerous game that the Republican Party is playing, that’s a risk worth taking.

Bottom line: If Democrats don't push back hard -- right now -- against the corporatism and anti-working and middle class positions of Obama, who will? Are you going to continue to be a sucker for Obama's corporatist hoodwinking, or will you finally see the light, stop the denial, admit to the realities and start fighting and pushing back with all your might?

I ask the same question of every single Democrat running in 2012 for any position up and down the ticket. Are you with the people or with the powerful moneyed interests? You're either on the bus or off the bus at this point. No more hiding out behind platitudes, pretending the President is for working people and American families. Speak up now -- speak truth to power -- or get out of the way to make room for those who will.

July 31, 2011 at 04:21 AM in 2012 Presidential Race, Corporatism, Democratic Party, Economy, Populism, Jobs, Labor, Obama Administration, Right Wing, Social Security, Taxes | Permalink | Comments (11)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Latino Sustainability Institute: Cuts to Land and Water Conservation Fund Disastrous for Preserving New Mexico's Land and Water Heritage

The following is a statement from Arturo Sandoval, Executive Director of the New Mexico-based Latino Sustainability Institute, on the steep cuts to the Land and Water Conservation Fund proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives Interior-Environment Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2012:

“Some of the leaders in the House of Representatives are putting politics and their anti-conservation agenda ahead of the best interests of the people of New Mexico. The Land and Water Conservation Fund has not only preserved thousands of acres of public lands for recreation, it has also funded the protection of vital watersheds in New Mexico, including the Rio Grande and Chama Wild and Scenic Rivers as well as lands on all five of the National Forests located in New Mexico.

“Protecting vital water resources and preserving New Mexico's cultural heritage go hand in hand. By cutting the Land and Water Conservation Fund, we are threatening that heritage and the legacy of generations of Northern New Mexicans who acted as good stewards of these precious and rare natural resources.”

“The Latino Sustainability Institute greatly appreciates the strong advocacy of Representatives Heinrich and Lujan as well as Senators Bingaman and Udall for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. We urge Congressman Pearce to also work to ensure the Land and Water Conservation Fund is well funded so that we may pass on to future New Mexicans a land and water legacy that we can be proud of.”

Here is some background information and a one-pager (pdf) on what the Land and Water Conservation Fund means to New Mexico:

  • The proposed level of funding for the LWCF proposed in House FY2012 Interior-Environment Appropriations bill is $65.8 million, nearly 80 percent below the enacted level of $301 million for FY2011.
  • This week on the House floor, amendments passed by voice vote added an additional $25 million to LWCF for FY2012, bringing the total to $90.8 million, still 70 percent below 2011 levels and 90 percent below the authorized level for LWCF.
  • The LWCF is not paid for by tax dollars. Rather, it is funded by fees generated from off-shore drilling. So cutting the fund only hurts efforts to preserve wild lands and build local parks, pools and recreation spaces.
  • The LWCF represent a promise made to the American people in 1964. This Congress should not betray this long-standing commitment.
  • A telephone poll of 800 likely voters conducted during the week of July 10, 2011, found that an overwhelming majority -- 88% -- of voters support continuing to deposit fees from offshore oil and gas drilling into the LWCF. In 2009, 81% of voters supported continued LWCF funding.
  • Voters from all major segments of the electorate support continued funding for LWCF, including 93% of Democrats, 87% of independents, and 83% of Republicans, as well as 95% of Latinos, 88% of whites, and 85% of African Americans.
  • The poll was undertaken jointly by two research firms, one Republican (Public Opinion Strategies) and one Democratic (Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates). The poll’s margin of error was +/- 3.46%.

July 30, 2011 at 10:14 AM in Economy, Populism, Environment, Land Issues, NM Congressional Delegation, Water Issues | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, July 29, 2011

NM-01 Candidate Eric Griego: It's Time to Invoke the 14th Amendment

EricGriego120 At last. A prominent local Dem speaks out to urge President Obama to make a bold move in dealing with the manufactured "debt crisis" -- instead of supporting Dem Sen. Harry Reid's incredibly damaging proposal that's essentially a response to blackmail. NM-01 Democratic congressional candidate Eric Griego released a statement today calling on President Barack Obama to invoke the 14th Amendment to raise the national debt ceiling and to not let the Republicans in Congress “take our country’s future hostage in order to gut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”

As Robert Reich, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Paul Krugman, Van Jones and others have pointed out, the plan being touted by Dems in DC is only slightly better than the awful proposal put forth by GOP House Speaker John Boehner.

Sen. Sanders points out the horrors of Boehner's proposal and describes the Reid plan this way:

Now, with the U.S. facing the possibility of the first default in our nation's history, the American people find themselves forced to choose between two congressional deficit-reduction plans. The plan by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, which calls for $2.4 trillion in cuts over a 10-year period, includes $900 billion in cuts in areas such as education, health care, nutrition, affordable housing, child care and many other programs desperately needed by working families and the most vulnerable.

The Senate plan appropriately calls for meaningful cuts in military spending and ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But it does not ask the wealthiest people in this country and the largest corporations to make any sacrifice. The Reid plan is bad.

... In other words, Congress is now on a path to do exactly what the American people don't want. Americans want shared sacrifice in deficit reduction. Congress is on track to give them the exact opposite: major cuts in the most important programs that the middle class needs and wants, and no sacrifice from the wealthy and the powerful.

As Krugman put it, "one party is clearly engaged in blackmail and the other is dickering over the size of the ransom." But there is another way out of this mess, and Eric Griego is calling for Obama to follow it.

Griego obviously sees the folly in the allegedly "balanced" approach. Instead he is is pushing for the President to sidestep the two damaging plans that have emerged from Congress and take matters into his own hands -- as the constitution allows. 

See Griego’s full statement is below:

“Because of House Republicans’ refusal to negotiate in good faith with Democrats to raise the national debt limit to pay the bills we already owe our country is now teetering dangerously close to losing the full faith and credit of the United States. Economists and businesses around the country and the world warn that this would result in catastrophic economic damage and higher unemployment.

“Such an outcome is entirely unacceptable. We must put the country’s interests ahead of House Republicans’ insistence on an ideological crusade that takes our country’s future hostage in order to gut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to pay for tax cuts for millionaires, Big Oil and other corporate special interests.

“We expect Republicans in Congress to own up to their responsibility for fostering the conditions that have led our country to this point. But after spending trillions of dollars in Bush tax cuts for millionaires, paying trillions more on the nation’s credit card for two mismanaged wars under President Bush’s watch and having nearly caused another Great Depression by falling asleep at the wheel while big banks sank our economy, their intransigence is callous at best and morally bankrupt at worst.

“That is why, today, I call on the President to invoke the 14th Amendment immediately to use an executive order in raising the national debt ceiling immediately. Then let’s get to work cutting subsidies for big oil and tax breaks for the rich so we can create jobs and reduce unemployment because people are hurting and they want to work.”

July 29, 2011 at 04:59 PM in Economy, Populism, Eric Griego, NM-01 Congressional Race 2012, Obama Administration, Progressivism | Permalink | Comments (2)

Photo of the Day: Sen. Tom Udall Meets With Dalai Lama

UdallDalaiLama
Click image for larger version

U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, met with the Dalai Lama on his recent visit to Washington. While in DC, the Dalai Lama also met with President Obama at the White House and marked his 76th birthday with an 11-day Buddhist ritual, the 2011 Kalachakra for World Peace.

July 29, 2011 at 02:28 PM in Peace, Religion, Sen. Tom Udall | Permalink | Comments (3)

Martin Chavez Facebook Status: I Quit My Job at ICLEI to Run for NM-01 Seat

MartychavezCr I hadn't heard anything about this previously so I'm guessing you haven't either. NM-01 Dem primary candidate Marty Chavez announced on Facebook today that he has resigned his position at ICLEI USA to devote all of his time to his Congressional run:

Marty Chavez
Friends, as you know, I'm running for Congress but you may not know that I've resigned my position as Director of ICLEI USA. I'm 100% committed to this race and I didn't feel it appropriate to be running a non profit, tax exempt organization and running for federal office. Please join me at martychavez.com!

I see that ICLEI USA did issue a press release on June 30 in response to Chavez's decision to run for Congress, thanking him for his service and announcing the appointment of an interim director.

Chavez was hired to run ICLEI USA in February 2010, shortly after he was defeated in the 2009 Albuquerque mayoral race. In performing his duties there, he participated numerous environmental and green economy conferences and events all over the world, including a trip to Antarctica this past Spring. The press release describes Chavez's achievements as director this way:

During his tenure at ICLEI USA, Chávez furthered the development of the STAR Community Index, the nation’s first sustainability framework and rating system for communities, and strongly championed the rights of local governments to run property-assessed clean energy (PACE) financing programs. Chávez strengthened ICLEI’s relationships at the federal level, including at the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of State, and served as a voice in Washington for local government priorities.

According to the ICLEI USA website, the organization is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization devoted to engaging local governments in sustainability, climate protection, and clean energy initiatives. The local governments they serve—including 600 active U.S. members—recognize the importance of creating livable, prosperous communities, addressing climate change, and saving energy and money in the process. ICLEI USA provides the expertise, technical support, training, and tools to help its members advance their goals.

Photo by M.E. Broderick.

July 29, 2011 at 01:44 PM in Climate, Environment, Martin Chavez, NM-01 Congressional Race 2012 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Guest Blog: The People Take Over Medicaid Hearing in Albuquerque

This is a guest blog by Guida Leicester, who attended a NM Human Services Department public hearing on Medicaid in Albuquerque this morning. She reports on the experience.

In 2002, I had a stroke that has left me partially paralyzed on the left side of my body. I also have hearing loss, speech and vision impairment. If it was not for the D&E Waiver, backed by Medicaid, I might still be in a nursing home today. I have home health care, live in my own apartment, have health care coverage that is bureaucracy-free and more, thanks to services provided by the state of NM Medicaid system.

As a person with a disability, I am extremely concerned with Governor Susana Martinez's recent moves to cut back on much-needed Medicaid services to low-income citizens of New Mexico. If anything, this system needs to be upgraded--not decreased--in order to serve a broader spectrum of people in our state, as well as to continue services in place to present recipients.

I attended the Medicaid Public Hearing in Albuquerque this morning. POWERFUL and EMPOWERING!! More than 225+ folks turned out and literally took control of the meeting away from the Human Services Department. HSD had a very narrow agenda, wanting our input on how to 'redesign' (code for cut) NM Medicaid. But, WE THE PEOPLE, forced them to move the meeting out of a small room at UNM CE building and into the auditorium to accommodate everybody there. It was awesome!! We then forced the meeting to cover OUR agenda--not theirs.

The HSD Secretary, Sidoni Squier, and her staff just sat there in stunned silence as people lined up to tell their stories and demand that Medicad be expanded to serve ALL NM citizens--people with disabilities, elderly, children, families, immigrants, LGBT'ers, labor union workers, students, and more. State Senator Cisco McSorley, health care workers, doctors, and nurses all spoke up. A very diverse group was represented today, all coming from a human rights and universal POV that connects every one of us!

Look for today's event on tonight's local news and hopefully in tomorrow's Albuquerque Journal. I am inspired to continue my political activism work for the people of NM--let's take back our state!! There is definitely power in numbers--and today proved this mantra so.

Let's keep networking to broaden our people power for every New Mexico citizen!

NOTE: HSD has been holding a series of public hearings on Medicaid "reform" around the state. The next one is in Santa Fe on August 2, from 1:00 to 3:00 PM, at Willie Ortiz Building, 2600 Cerrillos Road. If you live in or near Santa Fe, please attend and speak your mind!

This is a guest blog by Guida Leicester, who is a UNM Graduate Student in Educational Leadership. She is also a local community organizer/activist around the Palestine-Israel Conflict and an advocate for Disability Rights. Guida is a member of the students with disabilities organization, UNM's Advocates for Universal Design--AUD (formerly Associated Students for Empowerment--ASE).

If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.

July 28, 2011 at 08:56 PM in Healthcare, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (4)

Guest Blog: Santa Fe County Commission Sides with St. Vincent Nurses in Contract Talks

This is a guest blog by Fonda Osborn, a nurse at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe. She also serves as president of District 1199 of the National Union of Hospital & Health Care Employees (NUHHCE), which represents St. Vincent's nurses and technical workers.

Santa Fe County Commissioners Virginia Vigil, Kathy Holian, and Liz Stefanics admonished executives of Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center during a hearing Tuesday, where nurses and technical staff represented by District 1199 of the National Union of Hospital & Health Care Workers (NUHHCW) urged commissioners to hold the hospital accountable for its use of taxpayer dollars.

“Christus has to respect the tradition of unions in our community,” said Commissioner Holian. “Santa Fe is a union town.”

Commission Chairwoman Vigil agreed. She said that St. Vincent’s is a community hospital, and, as such, it should benefit the community.

“I'm concerned that we no longer have a community hospital whose primary concern is the health of our patients,” Vigil said. “I'm concerned their priority has shifted from a local community hospital to corporate America. Corporate America in the way it has been shown to us through Christus St. Vincent does not work in Santa Fe.”

Meanwhile, Commissioner Stefanics lauded the efforts of St. Vincent nurses to keep Santa Feans healthy.

St. Vincent’s nurses and technical staff have been in contract talks with Christus executives since May. Recent revelations have put the lie to the claim that St. Vincent’s lacks the resources to protect patient care and safety.

According to tax documents submitted to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Christus St. Vincent executives have been taking money out of the hospital to increase their pay, instead of reinvesting those profits in the patients and staff who helped make those profits possible in the first place. That is why the hospital’s proposal to eliminate the ability of nurses and hospital staff to continue providing compassionate, community-based care through safe staffing ratios makes no sense.

Similarly, Christus St. Vincent’s proposal to eliminate the federally guaranteed right of nurses and staff to collectively bargain over new working conditions would further jeopardize patient safety.

If the hospital fails to reach agreement with the nurses on a new contract by the end of July, there may be a strike. District 1199 is affiliated with the American Federation of State County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

This is a guest blog by Fonda Osborn. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.

Also see DFNM's recent posts on this issue here and here.

July 28, 2011 at 04:27 PM in Guest Blogger, Healthcare, Labor, Santa Fe | Permalink | Comments (1)

Coming Out Stories from Somos Familia

Somas Familia documented the moving stories of three immigrant women and how they came to embrace their children in their "coming out" process. If only all families everywhere could be this supportive and loving to their LGBTQ kids. Just watch it.

Somos Familia is a community organization based in the San Francisco Bay Area supporting Latino families with children who are lesbian,gay, bisexual, transgender or Queer (LGBTQ). They provide educational presentations and information with the vision of creating a world where all families and communities embrace their youth of all sexual orientations, gender expressions and identities.

July 28, 2011 at 03:49 PM in GLBT Rights, Hispanic Issues, Immigration | Permalink | Comments (0)

We Are New Mexico Asks Attorney General to Investigate CHRISTUS St. Vincent Hospital Operations

We Are New Mexico, through its President Martin Suazo and as stated in a press release last Thursday (July 21st), hand delivered a letter to New Mexico Attorney General Gary King asking him to look into several matters relative to the activities of CHRISTUS Health and CHRISTUS St. Vincent Hospital. Click to read a copy of the letter to AG King and the 7/21 press release.

The letter to the AG states, in part: 

 CHRISTUS Health, through its association with St. Vincent has had access to the indigent care money supplied by Santa Fe County and added to by the federal government. Over the past few years this combined governmental contribution to the bottom line of CHRISTUS Health and CHRISTUS St. Vincent has been in the tens of millions of dollars. 

Yet when Santa Fe County officials ask for an accounting of the use of these funds they are told by CHRISTUS officials, including their local CEO who is a former New Mexico Health Secretary, that CHRISTUS operations are PRIVATE entities and are not required to report to the County Commissioners regarding same. 

This is outrageous, to say the least. 

The letter also states that CHRISTUS or its agents have been purchasing interests in or looking into possible purchases of many health care provider businesses in Northern New Mexico, including its only rival hospital, and accuses CHRISTUS of taking actions to undermine the existing safe staffing requirements at its Santa Fe hospital. The group lists five areas of operations it says should be investigated by the attorney general's office.

The group's press release notes that:

... we have been watching the activities of CHRISTUS Health and CHRISTUS ST. Vincent Hospital in their negotiations with the local Health Care Workers. We are concerned that while St. Vincent Hospital has been a part of our community for 146 years, CHRISTUS is a newcomer that has failed to respect the work of those who have labored for years to provide safe standards for the staffing and delivery of care at our community hospital.” 

According to Suazo, local New Mexican health care professionals have spent “years working with previous hospital administrations developing standards for proper and safe staffing of the hospital, only to have the folks from Texas come along and through a highly paid local administrator start dismantling and dismissing years of proven staffing standards and experienced nurses and technicians.” 

Suazo also described CHRISTUS Health as:

... a “Texas based health care empire. This is a multi-billion dollar conglomerate that uses its resources to get what it wants, whether that is what the community wants or not. CHRISTUS needs to spend a little more time listening to people and less time throwing its weight around.” 

The release also questions various aspects of the CHRISTUS operation and says more information is needed regarding: 

  • St. Vincent Hospital‟s status as a "Sole Community Provider‟ and its use of county and federal dollars meant to be used for indigent care. 
  • Transparency of St. Vincent Hospital Board Meetings and use of government resources 
  • An accounting of the use of local government dollars 
  • Reproductive and End of Life policies 
  • Staffing Standards 
  • Firings of "older‟ nurses and technicians 
  • Investment in and purchase of other Health Care facilities in Northern New Mexico 

Mr. Suazo stated, “There will be at least one other letter going out to the Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services with a similar request pertaining to CHRISTUS Health and CHRISTUS St. Vincent Hospital. That letter will be presented later this week with specific requests for information and action.” As the press release states,

The citizen‟s group is concerned that CHRISTUS has associations with other healthcare financial giants that have been caught by the US Government in questionable Medicaid and Medicare billing schemes. An example is QUORUM Health Resources having settled with the US Justice Department for $85 million in a Medicare fraud case, and has of late been a management consultant for CHRISTUS ST. Vincent. 

CHRISTUS itself has also settled for over $1 million in a case that alleged that three CHRISTUS affiliates PCN, a management and billing company, and HTMG and SAC, two physician practice groups, improperly charged evaluation and management services for Medicare and Medicaid patients. 

As for a lack of transparency on the part of CHRISTUS, the release says:

They exhibit an apparent disdain for requests from the community regarding transparency. Their CEO, Alex Valdez, uses his political capital from years in state government to try and convince locals that they should just trust these guys because they are so big and have so much experience. And Mr. Valdez gets compensated quite handsomely for this job, even while presiding over the dismissal of long time, experienced local health care professionals as the apparent hatchet-man for his Texan executives. 

On Tuesday, CHRISTUS negotiators failed to show up for a scheduled 8 AM negotiation session with union representatives hoping to hammer out a new contract for the hospital's nurses and technical workers. The battles between the hospital's management and negotiators for the local branch of the District 1199 National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees have played out in several other venues over the last week. That same day, union supporters filled the chambers of the Santa Fe County Commission to ask commissioners to hold the hospital accountable for tax dollars the hospital receives to pay for indigent care and to try to get the hospital back to the negotiating table.

Carol Oppenheimer, a longtime labor lawyer and a member of the executive board of the Northern New Mexico Labor Council who negotiated on behalf of hospital employees in the 1980s and 1990s, told the commission she was "horrified" by Christus St. Vincent's current course of negotiation, saying the hospital had stalled, delayed and withheld information. 

Oppenheimer asked the commission to take some concrete action Tuesday, something County Commission Chairwoman Virginia Vigil explained couldn't happen because the issue had not been advertised as an action item on the meeting agenda. 

Meanwhile, a possible strike by union workers at the hospital is coming up on August 2 if a contract isn't obtained with the hospital. Hospital workers and others rallied at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Santa Fe on Sunday evening at a prayer vigil in support of the union workers.

July 28, 2011 at 01:15 PM in Corporatism, Healthcare, Labor, Santa Fe | Permalink | Comments (1)

8/9: Nonpartisan Campaign School in Albuquerque Open to All Prospective Candidates

From the Credit Union Association of New Mexico:
Running for public office, whether on a local, state or national level, is challenging. Qualifications, strategy, fund-raising and budget, and working with the media are just a few of the aspects candidates need to consider before tossing their hats in the political ring. Join campaign professionals as they discuss ways to sharpen your campaign skills and present information on managing campaign strategies.

The Credit Union Association of New Mexico (CUANM), in conjunction with the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), is holding a Campaign School on Tuesday, August 9, at the CUANM Albuquerque office to encourage and help potential candidates. The event is nonpartisan and all candidates or anyone considering running for public office are welcome.

Guest speakers are media specialist Michael J. Hook, CUNA senior vice president of political affairs Richard Gose, and CUNA political director Trey Hawkins.

These campaign professionals will discuss ways to write a campaign plan, sharpen campaign skills and manage strategies, as well as presenting information on fund-raising, communications, legal concerns, motivating voters, working with volunteers and many other issues candidates will encounter.

Who should attend? Candidates for local offices, city council, mayor and county commission; state Legislature and other statewide offices; campaign managers, fund-raisers, volunteer coordinators, political party leaders and community activists. Whether you are Republican, Democrat, third-party supporter or independent, the information at this school is valuable.

The event: The CUANM Campaign School will be Tuesday, August 9, from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM at the CUANM office at 4200 Wolcott Ave., Albuquerque, in the Journal Center. Cost is $50.

To register, go to www.cuanmlearningcenter.org and click on the Campaign School registration link. Or contact CUANM vice president of governmental affairs Juan Fernández at 505-338-4233, 800-366-6628 ext. 2233, 518-698-7842 or via e-mail at [email protected]

July 28, 2011 at 11:27 AM in Candidates & Races, Education, Events | Permalink | Comments (0)

'Subsidy Gusher' Report: NM Taxpayers Shell Out $104M Annually to Big Oil

Outside the Internal Revenue Service building in Albuquerque yesterday, Taxpayers for Common Sense joined local business owners, New Mexico organizations, and the Checks and Balances Project to call for an end to taxpayer subsidies to the oil and gas industry. Taxpayers for Common Sense, a national watchdog group, also released its report “Subsidy Gusher,” where they outlined $78.1 billion in subsidies and specialized tax breaks to the oil and gas industry over the next five years. Click for a copy of the report (pdf).

The group also calculated that New Mexico taxpayers contribute more than $285,000 every day -– or $104 million each year -– in subsidies to the oil and gas industry. The industry will receive these giveaways despite recording huge profits. The top five oil companies reported more than $850 billion in total profits over the last ten years. In the first quarter of 2011, the top five oil and gas companies reported $32 billion in profits.

“I have worked hard for over 23 years, struggling to make a payroll and employ New Mexicans,” said Nancy Denker, owner of Focus Ink. “I’m a taxpayer and a small business owner, and I don’t believe any industry should get the kind of government handouts ExxonMobil receives.” Many of us know Nancy Denker, and we certainly know what she says about her hard work and struggles to be true.

The groups and local business owners took the opportunity to call on Congress to cut subsidies to oil and gas companies as part of any comprehensive deficit reduction legislation.

“Giant oil and gas companies do not need taxpayer handouts,” said Taxpayers for Common Sense Co-Founder Jill Lancelot. “The American public, across party lines, agrees that we should get rid of these subsidies. If members of Congress cannot see their way to make these, then they are not serious about fixing this budget crisis. We are all going to pay the price if we don’t address oil subsidies.”

In an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll conducted by Hart/McInturff, 74% of Americans -– an overwhelming majority –- support “eliminating tax credits for the oil and gas industries” in order to “reduce the current federal budget deficit.” Nearly half of the American public “totally” supports eliminating government aid for the richest companies in the world.

Matt Garrington, Deputy Director for the Checks and Balances Project, pointed to the fact that drilling activity was back to pre-recession levels, noting that that the oil and gas industries reported their best profits since 2008 as reason to end the subsidies.

“The oil and gas industries are doing just fine and don’t need to be coddled by government,” said Garrington. “We shouldn’t force Americans to pay twice for Big Oil –- once at the pump and once through their taxes.”

Just the Facts:

· New Mexico is a huge producer of oil compared to other states in the Rocky Mountain West. In 2010 alone, the state produced over 65 million barrels of oil. That’s about 10 million gallons more than what Colorado and Utah produced in the same year combined, or over two-and-a-half times what Montana produced in 2010.

· Oil production in New Mexico is on the rise. While the beginning of the decade saw some decline, production over the last five years increased 9.5 percent. Most of that increase came when new oil production spiked from 2009 to 2010, increasing by 6.5 percent as the state added almost 4 million new barrels in oil production.

· New Mexico ranks 7th nationally in natural gas production. In 2010, New Mexico produced 14 times the amount of natural gas than what Montana produced and 3 times what Utah produced.

· Oil and gas drill rig activity has rebounded from the economic recession, averaging 40 percent higher than average over the last twenty years.

July 28, 2011 at 11:16 AM in Economy, Populism, Energy, Taxes | Permalink | Comments (2)