Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Mr. Balderas and Mr. Heinrich, We Expect More of You
What follows is a guest blog by Mr. Mike Goodenow. Mr. Goodenow is the former Legislative and Policy Director of the National Foundation for Women Legislators and has worked on campaigns for Governor and U.S. Senate in three states. This month he is founding the John F. Kennedy Policy Center in Albuquerque and in Arlington, Virginia.
An Open Letter to U.S Senate candidates Hector Balderas and Martin Heinrich
From Mike Weber Goodenow, Albuquerque citizen
Dear Mr. Balderas and Mr. Heinrich:
You are our state’s two best leaders from the generation born in the 1960s and 1970s. It was with great anticipation that we watched both of you enter this race last Spring and present us with the opportunity to elect one of you our next U.S. Senator.
Each of you offers us a calm and civil tone and policies based on rational analysis of the issues. You have both shown great courage in public office. You have both demonstrated the integrity, the intelligence, and even the statesmanship that we have a right to expect from our next U.S. Senator.
Mr. Balderas, you have been a courageous State Auditor who has saved New Mexico taxpayers millions of wasted dollars, rooted out fraud and embezzlement in our state and local governments, and ended corruption in our regional housing authorities. You have been bold and fearless, and no one who understands what you’ve achieved as State Auditor can do anything less than admire you.
Mr. Heinrich, you have set aside Ojito Wilderness and protected it and helped set aside one of the nation’s few urban wildlife refuges just south of Albuquerque. You led the effort to raise the minimum wage in Albuquerque, you were innovative in passing new solutions to crime in our city, you have voted for the most sweeping progress in health care in five decades, you’ve voted to reform Wall Street, and you have offered dynamic and innovative leadership on veterans’ issues in the U.S. House.
But we are now several months into this race, and you are both running very timid campaigns on the issues. Other than Mr. Heinrich’s innovative agenda for veterans, your campaigns have been cautious and banal.
It is safe to say that a Senator Martin Heinrich would be a national leader on environmental issues, on Native American issues, and on veterans’ issues, because, Congressman, you already are.
Mr. Balderas, anyone who examines your record and public statements can see that a Senator Hector Balderas would be a national leader on both justice and civil rights and on federal fiscal discipline and federal deficit reduction.
Should this be the basis of our decision on June 5th?
What about the issues that most of us are voting on? The economy, jobs, and wages. Health care. Clean energy. And education and job training. On these issues, neither of you is giving us enough information to determine who would be the better Senator.
It seems that Mr. Balderas would be better on education, infrastructure, fiscal accountability, and closing the federal deficit and that Mr. Heinrich has an edge on using science and technology to maximize job growth and on clean energy. But neither of you has offered bold proposals in any of these areas.
So far it does not seem that either of you recognizes that the U.S. Senate is a place for bold and dynamic leadership that can transform our nation.
I call on both of you to respect the intelligence of New Mexico’s citizens and voters, to acknowledge the historical importance of this election, and to demonstrate your appreciation of the unique role of the U.S. Senate in shaping our nation’s destiny.
I urge you both to step forward and offer bold policy solutions that will truly produce tens of millions of new American jobs – including millions of new high-paying jobs – and transform the quality of life for all Americans.
What about a $9 per hour minimum wage? It was the equivalent of $9 (in today’s dollars) when John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson were President – and the JFK and LBJ years provided one of the fastest growing economies in American history. Where does each of you stand on the federal minimum wage?
President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are offering bold education reforms. What about each of you? Where are your bold proposals on early childhood education, K-12 education, and higher education?
The federal government is spending only $7 billion a year on job training. Would either of you increase this or change job training in any way?
Clean energy: You’re both for it. But what would each of you do? The Obama Administration’s $65 billion in spending and tax credits for clean energy has run out. What do you propose we do next? And which of you will do more to ensure that New Mexicans get plenty of new clean-energy jobs?
New Mexico is still near the bottom in exports. What would either of you do about this from the U.S. Senate?
What about our national trade deficits? Since 1993, a whopping $8.4 trillion in net cash – in imports over exports – has left Americans’ pockets for foreign nations. U.S. Senators vote on trade treaties. What would each of you do regarding our huge and unsustainable national trade deficit?
How about business assistance programs, technology transfer and commercialization of research, and access to business capital? What does each of you propose?
What about balancing the federal budget during by the end of your first term in the Senate? What about tax reform?
The Chinese government just announced ambitious plans in space. No federal initiative in the past six decades has produced more new high-paying jobs, both directly and indirectly, than President John F. Kennedy’s Apollo mission to the moon. Does either of you have a response to the Chinese?
What policies do you advocated that would increase jobs in fast-growth business sectors like aerospace, bio-science, nanotechnology, advanced materials and manufacturing, media and information technology (including networking and AI), and robotics and other cyber-physical systems?
We deserve a visionary, transformative, and effective U.S. Senator who boldly and courageously steps forward, calls us to be our best, and advances real solutions that will transform our lives. We deserve a U.S. Senator who works to resolve the core challenges of our time and who helps enable Americans to build and walk into a dynamic and opportunity-filled future.
Mr. Balderas and Mr. Heinrich, each of you has the potential to be such a Senator. You have just five months left to show us your capacity for problem-solving and bold statesmanship in the U.S. Senate.
Sincerely, Mike Weber Goodenow, Albuquerque
"What about balancing the federal budget during by the end of your first term in the Senate?"
That would be a remarkably stupid idea. We have a deficiency of demand, and it's keeping sales down which keeps hiring down. We need to increase demand, and the obviously beneficial way to do that is with massive - perhaps $3trillion- federal deficit spending. Now is the time to be borrowing (at the zero or even negative interest rates available to the federal government) for spending on things for the common good, such as schools, teachers, roads, broadband, water, R&D, medical research, alternative power, etc.
That's really the one crucial issue today - and the guest poster is absolutely on the wrong side of it.
Mr Balderas is on the wrong side, too. The post mentions "Hector Balderas would be a national leader on ... federal fiscal discipline and federal deficit reduction" - but that's 180 degrees in the wrong direction. Unless and until unemployment drops to near 6% and the population/employment ratio gets back towards 62%, we don't need federal fiscal discipline and deficit reduction. Those will just keep unemployment up, wages down, and make most wage earners poorer.
Really, it'd be nice to hear from someone who doesn't accept the wholly mistaken Republican gloss on macroeconomics.
Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Jan 10, 2012 6:02:11 PM
A $3 trillion national deficit every year, Mr. Schneider? Really? Sounds like Greece to me. Sounds like national destruction and national bankruptcy. Why would you advocate for a $3 trillion national deficit every year?
Posted by: Mike Goodenow | Jan 10, 2012 7:13:57 PM
"Why would you advocate for a $3 trillion national deficit every year? "
I tried to set out, briefly, the rationale for short term limited deficit spending until certain identified events occured, but perhaps I wasn't too clear.
I said "We have a deficiency of demand" and that's the key. Perhaps if I repeat it people will understand: have a deficiency of demand.
Remember that in general we work for each other. One person's expense is someone else's income. If I go out to eat it's an expense for me, but it's income for the restaurant. If I leave a tip it's expense for me but income to the server. The whole economy is like that, and it implies a simple fact: aggregate income is equal to aggregate expense.
Thus, the paradox of thrift: if we all try to spend less, we'll all end up earning less. I go out to eat less, forcing the restaurant to fire some servers. The unemployed servers spend less at Target, so Target buys less from its suppliers. The suppliers sell less, so they don't need to produce as much, so they lay off workers. And around it goes.
The obvious remedy is for someone to start spending more - but who can spend more? I can't spend more if I've just been laid off. Businesses won't spend more when they can't sell as much as they can produce now. That leaves government spending as the only way out of this trap.
Government spending can be very productive. Think of the Erie canal, or the railroads, or highways, or the lock and dam systems on the big rivers. All these things allowed a whole lot of private businesses to make a whole lot of money. That's what we need - more government spending on stuff to make us all more productive.
Eventually we'll have to go back to a balanced budget and even surpluses to pay off the debt (as we had under Clinton) - but that's eventually. When unemployment is down and employment is up we should immediately start worrying about deficits. But that's the problem for then, the problem for the future, while the problem for right now is fixing the lack of demand.
That's the (very) simplified explanation of macroeconomic theory. I'm sorry if it's not as persuasive as simply asserting without evidence or reasoning "Sounds like national destruction and national bankruptcy" but it (a) really does make a lot of sense; and (b) really has sucessfully predicted things like employment and interest levels recently.
Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Jan 10, 2012 8:46:31 PM
They, and we, have plenty of time. We will learn what these folks will do. No need to start any bloodletting in January.
Posted by: New Mecican | Jan 11, 2012 7:38:52 AM
Spot on and well said Mr Schneider!
Posted by: VP | Jan 11, 2012 9:05:50 AM
I don't think this is a call for "bloodletting" as the previous note suggests.
This is a thoughtful call for some serious discussion about what positions these two men take on important issues.
I'm fed up with the campaign literature that asks for $$ when I can't get a simple answer from either Heinrich or Balderas about whether they support the People's Budget.
Posted by: Lora Lucero | Jan 11, 2012 9:08:41 AM
Michael S. - Thanks for the good explanation of sound macroeconomics.
Mike Goodenow - Please read up on your economics. When you say "Greece!" like it means something, it just highlights your lack of understanding. Another trillion of deficit in the short term, especially when borrowing costs are negligible, would boost the economy and employment and also federal revenues.
The time for balancing the federal budget is when the economy is at full output. We are not there, and won't be as long as the austerity simpletons repeat the nonsense that you are echoing here.
Posted by: eric | Jan 11, 2012 9:26:15 AM
Mr. Goodenow's organization, the John F. Kennedy Policy Center in Albuquerque and in Arlington, Virginia has an interesting set of goals on their facebook page. One of which is "to undertake the terraforming of Mars so millions of people can migrate there". This might be the hallmark of a visionary or of a nut (you decide), but in either case it does not qualify him to be taken seriously as a guest poster at a democratic political blog. Nor, in my opinion, does his contribution to the dialogue here demonstrate such a qualification.
Posted by: rpl | Jan 12, 2012 12:45:58 PM
I must disagree with rpl's comment 110%.
Goodenow's reasonable and responsible request to the candidates to speak up and address the issues is EXACTLY the kind of opinion I appreciate and I hope the candidates will take it seriously.
I'm discouraged when I read posts that attack the messenger rather than focusing on the message. Please, lets keep focused on what counts in 2012 (electing progressive candidates) and not jump into the mud ourselves. We are above that.
Posted by: Lora Lucero | Jan 12, 2012 5:53:35 PM
"I'm discouraged when I read posts that attack the messenger rather than focusing on the message."
I'm disappointed that you attack another commenter instead of addressing the issues - and I'm most disappointed that you'd adopt the same cheap old rhetorical trick that Mr. Goodenow uses:
Instead of talking about the issues, you simply assume that we all know what the issues are, and that of course we all agree as to the proper position on those issues.
It's all well and fine to use adjectives describing the original post as "reasonable and responsible", but that's not argument, that's assuming the truth of your conclusions. Personally I'd prefer if he'd been able to offer some facts and logic to support his position on deficit spending. That's an issue I think is important.
Why don't you pick an issue you think is important, argue in support of your position, and then criticize the candidates for what they have or haven't said on that issue? If you want to talk about issues, talk about issues. Don't talk about how we're not talking about issues.
Notice that you've now totally messed up a discussion of economic policy, and turned it into a discussion of who should criticize whom for what. I don't see that as a helpful step.
Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Jan 13, 2012 1:13:40 PM
Lets return to the point of the original opinion piece. Should the 2 candidates for US Senate discuss the issues with the voters?
Thus far I have seen little in the way of substance. If they've been discussing the issues in any substantive way, I haven't heard it.
You (Michael) suggest that I pick an issue that's important to me. I already have and I mentioned it above. I have requested both candidates speak about their position on the People's Budget. Neither has as far as I know.
Posted by: Lora Lucero | Jan 13, 2012 6:24:59 PM
Yes, candidates should talk about issues - and talk particularly about their understandings and approaches to those issues (rather than simply going gaseous about how this or that is an issue).
But saying "they should talk more about the issues!!11ONE!" is a waste of time.
Even saying 'they should talk more about MY issue!!" is a waste of time.
Everybody has issues. Lots of people have lots of different issues. Some people are worried about fiat money. Some people are worried about habeas corpus and deprivations of life and liberty without due process. Some people are worried about colonizing Mars. You want to talk about the People's Budget.
Why? What's important about it? What's the right position to take? What are the considerations?
You've got to make the case that (a) this is something worth talking about; and (b) give people some help in figuring out how to understand what's being said.
Admittedly I didn't do a good job of explaining why increasing the deficit is important - I simply left it strongly implied that if we followed Mr Goodenow's plan we'd make most people in the country a lot poorer. Some people may be wondering 'so what's wrong with making most Americans pooer?' But I think I did a fairly decent job of pointing in the right direction. And I did, in fact, tie the general discussion back to the position actually taken by one of the candidates.
For what it's worth, I did hear Mr Balderas at the DFNM meeting. When asked about how he go about reducing unemployment, the only thing he could come up with was "tax cuts" - an obviously lame and backwards approach.
Mr Goodenow simply throws a lot of sand into the air. He mentions this, and that, and fourteen other things - without actually making the case for any of them. Thus, when he's so obviously and blatantly wrong about one of them, one has to wonder whether he understands or really cares about any of them.
So go ahead. Tell us what to think
about the People's Budget, and why it's important, and what it means. Then tell us what you've done about finding out the candidates' positions. Don't just point and say "thar she blows, an issue!"
Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Jan 13, 2012 7:26:37 PM
Michael Schneider = permanent ignore
I should have known better.
Posted by: Lora Lucero | Jan 14, 2012 6:54:32 PM
I really couldn't have invented a better example of my point if I'd thought about it for a week:
"Michael Schneider = permanent ignore"
I've been trying to say "don't talk about talking about issues, just talk about the issues." Don't talk about it, do it.
So instead of simply ignoring me, you have to talk about how you're going to ignore me.
Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Jan 15, 2012 10:47:23 AM