Friday, October 21, 2011
Sen. Tim Keller: We Need Sweeping Reform to Address Expo New Mexico Audit Findings
Yesterday, the Legislative Finance Committee issued its report on the historical financial performance and operations of Expo NM (the state fair grounds). Sen. Tim Keller, who represents the area in and around the Fair Grounds, responded to the findings. “It is now abundantly clear Expo New Mexico operations are rife with challenges and have been for some time.”
“New Mexicans deserves a well-run operation that is a pride point for the city, state and surrounding community. Expo has been in crisis mode for years and run adrift with millions of dollars for long enough. It's time the legislature reign in Expo operations with oversight and increased accountability. I will be proposing legislation to reduce Expo’s autonomy and bring it under compliance with state purchasing (SPO), the sunshine portal and department of finance (DFA) regulations. I will also be restructuring the powers and duties of the State Fair Commission.”
As highlighted in the report, Expo New Mexico is run as in independent ‘enterprise’ that does not have to follow standard transparency and accounting practices required by the state purchasing office and the Department of Finance. Although it has been subsidized by the state for decades, it gets to make its own rules, Keller explained. With millions in budget dollars and contracts worth in excess of $50 million, this enterprise has been slowly drowning. “As you can imagine, the state, city and surrounding neighborhoods are very discouraged by these findings,” noted Keller.
Pending Downs at Expo New Mexico Lease
The audit discussion also raised questions about the pending new $50 million lease for the racino grounds -- Downs at Expo New Mexico. Sen. Tim Keller stated, “The process seems overly rushed, and I’m concerned Expo is getting into a 25-year lease without giving enough time to analyze various options and build a long-term vision for the grounds as whole. The RFP should be re-opened, a long-term plan should be in place, optimal lease rates determined and the community should have some input. It just makes business sense to allow for proper analysis of a $50+ million dollar land deal. “We can do a lot better than this,” concluded Keller.
In reaction to Commissioner Rode’s statement that the “tax payers are subsidizing a racing company making millions and there is zero participation by state fair commissioners ... as it stands we are rubber stamp,” Keller noted, “It sounds like this RFP process has turned into a sham, and the Governor’s office should postpone it immediately.”
Need Totally New Structure
“The commission has too much power; it’s a playground for commissioners to come in and do whatever they want ... they do whatever they want when they want ... money thrown around left and right with no consequences,” stated state fair commission chairman Hossie Sanchez. Keller noted, “We have to totally change the structure of state fair management. This is irresponsible and it’s been going on far too long. It reminds me of the SIC a few years ago, and I’m going to do all I can to reign this in during the next session. I hope others and Governor will join me in that effort.”
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Video: The Revolution Starts Now-Occupy Albuquerque
The revolution starts now
When you rise above your fear
And tear the walls around you down
The revolution starts here
Where you work and where you play
Where you lay your money down
What you do and what you say
The revolution starts now
Yeah the revolution starts now
In the meantime, Occupy Wall Street has formed a "Demands Working Group" that has posted a preliminary list of demands and announced a national general assembly to be held July 4, 2012 in Philadelphia.
The Revolution Starts Now (complete lyrics)
I was walkin’ down the street
In the town where I was born
I was movin’ to a beat
That I’d never felt before
So I opened up my eyes
And I took a look around
I saw it written ‘cross the sky
The revolution starts now
Yeah, the revolution starts now
The revolution starts now
When you rise above your fear
And tear the walls around you down
The revolution starts here
Where you work and where you play
Where you lay your money down
What you do and what you say
The revolution starts now
Yeah the revolution starts now
Yeah the revolution starts now
In your own backyard
In your own hometown
So what you doin’ standin’ around?
Just follow your heart
The revolution starts now
Last night I had a dream
That the world had turned around
And all our hopes had come to be
And the people gathered ‘round
They all brought what they could bring
And nobody went without
And I learned a song to sing
The revolution starts now
Friday, October 14, 2011
10/15: Occupy Events in Albuquerque and Santa Fe!
Albuquerque's Hakim Bellamy: I'm in love with a 1%er (For Occupy Wall St.) Written on Day 26 of the Occupy Wall St. protest in New York City and Day 12 of the Occupy Albuquerque protest. They're making their move on NYC and Denver. Be prepared, my people. Love.
There will be a number of events this Saturday in New Mexico in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street and as part of activities in 719 cities and 71 countries being held internationally all over the globe on that day.
Join Occupy Albuquerque on Saturday, October 15, at 12:00 Noon at the Wells Fargo Bank Nob Hill located at Richmond and Central Avenue in Albuquerque, NM. Fight corporate greed! Invite your friends! Come to protest, stay to celebrate. The protest will be followed by a family-friendly fiesta at Camp Coyote (UNM Campus at Yale and Central). Join us for music, art, comedy, and good company. Bring your instruments if you want to join in!
This is a celebration of consensus, direct democracy, and the movement that is sweeping the nation and the world. This is also a time to get to know your community.
Join Rebuild the Dream in Solidarity with Occupy NM in working with MoveOn and Southwest Organizing Project at Nob Hill, Wells Fargo Bank at SW corner of Central Ave. & Richmond Dr. SE, 3022 Central Ave. SE, Albuquerque, NM, Saturday 10/15 from Noon to 2:00 PM. Sign-up here.
Let's stand together and demand a solution to the jobs crisis, corporate money out of politics, fairer tax rates, and policies that work for 99% of Americans instead of the 1% at the top. Wall Street isn't the only place where greed is undermining the American Dream. By bringing these speak outs to Albuquerque and as many communities as possible, we'll help to spread and amplify the energy of the Occupy Wall Street protest across the country.
Right here, right now. This is when we stand up to those who have brought us to financial ruin and proudly align ourselves with those whose democratic innovations are breathing life into our finest ideals.
Occupy Santa Fe Gathering in Solidarity with Occupy Wall Street on Saturday, October 15 from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM The Roundhouse, NM State Capital Bldg., Old SF Trail and Cerrillos, Santa Fe.
We will be gathering before 9:00 AM at our Base Camp location (St. Francis across from BOA) and we will march to The Roundhouse, arriving there by 10:00 AM. If you choose not to march, meet us there. Speakers are planned (with human microphone), break out groups, teach-ins, drumming, a meditation hour. We have chosen the state capitol grounds (East concourse) so that we have plenty of gathering space for general assembly.
Restrooms are open to us inside the building. Bring your placards and posters, water, a hat, your food. Dress for the weather. Leave no trash on the grounds.
Also check out related events organized by Occupy the Present Moment.
Monday, October 03, 2011
Guest Blog: 2012 Presents A Real Opportunity for Democrats To Propose Plausible, Progressive Economic Alternatives
This is a guest blog by Alexander J. Cotoia, a paralegal with Holt Mynatt Martinez, P.C. in Las Cruces and a member of the Democratic Party State Central Committee from Dona Ana County. He previously sought the Democratic nomination for the District 7 seat on the Public Education Commission.
As a member of the Democratic Party State Central Committee, I’m often asked to defend the actions, or increasingly, inactions of my Democratic compatriots. My answer to critics is that I’m a progressive first and a Democrat second.
This distinction highlights an important problem with the current crop of Democratic politicians in Washington, with a few notable exceptions. Progressives are tired of the liberal lethargy that seemed to characterize the first few years of this presidential administration where the thirst for legislative victory too often meant sacrificed principles and lost opportunities. Neither the President nor his Democratic allies in Congress can afford to perpetuate this trend.
As Democrats we shouldn’t and can’t be afraid to illustrate what’s at stake. An increasing concentration of wealth at the top and diminishing incomes for the rest of us mean economic stagnation. It doesn’t take a Nobel laureate to know that more tax relief for those at the top of the socioeconomic strata won’t remediate the real problem—a failure of consumer confidence and aggregate demand. In an economy driven by consumption, accounting for nearly 60% of all economic activity, it’s a fool’s errand to believe that corporate profits can soar as consumer confidences collapses.
Nothing short of a radical reorientation of our economic paradigm is required. The fixation with less government and lower taxes, while a popular political refrain, ignores the reality that trickle-down tactics simply haven’t worked. If anything, the Bush-era policies have contributed to widening inequality and exacerbated a seemingly intractable deficit debacle. Rather than stimulate economic growth, these generous giveaways have widened the chasm between the poor and the rich. They have also robbed the American people of the ability to redress our budgetary woes with a balanced approach to both revenue and expenditures.
No Retreat From Sensible Solutions
2012 presents Democrats with a real opportunity to address these and other problems with plausible, progressive alternatives. The timidity of the Tea Party and the GOP’s draconian dogma simply aren’t real replacements for sensible solutions; solutions like expanding the earned income tax credit for middle class workers, or as former Labor Secretary Bob Reich has proposed, imposing higher marginal rates on the wealthy and eliminating the distinction between capital gains and ordinary income to partially fund wage supplements for cash-strapped workers. These proposals and others would have the effect of reconstituting a ragged middle class and eliminate a perversity of our tax system that unfairly penalizes the poor and rewards the rich.
Progressives must also stand against calls to dramatically reduce or scale back our investment in public infrastructure. While conservatives love to rail against profligate spending and a burgeoning bureaucracy, non-defense discretionary spending is at a historic low, and the government’s contribution to research and development as a percentage of GDP in 2009 stood at a meager .08%. These are hardly positive attributes in our current economic climate, when history shows that public investment is an indispensable ingredient in fostering a full and robust recovery.
2012 is not a time for progressives to retreat from their principles. It’s a time for Democratic politicians to give Americans a real alternative. As a Democrat, I’ll continue to support principled progressives who share my belief that a return to President Clinton’s philosophy of “opportunity for all, responsibility from all, in a community of all Americans,” is the best recipe for national unity and shared prosperity.
This is a guest blog by Alexander J. Cotoia. 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.
Sunday, October 02, 2011
Day 2 of Occupy Burque: Activities Continue
The occupations continue. According to comments and photos by Lora Lucero on Facebook, about a dozen young people spent the night of October 1 camped out near the corner of Central and University Avenue in Albuquerque after the day's demonstrations. Taking turns, they plan to occupy the space for the foreseeable future.
An assembly meeting was held today at 12:30 PM to discuss the goals of Occupy Burque, and another protest was held at the front of the Bank of the West today at 5:30 PM (Central and San Mateo). About 30 young people (and a few elders) attended the Assembly to discuss the goals and strategies of the Occupy Burque movement. Lora said she was very impressed with their focus on a democratic, consensus process.
Occupy Boston: Why we're here
We are the 99 percent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we're working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything. We are the 99 percent.
All Albuquerque photos by Lora Lucero.
Saturday, October 01, 2011
Photos/Videos: Occupy Albuquerque in Solidarity With Occupy Wall Street
Today more than 400 members of The 99% of us who aren't on the plutocratic gravy train were arrested crossing Brooklyn Bridge in connection with the ongoing Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in New York City. A number of marchers and observers claim those arrested essentially were lured onto the bridge roadway by police specifically so they could be trapped between lengths of orange plastic fencing and arrested for trespassing.
I guess Mayor Bloomberg is beginning to tire of the Occupy Wall Street folks as 14 days of their diverse, nonviolent and sometimes exotic presence in Zuccotti Park and elsewhere in the city begins to fray the nerves of the 1% of city dwellers who like the worker bee classes to be seen and not heard as they go about waiting on their masters. Just yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg felt compelled to chastise the protestors for picking on bankers and stock brokers who are "struggling to make ends meet." I'm not kidding. He insisted people are focusing too much on the causes of the financial crisis and that we need to be nicer to the banking industry so that it starts lending again. He concluded by saying that we are “blaming the wrong people” by “blaming the banks” for the recession.
Chanters. Driving past some protesters.
Energized Crowd in Albuquerque
Meanwhile about 500 more of The 99% assembled and walked between two locations -- near the US Bank building on Central Avenue SE as well as the Bank of the West -- as the Occupy Albuquerque protest kicked off in solidarity with the action in New York City. Just check out the signs in the photos and videos to understand what prompted folks to turn out on a beautiful Saturday morning during Balloon Fiesta to make a stand. The time has finally come today when more and more people are ready to proclaim, "We just won't take it anymore!"
Similar occupations were in progress or being planned for cities and towns (including Santa Fe) across the nation -- and the world -- as momentum continues to grow for the people's movement. More and more are inspired and excited about confronting the forces that are hard at work undermining our freedoms to benefit the 1% of plutocrats who think they now own the nation -- and who intend to operate it as a nasty, greedy oligarchy at the beck and call of Wall Street, and global banking, financial and corporate interests.
City Councilor Rey Garduno comments on demonstration
"Where do we go from here? Chaos or community?"
Nobody knows quite yet, but it's clear that many abused and ripped off residents of the Planet Earth are finally awakening from their slumbers, their denial and/or their paralyzing cynicism to admit what's really going on with the corporate takeover of our governments and resources, and gathering to brainstorm about a situation that gets worse every day for the 99% of the population whose labors, resources and talents are essentially being stolen to support the consumerist addictions of the other 1%.
As Cornell West told Amy Goodman yesterday:
Well, I think we’ve got to keep the momentum going because it’s impossible to translate the issue of the greed of Wall Street into one demand, or two demands. We’re talking about a democratic awakening. We’re talking about raising political consciousness, so it spills over; all parts of the country so people can begin to see what’s going on through a different set of lens.
And then you begin to highlight what the more detailed demands would be, because in the end we’re really talking about what Martin King would call a revolution; a transfer of power from oligarchs to every day people of all colors, and that is a step-by-step process. It’s a democratic process, it’s a non-violent process, but it is a revolution, because these oligarchs have been transferring wealth from poor and working people at a very intense rate in the last 30 years, and getting away with it, and then still smiling in our faces and telling us it’s our fault. That’s a lie, and this beautiful group is a testimony to that being a lie.
When you get the makings of a U.S. autumn responding to the Arab Spring, and is growing and growing -- I hope it spills over to San Francisco and Chicago and Miami and Phoenix, Arizona, with our brown brothers and sisters, hits our poor white brothers and sisters in Appalachia -- so. it begins to coalesce. And I tell you, it is sublime to see all the different colors, all the different genders, all the different sexual orientations and different cultures, all together here in Liberty Plaza; there’s no doubt about it.
Cisco Padilla comments. Greedy pig diorama!
Goals and Principles
So what are the preliminary goals of the occupations? It's up to each of the participants to join what is being called a "general assembly" in order to come up with proposed principles, goals and strategies and come to a consensus. These can vary widely depending on the makeup and interests of the occupation group, and can be as abstract or specific as the group desires. The main goal of the occupations at this point is to get people talking with one another about what's really going on with our economy of late, as well as interacting and connecting so that there's a good chance they'll continue to participate with one another in the future and perhaps even reach out to new people.
Exactly what that future of these occupations will be isn't known yet, but the hope is that momentum for taking on the damaging status quo will continue to grow, and that the goals and actions of the groups will develop organically from the ground up instead of from some leader on down. More will be revealed in the coming days and weeks as a new kind of protest movement takes shape and refines its targets.
In the meantime, the group October2011.org, which is organizing an occupation of Freedom Plaza in DC that starts on October 6, has come up with these principles. They're a good start:
- Tax the rich and corporations
- End the wars, bring the troops home, cut military spending
- Protect the social safety net, strengthen Social Security and improved Medicare for all
- End corporate welfare for oil companies and other big business interests
- Transition to a clean energy economy, reverse environmental degradation
- Protect worker rights including collective bargaining, create jobs and raise wages
- Get money out of politics.
Photos and videos on this post by M.E. Broderick. Additional photos and videos of Occupy Albuquerque can be found here. If you've got some, please put a link to them in the comments thread of this post.
Friday, September 30, 2011
Saturday, October 1: Occupy Wall Street ... and Albuquerque and Santa Fe and ...
JOIN THE MOVEMENT: Hastily organized "occupations" in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street have now been scheduled for tomorrow, October 1, in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (Facebook pages). Click for info sheets for Occupy Burque and Occupy Santa Fe in Solidarity With Occupy Wall Street.
Since September 17, a diverse array of "hacktivists," ordinary citizens and celebrities has been participating in an expanding protest -- called "Occupy Wall Street" -- in downtown Manhattan in New York City. The constant and continuing demonstrations were designed to mimic at least some aspects of the Tahrir (Liberation) Square revolt, which entailed 18 days of protests in Cairo. Tahrir Squate led to the downfall of the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and morphed into a group of revolts now known collectively as the "Arab Spring."
Only time will tell whether Occupy Wall Street will end up in the history books as a victory for the people or just another fizzle in the long, hard battle against corporatist fascism. And only you can impact the outcome -- by joining the movement or sitting at home whining or cursing.
The Occupy Wall Street demonstrations are targeting the irresponsible and often criminal actions of Wall Street traders, giant financial institutions, international banking concerns and pretty much the entire global economic and financial system. Ordinary people all over the world are sick and tired of being at the mercy of a cut-throat bunch of well-dressed, well-educated (well-bred?) extortionists and hooligans who have increasingly been dominating markets, financial dealings, housing, national debt levels, loans, employment, environmental decisions and more on behalf of the greedy and narrow interests of an oligarchy of plutocrats at the top of the economic food chain.
Defining themselves as being representative of "The 99%" of the population who are being used and abused by the outrageously wealthy elites who are calling the shots -- now known as "The 1%" -- the demonstrators are hell bent on creating a fresh, creative, nonviolent model of ongoing protest and revolt. The aim is to create a wide-ranging, semi-spontaneous, day-to-day movement that expands organically and can be adapted and adopted in cities and towns across America and everywhere else where the filthy 1% are gorging on the labor and resources of the other 99% in order to feed their sick addictions to mega-power and mega-wealth.
The specific objects and targets of the protests may vary according to geographical location or local issues in play, but the core goal of the actions will be the same all over -- gaining attention and garnering support for stopping the economic bullies in their tracks in order to salvage the remnants of a fair and just culture and have a chance at shaping a new paradigm that's based on truly sustainable and enlightened principles and practices. It's now or never.
Yes, believe it or not, more and more people are finally awaking to the realities of a monstrous class war being perpetrated against ordinary workers and the poor by a bunch of multi-national economic terrorists who view the world as their own private slot machine. Call it what it is -- a class war -- but contrary to the claims of the crony capitalists, the attacks are being launched by a tiny minority of haves against the masses of the have nots, not the other way around. We cannot let this stand and expect to have a chance at any kind of positive future for ourselves, our families and friends, ordinary humans around the world, the planet's ecosystems or anything else we value and care about.
As reported by TPM,
The Occupy Wall Street protests, which this week received a boost from pledges of support of local unions, are expanding not only in the number of participants but in geographical scope as well: Demonstrators in Boston, Denver, Chicago, Santa Fe, Lexington, Kentucky, and now three big California cities, San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles, have all joined or are preparing to join the movement. A website has been set up calling for Floridians to occupy cities across the state on November 5, “Guy Fawkes Day.” In total, there have been online calls to action in over 77 cities across the United States, most of them slated to occur within the first week of October.
Occupy Wall Street, which was first proposed by Canadian countercultural magazine Adbusters in July, initially received traction online thanks to the support of "Anonymous," the loosely-knit “hacktivist” collective. The event began on September 17 with around 3,000 protesters, but the numbers have varied considerably since then, with a core group of around 200 to 300 people maintaining a camp in nearby Zuccotti Park, despite being pepper-sprayed, beaten and arrested for frivolous offenses by police.
The #OccupyWallStreet Facebook page describes the new strategy and tactics this way:
The antiglobalization movement was the first step on the road. Back then our model was to attack the system like a pack of wolves. There was an alpha male, a wolf who led the pack, and those who followed behind. Now the model has evolved. Today we are one big swarm of people — Raimundo Viejo, Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona, Spain
The beauty of this new formula, and what makes this novel tactic exciting, is its pragmatic simplicity: we talk to each other in various physical gatherings and virtual people's assemblies … we zero in on what our one demand will be, a demand that awakens the imagination and, if achieved, would propel us toward the radical democracy of the future … and then we go out and seize a square of singular symbolic significance and put our asses on the line to make it happen.
As Chris Hedges writes in a piece published today on Commondreams and elsewhere:
There are no excuses left. Either you join the revolt taking place on Wall Street and in the financial districts of other cities across the country or you stand on the wrong side of history. Either you obstruct, in the only form left to us, which is civil disobedience, the plundering by the criminal class on Wall Street and accelerated destruction of the ecosystem that sustains the human species, or become the passive enabler of a monstrous evil. Either you taste, feel and smell the intoxication of freedom and revolt or sink into the miasma of despair and apathy. Either you are a rebel or a slave.
... Choose. But choose fast. The state and corporate forces are determined to crush this. They are not going to wait for you. They are terrified this will spread. They have their long phalanxes of police on motorcycles, their rows of white paddy wagons, their foot soldiers hunting for you on the streets with pepper spray and orange plastic nets. They have their metal barricades set up on every single street leading into the New York financial district, where the mandarins in Brooks Brothers suits use your money, money they stole from you, to gamble and speculate and gorge themselves while one in four children outside those barricades depend on food stamps to eat.
Speculation in the 17th century was a crime. Speculators were hanged. Today they run the state and the financial markets. They disseminate the lies that pollute our airwaves. They know, even better than you, how pervasive the corruption and theft have become, how gamed the system is against you, how corporations have cemented into place a thin oligarchic class and an obsequious cadre of politicians, judges and journalists who live in their little gated Versailles while 6 million Americans are thrown out of their homes, a number soon to rise to 10 million, where a million people a year go bankrupt because they cannot pay their medical bills and 45,000 die from lack of proper care, where real joblessness is spiraling to over 20 percent, where the citizens, including students, spend lives toiling in debt peonage, working dead-end jobs, when they have jobs, a world devoid of hope, a world of masters and serfs.
The only word these corporations know is more. They are disemboweling every last social service program funded by the taxpayers, from education to Social Security, because they want that money themselves. Let the sick die. Let the poor go hungry. Let families be tossed in the street. Let the unemployed rot. Let children in the inner city or rural wastelands learn nothing and live in misery and fear. Let the students finish school with no jobs and no prospects of jobs.
Let the prison system, the largest in the industrial world, expand to swallow up all potential dissenters. Let torture continue. Let teachers, police, firefighters, postal employees and social workers join the ranks of the unemployed. Let the roads, bridges, dams, levees, power grids, rail lines, subways, bus services, schools and libraries crumble or close. Let the rising temperatures of the planet, the freak weather patterns, the hurricanes, the droughts, the flooding, the tornadoes, the melting polar ice caps, the poisoned water systems, the polluted air increase until the species dies.
Helpful Website Links:
JOIN THE MOVEMENT: Hastily organized "occupations" in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street have now been scheduled for tomorrow, October 1, in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (Facebook pages). Click for info sheets (pdf) for Occupy Burque and Occupy Santa Fe in Solidarity With Occupy Wall Street.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Video/Photos: Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Ben Ray Lujan Speak to Santa Fe Seniors on Medicare and Social Security
Click for photo album
On Monday, U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and NM-03 Congressman Ben Ray Lujan visited the Mary Esther Gonzales Senior Center in Santa Fe to talk about the importance of saving and strengthening Medicare and Social Security. It's a topic that is much on the minds of New Mexicans these days, as these programs are under attack as never before from right-wing extremists gone mad.
Republicans have been mounting a savage campaign against these two highly successful programs that have helped so many seniors obtain low cost, quality health care and live a life of dignity instead of abject poverty. Especially in the U.S. House, where extremists like Rep. Eric Cantor and Rep. John Ryan are pushing to abolish the programs, "privatize" them or at least cripple their ability to function effectively, Dems like Reps. Pelosi and Lujan have their hands full battling misguided right-wing rhetoric with the facts.
Meanwhile, the leading GOP candidate for president,Texas Gov. Rick Perry, has even referred to Social Security as a "Ponzi scheme," and claimed the program -- which pays for itself -- is unconstitutional and unsustainable. Nothing could be further from the truth, and both Pelosi and Lujan made it crystal clear that they will fight to protect our social safety net with every ounce of their being in the face of brutal right-wing attacks.
Reps. Pelosi and Lujan addressed a packed house on Monday, accompanied by Santa Fe Mayor David Coss, Sylviana Diaz D'Ouville of the New Mexico Alliance for Retired Americans, Carol Estes of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and others active in the senior and health care communities. The large crowd paid rapt attention to the speakers and were clearly looking for reassurances that Congressional Dems will continue to fight hard to protect these vital and often life-saving programs. They got what they came for.
In the video above, Rep. Lujan welcomes everyone, outlines what we are up against from Republicans and asks those present to stay active in helping Dem protect Social Security and Medicare.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi addresses the crowd
In her speech (above) Rep. Pelosi said these programs are "about the economic security of families; it's about our responsibility from one generation to the next." She noted that 46 years ago Medicare was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson who said, "no longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine. No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that people so carefully put away over a lifetime so that they might enjoy dignity in their later years."
She explained that when Social Security was passed, President Franklin Roosevelt said it was a law that "would take care of human needs and at the same time provide the United States an economic structure of vastly greater soundness." This isn't just about how these programs meet the needs of seniors; it's about how these programs "meet the needs of our country," Pelosi emphasized.
The "Super Congress" Table of 12
Rep. Pelosi spoke about the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, which is charged with finding $1.5 trillion in cuts by late November, saying, "We're at a place where there's a big debate going on in our country. I think you will agree it has not been a pretty sight. So we have to bring clarity to what is going to happen at that table. And as we bring clarity for all of you, we also hope that it brings you hope." She explained that the "decisions on these programs will take place at "a table of 12 people. This table of 12 cannot be a chopping block for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. It must be a table of hope, of opportunity, of economic growth, a table of greatness for our country, a nurturing table -- not a chopping block."
Pelosi also stressed that all of the proceedings of the "Super Congress" table of 12 should be "open to the public" and "transparent," with real-time webcasts online and broadcasts on TV, so that the "decisions made will be clear to the public." Why? "So when a decision is there that says they want people to pay more for Medicare and get fewer benefits, while they give tax cuts to corporations sending jobs overseas," people will see who is pushing for that. "So when they say they want to block grant and shrink Medicaid, while we can give a tax cut to the wealthiest people in America, while making those who are economically challenged pay more, those who have contributed to the growth of our country," people will know who is supporting that and also "know that we say no!"
Pelosi continued, "And when they say to young people, you're going to pay tens of billions of dollars more for your student loans so we can give tens of billions of dollars in tax subsidies to big oil, the American people will know whose side everyone is on in this debate."
Rep. Pelosi said we need to take the discussion to "higher ground." She asked the audience if they thought "most Americans would agree that the education of our children is an important value." Big applause. She asked if most Americans would agree that "a dignified retirement, health and economic security for our seniors" is an American value." Big applause. Can people agree that "creating jobs for the American people is an important value?" Big applause. Would people agree that "protecting the American people -- whether it is the security of safe neighborhoods, clean air, clean water, the national defense of our country -- is an important value? Big applause. She said we are going to do that "in a fiscally responsible way, fix the deficit and take us into the future in a more stable economy."
"So that table shouldn't be about who do we cut and who do we tax; it's about how do we provide growth? How do we use our tax code to do that, how do we make our investments and government investments" so there's "more effective use of those dollars?"
Standing Our Ground
Pelosi explained that "we are not drawing any lines in the sand. We are open to suggestions that address the greatness of our country" and its values. "Because if you support the values that you have applauded, and you know the American people support those too, you couldn't possibly support the budgets that have been put forth by the Republicans." As for our seniors and veterans, "their concerns will be represented at that table by the Democrats -- I can assure you of that -- and I hope by the Republicans too."
"We try to take as much partisanship out of all of this" as we can. "We try to find our common ground. But where we can't find the common ground, we must stand our ground for our children, for our seniors, for their families, for our sense of community, for our veterans, for those who have built American, for those who have defended America and for those who are America's future." Standing ovation from the crowd.
The Real Causes of the Deficit
Here, Rep. Pelosi takes a question from Rob Nikolewski of the right-wing-funded Capitol Report about how we can possibly protect Social Security and Medicare given the large federal deficit and debt. She notes that we're mistaken if we think that passing the bill for caring for our seniors to the states is actually reducing the deficit.
She agrees that the deficit is large and must be reduced, but says that, "Democrats know how to reduce the deficit. We had to sweep up behind President George Bush I when he left President Clinton a huge deficit. We passed a bill -- our Budget Bill of 1993 -- that took us into a path of fiscal stability" and "raised taxes on the wealthy." She noted that 4 of Clinton's budgets "were either in surplus or in balance."
Then along comes President Bush II. "Tax cuts to the wealthiest people in the country. A prescription drug bill that gave away the store to the tune of billions and billions and billions of dollars to the pharmaceutical industry. And two unpaid for wars." As she said, you shouldn't lower taxes for the wealthy when you go into war, but Bush did. She noted that Dems can reduce the defict and will do so, but that the current debate is not truly about reducing the deficit. "If this is all about reducing the deficit, why didn't the Republicans say 'boo' when this defict was being amassed under President Bush? They didn't say word one" at that time.
"Now they say tax cuts for the wealthy create jobs," Pelosi continued. "They didn't during the Bush years! In fact, it's important to note that more jobs in the private sector were created in the second year of the Obama administration than in 8 years of the Bush adminisration." She stressed that "these tax breaks aren't creating jobs; they're just creating a deeper deficit by the same people who now say to this president, and this president alone, that if we have to raise the debt ceiling we have to have all of these cuts in our domestic agenda. They've never said that to any other president."
Pelosi explained that, as far as Republicans go, this is really about "destroying the public role," destroying "public education, public safety, clean air, clean water, public safety, you name it -- Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. They have said they have no place in a free society" and they should "wither on the vine." She continued, "if you understand that they don't believe in the public sector ... and they want to privatize" Social Security and other programs.
In the clip above, Rep. Lujan answers another question from Rob Nikolewski about the deficit by saying, "Look at the trajectory Republicans put us on. When there was revenue, they took that revenue and gave it to the most wealthy in the country. They never brought it back. On top of the costs of Afghanistan and Iraq. And now they're saying, oh, well there's not enough revenue coming in. Well they gave it to all the most wealthy of the country." He says, "That's not right." He noted that, "the words "Social Security" shouldn't even be used in the same sentence with "deficit reduction."
As Rep. Lujan notes, the American people are now waking up to what's really going on, and we are not going to stand for it. The Republicans gave away our tax revenues to the rich and big corporations and now they have the nerve to whine that we have to cut vital services to the people because we don't have enough money to pay for them. No way. It is clearly time to ask the rich and big corporations to pay their fair share -- to share in the sacrifice. No more free lunches for them while the right wingers insist that we must balance our budget on the backs of working and middle class Americans.
All videos and photos by M.E. Broderick.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Guest Blog: Flawed Debt Ceiling Discussion Points to Draconian Results
This is a guest blog by Dr. William Stroud of Alamogordo, New Mexico. He was born in Arkansasas and was a United Methodist Clergyman in the USA and in Europe, as well as a college professor. He says he has been a Democrat for so many years that he cannot count them, turning up at the polls when his mother was a poll worker.
He was active in civil rights in Georgia, and was a member of the conference that sent a group of loyal democrats to Chicago to challenge the elected party leaders. He was a delegate to the Arkansas Democratic Convention. He says he wants to help give a voice to the people of New Mexico.
The contemporary political climate includes a strong measure of anti-intellectualism. The unwillingness to listen to the best scientific minds about several issues is dangerous for our future as a nation. We cannot turn our attention to discussing certain things as a part of the “belief” system, discussing only how that system measures up with other beliefs that we hold to be true. We cannot measure the testimony of a scientist in the same way that we measure the testimony of a theologian, because more is directly at stake here.
Freedom of religion allows us to balance one set of premises against another one and say, for example, “this belief fits me better than some other belief does.” While we are free to believe in our nation, the overwhelming evidence from science must be treated differently.
The testimony of economists across the spectrum say that the best and most trustworthy observations in regard to the discussion of the debt ceiling point to draconian results if the right answers are not offered. Default on our obligations might well trigger a depression. That depression will not have the safety net of the recession which began with the two unfunded wars and the unfunded extension of Medicare.
While we do not know what will happen, economists suggest that a default on the obligations of the country will include a termination of, among other things, Social Security payments, military pensions, military pay, Medicare reimbursements, pay for the troops in Afghanistan and in Iraq, among many programs. Even raising doubts about whether we will meet our obligations damages our credibility in the world as our credit scores as a nation are degraded.
The accumulation of evidence on the part of economists of all persuasions, and even among a growing number of CEOs, is that we cannot afford a loss of our ability to borrow. The issue of raising the debt ceiling is not a luxury we can afford, and must be separated now from the discussion of cutting spending.
Spending cuts must come, but they must not come at the expense of veterans, soldiers, families of soldiers, Social Security recipients, Medicare and Tri-Care recipients. After the debt ceiling is secured, we can deal with those issues. Given the anti-intellectual climate of our times, we must be very careful about some things, and understand that the evidence in the case of the environment, and in the case of the economy requires serious and immediate action.
Ellen Wedum of Alamogordo reminds me that the extension of our debt ceiling has always been more of a formality, and that spending has increased in every administration since the Reagan days. Only at the end of the Clinton administration was there a surplus, which quickly disappeared after he left office, with the advent of two wars and Part D Medicare.
This is a guest blog by Dr. William Stroud. 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.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Sen. Tim Keller to Gov. Martinez: Your Turn to Finish Reforming State Investment Council, Then Step Out
This is a guest blog by New Mexico State Senator Tim Keller (D-Albuquerque 17), who represents Albuquerque’s East Central Gateway and the International District.
In the recently completed 2011 legislative session, Senate Bill 17 (Keller, D-Bernalillo, and Neville, R-Aztec), a bill designed to complete State Investment Council (SIC) reforms by removing the governor as chairperson, passed with wide bipartisan support. It now sits on Governor Susana Martinez's desk waiting to be signed.
Senate Bill 17 was carefully crafted in the interim by the bipartisan Investments Oversight Committee, long before the recent gubernatorial election. It is composed of original sections from a similar 2010 bill, including sections to ensure minority party legislative appointments. It now also includes an amendment that allows the governor to serve for two more years in the chairperson role before the position is removed altogether. Signing SB 17 provides our new governor with an appropriate chance to oversee a transition and recovery of lost funds -- and then to turn over the reins at the SIC.
In 2010, the legislature passed landmark reforms of the SIC (Senate Bill 18) in response to conflicts of interest, legal investigations and governance challenges at the SIC. These reforms reflected multiple governance recommendations from the 2010 interim, independent, bipartisan Enis Knupp Report. The reforms achieved by SB 18 included: making the State Investment Officer serve the SIC rather than being personally appointed by the governor, requiring 10 years of investment expertise for all appointed board members and diffusing the influence of any single individual by moving four appointments out of the Executive Branch.
Knupp Report's Top Recommendation
All of these changes have been important in reforming the SIC. However, the top recommendation of the Enis Knupp Report was to remove the governor as chairperson of the SIC. While this was included in the original 2010 SB 18, the provision removing the governor was stripped out in the final hours of the session to enable the other reforms to move forward.
Regardless of who is serving as governor, a change in who serves as SIC chairperson is critical to eliminate conflicts of interest, as well as the potential for pay-to-play and favoritism, and to maintain the appropriate level of fiduciary responsibility and expertise.
New Mexico is the only state in the country where the governor is personally in charge of similar permanent fund oversight.
We expect our governor to lead the state and appoint and hire staff to implement the vision they were elected to deliver. We do not, however, expect him or her to have the expertise or direct responsibility for approving the buying and selling of billions of dollars in stocks, bonds and alternative investments with our children’s endowments. This is precisely why the SIC was set up as quasi-independent government institution in the first place.
Finance, Not Politics
Governance best practices suggest that the SIC should internally elect a chairman who is not an elected official -- a choice based on merit, sound judgment, integrity and expertise that the fiduciary nature of the position warrants. The bottom line is that it is best to base our state’s financial investments on the principles of finance, not politics.
New Mexico needs our new governor to finish the job of reform at the SIC, and then put the long-term governance of the SIC above executive office authority. It takes real leadership to reduce one’s own direct power and influence.
Voters sent Susanna Martinez to the governor’s office to put what is right over what is personally beneficial. It is now up to her to seize the opportunity to protect our state’s financial future and put our SIC on sure footing for generations to come. It is precisely the kind of bold change and deviation from the status quo that our state will be proud to celebrate with her signature of Senate Bill 17.
This is a guest blog by Senator Tim Keller. 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.
Take Action: Contact Governor Martinez and urge her to keep her campaign promises and sign SB 17.
Friday, March 25, 2011
Stephen Jones: The New Mercantilists
This is a post by contributing writer, Stephen Jones, of Las Cruces.
As the current recession has dragged on, the national debate seems to have turned to slashing national investment and eliminating national debt at all cost, while, at the same time, backing dirty, failing and outdated industries, rather than growing our way out of bad economic times. Instead of engaging in sound market-based solutions and working toward the sound public investment that supports innovation, leaders of both parties seem intent on abandoning any semblance of sound classical economic policy for the all-out support of an outdated policy of neo-mercantilism.
Mercantilism was a theory of economic development that held that there was a finite amount of wealth in the world, and that national treasuries were entirely dependent on the monopoly trade in, and the extraction of, that fixed wealth. The mercantilist age was based on increasing debt in protected commercial combinations, supported by massive militarist states, whose national blood and treasure was spent in maintaining those protected monopolies. Mercantile traders used their accumulated wealth to buy control of governments, who in turn spent the treasuries of those nations to maintain the mercantile monopolies. The mercantile epoch is best remembered for galleons filled with Mesoamerican gold, Indian cotton and southeast Asian spices plying the ocean waves to feed Europe's little addictions.
For most of four centuries, up until the end of the 1800's, European mercantilists stacked their gold and silver bullion and forced their home kingdoms deep into debt, engaged primarily in maintaining colonial supply lines including, most notoriously, the Atlantic triangular trade. This trade involved moving raw materials extracted from the Americas to Europe, sending manufactured goods back to the the Americas and to Africa and turning human beings into commodities. The human commodities were traded as slaves, and most perished working in the sugar cane fields of the Western Hemisphere, the cash crop of the colonial powers of mercantile Europe.
Adam Smith, War and Revolution
By the time of the enlightenment era of the mid-eighteenth century, the radical thinkers of Europe had mustered the courage to speak up against the mercantilist masters of that continent. Among the seditious, Adam Smith, the Scottish economist and philosopher wrote, "A great empire has been established for the sole purpose of raising up a nation of customers who should be obliged to buy from the shops of our different producers all the goods with which these could supply them. For the sake of that little enhancement of price which this monopoly might afford our producers, the home-consumers have been burdened with the whole expense of maintaining and defending that empire."
It would be comforting to believe that the old mercantilist age came apart merely through the superior economic and political arguments of enlightened spokespersons like Adam Smith. In fact, however, the old order collapsed in decades of war and revolution, including a thirty-years-long world war between Britain and France that finally hurled both of those empires and their allies from the Western Hemisphere. It should be little wonder why the framers of the United States Constitution were so suspicious of national trade monopolies and standing armies. Two-and-a-half centuries on, we seem to find ourselves right back at square one.
A New Incarnation of the Mercantilists
Over the last few years, our Republican and libertarian friends would have us believe that they are the great defenders of Adam Smith's economic orthodoxy, champions of the "invisible hand" of the market, condemners of the large national debt and the defenders of enlightened economic growth, working to get us back to basics. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact they are just a new incarnation of the old mercantilist hoodoo.
Like medieval burgesses in their counting-houses, the Republican leadership puts the defense of monopoly trade combinations ahead of support for competitive small businesses, backs obsolete and dirty extractive industries over green technologies, opposes infrastructure development, whether it be rail, smart-grid energy, or rural broadband, and holds an outdated military-industrial complex sacrosanct, and all the enormous national debt that goes with it, at all costs. They place corporate protection ahead of innovation; they place government policing of individual "lifestyle" ahead of education, and military expenditures ahead of infrastructure, education, health and human resource development. Above all they defend tax breaks for oil companies over everything else. Drill here, drill now!
The Facts on Debt and Deficits
The inconvenient facts are readily available. Most of our national debt has been piled up almost entirely by Republican Administrations. Prior to sometime last year, when they got some kind of economic religion, the GOP told us, in the words of Dick Cheney, that "deficits don't matter." Ronald Reagan began his first term with a total debt of only $930 million and increased that total debt to $2.7 trillion, more than all the presidential administrations before him combined, including the "New Deal" of Roosevelt and "Great Society" of LBJ. The first Bush Administration expanded the national debt to over $4 trillion, and then George W. Bush nearly doubled the debt from $5.6 trillion to more than $10 trillion. Rather than calling for shared sacrifice, the second Bush fought two unfunded wars, while slashing the tax rates for the wealthiest Americans, and told the rest of us to just "go shopping."
Most of our deficits come from support of one industry, of course, and that is maintaining the endless international supply lines of the oil industry.
A Right-Wing Prescription for Failure
Instead of addressing the real cause of all that debt, the Republican Party takes aim at everything that has nothing to do with the deficits, including Social Security. Instead of moving us away from our oil addiction, the GOP moves to protect that one industry against any competition. As gas and food prices rise and national capital cash flows remain sluggish, Republican leaders take aim at everyone and everything other than the root causes of all that debt -- particularly education, health, infrastructure and services to the poor -- and instead pump cash into the coffers of central bankers, falsely believing such transfusions will somehow cure capital-flow problems.
In Wisconsin, the GOP's Governor Scott Walker attacks collective bargaining instead of building on that state's strong education facilities. In Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder seeks to cut corporate taxes by 86%, while raising individual income taxes and hatching a dubious scheme that would allow him to install un-elected corporate managers over elected local governments. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie calls for raising that state’s estate tax exemption from $675,000 to $1 million, while eliminating New Jersey's earned income tax credit. Maine Governor Paul LePage, a Tea Party favorite, has introduced a tax package that would raise the state’s estate tax exemption from $1 million to $2 million -- allowing four hundred of the state’s wealthiest estates to escape taxation -- while hiking property taxes to make up the difference.
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez wants to slash funds for public education while blowing away any regulatory oversight of dirty extractive industries or her pet campaign contributors like Doña Ana County's dirty factory-dairy industry. Former Governor Gary Johnson, launching his vanity presidential campaign from a Taos-area ski slope, and looking to stoke the heart-strings of the so-called libertarian flock, tells us we should just go ahead and eliminate the whole national debt by next Thursday.
These schemes are not a recipe for recovery; they are a prescription for failure. They place protection for favored trade combinations ahead of innovation or sound market investment.
The Real Adam Smith
Even old Adam Smith, usually cited for his pure market orthodoxy, understood the need for public investment to public support the marketplace. Smith frequently called for government infusion of funds for key areas of development, including infrastructure and public education. Far from backing the unchecked support of corporate interests, Adam Smith was frequently among big business's greatest critics, especially when they worked with government partners to support old trade combinations and stifle small-market innovation. "Businessmen," Smith wrote in the Wealth of Nations, "are an order of men whose is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even oppress the public, and who have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it."
The time is now for the government and the marketplace to invest in the future and oppose the policies of the new mercantilists, both those of the Republican Party and the corporatists in the Democratic Party, and to get back to basics and build for the future.
To see more posts by Stephen, visit our archive.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Rep. Maestas' Local Film Incentive Bill Overwhelmingly Passes NM House
The New Mexico House of Representatives today voted 66-1 to pass House Bill 415, legislation proposed by Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas (D-Albuquerque) that would create more opportunities for local independent and start-up filmmakers in New Mexico. The proposed legislation would allow between $150,000 and $3,000,000 of the Severance Tax Permanent Fund to be invested in any one small-budget New Mexico film project.
"Competition for attracting major motion pictures and television series is only getting tougher as more lucrative incentives are being offered across the country," Rep. Maestas said. "HB 415 lays the foundation for the development of a strong and creative local film industry right here in New Mexico by focusing on making sound financial investments for our own home-grown talent."
The measure would cap the yearly amount of funding at $17 million for small-budget productions, while ensuring at least $2 million in loans goes to Native American filmmakers. HB 415 now moves to the Senate.