Archive for January, 2010

Let corporations share in the American dream

By Thomas Wark

The ascendant characteristic of America’s unholy alliance of the religious right and the political right is fear.

Pat Robertson is an expert with this tool.  Never mind the compassion for which the Jesus he professes to follow was famous in history.  Fire-breathing Pat said the horrible disaster visited upon Haiti this week was God’s vengeance upon a people who made “a pact with the devil.”  What a humanitarian!

When Katrina devastated New Orleans, buy information pills several followers of the TV evangelists assured me that the terrible damage was God’s vengeance on the city for Madeline Murray O’Hair’s atheism.  Huh?

The vengeful Old Testament God of Pat Robertson keeps the faithful in line.  Who wants to end up dying like a Haitian in an earthquake or a Louisianian in a hurricane?

The theologians of the political right — Karl Rove, Frank Luntz, Newt Gingrich, et al — invoke their own pantheon of vengeful gods.

Dare to question a war on an innocent people; dare to denounce the torture and detention without trial of anyone whose looks our government doesn’t like; have the temerity to note that the American people are no more “special” than the French, the Angolans or the Iranians; suggest for a minute that “free enterprise capitalism” isn’t free for working stiffs and rewards only the enterprise of oligarchs . . . Demons of color will invade your neighborhood, rape your women, enslave your children and leave you bloody and dying on the pavement while your house burns to the ground.

Improve the developed world’s worst health care system?  It’ll kill grandma, deprive you of treatment by a good doctor and force you to risk gangrene at the hands of ill-trained butchers; it’ll make you a pauper, turn you into a robot and give you acid reflux, erectile dysfunction or both.

Curb man-made climate change?  “They” would take away your SUVs, your air-conditioners, your lovely green golf courses,  your half-acre flat-screen TV screens, your jobs, your freedoms and your pride in being the richest, most powerful nation in the whole world.

As long as you’re very, very afraid — of something, anything — you’ll toe the line even as the fear-mongers destroy the economy, savage the Constitution, cancel the Bill of Rights and hold themselves exempt from the laws of decency and ethical behavior.

After all, it’s what keeps you safe.

And We Like Being Afraid!

This from Ring of Fire (Robert F. Kennedy and Mike Papantonio):  In America, sometimes fear is real entertainment.  Not only for those people whose brains are made up of something more than mush but also for the people who love to be afraid.

In 2009, the truly terrified hysterics rushed out to buy guns of every description.  There were many times you couldn’t buy 9mm or 40 caliber shells even for target practice because production couldn’t keep up with demand.  What was everyone afraid of?  Here is the short list:  America elected a “Negro president.”  Democrats were going to take everybody’s guns.  The liberals were planning a “take over.”  The immigrant hoards were going to rape and pillage.  And there was the threat that some ill-defined world catastrophe was always knocking at our door in 2009.  The world was surely ending and only a well-armed militia trained gun owner with a concealed weapon permit would be ready.  We made our love of being afraid into a widespread psychosis.  If you don’t believe me, go to one of those tea party rallies and ask the question:  Why are you here?  At the heart of every response, you will hear vague hysterical fear and loathing of something or someone.  It will usually begin and end with an “O.”

To read more, visit Thomas Wark’s blog: http://bordellopianist.blogspot.com
By Thomas Wark

The ascendant characteristic of America’s unholy alliance of the religious right and the political right is fear.

Pat Robertson is an expert with this tool.  Never mind the compassion for which the Jesus he professes to follow was famous in history.  Fire-breathing Pat said the horrible disaster visited upon Haiti this week was God’s vengeance upon a people who made “a pact with the devil.”  What a humanitarian!

When Katrina devastated New Orleans, buy information pills several followers of the TV evangelists assured me that the terrible damage was God’s vengeance on the city for Madeline Murray O’Hair’s atheism.  Huh?

The vengeful Old Testament God of Pat Robertson keeps the faithful in line.  Who wants to end up dying like a Haitian in an earthquake or a Louisianian in a hurricane?

The theologians of the political right — Karl Rove, Frank Luntz, Newt Gingrich, et al — invoke their own pantheon of vengeful gods.

Dare to question a war on an innocent people; dare to denounce the torture and detention without trial of anyone whose looks our government doesn’t like; have the temerity to note that the American people are no more “special” than the French, the Angolans or the Iranians; suggest for a minute that “free enterprise capitalism” isn’t free for working stiffs and rewards only the enterprise of oligarchs . . . Demons of color will invade your neighborhood, rape your women, enslave your children and leave you bloody and dying on the pavement while your house burns to the ground.

Improve the developed world’s worst health care system?  It’ll kill grandma, deprive you of treatment by a good doctor and force you to risk gangrene at the hands of ill-trained butchers; it’ll make you a pauper, turn you into a robot and give you acid reflux, erectile dysfunction or both.

Curb man-made climate change?  “They” would take away your SUVs, your air-conditioners, your lovely green golf courses,  your half-acre flat-screen TV screens, your jobs, your freedoms and your pride in being the richest, most powerful nation in the whole world.

As long as you’re very, very afraid — of something, anything — you’ll toe the line even as the fear-mongers destroy the economy, savage the Constitution, cancel the Bill of Rights and hold themselves exempt from the laws of decency and ethical behavior.

After all, it’s what keeps you safe.

And We Like Being Afraid!

This from Ring of Fire (Robert F. Kennedy and Mike Papantonio):  In America, sometimes fear is real entertainment.  Not only for those people whose brains are made up of something more than mush but also for the people who love to be afraid.

In 2009, the truly terrified hysterics rushed out to buy guns of every description.  There were many times you couldn’t buy 9mm or 40 caliber shells even for target practice because production couldn’t keep up with demand.  What was everyone afraid of?  Here is the short list:  America elected a “Negro president.”  Democrats were going to take everybody’s guns.  The liberals were planning a “take over.”  The immigrant hoards were going to rape and pillage.  And there was the threat that some ill-defined world catastrophe was always knocking at our door in 2009.  The world was surely ending and only a well-armed militia trained gun owner with a concealed weapon permit would be ready.  We made our love of being afraid into a widespread psychosis.  If you don’t believe me, go to one of those tea party rallies and ask the question:  Why are you here?  At the heart of every response, you will hear vague hysterical fear and loathing of something or someone.  It will usually begin and end with an “O.”

To read more, visit Thomas Wark’s blog: http://bordellopianist.blogspot.com

By Steve Klinger

America’s politically orphaned corporations finally got a few table scraps last week when the Supreme Court declared the government has to treat them just like individual citizens and not restrict them from spending directly on election campaigns. Justice Anthony Kennedy, medic
writing for the 5-4 majority, hospital
basically said we need to take pity on “associations of citizens” and unleash their purse strings to validate their First Amendment rights to free speech. After all, approved
he argued, it’s bad enough corporations can’t vote or run for office.

But couldn’t we do something about that? As Greg Palast wrote (http://readersupportednews.org/opinion/75-politics/807-greg-palast-manchurian-candidates), why stop with campaign spending – how about Walmart for president? Or for that matter, ARAMCO or the China National Offshore Oil Company, which under this SCOTUS ruling can now spend freely to influence elections as long as they are registered as U.S. corporations? Let’s see… would a corporation have to be native-born to run for president? But I digress…

I do think we need a new constitutional amendment to address this latest example of high-court timidity, this propensity to act in half-measures (which irritates Clarence Thomas so much he had to write a separate opinion putting us on notice that this is just the beginning). We could call it the Equal Rights Amendment for Corporations. While we’re at it, we should abolish the Security and Exchange Commission, which has for too long been an obstacle to corporate marriage.

Speaking of associations of citizens, we need a new division of the ACLU to look out for Exxon-Mobil and Citi – something like the Corporate Civil Liberties Union. Corporations shouldn’t have to bankrupt themselves paying high-priced attorneys to defend their interests; if common criminals have access to pro bono lawyers, so should the loyal companies that enrich our lives in so many ways.

They are after all America’s most neglected minority – far fewer in number than any prominent racial or ethnic group – and as the Fearless Five (Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Kennedy) finally acknowledged, it’s about time we began leveling the playing field.

In fact, this is not a time for artificial borders. I think we need a worldwide benefit drive to reach out to multinational corporations, something like the relief effort organized for Haiti or the tsunami–ravaged nations in 2004. Kind of like what Washington did on a small scale for Wall Street; you know, bailouts for bank bonuses. We could show our compassion to all corporate executives, a really afflicted group if ever there was one, who now live with daily stress and uncertainty, not knowing where their next yacht is coming from.

We could provide counseling and job retraining programs, a premium food stamp plan to include pâté de foie gras, and special WIC-like benefits for wholly owned subsidiaries. Each community could sponsor its own Adopt-A-Corporation drive. I’m sure hard-working Americans would sign up to sponsor their very own disadvantaged corporate entity and gladly donate a generous portion of their weekly unemployment check to help keep some struggling oil and gas company afloat. (Of course, this already happens with our income tax dollars, but you get my drift.)

The Obama administration and Congress need to stop showing favoritism, as in the current healthcare reform measure that only benefits insurance companies and big pharma. Let’s get back to work on the stalled energy bill to make sure there’s a piece of the pie for agribusiness, fossil fuel producers and all the other core industries that are entitled to make a killing on energy reform.

That said, I can’t wait to see the details of the coming financial overhaul, which to be fair needs to assist all banks, investment companies and other financial institutions. And of course I’m confident it will.

This is, after all, a democracy we live in. Since corporations are people, they too are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And what could make a corporation happier than being able to buy influence more directly so government will remember to validate its individuality.

So get with the program, Stevens, Ginsberg, Breyer and Sotomayor. And thank you, Roberts, Kennedy, Alito, Thomas and Scalia for recognizing that corporations too have their American Dream, and having heard the merciful promise, lay themselves at our feet for comfort:

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

–Statue of Liberty inscription, from sonnet by Emma Lazarus

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Safe From Devils

By Thomas Wark
Three different data-based studies that rank nations according to the “happiness” of their people all agree that the two happiest nations in the world are Denmark and Costa Rica.The studies take into account citizens’ responses to poll questions evaluating their own happiness, this web see as well as life expectancy; one study adds a third factor, treatment environmental impact.

Obviously, climate is not a common denominator for these two sets of happy people.

But there are two very clear common denominators.  One is universal government managed health care.  The other is little or no spending on the military.

Costa Rica, which most often ranks first in the happiness surveys, has no military.  Zero.  Zilch.  Its government made a decision to eliminate its standing army and divert the money it spent on the military to education.

Denmark maintains an army. navy, air force and Home Guard.  This entire operation costs Denmark 1.5% of its GDP.  The United States, in contrast, spends nearly four times as large a percentage of its vastly greater GDP on its war machine.

In the United States, where tea party loonies and birther crazies prattle about “socialized medicine” as if it were something bad, an allegedly “liberal” President didn’t even ask the Congress his party controls to consider a single-payer, universal health care system.  What he’s willing to settle for is a mish-mash of regulations and wishfulness that guarantees enormously greater profits for the insurance industry and skyrocketing bonuses for its fat-cat executives.  The actual quality of medical care will continue to decline, and the actual cost to sick people will continue to rise.

No data are available as to the precise number of Americans who go to Costa Rica each year to avail themselves of one of the best health care systems in the world today.  The system is open not just to Ticos, but to any foreign resident or visitor.  Doctors and pharmacists there all say they regularly serve a number of American patients.  In 1991, a survey by economists from the University of Costa Rica documented that 14.25% of all foreign visitors came for the express purpose of receiving medical care of some type.

You don’t need a prescriptions for most medications in Costa Rica, you can take up to a 90-day supply back to the U.S. with you and the cost of the medicine is about 20% of what you (and your for-profit insurer, if you have one) would pay in the United States. Foreigners can join the Costa Rican health care net (CCSS) by paying a small monthly 
fee, based on their income, or  they can buy health insurance from the state monopoly for roughly 1/100th of the cost of comparable coverage in the United States.

In Denmark,  anyone can go to a physician for no fee. Danish citizens may choose between two systems of primary health care: medical care provided free of charge by a doctor whom the individual chooses for a year and by those specialists to whom the doctor refers the patient; or complete freedom of choice of any physician or specialist at any time, with state reimbursement of about two-thirds of the cost for medical bills paid directly by the patient. Most Danes opt for the former. All patients receive subsidies on pharmaceuticals and vital drugs. Total health care expenditure is 8.4% of GDP.

Health care costs the United States just over 16% of GDP.  A 2009 Harvard study published in the American Journal of Public Health found more than 44,800 preventable deaths annually in the United States among Americans lacking health insurance.

Rush Limblow to the contrary notwithstanding, the only large industrialized nations that come close to matching the health care in Denmark and Costa Rica are Japan and France.  You know what the right wingnuts say about France!

Read more of Thomas Wark’s posts at A Bordello Pianist (http://bordellopianist.blogspot.com)

By Thomas Wark

The ascendant characteristic of America’s unholy alliance of the religious right and the political right is fear.

Pat Robertson is an expert with this tool.  Never mind the compassion for which the Jesus he professes to follow was famous in history.  Fire-breathing Pat said the horrible disaster visited upon Haiti this week was God’s vengeance upon a people who made “a pact with the devil.”  What a humanitarian!

When Katrina devastated New Orleans, website like this several followers of the TV evangelists assured me that the terrible damage was God’s vengeance on the city for Madeline Murray O’Hair’s atheism.  Huh?

The vengeful Old Testament God of Pat Robertson keeps the faithful in line.  Who wants to end up dying like a Haitian in an earthquake or a Louisianian in a hurricane?

The theologians of the political right — Karl Rove, story Frank Luntz, discount Newt Gingrich, et al — invoke their own pantheon of vengeful gods.

Dare to question a war on an innocent people; dare to denounce the torture and detention without trial of anyone whose looks our government doesn’t like; have the temerity to note that the American people are no more “special” than the French, the Angolans or the Iranians; suggest for a minute that “free enterprise capitalism” isn’t free for working stiffs and rewards only the enterprise of oligarchs . . . Demons of color will invade your neighborhood, rape your women, enslave your children and leave you bloody and dying on the pavement while your house burns to the ground.

Improve the developed world’s worst health care system?  It’ll kill grandma, deprive you of treatment by a good doctor and force you to risk gangrene at the hands of ill-trained butchers; it’ll make you a pauper, turn you into a robot and give you acid reflux, erectile dysfunction or both.

Curb man-made climate change?  “They” would take away your SUVs, your air-conditioners, your lovely green golf courses,  your half-acre flat-screen TV screens, your jobs, your freedoms and your pride in being the richest, most powerful nation in the whole world.

As long as you’re very, very afraid — of something, anything — you’ll toe the line even as the fear-mongers destroy the economy, savage the Constitution, cancel the Bill of Rights and hold themselves exempt from the laws of decency and ethical behavior.

After all, it’s what keeps you safe.

And We Like Being Afraid!

This from Ring of Fire (Robert F. Kennedy and Mike Papantonio):  In America, sometimes fear is real entertainment.  Not only for those people whose brains are made up of something more than mush but also for the people who love to be afraid.

In 2009, the truly terrified hysterics rushed out to buy guns of every description.  There were many times you couldn’t buy 9mm or 40 caliber shells even for target practice because production couldn’t keep up with demand.  What was everyone afraid of?  Here is the short list:  America elected a “Negro president.”  Democrats were going to take everybody’s guns.  The liberals were planning a “take over.”  The immigrant hoards were going to rape and pillage.  And there was the threat that some ill-defined world catastrophe was always knocking at our door in 2009.  The world was surely ending and only a well-armed militia trained gun owner with a concealed weapon permit would be ready.  We made our love of being afraid into a widespread psychosis.  If you don’t believe me, go to one of those tea party rallies and ask the question:  Why are you here?  At the heart of every response, you will hear vague hysterical fear and loathing of something or someone.  It will usually begin and end with an “O.”

To read more, visit Thomas Wark’s blog: http://bordellopianist.blogspot.com

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Happy Danes Are Here Again

By State Sen. Steve Fischmann

The January legislative session is fast approaching, for sale
and it’s time for both the governor and the Legislature to step up to the budget crisis.  Temporary federal aid, anabolics
gauze and Band-Aids have gotten us this far, website
but the first-aid kit is now empty.  Projected general fund revenues for fiscal 2010 have declined over 25 percent (from $6.4 billion to $4.7 billion), with no sign of significant revenue growth in sight.  Little has been done to address the long-term structural problems we face.  The tough decision-making still lies ahead.

It’s no mystery how we got here: Big increases in state spending, $700 million in tax cuts since 2002 (largely to the highest income earners), “economic development” perks of dubious public benefit, and questionable deals made in a “pay-to-play” political culture.  All of this was financed by a bubble in natural gas severance tax revenue that is unlikely to return, and financial-market shenanigans that fueled a bloated economy.

Tired posturing about indispensable government programs or no new taxes will not solve our problems.  A combination of immediate measures and long-term policy shifts can.  Successful businesses use tough times to reinvent themselves.  That is exactly what New Mexico State government needs to do.  It’s painful, but it sure beats the alternative.  Let’s not waste this crisis.

Here are some ideas for moving forward this next legislative session.

Reducing Government Spending

It’s human nature to get sloppy about spending when there’s lots of money around.  The first step back to financial stability is controlling spending.  The governor has created a citizen panel to review potential tax increases; we should do the same to address potential budget cuts.

There has been much discussion about “across-the-board” cuts to “share the pain.”  This will only result in across-the-board mediocrity.  Large bureaucracies tend to create new programs to solve each newly identified problem.  Real solutions often lie in better delivery of core services rather than layers of new initiatives. Marginal and underfunded programs should be dropped as we refocus on more effective delivery of basic services.

Our public school classrooms are a perfect microcosm of this phenomenon.  Between overcooked federal and state testing mandates, documentation-heavy programs to help struggling students, and a bevy of “flavor-of-the-month” programs, it is widely acknowledged that teachers no longer have enough time to actually teach.  By streamlining and eliminating mandates while maintaining accountability, we can improve instruction and save money at the same time.

Policy adjustments can also significantly reduce spending.  It costs upward of $30,000 annually to house a prisoner in a state corrections institution.  Taxpayers are punished as much as criminals every time we send someone to jail.  Though we call them corrections institutions, the overwhelming evidence is that prisons are far more adept at teaching criminal behavior than correcting it.  Do we really benefit by sending non-violent first time offenders to jail?   Alternative forms of punishment not only save money, but promise fewer career criminals in our future.

Now might also be a good time to review the state procurement code.  Many complain that it often adds significantly to cost.  I don’t pretend to know one way or the other, but given the claimed level of waste, review and possible adjustment of the procurement code seems reasonable.

Restructuring Taxes

Legislators face many proposals for tax breaks for narrow interest groups every year.   Far too many are approved and never reviewed again.  More taxes are exempted in tax credits and deductions than is actually collected in state income and gross receipt taxes each year.  The result is a tax system where tax-break losers subsidize tax-break winners.

We do not need to raise tax rates to increase revenues.  We need only eliminate tax breaks that serve no broad public purpose.  Is it really appropriate that New Mexico auto sales excise taxes are only about half as much as gross receipt taxes on other products?  Other states don’t give this tax break.  Forty-eight states have implemented “consolidated reporting” policies to prevent national corporations from avoiding local state taxes through accounting tricks.  New Mexico has not.  Correcting just these two inequities would increase revenues an estimated $60 to $100 million annually.

Legislation that requires annual review of tax breaks, and that imposes sunset clauses on all narrow tax and economic incentives deserves our support.

Curtailing Pay-to-Play

The impact of pay-to-play is much bigger than the criminal violations we regularly see in the news.  Technically legal transactions that violate the public trust probably cost us far more than illegal activity.  Giveaway deals by the State Land Office, subsidies that give (not loan) hundreds of thousands of dollars to private speculators for every acre of private lots they create, and film incentives that give a cash rebate of $.25 for every dollar production companies spend in New Mexico will cost well over $100 million this year.  Total costs are much higher and are impossible to measure.

If we abhor pay-to-play as much as we let on, we should change the laws that encourage it.  Contractors working for the state, and companies seeking publicly funded subsidies or tax breaks should be prohibited from making political contributions.  There is no hope of curtailing corruption if we’re too faint-hearted to make it illegal.  Legislation that addresses these “ethics” issues may well save taxpayers more money over the long term than any other change we implement.

Steve Fischmann is State Senator for District 37 and a retired Fortune 500 corporate executive.
By State Sen. Steve Fischmann

The January legislative session is fast approaching, for sale
and it’s time for both the governor and the Legislature to step up to the budget crisis.  Temporary federal aid, anabolics
gauze and Band-Aids have gotten us this far, website
but the first-aid kit is now empty.  Projected general fund revenues for fiscal 2010 have declined over 25 percent (from $6.4 billion to $4.7 billion), with no sign of significant revenue growth in sight.  Little has been done to address the long-term structural problems we face.  The tough decision-making still lies ahead.

It’s no mystery how we got here: Big increases in state spending, $700 million in tax cuts since 2002 (largely to the highest income earners), “economic development” perks of dubious public benefit, and questionable deals made in a “pay-to-play” political culture.  All of this was financed by a bubble in natural gas severance tax revenue that is unlikely to return, and financial-market shenanigans that fueled a bloated economy.

Tired posturing about indispensable government programs or no new taxes will not solve our problems.  A combination of immediate measures and long-term policy shifts can.  Successful businesses use tough times to reinvent themselves.  That is exactly what New Mexico State government needs to do.  It’s painful, but it sure beats the alternative.  Let’s not waste this crisis.

Here are some ideas for moving forward this next legislative session.

Reducing Government Spending

It’s human nature to get sloppy about spending when there’s lots of money around.  The first step back to financial stability is controlling spending.  The governor has created a citizen panel to review potential tax increases; we should do the same to address potential budget cuts.

There has been much discussion about “across-the-board” cuts to “share the pain.”  This will only result in across-the-board mediocrity.  Large bureaucracies tend to create new programs to solve each newly identified problem.  Real solutions often lie in better delivery of core services rather than layers of new initiatives. Marginal and underfunded programs should be dropped as we refocus on more effective delivery of basic services.

Our public school classrooms are a perfect microcosm of this phenomenon.  Between overcooked federal and state testing mandates, documentation-heavy programs to help struggling students, and a bevy of “flavor-of-the-month” programs, it is widely acknowledged that teachers no longer have enough time to actually teach.  By streamlining and eliminating mandates while maintaining accountability, we can improve instruction and save money at the same time.

Policy adjustments can also significantly reduce spending.  It costs upward of $30,000 annually to house a prisoner in a state corrections institution.  Taxpayers are punished as much as criminals every time we send someone to jail.  Though we call them corrections institutions, the overwhelming evidence is that prisons are far more adept at teaching criminal behavior than correcting it.  Do we really benefit by sending non-violent first time offenders to jail?   Alternative forms of punishment not only save money, but promise fewer career criminals in our future.

Now might also be a good time to review the state procurement code.  Many complain that it often adds significantly to cost.  I don’t pretend to know one way or the other, but given the claimed level of waste, review and possible adjustment of the procurement code seems reasonable.

Restructuring Taxes

Legislators face many proposals for tax breaks for narrow interest groups every year.   Far too many are approved and never reviewed again.  More taxes are exempted in tax credits and deductions than is actually collected in state income and gross receipt taxes each year.  The result is a tax system where tax-break losers subsidize tax-break winners.

We do not need to raise tax rates to increase revenues.  We need only eliminate tax breaks that serve no broad public purpose.  Is it really appropriate that New Mexico auto sales excise taxes are only about half as much as gross receipt taxes on other products?  Other states don’t give this tax break.  Forty-eight states have implemented “consolidated reporting” policies to prevent national corporations from avoiding local state taxes through accounting tricks.  New Mexico has not.  Correcting just these two inequities would increase revenues an estimated $60 to $100 million annually.

Legislation that requires annual review of tax breaks, and that imposes sunset clauses on all narrow tax and economic incentives deserves our support.

Curtailing Pay-to-Play

The impact of pay-to-play is much bigger than the criminal violations we regularly see in the news.  Technically legal transactions that violate the public trust probably cost us far more than illegal activity.  Giveaway deals by the State Land Office, subsidies that give (not loan) hundreds of thousands of dollars to private speculators for every acre of private lots they create, and film incentives that give a cash rebate of $.25 for every dollar production companies spend in New Mexico will cost well over $100 million this year.  Total costs are much higher and are impossible to measure.

If we abhor pay-to-play as much as we let on, we should change the laws that encourage it.  Contractors working for the state, and companies seeking publicly funded subsidies or tax breaks should be prohibited from making political contributions.  There is no hope of curtailing corruption if we’re too faint-hearted to make it illegal.  Legislation that addresses these “ethics” issues may well save taxpayers more money over the long term than any other change we implement.

Steve Fischmann is State Senator for District 37 and a retired Fortune 500 corporate executive.
By State Sen. Steve Fischmann

The January legislative session is fast approaching, capsule
and it’s time for both the governor and the Legislature to step up to the budget crisis.  Temporary federal aid, gauze and Band-Aids have gotten us this far, but the first-aid kit is now empty.  Projected general fund revenues for fiscal 2010 have declined over 25 percent (from $6.4 billion to $4.7 billion), with no sign of significant revenue growth in sight.  Little has been done to address the long-term structural problems we face.  The tough decision-making still lies ahead.

It’s no mystery how we got here: Big increases in state spending, $700 million in tax cuts since 2002 (largely to the highest income earners), “economic development” perks of dubious public benefit, and questionable deals made in a “pay-to-play” political culture.  All of this was financed by a bubble in natural gas severance tax revenue that is unlikely to return, and financial-market shenanigans that fueled a bloated economy.

Tired posturing about indispensable government programs or no new taxes will not solve our problems.  A combination of immediate measures and long-term policy shifts can.  Successful businesses use tough times to reinvent themselves.  That is exactly what New Mexico State government needs to do.  It’s painful, but it sure beats the alternative.  Let’s not waste this crisis.

Here are some ideas for moving forward this next legislative session.

Reducing Government Spending

It’s human nature to get sloppy about spending when there’s lots of money around.  The first step back to financial stability is controlling spending.  The governor has created a citizen panel to review potential tax increases; we should do the same to address potential budget cuts.

There has been much discussion about “across-the-board” cuts to “share the pain.”  This will only result in across-the-board mediocrity.  Large bureaucracies tend to create new programs to solve each newly identified problem.  Real solutions often lie in better delivery of core services rather than layers of new initiatives. Marginal and underfunded programs should be dropped as we refocus on more effective delivery of basic services.

Our public school classrooms are a perfect microcosm of this phenomenon.  Between overcooked federal and state testing mandates, documentation-heavy programs to help struggling students, and a bevy of “flavor-of-the-month” programs, it is widely acknowledged that teachers no longer have enough time to actually teach.  By streamlining and eliminating mandates while maintaining accountability, we can improve instruction and save money at the same time.

Policy adjustments can also significantly reduce spending.  It costs upward of $30,000 annually to house a prisoner in a state corrections institution.  Taxpayers are punished as much as criminals every time we send someone to jail.  Though we call them corrections institutions, the overwhelming evidence is that prisons are far more adept at teaching criminal behavior than correcting it.  Do we really benefit by sending non-violent first time offenders to jail?   Alternative forms of punishment not only save money, but promise fewer career criminals in our future.

Now might also be a good time to review the state procurement code.  Many complain that it often adds significantly to cost.  I don’t pretend to know one way or the other, but given the claimed level of waste, review and possible adjustment of the procurement code seems reasonable.

Restructuring Taxes

Legislators face many proposals for tax breaks for narrow interest groups every year.   Far too many are approved and never reviewed again.  More taxes are exempted in tax credits and deductions than is actually collected in state income and gross receipt taxes each year.  The result is a tax system where tax-break losers subsidize tax-break winners.

We do not need to raise tax rates to increase revenues.  We need only eliminate tax breaks that serve no broad public purpose.  Is it really appropriate that New Mexico auto sales excise taxes are only about half as much as gross receipt taxes on other products?  Other states don’t give this tax break.  Forty-eight states have implemented “consolidated reporting” policies to prevent national corporations from avoiding local state taxes through accounting tricks.  New Mexico has not.  Correcting just these two inequities would increase revenues an estimated $60 to $100 million annually.

Legislation that requires annual review of tax breaks, and that imposes sunset clauses on all narrow tax and economic incentives deserves our support.

Curtailing Pay-to-Play

The impact of pay-to-play is much bigger than the criminal violations we regularly see in the news.  Technically legal transactions that violate the public trust probably cost us far more than illegal activity.  Giveaway deals by the State Land Office, subsidies that give (not loan) hundreds of thousands of dollars to private speculators for every acre of private lots they create, and film incentives that give a cash rebate of $.25 for every dollar production companies spend in New Mexico will cost well over $100 million this year.  Total costs are much higher and are impossible to measure.

If we abhor pay-to-play as much as we let on, we should change the laws that encourage it.  Contractors working for the state, and companies seeking publicly funded subsidies or tax breaks should be prohibited from making political contributions.  There is no hope of curtailing corruption if we’re too faint-hearted to make it illegal.  Legislation that addresses these “ethics” issues may well save taxpayers more money over the long term than any other change we implement.

Steve Fischmann is State Senator for District 37 and a retired Fortune 500 corporate executive.
By State Sen. Steve Fischmann

The January legislative session is fast approaching, for sale
and it’s time for both the governor and the Legislature to step up to the budget crisis.  Temporary federal aid, anabolics
gauze and Band-Aids have gotten us this far, website
but the first-aid kit is now empty.  Projected general fund revenues for fiscal 2010 have declined over 25 percent (from $6.4 billion to $4.7 billion), with no sign of significant revenue growth in sight.  Little has been done to address the long-term structural problems we face.  The tough decision-making still lies ahead.

It’s no mystery how we got here: Big increases in state spending, $700 million in tax cuts since 2002 (largely to the highest income earners), “economic development” perks of dubious public benefit, and questionable deals made in a “pay-to-play” political culture.  All of this was financed by a bubble in natural gas severance tax revenue that is unlikely to return, and financial-market shenanigans that fueled a bloated economy.

Tired posturing about indispensable government programs or no new taxes will not solve our problems.  A combination of immediate measures and long-term policy shifts can.  Successful businesses use tough times to reinvent themselves.  That is exactly what New Mexico State government needs to do.  It’s painful, but it sure beats the alternative.  Let’s not waste this crisis.

Here are some ideas for moving forward this next legislative session.

Reducing Government Spending

It’s human nature to get sloppy about spending when there’s lots of money around.  The first step back to financial stability is controlling spending.  The governor has created a citizen panel to review potential tax increases; we should do the same to address potential budget cuts.

There has been much discussion about “across-the-board” cuts to “share the pain.”  This will only result in across-the-board mediocrity.  Large bureaucracies tend to create new programs to solve each newly identified problem.  Real solutions often lie in better delivery of core services rather than layers of new initiatives. Marginal and underfunded programs should be dropped as we refocus on more effective delivery of basic services.

Our public school classrooms are a perfect microcosm of this phenomenon.  Between overcooked federal and state testing mandates, documentation-heavy programs to help struggling students, and a bevy of “flavor-of-the-month” programs, it is widely acknowledged that teachers no longer have enough time to actually teach.  By streamlining and eliminating mandates while maintaining accountability, we can improve instruction and save money at the same time.

Policy adjustments can also significantly reduce spending.  It costs upward of $30,000 annually to house a prisoner in a state corrections institution.  Taxpayers are punished as much as criminals every time we send someone to jail.  Though we call them corrections institutions, the overwhelming evidence is that prisons are far more adept at teaching criminal behavior than correcting it.  Do we really benefit by sending non-violent first time offenders to jail?   Alternative forms of punishment not only save money, but promise fewer career criminals in our future.

Now might also be a good time to review the state procurement code.  Many complain that it often adds significantly to cost.  I don’t pretend to know one way or the other, but given the claimed level of waste, review and possible adjustment of the procurement code seems reasonable.

Restructuring Taxes

Legislators face many proposals for tax breaks for narrow interest groups every year.   Far too many are approved and never reviewed again.  More taxes are exempted in tax credits and deductions than is actually collected in state income and gross receipt taxes each year.  The result is a tax system where tax-break losers subsidize tax-break winners.

We do not need to raise tax rates to increase revenues.  We need only eliminate tax breaks that serve no broad public purpose.  Is it really appropriate that New Mexico auto sales excise taxes are only about half as much as gross receipt taxes on other products?  Other states don’t give this tax break.  Forty-eight states have implemented “consolidated reporting” policies to prevent national corporations from avoiding local state taxes through accounting tricks.  New Mexico has not.  Correcting just these two inequities would increase revenues an estimated $60 to $100 million annually.

Legislation that requires annual review of tax breaks, and that imposes sunset clauses on all narrow tax and economic incentives deserves our support.

Curtailing Pay-to-Play

The impact of pay-to-play is much bigger than the criminal violations we regularly see in the news.  Technically legal transactions that violate the public trust probably cost us far more than illegal activity.  Giveaway deals by the State Land Office, subsidies that give (not loan) hundreds of thousands of dollars to private speculators for every acre of private lots they create, and film incentives that give a cash rebate of $.25 for every dollar production companies spend in New Mexico will cost well over $100 million this year.  Total costs are much higher and are impossible to measure.

If we abhor pay-to-play as much as we let on, we should change the laws that encourage it.  Contractors working for the state, and companies seeking publicly funded subsidies or tax breaks should be prohibited from making political contributions.  There is no hope of curtailing corruption if we’re too faint-hearted to make it illegal.  Legislation that addresses these “ethics” issues may well save taxpayers more money over the long term than any other change we implement.

Steve Fischmann is State Senator for District 37 and a retired Fortune 500 corporate executive.
By State Sen. Steve Fischmann

The January legislative session is fast approaching, capsule
and it’s time for both the governor and the Legislature to step up to the budget crisis.  Temporary federal aid, gauze and Band-Aids have gotten us this far, but the first-aid kit is now empty.  Projected general fund revenues for fiscal 2010 have declined over 25 percent (from $6.4 billion to $4.7 billion), with no sign of significant revenue growth in sight.  Little has been done to address the long-term structural problems we face.  The tough decision-making still lies ahead.

It’s no mystery how we got here: Big increases in state spending, $700 million in tax cuts since 2002 (largely to the highest income earners), “economic development” perks of dubious public benefit, and questionable deals made in a “pay-to-play” political culture.  All of this was financed by a bubble in natural gas severance tax revenue that is unlikely to return, and financial-market shenanigans that fueled a bloated economy.

Tired posturing about indispensable government programs or no new taxes will not solve our problems.  A combination of immediate measures and long-term policy shifts can.  Successful businesses use tough times to reinvent themselves.  That is exactly what New Mexico State government needs to do.  It’s painful, but it sure beats the alternative.  Let’s not waste this crisis.

Here are some ideas for moving forward this next legislative session.

Reducing Government Spending

It’s human nature to get sloppy about spending when there’s lots of money around.  The first step back to financial stability is controlling spending.  The governor has created a citizen panel to review potential tax increases; we should do the same to address potential budget cuts.

There has been much discussion about “across-the-board” cuts to “share the pain.”  This will only result in across-the-board mediocrity.  Large bureaucracies tend to create new programs to solve each newly identified problem.  Real solutions often lie in better delivery of core services rather than layers of new initiatives. Marginal and underfunded programs should be dropped as we refocus on more effective delivery of basic services.

Our public school classrooms are a perfect microcosm of this phenomenon.  Between overcooked federal and state testing mandates, documentation-heavy programs to help struggling students, and a bevy of “flavor-of-the-month” programs, it is widely acknowledged that teachers no longer have enough time to actually teach.  By streamlining and eliminating mandates while maintaining accountability, we can improve instruction and save money at the same time.

Policy adjustments can also significantly reduce spending.  It costs upward of $30,000 annually to house a prisoner in a state corrections institution.  Taxpayers are punished as much as criminals every time we send someone to jail.  Though we call them corrections institutions, the overwhelming evidence is that prisons are far more adept at teaching criminal behavior than correcting it.  Do we really benefit by sending non-violent first time offenders to jail?   Alternative forms of punishment not only save money, but promise fewer career criminals in our future.

Now might also be a good time to review the state procurement code.  Many complain that it often adds significantly to cost.  I don’t pretend to know one way or the other, but given the claimed level of waste, review and possible adjustment of the procurement code seems reasonable.

Restructuring Taxes

Legislators face many proposals for tax breaks for narrow interest groups every year.   Far too many are approved and never reviewed again.  More taxes are exempted in tax credits and deductions than is actually collected in state income and gross receipt taxes each year.  The result is a tax system where tax-break losers subsidize tax-break winners.

We do not need to raise tax rates to increase revenues.  We need only eliminate tax breaks that serve no broad public purpose.  Is it really appropriate that New Mexico auto sales excise taxes are only about half as much as gross receipt taxes on other products?  Other states don’t give this tax break.  Forty-eight states have implemented “consolidated reporting” policies to prevent national corporations from avoiding local state taxes through accounting tricks.  New Mexico has not.  Correcting just these two inequities would increase revenues an estimated $60 to $100 million annually.

Legislation that requires annual review of tax breaks, and that imposes sunset clauses on all narrow tax and economic incentives deserves our support.

Curtailing Pay-to-Play

The impact of pay-to-play is much bigger than the criminal violations we regularly see in the news.  Technically legal transactions that violate the public trust probably cost us far more than illegal activity.  Giveaway deals by the State Land Office, subsidies that give (not loan) hundreds of thousands of dollars to private speculators for every acre of private lots they create, and film incentives that give a cash rebate of $.25 for every dollar production companies spend in New Mexico will cost well over $100 million this year.  Total costs are much higher and are impossible to measure.

If we abhor pay-to-play as much as we let on, we should change the laws that encourage it.  Contractors working for the state, and companies seeking publicly funded subsidies or tax breaks should be prohibited from making political contributions.  There is no hope of curtailing corruption if we’re too faint-hearted to make it illegal.  Legislation that addresses these “ethics” issues may well save taxpayers more money over the long term than any other change we implement.

Steve Fischmann is State Senator for District 37 and a retired Fortune 500 corporate executive.
By State Sen. Steve Fischmann

The January legislative session is fast approaching, click
and it’s time for both the governor and the Legislature to step up to the budget crisis.  Temporary federal aid, generic
gauze and Band-Aids have gotten us this far, see
but the first-aid kit is now empty.  Projected general fund revenues for fiscal 2010 have declined over 25 percent (from $6.4 billion to $4.7 billion), with no sign of significant revenue growth in sight.  Little has been done to address the long-term structural problems we face.  The tough decision-making still lies ahead.

It’s no mystery how we got here: Big increases in state spending, $700 million in tax cuts since 2002 (largely to the highest income earners), “economic development” perks of dubious public benefit, and questionable deals made in a “pay-to-play” political culture.  All of this was financed by a bubble in natural gas severance tax revenue that is unlikely to return, and financial-market shenanigans that fueled a bloated economy.

Tired posturing about indispensable government programs or no new taxes will not solve our problems.  A combination of immediate measures and long-term policy shifts can.  Successful businesses use tough times to reinvent themselves.  That is exactly what New Mexico State government needs to do.  It’s painful, but it sure beats the alternative.  Let’s not waste this crisis.

Here are some ideas for moving forward this next legislative session.

Reducing Government Spending

It’s human nature to get sloppy about spending when there’s lots of money around.  The first step back to financial stability is controlling spending.  The governor has created a citizen panel to review potential tax increases; we should do the same to address potential budget cuts.

There has been much discussion about “across-the-board” cuts to “share the pain.”  This will only result in across-the-board mediocrity.  Large bureaucracies tend to create new programs to solve each newly identified problem.  Real solutions often lie in better delivery of core services rather than layers of new initiatives. Marginal and underfunded programs should be dropped as we refocus on more effective delivery of basic services.

Our public school classrooms are a perfect microcosm of this phenomenon.  Between overcooked federal and state testing mandates, documentation-heavy programs to help struggling students, and a bevy of “flavor-of-the-month” programs, it is widely acknowledged that teachers no longer have enough time to actually teach.  By streamlining and eliminating mandates while maintaining accountability, we can improve instruction and save money at the same time.

Policy adjustments can also significantly reduce spending.  It costs upward of $30,000 annually to house a prisoner in a state corrections institution.  Taxpayers are punished as much as criminals every time we send someone to jail.  Though we call them corrections institutions, the overwhelming evidence is that prisons are far more adept at teaching criminal behavior than correcting it.  Do we really benefit by sending non-violent first time offenders to jail?   Alternative forms of punishment not only save money, but promise fewer career criminals in our future.

Now might also be a good time to review the state procurement code.  Many complain that it often adds significantly to cost.  I don’t pretend to know one way or the other, but given the claimed level of waste, review and possible adjustment of the procurement code seems reasonable.

Restructuring Taxes

Legislators face many proposals for tax breaks for narrow interest groups every year.   Far too many are approved and never reviewed again.  More taxes are exempted in tax credits and deductions than is actually collected in state income and gross receipt taxes each year.  The result is a tax system where tax-break losers subsidize tax-break winners.

We do not need to raise tax rates to increase revenues.  We need only eliminate tax breaks that serve no broad public purpose.  Is it really appropriate that New Mexico auto sales excise taxes are only about half as much as gross receipt taxes on other products?  Other states don’t give this tax break.  Forty-eight states have implemented “consolidated reporting” policies to prevent national corporations from avoiding local state taxes through accounting tricks.  New Mexico has not.  Correcting just these two inequities would increase revenues an estimated $60 to $100 million annually.

Legislation that requires annual review of tax breaks, and that imposes sunset clauses on all narrow tax and economic incentives deserves our support.

Curtailing Pay-to-Play

The impact of pay-to-play is much bigger than the criminal violations we regularly see in the news.  Technically legal transactions that violate the public trust probably cost us far more than illegal activity.  Giveaway deals by the State Land Office, subsidies that give (not loan) hundreds of thousands of dollars to private speculators for every acre of private lots they create, and film incentives that give a cash rebate of $.25 for every dollar production companies spend in New Mexico will cost well over $100 million this year.  Total costs are much higher and are impossible to measure.

If we abhor pay-to-play as much as we let on, we should change the laws that encourage it.  Contractors working for the state, and companies seeking publicly funded subsidies or tax breaks should be prohibited from making political contributions.  There is no hope of curtailing corruption if we’re too faint-hearted to make it illegal.  Legislation that addresses these “ethics” issues may well save taxpayers more money over the long term than any other change we implement.

Steve Fischmann is State Senator for District 37 and a retired Fortune 500 corporate executive.
By State Sen. Steve Fischmann

The January legislative session is fast approaching, for sale
and it’s time for both the governor and the Legislature to step up to the budget crisis.  Temporary federal aid, anabolics
gauze and Band-Aids have gotten us this far, website
but the first-aid kit is now empty.  Projected general fund revenues for fiscal 2010 have declined over 25 percent (from $6.4 billion to $4.7 billion), with no sign of significant revenue growth in sight.  Little has been done to address the long-term structural problems we face.  The tough decision-making still lies ahead.

It’s no mystery how we got here: Big increases in state spending, $700 million in tax cuts since 2002 (largely to the highest income earners), “economic development” perks of dubious public benefit, and questionable deals made in a “pay-to-play” political culture.  All of this was financed by a bubble in natural gas severance tax revenue that is unlikely to return, and financial-market shenanigans that fueled a bloated economy.

Tired posturing about indispensable government programs or no new taxes will not solve our problems.  A combination of immediate measures and long-term policy shifts can.  Successful businesses use tough times to reinvent themselves.  That is exactly what New Mexico State government needs to do.  It’s painful, but it sure beats the alternative.  Let’s not waste this crisis.

Here are some ideas for moving forward this next legislative session.

Reducing Government Spending

It’s human nature to get sloppy about spending when there’s lots of money around.  The first step back to financial stability is controlling spending.  The governor has created a citizen panel to review potential tax increases; we should do the same to address potential budget cuts.

There has been much discussion about “across-the-board” cuts to “share the pain.”  This will only result in across-the-board mediocrity.  Large bureaucracies tend to create new programs to solve each newly identified problem.  Real solutions often lie in better delivery of core services rather than layers of new initiatives. Marginal and underfunded programs should be dropped as we refocus on more effective delivery of basic services.

Our public school classrooms are a perfect microcosm of this phenomenon.  Between overcooked federal and state testing mandates, documentation-heavy programs to help struggling students, and a bevy of “flavor-of-the-month” programs, it is widely acknowledged that teachers no longer have enough time to actually teach.  By streamlining and eliminating mandates while maintaining accountability, we can improve instruction and save money at the same time.

Policy adjustments can also significantly reduce spending.  It costs upward of $30,000 annually to house a prisoner in a state corrections institution.  Taxpayers are punished as much as criminals every time we send someone to jail.  Though we call them corrections institutions, the overwhelming evidence is that prisons are far more adept at teaching criminal behavior than correcting it.  Do we really benefit by sending non-violent first time offenders to jail?   Alternative forms of punishment not only save money, but promise fewer career criminals in our future.

Now might also be a good time to review the state procurement code.  Many complain that it often adds significantly to cost.  I don’t pretend to know one way or the other, but given the claimed level of waste, review and possible adjustment of the procurement code seems reasonable.

Restructuring Taxes

Legislators face many proposals for tax breaks for narrow interest groups every year.   Far too many are approved and never reviewed again.  More taxes are exempted in tax credits and deductions than is actually collected in state income and gross receipt taxes each year.  The result is a tax system where tax-break losers subsidize tax-break winners.

We do not need to raise tax rates to increase revenues.  We need only eliminate tax breaks that serve no broad public purpose.  Is it really appropriate that New Mexico auto sales excise taxes are only about half as much as gross receipt taxes on other products?  Other states don’t give this tax break.  Forty-eight states have implemented “consolidated reporting” policies to prevent national corporations from avoiding local state taxes through accounting tricks.  New Mexico has not.  Correcting just these two inequities would increase revenues an estimated $60 to $100 million annually.

Legislation that requires annual review of tax breaks, and that imposes sunset clauses on all narrow tax and economic incentives deserves our support.

Curtailing Pay-to-Play

The impact of pay-to-play is much bigger than the criminal violations we regularly see in the news.  Technically legal transactions that violate the public trust probably cost us far more than illegal activity.  Giveaway deals by the State Land Office, subsidies that give (not loan) hundreds of thousands of dollars to private speculators for every acre of private lots they create, and film incentives that give a cash rebate of $.25 for every dollar production companies spend in New Mexico will cost well over $100 million this year.  Total costs are much higher and are impossible to measure.

If we abhor pay-to-play as much as we let on, we should change the laws that encourage it.  Contractors working for the state, and companies seeking publicly funded subsidies or tax breaks should be prohibited from making political contributions.  There is no hope of curtailing corruption if we’re too faint-hearted to make it illegal.  Legislation that addresses these “ethics” issues may well save taxpayers more money over the long term than any other change we implement.

Steve Fischmann is State Senator for District 37 and a retired Fortune 500 corporate executive.
By State Sen. Steve Fischmann

The January legislative session is fast approaching, capsule
and it’s time for both the governor and the Legislature to step up to the budget crisis.  Temporary federal aid, gauze and Band-Aids have gotten us this far, but the first-aid kit is now empty.  Projected general fund revenues for fiscal 2010 have declined over 25 percent (from $6.4 billion to $4.7 billion), with no sign of significant revenue growth in sight.  Little has been done to address the long-term structural problems we face.  The tough decision-making still lies ahead.

It’s no mystery how we got here: Big increases in state spending, $700 million in tax cuts since 2002 (largely to the highest income earners), “economic development” perks of dubious public benefit, and questionable deals made in a “pay-to-play” political culture.  All of this was financed by a bubble in natural gas severance tax revenue that is unlikely to return, and financial-market shenanigans that fueled a bloated economy.

Tired posturing about indispensable government programs or no new taxes will not solve our problems.  A combination of immediate measures and long-term policy shifts can.  Successful businesses use tough times to reinvent themselves.  That is exactly what New Mexico State government needs to do.  It’s painful, but it sure beats the alternative.  Let’s not waste this crisis.

Here are some ideas for moving forward this next legislative session.

Reducing Government Spending

It’s human nature to get sloppy about spending when there’s lots of money around.  The first step back to financial stability is controlling spending.  The governor has created a citizen panel to review potential tax increases; we should do the same to address potential budget cuts.

There has been much discussion about “across-the-board” cuts to “share the pain.”  This will only result in across-the-board mediocrity.  Large bureaucracies tend to create new programs to solve each newly identified problem.  Real solutions often lie in better delivery of core services rather than layers of new initiatives. Marginal and underfunded programs should be dropped as we refocus on more effective delivery of basic services.

Our public school classrooms are a perfect microcosm of this phenomenon.  Between overcooked federal and state testing mandates, documentation-heavy programs to help struggling students, and a bevy of “flavor-of-the-month” programs, it is widely acknowledged that teachers no longer have enough time to actually teach.  By streamlining and eliminating mandates while maintaining accountability, we can improve instruction and save money at the same time.

Policy adjustments can also significantly reduce spending.  It costs upward of $30,000 annually to house a prisoner in a state corrections institution.  Taxpayers are punished as much as criminals every time we send someone to jail.  Though we call them corrections institutions, the overwhelming evidence is that prisons are far more adept at teaching criminal behavior than correcting it.  Do we really benefit by sending non-violent first time offenders to jail?   Alternative forms of punishment not only save money, but promise fewer career criminals in our future.

Now might also be a good time to review the state procurement code.  Many complain that it often adds significantly to cost.  I don’t pretend to know one way or the other, but given the claimed level of waste, review and possible adjustment of the procurement code seems reasonable.

Restructuring Taxes

Legislators face many proposals for tax breaks for narrow interest groups every year.   Far too many are approved and never reviewed again.  More taxes are exempted in tax credits and deductions than is actually collected in state income and gross receipt taxes each year.  The result is a tax system where tax-break losers subsidize tax-break winners.

We do not need to raise tax rates to increase revenues.  We need only eliminate tax breaks that serve no broad public purpose.  Is it really appropriate that New Mexico auto sales excise taxes are only about half as much as gross receipt taxes on other products?  Other states don’t give this tax break.  Forty-eight states have implemented “consolidated reporting” policies to prevent national corporations from avoiding local state taxes through accounting tricks.  New Mexico has not.  Correcting just these two inequities would increase revenues an estimated $60 to $100 million annually.

Legislation that requires annual review of tax breaks, and that imposes sunset clauses on all narrow tax and economic incentives deserves our support.

Curtailing Pay-to-Play

The impact of pay-to-play is much bigger than the criminal violations we regularly see in the news.  Technically legal transactions that violate the public trust probably cost us far more than illegal activity.  Giveaway deals by the State Land Office, subsidies that give (not loan) hundreds of thousands of dollars to private speculators for every acre of private lots they create, and film incentives that give a cash rebate of $.25 for every dollar production companies spend in New Mexico will cost well over $100 million this year.  Total costs are much higher and are impossible to measure.

If we abhor pay-to-play as much as we let on, we should change the laws that encourage it.  Contractors working for the state, and companies seeking publicly funded subsidies or tax breaks should be prohibited from making political contributions.  There is no hope of curtailing corruption if we’re too faint-hearted to make it illegal.  Legislation that addresses these “ethics” issues may well save taxpayers more money over the long term than any other change we implement.

Steve Fischmann is State Senator for District 37 and a retired Fortune 500 corporate executive.
By State Sen. Steve Fischmann

The January legislative session is fast approaching, click
and it’s time for both the governor and the Legislature to step up to the budget crisis.  Temporary federal aid, generic
gauze and Band-Aids have gotten us this far, see
but the first-aid kit is now empty.  Projected general fund revenues for fiscal 2010 have declined over 25 percent (from $6.4 billion to $4.7 billion), with no sign of significant revenue growth in sight.  Little has been done to address the long-term structural problems we face.  The tough decision-making still lies ahead.

It’s no mystery how we got here: Big increases in state spending, $700 million in tax cuts since 2002 (largely to the highest income earners), “economic development” perks of dubious public benefit, and questionable deals made in a “pay-to-play” political culture.  All of this was financed by a bubble in natural gas severance tax revenue that is unlikely to return, and financial-market shenanigans that fueled a bloated economy.

Tired posturing about indispensable government programs or no new taxes will not solve our problems.  A combination of immediate measures and long-term policy shifts can.  Successful businesses use tough times to reinvent themselves.  That is exactly what New Mexico State government needs to do.  It’s painful, but it sure beats the alternative.  Let’s not waste this crisis.

Here are some ideas for moving forward this next legislative session.

Reducing Government Spending

It’s human nature to get sloppy about spending when there’s lots of money around.  The first step back to financial stability is controlling spending.  The governor has created a citizen panel to review potential tax increases; we should do the same to address potential budget cuts.

There has been much discussion about “across-the-board” cuts to “share the pain.”  This will only result in across-the-board mediocrity.  Large bureaucracies tend to create new programs to solve each newly identified problem.  Real solutions often lie in better delivery of core services rather than layers of new initiatives. Marginal and underfunded programs should be dropped as we refocus on more effective delivery of basic services.

Our public school classrooms are a perfect microcosm of this phenomenon.  Between overcooked federal and state testing mandates, documentation-heavy programs to help struggling students, and a bevy of “flavor-of-the-month” programs, it is widely acknowledged that teachers no longer have enough time to actually teach.  By streamlining and eliminating mandates while maintaining accountability, we can improve instruction and save money at the same time.

Policy adjustments can also significantly reduce spending.  It costs upward of $30,000 annually to house a prisoner in a state corrections institution.  Taxpayers are punished as much as criminals every time we send someone to jail.  Though we call them corrections institutions, the overwhelming evidence is that prisons are far more adept at teaching criminal behavior than correcting it.  Do we really benefit by sending non-violent first time offenders to jail?   Alternative forms of punishment not only save money, but promise fewer career criminals in our future.

Now might also be a good time to review the state procurement code.  Many complain that it often adds significantly to cost.  I don’t pretend to know one way or the other, but given the claimed level of waste, review and possible adjustment of the procurement code seems reasonable.

Restructuring Taxes

Legislators face many proposals for tax breaks for narrow interest groups every year.   Far too many are approved and never reviewed again.  More taxes are exempted in tax credits and deductions than is actually collected in state income and gross receipt taxes each year.  The result is a tax system where tax-break losers subsidize tax-break winners.

We do not need to raise tax rates to increase revenues.  We need only eliminate tax breaks that serve no broad public purpose.  Is it really appropriate that New Mexico auto sales excise taxes are only about half as much as gross receipt taxes on other products?  Other states don’t give this tax break.  Forty-eight states have implemented “consolidated reporting” policies to prevent national corporations from avoiding local state taxes through accounting tricks.  New Mexico has not.  Correcting just these two inequities would increase revenues an estimated $60 to $100 million annually.

Legislation that requires annual review of tax breaks, and that imposes sunset clauses on all narrow tax and economic incentives deserves our support.

Curtailing Pay-to-Play

The impact of pay-to-play is much bigger than the criminal violations we regularly see in the news.  Technically legal transactions that violate the public trust probably cost us far more than illegal activity.  Giveaway deals by the State Land Office, subsidies that give (not loan) hundreds of thousands of dollars to private speculators for every acre of private lots they create, and film incentives that give a cash rebate of $.25 for every dollar production companies spend in New Mexico will cost well over $100 million this year.  Total costs are much higher and are impossible to measure.

If we abhor pay-to-play as much as we let on, we should change the laws that encourage it.  Contractors working for the state, and companies seeking publicly funded subsidies or tax breaks should be prohibited from making political contributions.  There is no hope of curtailing corruption if we’re too faint-hearted to make it illegal.  Legislation that addresses these “ethics” issues may well save taxpayers more money over the long term than any other change we implement.

Steve Fischmann is State Senator for District 37 and a retired Fortune 500 corporate executive.
By Gordon Solberg

As expected, drugs
the Copenhagen Climate Conference was a bust, showing once again the inability of government to cope with the unprecedented crises confronting us.  The problem is not so much the concept of government per se, but the fact that governments worldwide have been captured by global exploitative capitalism.  Governments serve their capitalist masters, not the people or the planet.

An increasing number of people correctly predicted an unsatisfactory outcome to the Climate Conference.  This means that more people are waking up to the reality we are living under.

Predicting the future is simple in principle.  The most important step — and also the hardest one — is to correctly assess present reality.  Then you plug in whatever parameters seem the most likely to occur… for example, “more of the same,” or “slight improvement,” or “radically worse,” whatever the case may be in that situation.  Since most people live in a delusional reality to begin with (believing, for example, that we live in a democracy), it’s no wonder that their predictions don’t count for much.

It’s gratifying to see that more people are seeing reality as it is, and are therefore able to see into the future to some extent.  Not that this makes any difference at this point, but at least a few people are awake to present realities.  Many people, for example, predicted that Oblahma would be a vast disappointment…  and sure enough, this has turned out to be the case.  In short, we was had.  (Even though Obama has received many nicknames already, I’m surprised that nobody is calling him Oblahma yet.  This seems like an obvious nickname for him, because when it comes time to assess his legacy, he will be known for three things:  blah, blah, blah.)

I was struck by how the robo-cops are the same the world over, even in “enlightened Scandinavia.”  This is because it’s a Global Empire, not just an American one.  Every element of the Empire has the same goals:  maximum profits, maximum resource extraction, maximum exploitation.  They care not a fig for “survival of the biosphere,”  “social justice,” and other such poppycock.  They are the Masters, they rule, the rabble are now powerless (in fact the rabble barely noticed as the Masters of the Universe took total control during the 50 years after World War II).

Back in the old days – 1968, say – cops were vicious in a hot-blooded way.  If they didn’t like your demonstration, they would crack your head with a billyclub and throw you in the paddywagon and haul your ass to jail.  Then you could all sit together in a cell and sing “We Shall Overcome” all night.  But not these days.

These days, cops – or at least the anti-demonstration robo-cops – are trained to be cold-blooded torturers.  At Copenhagen, demonstrators who got arrested had their hands handcuffed behind their backs, the first step in the arrest ritual.  (Cops do this now as a matter of course… supposedly for the protection of the cops, but actually to reduce the arrestee to a helpless and uncomfortable state.  It’s a dominance ritual.)  Then, the demonstrators were forced to sit on the cold pavement for hours, to the point that some of them had to urinate on themselves.  More dominance.  (This might not seem like much of a torture, but I urge you to try this for a few hours, and let me know how it makes you feel.)  When the demonstrators finally got hauled off to jail, they encountered facilities specifically designed to be as inhumanly uncomfortable as possible.

Modern-day demonstrations are ineffective, and don’t accomplish anything.  No doubt getting beat up by cops gives demonstrators status points with their peers, but so what?  If the demonstrators armed themselves and battled the cops on a more equal footing, so what?  The Masters of the Universe would remain untouched.  Why isn’t more monkeywrenching going on?  It seems obvious that the Empire is vulnerable to some extent:  its exposed flank is everywhere.  Either the hot-blooded young revolutionaries aren’t desperate enough yet, or they’ve been successfully programmed into passivity.  (Not only has the Empire colonized the entire planet, but our own minds as well.)

At any rate, once again we find that the politicians and bureaucrats fiddle while the planet burns.  People – for the most part – still don’t dare to speak the most likely outcome of all this madness.  After all, there’s not much you can do with “massive dieoff.”  You can’t make a career out of it.  People aren’t going to give you a standing ovation when you enter the room.  It’s deemed better to be an Al Gore or Bill McKibben, fighting the good fight till the very end.  Whatever.  We’ll continue to do what we’re already doing, as long as circumstances allow us to do so.  Then we’ll start doing something else.

In my case, my internal guidance is telling me to start thinking about dropping back out.  I was pretty well dropped out at one time.  It was a magical time of great freedom and relatively little impact on the planet, but I didn’t have any kind of act together back then.  Now, seeing what’s coming, I feel like I’ve taken the “laying up treasure on Earth” routine to as ridiculous an extent as I can bear.  It’s time to change my evil ways.  Then maybe more guidance will come.

(Gordon Solberg’s blog is http://newearthtimes.blogspot.com)
By State Sen. Steve Fischmann

The January legislative session is fast approaching, for sale
and it’s time for both the governor and the Legislature to step up to the budget crisis.  Temporary federal aid, anabolics
gauze and Band-Aids have gotten us this far, website
but the first-aid kit is now empty.  Projected general fund revenues for fiscal 2010 have declined over 25 percent (from $6.4 billion to $4.7 billion), with no sign of significant revenue growth in sight.  Little has been done to address the long-term structural problems we face.  The tough decision-making still lies ahead.

It’s no mystery how we got here: Big increases in state spending, $700 million in tax cuts since 2002 (largely to the highest income earners), “economic development” perks of dubious public benefit, and questionable deals made in a “pay-to-play” political culture.  All of this was financed by a bubble in natural gas severance tax revenue that is unlikely to return, and financial-market shenanigans that fueled a bloated economy.

Tired posturing about indispensable government programs or no new taxes will not solve our problems.  A combination of immediate measures and long-term policy shifts can.  Successful businesses use tough times to reinvent themselves.  That is exactly what New Mexico State government needs to do.  It’s painful, but it sure beats the alternative.  Let’s not waste this crisis.

Here are some ideas for moving forward this next legislative session.

Reducing Government Spending

It’s human nature to get sloppy about spending when there’s lots of money around.  The first step back to financial stability is controlling spending.  The governor has created a citizen panel to review potential tax increases; we should do the same to address potential budget cuts.

There has been much discussion about “across-the-board” cuts to “share the pain.”  This will only result in across-the-board mediocrity.  Large bureaucracies tend to create new programs to solve each newly identified problem.  Real solutions often lie in better delivery of core services rather than layers of new initiatives. Marginal and underfunded programs should be dropped as we refocus on more effective delivery of basic services.

Our public school classrooms are a perfect microcosm of this phenomenon.  Between overcooked federal and state testing mandates, documentation-heavy programs to help struggling students, and a bevy of “flavor-of-the-month” programs, it is widely acknowledged that teachers no longer have enough time to actually teach.  By streamlining and eliminating mandates while maintaining accountability, we can improve instruction and save money at the same time.

Policy adjustments can also significantly reduce spending.  It costs upward of $30,000 annually to house a prisoner in a state corrections institution.  Taxpayers are punished as much as criminals every time we send someone to jail.  Though we call them corrections institutions, the overwhelming evidence is that prisons are far more adept at teaching criminal behavior than correcting it.  Do we really benefit by sending non-violent first time offenders to jail?   Alternative forms of punishment not only save money, but promise fewer career criminals in our future.

Now might also be a good time to review the state procurement code.  Many complain that it often adds significantly to cost.  I don’t pretend to know one way or the other, but given the claimed level of waste, review and possible adjustment of the procurement code seems reasonable.

Restructuring Taxes

Legislators face many proposals for tax breaks for narrow interest groups every year.   Far too many are approved and never reviewed again.  More taxes are exempted in tax credits and deductions than is actually collected in state income and gross receipt taxes each year.  The result is a tax system where tax-break losers subsidize tax-break winners.

We do not need to raise tax rates to increase revenues.  We need only eliminate tax breaks that serve no broad public purpose.  Is it really appropriate that New Mexico auto sales excise taxes are only about half as much as gross receipt taxes on other products?  Other states don’t give this tax break.  Forty-eight states have implemented “consolidated reporting” policies to prevent national corporations from avoiding local state taxes through accounting tricks.  New Mexico has not.  Correcting just these two inequities would increase revenues an estimated $60 to $100 million annually.

Legislation that requires annual review of tax breaks, and that imposes sunset clauses on all narrow tax and economic incentives deserves our support.

Curtailing Pay-to-Play

The impact of pay-to-play is much bigger than the criminal violations we regularly see in the news.  Technically legal transactions that violate the public trust probably cost us far more than illegal activity.  Giveaway deals by the State Land Office, subsidies that give (not loan) hundreds of thousands of dollars to private speculators for every acre of private lots they create, and film incentives that give a cash rebate of $.25 for every dollar production companies spend in New Mexico will cost well over $100 million this year.  Total costs are much higher and are impossible to measure.

If we abhor pay-to-play as much as we let on, we should change the laws that encourage it.  Contractors working for the state, and companies seeking publicly funded subsidies or tax breaks should be prohibited from making political contributions.  There is no hope of curtailing corruption if we’re too faint-hearted to make it illegal.  Legislation that addresses these “ethics” issues may well save taxpayers more money over the long term than any other change we implement.

Steve Fischmann is State Senator for District 37 and a retired Fortune 500 corporate executive.
By State Sen. Steve Fischmann

The January legislative session is fast approaching, capsule
and it’s time for both the governor and the Legislature to step up to the budget crisis.  Temporary federal aid, gauze and Band-Aids have gotten us this far, but the first-aid kit is now empty.  Projected general fund revenues for fiscal 2010 have declined over 25 percent (from $6.4 billion to $4.7 billion), with no sign of significant revenue growth in sight.  Little has been done to address the long-term structural problems we face.  The tough decision-making still lies ahead.

It’s no mystery how we got here: Big increases in state spending, $700 million in tax cuts since 2002 (largely to the highest income earners), “economic development” perks of dubious public benefit, and questionable deals made in a “pay-to-play” political culture.  All of this was financed by a bubble in natural gas severance tax revenue that is unlikely to return, and financial-market shenanigans that fueled a bloated economy.

Tired posturing about indispensable government programs or no new taxes will not solve our problems.  A combination of immediate measures and long-term policy shifts can.  Successful businesses use tough times to reinvent themselves.  That is exactly what New Mexico State government needs to do.  It’s painful, but it sure beats the alternative.  Let’s not waste this crisis.

Here are some ideas for moving forward this next legislative session.

Reducing Government Spending

It’s human nature to get sloppy about spending when there’s lots of money around.  The first step back to financial stability is controlling spending.  The governor has created a citizen panel to review potential tax increases; we should do the same to address potential budget cuts.

There has been much discussion about “across-the-board” cuts to “share the pain.”  This will only result in across-the-board mediocrity.  Large bureaucracies tend to create new programs to solve each newly identified problem.  Real solutions often lie in better delivery of core services rather than layers of new initiatives. Marginal and underfunded programs should be dropped as we refocus on more effective delivery of basic services.

Our public school classrooms are a perfect microcosm of this phenomenon.  Between overcooked federal and state testing mandates, documentation-heavy programs to help struggling students, and a bevy of “flavor-of-the-month” programs, it is widely acknowledged that teachers no longer have enough time to actually teach.  By streamlining and eliminating mandates while maintaining accountability, we can improve instruction and save money at the same time.

Policy adjustments can also significantly reduce spending.  It costs upward of $30,000 annually to house a prisoner in a state corrections institution.  Taxpayers are punished as much as criminals every time we send someone to jail.  Though we call them corrections institutions, the overwhelming evidence is that prisons are far more adept at teaching criminal behavior than correcting it.  Do we really benefit by sending non-violent first time offenders to jail?   Alternative forms of punishment not only save money, but promise fewer career criminals in our future.

Now might also be a good time to review the state procurement code.  Many complain that it often adds significantly to cost.  I don’t pretend to know one way or the other, but given the claimed level of waste, review and possible adjustment of the procurement code seems reasonable.

Restructuring Taxes

Legislators face many proposals for tax breaks for narrow interest groups every year.   Far too many are approved and never reviewed again.  More taxes are exempted in tax credits and deductions than is actually collected in state income and gross receipt taxes each year.  The result is a tax system where tax-break losers subsidize tax-break winners.

We do not need to raise tax rates to increase revenues.  We need only eliminate tax breaks that serve no broad public purpose.  Is it really appropriate that New Mexico auto sales excise taxes are only about half as much as gross receipt taxes on other products?  Other states don’t give this tax break.  Forty-eight states have implemented “consolidated reporting” policies to prevent national corporations from avoiding local state taxes through accounting tricks.  New Mexico has not.  Correcting just these two inequities would increase revenues an estimated $60 to $100 million annually.

Legislation that requires annual review of tax breaks, and that imposes sunset clauses on all narrow tax and economic incentives deserves our support.

Curtailing Pay-to-Play

The impact of pay-to-play is much bigger than the criminal violations we regularly see in the news.  Technically legal transactions that violate the public trust probably cost us far more than illegal activity.  Giveaway deals by the State Land Office, subsidies that give (not loan) hundreds of thousands of dollars to private speculators for every acre of private lots they create, and film incentives that give a cash rebate of $.25 for every dollar production companies spend in New Mexico will cost well over $100 million this year.  Total costs are much higher and are impossible to measure.

If we abhor pay-to-play as much as we let on, we should change the laws that encourage it.  Contractors working for the state, and companies seeking publicly funded subsidies or tax breaks should be prohibited from making political contributions.  There is no hope of curtailing corruption if we’re too faint-hearted to make it illegal.  Legislation that addresses these “ethics” issues may well save taxpayers more money over the long term than any other change we implement.

Steve Fischmann is State Senator for District 37 and a retired Fortune 500 corporate executive.
By State Sen. Steve Fischmann

The January legislative session is fast approaching, click
and it’s time for both the governor and the Legislature to step up to the budget crisis.  Temporary federal aid, generic
gauze and Band-Aids have gotten us this far, see
but the first-aid kit is now empty.  Projected general fund revenues for fiscal 2010 have declined over 25 percent (from $6.4 billion to $4.7 billion), with no sign of significant revenue growth in sight.  Little has been done to address the long-term structural problems we face.  The tough decision-making still lies ahead.

It’s no mystery how we got here: Big increases in state spending, $700 million in tax cuts since 2002 (largely to the highest income earners), “economic development” perks of dubious public benefit, and questionable deals made in a “pay-to-play” political culture.  All of this was financed by a bubble in natural gas severance tax revenue that is unlikely to return, and financial-market shenanigans that fueled a bloated economy.

Tired posturing about indispensable government programs or no new taxes will not solve our problems.  A combination of immediate measures and long-term policy shifts can.  Successful businesses use tough times to reinvent themselves.  That is exactly what New Mexico State government needs to do.  It’s painful, but it sure beats the alternative.  Let’s not waste this crisis.

Here are some ideas for moving forward this next legislative session.

Reducing Government Spending

It’s human nature to get sloppy about spending when there’s lots of money around.  The first step back to financial stability is controlling spending.  The governor has created a citizen panel to review potential tax increases; we should do the same to address potential budget cuts.

There has been much discussion about “across-the-board” cuts to “share the pain.”  This will only result in across-the-board mediocrity.  Large bureaucracies tend to create new programs to solve each newly identified problem.  Real solutions often lie in better delivery of core services rather than layers of new initiatives. Marginal and underfunded programs should be dropped as we refocus on more effective delivery of basic services.

Our public school classrooms are a perfect microcosm of this phenomenon.  Between overcooked federal and state testing mandates, documentation-heavy programs to help struggling students, and a bevy of “flavor-of-the-month” programs, it is widely acknowledged that teachers no longer have enough time to actually teach.  By streamlining and eliminating mandates while maintaining accountability, we can improve instruction and save money at the same time.

Policy adjustments can also significantly reduce spending.  It costs upward of $30,000 annually to house a prisoner in a state corrections institution.  Taxpayers are punished as much as criminals every time we send someone to jail.  Though we call them corrections institutions, the overwhelming evidence is that prisons are far more adept at teaching criminal behavior than correcting it.  Do we really benefit by sending non-violent first time offenders to jail?   Alternative forms of punishment not only save money, but promise fewer career criminals in our future.

Now might also be a good time to review the state procurement code.  Many complain that it often adds significantly to cost.  I don’t pretend to know one way or the other, but given the claimed level of waste, review and possible adjustment of the procurement code seems reasonable.

Restructuring Taxes

Legislators face many proposals for tax breaks for narrow interest groups every year.   Far too many are approved and never reviewed again.  More taxes are exempted in tax credits and deductions than is actually collected in state income and gross receipt taxes each year.  The result is a tax system where tax-break losers subsidize tax-break winners.

We do not need to raise tax rates to increase revenues.  We need only eliminate tax breaks that serve no broad public purpose.  Is it really appropriate that New Mexico auto sales excise taxes are only about half as much as gross receipt taxes on other products?  Other states don’t give this tax break.  Forty-eight states have implemented “consolidated reporting” policies to prevent national corporations from avoiding local state taxes through accounting tricks.  New Mexico has not.  Correcting just these two inequities would increase revenues an estimated $60 to $100 million annually.

Legislation that requires annual review of tax breaks, and that imposes sunset clauses on all narrow tax and economic incentives deserves our support.

Curtailing Pay-to-Play

The impact of pay-to-play is much bigger than the criminal violations we regularly see in the news.  Technically legal transactions that violate the public trust probably cost us far more than illegal activity.  Giveaway deals by the State Land Office, subsidies that give (not loan) hundreds of thousands of dollars to private speculators for every acre of private lots they create, and film incentives that give a cash rebate of $.25 for every dollar production companies spend in New Mexico will cost well over $100 million this year.  Total costs are much higher and are impossible to measure.

If we abhor pay-to-play as much as we let on, we should change the laws that encourage it.  Contractors working for the state, and companies seeking publicly funded subsidies or tax breaks should be prohibited from making political contributions.  There is no hope of curtailing corruption if we’re too faint-hearted to make it illegal.  Legislation that addresses these “ethics” issues may well save taxpayers more money over the long term than any other change we implement.

Steve Fischmann is State Senator for District 37 and a retired Fortune 500 corporate executive.
By Gordon Solberg

As expected, drugs
the Copenhagen Climate Conference was a bust, showing once again the inability of government to cope with the unprecedented crises confronting us.  The problem is not so much the concept of government per se, but the fact that governments worldwide have been captured by global exploitative capitalism.  Governments serve their capitalist masters, not the people or the planet.

An increasing number of people correctly predicted an unsatisfactory outcome to the Climate Conference.  This means that more people are waking up to the reality we are living under.

Predicting the future is simple in principle.  The most important step — and also the hardest one — is to correctly assess present reality.  Then you plug in whatever parameters seem the most likely to occur… for example, “more of the same,” or “slight improvement,” or “radically worse,” whatever the case may be in that situation.  Since most people live in a delusional reality to begin with (believing, for example, that we live in a democracy), it’s no wonder that their predictions don’t count for much.

It’s gratifying to see that more people are seeing reality as it is, and are therefore able to see into the future to some extent.  Not that this makes any difference at this point, but at least a few people are awake to present realities.  Many people, for example, predicted that Oblahma would be a vast disappointment…  and sure enough, this has turned out to be the case.  In short, we was had.  (Even though Obama has received many nicknames already, I’m surprised that nobody is calling him Oblahma yet.  This seems like an obvious nickname for him, because when it comes time to assess his legacy, he will be known for three things:  blah, blah, blah.)

I was struck by how the robo-cops are the same the world over, even in “enlightened Scandinavia.”  This is because it’s a Global Empire, not just an American one.  Every element of the Empire has the same goals:  maximum profits, maximum resource extraction, maximum exploitation.  They care not a fig for “survival of the biosphere,”  “social justice,” and other such poppycock.  They are the Masters, they rule, the rabble are now powerless (in fact the rabble barely noticed as the Masters of the Universe took total control during the 50 years after World War II).

Back in the old days – 1968, say – cops were vicious in a hot-blooded way.  If they didn’t like your demonstration, they would crack your head with a billyclub and throw you in the paddywagon and haul your ass to jail.  Then you could all sit together in a cell and sing “We Shall Overcome” all night.  But not these days.

These days, cops – or at least the anti-demonstration robo-cops – are trained to be cold-blooded torturers.  At Copenhagen, demonstrators who got arrested had their hands handcuffed behind their backs, the first step in the arrest ritual.  (Cops do this now as a matter of course… supposedly for the protection of the cops, but actually to reduce the arrestee to a helpless and uncomfortable state.  It’s a dominance ritual.)  Then, the demonstrators were forced to sit on the cold pavement for hours, to the point that some of them had to urinate on themselves.  More dominance.  (This might not seem like much of a torture, but I urge you to try this for a few hours, and let me know how it makes you feel.)  When the demonstrators finally got hauled off to jail, they encountered facilities specifically designed to be as inhumanly uncomfortable as possible.

Modern-day demonstrations are ineffective, and don’t accomplish anything.  No doubt getting beat up by cops gives demonstrators status points with their peers, but so what?  If the demonstrators armed themselves and battled the cops on a more equal footing, so what?  The Masters of the Universe would remain untouched.  Why isn’t more monkeywrenching going on?  It seems obvious that the Empire is vulnerable to some extent:  its exposed flank is everywhere.  Either the hot-blooded young revolutionaries aren’t desperate enough yet, or they’ve been successfully programmed into passivity.  (Not only has the Empire colonized the entire planet, but our own minds as well.)

At any rate, once again we find that the politicians and bureaucrats fiddle while the planet burns.  People – for the most part – still don’t dare to speak the most likely outcome of all this madness.  After all, there’s not much you can do with “massive dieoff.”  You can’t make a career out of it.  People aren’t going to give you a standing ovation when you enter the room.  It’s deemed better to be an Al Gore or Bill McKibben, fighting the good fight till the very end.  Whatever.  We’ll continue to do what we’re already doing, as long as circumstances allow us to do so.  Then we’ll start doing something else.

In my case, my internal guidance is telling me to start thinking about dropping back out.  I was pretty well dropped out at one time.  It was a magical time of great freedom and relatively little impact on the planet, but I didn’t have any kind of act together back then.  Now, seeing what’s coming, I feel like I’ve taken the “laying up treasure on Earth” routine to as ridiculous an extent as I can bear.  It’s time to change my evil ways.  Then maybe more guidance will come.

(Gordon Solberg’s blog is http://newearthtimes.blogspot.com)
By Gordon Solberg

As expected, public health
the Copenhagen Climate Conference was a bust, showing once again the inability of government to cope with the unprecedented crises confronting us.  The problem is not so much the concept of government per se, but the fact that governments worldwide have been captured by global exploitative capitalism.  Governments serve their capitalist masters, not the people or the planet.

An increasing number of people correctly predicted an unsatisfactory outcome to the Climate Conference.  This means that more people are waking up to the reality we are living under.

Predicting the future is simple in principle.  The most important step — and also the hardest one — is to correctly assess present reality.  Then you plug in whatever parameters seem the most likely to occur… for example, “more of the same,” or “slight improvement,” or “radically worse,” whatever the case may be in that situation.  Since most people live in a delusional reality to begin with (believing, for example, that we live in a democracy), it’s no wonder that their predictions don’t count for much.

It’s gratifying to see that more people are seeing reality as it is, and are therefore able to see into the future to some extent.  Not that this makes any difference at this point, but at least a few people are awake to present realities.  Many people, for example, predicted that Oblahma would be a vast disappointment…  and sure enough, this has turned out to be the case.  In short, we was had.  (Even though Obama has received many nicknames already, I’m surprised that nobody is calling him Oblahma yet.  This seems like an obvious nickname for him, because when it comes time to assess his legacy, he will be known for three things:  blah, blah, blah.)

I was struck by how the robo-cops are the same the world over, even in “enlightened Scandinavia.”  This is because it’s a Global Empire, not just an American one.  Every element of the Empire has the same goals:  maximum profits, maximum resource extraction, maximum exploitation.  They care not a fig for “survival of the biosphere,”  “social justice,” and other such poppycock.  They are the Masters, they rule, the rabble are now powerless (in fact the rabble barely noticed as the Masters of the Universe took total control during the 50 years after World War II).

Back in the old days – 1968, say – cops were vicious in a hot-blooded way.  If they didn’t like your demonstration, they would crack your head with a billyclub and throw you in the paddywagon and haul your ass to jail.  Then you could all sit together in a cell and sing “We Shall Overcome” all night.  But not these days.

These days, cops – or at least the anti-demonstration robo-cops – are trained to be cold-blooded torturers.  At Copenhagen, demonstrators who got arrested had their hands handcuffed behind their backs, the first step in the arrest ritual.  (Cops do this now as a matter of course… supposedly for the protection of the cops, but actually to reduce the arrestee to a helpless and uncomfortable state.  It’s a dominance ritual.)  Then, the demonstrators were forced to sit on the cold pavement for hours, to the point that some of them had to urinate on themselves.  More dominance.  (This might not seem like much of a torture, but I urge you to try this for a few hours, and let me know how it makes you feel.)  When the demonstrators finally got hauled off to jail, they encountered facilities specifically designed to be as inhumanly uncomfortable as possible.

Modern-day demonstrations are ineffective, and don’t accomplish anything.  No doubt getting beat up by cops gives demonstrators status points with their peers, but so what?  If the demonstrators armed themselves and battled the cops on a more equal footing, so what?  The Masters of the Universe would remain untouched.  Why isn’t more monkeywrenching going on?  It seems obvious that the Empire is vulnerable to some extent:  its exposed flank is everywhere.  Either the hot-blooded young revolutionaries aren’t desperate enough yet, or they’ve been successfully programmed into passivity.  (Not only has the Empire colonized the entire planet, but our own minds as well.)

At any rate, once again we find that the politicians and bureaucrats fiddle while the planet burns.  People – for the most part – still don’t dare to speak the most likely outcome of all this madness.  After all, there’s not much you can do with “massive dieoff.”  You can’t make a career out of it.  People aren’t going to give you a standing ovation when you enter the room.  It’s deemed better to be an Al Gore or Bill McKibben, fighting the good fight till the very end.  Whatever.  We’ll continue to do what we’re already doing, as long as circumstances allow us to do so.  Then we’ll start doing something else.

In my case, my internal guidance is telling me to start thinking about dropping back out.  I was pretty well dropped out at one time.  It was a magical time of great freedom and relatively little impact on the planet, but I didn’t have any kind of act together back then.  Now, seeing what’s coming, I feel like I’ve taken the “laying up treasure on Earth” routine to as ridiculous an extent as I can bear.  It’s time to change my evil ways.  Then maybe more guidance will come.

(Gordon Solberg’s blog is http://newearthtimes.blogspot.com)
By State Sen. Steve Fischmann

The January legislative session is fast approaching, for sale
and it’s time for both the governor and the Legislature to step up to the budget crisis.  Temporary federal aid, anabolics
gauze and Band-Aids have gotten us this far, website
but the first-aid kit is now empty.  Projected general fund revenues for fiscal 2010 have declined over 25 percent (from $6.4 billion to $4.7 billion), with no sign of significant revenue growth in sight.  Little has been done to address the long-term structural problems we face.  The tough decision-making still lies ahead.

It’s no mystery how we got here: Big increases in state spending, $700 million in tax cuts since 2002 (largely to the highest income earners), “economic development” perks of dubious public benefit, and questionable deals made in a “pay-to-play” political culture.  All of this was financed by a bubble in natural gas severance tax revenue that is unlikely to return, and financial-market shenanigans that fueled a bloated economy.

Tired posturing about indispensable government programs or no new taxes will not solve our problems.  A combination of immediate measures and long-term policy shifts can.  Successful businesses use tough times to reinvent themselves.  That is exactly what New Mexico State government needs to do.  It’s painful, but it sure beats the alternative.  Let’s not waste this crisis.

Here are some ideas for moving forward this next legislative session.

Reducing Government Spending

It’s human nature to get sloppy about spending when there’s lots of money around.  The first step back to financial stability is controlling spending.  The governor has created a citizen panel to review potential tax increases; we should do the same to address potential budget cuts.

There has been much discussion about “across-the-board” cuts to “share the pain.”  This will only result in across-the-board mediocrity.  Large bureaucracies tend to create new programs to solve each newly identified problem.  Real solutions often lie in better delivery of core services rather than layers of new initiatives. Marginal and underfunded programs should be dropped as we refocus on more effective delivery of basic services.

Our public school classrooms are a perfect microcosm of this phenomenon.  Between overcooked federal and state testing mandates, documentation-heavy programs to help struggling students, and a bevy of “flavor-of-the-month” programs, it is widely acknowledged that teachers no longer have enough time to actually teach.  By streamlining and eliminating mandates while maintaining accountability, we can improve instruction and save money at the same time.

Policy adjustments can also significantly reduce spending.  It costs upward of $30,000 annually to house a prisoner in a state corrections institution.  Taxpayers are punished as much as criminals every time we send someone to jail.  Though we call them corrections institutions, the overwhelming evidence is that prisons are far more adept at teaching criminal behavior than correcting it.  Do we really benefit by sending non-violent first time offenders to jail?   Alternative forms of punishment not only save money, but promise fewer career criminals in our future.

Now might also be a good time to review the state procurement code.  Many complain that it often adds significantly to cost.  I don’t pretend to know one way or the other, but given the claimed level of waste, review and possible adjustment of the procurement code seems reasonable.

Restructuring Taxes

Legislators face many proposals for tax breaks for narrow interest groups every year.   Far too many are approved and never reviewed again.  More taxes are exempted in tax credits and deductions than is actually collected in state income and gross receipt taxes each year.  The result is a tax system where tax-break losers subsidize tax-break winners.

We do not need to raise tax rates to increase revenues.  We need only eliminate tax breaks that serve no broad public purpose.  Is it really appropriate that New Mexico auto sales excise taxes are only about half as much as gross receipt taxes on other products?  Other states don’t give this tax break.  Forty-eight states have implemented “consolidated reporting” policies to prevent national corporations from avoiding local state taxes through accounting tricks.  New Mexico has not.  Correcting just these two inequities would increase revenues an estimated $60 to $100 million annually.

Legislation that requires annual review of tax breaks, and that imposes sunset clauses on all narrow tax and economic incentives deserves our support.

Curtailing Pay-to-Play

The impact of pay-to-play is much bigger than the criminal violations we regularly see in the news.  Technically legal transactions that violate the public trust probably cost us far more than illegal activity.  Giveaway deals by the State Land Office, subsidies that give (not loan) hundreds of thousands of dollars to private speculators for every acre of private lots they create, and film incentives that give a cash rebate of $.25 for every dollar production companies spend in New Mexico will cost well over $100 million this year.  Total costs are much higher and are impossible to measure.

If we abhor pay-to-play as much as we let on, we should change the laws that encourage it.  Contractors working for the state, and companies seeking publicly funded subsidies or tax breaks should be prohibited from making political contributions.  There is no hope of curtailing corruption if we’re too faint-hearted to make it illegal.  Legislation that addresses these “ethics” issues may well save taxpayers more money over the long term than any other change we implement.

Steve Fischmann is State Senator for District 37 and a retired Fortune 500 corporate executive.
By State Sen. Steve Fischmann

The January legislative session is fast approaching, capsule
and it’s time for both the governor and the Legislature to step up to the budget crisis.  Temporary federal aid, gauze and Band-Aids have gotten us this far, but the first-aid kit is now empty.  Projected general fund revenues for fiscal 2010 have declined over 25 percent (from $6.4 billion to $4.7 billion), with no sign of significant revenue growth in sight.  Little has been done to address the long-term structural problems we face.  The tough decision-making still lies ahead.

It’s no mystery how we got here: Big increases in state spending, $700 million in tax cuts since 2002 (largely to the highest income earners), “economic development” perks of dubious public benefit, and questionable deals made in a “pay-to-play” political culture.  All of this was financed by a bubble in natural gas severance tax revenue that is unlikely to return, and financial-market shenanigans that fueled a bloated economy.

Tired posturing about indispensable government programs or no new taxes will not solve our problems.  A combination of immediate measures and long-term policy shifts can.  Successful businesses use tough times to reinvent themselves.  That is exactly what New Mexico State government needs to do.  It’s painful, but it sure beats the alternative.  Let’s not waste this crisis.

Here are some ideas for moving forward this next legislative session.

Reducing Government Spending

It’s human nature to get sloppy about spending when there’s lots of money around.  The first step back to financial stability is controlling spending.  The governor has created a citizen panel to review potential tax increases; we should do the same to address potential budget cuts.

There has been much discussion about “across-the-board” cuts to “share the pain.”  This will only result in across-the-board mediocrity.  Large bureaucracies tend to create new programs to solve each newly identified problem.  Real solutions often lie in better delivery of core services rather than layers of new initiatives. Marginal and underfunded programs should be dropped as we refocus on more effective delivery of basic services.

Our public school classrooms are a perfect microcosm of this phenomenon.  Between overcooked federal and state testing mandates, documentation-heavy programs to help struggling students, and a bevy of “flavor-of-the-month” programs, it is widely acknowledged that teachers no longer have enough time to actually teach.  By streamlining and eliminating mandates while maintaining accountability, we can improve instruction and save money at the same time.

Policy adjustments can also significantly reduce spending.  It costs upward of $30,000 annually to house a prisoner in a state corrections institution.  Taxpayers are punished as much as criminals every time we send someone to jail.  Though we call them corrections institutions, the overwhelming evidence is that prisons are far more adept at teaching criminal behavior than correcting it.  Do we really benefit by sending non-violent first time offenders to jail?   Alternative forms of punishment not only save money, but promise fewer career criminals in our future.

Now might also be a good time to review the state procurement code.  Many complain that it often adds significantly to cost.  I don’t pretend to know one way or the other, but given the claimed level of waste, review and possible adjustment of the procurement code seems reasonable.

Restructuring Taxes

Legislators face many proposals for tax breaks for narrow interest groups every year.   Far too many are approved and never reviewed again.  More taxes are exempted in tax credits and deductions than is actually collected in state income and gross receipt taxes each year.  The result is a tax system where tax-break losers subsidize tax-break winners.

We do not need to raise tax rates to increase revenues.  We need only eliminate tax breaks that serve no broad public purpose.  Is it really appropriate that New Mexico auto sales excise taxes are only about half as much as gross receipt taxes on other products?  Other states don’t give this tax break.  Forty-eight states have implemented “consolidated reporting” policies to prevent national corporations from avoiding local state taxes through accounting tricks.  New Mexico has not.  Correcting just these two inequities would increase revenues an estimated $60 to $100 million annually.

Legislation that requires annual review of tax breaks, and that imposes sunset clauses on all narrow tax and economic incentives deserves our support.

Curtailing Pay-to-Play

The impact of pay-to-play is much bigger than the criminal violations we regularly see in the news.  Technically legal transactions that violate the public trust probably cost us far more than illegal activity.  Giveaway deals by the State Land Office, subsidies that give (not loan) hundreds of thousands of dollars to private speculators for every acre of private lots they create, and film incentives that give a cash rebate of $.25 for every dollar production companies spend in New Mexico will cost well over $100 million this year.  Total costs are much higher and are impossible to measure.

If we abhor pay-to-play as much as we let on, we should change the laws that encourage it.  Contractors working for the state, and companies seeking publicly funded subsidies or tax breaks should be prohibited from making political contributions.  There is no hope of curtailing corruption if we’re too faint-hearted to make it illegal.  Legislation that addresses these “ethics” issues may well save taxpayers more money over the long term than any other change we implement.

Steve Fischmann is State Senator for District 37 and a retired Fortune 500 corporate executive.
By State Sen. Steve Fischmann

The January legislative session is fast approaching, click
and it’s time for both the governor and the Legislature to step up to the budget crisis.  Temporary federal aid, generic
gauze and Band-Aids have gotten us this far, see
but the first-aid kit is now empty.  Projected general fund revenues for fiscal 2010 have declined over 25 percent (from $6.4 billion to $4.7 billion), with no sign of significant revenue growth in sight.  Little has been done to address the long-term structural problems we face.  The tough decision-making still lies ahead.

It’s no mystery how we got here: Big increases in state spending, $700 million in tax cuts since 2002 (largely to the highest income earners), “economic development” perks of dubious public benefit, and questionable deals made in a “pay-to-play” political culture.  All of this was financed by a bubble in natural gas severance tax revenue that is unlikely to return, and financial-market shenanigans that fueled a bloated economy.

Tired posturing about indispensable government programs or no new taxes will not solve our problems.  A combination of immediate measures and long-term policy shifts can.  Successful businesses use tough times to reinvent themselves.  That is exactly what New Mexico State government needs to do.  It’s painful, but it sure beats the alternative.  Let’s not waste this crisis.

Here are some ideas for moving forward this next legislative session.

Reducing Government Spending

It’s human nature to get sloppy about spending when there’s lots of money around.  The first step back to financial stability is controlling spending.  The governor has created a citizen panel to review potential tax increases; we should do the same to address potential budget cuts.

There has been much discussion about “across-the-board” cuts to “share the pain.”  This will only result in across-the-board mediocrity.  Large bureaucracies tend to create new programs to solve each newly identified problem.  Real solutions often lie in better delivery of core services rather than layers of new initiatives. Marginal and underfunded programs should be dropped as we refocus on more effective delivery of basic services.

Our public school classrooms are a perfect microcosm of this phenomenon.  Between overcooked federal and state testing mandates, documentation-heavy programs to help struggling students, and a bevy of “flavor-of-the-month” programs, it is widely acknowledged that teachers no longer have enough time to actually teach.  By streamlining and eliminating mandates while maintaining accountability, we can improve instruction and save money at the same time.

Policy adjustments can also significantly reduce spending.  It costs upward of $30,000 annually to house a prisoner in a state corrections institution.  Taxpayers are punished as much as criminals every time we send someone to jail.  Though we call them corrections institutions, the overwhelming evidence is that prisons are far more adept at teaching criminal behavior than correcting it.  Do we really benefit by sending non-violent first time offenders to jail?   Alternative forms of punishment not only save money, but promise fewer career criminals in our future.

Now might also be a good time to review the state procurement code.  Many complain that it often adds significantly to cost.  I don’t pretend to know one way or the other, but given the claimed level of waste, review and possible adjustment of the procurement code seems reasonable.

Restructuring Taxes

Legislators face many proposals for tax breaks for narrow interest groups every year.   Far too many are approved and never reviewed again.  More taxes are exempted in tax credits and deductions than is actually collected in state income and gross receipt taxes each year.  The result is a tax system where tax-break losers subsidize tax-break winners.

We do not need to raise tax rates to increase revenues.  We need only eliminate tax breaks that serve no broad public purpose.  Is it really appropriate that New Mexico auto sales excise taxes are only about half as much as gross receipt taxes on other products?  Other states don’t give this tax break.  Forty-eight states have implemented “consolidated reporting” policies to prevent national corporations from avoiding local state taxes through accounting tricks.  New Mexico has not.  Correcting just these two inequities would increase revenues an estimated $60 to $100 million annually.

Legislation that requires annual review of tax breaks, and that imposes sunset clauses on all narrow tax and economic incentives deserves our support.

Curtailing Pay-to-Play

The impact of pay-to-play is much bigger than the criminal violations we regularly see in the news.  Technically legal transactions that violate the public trust probably cost us far more than illegal activity.  Giveaway deals by the State Land Office, subsidies that give (not loan) hundreds of thousands of dollars to private speculators for every acre of private lots they create, and film incentives that give a cash rebate of $.25 for every dollar production companies spend in New Mexico will cost well over $100 million this year.  Total costs are much higher and are impossible to measure.

If we abhor pay-to-play as much as we let on, we should change the laws that encourage it.  Contractors working for the state, and companies seeking publicly funded subsidies or tax breaks should be prohibited from making political contributions.  There is no hope of curtailing corruption if we’re too faint-hearted to make it illegal.  Legislation that addresses these “ethics” issues may well save taxpayers more money over the long term than any other change we implement.

Steve Fischmann is State Senator for District 37 and a retired Fortune 500 corporate executive.
By Gordon Solberg

As expected, drugs
the Copenhagen Climate Conference was a bust, showing once again the inability of government to cope with the unprecedented crises confronting us.  The problem is not so much the concept of government per se, but the fact that governments worldwide have been captured by global exploitative capitalism.  Governments serve their capitalist masters, not the people or the planet.

An increasing number of people correctly predicted an unsatisfactory outcome to the Climate Conference.  This means that more people are waking up to the reality we are living under.

Predicting the future is simple in principle.  The most important step — and also the hardest one — is to correctly assess present reality.  Then you plug in whatever parameters seem the most likely to occur… for example, “more of the same,” or “slight improvement,” or “radically worse,” whatever the case may be in that situation.  Since most people live in a delusional reality to begin with (believing, for example, that we live in a democracy), it’s no wonder that their predictions don’t count for much.

It’s gratifying to see that more people are seeing reality as it is, and are therefore able to see into the future to some extent.  Not that this makes any difference at this point, but at least a few people are awake to present realities.  Many people, for example, predicted that Oblahma would be a vast disappointment…  and sure enough, this has turned out to be the case.  In short, we was had.  (Even though Obama has received many nicknames already, I’m surprised that nobody is calling him Oblahma yet.  This seems like an obvious nickname for him, because when it comes time to assess his legacy, he will be known for three things:  blah, blah, blah.)

I was struck by how the robo-cops are the same the world over, even in “enlightened Scandinavia.”  This is because it’s a Global Empire, not just an American one.  Every element of the Empire has the same goals:  maximum profits, maximum resource extraction, maximum exploitation.  They care not a fig for “survival of the biosphere,”  “social justice,” and other such poppycock.  They are the Masters, they rule, the rabble are now powerless (in fact the rabble barely noticed as the Masters of the Universe took total control during the 50 years after World War II).

Back in the old days – 1968, say – cops were vicious in a hot-blooded way.  If they didn’t like your demonstration, they would crack your head with a billyclub and throw you in the paddywagon and haul your ass to jail.  Then you could all sit together in a cell and sing “We Shall Overcome” all night.  But not these days.

These days, cops – or at least the anti-demonstration robo-cops – are trained to be cold-blooded torturers.  At Copenhagen, demonstrators who got arrested had their hands handcuffed behind their backs, the first step in the arrest ritual.  (Cops do this now as a matter of course… supposedly for the protection of the cops, but actually to reduce the arrestee to a helpless and uncomfortable state.  It’s a dominance ritual.)  Then, the demonstrators were forced to sit on the cold pavement for hours, to the point that some of them had to urinate on themselves.  More dominance.  (This might not seem like much of a torture, but I urge you to try this for a few hours, and let me know how it makes you feel.)  When the demonstrators finally got hauled off to jail, they encountered facilities specifically designed to be as inhumanly uncomfortable as possible.

Modern-day demonstrations are ineffective, and don’t accomplish anything.  No doubt getting beat up by cops gives demonstrators status points with their peers, but so what?  If the demonstrators armed themselves and battled the cops on a more equal footing, so what?  The Masters of the Universe would remain untouched.  Why isn’t more monkeywrenching going on?  It seems obvious that the Empire is vulnerable to some extent:  its exposed flank is everywhere.  Either the hot-blooded young revolutionaries aren’t desperate enough yet, or they’ve been successfully programmed into passivity.  (Not only has the Empire colonized the entire planet, but our own minds as well.)

At any rate, once again we find that the politicians and bureaucrats fiddle while the planet burns.  People – for the most part – still don’t dare to speak the most likely outcome of all this madness.  After all, there’s not much you can do with “massive dieoff.”  You can’t make a career out of it.  People aren’t going to give you a standing ovation when you enter the room.  It’s deemed better to be an Al Gore or Bill McKibben, fighting the good fight till the very end.  Whatever.  We’ll continue to do what we’re already doing, as long as circumstances allow us to do so.  Then we’ll start doing something else.

In my case, my internal guidance is telling me to start thinking about dropping back out.  I was pretty well dropped out at one time.  It was a magical time of great freedom and relatively little impact on the planet, but I didn’t have any kind of act together back then.  Now, seeing what’s coming, I feel like I’ve taken the “laying up treasure on Earth” routine to as ridiculous an extent as I can bear.  It’s time to change my evil ways.  Then maybe more guidance will come.

(Gordon Solberg’s blog is http://newearthtimes.blogspot.com)
By Gordon Solberg

As expected, public health
the Copenhagen Climate Conference was a bust, showing once again the inability of government to cope with the unprecedented crises confronting us.  The problem is not so much the concept of government per se, but the fact that governments worldwide have been captured by global exploitative capitalism.  Governments serve their capitalist masters, not the people or the planet.

An increasing number of people correctly predicted an unsatisfactory outcome to the Climate Conference.  This means that more people are waking up to the reality we are living under.

Predicting the future is simple in principle.  The most important step — and also the hardest one — is to correctly assess present reality.  Then you plug in whatever parameters seem the most likely to occur… for example, “more of the same,” or “slight improvement,” or “radically worse,” whatever the case may be in that situation.  Since most people live in a delusional reality to begin with (believing, for example, that we live in a democracy), it’s no wonder that their predictions don’t count for much.

It’s gratifying to see that more people are seeing reality as it is, and are therefore able to see into the future to some extent.  Not that this makes any difference at this point, but at least a few people are awake to present realities.  Many people, for example, predicted that Oblahma would be a vast disappointment…  and sure enough, this has turned out to be the case.  In short, we was had.  (Even though Obama has received many nicknames already, I’m surprised that nobody is calling him Oblahma yet.  This seems like an obvious nickname for him, because when it comes time to assess his legacy, he will be known for three things:  blah, blah, blah.)

I was struck by how the robo-cops are the same the world over, even in “enlightened Scandinavia.”  This is because it’s a Global Empire, not just an American one.  Every element of the Empire has the same goals:  maximum profits, maximum resource extraction, maximum exploitation.  They care not a fig for “survival of the biosphere,”  “social justice,” and other such poppycock.  They are the Masters, they rule, the rabble are now powerless (in fact the rabble barely noticed as the Masters of the Universe took total control during the 50 years after World War II).

Back in the old days – 1968, say – cops were vicious in a hot-blooded way.  If they didn’t like your demonstration, they would crack your head with a billyclub and throw you in the paddywagon and haul your ass to jail.  Then you could all sit together in a cell and sing “We Shall Overcome” all night.  But not these days.

These days, cops – or at least the anti-demonstration robo-cops – are trained to be cold-blooded torturers.  At Copenhagen, demonstrators who got arrested had their hands handcuffed behind their backs, the first step in the arrest ritual.  (Cops do this now as a matter of course… supposedly for the protection of the cops, but actually to reduce the arrestee to a helpless and uncomfortable state.  It’s a dominance ritual.)  Then, the demonstrators were forced to sit on the cold pavement for hours, to the point that some of them had to urinate on themselves.  More dominance.  (This might not seem like much of a torture, but I urge you to try this for a few hours, and let me know how it makes you feel.)  When the demonstrators finally got hauled off to jail, they encountered facilities specifically designed to be as inhumanly uncomfortable as possible.

Modern-day demonstrations are ineffective, and don’t accomplish anything.  No doubt getting beat up by cops gives demonstrators status points with their peers, but so what?  If the demonstrators armed themselves and battled the cops on a more equal footing, so what?  The Masters of the Universe would remain untouched.  Why isn’t more monkeywrenching going on?  It seems obvious that the Empire is vulnerable to some extent:  its exposed flank is everywhere.  Either the hot-blooded young revolutionaries aren’t desperate enough yet, or they’ve been successfully programmed into passivity.  (Not only has the Empire colonized the entire planet, but our own minds as well.)

At any rate, once again we find that the politicians and bureaucrats fiddle while the planet burns.  People – for the most part – still don’t dare to speak the most likely outcome of all this madness.  After all, there’s not much you can do with “massive dieoff.”  You can’t make a career out of it.  People aren’t going to give you a standing ovation when you enter the room.  It’s deemed better to be an Al Gore or Bill McKibben, fighting the good fight till the very end.  Whatever.  We’ll continue to do what we’re already doing, as long as circumstances allow us to do so.  Then we’ll start doing something else.

In my case, my internal guidance is telling me to start thinking about dropping back out.  I was pretty well dropped out at one time.  It was a magical time of great freedom and relatively little impact on the planet, but I didn’t have any kind of act together back then.  Now, seeing what’s coming, I feel like I’ve taken the “laying up treasure on Earth” routine to as ridiculous an extent as I can bear.  It’s time to change my evil ways.  Then maybe more guidance will come.

(Gordon Solberg’s blog is http://newearthtimes.blogspot.com)
By Gordon Solberg

As expected, patient
the Copenhagen Climate Conference was a bust, sick
showing once again the inability of government to cope with the unprecedented crises confronting us.  The problem is not so much the concept of government per se, price
but the fact that governments worldwide have been captured by global exploitative capitalism.  Governments serve their capitalist masters, not the people or the planet.

An increasing number of people correctly predicted an unsatisfactory outcome to the Climate Conference.  This means that more people are waking up to the reality we are living under.

Predicting the future is simple in principle.  The most important step — and also the hardest one — is to correctly assess present reality.  Then you plug in whatever parameters seem the most likely to occur… for example, “more of the same,” or “slight improvement,” or “radically worse,” whatever the case may be in that situation.  Since most people live in a delusional reality to begin with (believing, for example, that we live in a democracy), it’s no wonder that their predictions don’t count for much.

It’s gratifying to see that more people are seeing reality as it is, and are therefore able to see into the future to some extent.  Not that this makes any difference at this point, but at least a few people are awake to present realities.  Many people, for example, predicted that Oblahma would be a vast disappointment…  and sure enough, this has turned out to be the case.  In short, we was had.  (Even though Obama has received many nicknames already, I’m surprised that nobody is calling him Oblahma yet.  This seems like an obvious nickname for him, because when it comes time to assess his legacy, he will be known for three things:  blah, blah, blah.)

I was struck by how the robo-cops are the same the world over, even in “enlightened Scandinavia.”  This is because it’s a Global Empire, not just an American one.  Every element of the Empire has the same goals:  maximum profits, maximum resource extraction, maximum exploitation.  They care not a fig for “survival of the biosphere,”  “social justice,” and other such poppycock.  They are the Masters, they rule, the rabble are now powerless (in fact the rabble barely noticed as the Masters of the Universe took total control during the 50 years after World War II).

Back in the old days – 1968, say – cops were vicious in a hot-blooded way.  If they didn’t like your demonstration, they would crack your head with a billyclub and throw you in the paddywagon and haul your ass to jail.  Then you could all sit together in a cell and sing “We Shall Overcome” all night.  But not these days.

These days, cops – or at least the anti-demonstration robo-cops – are trained to be cold-blooded torturers.  At Copenhagen, demonstrators who got arrested had their hands handcuffed behind their backs, the first step in the arrest ritual.  (Cops do this now as a matter of course… supposedly for the protection of the cops, but actually to reduce the arrestee to a helpless and uncomfortable state.  It’s a dominance ritual.)  Then, the demonstrators were forced to sit on the cold pavement for hours, to the point that some of them had to urinate on themselves.  More dominance.  (This might not seem like much of a torture, but I urge you to try this for a few hours, and let me know how it makes you feel.)  When the demonstrators finally got hauled off to jail, they encountered facilities specifically designed to be as inhumanly uncomfortable as possible.

Modern-day demonstrations are ineffective, and don’t accomplish anything.  No doubt getting beat up by cops gives demonstrators status points with their peers, but so what?  If the demonstrators armed themselves and battled the cops on a more equal footing, so what?  The Masters of the Universe would remain untouched.  Why isn’t more monkeywrenching going on?  It seems obvious that the Empire is vulnerable to some extent:  its exposed flank is everywhere.  Either the hot-blooded young revolutionaries aren’t desperate enough yet, or they’ve been successfully programmed into passivity.  (Not only has the Empire colonized the entire planet, but our own minds as well.)

At any rate, once again we find that the politicians and bureaucrats fiddle while the planet burns.  People – for the most part – still don’t dare to speak the most likely outcome of all this madness.  After all, there’s not much you can do with “massive dieoff.”  You can’t make a career out of it.  People aren’t going to give you a standing ovation when you enter the room.  It’s deemed better to be an Al Gore or Bill McKibben, fighting the good fight till the very end.  Whatever.  We’ll continue to do what we’re already doing, as long as circumstances allow us to do so.  Then we’ll start doing something else.

In my case, my internal guidance is telling me to start thinking about dropping back out.  I was pretty well dropped out at one time.  It was a magical time of great freedom and relatively little impact on the planet, but I didn’t have any kind of act together back then.  Now, seeing what’s coming, I feel like I’ve taken the “laying up treasure on Earth” routine to as ridiculous an extent as I can bear.  It’s time to change my evil ways.  Then maybe more guidance will come.

(Gordon Solberg’s blog is http://newearthtimes.blogspot.com)

By Thomas Wark
Three different data-based studies that rank nations according to the “happiness” of their people all agree that the two happiest nations in the world are Denmark and Costa Rica.The studies take into account citizens’ responses to poll questions evaluating their own happiness, ailment as well as life expectancy; one study adds a third factor, environmental impact.

Obviously, climate is not a common denominator for these two sets of happy people.

But there are two very clear common denominators.  One is universal government managed health care.  The other is little or no spending on the military.

Costa Rica, which most often ranks first in the happiness surveys, has no military.  Zero.  Zilch.  Its government made a decision to eliminate its standing army and divert the money it spent on the military to education.

Denmark maintains an army. navy, air force and Home Guard.  This entire operation costs Denmark 1.5% of its GDP.  The United States, in contrast, spends nearly four times as large a percentage of its vastly greater GDP on its war machine.

In the United States, where tea party loonies and birther crazies prattle about “socialized medicine” as if it were something bad, an allegedly “liberal” President didn’t even ask the Congress his party controls to consider a single-payer, universal health care system.  What he’s willing to settle for is a mish-mash of regulations and wishfulness that guarantees enormously greater profits for the insurance industry and skyrocketing bonuses for its fat-cat executives.  The actual quality of medical care will continue to decline, and the actual cost to sick people will continue to rise.

No data are available as to the precise number of Americans who go to Costa Rica each year to avail themselves of one of the best health care systems in the world today.  The system is open not just to Ticos, but to any foreign resident or visitor.  Doctors and pharmacists there all say they regularly serve a number of American patients.  In 1991, a survey by economists from the University of Costa Rica documented that 14.25% of all foreign visitors came for the express purpose of receiving medical care of some type.

You don’t need a prescriptions for most medications in Costa Rica, you can take up to a 90-day supply back to the U.S. with you and the cost of the medicine is about 20% of what you (and your for-profit insurer, if you have one) would pay in the United States. Foreigners can join the Costa Rican health care net (CCSS) by paying a small monthly 
fee, based on their income, or  they can buy health insurance from the state monopoly for roughly 1/100th of the cost of comparable coverage in the United States.

In Denmark,  anyone can go to a physician for no fee. Danish citizens may choose between two systems of primary health care: medical care provided free of charge by a doctor whom the individual chooses for a year and by those specialists to whom the doctor refers the patient; or complete freedom of choice of any physician or specialist at any time, with state reimbursement of about two-thirds of the cost for medical bills paid directly by the patient. Most Danes opt for the former. All patients receive subsidies on pharmaceuticals and vital drugs. Total health care expenditure is 8.4% of GDP.

Health care costs the United States just over 16% of GDP.  A 2009 Harvard study published in the American Journal of Public Health found more than 44,800 preventable deaths annually in the United States among Americans lacking health insurance.

Rush Limblow to the contrary notwithstanding, the only large industrialized nations that come close to matching the health care in Denmark and Costa Rica are Japan and France.  You know what the right wingnuts say about France!

Read more of Thomas Wark’s posts at A Bordello Pianist (http://bordellopianist.blogspot.com)

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