Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Jobs: August, Again

A bit of reality has finally crept into the monthly employment report from the Department of Workforce Services. In the September 25 news release about August employment, DWS starts with its trademark exaggeration, saying, "The New Mexico economy remains fairly resilient despite rising unemployment and lower job growth." Then comes reality. "The New Mexico economy is weak, but the national economy appears to be even weaker." Uh, yes... And given that after the events of the past couple of weeks, the national economy looks to get even more weak, and further given that the national economy is the prime determinant of New Mexico's performance, we look to get weaker.
Statewide year over year job growth was 0.6% in August, down from 0.9% in July and from 1.1% in May when the rate briefly broke 1%. As noted in my Saturday posting, the unemployment rate jumped to 4.6% in August, up half a point.
After summarizing metro area performance, DWS claims, "These distinct trends suggest that New Mexico now has increasingly localized economies, each with differing fortunes." This isn't true. New Mexico has always widely differing regional economies, maybe six of them.
Metro Albuquerque has lost 600 wage jobs over the August-to-August year, a 0.2% drop, with the big hit coming in manufacturing, in particular Intel's layoff last fall. Eclipse layoff will hit the numbers soon. Albuquerque construction employment has dropped for 20 months.
Statewide, construction added 100 jobs during the year. Instinct says the figure is flawed because the number of foreign born Hispanics declined in New Mexico during 2007. A good many of those folks, it is generally accepted, would have worked construction.
Santa Fe lost jobs for the third consecutive month, a 0.9% August-to-August drop. Leisure and hospitality, the non-government half of Santa Fe, lost jobs.
For August, Las Cruces scored the state's highest metro unemployment rate at 5%. Nothing new there. Wage jobs increased 1.2% during the year.
The Farmington metro areas—San Juan County—increased wage employment 3.1% during the year, growth of 1,600 jobs. Thank you oil and gas.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Politics: Steve Pearce Interview

The story below is my column that runs in eight newspapers around the state. They are in Farmington, Gallup, Espanola, Raton, Hobbs, Artesia, Roswell and the Defensor Chieftain in Socorro. The papers are given a two-week window to print the column. For this column, the window closes tomorrow. The next column will speculate about why Rep. Udall said no thanks to the interview structure that was planned. I'll post that column in two weeks. The subscribing papers, who pay a little for the column, get first shot. I'll also post the email correspondence with the Udall campaign. That correspondence provides detail for which I lacked in the coming column. Note that, as I see it, the campaign is the candidate and the candidate is the campaign.

Thanks to Mark Bralley for the photo of your truly and Steve Pearce. -HM

Harold Morgan/New Mexico Progress

Pearce discusses his positions

By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress

The plan was to interview Reps. Tom Udall and Steve Pearce, candidates for the U.S. Senate, and report in separate columns. The rules: Same three questions, no topic briefing, spontaneous responses transcribed without comment. Because the Udall campaign required topic briefing, there is no Udall interview.
Rep. Steve Pearce and I spoke by phone Sept. 10. The complete questions are posted at www.capitolreportnm.blogspot.com.
1. Why are you running?
When Pearce ran for state representative in 1996, he was “convinced that the country was changing dramatically for the worse, and rather than just sit in Hobbs and complain, I decided that I would run for public office and try to do something about it.”
The choice was to “either be quiet or be active.”
“I realized that the real significant battles were in Washington.” So in 2000 Pearce ran for the Senate. Had he won the primary, the general election opponent would have been incumbent Sen. Jeff Bingaman. Then fate intervened. Rep Joe Skeen retired and Pearce was elected to the U.S. House. A year ago, fate came again with the retirement of Sen. Pete Domenici.
“The Senate is ultimately the spot where small states are protected. Small states and the small state ideas are protected because, in the Senate, the small states have exactly the same power as the big states. The second thing is that in the Senate, one voice can stop any piece of legislation or any policy, and it takes 60 votes to overcome that one voice. So, in the political context of policy and stopping shifts, the Senate is ultimately important.”
Pearce’s House seat was relatively safe. “The idea that we’re in a relatively safe seat had almost no bearing in the decision; what had a bearing is that I feel the country is in danger from internal slide. If I think that the Senate is the place where the real potential to stop the slide is, then I am morally obligated to run for the seat....
“One of the ways I explain it to people is that I’d like my children and grandchildren to have the same opportunities that I’ve had, and I could see those opportunities slipping away.”
2. Critical challenges and actions:
“Well, the challenges are economic… We have to understand that if we don’t work hard to hold our economy together, our standard of living will shift dramatically. The second (challenge) would be the breakdown of the American family: it gives us less cohesion as a nation, less cohesion obviously as families, but less cohesion as a nation to address, then, the significant problems that we are facing….”
Actions start with “lower taxes, cut(ting) the wasteful spending. Then in the family, the thing that we’ve tried most in the House to do is bring good, strong jobs into the Second District; we’d do the same thing (statewide) in the Senate.”
Pearce remains “an entrepreneur, constantly looking for opportunities.” He cites the nuclear enrichment facility in Eunice and projects in Portales, Clovis and the Truth or Consequences area that will keep people in New Mexico, “where they grew up,” and strengthen families.
3. The public sector or the private sector to solve problems:
“I’m strongly inclined to private solutions. If we consider health care, for instance, the great debate is should the government provide healthcare…. My general point is the government can’t provide more doctors and nurses; all it can do is limit your demand… by saying that you can’t see the doctor for six months, or eight months.
“But then we need to acknowledge there are problems with the private system, and that there are a whole series of things that can be done – just on health care alone – and should be done to improve the private sector. But at no time do I believe that, even with our problems, that we’d be better with a government healthcare system.”

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sustainability, Purity and Apples

This morning's Albuquerque Journal featured a delightful photo of the line of vehicles waiting yesterday to buy apples at the legendary Dixon's Apples orchard north of Albuquerque. The sign said the actual apples were three miles away. The caption said the wait from the photographed point was another three hours. I could distinguish 17 vehicles in the line. All but two or three were actual trucks or SUVs, which are trucks.
The photo demonstrates the fallacy in the whole argument for the go to the grower's market, buy local, feel better, and don't give money to "corporate" producers who use gas guzzling trucks to transport food.
As the photo shows, people get to those grower's markets by driving. The markets typically are further from home than the neighborhood supermarket. At the grower's market, less food is purchased per trip, probably, so more fuel is used per unit of food. Similar inefficiencies apply to the growers. There are more of them, bringing less stuff to the market per gallon of gas. By contrast, buying a vegetable or two on a perviously scheduled supermarket trip for, say, milk, uses zero additional fuel to buy the veggie.
For Dixon's the inefficiencies are extreme. People drive a long way, commonly, it appears, in vehicles with lower gas mileage, and wait a long time, most likely running the engine and using the air conditioner, further raising total gas consumption.
Dixon's apples may well be better, somehow, than other apples. I can't say, given that I consume few apples. What Dixon's customers are doing is buying recreation—a drive to the country—and participation in one of those grand New Mexico myths. What they are not doing is using less gas.
The Dixon's folks have a great thing going. Keep their secret.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Jobs: August

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment situation in New Mexico seems to be deteriorating less quickly than in other states. Headlines in Albuquerque this week have found solace in this development. The headlines see the cup half full, I suppose, and avoid notice of how quickly the cup is draining.
In August, the BLS says, the unemployment rate in New Mexico popped up another half a point, going to 4.6% from 4.1% in July. In August 2007, the rate was 3.4%.
Among our neighbors, Utah and Oklahoma are below New Mexico. Arizona, Colorado and Texas are higher. Arizona is one of the four states hit hardest by the housing bust. By my rough count from the state unemployment rate list, 11 states have a lower rate than New Mexico. Three others were tied at 4.6%. A more important number, I think, is that 44 states showed an increased unemployment rate between July and August.
New Mexico has 958,000 people employed during August, a 1.6% increase over the past year. Note that these figures are for "employment," not the much cleaner wage jobs figure. That will have to wait until the Department of Workforce Solutions posts its monthly news release, which was due yesterday.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Transportation & Money: MRCOG & NAIOP

Lawrence Rael's, executive director for the Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG), started his NAIOP presentation today by insulting the area economic developers.
To end, Rael pitched a new transportation tax. His proof of the need was the transportation plight of a young man commuting to a minimum
wage at a top hotel in Santa Fe. About a quarter of the guy's wages go for gas.
Having been babbling to myself throughout Rael's talk, I had to say something, which
wasn't quite as organized as this:
The young man chose to work in Santa Fe. He has a cost problem with his
transportation. he's whining about it. In general I don't approve of
whining, though as American's we do have the freedom to whine. The guy wants
the government to do something about the problem that is a result of his
Rael's testy and absurd response to me was that if the guy loses this
job, he will just end up in some other government program so we had better
spend government transportation money on him (and Rael's organization). Nonsense. If the guy loses his job in Santa Fe and has a decent performance record, he will easily get another hotel job. That's because hotel people have turnover and would love to get someone with some experience.
My babbling started with Rael insulting the economic developers, many of whom have been friends for more than 20 years. He was talking the joys of a site location Web site, nmsitesearch.com, that MRCOG is now running. I'm sure the site is very cool and will improve with MRCOG's efforts. But Rael claimed at length and without truth that economic development efforts have never focused on the metro Albuquerque region. In fact, metro area economic developers have worked regionally since Rio Rancho emerged as a force, maybe 25 years. I'll concede that the regional efforts have had ups and downs, but that's not what Rael said.
In the middle of his transportation tax pitch / Railrunner-is-wonderful ode, Rael showed a slide of a four-lane street full of cars. Then he showed the people. positioned where they were when driving, but without the cars. Cars take up a lot of space, he said. Then he showed the people, bunched together, filling the amount of space needed if they were riding a bus or some other mass transportation. Our transportation is designed to move vehicles, not people, Rael intoned. Other than portraying people as robots in cars Rael left people out of the transportation. equation.
Perhaps Rael thinks of nearly all people as robots. I don't know. For sure, people choosing to drive themselves and even if they sit in traffic, they have a phone and a radio and and and air conditioner, they are the vast majority. Rael said proudly that 3,500 people per day are riding the Railrunner. The metro population is just shy of 850,000. To be nice to Rael, let's assume hat half the metro residents are adults, that only adults ride Railrunner and that passengers only ride once each day. That means that less than one half of one percent (0.4%) of possible metro users of Railrunner ride it.
And I'm supposed to vote for an additional tax to subsidize those folks.
Rael called for "more balanced" transportation spending. Good idea, dude. More roads.

NAIOP is the professional group of commercial real estate developers.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Politics: Jonah Goldberg, "Happy Warrior"

Jonah Goldberg is witty and funny, articulate, incredibly well-read and really, really smart.
Goldberg spoke this morning at the newly and stylishly or garishly (you decide) repainted Marriott Pyramid. About 120 attended. Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing said 50 attended a lunch event in Santa Fe. The Albuquerque appearance was a promotion and public service event that was the second in a series sponsored by the Foundation and the New Mexico Prosperity Project.
For someone who is not yet 40, Goldberg seems to have done everything from being all over the TV talk fests, being a widely syndicated columnist, and a contributing editor at National Review. He and his wife also have one young child.
A clue to Goldberg for us liberal arts fanatics, comes the fact that he attended Goucher College, a small liberal arts college near Washington, D.C., and Baltimore with 1,350 undergrads and 1,000 graduate students At Goucher Dean’s scholarship recipients have a combined SAT score north of 1,400.
Goldberg almost seems to do the pundit stuff to support his reading of literature and philosophy back to the pre-Socratic times.
Goldberg focused on the two main themes from his book, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. First was debunking the conventional wisdom that fascism was right wing. Second was that progressives never given up their commitment to the broad “moral equivalent of war” notion that was the driver of Woodrow Wilson’s move toward a semi-dictatorship during World War I.
Conventional wisdom says that political philosophies are circle with the extremes—communism and fascism—meeting. “Nowhere else do we talk about extremes meeting,” Goldberg said. “The National Socialists (the Nazis) are socialists,” he quoted one contemporaneous observer. In the 1920s fascism and socialism were seen as about the same thing, though the two ideologies were rivals. Both hated democracy. Later, when it came to killing people, socialism beat the Nazis by “orders of magnitude.”
President Woodrow Wilson, a self-proclaimed progressive, Goldberg said, “was the first would-be fascist dictator. Wilson was in fact the most racist president in the 20th century.” This “moral equivalent of war” concept is everywhere—in energy, in the “War on Poverty.”
Goldberg might have added that the “war” metaphor is inaccurate and deceptive. If something is war, it gets all the resources, without question. Neither the war on poverty nor the war on drugs or cancer or even terrorism have gotten the resources to fight at the level of a real war. Politicians using the metaphor are misleading people into thinking more will be done about a problem than will in fact be done.
“Political unity” as a general concept makes Goldberg uncomfortable. The whole point of the design of the United States’ government was “to pit faction against faction,” he reminded the audience. Check Federalist Papers 10 and 51. “Unity was dangerous in the eyes of the Founding Fathers.”
Trouble lurks in the cliché, “If you’re not part of the answer, you’re part of the problem.” People who haven’t bought “the answer” are bad, Think, for example, of Al Gore’s dissent stifling hysteria about global warming. (Note that “hysteria” is my word, not Goldberg’s.)
Goldberg closed the main presentation with a charge to the audience members to be “happy warriors,” to stay with the battle for freedom. “This is the permanent fight,” he said. The parameters were defined by Rousseau for the collectivists and John Locke for the sovereignty of the individual. The tension “runs through the human heart,” he said.
“There will always be more of them than us,” Goldberg said. He explained that people want to be part of a tribe and that there will always be people who think capitalism takes too much power from the would-be social planners.
Goldberg had two asides about capitalism. First, it is not a zero-sum game. Second, he prefers the term “free market economics” because “capitalism is a Marxist word.”

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Income: State

Leave it to me to find unhappiness in the good news that New Mexico's 2.7% annualized increase in personal income in the second quarter over the first quarter ranked sixth nationally and was more than double a year earlier.
Here's the rest of the story. Transfer payments—welfare, social security and the like—jumped 10.7% (All rates here are annual rates) and provided three-quarters of the nice income jump. Transfer payments are what goes up in a weak economy.
Net earnings, real money in other words—the sum of wage and salary disbursements—increased 0.7% and provided 0.64 percentage points of that 2.7% income growth. Proprietors income—small businesses—dropped a bit during the quarter.
Among the sectors, income increases came from areas having to do with the federal government:
Professional and technical services: +0.18%.
Health care: +0.16%.
Federal civilian: +0.05%.
Mining, a key to the state's economic health, increased 0.03%, as did another key, durable good manufacturing. Transportation earnings also grew 0.03%.
Farm earnings, always volatile: -0.32%.
Military: -0.03%.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis, producer of these numbers, included revisions of income from the past three years. New Mexican's personal income was dropped at an increasing rate: 2005 (-1.1%); 2006 (-2.2%); and 2007 (-2.8%).

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Investing: Coldwell Banker Legacy

Full disclosure to start: I write a newsletter for Coldwell Banker Legacy, metro Albuquerque's (and presumably New Mexico's) leading, by sales, residential real estate firm.
At the company level CBL has a tendency to not toot their own horn, something I've fussed about a bit with them. The tendency makes sense overall. The business is about brokers and sales associates, and buyers and sellers. The corporate part stays in the background, tending the brand and steering the ship.
All that said, here's a kudo for the corporate. On October 1, CBL is unveiling an amazing new Web site, ColdwellBankerLegacy.com. built around Google mapping technology and with information on each of the nearly 15,000 homes listed for sale in the metro.
The kudo is this: Today is a tough time to be in the residential real estate business. Metro sales of existing homes are running something like half of the peak in July 2006. A good many firms will be pulling in their horns. Coldwell is going the other way and making a big investment in the future. Good for them.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Politics: Pearce Interview Questions

On September 10, I interviewed Rep. Steve Pearce, who is running for the United States Senate. My newspaper column reporting the interview will appear during the next two weeks in papers in Raton, Farmington, Gallup, Espanola, Roswell, Artesia and Hobbs. The timing of running the column is up to the given newspaper.
The plan was to interview Pearce and his opponent for the Senate job, Rep. Tom Udall, ask them exactly the same few general questions, without notice as to topic, transcribe the interviews as best as possible and then run the interview reports without comment in separate columns, one for Pearce and one for Udall. This was exactly the approach taken with an interview of Pearce and Udall that ran in the Winter 2008 issue of our magazine, Capitol Report New Mexico. The issue is still available at the Web site, www.capitolreportnm.com.
There will be no interview with Udall. His staff—and I need to confirm exactly which person—required at least a general briefing about the topic. That was not to be. In the first place, that wasn't the deal; Pearce accepted the deal. And in the second place, it's hard to give general notice of a general topic. The Udall situation will be discussed in detail in my next column which be distributed for publication starting September 29.
Interestingly, the staff of Rep. Heather Wilson blew off the magazine interview request, even after Wilson accepted. That I found really strange.
Considerable effort went into ensuring the questions were posed neutrally. Here they are:
1. Normal people don’t run for the Senate, or for the House for that matter. You are risking everything—reputation, integrity, a fairly safe seat in the House. You are creating huge amounts of hassle for your family. Please dig deep, cut through the rhetoric and tell me what’s in your heart. Why are you running for the United States Senate?
1a. We all know there are challenges in America. What are a few of the most critical?
New Mexicans need to know three specific things you will do to meet these challenges in the US Senate.
2. In general, political approaches lean toward faith in the private sector to solve problems and faith in the public sector – the government - to be the source of solutions. We know there is always a middle ground, but are you more inclined to one view or the other and why?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Politics: Polar Bears and Sarah Palin

Polar Bears are getting ink and video lately. The ink and video use the bear as a prop to argue charge Alaska Gov. and Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin with moral turpitude because Palin has objected to naming the bear a threatened species. Note a bit of irony. Palin is bad because of resisting an action of the Bush administration, which long ago was certified as utterly evil by enviros.
Today’s Albuquerque Journal used a bear photo on page B8 to illustrate an article headlined, “McCain Risks Pro-Environment Record.” Palin was mentioned in the caption. On Thursday of last week the BBC used a bear to illustrate a story about additional oil drilling off the Alaska coast.
An alternate argument exists, one that doesn’t roll over for the, oh, so politically correct conventional wisdom. Danish economist Bjorn Lomborg spends five of the first six pages of his 2007 book, “Cool It,” on polar bears. He says, in summary, “The real story of the polar bear is instructive. In many ways, this tale encapsulates the broader problem with the climate change concern: once you look closely at the supporting data, the narrative falls apart.”
The polar bear population has increased five-fold—to 25,000— in the past 40 years, Lomborg says. Today, one or two of the 20 subpopulations are declining, two are increasing and the rest are stable.
Lomborg doesn’t just assert this stuff. Those five bear pages come with 24 footnotes citing sources. “Cool It” comes with 130 pages listing the literature.
In this weekend’s Wall Street Journal, September 13-14, Lomborg takes apart the “over hyped rhetoric” of Thomas Friedman’s new book, “Hot, Flat and Crowded.” Before seriously starting the dismantling, Lomborg specifies, “Let’s be clear. Global warming is real and man-made.” The review closes with, “While occasionally interesting, ‘Hot, Flat and Crowded’ remains a one-sided plea for an incorrect analysis.”

Politics: Literature Report

One standard gauge of the closeness of election day is the appearance of candidate literature attached to the front door of the home. The deluge started yesterday at my house. When we arrived home in the evening, the door held two items, both paid for by the Democratic Party of New Mexico. Both were full color. The larger piece, 8.5" x 5.5", featured Barack Obama, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich on the front. The back asked a vote for 23 candidates for state representative and 14 state senate candidates. The candidates were distributed around the state and not all had opposition.
The second piece pitched Heinrich's congressional candidacy.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

McCain/Palin Second Installment

Security needs must explain much of the work involved in attending a presidential-level political rally. At the McCain/Palin rally in Albuquerque on Saturday, September 6, there was one door for the people attending the rally. If there was a second door, I didn’t see it. But my view was restricted by the need to keep my place in line.
It’s basic queuing theory, something I learned just enough about in business school to get a graduate school “C” and survive. If there is one door—one “server” in the jargon—and many, many people, it will take a really long time to get through the door. Reports were that 6,000 attended.
When we arrived, about 4:30 p.m. for the 6 p.m. program, the line snaked around the southwest corner of the convention center and then east along Tijeras. We joined the line under the railroad tracks, happy for shade. Over time the line extended from under the tracks to the top of the hill where Tijeras joins M.L. King and then turned 180º back to end under the tracks again.
An hour and 15 minutes later, standing all the while but mostly in shade, we were in the convention center. Then it was another 20 minutes to so to get through the security gates and stop for purse inspection.Inside, bleachers extended from the north wall. We couldn’t get to the bleachers, which didn’t matter, because they were full. The people in the bleachers may have thought they got a good deal by being able to sit. They also got to view the back of the speakers’ heads because the speakers faced the cameras.
We went to the remaining open area, stood for a while and then sat on the floor next to the draped railing marking the edge of the audience area. I noticed a drinking fountain on the wall outside the area and then, as I walked to the fountain, a concession stand appeared. I don’t know why a $2.00 bottle of water seemed better than the fountain water, but it did. The fellow manning the concession booth pitched candy bars as I ordered the water. I said, No, thanks, complimented him on the sales effort, and returned to the audience area. My companion and I drank the water. She kept the bottle and filled it from the fountain as we departed more than an hour later. The fountain water was fine.“Raucous” was the description of weekend McCain/Palin rallies from Laura Meckler of the Wall Street Journal. Meckler nailed it.
Loud. Very loud. Signs and flags waving everywhere.
By the measure of the personal ear-based applause meter, the crowd liked McCain. The crowd loved Palin.
Rep. Steve Pearce, candidate for the Senate, led the speakers with a long invocation, a modest role that seemed odd and has drawn blogger comment. Other speakers not mentioned in the 9/7/08 post included Rep Heather Wilson, with a rousing setting of the stage for McCain and Palin. The Boy Scouts presented the colors. Girl Scouts shun any connection with partisan events.
Cheerleaders offered the low point of the preliminaries. I didn’t catch what group the cheerers represented, if any. They performed two custom cheers, one on behalf of McCain and one for Palin. It wasn’t that they were bad. as cheerleaders Actually, they were probably OK and certainly well intended. However, “out of place” got a new, higher order definition.
Points for theater go to the driving of a “Straight Talk Express” bus, an RV, actually, into the hall. It had been hidden behind a large American flag. There was a puff of smoke. The flag was raised and the RV eased into the hall.
As McCain spoke, a few people began to drift from the hall. Most were older. I understood. The messages from the feet were getting louder. Avoiding the crowd had appeal. We stayed until the end, though, and our departure proved no problem.
We happened to park on First Street, which turned out to be the exit route for the McCain/Palin motorcade. To get to First, we cut between the Tower Building and Marquette. As we approached First, we noticed motorcycles, maybe 40 of them, two abreast. Our friend, photographer Mark Bralley, who was joining us for the ride home, took a moment to visit with one of the officers, an acquaintance from Mark’s years as a police officer. While we walked north, the motorcycle column began to move with officers peeling away to block intersections. Squad cars followed the motorcycles, then a McCain “Straight Talk Express” RV. More squad cars were next, leading another RV, a duplicate we thought, but weren’t sure because it was dark, with more cars in the rear. Sarah Palin was in the second RV, we’re told. Somewhere in the middle were a half-dozen white vans with labels saying, “press,” so we figured the vans carried the traveling media.
The motorcade moved quickly. It passed and we went home where mission one was to remove the shoes. My feet were still throbbing the next morning.

Photos: by Mark Bralley.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Politics: McCain / Palin Rally

Political rallies are real work to organize and attend. The media doesn’t know this, the local media anyway. They get to come in the back door, the “press” door. For national media, political campaigns are work. That was one message on the faces of the national folk who filed into last night’s John McCain-Sarah Palin rally at the Albuquerque Convention Center. We’re tired, the faces said. One reporter in the group, a woman from the Los Angeles Times, did a bit more than collapse at the table. She came to the edge of the press area and interviewed a woman in the audience for about 15 minutes. I forgot to ask the topic, an oversight that probably is one of many reasons I’m not a national media person.
Oh, well.
This is a long post for me, over 1,100 words. Bear with it. More tomorrow on the work of attending the rally. -HM
NM GOP and a Bad Idea
One aspect of rally-related work came earlier in the day. In attempting to confirm reports of schedule changes for the rally, I called the headquarters of the New Mexico Republican Party. This was after looking at the NMGOP’s Web site where the calendar had no mention of the scheduled rally. Nobody answered the GOP phone.
Step back, now, and review. A party’s presidential candidates and vice presidential candidate are coming to town and there is no calendar item. And no one in the office. Political campaigns ain’t an 8 to 5 job, folks.
But, to digress, I’ve had this responsiveness problem before with the state GOP. A couple of years ago, working on a research project, I went to the GOP headquarters and asked for the general election vote tally book, which is public information. After some hassle, the staff bounced my inquiry to then GOP exec Marta Kramer. After some further hassle, Kramer OKed me using the tally book. She also recognized my name as someone occasionally critical of the GOP in my newspaper column. “Why do you hate us,” Kramer asked. Well, I don’t. It’s just there is so much opportunity.
A year later, while building the mailing list for our now-suspended magazine, Capitol Report New Mexico, I sought information that I figured the party ought to be willing to provide, given the nature of the request—the names and addresses of the people on the state central committee. After all, the Democrats posted that information in Excel. Well, no, came the word from above. And it turned out they wouldn’t even provide the names and addresses of the people who were posted on the GOP site.
Customer friendly, the state GOP is not.
Nor was the state GOP legislator friendly last night. There was no special effort to get tickets to legislators. Some GOP legislators did go. Two were even on the program together—Representatives Larry Larranga and Justine Fox-Young. Larranga’s age wasn’t emphasized, though surely his age was the point of having him come out with Fox-Young, who it was noted, is, well, young.
The rally ended on a customer unfriendly note that is both rude and a flabbergasting invasion of privacy.
Bernalillo County Sheriff and congressional candidate Darren White (a cop, please note) introduced the scheme after repeated use of the word, “me,” in pitching his record, especially with regard to anti-DWI work.
White said that lists of undecided voters would be distributed at the end of the rally. The request was that the people on the list be called and asked to vote for the McCain/Palin ticket, Steve Pearce for Senate and Darren White for Congress. White’s delivery made the situation sound a little odd. But, there they were as we left the rally, volunteers ripping sheets from pads and distributing them.
Each sheet contains eight names, complete with address and telephone. To the right of the name, there were six boxes with little circles for filling in answers to questions. A detail is that no questions were provided. My sheet had names of people in Santa Fe. But should someone be rude enough to make the calls, the caller will appear stupid because Darren White is not running for Congress in Santa Fe. Dan East is. While East hasn’t a ghost of a chance of winning, barring some random intervention, apparently the state GOP has forgotten East is the candidate.
1. I’m not naïve. Lists are created and people are called. Even if these folks are listed in the phone book, this kind of mass distribution of personal information is unacceptable. This is nobody’s business.
2. Generating God knows how many random calls to people is a sure way to annoy them and maybe even drive them to the other ticket.
3. The execution was sloppy.
Media Notes
Not being the stay up late type, I didn’t catch the television reports of the rally. I suppose those reports have run endlessly today, though.
The New Mexican in Santa Fe got a story from the Associated Press that was quite different from what Jeff Jones provided for the Albuquerque Journal. Jones said, basically, it was a rock star environment into which they came, they recycled lines from convention speeches, they left.
Matt Mygatt of the AP got into the environment of the rally. He talked to people in the audience. Mygatt even mentioned that actor Robert Duvall introduced McCain, but went no further, appropriately, as Duvall was peripheral.
Duvall began wonderfully. He said, Give me an Amen. Then he asked for another Amen. And got it. Louder. My mind flashed to Duvall’s character in “The Apostle,” a 1997 movie about a preacher prone to saying, “Thank you, Jesus.” Duvall, 77, is a little older than McCain, but shares the same background. His dad was an admiral and the family lived for a while in Annapolis, home to the Naval Academy and St. John’s College. Duvall’s military service Wikipedia says, was a year in the Army.
The Journal’s Jones offered, and his editors allowed, one bit of gratuitous editorializing. Jones said, “McCain also stressed the need for America to develop a range of energies—including wind, tide and solar.” OK. The sentence then continued, “but said he also would increase drilling.” Hmmm…
Jones’ use of the word, “but,” indicates he may think stuff one drills for is not part of or contradicts the “range of (politically correct) energies.” Wrong.
Sarah Palin’s attire got a six-word description from Jones, “a black skirt and brown jacket.” McCain was described as wearing a suit. Maybe McCain was wearing the pants from a suit. I was too far away to tell. But he was not wearing a suit jacket, nor was he wearing a tie. McCain’s sleeves were rolled up.
As a veteran wearer of the entire suit package—pants, jacket, shirt with sleeves rolled down and tie—I don’t think McCain was wearing a suit.
Final Small Item
At the rally, the media were called, “press.” Even the labels on the transport vans said, “press.”
This use excludes electronic media, er, press. Press means print.
Not a big deal on the scale of things. Such errors do get noticed. Annoying the media is a bad idea.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


The Federal for Tax Administrators, (www.taxadmin.org), says that New Mexico's overall tax burden was nine percent of personal income in 2007. That's seventh nationally. On a per capita basis, our tax burden was 16th nationally at $2,642 per person. New Mexicans paid $5.2 billion in taxes last year. The FTA numbers come from the Census Bureau.
The percentages of the New Mexico taxes are:
Property - 1.1%
Sales and gross receipts - 35.4% ($1.8 billion)
"Selective' sales taxes such as excise and fuel taxes - 12.3% ($639 million)
Individual income taxes - 22% ($1.15 billion)
Corporation income taxes - 8.2%
"Other" taxes - 20.9% ($853 million) including severance taxes of $844 million.
New Mexicans—that is, people within the borders of the state—do not pay most of the severance taxes. Companies extracting (severing) the minerals pay the taxes and a bit will then come from New Mexicans pockets as part of the price of the end product that contains the minerals.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Income: Metro Areas

Santa Fe and Farmington were the two New Mexico metropolitan statistical areas to beat the 2006-2007 national average for per capita income growth. The national growth was 6.2% for 06/07 and 6.8% for 05/06.
Santa Fe's per capita income grew 6.8% in 06/07 to $45,230. The 05/06 growth was 7.2% to $42,363. The performance popped the City Different to 27th place in income among metros nationally. Santa Fe is the only New Mexico metro beating the national 2007 per capita income of $38,632.
Farmington's growth percentage beat Santa Fe tidily. Other oil and gas communities such as Midland and Odessa in Texas were top performers in income growth. Income in Midland grew 14% between 2005 and 2006 and another 7.5% between 06 and 07. Farmington started from a much lower based than Santa Fe. Income in Farmington was $29,183 per capita in 2007. Growth was 10.1% between 05 and 06 and 7.5% between 06 and 07. Nationally, Farmington ranks 296th in income.
In Albuquerque, per capita income grew 5.4% between 2005 and 2006 to $32,727 and another 4,2% to $34,109 between 06 and 07. Albuquerque's income now ranks 163rd among the nation's metros.
Las Cruces beat Albuquerque in income growth between 2006 and 2007 with a 4.4% increase to $25,351. Las Cruces 06/07 increase was 4.6% to $24,293.
Metro areas with the nation's lowest per capita income tend to be along the border with Mexico. Among the nation's 363 metro areas, income in Las Cruces ranks 350th. El Paso is 344. McAllen, Texas, is last.
The highest earning metro areas on a per capita basis are the Bridgeport-Stamford, Connecticut, area; Naples, Florida, and San Francisco.
The income figures were released August 7 by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.