Owls, Mules and Lizards: the makeup of federal land management

Posted on 29. Apr, 2011 by Administrator in Energy/Environment

Farming, ranching, mining, and extraction are the foundation for everything else. They are what make food, energy and manufacturing possible by proving the raw materials for our personal and economic growth. Yet these bedrock American industries have, little-by-little, been chiseled away—so subtly that most of us did not notice until now; now, when the economy continues to teeter with a slight uptick one month, back down the next. The public, America’s citizens, people who’ve never paid attention to politics or the economy, want to know what happened; they want to know, “Why?” The answer is really quite simple and reversing the trend—growing the economy—is equally simple. But America’s citizens must push for policy-induced prosperity.

Today we have federal employees who are paid to stop productivity. Their job is to enforce regulations, not encourage expansion. The federal government used to help people establish a farm or ranch, or stake a claim. Remember the whole idea of “homesteading?” People took a barren parcel of federal land, treated it as their own and made something from nothing. Their efforts were rewarded with the deed. While homesteading is a thing of the history books, policy that stopped development didn’t begin until the seventies. Initial results of a new study indicate that major industries once prevalent in the west, such as logging, cattle ranching, and mining, have moved out—in fact, been chased out. Instead of exporting, we now import. What happened in the seventies to change federal lands management?  The birth of the environmental movement in the late 1960s.

This shift in policy is most evident through the story of the spotted owl—a declining species said to favor “old growth forest.” The effort to protect the owl began in 1968. It was ultimately listed as “endangered” in 1990. Observing history, we see the owls’ numbers have not increased with the protection and they’ve been found in locations they supposedly do not like. While the listing had little impact on the owl, it did have a killing effect on the logging industry. Logging on federal lands once accounted for more than half of Oregon’s harvest. By 2008, less than ten percent. In New Mexico’s Gila Forest access to federal lands has been continually cut back. Today, based on numbers from the 1970’s, there are thirty percent fewer cattle. Because of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and wilderness designations, the Forest Service required Terrell Shelley, whose family has continuously raised cattle on the same land for 125 years, to use mules to make repairs to concrete dams on his allotment. 250 mule loads of concrete were hand mixed.  Not many people today are willing to continue ranching under such restrictive conditions.

Mining faces similar obstacles. In Montana, exploration for tungsten was completed in the seventies by Union Carbide. To extract the resource from what is now an “inventoried roadless area,” the Forest Service requires that the drilling equipment be hauled by pack mules—who are feed “certified weed free hay,” and that the land be cleared and then reclaimed using hand tools. Once again, productive activity is discouraged. Due to punitive federal policy, we now have less logging, less ranching, and less mining; less jobs, less productivity, and less wealth creation. The oil and gas industry of West Texas and Southeastern New Mexico is next. The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has proposed that the Sand Dune Lizard (AKA Dunes Sagebrush Lizard) be listed as an endangered species under the ESA. This lizard frequents sites where oil and gas development provides good paying jobs and economic stability. If the FWS proceeds with the “endangered” listing, the entire region could well go the way of logging in the Pacific Northwest or Cattle Ranching in the Gila Forest.

Now, we see how industries have been shuttered and jobs lost. We watched while entire communities became ghost towns. “Protection” and “wilderness” sound like nice ideas until you see the economic destruction they have wrought. With the benefit of history, America’s citizens can take a stand and reverse the trend. Federal agencies hold hearings where we can comment. We can make phone calls and send e-mails. The employees at the various federal agencies don’t make the policies. They are simply enforcing the regulations. But if we speak up, we can change the game.

The public comment period for the proposed lizard listing ends May 9. Make the effort, pick up the phone. Talk to the federal employees (Debra M. Hill: 505-761-4719, Tom Buckley: 505-248-6455). Wouldn’t it be great if the federal government once again helped, instead of hindered?

Public rallies in opposition to the proposed ESA listing of the Sand Dune Lizard are being held in Midland, TX (April 27) and Roswell, NM (April 28). The FWS is holding public comment hearings in the same cities on the same days. More information is available in the “Act Now” page at EnergyMakesAmericaGreat.org.

Known as the voice for energy, Marita Noon is the Executive Director at Energy Makes America Great Inc. the advocacy arm of the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy—working to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom and the American way of life. She is a popular speaker, a frequent guest on television and radio, her commentaries have been published in newspapers, blogs and websites nationwide, and she has just completed her twentieth book: Take Away Energy, Take Away Freedom. Find out more at www.EnergyMakesAmericaGreat.org.

Flower power vs. America’s need for power

Posted on 25. Apr, 2011 by Administrator in Energy/Environment

My childhood bedroom had hot pink walls with glossy orange window trim. The ceiling was scattered with daisies—hot pink and orange. In that same era, remember, VW buses were decorated with daises—some pink and orange, and some lime green and turquoise. “Flower Power” bumper stickers were seen on all kinds of cars. Long haired “hippie freaks” stood on street corners and shouted “flower power.” I doubt that back then many of us knew what we were suggesting—even demanding. Flower power seemed like a bit of cheer in a time of war.

We know that if you say something loud enough and long enough, people start to believe you. Such is the case with flower power. Today’s decision makers grew up surrounded by these colorful daises. Flower power is a part of their psyche. They really believe in flower power—thinking we can create a daisy chain of sunshine, breezes, and even the flowers themselves to generate the power America needs. Flower power will then offer free and green electricity to power automobiles. The GM Volt was heralded as the salvation of the energy crisis. Drivers could sneer at the gas pumps as they cruised past powered by clean electricity—the end of the daisy chain. Believing it to be the redeemer of the American auto industry, the government dumped billions into the creation of the Volt.

We now have the Volt. At a sales price of more than $40,000 government subsidies are needed to entice buyers to give them a sniff. Even with as much as $7500 in a Federal Tax Credit, people aren’t picking them. In January 321 Volts were sold nationwide. The next month, only 281. Now there is talk of cutting our government-funded loses and selling off the remaining GM stock—the stock American citizens were promised would pay us back. For the Volt to fulfill the flower power dream, it needs to run on so-called “clean energy” such as wind/solar or bio fuels. Once again Government is shoveling billions into making flower power a reality.

President Obama’s fondness for renewable energy is well-known—he brings it up in nearly every speech. But Obama is not the first to tout biofuels. President Bush planted the seeds of federal subsidies for biofuels in his 2006 State of the Union address. In March of 2007, Range Fuels received a $76m grant to convert wood chips to ethanol. The Soperton, GA plant, would have been the first ever to produce cellulosic ethanol—with the goal of 20 million gallons in 2008. Besides being watered with the Federal grant, Range Fuels received $6m from the state and nearly $160m in private investments. President Obama added his support with a Department of Agriculture $80m loan. To be sure this flower power grew, Congress fertilized the plant with mandates for Range Fuels’ product: 100m gallons by 2010. Despite a $300m+ investment, the plant never flowered. It is closed. Employees gone.

A loss of only $300m would be optimistic if you were Evergreen Solar in MA. The newly shuttered solar panel plant has lost more than double that of Range Fuels. Like the GA flower power plant, Evergreen Solar, received help from its home state that was using it for bragging rights about their flower power. State taxpayers contributed $58m in grants, loans and land incentives—offering a $1 a year lease for a former military base. Despite the help from state and the federal subsidies, Evergreen Solar could not keep the Devens, MA plant alive—leaving 800 people out of work.

You’d think our lawmakers might learn that they cannot pick winners. They should stick to governing not investing. No. They take the money from us to give it to their pet projects. You know about Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, appointed by Obama to serve as Chair of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. You also probably know that GE did not pay any 2010 corporate taxes. This looks bad and smells like skunk cabbage. But did you know that in 2009 GE Financial Services invested in the world’s largest wind farm (845-megawatt): Shepherd’s Flat in OR, and that in December 2010 GE received a $1.4b contract to supply the wind turbines “assembled” in the US but manufactured overseas? Permanent US jobs expected at Shepherd’s Flat: 35. Completing the flower power daisy chain, GE was awarded the Shepherd’s Flat contract after they agreed to purchase 12000 GM Volts. Should we add more manure in the garden or wake up from the flower power haze of the sixties and face the reality of America’s need for power? A daisy chain isn’t strong enough to provide the energy for America’s security and freedom.

Known as the voice for energy, Marita Noon is the Executive Director at Energy Makes America Great Inc. the advocacy arm of the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy—working to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom and the American way of life. She is a popular speaker, a frequent guest on television and radio, her commentaries have been published in newspapers, blogs and websites nationwide, and she has just completed her twentieth book: Take Away Energy, Take Away Freedom. Find out more at www.EnergyMakesAmericaGreat.org.

Media

Posted on 22. Apr, 2011 by Administrator in Media

The Janice Arnold Jones Radio Shows

Janice Arnold Jones was a four-term legislator from Albuquerque and former candidate for Governor. She is also an accomplished businesswoman working in the energy field. She hosted a very popular radio show on KIVA 1550AM where her guests included ‘risk-takers’ and ‘newsmakers’ in New Mexico. Each show is 2½ hours long. Tune in and enjoy the free-wheeling conversation that made this show so popular!

The radio shows, in chronological order:

December 1, 2010:

September 14, 2010:

March Home Sales Continue Lag

Posted on 21. Apr, 2011 by Administrator in Economy

March 2011 New Mexico home sale numbers and median prices are down nearly 11% from March 2010 (when home buyer tax credits were still in effect).  2011 March sales are up 12% from 2009 numbers, however, median prices continue to drop. Fouteen reporting markets show an increase in number of sales during March 2011 compared to March 2oo9, however only 7 markets reported more March 2011 sales than March 2010.  March 2011 sales numbers do reflect the usual increase in sales from January and February, partially due to seasonal market conditions.

1,128 sales were reported to RANM during March 2011.  2011 first quarter sales reported were 2,747.  March 2010 saw 1,266 sales reported and 2010 first quarter total was 2,850. Median prices continue to decline.  The March 2011 median of $162,822 is 1.3% less than February 2011 reported median of $165,000 and 9% less than March’s 2010 median of $168,950.  The first quarter 2011 median of $165,000 is almost 3% lower than 2010’s first quarter median of $169,900.

“Buyers are finding bargains.  The on-going changes to qualification criteria for mortgage loans should help potential buyers qualify for mortgages and thus help improve sales numbers – and median prices,” says Teresa Ramos, President of the REALTORS Association of New Mexico (RANM).  “The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS (NAR) is very involved in federal legislation and regulatory changes regarding minimum down-payment and loan qualification standards.  They are also very much in the forefront to see that the mortgage interest deduction remains in place.  Both these initiatives are important to maintain and improve real estate market conditions.”

The REALTORS Confidence Index is a key indicator of housing market strength based on a monthly survey of over 50,000 real estate practitioners. M. Steven Anaya, RANM Executive Vice President, says, “According to the latest Index, 58 percent of REALTORS are projecting home prices to stay constant or increase in the forthcoming year.  Foreclosures and short sales, which sell for approximately 20 percent below current non-distressed properties on average, continue to hold down overall market prices.  Price expectations are significantly better than they were last autumn.” The trends and numbers reported are only a snapshot of market activity.  If you are interested in buying or selling, consult a REALTOR familiar with your market area; he/she can provide information on specific trends in your neighborhood.

Statistical information and trends are based on information furnished by New Mexico Member Boards and MLSs to U. S. House Stats. Current reporting participants are: Greater Albuquerque Association of REALTORS, Las Cruces Association of REALTORS MLIS, New Mexico Multi-Board MLS (Artesia, Carlsbad, Clovis/Portales, Deming, Gallup, Grants, Hobbs, Las Vegas, Sierra County areas), Otero County Board of REALTORS, Roswell Association of REALTORS, Ruidoso/Lincoln County Association of REALTORS, Santa Fe Association of REALTORS, San Juan County Board of REALTORS, Silver City Regional Association of REALTORS, and the Taos Association of REALTORS. Reports represent single family residential data only.  Information does not necessarily represent all activity in any market/county.  Figures based on reports run 4/18/11.  Visit www.nmrealtor.com (housing trends) for county and board statistics.

The REALTORS Association of New Mexico is one of the state’s largest trade associations, representing over 5,500 members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate market.

 

Falling Between The Cracks

Posted on 16. Apr, 2011 by Administrator in Healthcare

Falling between the cracks of today’s raging Health care debate is our future the very fabric of our great nation as our children, mothers, workforce, and elderly struggle. There is no debate about the critical role health care plays in the security and safety of our great nation; the debate about reform will most assuredly delay and confound a true national solution. As a mother, a woman and daughter of this Earth, I say to you, we are all children of the Earth and we are forced to make decisions that save a life and to create better ones. We must bring to an end the folly thoughtlessness and create a healthier life. Today, none of us are strangers. Today, we all are family, stepping into the shadows, hand in hand, as a civilization creating a new generation of hope.

December, 2010 I lost my son Juan Esquijarosa, Jr, to grand Mal seizures. After many years of continual battles with the Social Security Administration, he finally was declared disabled.

Unfortunately, he did not live long enough to enjoy the efforts of his struggle. The battle was not only for his disability, but, the care he received from the state agencies, waiting to be declared disabled.

There has been an underestimation of the number of individuals with seizures in the US and therefore revisions are needed to assess manpower in order to accurately resource what is needed to care for these individuals. Epilepsy remains a devastating and unsolved puzzle for far too many people and families. The financial challenges facing academic and industry labs and enterprises create a barrier that impedes the progress of promising research ideas. Only work to accelerate the development of more effective and safer treatments can make time a friend and not an enemy of the patients and families living with epilepsy and seizures.

It is said; to be human is to care and, to care, we must all make the effort together, to create a better life. We cannot sit down and watch as our future generations die from diseases, mental depressions, hunger, lack of education and a lack of opportunity to be human. To be human means to be concerned for one another and make a better life. Can anyone say, what is and has happened, has been civilized? Ask yourselves, can we truly stand by and watch our future generations vanish?

We call ourselves, open-minded, then, we must, strive together, to make a better place to live. The moment we stop fighting for our civilizations, we lose our humanity. We have an obligation, to save our nations. If my son were here today, he would continue the fight for the life of our nation.

We have a great task ahead of us, speaking as one and being heard, united we stand, building our nations and making a better place for our future generations, through education and knowledge, using science and technology.

The time is now for all fellow human beings to be human and care and work together and create a better life. So, I ask you all now to join me, in attaining the goals of creating a new generation of hope, through education and knowledge, and being a part of humanity. As a community, we have the ability to make it work for those with medical conditions, disabilities, veterans and all else, whom have fallen between the cracks of society. Make it work for all, before they breathe their last breath.

I wish to thank: Ms. Rebecca Hurlbut, Division of Disability Determinations, whom made the disability office mission come alive: Promote, protect and improve the health of all people in Florida. Rebecca, was a person whom Juan spoke very highly of and praised her efforts to help him. The compassion and heartfelt work done in congressman, Bill Young’s office was well done by his dedicated loyal employees, which abides by his strong advocacy on improving health care for low-income children and families. Sharon Ghezzi made Juan feel like a human being of worth and he felt hope as he walked through the system of mazes to accomplish his mission. Without her, Juan would not have lived long enough to feel the comfort of success and accomplishment. The doors that, Juan opened, proved, Epilepsy, is a disability and the need to help those that have fallen between the cracks. Only, Congressman Bill Young’s office saw the need and had compassion to help, do you?

Ms. Joan SittingBull, President/CEO, Ophiuchus School of Technology

The Tax Man Cometh – Just Not For Everybody

Posted on 12. Apr, 2011 by Administrator in Politics

The tax man and Santa Claus have two things in common.  Every year they ‘cometh’ – just not for everybody.  Santa doesn’t visit those who’ve been ‘bad’, and the tax man doesn’t visit those who have high-priced lobbyists working for them. The current best example of the latter – best in both ‘pertinence’ and ‘dollars’ – is General Electric Company, the nation’s largest industrial company.  “Best in pertinence” because GE’s chairman and chief executive officer, Jeffrey Immelt, is now also Mr. Obama’s chairman of the President’s Council of Jobs and Competitiveness and because, according to Bloomberg News, GE spent $4.2 million last year on outside lobbyists to preserve favorable tax treatment for its earnings.  “Best in dollars” because despite worldwide profits of $14.2 billion in 2010, of which $5.1 billion came from its operations in the United States, the company announced on March 23 that its American tax bill was none, nada, zilch.

And of course this isn’t the first time that GE has drunk from the ‘zero-taxes trough’.  The company’s consolidated tax rate from 2005 through 2009 was only 11.6%, including state, local and foreign taxes, and a mere 6.6% in 2009, compared to the 30.5% average for all the companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index. (Richard Rubin and Ryan J. Donmover, Bloomberg Businessweek, 2-24-11)

David Kocieniewski of The New York Times thoughtfully wrote on March 24 that GE’s extraordinary success at driving its U.S. tax rate to near zero, from around 30% in the mid-1950s, is the result of “an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore.”  GE’s more than $200 million spent on lobbying Congress over the last decade (per the Center for Responsive Politics) and the tax avoidance schemes it produces with its massive 975-person tax department are no different in intent than the tax avoidance schemes that President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote to Congress about in 1937, which, he said, “shift the tax load to the shoulders of others less able to pay and mulct the Treasury of the Government’s just due.” Of course what makes all of this especially galling is listening to Mr. Obama deride in his January 25th State of the Union Address the “parade of lobbyists” who have “rigged the tax code to benefit particular companies and industries.”  He uttered these words just  four days after, on January 21st, appointing as his “liaison” to the American business community the CEO of the company that (per Bloomberg News) spent in 2010 more on tax lobbyists than any other company or trade association in the country.

Having this important government post apparently gave Mr. Immelt no pause even in the few weeks immediately after his appointment, first in lobbying against Mr. Obama’s very own tax proposal that would have limited the ability of companies like GE to defer even more types of overseas income and then in disingenuously calling for reform of the corporate tax code while all the while defending his company’s zero U.S. tax rate in 2010 and its ongoing overseas tax avoidance schemes. Is it any wonder then, with the economy-related personnel choices that Mr. Obama makes which so often contradict both his campaign promises and his speeches as President, that 60% of those surveyed disapprove of his handling of the economy (PoliticalWire.com, 3-21-11)?

The underlying issue that needs to be confronted by the administration and Congress is narrowing greatly the entire spectrum of “tax avoidance”, since the greater culprit here is ultimately our own government, albeit increasingly under the influence of big-business lobbyists.  The degree to which members of Congress from both Parties enact tax loophole after tax loophole that benefit their favored companies continues unabated – so much so that corporate taxes, which accounted for 35% of all federal revenues in 1945, accounted for less than 9% in 2010.  And the unwillingness of President Obama to stand tough on his campaign pledge to level the tax playing field between American and foreign workers – and between the U.S. Treasury and the treasuries of our major trading parties – is a mind-boggling disconnect given this country’s extreme revenue shortfall in our current federal budget-challenged strait.

Tax evasion, we all know, is the willful illegal failure to pay taxes that are due.  Tax avoidance, on the other hand, is, generally speaking, the legal and ethical practice of paying only those taxes that are due, and no more.  However, tax avoidance becomes inappropriate at a minimum and in some instances even unethical when it is the nation’s major domestic and multinational corporations – rather than the people’s Congress – which, through the efforts of their lobbyists, become the architects of the very tax avoidance schemes that they then take advantage of.

In my book “It Takes a CEO: It’s Time to Lead with Integrity” (Free Press, 2005) I wrote at length about what I believe is the equal and concurrent responsibility of American corporations to their shareholders, employees, customers and communities and to the nation.  And this isn’t an isolated view.  It was fairly commonly held in the post-WW II era, and as long ago as 1981, ironically largely at GE’s urging, the Business Roundtable formally adopted this broad sense of responsibility for all of its member companies.  While this view was modestly ‘qualified’ by the Roundtable in 1997,  it wasn’t until 2004, in this current post-Enron age of selfishness, that it was completely abandoned by the Roundtable to favor only insiders and shareholders.  Against this long, sensitive history, it’s particularly hard to condone today the myriad tax avoidance efforts by GE and others that now rob our Treasury of its due and the middle class of the tax fairness to which they’re entitled.

I never thought I would hear myself saying this, but the single U.S. President who in recent administrations got it right when it came to closing unwarranted corporate tax loopholes, especially the massive overseas taxation loophole, was Ronald Reagan, who supported changes that closed those loopholes and immediately led to GE and companies with similar tax practices to pay far higher effective rates, up to 32.5%. And what do we hear from Mr. Obama, in sharp contrast to Mr. Reagan?  Well, that Mr. Immelt “understands what it takes for America to compete in the global economy.”  With respect, Mr. President, a lot of us would beg to differ – and differ a lot.

Since the start of the Great Recession of 2007 we’ve read often about the more than $2 trillion that has accumulated in the treasuries of the nation’s major companies awaiting investment.  I’ve written, as have others, that the administration and Congress need to put in place the incentives, tax policies and overall environment that would incent these companies to use these reserves to help create the millions of jobs needed to dig our economy out of the near jobless malaise it’s mired in.  But as Jason Zweig rightly pointed out in The Wall Street Journal (2-19-11), “much of that cash isn’t in the U.S.; it is abroad.”  In fact, of the companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, “north of $1 trillion in undistributed foreign earnings or profits has been parked overseas to avoid U.S. taxes”, much of it by now in illiquid ‘American jobs-stealing’ foreign factories that can’t easily be repatriated.

For example, as Mr. Kocieniewski identified, for years even GE’s abysmally low reported U.S. tax burden has been overstated because it includes taxes that will be paid only if the company brings its overseas profits back to America.  As GE has expanded abroad, the portion of its profits intentionally steered to low-tax countries such as – give us a break! – Ireland and Singapore simply to avoid taxes has grown far faster than any associated revenues.  Thus over the last three years, although 46% of the company’s revenue was in the U.S., only 18% of its profits were because of its offshore tax schemes and its ‘transfer pricing’ between and among its foreign offices which has no economic justification.

Despite its CEO now being chairman of Mr. Obama’s Council on Jobs, GE, since 2002, has in fact eliminated fully 20% of its American workforce while increasing overseas employment – in that relatively short time, GE’s accumulated sheltered offshore profits have, no surprise, risen from $15 billion to an almost unbelievable $92 billion.  So when Mr. Immelt says that “GE’s tax breaks protect American jobs” while he continues to ship high-quality American jobs to China and elsewhere and that he wants “reform of the U.S. tax code” while defending his company’s tax schemes, it just doesn’t compute. By far the best analysis of the biggest of the ongoing abuses of our corporate tax system has been done by Peter Coy and Jesse Drucker of Bloomberg Businessweek (March 21-27, 2011) in an amazing piece of journalism entitled “Profits on an Overseas Holiday.”

Coy and Drucker started off by tracing the sad evolution of Mr. Obama’s consistent campaign pledge to “end tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas” to its abandonment on February 11 in the direction instead of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce-sponsored ‘corporate tax code overhaul’ that would be silent on this issue while at once giving these same companies yet another temporary ‘tax holiday’.  This so-called holiday would repatriate profits attributed to foreign operations at a 5.25% tax rate instead of the usual 35% rate, despite the fact that, according to several independent economic studies, a nearly identical holiday passed by Congress in 2004 ultimately repatriated a staggering $312 billion at the reduced tax rate while doing little or nothing to boost jobs or investment.

What we need as alternatives from the President, from his Council of Jobs and Competitiveness, and from Congress are:

  1. Incentives for American multinationals to attribute less not more of their profits to their foreign operations.
  2. Acknowledgement that the oft-proposed alternative pure “territorial system” of corporate taxation, which doesn’t tax at all companies’ foreign income, has its own significant disadvantages.  A territorial system, as Coy and Drucker wrote, would further and perhaps even more “amp up the gains [to companies] from shifting income to low-tax jurisdictions.”
  3. As analyzed extensively by the economists Rosanne Altshuler, Benjamin Harris and Eric Toder, consider cutting the corporate income rate to, say, 26% while (i) increasing the capital gains rate to 28% (the rate adopted in the Reagan-advanced bipartisan Tax Reform Act of 1986), (ii) taxing dividends as ordinary income, and (iii) eliminating unwarranted business tax breaks.
  4. Alternatively, consider a modest value-added-tax or VAT on the order of 5% that reduces both corporate income and payroll taxes and includes thoughtful exemptions.  Perhaps more than any other single systemic initiative, this combination would spur investments, help America grow its way back to good economic health, and materially reduce the deficit.  Replacing growth-choking taxes with a modest VAT while eliminating the incentives to move production out of the U.S. could also be the basis of a new grand bargain between progressives, who oppose slashing programs that millions of Americans depend on more than ever, and pro-business conservatives, who favor lower corporate and payroll taxes.
  5. Make honest taxation of carried interest part of any tax reform initiative.  Investment professionals who earn what is in essence fee income investing other people’s money at no risk to their own capital should not be eligible for the lower capital gains rate aimed at stimulating investment.  Properly taxing riskless carried interest as ordinary income rather than as capital gain would bring upwards of $10 billion a year to the Treasury (not the much lower $3 billion ‘scored’ by the Congressional Budget Office and others).

President Obama says we have to retool our economy to “win the future.”  A key pillar of this initiative must be a corporate tax policy that helps U.S. corporations grow and prosper, incentivizes job creation here at home, ensures that corporate America makes their fair contributions to the fiscal needs of our country, and will encourage the kind of responsible corporate leadership that will allow this country to responsibly lead the worlds’ economies in the future.

Leo Hindery, Jr. is Chairman of the US Economy/Smart Globalization Initiative at the New America Foundation and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.  Currently an investor in media companies, he is the former CEO of Tele-Communications, Inc. (TCI), Liberty Media and their successor AT&T Broadband.  He also serves on the Board of the Huffington Post Investigative Fund.

Routed Greens Retreat

Posted on 12. Apr, 2011 by Administrator in Energy/Environment

Climate change is real. Climate change is manmade. Manmade climate change has happened within the last twenty-four months. Leaders in the climate change debate have controlled the message for forty years since the adoption of the Clean Air Act. They have “approached climate change politics with an air of disdain,” according to Fred Krupp, President, Environmental Defense Fund (established in 1967).  Krupp addressed the changing political climate at Fortune Magazine’s Brainstorm Green Conference in early April and admitted that there is a “newfound hostility to climate policy.” He advised the environmental community to be “more humble” and “less arrogant.” He acknowledged the failure of a comprehensive energy and/or cap and trade policy.

Krupp is correct. With the falsification of climate records exposed—known as Climategate, the American people now see climate change as merely hysteria. Polls show they do not view it as a real problem that we need to address now. At the same conference, Jim Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy, agreed. He said, “Cap and trade cannot be sold and must be reinvented,” adding that it was going to be hard to “resurrect cap and trade.”

Climate change legislation has been the holy grail of the environmental movement—but the climate has changed. Now the green movement is playing defense. This change of climate is not from carbon emissions—though it is manmade. At the same conference, former green jobs czar, Van Jones, didn’t “blame the environmentalists or the policy concept itself.” What brought about the change? How’d the debate get reframed and cause the death of cap and trade?   Something, Jones pointed out, no one in the room had heard of twenty-four months ago—“a right-wing populace movement” that the carbon emission supporters failed to take seriously: “the tea party.”

Man changed the political climate in just two years. After forty years, environmentalists are now on the defense because of some under-estimated “upstarts.” This change of climate was evident during the recent legislative battles over the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to use the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon emissions—which environmentalists believe causes climate change. In late March/early April four bills were introduced in the Senate—each designed to limit the EPA’s authority. Not surprisingly, none passed in the Democrat-held Senate. However, the change of climate can be seen in the numbers. In the vote on April 6, the bills with the least restrictions on the EPA’s authority were trounced (Baucus Amendment 7-yes, 93-no; Rockefeller 12-yes, 88-no; Stabenow 7-yes, 93-no) while the strongest, the McConnell Amendment, came close to passing at 50-yes, 50-no. A similar plan passed the House 255 to 172.

While the climate has changed, the fight is not over. The battle continues. Following the Senate’s EPA skirmish, the New York Times said “Efforts to handcuff the environmental agency are not likely to end here.” Admitting defeat on climate change legislation, Krupp encouraged the environmental movement to try “other approaches.”

As soon as Krupp’s suggestion surfaced, “other approaches” appeared. The next day (April 6) Senators Tom and Mark Udall (NM and CO, respectively) introduced legislation that retiring Senator Bingaman (NM) has been heralding for several years: The Renewable Energy Standard (RES). Simmering on the sidelines, the RES was ready and awaiting its moment. With the admitted death of cap and trade and animosity toward the EPA growing, it was time for something, as Krupp stated, “that might capture a bipartisan center.” The cousins Udall were all too happy to oblige with a bill that would set a federal RES of 6% renewable energy (wind, solar and “other renewable sources”) by 2013, reaching 25% by 2025. Both New Mexico and Colorado currently have state renewable energy standards—as do 27 others.

The Udall’s efforts, in this changed political climate, have so little chance of success, major news outlets ignored their announcement. The Colorado Independent said, “While the bill may be able to make it out of the Senate—although even that isn’t a certainty—it has almost no chance in the Republican controlled House.”

The RES should be seen as the “reinvention” of cap and trade—another approach. According to the New Mexico Independent, “The plan would allow energy suppliers to buy credits from other producers who produce renewable energy and allow producers to ‘bank’ the credits for up to four years and borrow credits for up to three years into the future.”  The RES would essentially achieve the same carbon emission reductions as a cap and trade plan by forcing the public to use more-expensive renewable energy—thus reducing energy consumption. (Generally states with a renewable energy standard have higher electricity rates.) Americans understand that when developing countries refuse to cut their energy use because it will hurt their economy, we shouldn’t be forced to cut ours either.

Despite the near certain failure of the Udall’s approach, don’t make the same mistake the White House made. Take these repeated “resurrections” seriously by keeping the green movement on the defense. They’ve been trying to make us replace economic energy that works for electricity that is expensive, intermittent, and ineffective. But America noticed. We woke up, showed up, stood up and spoke up.  You have changed the climate!

Known as the voice for energy, Marita Noon is the Executive Director at Energy Makes America Great Inc. the advocacy arm of the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy—working to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom and the American way of life. She is a popular speaker, a frequent guest on television and radio, her commentaries have been published in newspapers, blogs and websites nationwide, and she has just completed her twentieth book: Take Away Energy, Take Away Freedom. Find out more at www.EnergyMakesAmericaGreat.org.

 

 

The Political Anthill

Posted on 11. Apr, 2011 by Administrator in Politics

I’m really tired of riding this endless carousel we call politics. It’s high time we start calling it what it really is… a ginormously large industry – one that’s populated by marionettes, puppet masters and voyeurs (some would say parasites) drawing their paychecks by ‘re-gifting’ information supplied by the politicians at the top of the anthill in Washington, DC.

On the surface, our politicians may look like elected officials, but in fact they’re the dynamo that powers a powerful media industry and profit centers for TV networks, newspapers and bloggers.

These willing co-conspirators report, parse and examine politicians’ every utterance with the zeal of a coroner doing a celebrity autopsy. Just when you think they’re done reporting, they hand off the microphone, camera and reporter’s notebook to others who re-analyze and often repeat the same words and phrases we just heard from those ‘on the scene.’

Commenting in painstaking detail, the gaggle of media worker ants carry these morsels back to the anthill of special guest panelists for further inspection, consumption and regurgitation.

American politics is an anthill, beehive and spider’s web all rolled into one.

The principal activity of every creature is survival – the same with politicians. Staying out of the way of predators and avoiding adversity takes a lot of time, and a fair amount of them spend more than their fair share of time doing so – all on our dime. Work is organized around survival. Sleep patterns are determined by it. Alliances are made and enemies are identified using our hard-wired survival instinct.

Our politicians are the ultimate survivors. They are also gold-spinners, providing fodder for the media machine that produces revenue from churning out their words 24/7. Like the spider spinning its intricate home, the web is also a killing field where unsuspecting creatures get caught up and lose their lives. Politics is the same way. We get lost in sound bites, caught up in the moment, mesmerized by candidates oozing lofty phrases and lulled into a false sense of security. The more we see and hear, the more we want to see and hear. We’ve become addicted to social media that has become our anthill, hive and web. We’re on a daily search for ‘food,’ failing to see that we’ve become the fuel for the purveyors of the information who use our addiction against us. Our appetite cannot be satiated and that creates unrealistic expectations and unsustainable demands for more…so the politicians ratchet up the rhetoric and create a few more new problems that will keep the industry occupied for yet another day, week, month or even year!

If we cannot eliminate this industry, then we darn well ought to be making it work for we, the people, especially when our national debt clock is ticking faster than a speeding bullet. Take the upcoming presidential election campaign, for example. It’s rumored that well over a billion dollars will be spent in 2012 on winning a $400,000 a year job. Talk about audacity at a time when America is looking back with fondness at the recession of 1982 as the good times!

Here’s one solution to consider… let’s reverse the trend of obscenely excessive political campaigns and begin to balance our budget simultaneously by levying a 20% tax on all campaign spending that exceeds $50 million for a presidential campaign. Earmark all the revenues collected to pay down the national debt. While we’re at it we might attach a surcharge on politicians for excessive campaign blathering. We could use that money for supporting renewable energy like the building of windmills, for example. That way we clean up the environment that they helped sully. Good wind from bad wind. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Stephan Helgesen is a former diplomat and Honorary German Consul in New Mexico. He is also CEO of Second Opinion Marketing & Communications, a high-tech consulting company in Albuquerque.

It’s Time for a Crusade

Posted on 10. Apr, 2011 by Administrator in Economy

Last week I sat in a meeting of high-powered people from the scientific community.  We discussed how to spend federal grant money to combat the effects of climate change using sound science.  After an hour or so, we came to some startling conclusions, one of which was  that the group should link its work to job creation. I was so thrilled that these academics ‘got it,’ that I almost sprang out of my chair with glee. For many years, scientific pursuits were firewalled from business, and now I was witness to a dramatic breakthrough. If I were a skeptical man I might have ascribed their actions to a different set of motives like trying to fortify their position and insure their viability to get more federal money, but after working with these people for over four years, I know differently. They were genuinely excited about being able to use their efforts to create jobs for their fellow New Mexicans.

This epiphany should be experienced in all corners of our society. We should all be thinking of the impact our actions have on creating more opportunities and more long-term employment in the Land of Enchantment. That’s not such a far-fetched idea (though I have plenty of those). If we are to climb out of the unemployment hole we’ve dug for ourselves we had better declare we’re on a crusade, dust off our chain mail and mount up together to reverse this horrible trend of joblessness.

There are some disturbing facts that make this crusade essential. Last year we lost over 22,000 jobs (year on year) in New Mexico. Our state government and companies, like those in neighboring states, have tightened their belts. They have jettisoned workers from top positions all the way down the corporate ladder. We have high school dropout rates approaching 40%. We are graduating university students in six years instead of the usual four (though one might argue that’s a good thing because they enter the workforce later). Our small businesses are hanging on by their fingernails. They need us and we need them to be better marketers, better managers, more creative and more willing to try their hand at pursuing foreign markets.  I made this plea last year, but forgive me if I make it again. Please patronize our local establishments and buy their products and services.

Some communities have taken up the challenge. The City of Albuquerque has created a database where companies can register themselves, making it easier for them to find qualified suppliers and new customers. This new-fangled matchmaking ‘Yellow Pages’ is a good start and shows the city’s heart is in the right place, but more importantly it sets the right tone. It’s a positive step by a cash-strapped city to do something meaningful for its businesses and should stand as an example for other communities and organizations to follow.

Fraternal organizations and non-profits have perfected the art of living on a shoestring (not by choice but because they lack the flexibility of private businesses). While many have depended on the largesse of foundations and state government grants to exist, others have shown remarkable creativity in fund-raising and developing other revenue streams while keeping their operating expenses at a bare minimum. In these dire times, they, too, deserve our support whether it is through volunteering or cash contributions. There are two sayings that apply here. One is Chinese: “Give a man a fish and he has supper; teach a man to fish and he can feed himself.” The second is from our good friend, Ben Franklin, (not the five and dime store but the inventor) who said, “If we do not hang together, we will surely hang separately.”

Let’s all do our part to put New Mexico on the path to prosperity by mining the rich ore of talent and ideas that abound in this (still) Land o’ Plenty.

Stephan Helgesen is a former diplomat and Honorary Consul for Germany in New Mexico. He is also head of his own high-tech consulting company, Second Opinion Marketing.

New Mexico Benefits From Humane Conduct

Posted on 07. Apr, 2011 by Administrator in Social/Cultural

Elisabeth Jennings, Executive Director of Animal Protection of New Mexico and Animal Protection Voters

For decades, Animal Protection of New Mexico (APNM) and Animal Protection Voters (APV) have been examining and challenging the root causes of historic and widespread animal cruelty in the state, rolling up our sleeves and offering humane and workable solutions to communities. There are significant hurdles that lie between today’s reality and a brighter future for animals that depend on us for virtually every aspect of their well-being. To be sure, APNM and Animal Protection Voters work to see strong laws enacted and enforced in New Mexico. As Dr. Martin Luther King said in 1963, “It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless.” Most New Mexicans uphold improved animal protection laws passed in recent years, knowing they protect people and animals. The incontrovertible link between animal cruelty and family violence makes crimes against animals a serious social welfare issue for our time.

Over a decade’s worth of animal cruelty cases have demonstrated that the state’s cruelty statute–not significantly upgraded since 1999–needs to clearly address conduct often treated as minor crimes today. We aim to ensure there are consequences for egregious and reckless acts against animals: starving a dog to death on the end of a chain; cutting off a puppy’s ears with scissors; letting dogs be eaten alive by maggots; abandoning a mother dog and her puppies to die of starvation; and neglecting and starving a horse to the point where her outgrown hooves force her to stand on gangrenous fetlocks, leading to muscle atrophy, constant pain and her death.

These are willful acts that caused unimaginable suffering and which most people could not stand to witness. All of these cases occurred in New Mexico, and all were considered to be the least serious kind under current state law. Senator Richard Martinez’s Senate Bill 348 and Representative Al Park’s House Bill 319, which were considered in the 2011 legislative session, would have further protected animals from cruelty like that described above, conduct that should be earnestly confronted. The bills also would have made the heinous crime of bestiality (sexually assaulting an animal) a fourth degree felony.

But changing the laws is not the entire answer. That’s why APNM provides program services that help people make kind and responsible choices so animals are given relief on the ground, where it matters. For example, APNM partnered to create a statewide Equine Protection Fund that provides temporary feed assistance for horses in families affected by an economic downturn, assistance for the costs of equine euthanasia and is currently planning its first low-cost gelding clinic. In just six years, APNM has subsidized over $80,000 worth of training to animal control officers across New Mexico, helping them obtain professional training essential to this important job, but which their communities often cannot afford. Further, APNM is working with the NM Department of Public Safety to train therapists to effectively treat those who are cruel to animals, as punishment alone is not an effective remedy. APNM’s website (www.apnm.org) has available a comprehensive list of statewide resources for those who are experiencing problems with animal issues, and those without internet service can call our hotline (1-505-265-2322, x29) for help. APNM offers bilingual resources on caring for companion animals, information on positive animal training methods and underwrites lessons about kindness and compassion for thousands of children across New Mexico.

We can celebrate that our state is full of creative, diligent and compassionate individuals: Those who work at or volunteer their time at local companion animal and equine shelters, who provide training and resources to animal guardians and who rescue and foster animals save lives, reduce the burden on taxpayers and truly make a difference every day. Advocates who push for better laws make a significant and positive mark as well. Most New Mexicans do care for their animals and go to lengths to treat them with respect and stewardship. But rare outliers commit unacceptable acts of cruelty and these cases cannot and should not be ignored. Animal Protection Voters urges New Mexicans to continue to support measures that appeal to our sense of decency and invoke our empathy for animals. The common theme from thousands of calls our hotline receives every year is that compassion and personal responsibility, combined with the will to make positive change happen, make our state a more humane place for everyone.

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