Are the candidates’ plans junk economics?

Posted on 31. Oct, 2011 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy

After watching and listening to economists and presidential candidates ride the media merry-go-round, espousing their economic recovery plans (and sounding like freshman economics teachers or Madison Avenue ad executives), I couldn’t stand it anymore. I turned off the television set and thought long and hard about what’s wrong with all their plans whether they are stimulus-based deficit spending, 9-9-9 or 20-20 in 2020.

Then it came to me. What’s wrong is that the economic theory we practice today is not science, though we insist it be presented as such.

It’s more like art – not the paint-by-numbers variety but a traditional school of art like realism that  depends on a few constants: a stable unchanging motif, suspension of conscious analytical judgment (allowing only the eye and not the mind to judge the depiction of reality) and the use of dependable tools like the right brushes and paint or as in the case of the marketplace, interest rates, taxes, incentives, investments, etc.

There are many economic plans offered by economists and by the candidates for President and they all seem to me to be based on too much predictability. The only problem is that real life is constantly changing, and human beings are always surprising us. Way too often, economists and politicians look at a financial or economic situation and plot their strategies without factoring in enough ‘wild cards’ or margin of error for cultural differences, changing mores, etc. If an economic strategy doesn’t factor them in, we might as well as have someone like ‘Jimmy the Greek’ Snyder as our Treasury Secretary, a man whose lifetime success rate was dramatically better than that of most economists.

There are those (like the ‘Occupy Wall St.’ protestors) who say our current economy was built on ‘junk economics’ and that capitalism is an onerous, one-sided, unfair system and ought to be replaced (though they don’t say with what). Still others say that capitalism is dying or on life-support. Staying with the art analogy, our current economy more closely resembles the abstract expressionism of Jackson Pollack than realism. We cannot analyze it correctly because we’re using an outdated prism that only offers limited explanations based on outmoded assumptions.

Unlike Jackson Pollack who knew what he was trying to achieve, our politicians and candidates aren’t completely sure (though they say it’s job creation as if full employment would entirely solve our economic problems). Surprisingly, their plans reflect a profound lack of understanding of the angry, confused, disheartened and distrustful America of 2011. Instead, they resemble the two major political parties’ ideologies: for the Republicans, shrink government and empower the private sector and individual; and for the Democrats, grow government, distribute the wealth and empower the masses through government intervention.

Most Americans are not economists, but they’re not stupid, either. They want reform as contrasted with change, and the first place they’re willing to go is the economy. The Administration and the candidates must understand that and present an economic view of America that listens to both halves of our country and incorporates elements from each philosophical camp.

After all, we’re just people who want to work, play, save, spend, love, and live within an economic system that doesn’t go out of its way to injure or disadvantage anyone. To insure that, we must be wary of junk economics or any theory whose success depends on unchanging conditions, whether those theories come from the White House, the Houses of Congress or the candidates’ houses. We inherited capitalism and democracy, and with any inheritance, our attachment to it grows in direct proportion to our belief in its ability to enrich us.

With that in mind, we must not only demand that the economic recovery plans presented to us in the coming months are based on sound economics, but also be told in no uncertain terms how they can help us keep America’s promises to all of its people.

- Editor

Whose Voice is it? First in a series of readers’ surveys

Posted on 31. Oct, 2011 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy

It concerns us that not enough people are getting their voice heard, maybe because they don’t like to shout above the din of protestors or have to battle dozens of other people for less and less space for op eds and articles in their community newspapers.

Not only would we at the New Mexican Voice like to hear your views (send them to us at: editor@newmexicanvoice.com) but we’d also like to know more about how you feel on a range of issues. This survey is largely about the economy (though there are a few non-economy questions). Future surveys will touch on a number of topics like social values, education, politics, the environment, energy, crime, and more. Thanks for participating, and don’t forget to have fun!

#1 The ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests

[    ]  Like the idea and think it will work  [    ] Like the idea and think it will partially work

[    ]  Don’t like the idea and I think it will fail to achieve its objectives

[    ]  Don’t understand the need for it  [    ] Am opposed to it

#2   The Special Select Congressional Committee (Super Committee)

[    ]  Like the idea and think it will work  [    ] Like the idea and think it will partially work

[    ]  Don’t like the idea and think it is unworkable and/or will fail

[    ]  Don’t understand the need for it  [    ] Am opposed to it

#3  A flat tax/fair tax

[    ]  Like the idea and think it will work  [    ] Like the idea and think it will partially work

[    ]  Don’t like the idea and think it is unworkable and/or will fail

[    ]  Don’t understand the need for it   [    ] Am opposed to it

#4  Herman Cain’s ‘9-9-9’ tax proposal

[    ]  Like the idea and think it will work  [    ] Like the idea and think it will partially work

[    ]  Don’t like the idea and think it is unworkable and/or will fail

[    ]  Don’t understand the need for it   [    ] Am opposed to it

#5  Increase government oversight of specific industries by Executive Order

[    ]  Like the idea and think it will work  [    ] Like the idea and think it will partially work

[    ]  Don’t like the idea and think it is unworkable and/or will fail

[    ]  Don’t understand the need for it   [    ] Am opposed to it

#6  Provide incentives to business to bring back jobs from overseas

[    ]  Like the idea and think it will work  [    ] Like the idea and think it will partially work

[    ]  Don’t like the idea and think it is unworkable and/or will fail

[    ]  Don’t understand the need for it   [    ] Am opposed to it

#7  Replace ‘Obamacare’ with a market-based private-public sector fix, allowing the states more freedom to choose the right combination for their state

[    ]  Like the idea and think it will work  [    ] Like the idea and think it will partially work

[    ]  Don’t like the idea and think it is unworkable and/or will fail

[    ]  Don’t understand the need for it  [    ] Am opposed to replacing it

#8  Deport illegal immigrants and send the bill for the costs of the deportation to the offending countries or subtract the cost for deportation from our foreign aid to them

[    ]  Like the idea and think it will work  [    ] Like the idea and think it will partially work

[    ]  Don’t like the idea and think it is unworkable and/or will fail

[    ]  Don’t understand the need for it   [    ] Am opposed to it

#9  Make the entire USA a right-to-work zone

[    ]  Like the idea and think it will work  [    ] Like the idea and think it will partially work

[    ]  Don’t like the idea and think it is unworkable and/or will fail

[    ]  Don’t understand the need for it   [    ] Am opposed to it

#10  Reduce capital gains tax to zero (or a token amount) providing that 50% of the tax reduction savings from the current percentage is re-invested in a private/public sector fund for creating jobs

[    ]  Like the idea and think it will work  [    ] Like the idea and think it will partially work

[    ]  Don’t like the idea and think it is unworkable and/or will fail

[    ]  Don’t understand the need for it   [    ] Am opposed to it

#11  Balanced budget amendment

[    ]  Like the idea and think it will work  [    ] Like the idea and think it will partially work

[    ]  Don’t like the idea and think it is unworkable and/or will fail

[    ]  Don’t understand the need for it   [    ] Am opposed to it

#12  Limit Federal spending increases to 50% of the rate of inflation

[    ]  Like the idea and think it will work  [    ] Like the idea and think it will partially work

[    ]  Don’t like the idea and think it is unworkable and/or will fail

[    ]  Don’t understand the need for it   [    ] Am opposed to it

#13  Convert all U.S. foreign aid to tied aid, administered by the U.S. Government

[    ]  Like the idea and think it will work  [    ] Like the idea and think it will partially work

[    ]  Don’t like the idea and think it is unworkable and/or will fail

[    ]  Don’t understand the need for it   [    ] Am opposed to it

#14  Make job re-training mandatory for persons who have been collecting unemployment compensation for one year or more

[    ]  Like the idea and think it will work  [    ] Like the idea and think it will partially work

[    ]  Don’t like the idea and think it is unworkable and/or will fail

[    ]  Don’t understand the need for it   [    ] Am opposed to it

#15  Create a massive WPA-like works program to improve our infrastructure that employs all able-bodied unemployed persons in jobs within their educational or competence sphere of capabilities

[    ]  Like the idea and think it will work  [    ] Like the idea and think it will partially work

[    ]  Don’t like the idea and think it is unworkable and/or will fail

[    ]  Don’t understand the need for it  [    ]  Am opposed to it

When you’re finished filling it out the survey, please send it to us at editor@newmexicanvoice.com  Many thanks.

- Editor

A Dear John Letter to My Democrat and Republican Friends

Posted on 30. Oct, 2011 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics

It pains me to tell you this, but it’s over between us.

Our relationship simply cannot sustain your philandering from principle, your deceit, abusiveness, duplicity and abject cowardice. I have tried to be loyal and true to you. I’ve listened to your explanations why you’ve squandered our financial nest egg and imprisoned us in a dungeon of debt.

I was stoic when you patted me on the head and told me that I’d have to wait to understand important legislation until after it was passed. I was silent as you both reverted to talking points instead of talking to each other.

I stood by the sidelines for years while you sold your soul to the dark side and treated one another with meanness and spitefulness. Surely you must have known that my patience was running out. I thought I signaled my dissatisfaction with the way things were going in 2008 and then again last November, but it seems you thought I was just frustrated instead of thoroughly disgusted. You were wrong.

I must leave you now if I am to save myself and salvage what’s left of my decency and dignity. But before I do, I think you need to realize that you’ve become the DC version of ‘Desperate Housewives’ – a tragic parody of yourselves. To achieve your goals you’ve adopted tactics that even Tony Soprano wouldn’t use. You deserve to know what you can expect from each other in 2012 without me to referee, and I’m going to tell you. Here are your rules of engagement.

1. No honest exchange only sniping and obstructionism (using personal invective instead of discussing the issues)

2. Uber Nastiness (going for the jugular at the slightest provocation with innuendo and false accusations)

3. Debasing each other’s groups (by calling their integrity into question)

4. Demeaning each other’s motives (by alluding to their lack of patriotism or ‘hidden agendas’)

5. Diminishing the importance of the process (if it’s not producing the outcomes you want)

6. Refusing to admit mistakes and apologize for them (passing the buck has become our new  national pastime)

7. Pandering to the camera and the media (populism by sound bite)

8. Wrapping yourselves in the flag (by advocating American exceptionalism instead of promoting the American idea as exceptional)

9. Preying on the naiveté of our youthful voters (branding yourselves as the ‘new improved version’ by stressing style over substance)

10. Spending obscene amounts of campaign dollars (as if that will make us feel better during the worst recession in decades)

11. Waging class warfare (dividing us by group, pitting us against each other)

12. Rhetoricizing the debate (throwing more flowery words against the wall of our insecurity)

13. Winning at all cost (destroying the village in order to save it)

This is not a pretty picture, but it is a predictable one if I remember how you’ve treated me in the past.  Was I just a temporary diversion from your humdrum life? Were you using me as a stepping stone to something better, like two more years or four more years in office? If you think I am angry, I am (just look at Congress’ approval rating of 9% if you think it’s just me who’s fed up).

If you think I feel foolish to have given so much of myself to you, I do. You violated my trust and cannot redeem yourself for cheating on me, so you better get used to the idea that you cannot count on me as part of your ‘base’ any longer.

Yes, I am sadder, but I am also wiser. No silver-tongued devil will capture my heart (or my vote) again. Though the choices may be slim in 2012, I know what to look for when choosing new political bedfellows. Sadly, they will not be you. Get used to sleeping on the couch.

- Editor

 

It’s still all about our manufacturing jobs

Posted on 26. Oct, 2011 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy

It’s hard to believe that nearly four years into the worst Recession since the Second World War, while mired in a jobless recovery of unprecedented length and magnitude, we continue to hear that manufacturing jobs don’t matter.

Take, for example, the recent uninformed (and insensitive) remark of Steven Rattner, the President’s former co-auto advisor,  that “restoring lost manufacturing jobs” is nothing more than “pervasive, politically attractive happy talk” (see “Let’s Admit It: Globalization Has Losers” by Steven Rattner, New York Times, 10-15-11). He went on to say – ironically given his prior administration position – that America’s “greatest strength…lies in service industries with high intellectual content, like education, entertainment, digital media, and financial services.”

The reality is that anyone rightly concerned about the current almost unprecedented real unemployment rate of more than 18% must first focus on resuscitating our depleted manufacturing sector.  It’s a recipe for economic disaster for an economy as large, complex and geographically far-flung as ours to have less than 20-25% of its workers in manufacturing and for the sector to not be contributing a similar percentage of GDP.

Yet as it is, only around 9% of Americans now work in manufacturing, and as a percent of GDP, the sector now provides just 11% of our total.

In 1955, the largest U.S. employer was the auto manufacturer General Motors, which had a unionized workforce with good pay and quality retirement and health benefits. Today, the top U.S. employer is Wal-Mart, which pays its employees a pittance and just last week announced a major cutback in its employee health benefits. How can anyone favor an economic system that assumes American workers will either have the education and ability to work at Goldman Sachs or Google, or be left to work forever with entry-level wages at Wal-Mart or McDonald’s – with no robust manufacturing sector in the middle?

This paradigm – this over-favoring of services – makes no economic sense given the much higher “ripple effects” that manufacturing jobs generate versus all but a few service jobs, and given that the vitality of small and medium size businesses of all sorts directly plays off of the vitality of the manufacturing sector.

Nineteen members of the G-20 have very precise national manufacturing and industrial policies, by whatever name they are called. America alone does not. And among these nineteen countries, Germany, Japan and China now most stand out in dramatic contrast with the U.S. because they are the countries that every day are excelling in global trade while we are losing out.

By not having our own manufacturing and industrial policy and by persisting with corporate tax policies that are in conflict with the objective of having a robust domestic manufacturing sector, between 1998 and 2010 we lost approximately six million manufacturing jobs overseas, with more than two million of these occurring just from 2007-2009. In only the years between 2002 and 2006, China added 11 million manufacturing jobs to its rolls, which are as many manufacturing jobs as we now have left in total in America.

Every bit as critical as the economic imperative for having our own manufacturing and industrial policy, however, is the ethical imperative.

Exceeded only by the responsibility to defend itself, a nation must create an economic environment that gives its workers employment opportunities which provide fair compensation and are compatible with their skills and capabilities. Yet for three decades, we’ve embraced policies that have eliminated millions of manufacturing jobs and shoved these workers into low-skill, low-reward service jobs, all the while blaming manufacturing workers for being overpaid.

The reality is not that we overpay our manufacturing workers, it is that 90% of the cost differential between an average good manufactured in China and its counterpart in the U.S. is due to Chinese subsidies of various sorts and not to wages.  China’s competitive advantage has little to do with labor cost differential and almost everything to do with subsidies and currency manipulation.

It’s irresponsible to tolerate a national employment picture that, according to a recent Pew Research study, has 40% of Americans reporting that they have more qualifications than their job requires. It’s also irresponsible to tolerate a national employment picture that has room for only 9% of workers to be employed in manufacturing.

America’s economy, social cohesion and dignity, not to mention its optimism – in short, America’s traditional strength – all rest on a thriving middle class, which in turn depends on a thriving manufacturing sector.

This said, it often seems as if we purposefully are trying to shoot ourselves in the foot when it comes to turning our economy around and creating the more than 20 million jobs needed to again be back at full employment in real terms

Two weeks ago in a public forum, Gene Sperling, the director of the President’s National Economic Council, said that enacting the Obama jobs act is a “fundamental economic necessity.” At the same event, Laura Tyson, former chairwoman of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers, said that, “One of the biggest concerns is the mismatch of skills requirements and that the U.S. is not providing enough Americans to fulfill the needed skills.”

However, with more than 29 million workers unemployed in real terms – and a real unemployment rate of 18.3% – the reality of the President’s well-intentioned Jobs Act is that it is too small by several factors. It’s a $447 billion smorgasbord comprised of payroll tax cuts (54%), unemployment benefits (11%), new-hiring tax credits (4%) and infrastructure rebuilding & modernization initiatives (31%). Of this combined $200 billion in new spending and $240 billion in tax cuts, it’s really only the infrastructure proposals which will actually, as the President himself characterized, “put workers back on the job” – and then at most only thousands of workers, and certainly not millions and certainly not soon.

If the Republicans in Congress are going to say “no” to any Jobs Act, then make them say “no” to a properly sized one. That would be an Act that was only about jobs – and nothing extraneous – and designed to create, standing alone, at least 20 million new jobs over the next 5 to 7 years.

Thoughtless assertions that everything will be better jobs-wise when we have reformed education and training in this country and when we have materially reduced wages are simply canards, and cruel ones at that. Sure we must again have the best education and training programs in the world, but the majority of the more than 29 million real unemployed workers are not sitting in long-term unemployment because they lack skills and education. Rather, it’s the system that’s broken.

I can’t close without commenting on the recently passed bilateral “free” trade agreements (FTAs) with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. Notwithstanding the sad state of real unemployment in America today, we now have, with these agreements, taken specific actions to lose even more jobs overseas while mostly just enriching the big American banks.

Back on June 20, Leo Gerard, President of the Steelworkers Union, compellingly wrote: “These three FTAs will undermine our economic recovery, further decimate American manufacturing and jobs and deepen the economic insecurity and devastation faced by workers across the country.” Not one of the agreements just enacted, especially the Korea FTA, follows the maxim that the only two things which matter are (i) the net effect on American workers across the board and (ii) the resulting net (not gross) exports from the U.S.

President Obama said that the South Korea agreement alone will help create 70,000 jobs in the United States. The AFL-CIO, with a much better sense of history, decried the new deals as “the wrong medicine at the wrong time” – it believes that the agreement with South Korea alone will cost nearly 160,000 American jobs.

Having exhaustively looked at the broken promises, and the deeply flawed analysis, that underpinned each of the eleven multilateral and bilateral FTAs which the U.S. has entered into since 1985 – which involve seventeen countries and range from quite small (Bahrain in 2004) to extremely material (NAFTA in 1994 and CAFTA in 2004) – I have no doubt that we will soon look back to see that the AFL-CIO was right (again) and that all of the job-creation promises made around the three FTAs will lie unfulfilled.

But of course it will then be too late to recover those jobs, just as it is almost too late today for our nation to recover from the decades-long absence of our own national manufacturing policy and the associated diminishment of our manufacturing sector.

This article was submitted by Leo Hindery Jr. who is chair of the US Economy/Smart Globalization Initiative at the New America Foundation, co-chair (with Leo Gerard) of The Task Force on Jobs Creation, founder of Jobs First 2012, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the former CEO of AT&T Broadband and its predecessors, Tele-Communications, Inc. and Liberty Media, and is currently an investor in media companies.


Shenanigans cannot make green energy a reality

Posted on 25. Oct, 2011 by Stephan Helgesen in Energy/Environment

We all know about Solyndra. We are learning about Fisker, the start-up electric car company, which received a $529 million loan from the Department of Energy. Touted by Vice President Biden as “a bright new path to thousands of American manufacturing jobs,” the cars are being manufactured in Finland. These are big stories being covered by the major media outlets. And these are only two such stories out there.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about two smaller stories from little states where shenanigans, at the least, and possible outright corruption, at the worst, were engaged in attempting to push through supposed green-energy projects. While researching those, another shady story surfaced: Rhode Island’s Block Island Wind Farm Project. Back in 2004, in a different political and economic world, the RI General Assembly passed a Renewable Energy Standard that states: “fossil fuel prices are extremely variable and created economic hardships for employers and families, and increased use of renewable energy can both lower and stabilize energy cost.” The ratepayers of RI were sold a bill of goods that renewable energy can lower energy costs. Republican Governor Donald Carcieri wanted to make RI the first state in the country with an offshore wind farm. In 2008, he pushed the Block Island Wind Farm project. It may give him a longed-for legacy—but it will not “lower energy costs.” The RI Public Utility Commission rejected the project as “commercially not reasonable.”

Undaunted, Carcieri and the General Assembly, in a late-night session, rushed to change the law, mandating that the PUC reconsider its rejection—a decision that would ultimately guarantee the project’s approval.

Within the plan, hatched by then-Governor Carcieri’s administration, is a guaranteed 3.5% price escalation for Deepwater Wind Inc., the New Jersey-based company developing the project—pricing starts at 24.4 cents/kwh, which will become 47 cents/kwh in 20 years. However, earlier this year, because of a drop in natural gas prices—the source fuel for most of RI’s electricity generation—the RI PUC approved a rate decrease from 9.4 cents/kwh to 6.9. Wind power rates nearly quadruple current prices logically should have sunk the Block Island project. Nevertheless, it has continued forward.

The project’s viability was based on a politically motivated Power Purchase Agreement. After the PUC did ultimately approve the PPA, three groups appealed the decision to the Supreme Court: two businesses based on economic damage and irrational decision making, a conservation group who’d initially supported the project but became concerned about inappropriate process and backroom dealing, and the Attorney General who believed the project was bad for consumers.

The 2010 election brought about changes.

The new AG, Peter Kilmartin, was in the legislature at the time of the dead-of-night rule change that allowed the Deepwater Wind project to go forward. He’d voted for it. No surprise, as the new AG, he dismissed the former AG’s appeal. Former Carcieri chief of staff Jeffrey Grybowski is now chief administrative officer for Deepwater Wind.

The Supreme Court heard the remaining two appeals despite a conflict of interest. Justice Maureen McKenna Goldberg’s husband, Robert, had received $100k as a lobbyist for Deepwater Wind. Not surprisingly, the Supreme Court upheld the approval of the PPA.

But more rule changes are in order. Within the PPA was an automatic termination clause if regulatory approval was not received by June 30, 2011—one year from signing. On July 1, 2011 the Supreme Court upheld the PUC’s approval. Logic would dictate that the contract is terminated. On September 29, Deepwater Wind filed a petition with the PUC to waive the termination clause. On October 15, Toray Plastics responded and filed an objection to the waiver.

Why would the former governor, the state legislature, and the Supreme Court go to such extreme measures to raise energy rates for the state of RI? Why would the EPA Administrator continue to issue one cost-increasing regulation after another? Why does the Energy Secretary want America’s gasoline prices on par with the European model? Why does President Obama believe that electricity prices will necessarily skyrocket?

As was illustrated a couple of weeks ago in the article about Toray Plastics, cost-effective energy is an important part of manufacturing and jobs in America. Energy is more than a jobs plan. Energy is about more than anti-terrorism. Energy is an integral part of the economy. Energy makes America great. So why is there a campaign to block or restrict it? How will raising the price help business or the tapped-out household?

As we head into the 2012 election cycle, energy needs to be front and center. It needs to be a part of the presidential debates and a part of kitchen-table discussions.

This article was submitted by Marita Noon who is the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy. Marita’s twentieth book, Energy Freedom, has just been released.


 

 

Kent Cravens backs Janice Arnold-Jones

Posted on 23. Oct, 2011 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics

Arnold-Jones earns the support of former State Senator Kent Cravens — Former four-term State Representative and candidate for Congress in New Mexico’s First Congressional District Janice Arnold-Jones announced that she has earned the support of former State Senator Kent Cravens.

“I’ve known Janice Arnold-Jones for several years, before she won election to the State House,” Kent Cravens said. “Serving in the legislature Janice always worked for what she thought was right, what she believed was in the best interest of New Mexico and she is tireless in listening to her constituents.”

“Those who know me understand I typically stay out of primary elections but these are extraordinary times,” Kent Cravens added. “Janice has always been a steadfast advocate for the people of New Mexico. Her leadership skills, attention to detail and her integrity are second to none and will serve us well in Washington, DC. I am proud to endorse Janice Arnold-Jones for United States Congress.”

Janice Arnold-Jones said, “I am honored that Kent Cravens has chosen to make an endorsement in a primary election. Senator Cravens is a true servant of the people of New Mexico. He and his family have been role models to us all and are an inspiration to me and many other others who seek to serve. I am honored to have him on board with our campaign.”

This press release was submitted by the Janice Arnold Jones for Congress campaign. Interested parties may contact them at: www.janice2012.us

 

Sales Maintain/Median Prices Drop

Posted on 23. Oct, 2011 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy

Six more sales were reported in New Mexico for September 2011 than the same month in 2010; however, the September 2011 median price of $171,000 is 5% less than the September 2010 median.  The median home price means half the homes sold for more than the median amount; half for less.

2011 third quarter figures show only a slight drop in number of sales from 3rd quarter 2010 with a nearly 5% drop in median prices for the same period.

Year to date numbers (2011 compared to 2010) show a more dramatic drop in both number of sales and median prices.  9,915 sales have been reported for January through September 2011 with a median price of $167,681.  10,408 sales with a median price of $174,000 were reported for the same period in 2010.

Teresa Ramos, 2011 President of the REALTORS Association of New Mexico says “Even with the news that New Mexico’s unemployment rate has fallen the past six months (to 6.6% in August), it’s no real surprise New Mexico median prices continue to drop.  The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions says the drop in August unemployment rate was again the result of workers leaving the labor force, not an increase in employment.  The effects of the economy in general and the number of short sales and foreclosures in the marketplace are reflected in home prices.”

Individual markets continue to vary considerably.  Eight counties report an increase in number of sales year-to-date from last year and five counties show an increase in year-to-date median prices from the same period in 2010.  Half of the counties reporting sales in both September 2010 and September 2011 showed an increase in transactions and half of the reporting counties showed an increase in median prices from September 2011.

According to RANM Executive Vice President M. Steven Anaya, “the variation across markets only reinforces the ‘all real estate is local’ adage we’ve all heard many times.” 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 County 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 10/18/11.  Visit www.nmrealtor.com (housing trends) for county and board statistics.

This article was submitted by The REALTORS Association of New Mexico, one of the state’s largest trade associations, representing over 5,700 members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate market.

 

Setting the Record Straight on the Lincoln National Forest

Posted on 23. Oct, 2011 by Stephan Helgesen in Energy/Environment

Recently, I have seen and heard a lot of rhetoric about the management of the Lincoln National Forest in southern New Mexico.  While it isn’t unusual for people to publicly express their dissatisfaction about some facet of our management, the information and publicity surrounding the tree cutting event on September 17 near Cloudcroft was troubling because it so blatantly distorted the facts.

I am proud of the work being done by employees of the Lincoln National Forest in partnership with individuals, organizations and local governments.  Tremendous work has been done to reduce the fire hazard near communities and restore the health and resiliency of the forest.

Over 570,000 acres have been treated on the Lincoln National Forest in the past 30 years, ranging from timber sales to mechanical thinning to prescribed fire.  These treatments have created wildlife openings, seeding, and watershed and rangeland improvements.  Over the past decade, the Lincoln shifted its focus to national forest lands within the wildland-urban interface as identified and prioritized through community wildfire protection plans.  In this 10-year time frame, the Lincoln treated over 421,000 acres compared to 159,805 acres treated in the previous 20 years.

This threefold increase demonstrates our agency’s commitment to helping protect communities from wildfire.  On the Sacramento Ranger District, over 121,000 acres of treatment have occurred in the past 10 years.  Specifically, of the 1,800 acres of National Forest System land within a ½ mile buffer of the Village of Cloudcroft; 59% has been treated.

Such treatments will continue with the aim of protecting communities from wildfire and improving forest health, resiliency, and ecological function. In fact, our collaboration on the proposed Southern Sacramento Mountains Restoration Project through the Otero County Working Group is a prime example of how close collaboration can lead to an outstanding project with widespread ecological, recreational, and economic benefit. This project proposes to restore forest health, reduce fire hazard, and support local economies on nearly 300,000 acres across Forest Service, State, and private lands within the Lincoln National Forest boundary.

Management of public lands requires involvement of us all.  I and the employees of the Lincoln National Forest are fully committed to working collaboratively with all of the Counties and local governments in the management of the Lincoln National Forest.  I believe we share a common vision for the health and resiliency of the Lincoln while providing for sustainable economic vitality and support for rural lifestyles of the mountain communities in and around the Forest.  I thank all concerned citizens for their involvement in managing the Lincoln, which is your national forest.   I ask for your support, your energy, and your ideas to help us meet this challenge.

This article was submitted by Corbin Newman who was assigned to the position of Regional Forester for the Southwestern Region of the U.S. Forest Service in December 2007. Newman has held numerous positions at all levels of the Forest Service—in both the eastern and western parts of the country—during his 35-year career.

 

How to deal with hyphenated Americans

Posted on 22. Oct, 2011 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Social/Cultural

I couldn’t be more adamant about it. We’ve got to stop hyphenating ourselves. Just when I thought we had moved beyond the urge to further separate ourselves from one another, here comes the old hyphen back to wreak havoc on all of us, just in time for the political season.

In November of 2008, hyphenated-Americans were vindicated at the polling place. African-Americans turned out with over 92% of the vote for then Senator Obama, and his campaign won over Hispanic-Americans, Jewish-Americans, female-Americans and college-Americans. Democrats were ecstatic. They had defanged the conservative Republicans and spiked the ball in the cultural end zone. Their tactics of laser-guided campaigning worked. By splitting us up into four demographics (race, ethnicity, age and gender) they messaged differently to each one and succeeded in cobbling together a patchwork quilt of Americans for hope and change.

There is a problem with this strategy, however.  It is, quite simply, once you dissect, classify and separate people into groups and sub-groups, how do you re-combine them when you want them to act in unison? What is the unifying element that can make the proudest most vocal sub-group think and act like a truly homogenized American? And why would they want to give up their unique status once they’ve created special interest organizations to promote their cause? It’s not easy to put the ethnic genie back in the bottle.

It appears that the Administration has a solution. They’ve created a common enemy… those nasty, money-grubbing rich people. You know, the ones who already pay a disproportionate share of taxes to our Government, the one that can’t get enough $16 muffins and never met a bail-out it didn’t like.

Class warfare is a strategy that will backfire because our great middle class aspires to be those rich capitalists! Have we forgotten the dot com bubble of the 90s when hoards of middle class software nerds were catapulted to the upper ranks of the tax rolls? Or the housing bubble of the 2000s when other middle class families bought houses and used them as piggy banks to leverage their way to wealth?

It wasn’t so many generations ago that newly-minted immigrant Americans were willing to trade in their differences (not give up their cultures or their history) to become part of a truly exceptional society – the American society. Immigrant fathers and mothers told their children, “We’re in America now. Let’s speak English.” Most didn’t advocate wearing their ethnicity on their sleeves or worse yet blame it for their inability to move up in the world. On the contrary, they encouraged their children to get educated and assimilate so they could earn their way to the American Dream.

Make no mistake, our society has greatly benefited from the differences in its people. Those cultural and ethnic differences have provided the spice to our great American stewpot, but there comes a time when our differences must take a back seat to the intrinsic value of the melting pot.

If we spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on our differences we will miss the opportunities that lie in pulling together as one nation. Our assimilation is our greatest strength, and it is the true specialness of America. Millions of opportunity-thirsty immigrants didn’t come to our shores to become hyphenated; they came to be joined together as Americans.

If we fail to live up to America’s promise to provide equal opportunity to all we will be punished by a reversal of our fortunes. We will become the countries that our immigrant grandparents left, societies that gave preferential treatment to one group over the others. The price we will pay will be a disintegration of our collective values, of our laws and our attitudes. Then the advantage will be in the hands of the group that shouts the loudest and uses its hyphenated status to further its own special agenda.

E pluribus unum (out of many, one) is proudly emblazoned on our money. It’s too bad it hasn’t become part of our social currency.

- Editor

America the Missionary?

Posted on 20. Oct, 2011 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics

Americans are the consummate proselytizers. Scratch the surface of an American patriot and you’ll find someone committed to the Constitution, Bill of Rights, free speech, unfettered gun ownership, religious freedom and a missionary zeal to ‘spread the word’ about our political and economic system.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to share a good thing. We do it all the time like when we offer a timely stock tip or a suggestion on where to buy the best chilies. Trying to infuse the sleeping minds of foreigners with the American Dream is a tougher challenge. For starters, there are people who believe that we shouldn’t even bother to talk about  ‘American Exceptionalism’ abroad until we have it 100% right here. My answer to them is, “If we wait until we get everything 100% right we’ll all be pushing up daisies from the Elysian Fields.”

We must accept that America is a work in progress. It’s an idea and a promise that is omnipresent AND one worth sharing with the rest of humanity, now. Truth is, we’ve been promoting America ever since the first letter from the first American settler found its way back to the ‘old country.’ From that moment on, we’ve been sending the message that America is truly something different, something special, and something worth experiencing for one’s self.  America is different for everybody, and that cannot be said of many countries or systems around the world.

Each of us creates a world for ourselves with the essential building blocks of the free enterprise and democratic system that we are given just for being born here. We form it, squeeze it, paint it, tear it apart and rebuild it again from generation to generation, but underneath it is the freedom TO rebuild it the way we want it. Try that in China or Burma, North Korea or Iran.

Throughout history we’ve seen empires gobble up their neighbors’ treasure, redraw boundaries, subjugate people to corrupt monarchies, dictators and ideologies like Aryan Supremacy, Fascism and Communism.  None of these empires or ideologies could survive or thrive on the merits of their ideas alone. They needed the might of their militaries and the threat of violence to succeed and grow. Not so with Democracy where the confluence of our personal freedoms and collective responsibility merge to create true American Exceptionalism.

America hasn’t been shy about marketing its model abroad nor about using all manner of technologies to do it. Remember Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America? Both were essential to our WWII and Cold War era efforts to promote hope to millions of oppressed and downtrodden people around the globe. The results were impressive. The Cold War ended without firing a shot, and regimes crumbled opening the way to freedom for millions of people.

There is a nagging question about some of America’s missionary efforts, though. It centers on the aspect of extra-territoriality.  Should the United States sponsor groups in other countries that are set on overthrowing their own governments? Foreign policy experts are split on that issue. One group says that such investments or even incursions into sovereign countries are defensible if the regime they’re undermining was not put in power by free elections or if the regime oppresses its own people.

The other group believes in the Laissez faire principle – that governments must be allowed to rise or fall on their own without interference from outside sources.

Our founding fathers only supported our right of revolution not the rights of citizens of other countries to revolt. That presents us with a dilemma. If the world neighborhood starts deteriorating, giving way to increased lawlessness perpetrated by people with weapons that could destroy our house, should we not react? If the answer is yes, then how?

There is a third group, however, and it is not policy driven. It’s motivated more by logic and strengthened by the principles of good salesmanship, and it may be worth listening to with renewed interest. Basically, it believes that the best way to sell anything is to make sure that the buyer believes he’s initiating the purchase.

Editor –

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