November 21, 2017

Has the paradigm shift begun?

Posted on 18. Jul, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy

When any armchair economist, amateur psychologist or novice market-watcher looks at the last five years of America’s recession and the 30 years leading up to it and then takes the trouble to lay out all the facts and stats on the kitchen table, it’s not difficult to conclude that maybe the great American economic model has finally entered its otium cum dignitate.

Granted, the rest of the world lives in the same neighborhood of rising social demands, shrinking tax bases, eroding economies of scale, ultra-competitive markets, balance of payments pressures and burgeoning debt, but they are not the USA. We are. We do things differently, or do we?

There are two economic belief systems at work in Washington DC and around the country. Both are attached at the hip to the two political parties. The Republicans believe we should cut government spending, get lean and mean and save our way out of the recession and preserve the current wealth distribution levels. On the other side of the aisle, Democrats are convinced that if we will only spend more taxpayer dollars, create more government jobs, conjure up more ‘stimulus packages,’ redistribute more of America’s wealth by taxing the rich and have the Treasury pump billions more into our economy that everything will be hunky dory.

Both are missing the point.

Prosperity is hiding, but it’s not in some out of the way alcove in America’s boardrooms or in a secret memo in a Wall Street hedge fund office. It’s certainly not sequestered in the halls of Congress or in the White House, either. No, it is hiding in all of us, masquerading as the fear of change and cloaked in the mantle of intractable tradition.

Let me explain. Millions of Americans have been brought up to believe that our country rests on a solid, impenetrable foundation that never moves, never changes and never should change. Some would say that that foundation is the Constitution. Others will tell you it’s our values, and a third group would point to the heavens and say that it’s God’s will, as “He has ordained the democratic capitalist system for us to follow.”

The truth is, America, like every other country, grows up and grows older and changes along the way. In its youth, America was rebellious. In adolescence, it swam upstream a bit, and now that it’s approaching middle age it’s gotten a little soft, a little tired, a little nostalgic and more than a tad unwilling to change. I can’t fault all Americans, maybe just those who, like myself, grew up without a Depression a World War or a massive natural disaster to contend with.

This article is not about assigning blame. It’s about getting real, waking up and manning up to the reality that in order for us to move forward we may have to move backward a few steps so that we can review our attitudes, realign our economy and expectations and re-think what America is really meant to be.

If we are religious, we believe that God meant for our country to be an example of compassion, openness and inclusion for the rest of the world to emulate. If we’re non-believers, the Divine Providence argument can be easily replaced with one based on the preservation of individual rights and freedom.

The status quo has been kind to many in our society, that is until the bubbles of Wall Street, housing, and Dot com burst, leaving millions with emaciated portfolios and then, later, when the great downsizing of American business began, eliminating millions of jobs leaving middle-aged, near retirement-age workers to fend for themselves.

There’s no shortage of villains in today’s America. Take your pick. There’s government, business outsourcers, China, Congress, the Administration, right-to-work states, but there’s one über villain that controls all of them…intransigence and intractability.

Times have indeed changed, but many of us are unwilling to acknowledge that simple fact. There are more Americans to be fed, housed, clothed, educated and employed than we care to think about. “Ten pounds of potatoes won’t go into a five-pound sack,” my grandmother always used to say, and she was right.

An immigrant from a country that experienced enormous poverty in the last few decades of the 19th century, her measurement of success was having enough to eat and a place to stay dry…and that attitude stuck with her until she died.

Her generation was accustomed to change and viewed it as natural (if not uncomfortable and frustrating). They adapted to circumstances and made the best of what they had. Some today would say that their expectations were okay for them but not for us.

They are simply too LOW! “Our jumping off point is higher, therefore our expectations should be higher,” say the young among us, “why should we tighten our belts when you did nothing but loosen yours for decades!”

That remark reflects one of our biggest problems, perception. Our planet is not expanding to accommodate the millions of people added to its surface every year. Our resources are not increasing, commensurately. Our construction sprawl is threatening our natural world and disturbing the natural balance.

On a business level, the markets for new goods and services are expanding, thereby creating the prospect of potential prosperity, until you realize that many former markets for our exports have now become domestic producers of the same goods and are exporting them back to us!

The world economic order is held together by international trade agreements and a complex body of regulations AND by the market forces of supply, demand and the profit motive. Traditional thinking has kept them all going in the same direction in the 20th century until Communism came along.

Tested in practice, the experiment failed and ‘free marketeers’ shifted into higher gear and traveled the predictable path of strengthening their own hands while championing free trade for all.

The aggregation principal – of capital or other resources – creates larger wholes, but it also creates greater vulnerabilities. We saw this in the banking crisis in 2008/9 when a new, more dangerous principle took over – too big to fail (TBTF). TBTF was never meant for the private sector; it was always reserved as a last resort solution for cash-strapped countries. America’s mistake was allowing it to be used, privately.

Today, fear (of the unknown) and distrust (of institutions) rank high as considerations in corporate decision-making and may just be precipitating the death roll for America’s great economic paradigm. Ironically, this could be a positive thing for our country.

In fact, some of the changes are already occurring, perhaps in no small part to the lack of adequate financing and massive corporate downsizing. Take crowdfunding or co-working. Each is built on the concept of smaller groups coming together with a collective (but open) mindset to accomplish common tasks, unencumbered by an oppressive bureaucratic hierarchy.

Knowing when to change is every bit as important as knowing how to change. America needs to create a new business structure that’s built on our innovativeness, creativity, productivity, flexibility and pluck. It needn’t be rooted in manufacturing, but it must have a strong manufacturing component to it.

We must be able to control the manufacturing apparatus instead of being at the mercy of foreign production lines. It can’t be solely rooted in services, either, because we cannot develop a diverse economy simply by providing services to one another.

While my generation has been pretty good at recognizing opportunities, it’s time to join up with the young entrepreneurs of today and build a new foundation that can grow and prosper using new methods and by setting realistic short, medium and long term goals that fit within a nationally-beneficial framework designed to empower the American people to think and do for themselves.

This will take leadership, commitment and cooperation. That’s why we need to encourage our political, business and cultural leaders to engage in a national dialogue on what we want America to be in the 22nd century. Maybe a good starting point would be a motto like: “Size matters: bigger is just bigger, but smaller is smarter.”

- Editor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Borders without Boarders?

Posted on 17. Jul, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Politics, Social/Cultural

In the Albuquerque Journal Outlook of July 8, 2013, Jerry Pacheco proved his own thesis that “Immigration reform (is) a sensitive minefield” by giving us a mere reporting of the political machinations of the issue rather than an in-depth local look at what immigration reform might mean for our state and business community. I don’t blame him for being cautious about giving his own opinion on the issue as I assume he has many interests on both sides of the border to keep happy, but I do think that his ‘ink’ could have been put to better use.

He could have examined the Senate bill and future House bills to see if they address what immigration truly is. It’s a privilege to come and work and live in our country. Those who see it as a right are mistaken, and that’s what divides us more than our physical border. Second, amnesty (or forgiveness) for breaking the law starkly separates the legal absolutists who believe in the consistent and fair application of law from the legal relativists who believe in the selective application of law.

Third, it’s a political issue for special interest groups who have an agenda like the reconquistas, businesses benefiting from cheap labor or politicians who want to ‘be on the right side of history’ by cozying up to what they think are monolithic-thinking ethnic groups who will vote for them simply because they favor absolution rather than resolution.

The parties seem to have chosen their teams and their jerseys. The Republicans portray themselves as the home team seeking to build strong fences and then deal with the illegal/ undocumented with penalties like paying fines, taxes, going to the back of the line after the legal applicants, learning English and registering themselves. The Democrats are more like the visitors team choosing to forgive and forget, willing to let bygones be bygones and accepting a little law-breaking as the price for moving the country forward.

Pacheco’s argument that both teams are jumping on the immigration bandwagon because of an impending spike in the Hispanic-American demographic may very well be true, but it is a low blow to all of us who believe in principled lawmaking. If I read him right he is saying that we must get ready to kowtow now, “Republicans will have to step lightly around this issue so as not to offend a growing voting bloc.” Boy, howdy as they say in Texas! If this is new age politics where we must avoid good lawmaking for fear of offending some group, any group, then we might as well turn in our gavels and govern by popularity poll.

I realize that we’re Mexico-centric here and it’s understandable as the culturalization of our state owes much to its Hispanic influence, heritage and history, but any comprehensive immigration bill must address ALL the illegal aliens from ALL countries residing in the rest of the USA as well as the illegal Mexicans living in southern border states.

Make no mistake, there are hundreds of thousands of ‘undocumenteds’ from exotic countries as well as from the more well-known respectable ones (it’s estimated that upwards of 40% of our illegal population are visa over-stayers). If we end up with a bill that doesn’t address those shadow figures as well it will be like the little Dutch Boy who plugged the hole in the dyke with his fingers until he had no more fingers left for the new holes.

It’s generally a tough decision to leave the country of one’s birth. I know because I talked with many immigration applicants at U.S. embassies around the world. To a man (and a woman) they were respectful of our laws, appreciative of the opportunity America offered them to come here and saw immigration as a pathway to citizenship and a brighter future.

Mr. Pacheco could have touched on the impact our illegal immigrant population has had on New Mexico’s education and healthcare services, on our criminal justice system or most importantly what impact legalization or regularization of New Mexico’s undocumented workers will have on our border economy and our trade with Mexico.

He could also have commented on what will happen to the billion dollar plus cash repatriations made by illegal workers back to their families in Mexico once legalization takes place (and their paychecks are reduced because of the new fines, penalties and taxes). I’d like to hear a few quotes from Mexican businessmen, Maquiladorans and from Mexican officials, too. Maybe Mr. Pacheco could report some of these next time the subject comes up. I’d also enjoy hearing his opinion on how immigration reform would affect small business development in our state. I’ll be on the look-out for the next Outlook.

- Editor

NM lost 3,000 businesses during recession

Posted on 01. Jun, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy

According to a recent article in Albuquerque Business First, not only did the recession cost New Mexico more than 50,000 jobs, it cost the state 3,000 businesses. According to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau, New Mexico had 43,860 businesses in 2011, down from 46,869 in 2007. Sixteen out of 20 industry sectors lost establishments, with construction leading the way with 1,370 businesses lost between 2007 and 2011. To read the full article log on to: www.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/

 

New Mexico Housing Market On Slow Road to Recovery

Posted on 30. May, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy

Housing trends reported to the REALTORS Association of New Mexico (RANM) for April show a continuing increase in the number of sales, while monthly median prices are slightly lower than prices recorded in April of 2011 and 2012.

New Mexico reflects national growth in number of sales.  1,387 April 2013 New Mexico sales were reported to RANM.  In April of 2012, 1,273 sales were reported and in April of 2011, there were 1,110 reported sales.  2013 year to date sales are nearly 10% more than 2012 and over 20% more than 2011 numbers.  Homes are selling at a faster pace than previous years which is good news for sellers.

Citing research from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS, RANM President Cathy Colvin reports, “Existing-home sales continue to improve, although inventory constraints are preventing stronger growth.  After four years of relatively flat activity from 2008 through 2011, nationally, existing home sales rose 9.4 percent to almost 4.3 million in 2012 and are forecast to increase to nearly 5.0 million this year.”

New Mexico median prices (median price indicates half the properties sold for more and half for less) for the month of April 2013 show a -0.3% decrease from April 2012 ($164,000 to $164,490) and a

-0.6% decrease from April 2011 when the reported median was $165,000.

M. Steven Anaya, RANM CEO, says “Nationally, median home prices are rising.  While April 2013 median prices dropped slightly, year to date New Mexico median prices reflect this rising trend.  Year to date April 2012 New Mexico median was $160,000; January through April 2013 median is reported at $165,000.”

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 5/21/13.  Visit www.nmrealtor.com (housing trends) for county and board statistics.

This information was submitted by: The REALTORS Association of New Mexic, one of the state’s largest trade associations, representing over 5,400 members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate market.

An open letter to New Mexico’s 2013 college graduates

Posted on 14. Mar, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Education

Dear Student,

Your big day is about to arrive. In just a few short months you will sever your academic umbilical cord and catapult yourself into the uncharted waters of the job market.

Now I know there are many people (maybe even your own family members) who have told you to stay in school just a little while longer to get your Masters Degree. There are also some who’ve said, “In these dire employment times! Get a government job.” There’s even a third group that has suggested you pack your bags and head out of state because there’s nothing for you here. I don’t blame you if you’re in a quandary. I would be too.

No amount of well-meaning backward looks to “when I graduated college,” will help you make this critical decision, but make it you must. There really should have been a mandatory course in Crystal ball gazing 101 that could have prepared you for your future, but there wasn’t. This is one of the most important decisions you will have made during your entire four years of undergraduate study, and depending on your choice, it could have a tremendous influence on your life.

If you are a New Mexico native and have your ‘people’ here, the obvious question is, “Do you want to leave your support group behind and move out-of-state in search of employment?” For close-knit families, this is a tough one. Who wants to see a son or daughter pack up a U-Haul and motor out of sight? Not many, I’d wager.

Those of us who’ve lived farther than a day’s drive from home know what I mean when I say that moving away is a growth experience and hard to duplicate when you’re living with your parents. Moving out of one’s comfort zone sometimes means actually moving out of one’s comfort zone, physically, but these moves needn’t be traumatic. They do require a fair amount of planning, though.

Normally, my thoughts don’t automatically go out to college students, but after seeing a powerpoint generated by UNM’s BBER (Business Research Office) that painted a pretty dire picture of the New Mexico of the near future, I suddenly had the urge to do a Paul Revere, saddle up my horse and warn the students that the red ink was coming and they needed to take cover!

Then I came back to earth and realized that they’ve probably been thinking about their employment options and future for years and have a pretty good handle on what kind of work they can get. As a card-carrying member of the so-called baby boom generation, I’ve been pretty fortunate.

Apart from a dicey time in the oil crisis seventies and the recession of the mid-eighties, America has been able to offer a job (not necessarily the best paying job) to anyone who wanted one, providing you were a high school graduate or weren’t living in a part of the country hit by severe fiscal drought.

These days, even a college education won’t guarantee you a job, especially if your degree is in a less commercially-relevant or marketable area. Yes, I’m speaking of the arts here. You know who you are psych majors, art majors, etc.  I have some gratuitous advice for you now, so listen up. Here are your options:

For the ‘softer’ degreed students (liberal arts/humanities):

Option #1: stay at home and add another different degree to your education, this time one that can get you a job.

Option #2: join the army and get some practical world experience. Book learnin’ and boot camp are a good combination; ask any would-be employer.

Option #3: apply for a position with an NGO (non-government organization) to get some entry-level experience.

Option #4: join the Peace Corps and see the world for a couple of years.

Option #5: get a government job, but promise yourself to quit after four years.

For the ‘harder’ degreed students (science and business):

Option #1: Do some research on prospective employers’ cultures and make a short list of where you think you could make a difference – for them and for you.

Option #2: Take a short-term intern position if you can’t find a full-time position. Anything on your resume is better than nothing at all.

Option #3: If the New Mexico pickings are lean, move to a nearby state (try Texas for awhile; it’s close enough but not too far away).

Option #4: Find some friends and start your own small business.

There are a couple things I want you to remember, though. Your life is your life. It’s a work in progress and may take you far from your chosen field. Just be sure to keep your eyes, ears and your options open and be willing to re-invent yourself. Success, if not satisfaction, is often built on adjusting our expectations and re-positioning ourselves to changing circumstances. Oh, and don’t forget to enjoy the ride.

- Editor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January Home Sales Off and Running

Posted on 14. Mar, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy

970 home sales were reported to the REALTORS® Association of New Mexico (RANM) for January 2013.  This is over 19% more sales than January 2012 and nearly 24% more than the number of sales reported in January 2011.  Only four counties reported a drop in the number of sales for January 2013 compared to January 2012.

“What a great way to start 2013,” said Cathy Colvin, RANM President.  “Inventories are still low in many markets, but the pent-up demand for homes is creating activity in markets around the state.”

According to RANM CEO M. Steven Anaya, “Prices are still showing decreases from previous years. The good news, however, is that median price decreases are getting smaller with each month.  While distressed sales are still high by historical standards, they have fallen from their peaks in most markets, helping to alleviate the downward pressure on home prices in many areas.”

January’s reported median for New Mexico properties was $159,500.  While this is just over 4% lower than the January 2011 median of $168,500, it is only 1.1% lower than the January 2012 median of $161,240.  Median price indicates half the properties sold for more and half for less.

Tight lending standards, uncertainty in the market, and pending federal legislation still play a role in preventing an unqualified housing recovery.  Americans however, still want to call themselves homeowners.  A recent NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® survey showed nearly 60 percent of current renters plan to purchase a home in the next two years.

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 2/18/13.  Visit www.nmrealtor.com (housing trends) for county and board statistics.

This article was submitted by the REALTORS Association of New Mexico is one of the state’s largest trade associations, representing over 5,800 members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate market.

“Three-fer” from Marita Noon on Energy

Posted on 14. Mar, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Energy/Environment

Article 1: Imagine tax revenues that exceed the cost of running the government

The sequester happened. Nothing happened—though we all understand there will be impacts down the road. But, it didn’t have to happen.

Sequester,” a word foreign to most of us, “is a term used to describe the practice of using mandatory spending cuts in the federal budget if the cost of running the government exceeds either an arbitrary amount or the gross revenue it brings during the fiscal year.” In short, it is what happens when the cost of running the government exceeds the revenue.

Washington only talks about two choices when the cost of running the government exceeds the revenues: raising taxes and cutting spending. Taxes were raised as a part of the fiscal cliff deal. Sequester fills out the other half of the equation by cutting spending.

But there is an overlooked option: creating new wealth—which is different from printing new money.

Creating new wealth involves producing something of value which didn’t exist before, but that someone will pay for, bringing new money into the system. Our personal budget generally works this way: we have a job that we get paid for. We use that money to pay bills and buy stuff.

That same money cycles through the system and ultimately comes back to us in the form of a paycheck. And the cycle continues. But if, one day, you were digging in your backyard and you found a pot of gold—that puts new wealth into your personal system. You can sell the gold, creating new wealth for yourself.

As a country, our bills and the stuff we buy—the cost of running the government— has exceeded the revenue for some time. The same is true for many states, counties, and cities—often resulting in bankruptcy. Not every city, county, or state has a pot of gold, but in the form of natural resources—many do.

Some choose to dig up the pot of gold, creating wealth resulting in a healthy community and government. Some choose not to and instead are back to the same two choices: raising taxes and cutting spending.

On January 10, I was at a county commission hearing in New Mexico’s San Miguel County. This poor, rural county in northeastern New Mexico has geology that leads the experts to believe that there might be oil or natural gas under their feet. Several surrounding counties do have known resources and people who own the land and production companies are eager to explore to see if there is, in fact, a “pot of gold.” As is to be expected these days, there is plenty of opposition, scaring folks with talk of supposed water contamination and other calamities.

The hearing opened with a Skype presentation from the executive director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. He clearly stated that the group’s goal were to stop or block production or to create so many regulations that exploration and development was cost-prohibitive. Next a parade of naysayers, with a sprinkling of supporters, addressed the county commissioners.

The commissioners asked questions throughout the day-long process. However, they really perked up at the testimony of two county officials from the oil-producing corner of the state: Greg Niebert—County Commissioner for Chaves County; and Mike Gallagher—County Manager for Lea County.

Both talked about the decades, during which fracking has been used in their counties, with only positive impacts: their schools are fully funded, unemployment is virtually nonexistent (one proclaimed that anyone who can pass a drug test can get a job), and their economies are thriving. I could almost see the dollar signs rolling through the eyes of San Miguel County Commissioners like a slot machine spinning.

Niebert produced some papers containing a resolution that the Chaves County Commission had just passed that morning. The gist of the document said that the oil and gas counties of the state were tired of supporting all the other counties—especially those that had resources, but elected not to use them.

In New Mexico, revenues generated from resources extracted from state lands fill the Land Grant Permanent Fund—which is the largest contributor to the state’s schools and hospitals. Overall, the industry is responsible for nearly half of the state’s budget—which generally has a surplus. The resolution proposed that the schools and hospitals in the counties with resources that chose not to extract them should not get the benefit of the counties that do.

That is New Mexico’s story. But the theme runs through other states that are creating new wealth: Texas, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania—with a welcome increase in jobs and tax revenues. Each has very low unemployment and a thriving economy. Contrast those states to two of the states hardest hit in this time of economic demise: California and Nevada.

Like New Mexico’s San Miguel Country, both have natural resources, but unlike the poor, rural county, the states’ resources are known. While San Miguel is considering a drilling ban, the troubled states have an effective ban and a big part of their pot of gold is on federally owned land. Policies and regulations could prevent the states from accessing their individual pots of gold (Nevada has the Chainman Shale and California the Monterey Shale), which would create new wealth for local communities as well as state and federal governments. David Pratt, president of Santa Maria Energy, says: “the Monterey is California’s way out of the ‘fiscal toilet.’”

California’s Senate Republican Leader, Bob Huff, agrees. He told me: “California sits on two-thirds of America’s shale oil reserves, which is an economic gold mine just waiting to be safely extracted. Tapping into this reserve could cause an oil boom that would dwarf North Dakota’s oil riches that have given the state a $3.2 billion budget surplus and the nation’s lowest unemployment rate at 3.2%.”

“I am committed to new job and business creation for all Californians. We should not ignore recent technological innovations that have released a bounty of wealth in other oil-producing states and put people back to work. It makes absolutely no sense to create these new jobs and wealth in countries who are not friendly to the United States, when we can put our own citizens to work and gain energy independence at the same time.”

“But alas,” Matt Insley, a specialist on commodities and natural resources, says, “this is California. The political and environmental red tape in the state have brought energy development to a virtual halt.”

The New York Times reports: “The oil companies’ plans for the Monterey Shale are already drawing increasing scrutiny from environmental groups.” Despite the fact that “oil companies have engaged in fracking in California for decades,” Kassie Siegel, a lawyer at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), calls it “one of the most, if not the most, important environmental issue in California.”

Meanwhile, people are leaving the state, houses are being foreclosed, and unemployment levels are the highest in the country.

Though less-widely reported, Nevada faces a similar opportunity and opposition.

Houston-based Noble Energy Inc. has leases for 350,000 acres in Elko County. They plan to spend $130 million over four years to ramp up operations. However, the Las Vegas Review Journal cites the federally owned land as “the greatest limitation Nevada faces in getting its resources to market. … Much of Noble’s plan requires Washington’s blessing. Midwestern states, which are composed almost entirely of private land, have no such problem, hence their prosperity.”

As we’ve seen with the Keystone pipeline, it is expected that the greens will “put on a full-court press to block the project.” Regardless of the science or history, the greens stake their position. Actress Daryl Hannah dismisses the State Department’s recent report that all but endorses the pipeline as “bogus” and “totally wrong, flat out totally wrong.” Likewise, despite decades of safe fracking, Rob Mrowka, who heads the Nevada CBD office, says: “Fracking is not a good thing. We don’t feel there is a safe way to do it.”

California and Nevada—along with New York—have known resources, yet they depend on other locales for much of their energy. What if the states that sell their resources to California, decided to follow Chaves County’s lead and told California they are on their own? California is using the resources, but sending their money out of state—which helps the other states and hurts California.

Gabe Garcia, an assistant field officer for the Bureau of Land Management in Bakersfield, CA, reports: “the government receives 12.5 percent of revenues from the oil retrieved. … Last year we brought in $190 million.” Half of that goes to the state of California; the other half goes to the federal government. And the $190 million figure is before the Monterey Shale takes off.

Insley believes “A change in tone from the political side” could fuel a turnaround. It is the politics that is holding back a boom in new wealth creation and as California Senator Huff said: “It makes absolutely no sense.”

Sequester didn’t have to happen. Allowing, even encouraging, development of our natural resources would bring welcome new tax revenues that might even exceed the cost of running the government.

– end article 1 –

Article 2:  Can Global Warmists Get Their Story Straight?

Two of catastrophic climate change’s staunchest supporters have been out on the stump promoting their cause—with conflicting statements.

On February 20, Secretary of State John Kerry gave his first speech, as Secretary, at the University of Virginia where he offered a glimpse of how he sees tackling climate change as part of his job—as is “reducing nuclear threat,” “fighting corruption in Nigeria,” and breaking “the cycle of poverty, poor nutrition and hunger,”

On the same day, February 20, NASA’s James Hansen was speaking in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at the Lensic Theater, with a follow-up presentation the next day at the Santa Fe Institute where he proposed “a steep energy tax to curb global warming.”

In Kerry’s introductory comments he says: “So our challenge is to … offer even the most remote place on earth the same choices that have made us strong and free.” Later, he launches into his climate change litany, and talks about developing and deploying “the clean technologies that will power a new world”—yet the inefficient, intermittent, and uneconomical “clean technologies” are not what made America “strong and free.” America became a superpower on the basis of energy that was abundant, available, and affordable. Now, in the cause of climate change, we want to deny developing countries the same benefits we’ve had?

Additionally, Kerry acknowledges: “We are all in this one together. No nation can stand alone.” After 15 years of supporters’ best efforts, the global community has rejected the Kyoto Protocol—which aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from industrialized countries on the theory that it would stop global warming. It expired December 31, 2012. The world’s biggest emitters refused to sign on, the US never ratified it, and Canada has since completely backed out. The UK is likely not far behind.

Last week, London’s Daily Express featured a story titled: “Blackout Britain: EU environmental directive puts millions at risk of power cuts”—which concluded with the following: “We are facing disaster on energy prices. The dynamic has changed, but the thinking hasn’t.”

A few days earlier, February 20, another Daily Express headline addressed the panic the UK is facing: “Cheaper energy is more important than going green.” The “cheaper energy” article cites “rising energy prices” that have “gone up 159 per cent since 2004” and quotes Energy Secretary Ed Davey as saying: “energy prices are now out of control.” The author states: “Our energy policy is no longer dictated by the need to keep supply plentiful and cheap which for decades was the basis of all planning.

Today energy policy is framed with only one factor in mind: satisfying the green lobby.” He concludes: “in the UK we let the green lobby sneer at fracking and barely even pay lip-service to its possibilities, at the same time as we close down productive power plants and stand back watching while prices go through the stratosphere.”

It is true, Secretary Kerry, that “no one nation can stand alone.” But he has promised we will rise to meet the challenge of tackling climate change—rising energy prices, that is.

Even Dr. Pachauri, the chairman of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change acknowledges a “17-year pause in global temperature rises, confirmed recently by Britain’s Met Office.” At Melbourne’s Deakin University, Dr. Pachauri said: “People have to question these things and science only thrives on the basis of questioning.” He continued: “no doubt about it,” it is good for controversial issues to be “thrashed out in the public arena.”

Which takes us to Dr. Hansen’s presentations in Santa Fe—primarily attended by sycophants carrying copies of his book: Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity. However, four scientists also attended—a meteorologist, a physicist, a biologist, and a geologist.

No transcript of the speech is available, however the Santa Fe New Mexican covered Hansen’s presentation at the Institute, during which he predicted catastrophes, such as rising seas and species extinctions “if carbon-based fuels continue to be used at the same rate as today.”

He believes “efforts to stem climate change will be ineffectual as long as fossil fuels remain the cheapest form of energy,” and therefore he “proposed a new tax for carbon emissions from oil, gas and coal.” Yet, he stated: “Government shouldn’t be making decisions as to what the next energy sources are. Let the marketplace make the decision.” He wants a tax to make fossil fuels unattractive, but the government should let the marketplace decide?

“That wasn’t the only nonsensical idea he presented,” the scientists told me.

Robert Endlich, the meteorologist, reported: “One item after another struck me as being completely at odds with measurements. For instance, Hansen claimed Earth’s energy balance is out of balance, and we are warming rapidly, but recent global surface temperatures of land and water have not increased and, in fact, many measures show cooling over the past 17-19 years.

In the US, there has not been a new state maximum temperature record set since 1995, and, in spite of the claims to the contrary, July,1936, is still the warmest month on record, set when CO2 was less than 300 parts per million. CO2 is now 395 PPM.”

Bernie McCune holds degrees in both engineering and biology and has worked with both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “Hansen admitted there is still some question,” McCune said. “But, his presentation was mostly political and didn’t prove that CO2 is the problem; it didn’t show that humans had anything to do with it.”

Jerry Clark, the physicist, who has spent 30 years tracking data from the relay satellite system, talked to one of the organizers before the meeting. The young man was surprised to learn that not all scientists agreed with Hansen. Clark feels frustrated because “the opportunity for opposing views to receive equal time and billing with Dr. Hansen does not exist; nor will the apologists engage in data comparisons.”

Instead of the short-term charts Hansen presented, Clark wants to see the data and the real records. Drawing from his experiences on his college debate team, Clark was surprised that “Hansen didn’t even try to justify his thesis of man-made global warming.”

John Clema looks at the geologic history when he says: “Hansen’s claim of ‘extinction of 30 percent to 50 percent of animal species’ is nothing more than shameless spreading of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. More than 98% of all the plants and animals that we currently know of are from the fossil record.

There is no evidence that connects CO2 to these extinctions other than the strong possibility of linking huge volcanic activity to some timeframes where extinctions have occurred. In the geologic record, there are times when we’ve had much higher CO2 than at present—yet there are few recognizable extinctions. Nor is there any link between CO2 from fossil fuels and global warming. We are still in an interglacial period were warming could be expected—but Hansen can’t prove any part of this is due to human activity. Warm and wet is good for our species, cold and dry is not.”

At the end of Hansen’s presentation, there was a brief question and answer time. Only four questioners got answers. In response to Endlich’s question: “Observations show 10 years of warming from 1988 to 1998, but steady and by many measures, even falling temperatures since—a period over 17 years where the temperature has not risen at all.

The total rise since 1988 has been only 0.2-0.3C. To what do you attribute the poor performance of that prediction?” Hansen first acknowledged the sun’s involvement, then he denied that the globe had not warmed—despite Pachauri’s admission that the warming had stalled.

Pachauri’s February 24 speech invited traditional scientific give and take, yet Hansen refused additional discussion with the scientists. When Endlich showed data from the Vostok and the Greenland ice cores, Hansen blew him off, saying: “you are wrong!” End of discussion.

The Santa Fe New Mexican’s headline for Hansen’s visit was: “a steep energy tax to curb global warming.” Perhaps Hansen was tipping his hand, confirming the rumor that Obama will approve the long-delayed, but much-needed Keystone pipeline if Congress will approve a carbon tax. Tit for tat.

Just what our teetering economy needs: higher energy prices. What planet do these guys come from?

– end article 2 –

Article 3: Wall Street walks all over the White House

The nomination of Jack Lew for Treasury Secretary has uncovered a lot of dirt about the man, but it also has a lot of dust swirling, regarding the incestuous relationship between the Obama administration and Wall Street that the White House would probably prefer to have kept buried. The story surely tarnishes the President’s image as “a man of the people, standing up to Wall Street.”

In Lew we find much of what President Obama publicly derides—but, as Forbes reports, is “prepared to accept from his closest associates.”

In 2009, Obama said it was the “height of irresponsibility” and “shameful” for “executives at major financial firms who turned to the American people, hat in hand, when they were in trouble, even as they paid themselves their customary lavish bonuses.” And added: “For top executives to award themselves these kinds of compensation packages in the midst of this economic crisis isn’t just bad taste—it’s bad strategy—and I will not tolerate it as President.” Yet, Lew, during a short stint at Citi received an “obscene” bonus of $950,000—after we, the taxpayers, bailed out Citi to the tune of $476.2 billion.

In both the 2008 and 2012 campaigns, Obama railed against investments in the Caymans. In 2008, during a Democrat primary debate, he talked about “closing tax loopholes and tax havens” and specifically addressed a building in the Cayman Islands that supposedly houses 12,000 corporations.

“That’s either the biggest building or the biggest tax scam on record.” In 2012, the Obama campaign vilified Mitt Romney for investments in Cayman accounts. Yet, Lew was invested in a Citigroup venture capital fund registered in the Cayman Islands.

Despite these, and other disconcerting discoveries—such as Lew’s executive vice president for operations position with New York University at the time NYU was receiving kickbacks from Citibank for steering student loans to the bank (Lew then left NYU for his job at Citigroup)—a Senate vote is expected to be held this week where it is believed that Lew will be confirmed as Treasury Secretary.

But, a bigger story is exposed through the litany of Lew’s lavish embarrassments—and that is the “commingling of Wall Street interests and the public trust,” as exemplified by former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin.

Rubin left Treasury in 1999 and moved to Citigroup—where, it is reported, that he “advocated ratcheting up the risk-taking.” Rubin’s responsibilities at Citi were to craft the “management and strategic decisions.” As part of the enticement Citi offered, he received $15 million a year and unlimited use of the corporate jets.

“On his watch, the federal government was forced to inject $45 billion of taxpayer money into the company and guarantee some $300 billion of illiquid assets”—yet he was still paid “around $126 million in cash and stock.” Rubin’s bank-friendly policies, implemented during his time at Treasury, are believed to be what weakened the financial system and ultimately brought about the collapse.

Rubin is important to the story because Lew was hired on at Citi due to a recommendation from Rubin. Lew was with Citi from 2006 to 2009—during the financial disaster. His last position was as COO of Citi’s Alternative Investment Group—which according to Forbes, “lay at the epicenter of the financial crisis.” In the first quarter of 2008, Lew’s group lost $509 million while he was “paid $1.1 million for less than a year’s work.”

Obviously Lew learned well from Rubin.

Lew left Citi for a “full-time high level position,” as deputy secretary of state under Hillary Clinton. In 2010, he became head of the Office of Management and Budget replacing Rubin-protégé Peter Orszag, who went to Citi. (Note: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is also a Rubin protégé.)

If you are reading carefully, you’ve noted that “Citi” comes up over and over. This is no mistake. Citi and the Obama Administration appear to breathe as one.

In 2008, Citigroup was one of the Obama campaign’s biggest donors and several Citi executives served as campaign bundlers. The majority of Citigroup’s 61 lobbyists previously held government positions. Michael Froman was one such Citi executive—also serving as COO of Citi’s Alternative Investment Group—who raised campaign cash and then went to work for the Obama Administration, where he was responsible for coordinating policy on issues such as energy and climate. Froman had previously served as chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. (Other Citi/Obama connections include Richard Parsons and Luis Susman as shown in Christine Lakatos’ newest expose: Citi’s Massive “Green” Money Machine.)

In his second term, Obama has pledged to make climate change a priority. Since 2007, Citi has been committed to “climate change activities.” In fact, they brag about being “a leader in alternative energy transactions across sectors, geographies and products.” In its 2011 Global Citizenship Report, Citi crows about having the “largest market share” of US Department of Energy financings for alternative energy.

If you’ve followed the work Lakatos and I have done exposing Obama’s green-energy crony-corruption scandal, you know Citi’s claims mean that they are making big bucks from the green energy sector of the 2009 stimulus-spending spree. Lakatos has found that that 58 percent of Citi’s “clients,” listed in the documents from the “Renewable Energy Seminar” Michael Eckhart held in March 2012, have received government subsidies, the majority from the 2009 Stimulus bill, totaling approximately $16 billion of taxpayer money—and there could well be more.

Michael Eckhart joined Citigroup in February 2011, after spending the last decade as the founding President and a member of the Board of Directors of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE). Not surprisingly, within ACORE we find many of government’s green-grant “winners.” According to Chris Horner, Eckhart “helped design the Department of Energy grant programs.”

This is just a sampling of the Citigroup swamp from which Treasury Secretary nominee Lew comes. As Lew’s employment agreement with Citi—that allowed him to keep his pay perks if he left Citi for “full-time high level position with the United States government or regulatory body”—and Rubin’s enticements show: Citi likes to keep their friends close.

According to the Washington Post as Treasury Secretary Lew will be “charged with implementing new rules regulating Wall Street.” Breitbart describes the job this way: “Secretary of the Treasury is the government’s chief operating officer for the private economy. It is also the government’s chief spokesman to the world markets. The office … is meant to assure markets and the business community that America’s fiscal policy is under adult supervision.”

I question whether Lew’s motivation will be “a desire to serve the people, or an opportunity to serve himself and his friends”—as was said about Rubin. Will he assure the markets that America’s fiscal policy is under adult supervision?

This may be the one time I agree with Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders who, said the following when Obama nominated Lew: “I remain extremely concerned that virtually all of his key economic advisers have come from Wall Street. In my view, we need a Treasury Secretary who is prepared to stand up to corporate America and their powerful lobbyists and fight for policies that protect the working families in our country. I do not believe Mr. Lew is that person.”

Obviously Obama will “tolerate” Wall Street walking all over the White House.

– end article 3 –

These articles were submitted by Marita Noon, author of Energy Freedom. Marita Noon serves as 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.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012 New Mexico Home Sales Numbers Set Records

Posted on 21. Jan, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy

15,098 home sales were reported to the REALTORS Association of New Mexico (RANM) during 2012.  This is over 13% more sales than reported in 2011 (13,300) and is nearly 6% higher than the 2008 count of 14,218, the largest activity before 2012 since RANM began keeping state-wide figures in 2007.

22 reporting counties showed an increase in sales from 2011 to 2012; 3 showed no change; and 6 reported a decrease in sales.

2012 median prices are up slightly from those reported in 2011.  The 2012 median is $167,500; the 2011 median was $166,500.  The 2012 New Mexico median price is over 10% lower than the 2008 high of $188,000.  Median price indicates half the properties sold for more and half for less.

“The December median of $171,100 was higher than the November 2012 median of $169,697,” according the Cathy Colvin, 2013 RANM President.  “While distressed properties are still a disproportionate share of many markets, this increase in median prices is partly a result of low inventory and indicates market prices are beginning to stabilize.”

Even with the December increase in state-wide median prices, houses remain very affordable.  RANM CEO M. Steven Anaya reports “The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS (NAR) predicts 2012 will clearly go down as a record year for favorable housing affordability conditions and a great year for buyers who could get a mortgage.”

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 1/16/13.  Visit www.nmrealtor.com (housing trends) for county and board statistics.

This article was submitted by the REALTORS Association of New Mexico is one of the state’s largest trade associations, representing over 5,800 members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate market.

America’s bi-polar legislature: The Club of Reward and Punishment

Posted on 31. Dec, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Politics

Not being a psychologist or mind reader I can’t point with certainty to the reasons our elected leaders act as they do, but if I were to make an educated guess I’d say that they all subscribe to the two kinds of people theory, aligning themselves with one of two schools of thought on how to legislate and motivate.

They are: the reward school — those who would rather change human behavior by offering incentives and the punishment school — those who believe that rigid rules and regulations will accomplish their goals.

I haven’t done extensive research on how successful each of these two approaches has been, but there are some actual decisions we can look at to see the fingerprints of the carrot and stick at work.

Let’s start with perhaps the classic example of a well-meaning law (punishment) that ended up being reversed after just 13 years in force (reward)… the Volstead Act or prohibition.

In 1920, all private ownership and consumption of alcohol was made illegal by the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, and the Government crackdown on beer, wine and distilled spirits ended up creating a cottage, off-the-books industry which eventually spawned a tidal wave of an even bigger industry, organized crime.

Way to go, Temperance League and politicians! By not understanding human nature, the punishment school advocates used this law to take away a good from those who had abused it and punished the not guilty as well. Talk about collateral damage!

Now I’m not saying that the alcohol banners’ motives weren’t admirable. Fact is, we’d probably be better off without all the DWIs, spousal abuse, crisis intervention and treatment costs associated with alcoholism. They just used the then nuclear option and failed. By the way, liquor sales (not counting beer or wine) were nearly $20 billion in 2011, up 4% from the year before. Exports were up 16.5% to $1.3 billion.

Next is the oil depletion allowance, an incentive (reward) to oil companies going back to WWI that lets them deduct 15% of the money generated from their wells from their taxes. It essentially allows oil companies to treat oil in the ground as capital equipment which can be written down.

Proponents say it’s a small price to pay (reward) for eventually drilling themselves out of business as resources dry up, but detractors say that oil in the ground must never be treated as capital equipment but rather a national resource which they say is being used for the oil companies’ profits (punishment).

A recent bill introduced in May 2011 that would have removed this subsidy was voted down in the Senate by 45 Republicans and 3 Democrats. It seems that oil is bi-partisan.

A prime example of a piece of legislation that embodies both the reward AND punishment school of legislative thought is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — aka Obamacare.

Whatever your own personal feeling about this legislation, it was a bill born of a steamrollered process (punishment), passed using reconciliation requiring only 51 Senate votes (punishment) and enshrined healthcare coverage for all Americans (reward) while instituting a penalty (punishment) for those who refused to buy health insurance.

The 2,300 page bill will effectively impose other taxes (punishment) and may result in a government takeover of an industry that represents 26% of our GDP (punishment or reward depending on your political point of view).

While it may be human nature to use both reward and punishment for social engineering, it is probably the ultimate mistake to use only one of them all of the time.

Every parent knows the value of a carrot and a stick in child-rearing. It’s a pity our legislators didn’t get the memo, especially as we face the prospect of going over a fiscal cliff into the abyss where there is only punishment to greet them.

- Editor

We are all the one percent

Posted on 06. Nov, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Politics, Social/Cultural

With only one day to go before election day, I find my head in a perpetual state of jerky lateral motion over the disreputable tactics used by some of the campaigns to say nothing of the downright nasty epithets about the opposing candidate that have been hurled our way.

It seems we’ve graduated from the simple ‘flip flopper’ designation and ‘swift-boating’ techniques that worked in the 2004 campaign to one of total thermonuclear character annihilation – a take-no-prisoners, scorched Earth approach that even Dr. Strangelove would have rejected.

I watched all the primary debates and the Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates along with the pre-debate and post-debate coverage. I sat through commentary by Chris Matthews, Chris Wallace, Bill Maher, Bill Moyers, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and foreign correspondents like Catty Kay from BBC.

I tuned in to NPR (and even Amy Goodman) and read Time and Newsweek, countless blogs and online newspapers.  I viewed both conventions and listened to the speeches. In addition, I poured over the analyses of pollsters from the left and right and pundits of every shape, size and political stripe.

I managed to survive the war on women, the birth certificate skirmish, the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Tea Party rallies, the Congressional stalemate on the debt ceiling, the war against big business and Wall Street, the rise of Sandra Fluke on the reproductive rights fight, the seedy Mormon innuendoes along with attacks on Paul Ryan and Medicare privatization, President Obama’s fund-raisers, golf game and TV appearances, Joe Biden’s “…put you all back in chains” gaffe, along with criticism of Mitt Romney’s dog, his hair, his memory (Romnesia), his wife’s horse and his car elevator.

But the worst tactic of all has been the 1% versus the 99% argument, proffered by the President and his acolytes. This clear divide-and-conquer strategy hasn’t been used to such an extent since the 1917 Russian Revolution, and it hasn’t rung more hollow since the fall of the Soviet empire in the late 1980s/early 90s.

That is not to say it will not work on November 6th.. It may very well, especially when combined with his party’s ‘laser-targeting strategy’ of ripping apart the American electorate into bite-size separate demographics and playing to their weaknesses, envy or fear of the opposition and what America might become under an elitest administration.

Indeed, this campaign ploy to paint a whole political party and candidate for president as the party or candidate of one percent, is not something I would have expected from a President who said he would unite us. It is, however, something I’ve come to expect from certain politicians (left or right) who will do everything possible to hold on to power, no matter if they’re in the Middle East or on the banks of the Potomac River.

So there you have it, the 1% argument: us against them, good against evil, the entitled against the robber barons, poor America against rich America, undeserving wealthy people against deserving innocents, the privileged class against the working class (or the unemployed class).

Actually, when you examine the 1 vs. 99 case, it is a specious or sophistic argument at best. A reasonable person need only use some of his own life experience to measure its validity. For example, how many of your classmates were responsible for all the disruptive antics in the classroom?

Probably 1%. Or how many policemen protect all of the 155 million workers (not to mention the unemployed) in the U.S.? Answer: fewer than a million. And how many active duty military personnel put their lives on the line for the likes of you and me and 325 million other Americans? About 1.5 million – or less than 0.50% of our total population. The list goes on and on.

Just as “One swallow does not a summer make” (Aristotle: one of the top one percent thinkers of all time), neither should one percent of anything be viewed with undue suspicion or fear. Instead of vilifying the 1% let’s be thinking of ways to persuade them to stand with us.  Please vote on November 6th.  One hundred percent of America will be affected by it.

- Editor

Bad Behavior has blocked 162 access attempts in the last 7 days.