August 19, 2017

States’ Businesses, Way of Life Bolstered by Land & Wildlife

Posted on 05. Nov, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Energy/Environment, Social/Cultural

Nearly Half of Westerners Rely on Land & Wildlife for Recreation.

DENVER — A new state-by-state analysis by the Center for Western Priorities shows that abundant fish and wildlife on public lands are essential for the long-term health of Western economies.

In 2011, wildlife-related recreation contributed $3 billion into Colorado’s economy. Wildlife enthusiasts and sportsmen and women contributed nearly $1 billion to New Mexico’s economy, and in Montana, they contributed $1.4 billion.

Aside from the economic boon public lands provide, they are also part of our way of life. Regardless of industry, a considerable portion of Westerners participate in wildlife-based recreation.

Approximately 4 out of 10 New Mexicans Participate in Wildlife-Based Recreation
Approximately 4 out of 10 Montanans Participate in Wildlife-Based Recreation
Approximately 4 out of 10 Utahans Participate in Wildlife-Based Recreation
Approximately 5 out of 10 Coloradoans Participate in Wildlife-Based Recreation
Approximately 6 out of 10 Wyomingites Participate in Wildlife-Based Recreation

To view full analysis and interactive charts click here.

Maintaining abundant fish and wildlife is important for the long-term health of our Western economies. Westerners and visitors love to travel around our region, visit our public lands, and hunt, fish or merely observe our wildlife. Money spent by those hunters, anglers, and wildlife enthusiasts provides a critical source of revenue for local economies across the Rocky Mountain West.

A recent survey released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service illustrates the importance of protecting and enhancing wildlife habitat. Men, women and children throughout the Rockies spend their free time exploring our open spaces, viewing wildlife, hunting game and fishing in our streams, lakes and reservoirs.

In New Mexico, nearly 4 out of 10 residents partake in some form of wildlife-related recreation, be it hunting, fishing or wildlife viewing. In Colorado, 5 out of every 10 residents participate in wildlife-associated recreational activities.[i]

Approximately 4 out of 10 New Mexicans Participate in Wildlife-Based Recreation
Approximately 4 out of 10 Montanans Participate in Wildlife-Based Recreation
Approximately 4 out of 10 Utahans Participate in Wildlife-Based Recreation
Approximately 5 out of 10 Coloradoans Participate in Wildlife-Based Recreation
Approximately 6 out of 10 Wyomingites Participate in Wildlife-Based Recreation

In 2011, wildlife-related recreation contributed $3 billion into Colorado’s economy. Wildlife enthusiasts and sportsmen and women contributed nearly $1 billion to New Mexico’s economy, and in Montana, they contributed $1.4 billion. That money’s going to local retailers, community grocery stores, gas stations, hotels, and outfitters. [ii]

In order to protect these jobs and businesses that so many Western families depend on, we need responsible oil and gas development that accounts for wildlife’s importance to our Western way of life and our Western economies. That means ensuring energy development isn’t done in a way that damages our public lands and wildlife resources.

[i] 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.
[ii] 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.

This article was submitted by the Center for Western Priorities

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Santa Claus Mentality of Progressives

Posted on 05. Nov, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Politics

The October 1st Albuquerque Journal included a guest Op-Ed by Sherry Wenz, “Bleeding the Rich,” in which she argued cogently that the Progressive goal of making the wealthy pay more taxes will not solve our economic troubles.

Wenz’s piece should remind us that there is abroad in our Progressive polity a pernicious Santa Claus mentality:  I can have everything I want and force someone else to pay for it.  This description of the Progressive mindset would seem to be as good a definition of the Progressive concept of fairness as one is likely to find.

What is it about the soft socialism of Europe that Progressives don’t understand?  The web is full of stories on Europe’s woes:  “Eurozone Unemployment Hits Record High,” “One in 10 Workers Has Taken Time off for Depression,” “Greek Youth Unemployment Hits 55%,” “Spain Riots over Night! Europe is Falling,” and “Riots in Greece and Spain over Efforts to Trim Government Spending.”  In short, soft socialism has reduced much of Europe’s economy to a shambles.

We are today at a tipping point.  About half of Americans pay no income taxes, the largest source of revenue for the federal government.  Please don’t tell me about the other taxes these people pay.  The next largest source of government revenue is the withholding tax that is supposed to support Social Security and Medicare.

This means that the half of the American body politic that pays no income taxes can vote for politicians who promise them more government payouts.  Surely, reasonable people can see that this is a recipe for disaster.  It is an open invitation to demagogic politicians to seek election by promising more programs and more payouts.

Think today of “Obama” phones, promises of more Pell grants, promises of relief from college loans, ending work requirements for welfare recipients, record numbers on food stamps, record numbers on disability, etc.

There is a quotation of uncertain provenance which states:  “A democracy will continue to exist until the time that voters discover they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury.

From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.”

Regardless of the source for this quotation, it should serve to remind us of the extreme danger posed by the irresponsible tax-and-spend policies of Progressives.

In 1787, when Benjamin Franklin emerged from the Constitutional Convention, which had just concluded, he was reportedly asked by a certain Mrs. Powel if the convention had given our nation a republic or a monarchy.  Franklin’s famous reply was:  A republic if you can keep it.  This election may well be our last chance to keep our “Great Republic.”

This article was submitted by Don Baucom of El Prado, NM


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decline of the suburbs?

Posted on 25. Aug, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Social/Cultural

The suburbs are changing. Thanks to a re-invigoration of urban areas, as well as increasing poverty and crime rates in the suburbs, bedroom communities aren’t what they once were.

Has the national love affair with sprawl begun to decline? It would seem so. For prospective and current homeowners, knowledge of this trend is necessary, as is awareness of the impact it has on home prices, property values, and school districts.

40 years ago, the United States was called “a nation of suburbs.” Today, that prevailing notion is not true.

If you’re deciding when and where to buy a home, be aware: The 21st century has seen a decline in both quality and population of America’s suburbs.

In the first decade of the 21st century, the amount of Americans below the poverty line grew 23% in U.S. cities, but 53% in major suburbs.

In 2010, a record population of 15.4 million suburban residents were living in poverty. These are not your mother’s suburbs.

While the American dream of the picket fence and neatly mowed lawn may entice many homeowners to look to the suburbs, suburban jobs are also on a rapid decline.

In 2011, suburban businesses vacated 16 million square feet of office space. Gas prices have exploded in the past 10 years, with the average suburban driver’s gas expenditures increasing 109%.

With walking and public transportation available in urban areas, homeowners are looking more toward cities to settle down. And the days of the mortgage and foreclosure crisis are not behind us; in the next several years, more than 3 million homeowners are expected to become renters.

This article was submitted by Allison Morris. She can be reached at morris.allison85@gmail.com or you can contact insurancequotes.org for more information

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Obama’s Amazing American Elixir

Posted on 19. Aug, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Politics, Social/Cultural

The fight for America’s soul and the debate on socialism is not new in America.

It’s just entered our orbit of consciousness with a vengeance since the election of a president who, in his own words in October of 2008, said, “We are five days from fundamentally transforming America.”

Pundits and parsers will probably say that was just a candidate being political, but those of us on terra firma will recognize it as a prophetic statement about a radical transformation of our economic and political system that would soon be made by a committed ideologue who was days away from doing it!

Either way, it was a clear marketing victory.

Those who say Mr. Obama didn’t live up to his central campaign promises weren’t paying attention. He told us, repeatedly, that he was a change agent. Knowing that, why wouldn’t we believe that he would change his positions once he was elected? Americans weren’t listening with their ears. They were in a shopping trance, wanting to buy something new that reflected their own self-image.

They were searching for a product that would cure all their ills. What they wanted was actually a miracle wonder product from an earlier century, routinely sold on street corners and at carnivals all over this land. It was commonly known as, ‘snake oil.’

They found exactly what they were looking for in Dr. Obama’s Amazing American Elixir.

By voting for him, they cleansed their consciences about America’s past racial transgressions. Younger voters got their cool guy who was slim, played basketball, had smoked cocaine and was only slightly removed from their generation.

The Black and Hispanic communities elected a man seemingly sympathetic to them. Barack Obama made the presidency attractive to first-time voters who were looking for transformational change.

The only problem was that many in these groups knew little about how America actually worked let alone how to transform it. They only knew how it looked to them and hadn’t a clue how Wall Street, Main Street and Capitol Hill fit together.

Ideologies have always needed memorable images, words, songs and symbols to sell their message, and secularism and socialism are no different.

Secularism sells itself on a simple premise: society is better served, more fair and easier to manage without all this religious nonsense. Socialism is not far behind with: the needs of the many outweigh the inconvenience of the few.

The truth is we’ve always had a dollop of secularism and socialism in America and seen its ebb and flow, especially during times of crisis when standing together made for a solid defense (in the Great Depression, during WWII, and now in the Age of Obama and the Great Recession).

The danger now is that we’ll jettison our traditional capitalistic system and adopt an unworkable government-managed economic model out of fear.

Pushing a social justice theme and espousing income redistribution with a “you didn’t build that” mantra, the 44th president continues to ride a populist wave of support on a surfboard of pointed rhetoric, rhetoric that has worked up until now.

Americans have always been suckers for a good slogan whether it’s where’s the beef or the pause that refreshes.

We bought big cars with shark fins, hula hoops and pet rocks, spiked our hair, wore dog collars and suffered high colonics. With all that consumer history, why would anyone think that we couldn’t be sold and re-sold a president and that he would ride in on a messianic message of hope?

Ad men were proud of candidate Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. It was masterful, right down to the use of the new social media which became the message.

Young people self-identified with the media Mr. Obama used and the bond was forged. They bought the T-shirt, the new world decals for their back packs AND the message.

It was change we could believe in…at first sight and any thinking person had to be thinking Obama. The others were just unenlightened.

It wasn’t a hostile takeover that America experienced on January 20, 2009.  We got a taste of the classic leveraged buy-out. The financial sponsor (the candidate) acquired the controlling interest (our votes) in our equity (the running of the country) and then financed his operation through leveraged borrowing (increased national debt), trillions of dollars of it, in record time.

That was then, but in eleven short weeks Americans will have a choice: sign on to four more years of the same or turn around, go back to the place where we left our values and start anew.

We may have to face facts, however…that we have become mere consumers of promises and have lost our taste for critical thought. If that is the case, we should all be investing our money in the media, because that is where the battle for the hearts, minds, pocketbooks and votes of Americans will be fought, at least until November. Caveat emptor.

- Editor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flights from fancy

Posted on 18. Aug, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Social/Cultural

There was a time when flying was downright exciting, even romantic. I’m not talking about the 1950s here, but just 30 or 40 years ago.

That was when we still thought it was proper to dress for the occasion instead of donning jogging suits and looking like fugitives from a Richard Simmons exercise video. Men wore suits and ties and ladies, dresses. My how times have changed.

I took my very first flight in an experimental airplane in Rockford, Illinois at the first Experimental Aircraft Association fly-in in 1959.  The plane was a home-made two-seater, just big enough for a pilot and a passenger that sat immediately behind him. I wore a Milwaukee Braves baseball jacket, cap and my favorite P.F. Flyer tennis shoes.

When the engine turned over I was immediately struck with a feeling of enormous excitement and total fear. Hearing the rapid whoosh of the propeller blades and feeling the whole plane shake as if it were a ride in the fun house we taxied down the runway. It made quite an impression on this lad whose bedroom ceiling was festooned with model airplanes. At last I was an aviator!

Well not quite, but I was an aviator’s passenger at least. That was the beginning of my true love of flying which is why it’s so sad to reflect on my love/hate relationship with it today.

Like many businesspeople, flying became part of my job. For 30 years I flew to the world’s capitals on at least a dozen different carriers. Two stick out in my mind: Pan Am and Aeroflot for two very different reasons. Pan Am was America’s gold standard and never failed to live up to its advertising.

I once turned down a ticket on the British/French supersonic Concorde and instead opted for a first-class ticket from Paris to New York on old Pan Am. The service was just that great!  It just so happened I was seated next to a fellow with Rastafarian dreadlocks. A few minutes later I learned he was a member of the reggae band, Bob Marley and the Wailers, who were on their way to NYC for a concert.

I remember my fellow first class passengers being a bit squeamish when the band, dressed in camouflage clothes and wearing dark sunglasses, boarded the plane in Charles De Gaulle Airport (this was when skyjacking was at its peak).  After admitting I didn’t know a thing about his band, he began to sing a few of their best-known songs with a strong Jamaican accent. The time passed all too quickly and so did the champagne.

This was not the case a few years later when I boarded an Aeroflot jet in Moscow bound for Europe. It was a surreal experience. After what seemed like an eternity we reached cruising altitude. The German gentleman next to me wanted a whiskey and pressed the stewardess’ call button. At the forward galley, the curtains parted and a stout-looking Russian flight attendant peered out looking very irritated.

With an almost olympian stride she arrived at our row, and just as the German was about to give her his order she reached up and shut off the call button and in one motion sprinted back to the galley.

Astonished, the man looked at me and then decided to press the button again, thinking it must have been a mistake. The whole process was repeated and afterwards the German looked mortified. I remember snickering under my breath and thinking that would never ever happen on an American airline. How wrong I was.

Thirty years later, Americans were shelling out $15 for a checked bag, forced to buy overpriced sandwiches to stave off their hunger, paying a surcharge for a little more legroom and were subjected to the third degree by the TSA even before they got on board!

Oh, to return to the days of PanAm and civility! At this point I’d even take Aeroflot.

- Editor

New Mexico Home Sales Numbers Up in July

Posted on 18. Aug, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy

The number of sales in July 2012 reported to the REALTORS Association of New Mexico (RANM) is higher than the number reported during both July 2011 and July 2010.  This year, 1,366 total sales were reported for July.  In 2011, there were 1,201 sales reported; in 2010, 1,130 sales were reported.

Median prices still continue to drop.  According to RANM President Debbie Rogers, “The July 2012 median of $170,000 reflects the number of distressed properties still being included in the market.  In July of 2011, the reported median was $177,000; July 2010 reported median was $180,000.”   Median price indicates half the properties sold for more and half for less.

The July numbers also mean the year-to-date number of sales and median prices reflect an increase in sales and a decrease in price compared to the same period during 2011 and 2010.  8,420 sales have been reported during the first seven months of 2012.  7,591 sales were reported for January through July of 2011 and 8,195 sales were reported during this period in 2010.

The 2012 year-to-date median price is reported at $165,000.  2011 January through July median was $167,500; 2010 median for same period was $172,500.

The silver lining is that sales numbers continue to climb and median prices are dropping at a slower pace than previously.  From 2010 to 2011 (for the first seven months of the year) median prices dropped 2.9 percent; from 2011 to 2012, median prices dropped 1.5 percent.

Steven Anaya, Executive Vice President of RANM, offers more optimism, citing the July REALTORS Confidence Index Report, which indicates time on the market when a property is sold has been declining.  “Approximately a third of REALTORS nationally noted that recently sold properties were on the market for less than a month when sold, and 59 percent were sold within 3 months.”

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 8/16/12.  Visit www.nmrealtor.com (housing trends) for county and board statistics.

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

 

Schott Solar is no Solyndra

Posted on 05. Jul, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Energy/Environment

When any company closes its doors it creates victims, but the victims are not limited to the immediate workforce.

Plant closings have profound consequences for the communities in which the companies reside, the vendors that serve them, and the local and state governments’ tax bases.

Companies must be treated individually and as part of a larger collective.

In the case of Schott Solar, it is an individual company but very much an integral part of a collective of foreign-owned, U.S.-based businesses and part of the renewable energy industry community.

New Mexico will have to wrestle with the body blow dealt to its high-technology company recruitment strategy by the departure of a world class company.

Collateral damage is still damage

Some people will want to compare the loss of Schott to the bankruptcy of Solyndra since both companies were working in the solar energy field. That would be a big mistake. No two companies could be more different than these two.

Schott’s corporate history goes back to 1884 in Jena, Germany when it started out as a technical laboratory specializing in glass. Today, the company produces a wide variety of innovative glass products for high-technology commercial applications. Its entry into photovoltaics dates back to 1958. Solar panel work, which started in 2001, was a natural outgrowth of that early pioneering work with other glass applications.

Solyndra was a 2006 startup in search of a federal government life support system that it could use to free-ride to the front of the line, whereas Schott wasn’t even standing in line!

Solyndra got its wish when the Department of Energy opened its purse and gave the company $535 million of our taxpayer money – money that is now irrevocably lost – squandered away without any federal provision for pay-back.

To its credit, Schott Solar saw the handwriting on its wall and did not prolong the painful decision to dissolve its operations. This stood in stark contrast to Solyndra that knew it was doomed yet put off the inevitable, spent the Energy Department grant and then waited for another bite of the Federal apple.

Schott’s decision to cut its losses and get out of the business of solar panel production must have been a difficult one for a proud 125-year old company because no company wants to give up the future, especially one in which it has made such a significant investment, but soon Schott will close more factories in Europe and its solar headquarters in Germany, effectively putting itself out of the multi-crystalline photovoltaic business entirely.

Companies cannot pay today’s bills with tomorrow’s hopes

Schott’s strategic position was untenable, especially in the face of an onslaught of cheaply-made Chinese solar panels that were being dumped onto our market. This strategy has gone on for three straight quarters and it has cost Chinese manufacturers hundreds of millions of dollars.

It is, however, a price they are prepared to pay for market domination (Chinese manufacturers are getting credits through their government banks which are supporting their efforts). In the face of this unfair competition, Schott did what any responsible company must do to stem the flow of red ink. It called it quits, globally.

Now I’m not suggesting that we should give them the keys to the city and a going-away party. I’m simply saying that we have to accept the inevitability of losing some companies from time to time. We must learn from the experience, adapt, and redouble our efforts.

While our neighbors may be cutting fancy deals to attract big companies to their states, New Mexico can simply not afford to give a blank check to anyone to locate here anymore.

If our infrastructure, workforce and other strengths aren’t good enough for prospective investors, we must improve them rather than use no-strings cash giveaways as the deal-maker. I’d much rather leave the negotiating table with my shirt still on my back and my reputation intact than to gamble with taxpayer dollars.

Invest in technology or companies

Solyndra has become the poster child for a failed federal policy that has favored companies over technology. It seems that the Feds have adopted the Nancy Pelosi approach to government grant-giving: “We’ll have to pass the bill now so that we can find out what’s in it.” Translated, that means: Trust me. Give me your money, and we’ll deal with the outcome later.

Before we slam the door on Schott as it leaves, we ought to consider that the company has been a great corporate citizen. It has probably paid out nearly $50 million in wages and benefits to its workers over the past three and half years, most of which has trickled down into our local economy. It has taught a few hundred semi-skilled or unskilled workers a valuable trade, and it agreed to be used to entice more companies to come to New Mexico.

I had the privilege of meeting many of Schott’s employees and its management team, and I can honestly say that they are a class act and I wish them well.

If there’s a take-way here, it is that we must deal with prospective investor companies from a position of reasonableness in the future. We must lay out all the benefits of doing business here and not give away the store to get the sale. We should never be like the New York merchant who was selling his goods below cost, and who, when he was asked by his friend how he was able to do it said, “volume.”

Editor -

 

 

 

May 2012 New Mexico Sales Number and Median Price Above May 2011

Posted on 01. Jul, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy

May sales numbers in New Mexico out-paced both April 2012 numbers and those reported for May of 2011.  1,358 sales were reported to the REALTORS Association of New Mexico (RANM) during May 2012.  This compares to 1,256 in April 2012 and 1,200 in May 2011.

The reported May 2012 median price was $170,000.  This number is 3% higher than the median reported in May 2011.

Is the New Mexico market really turning around?  According to Debbie Rogers, 2012 President of RANM, “There is optimism.  Brokers have started seeing multiple offers at list price or higher during the past few weeks.  Many distressed properties are still on the market and influence median prices, however, banks are beginning to see the wisdom of short sales over foreclosure, and this is helping our market.”

“Short sales and foreclosures throughout the state are reflected in year to date median prices – $163,000 – which is just over 1% lower than the 2011 January through May median,” according to Steven Anaya, RANM Executive Vice President.  “The good news is the number of sales continues to increase.

Over 10% more sales have been reported to date for 2012 than January through May 2011.”  5,619 sales were reported for the first five months of 2012; 5,094 sales were reported during the same period in 2011.

Again, monthly (and year to date) numbers vary considerably by market.  Comparing May 2011 to May 2012, roughly half the counties reporting showed an increase in sales or median price and half showed decreases.  Bernalillo, Eddy, Grant, Sandoval, Sierra, and Valencia counties all showed an increase in both number of sales and median prices.

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 619/12.  Visit www.nmrealtor.com (housing trends) for county and board statistics.

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

The Real Victims of the Recession

Posted on 12. Jun, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Politics, Social/Cultural

Thousands of words have been written about the victims of the current recession, and most of them have described the plight of the millions thrown out or frozen out of the labor force.

The bad news just keeps on coming

Every month, I get an email from the Bureau of Labor Statistics listing the percentages of the newly unemployed, and each month I reflect soberly on the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are now shunted aside to the unemployment rolls or worse. Many of them are young workers, older workers and inexperienced unskilled workers, but they also include white collar middle managers.

Anyone who has ever been unemployed can relate to this tragic situation and has probably sat across the kitchen table from their spouse adding up the monthly bills and wondering how they were going to pay them.  Journalists write about home foreclosures, bankruptcies highlighting the statistics, but often forget the stinging human tragedy of unemployment that can lead to crime, clinical depression, divorce, domestic violence and even suicide.

Victimization a part of our DNA?

It’s not part of our national DNA to feel victimized, but this might be changing as many people are in genuine dismay over how we as a nation got to this point. Many of us who never lived through the Great Depression or were too young to remember the hardships of WWII have only the oil crisis of the 70s, the recession of 1982 and the ‘dot com bubble’ as our barometer to measure hardship.

Because of that we are at a distinct disadvantage on how to accurately assess the misery of our current times. Granted, being unemployed and feeling desperate probably feels the same in 2012 as it did seventy or eighty years ago, but there are differences as well as similarities.

After the stock market crash of the 30s, wealth was wiped out on a grand scale and along with it the expectations of an entire nation.  In the 40s, America went to war, and while there were shortages of basic materials that were re-directed to the war effort, the solidarity of supporting the winning of that war put everyone in the same boat so that doing without meant sacrificing for a noble cause and was therefore more acceptable.

The oil crisis of the 70s woke us up to the reality that we were a foreign energy-dependent nation and that that dependency victimized our long-held beliefs about our self-sufficiency.

Fast forwarding to the mid-80s saw us pay the piper for our excesses. The massive economic slowdown, inflation and high unemployment were everywhere and American confidence was on a rapid downward spiral.  A whole new generation of Americans began to doubt themselves and felt that the country had lost its instruction manual on how to manage things and keep the intricate ‘machine of commerce’ running.

The hidden victims

We recovered, but it took a long time, and while we learned a few important lessons along the way, the recessions had divided America into two rather large groups that split along pro and anti-government and pro and anti-business lines. We weren’t alone. Europe experienced the same dilemma and Asia was just waking up from a long ideological slumber that was dominated by collectivist dreams.

Every crisis and every disaster has its victims. The obvious ones are the walking wounded, those left without the means to rebuild their lives. The hidden victims are just as real as those that bleed. They are our aspirations, our confidence, and yes, our hope.

America has allowed its courage, steadfastness, pluck, optimism, sense of humor, cooperative spirit and dreams become the collateral damage of the recession of 2008-2012.

Words will not return America to greatness, and our crisis won’t be solved by 60-second campaign ads. It is one of a profound lack of confidence, cooperation and leadership.

While our former landlords felt that “the sun never sets on the British empire,” America’s dawn is always breaking anew. We need only look up at it for inspiration and remember from whence and where we all came.

- Editor

Stephan J. Helgesen

Crony Capitalism and President Obama: How the system really works

Posted on 11. Jun, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Politics, Social/Cultural

President Obama’s attacks on Romney’s record while at Bain Capital have opened the window on what is being called “Obama’s public equity record”—with Romney’s surprise news conference in front of failed solar manufacturer Solyndra and new campaign ads bringing the Obama administration’s record into the spotlight.

Suddenly the “green jobs” record is being carefully examined and “giving taxpayer money to big donors, and then watching them lose it” is back in the news.

In his book, Throw Them All Out, Peter Schweizer says: “These programs might be the greatest—and most expensive—example of crony capitalism in American history. Tens of billions of dollars went to firms controlled or owned by fundraisers, bundlers, and political allies, many of whom—surprise!—are now raising money for Obama again.”

We understand that “crony capitalism” involves helping those who have helped you; “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” But the simple term crony capitalism belies the evil, corrupt nature associated with the actual process.

Crony capitalism goes way beyond helping your friends, your cronies. It is a twisted, orchestrated plan that rewards the cronies and costs the taxpayer, while punishing the average citizen.

It may take years of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to uncover the depth of President Obama’s crony capitalism, but we can get a glimpse of how it is done and what it costs us through a new book, Governor Richardson and Crony Capitalism, which meticulously chronicles the crony capitalism of one of Obama’s cronies: former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson—President Obama’s original pick for the Secretary of Commerce post.

Governor Richardson and Crony Capitalism is a little book. It can be read in an hour. It addresses just one aspect of Governor Richardson’s crony capitalism—but it covers it thoroughly, with nearly as many pages of footnotes and documentation as story.

I didn’t write the book, but I did have a bit part. I filed a couple of the FOIA requests and picked up some of the documentation. When I read the manuscript, I knew this was a story everyone needed to read—not so much because everyone needs to know about New Mexico, but because everyone needs to understand how the system really works.

New Mexico is a poor state, on the bottom of about every list—except for drunk driving (where we are on the top). Governor Richardson and Crony Capitalism, documents just one rule—not even a law—that Richardson appointees, heads of state agencies (think EPA), inflicted on the state’s most economically important industry: oil and gas. With color photos, charts and graphs, the author, Harvey E. Yates, through Governor Richardson and Crony Capitalism demonstrates how the “pit-rule” has cost the state $6 billion in overall revenues, and the state and local governments, specifically, $1 billion.

Remember New Mexico is a poor state, and the rule chronicled in the book, the pit-rule, is just one rule that favored one of Richardson’s friends. Similar actions likely played out over-and-over by a governor with higher aspirations. Similar actions likely continue to play out in the Obama White House with bigger numbers.

Johnny Cope was a long-time friend of Bill Richardson who the newly-elected Governor intended to appoint to an important position in his administration. (Note: the definition of cronyism is “Favoritism shown to old friends without regard for their qualifications, as in political appointments to office.”)

Cope owned a financially troubled business: Controlled Recovery Inc. (CRI) which serviced the oil industry through oil field remediation and waste management. At the time of Richardson’s election in 2002, CRI was near worthless and struggling, yet in 2006 CRI was sold for $10 million.

CRI grew to include a fleet of trucks and round-the-clock operations in just four years. Along the way, CRI got regulatory preference, uncooperative officials were removed, CRI’s business was increased, and its competitors were eliminated through agency orders. Official filings show that, on six specific occasions, Cope made substantial donations—or raised donations—totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars to Richardson, which coincided with critical regulatory events.

Pit-rule 17 was proposed in March 2006—the same month Cope’s companies donated $70,000 to Richardson’s re-election campaign. This statewide rule virtually required that all drilling waste from new drill sites be transported to an approved disposal facility.

But in 2004, the Richardson administration had made the CRI facility exempt from tough new regulations on oil field waste landfills and oil sludge recovery facilities, such that CRI had a huge advantage over its few remaining competitors. Effectively, the oil and gas industry had to pay CRI for the privilege of drilling new wells in New Mexico.

(On a national level, we have what could be called “crony environmentalism.” Laws and regulations, which should apply to everybody, are waived for the favored few. For example, the oil and gas industry is hauled into court if a migratory bird happens to die in an oil pit, but the thousands of birds—including protected eagles—killed by wind turbines are actually authorized.)

In the years prior to the pit-rule draft release, New Mexico’s drilling rig count closely paralleled the neighboring oil-and-gas states of Oklahoma, Texas, and Colorado. However, after March 2006, New Mexico’s rig count started trending downward and fell below Colorado’s for the first time in more than a decade—costing New Mexico lost jobs, and severance and royalty income.

Chapter 1, Overview, starts with “Environmentalists eagerly claim fatherhood of the pit-rule. However, a close examination of the evidence leads to the conclusion that, while environmentalists indeed were useful midwives in the delivery of the pit-rule, cronies of former Governor Richardson sired the rule.” Chapter 6, The Price We Paid, ends with these words: “Such is the legacy of a Crony Capitalist enterprise.

The losers were the state’s public education system, state employees, the state infrastructure, and generally, the citizens of the state. If the environmental community wishes to assume part of the responsibility for the loss to the state because of its role of midwife of pit-rule 17, that is probably appropriate.”

Governor Richardson left the state with a budget deficit. Yet he was somehow able to have plenty of campaign cash to launch his presidential run. Governor Susana Martinez took on the deficit. She put different people in charge of the agencies and changed the policies.

Instead of using regulations as a hammer, they are now used as a guideline. The industry with New Mexico’s single largest economic impact is coming back. Nationally the economy is still in crisis, yet in one year, the New Mexico state budget has gone from deficit to surplus.

There is an obvious parallel with the New Mexico story and the national one. Governor Richardson and President Obama seem to be cut from the same ideological cloth. They hurt the industry that has the ability to help—if not fix—economic woes while making policy decisions that help their friends at the expense of the tax-paying citizens, often under the cover of environmentalism.

Yates’ Governor Richardson and Crony Capitalism shows how it was done in New Mexico through the tight, single story of the pit-rule. The reader can easily extrapolate it out to the national stage.

Additionally, Governor Richardson and Crony Capitalism offers activists a lesson in the power of FOIA. There are surely similar stories being played out in other states where winners are picked and others are punished while the person in power laughs all the way to the bank.

In New Mexico, we elected a new governor who doesn’t share Governor Richardson’s ideology, and, in one year, the state budget went from a deficit to a surplus. On a national level, the problem is bigger than that of my poor state, but the results of a change at the top—and therefore, a change in the various agency heads—could well produce similar results for America.

This article was submitted by Marita Noon. She is the 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.


 

 

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