The Wizard Artist of Dumbledore, New Mexico

Posted on 30. May, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in NM, Social/Cultural

You needn’t look farther than the East Mountains outside Albuquerque to find the fantasy of Harry Potter materialize into reality. Not only is the house reminiscent of the popular Joann Kathleen (J.K.) Rowling series of otherworldly buildings like Dumbledore Castle, but its owner, Leslie Feuerborn, could have been the model for the wizard Gandalf in Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings.

An artist versed in stone masonry, woodworking, carving, stained glass and welding, the Oklahoma-born Feuerborn came to New Mexico in 1991.

After a stint as sculptor-in-residence at Casa de Suenos in Albuquerque he fulfilled a personal dream and moved to a secluded spot, high in the East Mountains where he could build his eclectic home and pursue his art while living a simple life.

When you first look at Feuerborn’s home you’ll swear you’ve fallen through Alice’s looking glass. Parts that normally reside on cars, telephone poles, farm machinery, airplanes, and somebody’s kitchen suddenly merge together to create a transformer-like house.

Your eye wanders from top to bottom taking it all in, wondering how it came to be. Says Leslie, “It took me 13 years to get to this point and I’m still not finished. I need to fit in the stained glass and a few other embellishments.”

I ask him about the outdoor pyramid that’s 25 ft. off the ground and that can only be reached by an industrial grating ramp. At the top of the 8×8 ft. platform is a huge steel open pyramid extending  into the air offering an exceptional view of the house’ roof treatments.










Long flowing translucent plastic decorative pieces that adorn the west roof could have been part of a Viking ship or an old Norwegian stave church and are now glowing in the fading light of the sun as we descend the pyramid (Leslie uses the pyramid for sunbathing and meditation).

Living as a quasi-ascetic and self-proclaimed ‘raw fooder,’ this soft-spoken and articulate man is obviously well-read and has come to both his philosophy of life and art via a long and winding road.

Back on terra firma, we move through piles of diverse ‘MIW’ (material-in-waiting) for future sculptures and come upon a steel and glass mandala-like piece that is proudly showing off the sun’s rays through its stained glass design. It’s obvious that this is one of Leslie’s favorites but I ask him to make sure.

His answer surprises me. “I have no favorites. They’re like children that are born, grow up and leave home.” So it is with art, especially art that  is meant to be shared with as many people as possible.

There are actually two Leslies: Leslie the artist and Leslie the craftsman. Both live together enjoying each new scavenged find of new unusual materials from old buildings or job sites that can be bent, cut, hammered and shaped into ethereal objets d’art.

Where does all this creativity come from I asked. He smiles and points upward and inward at the same time. “The cosmos, my parents and past lives I suppose. My father was a master gardener and my mother was a fine musician. Some of that might have rubbed off on me, but for the most part, I’m self-taught. Everything I know about the tools and processes I use I’ve learned from observing others and of course through trial and error.”

The newest addition to the Feuerborn arsenal of tools is a sophisticated cutting device that can make short work of granite and cast iron and allow him to reproduce his intricate designs on super dense, hard-to-pierce materials. It sits outside amid the MIWs, itself a kind of industrial art of the 21st century.

I couldn’t help but notice his fondness for arches and gates that dot his estate. “Arches tell you that something important is on the other side and they help focus the energy. They’re also fun to do.”

Whimsy is a word that comes to mind to describe Leslie Feuerborn’s work that is until you see him at work and listen to him speak of things like the nature of creativity, man’s relation to his surroundings and of course, spiritual geometry.

Our interview nearly over I asked him what one of his guiding principles of life was. It took him no time at all to answer. “Be true to yourself, live an honest life and don’t be afraid to take your own advice.”

Sage words from the wizard artist of Dumbledore.

Editor – More information on the sculptures of Leslie Feuerborn that are available for purchase or for special commissioned art may be obtained through the New Mexican Voice at:


A Vision for Economic Renewal – An American Jobs Agenda

Posted on 11. Aug, 2011 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Politics

America is facing a catastrophic jobs crisis. Not since the Great Depression has official unemployment hovered above nine percent – where it is today – for more than 20 months. Millions of American have given up looking for a job altogether.  Even worse, real unemployment is more than 18%.  Yet Washington overall has obviously yet to embrace a large-scale job creation agenda. Even if we reach consensus around the deficit – the only economic issue even getting any attention these days – it will do little to help the 29 million Americans who are unemployed in real terms. If we do not seriously tackle jobs, our country may never regain its competitive global edge.

I recently co-chaired, along with Leo W. Gerard – who is International President of the United Steelworkers and a member of the executive council of the AFL-CIO – a twenty-person Task Force on Job Creation seeking real solutions to the jobs crisis plaguing our country. This group of policy makers, economists, business and labor leaders developed a series of 15 immediate recommendations for reversing the crisis, outlined in a new report, “Vision for Economic Renewal: An American Jobs Agenda.”

We found there are six vital policy areas that our government must address in order to create millions more jobs now: manufacturing, trade and globalization, U.S.-China trade, the infrastructure crisis, jobs in the green economy, and youth unemployment.

Washington is often a city of Chicken Littles, which makes ringing the alarm bell difficult.  But once Washington wakes up from its deficit hangover, politicians will realize something that most Americans have known for months:  The sky has already fallen.

Here’s what we found we can and need to do:


America’s manufacturing sector must be a cornerstone of the nation’s economy and thus one of the essential drivers of the recovery we are still searching for. Yet manufacturing remains in a decades-long free fall, with, like most other sectors, stagnant wages for more than a decade. In just three years, our manufacturing sector has lost over 2.5 million jobs, and over the last decade, we’ve lost more than 6 million.  The continuing decline of manufacturing will limit job growth and jeopardize our national standing. Industries that were once great contributors to our country – auto manufacturing, shipbuilding and machine tools fabrication – are barely shadows of what they once were.  Meanwhile, jobs in other leading manufacturing sectors, like aerospace, are being off-shored every day.

Why the decline? One of the fundamental reasons is simply that the U.S. lacks a national manufacturing strategy that integrates policies around tax and investment, R&D, domestic procurement and currency valuation. And we lack any plan for how to restore this sector. Our task force identified several ways to bring back this sector:

- Buy-Domestic Procurement requirements

No single measure would do more to help resuscitate U.S. employment, particularly in manufacturing, than an encompassing buy-domestic government procurement requirement. All infrastructure projects funded and guaranteed by the federal government and the proposed infrastructure bank should require purchases to be made in America rather than overseas, consistent with our international trade agreements. As well, to qualify as “Made in America,” at least 75 percent of the content should have to be manufactured within our borders. To make that happen, Congress should require domestic content calculations to be effective and transparent. Domestic sourcing requirements for all government procurement programs (e.g., Buy American, the Recovery Act) and programs that support U.S. exports (e.g., the U.S. Export-Impact Bank) should also be reviewed to ensure that contracting agencies are obeying and implementing the requirements. The Defense Authorization Bill passed in December that requires the Pentagon to buy solar panels from U.S. manufacturers is a good model. In addition, Congress needs to enact an all-of-government successor to the 1933 Buy American Act.

- Link an investment tax credit directly to jobs.  A 10% investment tax credit for the rehabilitation and renovation of existing manufacturing facilities would pump billions of dollars into modernizing America’s plants.  And with an additional investment tax credit for new equipment, businesses could retool their factories.

- Determine which government programs create and support U.S. jobs. We should require those bidding or applying for government contracts, assistance, grants or awards to provide detailed Employment Impact Statements in the application process. Results would factor into the outcome of the project or transaction.

Trade and Globalization

Our trade policies and unaddressed ills from globalization exacerbate America’s manufacturing industry woes. Just since 2001, the U.S. has had massive annual trade deficits totaling over $6 trillion. Yet the U.S. has no precise strategy to compete in a globalized economy.

In many parts of the developing world, workers toil for minimal pay under harsh conditions because organizing against unfair treatment is prohibited. This cheap labor seduces large multinational companies to move production overseas, where healthcare, pension and environmental costs are minimal. While human rights are plundered, U.S. workers are also losing their jobs. And many of the Asian countries where these jobs are going are manipulating their currencies to keep them undervalued against the dollar and are providing massive illegal subsidies and other unfair trade benefits.

We must mobilize to restore balance and mutual benefit to international trade. Let’s call on our leadership to:

- Restructure the tax code so American companies stay here. Right now, we provide tax incentives for companies to invest overseas, a sure sign that our economy works best for big business instead of for regular Americans. We must fix our tax code so corporations are not rewarded for closing plants and shipping jobs to China. In addition, Congress should offer partial tax rebates on exported goods and impose equivalent taxes on imports.

- Protect national security manufacturing. Today, the U.S. has an $80 billion annual trade deficit with China just for “Advanced Technology Products,” many of which are essential to our national defense. Congress should pass legislation requiring that certain critical items be subject to a national security impact statement before allowing their manufacturing overseas.

- Enact temporary tariffs. Congress should enact temporary tariffs to protect our high-value manufacturing. A temporary policy of import tariffs, coupled with encouragement of foreign direct investment, would provide the U.S. with all the benefits of free trade without promoting a low-wage workforce.

- Create a new Justice Dept. bureau to enforce trade. On the issue of enforcement, an independent office within the Department of Justice would be tougher and more effective at ensuring that our trade agreements are complied with.

- Initiate trade cases under the U.S. trade remedy laws. The U.S. should spearhead an Unfair Trade Strike Force to be deployed when nations violate trade laws.

U.S.-China Trade

It is impossible to overlook China when considering how to correct globalization’s unwanted fallout. The Chinese economy has been growing at ten percent a year for the last 30 years. Such unprecedented economic growth is at the root of China’s dramatic surge in military power, international political weight, and financial influence. These developments, with their economic and geo-political implications, are not simply the outgrowth of free market forces and fair trade. Rather, they stem from sophisticated industrial and mercantilist trade policies, often illegal, that China has instituted to establish its great power status.

The U.S. economy will continue its decline unless our leaders in Washington take immediate action to take on Chinese economic practices.

- Create a White House office to focus on American competitiveness. A transparent office dedicated to gathering independent intelligence on our trade competitiveness with China would improve our economic standing. It would help align trade and tax policy so that private sector incentives match the public interest.

- Pursue a hard line on Chinese economic policy.  From intellectual property theft to restrictions on rare earth mineral exports to extortionist indigenous innovation purchasing policies, China is playing by a different set of rules and we’re doing little about it.  Our government must be willing to challenge and mitigate the disastrous effects of Chinese economic policies on American manufacturing and trade. This should start with a clearer focus from the White House, guided by the independent body recommended above and directed at all federal agencies. Initiatives should include bringing cases in the W.T.O., imposing tariffs when necessary, and requiring rigorous reviews of China’s planned investments in American ports, markets, natural resources and transportation industry.

Infrastructure Crisis

Coincident with the loss of trade and manufacturing is the decline of our nation’s infrastructure.  After years of under-investing in public infrastructure, America faces an infrastructure deficit of $3 trillion that is impeding economic growth and undermining our economy’s efficiency. We need to spend $2.2 trillion over just the next five years to meet America’s core infrastructure needs, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. But actual spending plans fall far short.

-  Create a levered National Infrastructure Bank. The administration and Congress should create a national infrastructure bank that would be an independent financial institution owned by the government. Able to fund a broad range of infrastructure projects beyond roads, rails and runways, it would make loans and loan guarantees and leverage private capital. It should be able to sell or issue general purpose bonds to raise funds for lending and investment, sell specific project bonds when necessary, and invite private investment, along with state and local government pension plan investments.

Green Economy

Employment opportunities in the “green economy” can provide some relief, although not as much as some project. According to Booz Allen, green projects will create eight million jobs by 2013; the Global Climate Network puts that number at 20 million world-wide by 2030.  Bolstering this segment of our economy will put people to work in manufacturing jobs that have the greatest multiplier effect, and will stimulate more economic growth.  Leaders in Washington must do more to encourage growth in this industry.

- Extend the Cash Grant Program for renewable energy production.  This program converts non-refundable tax credits for renewable energy production into cash grants.  Extending the program until the equity and debt markets recover will help create jobs and avoid further job loss in the industry.

- Lengthen the period of the Advanced Manufacturing Tax Credit.  ARRA authorized up to $2.3 billion in tax credits for investments in qualified advanced energy projects at manufacturing facilities, such as energy storage, electricity transmission, energy conservation technologies, and others.

- Expand Title 17 Loan Guarantee Program. Title 17 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 provides federal loan guarantees for the construction of energy-related facilities that use “new or significantly improved technologies” which are “non-commercial” and have high technological risk. These guarantees lower the cost of capital for these projects. Broadening Title 17 to include energy-efficiency investments would help spur this market and create new jobs.

Youth Employment

The hardest hit among the unemployed are young people. Almost 25 percent of teenagers from 16 to 19 are officially unemployed. For young adults aged 20 to 24, unemployment is nearly 16% – a number not seen since 1948. Many of these disconnected youth are at risk of becoming permanently disengaged from the labor market. Young people who do not have a successful work experience by age 25 are also at greater risk of lifelong poverty.

- Extend the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (W.O.T.C.) beyond August 2011. This law provides small businesses with tax incentives to hire people who might ordinarily struggle to find work – for example, those with lesser skills and veterans. Congress expanded the tax credit in 2009 to include the tax credits for hiring disconnected youth. Our ongoing national youth unemployment demands that this W.O.T.C. provision be extended well beyond August of this year.

Our national leadership is responsible for tackling the extreme real unemployment and stagnant wages crises. President Obama has already shown a strong willingness to reform health care and regulate the financial services industries. Today, however, our nation needs, from all of Washington, that same passion and commitment directed at job creation. It’s time our leaders show the moral courage that defines true leadership and resolve to restore what all good Americans want and need: the security, well-being and self-respect that come from fair employment and wages.

This article was submitted by Leo Hindery, Jr. Leo Hindery Jr. is chair of the Smart Globalization Initiative at the New America Foundation and an investor in media companies. He is the former CEO of AT&T Broadband and its predecessors, Tele-Communications, Inc. and Liberty Media.



Isolationism: America’s Next Step?

Posted on 06. Apr, 2011 by Administrator in Politics

Unlike pornography, isolationism is easy to define. It takes many forms but always results in a loss whether it’s a narrowing of perspective, retreat from relationships or the reduction of foreign aid — and the inescapable consequences to our economy and way of life. In the last 62 years, the U.S. spent approx. $800 billion on foreign aid and has about 154 countries receiving it (Israel receives the most). Helping the world’s needy wasn’t always a top American priority. Perhaps our most significant period of ideological isolationism was before our entry in WWI, a war we referred to as ‘Europe’s War’ until we were drawn in by the sinking of the Lusitania. After the Armistice was signed, the League of Nations (the forerunner to the United Nations) was formed and America officially became a citizen of the world.

Our donor objectives were simple: grow markets for our goods, help the disadvantaged and spread democracy. At the end of World War II, the hawks of war were supposedly caged for good as we looked outward. In 1946, we gave 1.38% of our GDP ($3.08 billion) in foreign aid (most to the Marshall Plan and for Japanese reconstruction). In 1947, we doubled our aid to $6.71 billion and then, in 1948 abruptly reduced it to $3.18 billion. There have been spikes along the way, most notably during the Cold War (military assistance counts as foreign aid) when we averaged $6.5 billion/year.

Let the good times roll … for awhile

Our companies followed on behind America’s foreign aid commitments much like the ‘Flying Wedge’ formation in football. Business took the Vietnam peace accords as a sign that Asia was ‘open for business.’ One-world thinkers populated the State Department and other organizations like the Agency for International Development, the Voice of America, the World Bank and the IMF. The UN bureaucracy was still fairly manageable, and the UNDP was still pretty transparent. It seemed we all had learned a valuable lesson: that proselytizing or making war would not open markets or improve disposable incomes. Aid would. It would also help attack some of mankind’s most pervasive problems like illiteracy, poverty, communicable diseases, addiction and famine. Americans have always looked at foreign aid with a mixture of altruism and pragmatism, and our aid programs have reflected that attitude. We believe in tied aid (tied to outcomes and purchases), but we also believed in giving to multilateral organizations, though with some reluctance. The 80s saw us level out our giving at about .35% of our GDP until the 90s when we dropped to .25%. It seemed we were losing our ‘appetite’ for donating. The new Millennium started us out at .16% of our GDP, and we’re more or less at that same rate today.

Where does the money go?

There are five main types of assistance: Bilateral Development Assistance (Congress appropriated $10.3 billion for this in 2008), Economic Aid Supporting U.S. Political and Security Objectives ($7.8 billion in 2008), Humanitarian Assistance ($4.2 billion in 2008), Multilateral Assistance ($1.6 billion in 2008), and Military Assistance ($5.1 billion in 2008). Add them up and our total foreign aid in 2008 was $27.68 billion or .19% of our GDP. Compare that with the post-war years of 1946 (with 1.38%) and 1974 (with .57%) and you can see that at this pace we’ll soon be putting IOUs into the international collection plate! There is a silver lining, though. Most U.S. foreign aid is used to procure U.S. goods and services. Of the FY2008 Military Assistance expenditure, 87% was used to procure U.S. military equipment and training. Food assistance commodities are purchased wholly in the U.S. and most of the costs for shipping those commodities to foreign countries go entirely to U.S. freight companies. On this basis, a rough estimate suggests that 90% of FY2008 U.S. food aid expenditures were spent in the U.S.

If America is to survive this severe economic downturn we will need to retrench and spend more money at home, but it is shortsighted of us to pull the plug on foreign aid when American companies are benefiting from the orders. While that may sound mercenary, it may be a mistake not to look at which barn this gift horse lives.

Stephan Helgesen is the former Director of the State of NM Office of Science and Technology and retired Foreign Service Officer who has worked in 24 countries. He is CEO of Second Opinion Marketing, a high technology consulting company.

Is Albuquerque an International City?

Posted on 06. Apr, 2011 by Administrator in Economy

No one would argue that New York, Chicago and Los Angeles are international cities, but would everyone agree that Albuquerque belongs in the same category? What is it that makes a city truly international, and how do we know when we’ve arrived? Cities become international over long periods of time, but all start with close civic cooperation and lots of investment money. They are not always coastal cities with large seaports, nor are they always home to significant numbers of international businesses, but they do have one very important thing in common … an international attitude and an abiding desire to become international. The recipe for a successful international city must include: organizations which promote and implement foreign visitor exchanges, universities with cutting edge international studies programs, a vibrant business community, a diverse population that values its diversity, a modern and growing infrastructure and a progressive city government that thinks internationally.

At first blush, Albuquerque would seem to measure up. It is multi-cultural. It has an international airport (though not yet offering direct international flights), and is home to universities offering international studies and organizations that promote the city to foreign markets. New Mexico exports over $2.5 billion with a significant share originating from Greater Albuquerque. Foreign investment in ABQ is growing steadily, too, and is respectably high for a community its size.

Do we see ourselves as `international’?

Do we view ourselves as international? Many do, but many don’t. I think that those who don’t are not seeing the forest for the trees. They forget our impressive demographics which include our large Hispanic and Native American population. This built-in diverse population offers a unique cultural foundation, and while it may not constitute a ‘foreign population base’ in the eyes of New Mexicans, it’s a plus to foreigners. In a sense, Albuquerque is ‘domestically foreign,’ and offers a distinct advantage over other U.S. cities our size. (Foreign investment goes where it can feel comfortable, and it can feel comfortable in a multi-cultural community like ours). We also have a very large subculture of foreign-born residents. It is estimated that nearly 9.0% of Albuquerquens are foreign-born. This compares with 12.9% nationwide, but it is still a significantly large number of people (approx. 70,000 if you look at recent growth rates for the city). The number of fraternal organizations and clubs that cater to ‘hyphenated Americans’ is also rising as more and more immigrants move to Albuquerque. We must also engage these groups in helping us build an international Albuquerque.

What else is necessary?

What next steps need to be taken to make Albuquerque a truly international city? We should continue to support our existing institutions, but we must also encourage them to increase their cooperation and coordination with one another. We are fortunate to have the City’s Economic Development Department and the AED who are doing an excellent job beating Albuquerque’s drum for foreign investment; the Chambers of Industry and Commerce are making trade matches; and the ABQ Tourism Office is bringing thousands more foreign tourists to our city. While all are posting impressive gains, I believe that we ought to consider creating a joint private/public sector International Office to help maximize the work done by all the NGOs, businesses and other organizations that routinely bring in foreign visitors.

Before we start laying any bricks, though, we need to stimulate a community-wide dialogue to produce a consensus-driven, professional plan for the future. If we engage Albuquerqueans in a debate on their city’s international future, we will be able to craft a realistic and manageable plan for achieving our goals.

Citizen Ambassadors

To make that leap of faith we will need to spread the word about how foreign investment and foreign involvement benefits and affects us all. We must recruit a corps of ‘citizen ambassadors’ who are willing to open their homes to foreign visitors. Becoming a host or hostess to foreigners and advocating for our city is a very personally rewarding experience, but more people need to be involved. Fortunately, we already have several groups who are working independently and energetically to that end: Friendship Force, Sister Cities and the Albuquerque Council for International Visitors which works closely with the U.S. Department of State to bring in emerging foreign leaders. By working more closely together, we could help attract even more foreign visitors to the Duke City.

Our own World Trade Center?

World Trade Centers are magnets for business, and they help establish the bona fides of an international city. We should strongly consider building an Albuquerque World Trade Center to house a permanent exhibition center – a showcase – for foreign and domestically-made products and one that provides low-cost office space for new foreign start-up businesses. (The WTC would also be home to the International Office I mentioned earlier.) We should staff it with government agencies and other professionals whose principal goal would be to insure its success. Finally, we must begin to see ourselves as part of a grand regional metroplex with other southwestern cities like Denver which already has a highly developed international focus. By partnering with other nearby cities to develop events and conferences, we will attract more foreign visitors to our region. A city should never grow for the sake of growing, but growing more international has a far-reaching benefit to all of us. It gives us a passport to extend our reach beyond our borders without leaving home. It deepens our understanding of other cultures, and helps us not only tolerate differences but learn to embrace them. We are already well on our way, but as with every journey, we need to measure our progress against some identifiable mile markers so that we will know how far we need to go by seeing how far we have come.

Stephan Helgesen is a former diplomat who has worked in over 24 foreign countries. He is Honorary Consul for German and CEO of his own Albuquerque-based high-tech consultancy company, 2nd Opinion Marketing & Communications.

Coming To Terms With The Border

Posted on 06. Apr, 2011 by Administrator in Social/Cultural

There is an immigration debate going on in the U.S., but there is another debate within that debate. It’s about terminology. It seems that we can’t even agree on what to call people who cross our borders, illegally. Some prefer euphemisms while others want straight talk. Depending on your political or ethnic background, you will refer to these people in one of the following ways: illegal aliens, illegal immigrants, illegal migrants, illegal border crossers, undocumented border crossers, undocumented migrants or maybe even … economically or socially disadvantaged undeclared temporary border crossers (if this is your choice, you can stop reading now).

What you say reveals who you are

Journalists with major southwestern newspapers will probably refer to these people as undocumented migrants or illegal immigrants, depending to a degree on their ethnic backgrounds. There are “style book descriptions” prepared by news editors that tell journalists which term to use in a given situation, but some editors give considerably more latitude to writers. This is not democratizing the debate; it is clouding the debate.

The U.S. government is another story. According to the U.S. Border Patrol in El Paso, they have no guidance from Homeland Security on which term to use to describe these people. I know. I called, and the answer was, “We have no directive on that subject, but we have chosen to describe them as undocumented migrants.” When I asked a senior Border Patrol Agent why they chose this term, the answer was, “These people have not declared themselves to us as immigrants, and therefore we have decided to call them undocumented migrants as we believe they will come back.” I couldn’t resist asking, “How many of these people stop by your offices to declare their status?” The answer was, “Well, none, really.”

Adam and Eve: the first immigrants

Since Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden, millions of people have left their home countries and entered others. Some movements were migrations and diasporas, but many were for immigration purposes. Most of these happened long before laws regulated the process. Immigration is not just a legal issue; it is a moral, economic and social issue. That’s why we must see the problem from several perspectives. It has been said that if we use the term “illegal immigrant” to describe the millions of people inside our borders illegally, the Mexican government could be offended (the vast majority are from Mexico). So we allow the Political Correctness Corps to “soften the edges” for us and promote the use of “undocumented migrant,” lest anyone get upset by being called an illegal immigrant (migrants tend to go back home after awhile; immigrants don’t).  Whatever happened to calling a spade a spade?

The truth will set you free (maybe)

It’s estimated there are between 11 million and 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States. Does referring to them as illegal immigrants mean that we hate them or their home countries? Of course not, but calling them that does help us come to grips with the real problem: ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION. If we call them migrants, we don’t have an immigration problem, we have an undocumented worker problem, and that’s a very different issue with different remedies. People here illegally don’t want to go back to a life that is worse than the one they have here, to societies that can’t give them work or provide their children with decent schooling or adequate medical care.

Yes, other governments have let their citizenry down, but to be fair, many of these problems are global in nature. The solution, however, is not to move somewhere else, but to solve them at home. We must agree to discuss the problem, openly and honestly. Polls say most Americans want a long-term solution for illegal immigration, but realize that deporting 12 million people who have struggled mightily to get here is not practical, reasonable nor fair. Instead, we should value their human capital and potential and help them become productive, legal U.S. residents. That’s what America is all about: valuing and nurturing human potential, rewarding effort and promoting honest and fair treatment of everyone, regardless of their ethnic background. Does that mean we should look the other way and let bygones be bygones? Probably not, because that would send the wrong signal to them and to those who might follow them.

A land of laws and a lawful land

Many who hold a “gentler view” would bend our immigration laws and give these people a free pass, just this once. They say, “We can’t send you back, so you might as well stay here, and just don’t break any other laws, please, or we may be forced to consider punishing you.” Those of the opposite viewpoint will say, “You broke the law; you must pay a penalty, otherwise you won’t respect us and neither will anyone else.” How do we reconcile the views of these two groups? The answer is, we cannot, totally, because they represent two entirely opposite poles of thought. One is for selective obedience to the law; the other is for absolute obedience to the law. Instead, we must have a serious national debate and strongly urge our lawmakers to enact fair, enforceable legislation. Then we must abide by the decision no matter which side of the political divide it comes down on.

That’s the American way. And, by the way, there are other pressing problems that face North America that must be solved, and the clock is ticking. Some would say Adam and Eve were lucky. After being tossed out of paradise, they formed the world’s first democracy with only two parties and two votes. Certainly makes you appreciate the art of compromise, doesn’t it?

Stephan Helgesen is a Tijeras resident.

Exporting: The Grand Illusion Washington-style

Posted on 28. Mar, 2011 by Administrator in Economy

My eyes are blurry.  I just finished reading the 75-page report on the Administration’s National Export Initiative (NEI) prepared by the President’s Export Promotion Cabinet (EPC).  This gem was ginned up in 180 days just in time for the election (though I’m sure not orchestrated to coincide with a White House attack on the Chamber of Commerce that represents the bulk of America’s exporters).

About the same time, I read a review of the report in the Albuquerque Journal (“Expansion of Exports requires recovery,” Oct. 11, 2010). Both accounts made me want to shout, “enough, already” at the top of my lungs!  If you like very old wine in new bottles — a re-packaging of ideas from 20-30 years ago — you will love this report.  Prepared by twenty different government agencies who all have a piece of the exporting portfolio and who form the ‘Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee,’ it is the perfect Washington PR tome designed to cause an uncontrollable bout of head shaking in the private sector. This report was written by bureaucrats for bureaucrats without the help of the President’s Export Council which, incidentally, has no representation from the small business sector. Like, ‘Girls Gone Wild,’ Government revealed its assets for all to see, and they came up short on substance but long on grandiosity.

The most startling is the sub-headline of the report which alludes to a ‘doubling of our exports in five years.’ After reading that I thought I had fallen into the rabbit hole and become part of Alice’s Wonderland.  NASA had an easier time sending astronauts to the moon than it will be for the USA to overcome decades of export lethargy and export illiteracy and double our exports in 60 months. I base my beliefs on an intimate working knowledge of Federal Government trade promotion agencies, America’s manufacturers and 20 years of practical experience as an export specialist in over 24 countries.

The priorities: nothing up its sleeve?

According to the report and the review, priority one is to assist small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with a ‘national awareness campaign’ (we tried that for decades with only marginal success); more government trade missions and delegations (New Mexicans know how well those work out); more commercial advocacy for U.S. projects (we’re already at the top of our game);  continued support for exporters once they’ve entered the field (they usually want government to get out of their way at that point); more and easier credit (not usually high on serious exporters’ lists unless they need to tool up for a big foreign order). Then there is the usual, ‘better tracking of (GOV) export services, designed to improve policy-making,’ thrown out to appease the smaller government crowd.

There is also a policy wonk euphemism hiding in every report. My favorite in this one has to be the ‘macroeconomic rebalancing’ – a kind of ‘tough love’ program for the G20 trading partners that enables us to convince them to let us bend the international trading rules to get our jobs back from overseas. Ever heard of a lead balloon?   In short, the report and the review have something in common. They are both candidates for the Siegfried and Roy award for shifting realities.  Instead of dragging out the same old worn-out remedies in a ‘new and improved’ initiative to nowhere, what’s really needed are five things.

Five Essential Underpinnings

If we are to see even a modest growth in exports we will need five basic conditions or things to happen:

1. A resurgence of corporate interest in manufacturing and attendant investment

2. New, ‘return to the USA’ manufacturers’ incentives to bring back jobs

3. Better industrial and product design (we cannot sell ‘modified’ U.S.-style products to
sophisticated international customers)

4. More and better market information/commercial intelligence

5. Less government intervention not more

Our trade deficit is already running at an alarming $50 billion/month, of which $25 billion plus is with China! We have no time to wait around for a “global turnaround” or a “domestic recovery” to begin exporting (as the reviewer of the article suggests). A wait and see attitude has never favored the winners in any contest. Those who delay their plans or investments may save some money now, but will lose market share when the turnaround does come. The cost of catching up is infinitely greater when you’re way behind the curve. Just ask the authors of the report.

Stephan Helgesen is the former Director of the State of NM Office of Science and Technology and retired Foreign Service Officer who has worked in 24 countries. He is CEO of Second Opinion Marketing, a high technology consulting company in Albuquerque and Honorary German Consul in New Mexico.

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