Instead of being threatened by global warming as seems to be the consensus nowadays, polar bears are being threatened by a recent cold snap in Iceland. Apparently, the hapless bears have walked across ice that has made its way to Iceland — an unusual occurance due to recent cold weather — and when they arrive they threaten the townspeople and are often killed. I’m sure global warming has something to do with this recent turn of events.
While school choice seems not to be on Governor Richardson’s or the Legisalture’s agenda this year in New Mexico, our neigbhors in Utah are moving forward with a plan to give poor children vouchers. New Mexico’s neighbors to the northwest are not the only ones that have been actively expanding educational choice — Arizona has been a leader nationwide in the area of education reform.
Recently, the Washington-based Heritage Foundation released its 2007 Index of Economic Freedom. This popular study analyzes the freedoms that exist or do not exist in countries around the world and ranks them.
Not surprisingly, the United States fares relatively well (4th worldwide) and freer countries are wealthier than those that restrict freedom. Perhaps the most relevant aspect of this study for New Mexicans is the fact that Hong Kong — an island with few resources, but a great deal of economic freedom — is much wealthier than Cuba, another island nation, but with greater natural resources.
The fact is that economic freedom, not natural resources — Iran, Venezuela, and Nigeria each have rich oil supplies — make countries wealthy. New Mexico, while blessed with natural resources, is not as economically-free as other states and is also poorer.
Ethanol is all the rage nowadays. President Bush and Governor Richardson, both of whom are obsessed with finding “renewable” sources of energy will, if they stick to their ambitious plans,will more than likely rely on ethanol for a significant portion of that energy.
Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren of the Cato Institute deconstruct the supposed benefits of ethanol here. Did you know that ethanol really isn’t entirely “renewable?” How about the fact that it doesn’t actually reduce greenhouse gases?
Also, given all the debate we’ve had over illegal immigration from Mexico, one might think that the Minutemen might want to take an anti-ethanol position what with US ethanol consumption causing tortilla prices in Mexico to skyrocket (and other unrest).
This just in: the US Senate has voted to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour. The only kicker is that the Senate version, unlike the House version, contains some tax breaks and other benefits for small businesses and others that will be disproportionately (and negatively) impacted by the higher mandated wage.
Assuming that this legislation is passed and passed quickly — I doubt it will take more than a week or two — it will be interesting to see whether New Mexico’s Legislature decides to go along with Governor Richardson’s demand for a $7.50 an hour wage. It would certainly make sense to simply go along with the new federal wage rate, but sometimes things just don’t make sense here in New Mexico.
Bill Richardson has a lot invested in the Spaceport that has been proposed for southern New Mexico. That’s why he traveled to Las Cruces recently to make the pitch that voters should raise taxes to fund the project. As shaky as the economics of the spaceport really are — did you know that Richard Branson just signed an agreement to use a Swedish spaceport? — residents of Doña Ana County and throughout Southern New Mexico have to wonder if their tax money will be wasted. After all, New Mexico’s spaceport will be competing with those in several other states and countries to serve a market for private space travel that doesn’t even exist yet.
Bill Richardson is by no means the only politician who thinks he knows better how to spend your money than you do, but his energy, power, and ambition (along with a distinct misunderstanding of economics) make him an ardent and rather effective supporter of big government.
Reporters affiliated with both major Albuquerque newspapers picked up on my have picked up on my recent National Review Online article on Richardson’s spending record. The Albuquerque Journal and Tribune have both highlighted the story in recent days.
Richardson’s record will provide the Foundation with some great fodder as he runs for the nation’s highest office. If Big Bill (or any other politician) wants kudos instead of brickbats, broad tax cuts, school choice, and the restoration and maintenance of New Mexicans’ Constitutional liberties would be a great place to start.
In case you missed the Rio Grande Foundation’s most recent commentary, I discussed Governor Richardson’s record in a recent article on National Review Online. Richardson’s run for the White House is a great opportunity for the Foundation and for those concerned about the very real political and economic problems facing New Mexico to expose them and discuss them on a national stage. These problems — high taxes, poor educational performance, and poverty — are not new. Richardson didn’t cause them, but he could be doing more to resolve them. I just hope that our efforts are more productive than the Republican Party’s calling Richardson a “carnie huckster.”
The Foundation remains steadfastly non-partisan, yet our state’s politcal culture would benefit greatly from a more robust debate — as opposed to name-calling — between the two parties.
Our good friend Troy Williamson over at Educate New Mexico had a nice piece in the Albuquerque Tribune yesterday. For some reason, rather than fighting education choice tooth and nail, it appears that the education establishment in Agua Fria actually supports giving students and parents educational choices. I’m not sure if the best thing to do is to not talk about this shining example lest the NEA send try to stop it, but who knows, whatever is in the water that has caused this cooperation in Agua Fria might actually spread to other parts of the state. Let’s hope it does!
Here at the Rio Grande Foundation, we talk a lot about tax policy and the fact that New Mexico’s policies tend to be relatively unfriendly to entreprenuers and business activity in general. Unfortunately, while New Mexico trails its neighbors in most economic indicators, the average person often does not make the connection between overall economic conditions and tax policy. In at least one instance, that is changing.
As the Albuquerque Journal reported this week, the Legislature is now considering whether to exempt concert tickets from New Mexico’s gross receipts tax. The reason for the potential tax cut? The number of concerts being held at the Pan American Center in Las Cruces has declined by 60 percent since Texas ended its tax on most events. Thus, while New Mexico may be charging only a dollar or more per ticket in taxes, for a concert promoter, that can be $25,000 in forgone profit on $500,000 in ticket sales.
Some might say that even $25,000 is not much money for a “rich” promoter, but a good businessman would be a fool to pass up $25,000. So, is eliminating the ticket tax a good idea? Maybe, or maybe not. The point is that every time we raise taxes — or forego opportunities to cut them — businesses and consumers make real-world decisions as far as where they want to spend their money. This has had a serious impact in stunting economic growth in New Mexico.