NY Times Discusses Spaceport Boondoggle

It wouldn’t be like the New York Times to take a stand for smaller government, but they did run an article discussing the planned New Mexico Spaceport. One important fact that was not mentioned in the article is that New Mexico is not alone in its spaceport venture. In fact, New Mexico’s spaceport will be competing with similar ports in at least five other states and in several other nations. New Mexico can’t even get it right when it comes to making movies, it seems rather obvious that the chances of seeing any return on this, highly speculative “investment” of taxpayer dollars, is rather slim.

Split the Vote for Smaller Government?

Although the Rio Grande Foundation cannot and does not take a position on specific candidates and their races, Bruce Bartlett makes a compelling case as to the merits of splitting control over the legislative and executive branches of our federal government. It is hard to argue with some of the data he includes as far as the relative success of limiting spending and passing necessary reforms. We’ll just have to wait until November 8 when, hopefully, the votes will be tallied and America will know who controls Congress.

Taxpayer Rip-off in New Orleans

As much as one doesn’t want to pick on the citizens of the Gulf Coast region, one might think that taxpayers and residents of the area would agree that we don’t want something like Katrina to ever happen again. Unfortunately, it looks like that is what federal taxpayers are in the midst of paying for — rebuilding in flood-prone areas.
Unfortunately, Congress has proven once again to be an inadequate steward of our taxpayer dollars. So, instead of reforms or, better still, the elimination of the National Flood Insurance Program which ultimately creates these perverse incentives, we’ll have aother Katrina-like storm in the future.

Wishful Thinking on Minimum Wage

Perhaps you may have heard about the recent letter that was signed by some 675 economists who endorse raising the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25. It would be nice if Congress could raise the income levels of working Americans with the wave of a legislative wand, but as Steve Chapman points out, these economists — yes, it happens to them too — have fallen prey to a bout of “wishful thinking.”
While New Mexico, because of its relatively high poverty and low wages, will hurt its low-income workers more than most states, the best thing about Congress’s decision not to raise the wage this year is that some states are raising their wages while others are not. Given time, those states that raise their wages the most aggressively will see a negative economic effect while others will escape harm. Allowing states to go their own ways is far better than a one-size-fits-all policy from Washington.

Cato Institute Releases Report Card on Nation’s Governors

Many of New Mexico’s leading fiscal conservatives were quite upset when, in the 2004 Report Card, the Cato Institute gave Bill Richardson a “B” and called him “an aggressive tax cutter, the best Democratic Governor in the nation bar none,” and “one of the best new governors in the nation.”
Recently, Cato released its 2006 study of governors and, while Richardson only receives a “C,” Cato still lists him as the 9th-best Governor in the nation. What gives? For starters, despite all his shortcomings, Richardson is a net tax cutter based on his income and capital gains tax reductions. With all of the other governors out there raising taxes, Richardson is going to be seen in a favorable light on tax policy.
Spending is something of a different story. According to Cato: “Richardson’s budget proposals have grown faster each year, and the general fund budgets he signed into law between fiscal 2004 and 2006 have grown in total by a whopping 23 percent—almost five percentage points faster than population and inflation.”
We at the Rio Grande Foundation have been saying very much the same thing about Richardson’s spending record. If nothing else, hopefully his desire to play the part of a fiscal conservative and the reduction in oil and gas tax revenues will force Richardson to exert some fiscal restraint rather than raising taxes and further tarnishing his credibility as a “fiscal conservative.”

International Competitiveness???

Often, much is made of America’s “economic competitiveness” with the rest of the world. Thomas Friedman’s book, The World is Flat made a big deal over whether Americans can “compete” in the world economy. Unfortunately, politicians from both the left and the right of the political spectrum too often harp on our “competitiveness” without fully explaining themselves.
Fortunately, that is why we have people like Paul Jacob to explain in just a few hundred words that we are not really competing against the Chinese or the French, rather we are all cooperating through the wonderful capitalist system to raise living standards in all nations that embrace free trade and economic liberty. In other words, rather than worrying aboiut what the Chinese or Indians are doing and whether they’re “catching up” to us, we should celebrate their gains and work to improve our our own country.

Ballot Measures

Just in time for the upcoming election, the Rio Grande Foundation has put together its own guide to the ballot measures that voters will have the final say on. It is safe to say that the so-called “quality of life” tax hike is not the only vote likely to have a significant impact on taxpayers’ pocket books.
Although it is nice that politicians allow citizens to have the final say over some of these issues, it would be even better if New Mexicans could actually put items like constitutional tax and spending limits on the ballot rather than even more spending as the politicians seem to prefer.
If our ballot guide is not enough for you or you are interested in what voters in other states are voting on — four states will be voting on tax and spending limits — then be sure to check out the ballot guide put together by the National Taxpayaers Union,

Self Esteem No Help for Math Scores

Self esteem is a good thing, but it doesn’t help American students with their math problems.
Six percent of Korean eighth-graders in a recent survey expressed confidence in their math skills, compared with 39 percent of U.S. eighth-graders. Yet an international math assessment showed Koreans scoring far ahead of their peers in the United States, “raising questions about the importance of self-esteem,” notes writer Jay Mathews in “For Math Students, Self-Esteem May Not Equal High Scores.”
With New Mexico students trailing behind the rest of the country and the country as a whole trailing behind much of the world, it is clear that big changes are needed here and in the American education system as a whole.

Bias at UNM Law School?

Recently, on the pages of the Albuquerque Journal, there has been a debate over whether or not the law school at the University of New Mexico is biased to the left of the political spectrum. Asserting that there is rampant bias at UNM was Christina Hoff-Summers of the American Enterprise Institute while the Dean of UNM’s law school weighed in to assert that there is no bias at the school.
Unfortunately, conservatives who complain about bias at NPR, on PBS, and in the universities should realize that bias is inevitable at institutions that depend on government largesse for their existence. These people are not going to bite the big-government hand that feeds them and when it comes down to it, unless they say or do soemthing truly outrageous as the University of Colorado’s Ward Churchill did a while back, these people are pretty secure in their rather cushy jobs.
Perhaps then, libertarians and conservatives should agree to work together not to change the party identifications of those who are hired and fired at these government-supported institutions, but to privatize them entirely. Michigan and Virginia law schools are de facto privatized and even Berkely is considering the idea. How about it UNM?

Richardson Agrees: Tax Cuts In Order for New Mexicans

We at the Rio Grande Foundation have had our share of problems with some of Governor Richardson’s economic policies, but we wholeheartedly agree with his recent assertion that tax cuts are in order here in New Mexico. That said, however, if the purpose of cutting taxes is economic growth, his narrowly-targeted proposal will have a negligible impact.
Instead, we suggest, as we have in the past, that Governor Richardson continue reducing the state income tax to the point of complete elimination. Blanket rate reductions are always better than narrowly-targeted tax cuts and reducing the top rate further would have a significant, positive economic impact.