Kudos to Diane Denish on Transparency

Lt. Governor Diane Denish is running for the state’s top office in 2010. She will be a formidable candidate, there is no doubt about it. Her biggest hurdle is most likely to be the time she has spent closely associated with current Gov. Bill Richardson. And, while it is true that they did not run as a ticket, there is no doubt that voters and the public will wonder why she didn’t do more to stop corruption and ethics violations that have run rampant in Santa Fe.

That said, Denish is due some credit for her recent public pledge to make transparency a centerpiece of her campaign. According to this story in Forbes, Denish has proposed creating a Web-based “sunshine portal” that would allow New Mexicans to track state expenditures, check on scheduled meetings, learn more about high-level state employees and their salaries, check out laws and regulations and offer opinions.

While I’m not sure what to make of one of her other proposals, that being for a powerful statewide ethics commission that “could investigate ethics complaints, launch its own probes, impose fines, refer cases for criminal prosecution, and establish a code of ethics and training for state workers and appointees,” the sunshine portal really is newsworthy and I think the Rio Grande Foundation can take some credit for this. In fact, we introduced Denish (and many other legislators in Santa Fe) this session to Robert Wood of the Texas Comptroller’s office. Texas’s comptroller Susan Combs has been a national leader in promoting government transparency and would be a great model for Denish and/or others who want to improve government transparency to follow.

The Rio Grande Foundation actually maintains a “Sunshine Page.” We call it Sunshine Review. Check out various transparency-related legislation here.

Fiscal Restraint Remains Popular (at least among voters and those trying to get elected)

It is gratifying to see politicians continuing to embrace fiscal responsibility when they run for office, even while the politicians that occupy office behave in just the opposite fashion. One exhibit of this is Albuquerque Mayoral candidate Richard Romero’s article in today’s Albuquerque Journal. In the article he touts his fiscal responsibility with nuggets like: “All current operational budgets should be based on realistic revenue estimates and not influenced by an incumbent’s wish list of high-profile projects that we can’t afford,” and “Future operating costs should not exceed gross receipts tax revenues.” These are sentiments with which I think we can all agree and I hope that no matter who is elected to City Council and as Mayor, I hope they stick with them. All too often, candidates campaign on fiscal restraint only to govern as big-spenders.
I don’t have any firsthand knowledge of Richard Romero’s fiscal track record and whether his statements should be taken as indicators that he will not push the taxpayer-financed streetcar and arena projects, but it is gratifying to see that fiscal restraint is going to be front and center in the 2009 Albuquerque Mayor’s Race.

Defending the Tea Parties

Since April 15 and the outpouring of taxpayer anger that manifested itself in the form of the tea party movement, a great deal has been made about what they mean. I discussed this issue with a couple of liberal skeptics on the Venus Transit Authority radio show on KRSN AM 1490 which is based in Los Alamos. Listen to the discussion below.

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They Just Don’t Get the Tea Parties

The tea parties are now the issue of the day. What do they mean? Were they a true grassroots efforts or simply top-down “astroturf” as Nancy Pelosi said? For my part, what I saw in Albuquerque was a group of people organizing from the grassroots, with housewives who had never done anything political before leading the charge.
This is why neither side (neither Republican nor Democrat) understands what the tea parties mean. For starters, there is Eugene Robinson whose column appears in both the Washington Post and the Albuquerque Journal. Robinson leans to the left and denigrated the rallies, claiming they were “generally small, and the only thing they proved conclusively is that that some Americans don’t much enjoy paying taxes.”
Then there is former Bush right-hand-man Karl Rove who wondered in his column how Republicans can harness the movement. At the same time, Rove didn’t attempt to explain and never really questioned why the tea party movement has arisen at this moment since we hadn’t seen a federal tax hike for 15 years until Obama’s tax hike on tobacco recently.
First and foremost, both writers miss the point. The rallies, while they did take place on tax day, were not really about taxes. Rather, they were, I believe, an expression of frustration at Republicans and Democrats, both of whom have supported out-of-control spending, bailouts, government takeovers and subsidies of private business, and unbelievable increases in indebtedness levels for the better part of the last decade. The unfortunate truth is that the Obama Administration has simply continued and expanded upon many of Bush’s policies and the people who work every day and make this country great are not happy. That is the message I got from the tea parties (at least in Albuquerque where politicians were specifically kept out of the limelight).
I wasn’t able to go to other tea parties because I did four hours of live radio (available here) from Albuquerque, but if the other tea parties had anywhere near the grassroots leadership that Albuquerque’s had, April 15 was the start of something big.

Government Goes Gargantuan

Commentator and syndicated columnist Deroy Murdock will be speaking at an upcoming event on May 14 in Albuquerque. Check this site for additional information. His recent column in the Washington Times arguing that federal bailouts now equal 90.14 percent of GDP.

This $12,798,140,000,000 costs every American man, woman, boy and girl $42,105. A family of four’s share of the bailout equals $168,420. Bloomberg reckons this $12.8 trillion invoice is more than 14 times the $899.8 billion in U.S. currency coursing through the economy. This signals inflation ahead.

This is why tea parties are breaking out all over the state (and nation).

Get Some Truth In Accounting

Okay, if you care about your children and grandchildren, the topic of the federal deficit and our out-of-control government are really depressing topics. Despite that fact, our politicians are spending us into oblivion and we’re responsible because we’ll either have to pay those bills or our currency will be devalued.
Jim Scarantino and I had Ms. Weinberg and one of her associates from the Institute for Truth in Accounting on our radio show, Speaking Freely on Saturday. You can turn in to the podcast of that show here. Ms. Weinberg will be speaking in Albuquerque tonight from 7pm to 8:30pm at the Albuquerque Museum at a free event sponsored by the Rio Grande Foundation. Stop by!
Jim and I discuss the recently-completed 2009 legislative session w/ Sen. Mark Boitano in the second part of the show. If you can’t get enough of me or Ms. Weinberg, we’ll be on Bob Clark’s show from 9am to 9:45 on 770KKOB. Check it out!

Bi-Partisan Expansion of Government

Much has been made — and justifiably so — about the massive growth in spending under President Obama. In fact, the Rio Grande Foundation is hosting an event on Tuesday, March 31 from 7pm to 8:30pm at the Albuquerque Museum. The event will be a discussion with the Founder of the Institute for Truth in Accounting and is an attempt to focus additional attention on the problem.
Unfortunately, while Republicans have now come around to Obama’s massive spending, there has been inadequate discussion of exactly how terrible George W. Bush’s record on spending was. More on that here. According to Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Center, spending under Bush grew by more than it did under any of the past 6 presidents (including “guns-and-butter” LBJ).
Hopefully, efforts like the Albuquerque Tea Party will not succumb to the sirens’ song to align themselves with Republicans in Washington. If you’re interested in finding out more about whether this is happening, attend the Albuquerque Tea Party on Tax Day April 15. Jim Scarantino and I will be on the air for 4 hours from 3pm to 7pm on AM 1550 broadcasting live from the Tea Party.