Mayor Marty’s Dubious Bailout

Sometimes I wonder if Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez is serious. Hopefully, Congress does not take him very seriously with regard to his latest scheme to expand government, this time at the expense of federal taxpayers rather than just local taxpayers. The key to this scheme is that he won’t have to build public support for his projects and no one will have to vote on the plan. I’m referring, of course, to his plan for Congress to “bail out” Albuquerque to the tune of $1.6 billion.
As outlined in the New Mexico Business Weekly, Chavez’s wish list includes:

A concentrating solar plant at Double Eagle airport for $532 million, a wind farm for $140 million, a small business energy audit and retrofit program for $5 million and a solar array on the Albuquerque International Sunport with a price tag of $34.5 million.

Of course, no list of Mayor Marty’s would be complete without money for his beloved streetcar down Central Avenue for which he’d like $90 million. Apparently, the voices of City Council and Albuquerque voters have no bearing on Mayor Marty’s dreams. He wants a streetcar and by golly he’s trying to get it even if taxpayers in Des Moines have to pay for it.
The fact is that Congress has at least temporarily rejected the bailout for the Big Three Automakers. Hopefully, this move will put a stop to the bailout bonanza once and for all and Mayor Marty will be unable to force his useless streetcar on us by begging for money from Washington.

More Communist than China

In case you missed it, the US Government has recently decided to nationalize our two largest mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. American taxpayers are now the proud “owners” of these two houses of cards.
I pointed out a few months ago that this absurd situation has been years in the making. Investor Jim Rogers, CEO of Rogers Holdings, told CNBC Europe on Monday. “America is more communist than China is right now. You can see that this is welfare of the rich, it is socialism for the rich… it’s just bailing out financial institutions.”
As the Wall Street Journal points out, while the situation is deplorable:

By far the biggest risk here, however, is that the companies could still emerge with their business model intact. That model is the perverse mix of private profit and public risk, which gave them an incentive to make irresponsible mortgage bets with a taxpayer guarantee.

Hopefully the Bush Administration gets its act together and separates Fannie and Freddie from the government teat once and for all. Otherwise, we’re setting ourselves up for another bailout down the road.

Obama’s Former Church Received Taxpayer $$$

Barack Obama’s now-former minister has made news recently for his inflammatory comments on a wide-variety of topics. While this has been a problem for Obama in his campaign for the presidency, as Fox News reports, the Chicago church, Trinity United Church of Christ, receives federal funding for a wide variety of programs and has done so for 15 years.
While many in the media have questioned remarks by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, it is hard to believe that the federal funding issue has not made bigger waves. After all, it is one thing to make inflammatory statements in a privately-funded church, but it is quite another thing for the rest of us taxpayers to subsidize childrens’ programs that are most likely teaching children many of the same ideas espoused by Wright and his cronies.
Since the programs have been subsidized for 15 years, it is hard to pin the blame for this on President Bush, but I wonder if this is the kind of program the President envisioned when he created his Faith-Based Initiatives. Surely, subsidizing these programs is not an appropriate role for the federal government (or any government for that matter).

Income Inequality

With all of the talk about increasing income inequality, particularly on the left, but also among politicians like President Bush, one might think that inequality simply follows the old race and geograpy pattern of wealth and poverty.
It turns out that the story doesn’t follow the old pattern and a new pattern is developing based on age. It turns out that far from the stereotype of old people living day-to-day on pensions and Social Security, older Americans are actually the wealthiest Americans (and they are getting richer every day).
Not surprisingly — as Mark Schmidt, my former colleague at the National Taxpayers Union pointed out a few years back — government policymaking plays a huge role here. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are just a few of the most prominent of these massive programs that transfer wealth from young, productive workers to elderly retirees.
I’m not bashing grandma and grandpa here, but I am saying that Congress needs to do something to stem the tide of red ink. Unfortunately, politicians have been frightened for years by the spectre of angry old people rallying to vote them out of office.
The point is that the elderly are doing very well for themselves and policymakers need to reform and place strict eligibility limits on some of these programs (as I point out in this document) before it is too late.

Fighting Poverty by Shrinking Government

All too often, those who want to expand government poverty programs seem to have the moral high ground in discussions with those who don’t. Nothing is easier than saying that a particular individual “doesn’t like poor people,” or that they are just “taking advantage” of those less fortunate.
In today’s Human Events I argue using ample state budget and poverty from the 1990s that regardless of empathy, it is fiscal conservatives, not advocates of big government, that are helping the poor. Since New Mexico is the third-poorest state in the nation, it is obvious that New Mexicans rely too much on government, but at the same time there is a clear way to improve our lot.

An Interesting Idea

Charles Murray has an interesting new idea to fix welfare. In essence, he proposes that everyone receive a lump sum welfare payment. The lump sum nature of the payment would virtually eliminate all adverse incentives to which welfare recipients are subject. And it would get much more money back to the people by eliminating the Gargantuan welfare bureacracies. Of course, the taxes needed to fund the lump sum payments would still punish productive behavior. But reducing the destructive effect on recipients would be a real advance.
For a detailed discussion of the destructive incentives of federal and state welfare programs in New Mexico look here (pp. 12-18).

Medicaid Progress in New Mexico

At last some good news from the session:

NEW MEXICO MOVES ON MEDICAID. The sense of the Senate “memorial” in
New Mexico which we highlighted in “LTC Bullet: State Moves Toward Private
LTC Financing Alternatives,” Tuesday, February 7, 2006 passed on a vote of
42 to nothing. The memorial urges consideration of LTC insurance and home
equity conversion to relieve Medicaid’s fiscal woes and proposes a study
and conference toward that end.

HT: Center for Long-Term Care Reform, Inc.

Streamlining Welfare Programs in Texas

Here is a great idea for New Mexico. If you don’t think eligibility requirements for various welfare programs are complex, then you should spend a little time navigating around here and here and here. Get the idea about the cumbersome system that Texas’s streamlining is attempting to reduce?
As an added benefit Texas style streamlining may give us insights into how to fix incentive problems. For more on welfare incentives look here (pp. 12-19).