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Columns

  • State finances seem all right

    At one point in the rock opera “Tommy” by The Who, someone says, “I think it’s alright, yes I think it’s alright.”
    Alright seems the status for the state’s financial condition, I concluded after financial officials reported to the recent annual conference of the New Mexico Tax Research Institute.
    This year’s session of the Legislature was successful, said Charles Sallee, deputy director of the Legislative Finance Committee.

  • Avoid rude rental car surprises

    I’m usually a pretty savvy traveler, but a recent car rental mishap reminded me that even when you take every precaution, things still can go awry.
    While planning a family vacation to Panama, I searched online for rental cars. One lower-cost rental car agency I’d never used before offered a significantly lower rate than the others. Ignoring the little voice in my head, I decided to try them.

  • Environmental history lesson

    The 2012 New Mexico Statehood History Conference took place recently at the Santa Fe Convention Center. And I gave my presentation on, “Preserving New Mexico’s Environmental History.”
    As with all history, environmental history has value to the extent it retains the context of its time. Context is where the logic lurks in history’s events.
    A bare word gets its scope and scale from context: compare “tire patch,” “shoulder patch” and “cabbage patch.” Missing the context has one result, misperceptions.
    My talk and this column highlight the great shift in “environment” that came to pass when New Mexico was but 50 years old.

  • Employment law is so 20th century

    The group of small business owners sat around a table talking earnestly about what helps and what hurts their efforts to stay in business and maintain the jobs they have previously created.
    During the current recession, said one gentleman, he did everything he could to avoid layoffs in a construction-related company that had lost much business. He and other principals took no pay for several months. He knew he could not keep everyone on full time at full pay, so he explored alternatives. Could he cut back employees’ hours, keeping everybody but giving everybody some time off? Or just reduce their pay? Or put some employees on a contract rather than employee basis?  

  • Johnson could spark Libertarians

    Shortly after delegates to the May 5 Libertarian Party convention in Las Vegas, Nev., picked Gary Johnson as their 2012 presidential nominee, Atlantic magazine’s Conor Friederdorf characterized the former New Mexico governor as “arguably the strongest candidate they’ve ever run.”
    Admittedly that may not be saying a lot. The best any previous Libertarian presidential candidate has done was in 1980 when Ed Clark won 1.1 percent of the general election vote.
    Nonetheless, Friederdorf may be onto something when he pegs Johnson to do better in the November election than his Libertarian Party predecessors.

  • Things change fast for young professionals

    On Friday, the University of New Mexico’s School of Medicine graduated 62 new physicians. One of them was my son Eric.
    The parents were probably seeing, in those black gowns and caps, a much smaller version of the doctor-to-be, riding tricycles, catching bugs, playing sports, dressing up for Halloween.
    We can also assume that these shining stars owed their presence here to the influence of some key people in their lives. In our case it was Miss Wolpert.

  • Insights into history

    When this column reviewed the new majority status among New Mexico Hispanics of those tracing their heritage to Mexico, historian Thomas Chávez provided some insightful comments. See www.capitolreportnm.blogspot.com.
    Chávez’ 2006 history of the state, “New Mexico: Past and Future,” had somehow escaped my “New Mexico” shelf.
    “New Mexico: Past and Future” earns a place on your state literature shelf, if only for the 13-page bibliography with a page listing novels and another for children’s books.
    As history, though, Chávez’s tale more than earns its way. His writing is straightforward. He just tells the tale.

  • Membership offers connections, fulfillment

    Serving on the board of a nonprofit organization can be professionally and personally satisfying, or it can be an exercise in boredom and frustration. Getting the most from board membership requires a good fit between individual and organization, and that requires some research.
    Pros and Cons

  • Analyzing Laffer's Curve

    In 1974, Arthur Laffer, a University of Southern California economist, drew a curve on a cocktail napkin.
    “I have a weakness, like Janis Joplin, for Southern Comfort – but just three times a week,” he told me in 1996, when he was here to speak at a benefit.
    As a member of President Reagan’s Economic Policy Advisory Board, Laffer argued that tax rates had risen to the point that they weakened incentives to work, save and invest; as a result, both economic activity and government tax revenues were suffering. Tax cuts, he argued, would spur growth without being inflationary because they would yield higher tax revenues and increased savings to offset the initial drop in the government’s tax take.

  • What to do about social security

     The big lie of the 2012 campaign is that the nation’s entitlement programs need not be changed. The lie comes from the Democrats and is backed by fear mongering — the claim that Republican desire to fix entitlements — Democrats say “destroy Medicare as we know it” — would be awful rather than necessary.
    The entitlement programs are Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
    The PBS NewsHour snagged Nancy Altman, co-director of Social Security Works, a “social justice” organization, for an April 23 appearance. Altman said Social Security is “generally in good shape.” Upon hearing this, I almost rolled off the couch.