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Today's Opinions

  • New Mexico college enrollment tanks

    “N.M. College Enrollment Decline Leads Nation.”
    Thus, did one local headline chronicle the news last week of the precipitous drop in the number of students entering New Mexico’s universities this academic year compared to just last year.
    The numbers are stark: Almost 11,000 fewer students enrolled at New Mexico’s institutions of higher education for the fall semester of 2014 than in the fall of 2013.
    Think upon it. We’re talking here about a decline of 8.3 percent in only 12 months. The rate of decline in college enrollment, nationally, was 1.9 percent, so to report that New Mexico‘s decline “leads” the nation is to understate the case dramatically.  
    It also dramatically underscores the tenacity with which the Great Recession of 2008 continues to hold New Mexico in its grips. Nor does it help that New Mexicans have chosen a cadre of state and local political leaders demonstrably ill-suited to turn things around.
    Of course, New Mexico “leads” the nation in declining college enrollments. Under the circumstances how could it be otherwise?
    It is also one of the few states that “leads” the nation in a documented loss of population. More people have actually moved away from New Mexico than to New Mexico since the Great Recession of 2008.

  • Be prepared for Obamacare changes

    The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to issue its decision in King v. Burwell in June.
    The ruling could have tremendous consequences for the healthcare law commonly known as Obamacare — and more importantly, it could have a huge impact right here in New Mexico.
    King v. Burwell was argued before the high court in March 2015. The case hinges on an interpretation of the Obamacare law.
    The plaintiffs argued that the text authorizes premium subsidies for people in “exchanges established by [a] State.”
    A separate section describes the creation of a federal exchange by the Secretary of Health and Human Services for states that do not create their own exchanges.
    An IRS rule issued in 2012 allowed premium subsidies to be paid through exchanges established by the secretary. The plaintiffs argue these subsidies are illegal, since there is no congressional authorization for the spending.
    If the justices concur, states that have not created exchanges under the law could see some dramatic changes.
    However, New Mexico has a “hybrid” exchange.

  • Nuclear waste will always be with us

    The two faces of WIPP: We get $73 million for our trouble related to leaking waste AND the government now contemplates storing surplus weapons plutonium in WIPP.
    Whatever its problems, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, will figure into national policy because hazardous waste storage is a necessity, and we have few options. Risk and reward are embedded in the debate.
    Holtec International wants to build an interim facility near Carlsbad to store spent nuclear fuel.
    So let’s look at a 1996 study by Stanford Law School student Noah Sachs, who looked objectively at questions of ethics and environmental justice related to a similar New Mexico project.
    In the early 1990s, the federal government offered grants to tribes and rural communities to study the possibility of storing nuclear waste. The Mescalero Apache Tribe responded quickly and moved steadily through the process, becoming the first to seriously pursue a project.
    The facility would be a large, guarded structure holding spent nuclear fuel in steel, reinforced concrete casks on a square-mile site of the tribe’s choosing. It would contain more than half of U.S. spent fuel for 40 years. And because we didn’t have any long-term facilities, the waste would probably stay there.

  • Trade treaties have hurt people, economy

    Is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) a bad trade agreement for the U.S.? That remains to be seen.
    However, Americans have little reason to trust their government regarding trade.
    The U.S. was the principal architect of the global economy and current trade deals, yet, it has failed to acknowledge the shortcomings of the agreements or try to correct them.
    The global economy was conceived during WWII to expedite post-war economic recovery, prevent future wars of territorial acquisition, provide employment in the developed nations and improve the lives of people throughout the world.  
    Unfortunately, the inherent difficulties of international trade, such as equitable currency exchange, currency manipulation, trade imbalances, the outsourcing of production and the creation of national and international winners and losers, remain problematic.
    Regardless of intentions, U.S. trade agreements have adversely affected U.S. workers, small manufacturers, national wealth, and the long-term viability of the United States (the losers).
    On the other hand, they have richly rewarded international corporations, Wall Street, large investors and foreign nations whose economies are based on exports or currency manipulation (the winners).

  • Story of 7 brothers in WWII is remarkable

    This time last year, I did a commentary on five brothers who served in World War II. Very impressive.
    Imagine my surprise when someone who caught the commentary sent me a package with this note:   
    “Dear Professor Kengor: Your [commentary] about the family whose five sons served in WW II was interesting. You might be interested to know about families who had more than five sons who served in WW II.”
    Well, Ted Walters of Uniontown, Pennsylvania, certainly had my attention.
    He continued: “My mother, Stella Pietkiewicz, had seven sons serve in WW II. She had the honor to christen the plane, Spirit of Poles, because she had the most sons who served in WW II.”
    Yes, seven sons.
    Along with Ted Walters’ letter was an old newspaper clipping that showed six Pittsburgh-area mothers, all of Polish descent, who had 33 sons in service. Anna Lozowska, Maryanna Sawinska, Katarzyna Antosz, and Mrs. Joseph Wojtaszek each offered five boys to the cause.
    Honorta Lachowicz provided six sons. Stella Pietkiewicz took the prize with seven.
    Bless their souls. These moms gave their boys to the cause of freedom.

  • Record keeping is a financial must

    If your financial life is confined to boxes, file cabinets and various piles of statements and receipts that only you can navigate, it might be time for a little de-cluttering.
    Software- and Internet-driven advancements in money management not only provide paperless alternatives to planning and tracking savings, spending and investments, they make finances easier to handle in an emergency.
    If you’re thinking about resetting your record keeping, here are some steps to get started:
    First, think about financial goals. Before tackling the job of reorganizing your financial record keeping, think through your current financial objectives and what changes might give you better data and efficiency to achieve them.
    You might want a system that tracks spending, saving, budgeting and on-time debt payments. If you already have that system in place, you might want more detailed information on retirement or your child’s college fund.
    Consider involving your financial and tax advisors in the discussion and see what suggestions they have.
    Also, create a system that makes it easy for loved ones and financial professionals to help in an emergency. If something were to happen to you, could a loved one easily navigate your finances? When organizing, always keep your spouse, children and/or executor in mind.

  • Call Me Ishmael...

    As a young boy, I remember being frustrated at how many people had the same name as me.
    My classes were filled with Jimmys, Johns, Bobbys, Williams and Mikes. It seemed as if our parents had absolutely no imagination when choosing names for their children.
    It’s difficult growing up with a very common name. Every Tom, Dick and Harry seems to be named John!
    Today, Liam and Noah top the list of popular boy baby names. “John” doesn’t even make the top 40!  (I feel much better now.)
    Each year, the list of popular baby names changes, with the top 10 usually populated by movie star and rock group celebrities.
    Are we going to see a surge of Lady Gaga’s in our future?
    We don’t seem to care all that much what someone is named. We’ve got a Barack in the White House, which isn’t anything strange if you’re a history buff. Among Presidents and Vice-Presidents, we’ve had Grover, Milhous, Millard, Simpson, Gamaliel, Delano, Birchard, Hannibal, Horatio, Mifflin, Rufus, Cabell, Agard, and Schoolcraft.
    And I used to think Spiro was an odd name.

  • Veterans like Loyce Deen made U.S. great

    I’ve written in the past about how my Pop carried with him a haunting memory from his time aboard the aircraft carrier Essex in World War II.
    Anti-aircraft fire had killed a turret gunner during a sortie. Pop, whose job it was to repair and prepare planes for the next mission, went up to inspect the plane as soon as it landed and saw the gunner’s body. At Pop’s recommendation, the captain of the Essex gave the order to bury the man in the plane in which he had given his life for his country.
    This burial at sea was unique. It was the only time during World War II that a valuable plane was ordered to be used as a coffin.
    The burial itself was filmed and included in the 1950s series, “Victory at Sea.” Pop saw it for the first time when it was rebroadcast 20-25 years ago.
    Seeing that on the Essex dredged up disturbing memories of what Pop had seen on that long-ago day and for years afterward he would retell that vivid story many nights after consuming copious quantities of Jim Beam.
    The story didn’t end for me with Pop’s passing in 1999, because several years later, I stumbled onto a website about the airman who was buried in his plane.