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Today's Opinions

  • A no pets plea

    Recently, before the snow arrived in Los Alamos, we were visited by our grandchildren. On the sunny dry day we sent them to the Barranca Soccer Field to play a few goals.
    They returned back quite disappointed and our 8-year-old Simon sat down to write this note so somebody who is in charge of the soccer fields would read it.

    Sig and Andrea Gerstl
    (for Simon Braun)
    Los Alamos

  • Re-imposing food tax doesn’t add up

    The best state sales tax systems (or gross receipts tax, as it is called in New Mexico) are broad, low, and don’t tax necessities, like food.  
    If tax systems are broad and low, that means that the tax burden is shared widely by different products and services and doesn’t fall too heavily on any one product or service.
    Meanwhile, most states avoid taxing necessities so that citizens who live paycheck to paycheck are not forced to choose between paying the rent and putting food on the table.   
    Unfortunately, New Mexico‘s gross receipts tax (GRT) is neither broad nor low. At last count, there were 338 exemptions for everything from boxing matches to all-terrain vehicles and these exemptions significantly narrow the tax base.
    The GRT also averages more than 7.25 percent across New Mexico, which is relatively high, according to the Tax Foundation.
    The one area where New Mexico’s GRT gets it right is the fact that, since 2005, New Mexico no longer taxes food or medical services. This was an important reform, since the food tax not only fell on a necessity, it was also very regressive in that it fell hardest on those who could least afford it.

  • What it means to have a Republican majority

    It’s time for your lawmakers to get to work. There is much to do this year, and we’re ready for the challenge.
    There is a lot of excitement in Santa Fe — the result of last year’s election. For the first time in 60 years, the people of New Mexico have chosen Republicans to lead the House of Representatives. It is an honor that we do not take lightly, and we promise to fight every day to advance our state.
    A lot of people ask me, “What does it mean now that Republicans are in the majority?” No matter who I talk to, whether they are Democrat or Republican, my answer never changes: Our goal is to put New Mexico’s families first.
    After all, the voters have spoken — they want an end to the politics as usual in Santa Fe. They want their leaders to reject the political dysfunction and gridlock that has become the hallmark of Washington, D.C. In the end, political games hurt our families and derail progress.
    Some may we have a daunting task ahead of us — they say it’s impossible for Republicans and Democrats to work together.
    I disagree. I believe we can come together. And we can start by working on common ground and finding ways to create good jobs for all New Mexicans.

  • I will that I won’t

    René Descartes was a truly amazing person. He invented analytic geometry, giving us the standard notation we use today for avariables, and created the coordinate plane system, allowing us to graphically represent algebraic equations.
    He is known for having creating the “rule of signs,” a method for determining the number of positive and negative roots of an equation. He also invented exponential notation and figured out the principal of refraction, creating what today is known as Snell’s Law.
    In summary, he gave math teachers a plethora of ways to torture students.
    Perhaps even more amazing is that mathematics was only a hobby of Descartes. His primary focus in life was philosophy, employing his “method of doubt” in a passionate search for truth. With his establishment of using logic and reason to define the natural sciences, he is known as “the father of philosophy.”
    And as such, the one thing he is best known for is his famous philosophical declaration, “Je pense, donc je suis,” a statement of proof of being.
    You probably know it as, “Cogito, ergo sum,” or “I think, therefore I am.”
    Whether or not one exists, philosophers and psychologists are still debating who exactly is the “we” who thinks?

  • Objections to transparency in healthcare costs don’t hold water

    Last week, we picked up our sweet old dog and paid a vet bill with the complexity of a hospital bill, minus the shock. That’s because the clinic first gave us an estimate.
    Let’s say you need a hip replacement. Why can’t you get an estimate? Why aren’t hospital costs comparable?
    Think New Mexico answers the question with its proposal for transparency in healthcare costs. The pros far outweigh the cons.
    New Mexico hospitals charge a surprisingly wide range of prices for the same procedures, according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Studies. Higher priced care may reflect a higher readmission, error or infection rate rather than better care.
    Think New Mexico found that patients at the same hospital receiving the same treatment from the same doctor are charged different prices, depending on who is paying the bills. (The six most expensive hospitals are owned by Community Health Systems, which has reportedly hired lobbyists to fight the bill.)
    When insurers and hospitals negotiate reimbursement rates, a gag clause forbids disclosure. The uninsured, with no bargaining power, have the highest rates. Secrecy and varied pricing add to complexity, which increases administrative waste in the system.

  • Buyer beware: The value of near-death accounts

    Religious deception and hucksterism is certainly not a new phenomenon.
    From Sinclair Lewis’ Elmer Gantry to televangelist Jim Bakker to some proponents of the Prosperity Gospel, fictional and real life examples abound.
    So the revelation that Kevin Malarkey fabricated his six-year old son’s account of his near-death experience (NDE) in “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven” is not shocking.
    In response to a letter by the now 16-year-old Alex, its publisher, Tyndale House, has announced it will no longer market the book, which has reportedly sold more than one million copies.
    Claims have long circulated that Malarkey embellished, exaggerated, or even invented the experiences and visions he attributes to Alex. For several years, Beth Malarkey, Kevin’s ex-wife, has questioned the account.
    “Buyer beware,” she wrote. “There is only one absolutely infallible and true book: God’s Word. It does not need fancied up or packaged for sale.”

  • Home remodel for the new year

    Our 2014 huge positives were the first grandchild, a new kitchen and hanging out by the ocean in Monterrey, California. The negatives were many, many trips to doctors.
    The kitchen came courtesy of an inheritance from my mother. In developing the project, we considered many things. Our research led us to million dollar homes with sloppy work. Most of our ideas worked; some didn’t, demanding compromise and rethinking. Our experience may lend some insight as you contemplate such a project.
    While we managed without a $10,000 stove, the project was extravagant. Fortunately we could not enlarge the kitchen because our house encircles it.
    We had the cash. Obvious advice, item one, be able to pay. Call me an outlier in our consumption ethos, but I’ve never been a borrower. Only for houses, but not for cars (once, only) and definitely not now with a fixed income.
    We didn’t worry about recapturing remodeling cost on sale of the house. We plan to be in the house long enough to render such an analysis moot. We did the project for us, not for the next guy.

  • Considering life without owning a car

    Most baby boomers couldn’t envision their early adult years without a car. However, times are changing and younger commuters are leading the way.
    According to an October study by U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) and the Frontier Group, millennials — those born between 1983 and 2000 — are driving significantly less than older Americans. Many post-college drivers swimming in college debt are opting for urban living where walking, biking and mass transit tend to be easier options. Increasingly, those with a temporary need for four-wheel transportation can do so by smartphone.
    Today, there are many options to conventional car ownership, but it’s important to match solutions and their specific costs to your needs. Here’s a road map for exploring what’s right for you.
    Start with the cost of driving. If you already drive and budget carefully, you will have an idea of what driving costs you can incur each year in financing, fuel, fees, maintenance and insurance.