Friday, January 23, 2009
Outrageous Paychecks So Where's The Outrage? Plus: A New Senior Alligator Debuts From Santa Fe, And: Did Letterman Go Over the Line With Big Bill?
David Harris already has his share of troubles. He doesn't need to become the poster boy for the age of excess that led to bloated salaries financed by New Mexico taxpayers. But the University of New Mexico vice-president and chief financial officer has hardly any competition for the ignominious title. His annual pay was recently tagged at a staggering $428,000. And that doesn't even include the additional $65,000 he brings home in state retirement pay. The Harris salary could be the kindle that lights a fire under state lawmakers to start questioning out sized government salaries as well as the number of "exempt" employees--well over 400--many of whom are drawing paychecks that already looked excessive when the state was rolling in oil and gas revenue and now look downright decadent in today's economic environment.
A fellow academic of Harris', Xavier Medina Vidal of the Political Science Department at the University of California, e-mailed a typical reaction to Harris' grandiose taxpayer-funded paychecks:
"Mr. "Double Dip" strikes again! Where is the outrage, Joe?!"
Well, we can only hope that there is going to be plenty of outrage heard during the legislative session in Santa Fe over this and other paycheck abuse. Governor Big Bill could get ahead of the parade and start freezing and rolling back the salaries of overpaid bureaucrats. It's an idea that is good enough for President Obama.
A RARE SPECIES DEBUT
We welcome the first contribution from a new member of that rare species--"The Senior Alligator." There aren't many of them because you have to have been playing in La Politica for at least 20 consecutive years, be at least 45 years of age and preferably have run for and lost a bid for political office. (Losing toughens that Gator skin.) This new Senior Gator arrives just in time for the legislative session. He agrees that Senate president pro tem Tim Jennings was pretty nice when handing out committee assignments to the liberals who tried to dethrone him with Sen. Carlos Cisneros this week. But he says if you look below the surface, it appears the conservative Jennings did send a message to new liberal Dem ABQ Senator Eric Griego:
The only "retribution" in Senate committee assignments seems to be Eric Griego. I do not attribute that to his (2008 primary) defeat of (ABQ Dem Senator) James Taylor who wasn't a favorite among colleagues, but more to what I understand was Eric's attitude since his defeat of James.
And what plum committee assignments did ardent Cisneros supporter Eric land? Well, he is on the Indian and Cultural Affairs Committee and the Public Affairs Committee. To put it mildly, those aren't panels known for power-playing potential. But Senator Jennings knew that when he made the appointments, didn't he? Oh, this game of ours...
ANOTHER NUMBERS GAME
We told you yesterday about how we noticed in the press that Eclipse Aviation, recently declared bankrupt and taken over by a new owner, is now said to have 900 employees. A few weeks ago the papers were saying it was 950. Now another instance of what seems to be downsizing without the announcement. The ABQ Journal reported this week that Intel at Rio Rancho has 3,300 employees. But hold on. A couple of weeks or so ago, Intel was reported to have 3,500 employees.
We know companies don't want the bad PR that goes with announcing a shrinking work force, but policy makers and the public need to deal in reality, especially as they are asked again and again to consider tax relief and business incentives.
It is southern New Mexico where the federal bank bailout, known as TARP, is most opposed. Not that the rest of the state is crazy about this $700 billion injection into the banking system. So it came as no surprise that the south's Harry Teague made a show of his opposition to the measure, breaking with his Democratic leaders. In case you didn't get the point, he came with a news release that drove it home. It was headlined:
Teague Breaks with Democratic Party Leadership --Votes to Block Release of TARP Funds Leads Other Freshman Members in Letter to Obama Calling for Accountability
This was a symbolic vote as both chambers of Congress would have had to oppose the bailout to stop it. The Senate has already approved the second $350 billion in bailout cash. NM Congressmen Heinrich and Lujan also made a point of casting anti-bailout votes, which was politically smart because this still has the potential to be a potent campaign issue.
We editorialized strongly against the initial $350 billion bailout, believing it would not benefit taxpayers or solve the banking crisis. We got that one right as there is no evidence it has done much. In fact, things look worse.
Is it time to let bad banks fail? Senators Udall and Bingaman need to give that some deep thought before they continue on the bailout route. (Udall is taking some hits for supporting the bailout after opposing the initial $350 billion when running for office last October). As for Teague, it won't be the last time he goes with the R's or his own way. R's held his congressional seat for nearly 30 uninterrupted years. Nancy Pelosi's politics are only going to sell there part of the time.
HOW DID HE DO?
Here's some of the first video that we've seen of Northern Dem freshman Congressman Ben Ray Lujan on the US House floor. It's a one minute shot in which he talks of the economic needs of his district.
We'll try to get some floor video to you soon of new Reps Heinrich and Teague. None of the newbies have much speaking experience, but they are in a place where you learn from some of the best.
MORE VIDEO TAPE
We find ourselves agreeing with Santa Fe attorney and blog reader Helen Laura Lopez on that video we posted Thursday of David Letterman lampooning Big Bill over his withdrawal as commerce secretary. It included references to taco eating and other such stuff. We hesitated posting it because it struck us as too mean-spirited, but we went ahead anyway. Here's Helen's take of the video which you can find below:
How funny would it be if Letterman laughed at President Obama going back to Chicago's south side for watermelon, chitlins and greens? I didn't think people said things like that any more--at least not publicly. Remember when Taco Bell had to be shamed into removing the sleepy Mexican as its icon? Letterman can joke about the beard and the weight, but stereotyping him by focusing on the Governor's desire for Taco Bell burritos is not acceptable and not funny.
Helen, you win this one. Letterman is a great comedian, but we think he crossed the line from funny to unfair. But we posted it when it is probably was best left ignored. As punishment we have already self-administered the traditional ten lashes with a wet noodle.
THE BOTTOM LINES
From TV talker Craig Ferguson: "The new season of 'Lost' kicked off tonight...If you haven't seen it, 'Lost' is about a group of desperate people out of touch with the world. It's based on the true story of the Republican Party."
E-mail it in--news, comments, thoughts, or generalized angst....
(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
Not for reproduction without permission of the author