Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Stuck In Austerity? Not Much Change In Santa Fe's Thinking Even As State Drifts; Our Commentary, Plus: Talk Radio Ratings Crash (Part III) 

Will the right wing think tanks learn anything from this period of state history? The Martinez administration reports the state is projected to end the budget year next June with a cash surplus of nearly $700 million or 11.3 percent of the state's over $6 billion budget. In addition, the state work force has been reduced and the Republican administration has done away with numerous environmental and other regulations.

That, in essence, was the program the public was told would give New Mexico robust private sector growth. Clearly, it has failed. We rank even worse in most economic and social conditions standings than we did four years ago, And you can't blame it all on cuts in Federal spending. Economic activity--apart from the oil fields generating that state surplus--is lackluster or nonexistent. So what do the austerity hawks say now? More austerity?

The right-wing think tanks--desperate to hold their ground--are now floating that old canard that a "right to work" law will bring a free market explosion of jobs. Remember, a couple of years ago when the mantra was cutting corporate taxes and economic paradise would result? Well, we did but we don't see any Fortune 500 companies jumping the gun to get here. Expect the same with a right to work law on the books: nothing. In a state with few union employees outside of government, it is an irrelevancy. We challenge the far right to name one significant company that has decided not to locate to New Mexico because it does not have a right to work law. Just one, please.

You can't blame Democratic control of the legislature for the state's economic failings. The opposition party shares in those failings. Martinez's economic package featuring corporate tax cuts was embraced by the Democratic-controlled legislature.

Santa Fe's four year austerity program has run its course. The intellectual exhaustion is palpable. The policy rigidity that marks the modern Republican Party, the Martinez administration and the Martinez Senate Democrats has left them nowhere to turn. There they sit, stuck in a rut hoping for something--anything--to magically come along and finally prove them right.

The problem is not just economics, it's trust, The austerity hawks--not without some cause--have argued that Santa Fe is so incompetent it is incapable of spending money effectively so it's best to hoard it or we could face an even worse fate. Unfortunately, some of this is tinged with racial politics--that Hispanic politicians in particular are prone to throwing money around and padding the payrolls.

The state is truly at a crossroads. We don't see much fight out there yet to tackle the immense issues that have shadowed NM for so long. And because of the long-standing economic drift those issues are now crushing an even larger percentage of the population.

Maybe what we see is what we get for the next couple of decades--stagnation featuring low-wage jobs punctuated by periodic wails for even more tax cuts, a right to work law and other red herrings that distract us from looking at the elephant in the room. For the "haves" that are so well represented by the  right wing think tanks and their corporate media allies, that's fine. Not so much for everyone else.


Speaking of Martinez Democrats, ABQ School Board member Marty Esquivel is a charter member. And he keeps his bona fides intact with the Fourth and Fifth Floors by resigning from the board of the open government group FOG. Why? For putting some heat on Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera over the recent resignation of Winston Brooks, ABQ Public Schools superintendent. Skandera must approve a $350,000 APS board approved buyout for Brooks, but FOG says she shouldn't do it until the APS board releases the results of the probe that led to Brooks' resignation.

An irony here is that Esquivel is the attorney for KRQE-TV and often argues open government cases on behalf of the station.

ABQ GOP City Councilor Brad Winter was recently named interim APS superintendent so with Marty on the board and Brad heading up the super's office, APS is definitely Fourth Floor friendly. We will be well-advised to analyze major APS decisions to come in that context.


Is last night's primary election defeat of Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly signaling an anti-incumbent mood? Well, maybe partially. The man who came in first in the 17 candidate field was a semi-incumbent--former Navajo President Joe Shirley. He advances to the November general election along with second place finisher Chris Deschene. It was a resounding defeat for Shelly. He appears to have finished 7th in a 17 candidate field. Results here.


First there was the news that 50,000 watt conservative radio talker KKOB-AM had crashed in the ratings, garnering a mere 4.9 percent of the ABQ area listening audience in the latest ratings--a modern day low. Then there was the explanation from reader Paul Donisthorpe who said many are getting their talk radio fix from satellite radio and on the Internet. Now reader Bill Peifer weighs in with Part III:

While it’s true that many devotees of right-wing talk radio can now get their talking points on satellite radio and streaming live, the same thing is true for lefties who want to listen to Thom Hartmann or Ed Schultz and it can also be said for music lovers of all genres. The reality is that all traditional media outlets are taking hits in this digital age, so Donisthorpe’s view doesn’t even begin to explain why KKOB’s ratings are dropping. I propose a different explanation:

KKOB has moved further and further to the right over the years. Producer Richard Eeds was an avowed liberal, but he's long gone. Moderate Jim Villanucci is also gone, both of them replaced with local right-wingers that are much further to the right. Their syndicated programming was always pretty far to the right, with Limbaugh, Hannity and Michael Reagan, but what was once the typical right-wing diatribe has been replaced with blatant hate speech, with Limbaugh declaring that liberals “need to be destroyed,” Michael Savage calling for them to be “taken out and shot” or “hung by their necks” and Mark Levin screaming similar sentiments. Most New Mexicans are too tolerant of each other’s points of view to be attracted to that type of extreme rhetoric, and as long as KKOB-AM wants to keep airing it they’ll keep losing listeners.

Radio personalities are fast becoming a thing of the past as management turns the microphones over to the back-benchers in order to save money, but a few mainstays are still around. Among them is Jack Nixon in Las Cruces who is in the midst of a very long run:

Jack Nixon will begin his 35th year of calling the play-by-play action of NMSU football and basketball. In January, Nixon was enshrined into the U.S. Bank New Mexico State University Athletics Hall of Fame. 

It's not to true Jack takes anti-depressants when calling all those losing NMSU Aggie football games, but he does binge on sugar. . .


We mixed up the debate times on the blog this week. The KLUZ-TV Guv debate is October 6 and the KOAT-TV debate is October 19. No other TV debates have been announced.

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