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Opinion piece: Basic income worth honest study

The following article appeared in several news outlets including the Las Cruces Sun News on September 28, 2023.

The idea of a “universal basic income” (UBI) has been around a long time. Most supporters are broadly on the left of the political spectrum,  but many conservative thought leaders including Charles Murray as well as Reagan officials like James Baker and George Schultz, have also been willing to consider the idea.

The idea behind UBI is simple: replace welfare payments to the poor with cash payments to empower the poor to manage their government benefits. Welfare programs have a bunch of hoops and phase-outs that can often disincentivize going from welfare to work. One problem with UBI (as other conservatives often point out) is that politicians are unwilling to eliminate the welfare programs and pay them out in a cash equivalent.

Sadly, this has proven out. In recent years there have been experiments, supposedly with UBI concepts, but they never actually result in replacement of welfare with cash. Instead, these approaches simply result in more cash. A 2021 Santa Fe program along those lines suffered the same flaw.

Now, Las Cruces has gotten into the mix. A privately funded guaranteed basic income project allocated 330 families $500 per month and ended in January. Results from the experiment haven’t been analyzed yet. Now, another experiment is going to happen. Thanks to $1.7 million dollars of federal American Rescue Plan Act funding, multiple nonprofits in the Las Cruces community will provide $500 monthly payments over 18 months to 150 eligible Las Cruces families.”

Will the results of these experiments mean anything? Sure, most people, especially those with low incomes, will gladly take an extra $500 annually, but unless the UBI is a replacement as opposed to a supplement for existing welfare programs it will be rather meaningless in terms of broader welfare reform implications.

Mayor Ken Miyagishima, a Democrat, appears to be the only voice of reason in Las Cruces. He voted against the program and said, “I hope it doesn’t just turn into, hey, I got this money, this is great. And okay, it ran out, so what am I going to do now?”

The Mayor elaborated, saying, “We don’t have the money…people need to have an understanding of what it takes to run a government.” “It (money) just doesn’t come out of thin air. The reason why we are seeing a lot of inflation is because the country has printed a lot of money and there’s nothing to back it up.”

Miyagishima is right. And, while New Mexico is currently in the midst of an unprecedented oil boom that has brought in staggering amounts of money, politicians in Washington have driven the nation into debt and the situation shows no sign of improving. While the inflation rate has gone down, that inflation is piled on top of last year’s inflation, so prices continue to rise at a staggering pace that is harming New Mexico families.

Rather than piling on more debt to find ways to add more people to already overburdened welfare rolls the Biden Administration and both parties in Congress should cut spending and work to eliminate the scourge of inflation from our economy. That will do more to get people out of poverty than any half-baked “basic income” scheme, especially one funded by taxpayers.

Paul Gessing is president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation. The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, nonpartisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility


Notable News Open Government Tipping Point Top Issues

CYFD’s “transitory” copout: the latest attempt to deny, defame, and delay

This article first appeared in The Center Square on May 24th, 2021.

As the far-left solidifies its stranglehold on all branches of New Mexico’s state government, more than ever we need an aggressive media and informed constituency to demand accountability in a system proven to produce abuses without. These abuses have never been more readily apparent than in the aftermath of a recent Searchlight New Mexico investigation.

In May 2021, the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department fired two high-level employees. Their terminations came after the two employees raised concerns about the agency’s recent shift to the use of encryption and the automated destruction of public records.

The department recently transitioned to the secure text messaging app Signal to discuss a wide range of official business, including the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the care of children in state custody. Officials asserted that they relied on Signal primarily for “transitory communications”. But what is “transitory” in the context of the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA), the state’s public records law?

CYFD Secretary Brian Blalock defines transitory communications as “employee banter, routine check-ins between workers and other insignificant exchanges not subject to public records laws”.

However, the New Mexico Attorney General’s IPRA guide addresses exceptions generally: “Because of the presumption in favor of the right to inspect, public bodies acquiring information should keep in mind that the records they keep generally are subject to public inspection.”

Wait: I’m confused. IPRA itself makes no explicit mention of the term “transitory”. In fact, IPRA only mentions a few and very specific exceptions under select qualified circumstances where a record is not to be disclosed. These exceptions include matters that fall under attorney-client privilege, certain personnel records, health records, and “protected personal identifier information” such as social security numbers and birth dates, as well as a few others.

These are reasonable exemptions to protect certain information of citizens. What does this mean? It means that no government agency will turn over your social security number to a requester. If a record contains a social security number, the number is redacted. This protects the privacy of citizens.

And protecting the privacy of citizens in this way is a good thing. One of the greatest freedoms we have is the freedom from interference or intrusion, the right “to be let alone,” a formulation cited by Louis Brandeis and Samuel Warren in 1890. Remember: transparency is for the government, privacy is for the citizens.

But CYFD employees are employed by a government agency. Do they have a right to privacy? In the conduct of their job, the law says no.

Obtaining public records from government agencies can be a difficult task. Sometimes the custodians are great people, they do their jobs well, and they make the request process easy. But other agencies put up roadblocks where litigation often becomes an unavoidable outcome

If it was already difficult to obtain certain records, what happens if the agency moves to a platform where text messages are encrypted and automatically deleted? That task is now impossible.

According to the law, these text messages constitute public records, regardless of how “transitory” they are in nature.

The New Mexico Attorney General’s IPRA guide offers insight to contradict the “transitory” qualification: “‘public records’ means all documents, […] regardless of physical form or characteristics, that are used, created, received, maintained or held by or on behalf of any public body and relate to public business, whether or not the records are required by law to be created or maintained”.

With CYFD setting a dangerous precedent, the governor’s office offered similar advice. “Every single text message that you send or receive likely qualifies as a ‘transitory record,’” the official guidance counsels. “We recommend that you delete all text messages which are ‘transitory records’ every ten days. You may delete them more often if you wish.”

This reminds me of George Orwell’s memory holes from his groundbreaking novel 1984:

“When one knew that any document was due for destruction, or even when one saw a scrap of waste paper lying about, it was an automatic action to lift the flap of the nearest memory hole and drop it in, whereupon it would be whirled away on a current of warm air to the enormous furnaces which were hidden somewhere in the recesses of the building.”

Well, it’s 2021 and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the obligation to provide these records to requesters has not been absolved. Denying access to records, defaming those who stand up, and delaying a solution to the problem undermines the already troubled credibility of government institutions and their leaders.

Let us conclude with the most important question of all: why would records need to be destroyed if there wasn’t something to hide?

Patrick Brenner is the Vice President of the Rio Grande Foundation, New Mexico’s free-market research institute and think tank. He leads the Foundation’s open government and second amendment efforts.

Audio Tipping Point

137 Michael Johnson – Questions About Governor’s 52 MPG Plan

On this week’s interview, Paul sits down with Michael Johnson. Michael has a fascinating background in business and once studied economics under both Milton Friedman and Paul Samuelson.

But Mike is also a car enthusiast and collector. And he has some serious questions about Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s plans to take New Mexico vehicles to 52 miles per gallon by 2022.

Mike is a wealth of information and provided numerous links to find out more details about the challenge of getting automobiles to run at such high efficiency while also satisfying consumer needs.

Audio Tipping Point Uncategorized

136 Anti-Energy, Democracy Dollars, Film Subsidies and More

On this week’s podcast, Paul and Wally discuss the attendance of two of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s top staffers in New York at a radical anti-energy conference sponsored by the Rockefeller Brothers Trust.

Proponents of “Democracy Dollars” which will appear on Albuquerque voters’ ballots won’t debate with opponents. The supposed proponents of good, open government want to use the muscle of the myriad left-wing “grassroots” groups to push the issue through on ballots.

New Mexico Economic Development Secretary Alicia Keyes makes a bogus case for film subsidies.

And in a special bonus segment, Paul talks with Cindy Glover, a data analyst with Crestline Promotional Products, about her study regarding whether consumers “shop in a manner consistent with their values.” You can see the study here.

Audio Tipping Point

135 Dick Minzner – New Mexico Economic Policy

Paul interviews Dick Minzner. Dick has been a long-time fixture in New Mexico politics for many years. He’s been head of the Tax and Revenue Department, a Democrat Legislator, and lobbyist to name just a few of his many roles. They begin by discussing a bit of that history as well as some of the policy decisions that have improved or harmed New Mexico’s economy.

Paul and Dick discuss tax reform and how to best leverage the $900 million surplus in ways that make New Mexico more competitive. Should we eliminate the income tax, reform the GRT (if so, how?), or should NM just ditch the GRT and go to a sales tax? What ARE the big problems with the GRT anyway? Why does it persist?

Finally, Paul and Dick discuss film subsidies and the economic reality of that program.

Audio Tipping Point

134 APS Tax, Democracy $, Firewood Ban and 52 mpg

On this week’s episode of Tipping Point New Mexico, Paul and Wally discuss Gov. Lujan Grisham’s latest big-government proposal. She wants to force New Mexicans to buy cars averaging 52 mpg by 2022. That’s more aggressive than California! And, does she really have that power?

APS is asking for $290 million from voters this fall albeit with no tax hike. What should voters think about this?

Liberal groups won’t debate Democracy Dollars. Our new website is set up to educate people on this issue:

RGF in the news on Gov.’s plans for free college.

A judge has banned logging, timber management, and firewood collection on Forest Service lands. What’s the story here?

Finally, Paul recently presented to a group from Europe on the work of the Rio Grande Foundation.

Audio Tipping Point

133 Scott Lopez – Better Angels

On this week’s interview, Paul sits down with Scott Lopez. Born and raised in Española, NM and a graduate of the University of New Mexico, Scott has served our nation in the military and been a successful business leader and entrepreneur. Paul and Scott discuss what New Mexico needs to do to unleash its vast human and economic potential.

Then, Paul and Scott discuss a nationwide project Scott is working on to improve the national political discourse called Better Angels. Scott is the State Director for New Mexico and his group recently held an event in Santa Fe. Paul and Scott discuss that and how more people around our State can get involved.

Audio Tipping Point

132 Problems with Governor Lujan-Grisham’s Free College Plan

On this week’s podcast, Paul and Wally take on Gov. Michelle Lujan-Grisham’s plan to make higher education “free.” They outline some of the major problems with the proposal as well as some of the unforeseen pitfalls associated with its design. With “free” college on the agenda for 2020, this is a must-listen!

Audio Tipping Point

131 Americans for Tax Reform: Size of NM Government and Vaping

On this week’s Tipping Point New Mexico interview Paul talks to two staffers with Americans for Tax Reform. On the first segment, Patrick Gleason who handles state affairs discusses a new study he wrote which details both the size of each state government and the growth of government in recent years. New Mexico is both the 2nd-biggest state government AND the 2nd-fastest growing in the nation.

Gleason also shared information on the most important ballot measure in the nation which is Colorado’s vote on its Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights. Finally, Paul and Patrick talk about carbon taxes.

In the second segment Director of Special Projects, Paul Blair discusses the recent controversy over vaping and why state and federal restrictions and taxes are going to have a negative impact.

Audio Tipping Point

130 Oil, Ozone, Property Rights and Trump

On this week’s discussion podcast, Paul shares details about his recent trip to Carlsbad for the Mayor’s Energy Conference including an appearance from former Gov. Susana Martinez as well as a talk by Gov. Lujan-Grisham. Paul and Wally briefly discuss the drastic increase in oil prices in the wake of the attack in Saudi Arabia and the point made repeatedly at the conference that the Permian Basin is the “safest” oil source in the world.

The State of New Mexico is taking on the issue of ground-level ozone. The good news is that ozone levels are already falling and have been for some time. Regulations tend to last far beyond their utility. CAFE standards are one area in which President Trump is trying to restore reasonableness.

Christina Sandefur spoke in Albuquerque and discussed the importance of property rights including two big issues that the Rio Grande Foundation has had tangible success on.

Finally, President Trump is in New Mexico. He clearly thinks he can win the State. Wally and Paul discuss how the Electoral College makes New Mexico relevant in presidential races and whether Trump can indeed win New Mexico’s 5 electoral votes.