Friday, August 5, 2016

Special Session on the Table to Fix 2016, Not 2017

On August 24 another state revenue forecast is due, and if the present trend continues, the state will be in worse shape, financially, than anticipated in the last forecast, which predicted a $500-600 million shortfall for FY 2016 and 2017.  Apparently the Governor has agreed to call a special session to fix the smaller 2016 shortfall, but not the 2017 shortfall.  
This is an election year.  There has been talk lately, given presidential candidate Trump's mounting train wreck of a campaign, of the New Mexico House flipping back to the D side.  No one is anxious to be on record voting for cuts to programs.  But FY 2016 has already ended and by law it must be fixed, and can be fixed without much pain.  But the day of reckoning for 2017 is likely to be more painful, and can be postponed until early in the legislative session, in January.
Pessimism is the New Mexico Political Virus of 2016

The state's political class has been in a doom-and-gloom mode for months, now, complaining about the Martinez administration's poor performance on economic development, continued failure at all levels of performance in our institutions of education, the exit of some good jobs and college-educated people from the state, the lack of progress on many fixable problems, and so on.  Pessimism and optimism are contagious, and pessimism is the New Mexico political virus of 2016.  
My take is different. New Mexico's decline has been slow, and it began decades ago.  The failures we see today are no worse than the failures of our business and political classes ten or twenty years ago.  What may be new is that we no longer believe we have the will to improve; we believe that partisan bickering has become a substitute for the hard work of governing, and that this condition has become permanent.  But as Shakespeare once wrote, the fault, dear Brutus, lies not in the stars, but in ourselves that we are underlings.  As Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders proved in the past year, voters have the capacity to shake things up when they decide enough is enough.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

In an amazing turn of events, the Trump campaign for President appears to have reached what may well be a dead end with very limited and highly unpleasant exit routes.  The Khan family challenged Trump during a highly visible moment during the Democratic National Convention, pointing to the Constitution and reminding the nation that Trump has never made any sacrifices to country, let alone the heroic actions of their son in his fatal act of courage.  Trump answered back in his usual never-back-down tone, All of this has backfired on Trump, in spades.

The pressure on Republican leaders everywhere to repudiate Trump's attacks on the Khan family and, by extension, his threat, should he become President, to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S., is likely to be unbearable in the next few hours.  It is hard to imagine any Republican seeking office to risk endorsing Trump's attack on a family whose son died a hero's death, in uniform, protecting his soldiers..

Trump's poll numbers appear to be, finally, collapsing.  Yesterday reports went out that the Trump campaign had asked Republicans in Congress to help him out, but there appear to be no takers.  In fact, Rep. Richard Hanna, a Republican, publicly announced today he would vote for Hillary Clinton.

Also today President Obama, whose approval ratings are reasonably sound, flatly asserted, in front of the Prime Minister of Singapore, that Trump was "unfit" to be president and challenged Republican leaders, asking why they should continue to endorse him.  This is an unprecedented step for a president during the television age, and Obama stated as much, seemingly challenging partisan opponents to deny the validity of his claim Trump is unfit.

The problem Trump faces may well be fatal to his continued candidacy.  If he apologizes and retracts much of what he has said it raises serious questions about his judgment over the past few days: Trump could have apologized any time this past weekend, with perhaps only minor damage to his support base.  But if Trump refuses to back down it raises even more severe questions not only about his willingness to admit to a serious mistake but also about his empathy for a family's loss, and whose only consolation lies in the memory of his heroism.  Would you like to be in the corner Trump appears to be in?