Are Biden's policies responsible for inflation?

In this week's Intelligencer, increasing inflation is blamed on Biden's policies, New Mexico is paying millions of dollars with no accountability, a judge denies a civil rights suit, more criticism of the Governor’s spending habits, partisan gerrymandered maps move through the “non-partisan” process, and a list of recommended links in a week packed with movidas.

The Intelligencer is a weekly newsletter that gives you a quick overview of La Politica across New Mexico and the U.S., covering topics such as policy, current events, the political landscape, and tech.

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Dax Contreras
Executive Director, Hispanos Unidos

1. Americans say Biden’s policies responsible for inflation: poll

The details: ​62% percent of Americans said President Biden is somewhat or very responsible for increasing inflation — the same number who believe the country is on the wrong track, according to a new poll released Wednesday.

Why it matters: American consumers are suffering sticker shock as the nation faces a supply chain crisis and rising fuel prices, and New Mexicans are no exception. According to the Consumer Price Index, the cost of food has increased 4.6 percent since last year, with the prices for meat, poultry, fish and eggs topping the list of food items at 10.5 percent. 

The big picture: This poll is no outlier and the just the latest data point showing Americans souring on the Biden administration and Democrats in general (after all, Democrats are in control of Congress and the White House). Taken as a whole, the polls say that Biden is trending down, losing both independents and Democrats. How this plays on Election Day in a couple weeks (and midterms next year) remains to be seen. 

2. “Is it making a difference? That’s something we’re going to be looking at.” -state contractor

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Details: Last year, NMPED awarded Utah-based company Graduation Alliance a $4.6 million no-bid contract on an “emergency basis” to quickly provide calling and texting services, as state law requires schools to contact the families of students who are chronically absent. PED is about to renew that no-bid contract for $2 million.

Why it matters: But PED does not know if the program even works because “grades and attendance for students were not recorded.” The absence of accountability was, of course, blamed on COVID-19. Instead, government officials are relying on the company’s own claims.

The big picture: As for the non-competitive aspect to the multi-million dollar contract, the National Association of State Procurement Officials recommends that states agencies be required to “actually check if competitors exist.” According to documents, PED did not try to check for competitors.

Meanwhile, at the higher-ed level, a group of professors at NMSU is calling on university President along with the Provost to be fired for allegedly misappropriating over a million dollars, unethical hiring and promotions – including “failing to advertise openings or conduct appropriate searches.”

3. State judge rejects scientists’ constitutional rights lawsuit

Details: Workers at Los Alamos National Laboratory filed a lawsuit challenging the workplace vaccine mandate, backed by “114 scientists, nuclear engineers, research technicians, designers, project managers and other workers”, which ended up getting thrown out by State District Judge Jason Lidyard, who ruled that forcing employees to get vaccinated was not a violation of their rights.

Meanwhile: New Mexico has enacted “crisis standards” for hospitals to ration and triage patients due to a dearth of beds, rooms, and nurses. As it turns out, most patients are not COVID related – in fact, many are people who were forced to delay medical care because Governor Lujan Grisham banned hospitals from treating many non-COVID patients last year. MLG’s vaccine mandate on hospital workers has made the shortage even worse.

The big picture: These mandates still exist despite the fact that cases appear to be declining, according to state Epidemiologist Dr. Christine Ross, “I am happy to report that, but I think it’s also important to acknowledge that we may be far from done.” In addition, NMDOH shows just over half of new COVID cases are hospitalizations, but that over 90% of new fatalities were of those older than 60 years of age and/or had underlying health conditions.

4. Democrat Treasurer piles on MLG for her autocratic spending of federal funds

Details: Democrat Tim Eichenberg, the current State Treasurer, agreed that Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is acting outside of her authority by unilaterally spending millions of the billion dollar federal slush fund intended to help New Mexicans deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why it matters: In what has been a bi-partisan challenge to MLG’s spending spree, Eichenberg’s siding with fellow Democrat, state senator Jacob Candelaria, and Republican senate leader Greg Baca is a rare act of dissent (and bipartisanship) in MLG’s tenure. The aforementioned state senators teamed up to file a lawsuit against the Governor, citing Article IV, Section 30 of the New Mexico Constitution to claim she “unlawfully” spent $600 million.

The big picture: Eichenberg’s breaking of ranks could be a sign that Lujan Grisham’s understated scandals, which include Jewelrygate, Waygugate, and her $150,000 settlement in a sexual assault case, are weakening her political clout going into the 2022 midterm elections where she is gunning for a second term.

5. Left-wing activists’ push for Democrat friendly redistricting maps continues

Details: On Friday, the New Mexico Citizen Redistricting Committee, which advises the Legislative process for submitting redistricting maps, approved three map options for congressional, state Senate districts, and Public Education Commission districts; they will meet this week to submit state House seats.

What they’re saying: Former Democratic state Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez was appointed to the committee by New Mexico Speaker of the House, Democrat Brian Egolf and lawyer and former state Senator Lisa Curtis, appointed by Senate President Pro Tem Democrat Mimi Stewart both support the “People’s Map,” a radically different map that would undeniably favor Democrats. Curtis commented, “I think we’re sort of abdicating our responsibility” by not choosing the heavily gerrymandered version of Congressional District 2.

Behind the scenes: In response to a report that left-wing activist groups paid cash to people to attend and testify at Citizen Redistricting Committee hearings to support the “People’s Map,” state House Minority Leader Jim Townsend (R) is “calling on the Secretary of State and the State Ethics Commission to investigate how these activities are funded and whether there is a coordinated effort to undermine the independent and nonpartisan CRC.” While there is some political chatter regarding the continuous infusion of dark money from left-wing organizations influencing the redistricting process, it seems unlikely the Democrat-controlled branches of New Mexico government will act in any meaningful way.

6. Recommended Reads

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With just under two weeks to go in the election cycle, the 2021 campaign season is in full swing. Here are some other movidas and stories worth a mention:

  • Senator Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, who clashed with MLG and other Democrats, will not seek election to a fourth four-year term in 2024.
  • Hispanics increased their homeownership rate to nearly 50% in 2020 despite the lack of diversified financial assets, according to a report from a group monitoring U.S. Hispanic wealth creation.
  • California is racing to secure large amounts of power in the next few years to make up for the impending closure of natural gas-fired power plants and a nuclear facility that provides nearly 10% of the electricity generated in the state. The renewable energy mandates driving the closures should serve as a warning to what New Mexico could soon face.
  • Small-scale marijuana businesses in New Mexico would receive access to publicly financed loans of up to $250,000 in an effort to "promote social and economic fairness" under a proposal unveiled a week ago.