Messages from the piano player in the cat house

Expanded from the 5-11-2003 Daily Sparks, Nev., Tribune

Everybody knows the fight is fixed.
The poor stay poor,
the rich get rich.
That's how it goes.
Everybody knows.

— Leonard Cohen


As Lily Tomlin once opined, no matter how cynical you become, it's hard to keep up. So it goes down at Ledge.

What's not news is that the gambling industry is once again manipulating the process as if the Nevada Legislature were a wholly-owned subsidiary. The casino moguls' own mismanagement of their built-in advantage has not made the papers — till now.

About a week ago, the gambling-industrial complex put out the word that the game is over, that the Grotesque Proceeds Tax (GPT) has the votes. They slithered, swaggered, whispered and weasled their way through the halls chanting their mantra. The bleating peons should cue up for sheep dipping and serious shearing as usual.

The victory dance was to come Thursday before the State Senate Taxation Committee where major votes were reported in the offing.

Then, it all melted away. The tax committee did not even deliberate as reports leaked out of Carson City that casino lobbyists and their elected alter egos had decided to cut this hog up behind closed doors. Why? Because they counted noses and realized that they well might lose, defeated by their own arrogant strongarm tactics.

A narrow group of legislators will now cut the deals in a well-ventilated latter day equivalent of a smoke filled room. Las Vegas Sun columnist Erin Neff called them "The Dirty Dozen." Actually, there are 14. You may read their names and contact information at Sen. Joe Neal's website.

Neal, D-North Las Vegas, took to the senate floor Friday and decried the gamblers' tactics, an instant replay of the first session of 2001. The last day and night of that debacle stand as perhaps the most shameful and shameless moment in the legislature's checkered history. Gambling industry lobbyists took total control, telling lawmakers how to vote and which bills needed last-minute hearings. The zoot-suits even had their dirty hands on the actual documents which would become the law of the land, running them between the assembly and senate.

The gambling industry once again wants to raise taxes on thee and me while exempting itself. I've crunched a lot of numbers and here's the bottom line: If the so-called "governor's plan" (which is actually the gamblers' concoction) passes, gambling gets away scot-free because of the credits and deductions they've built into the deal. Taxes go up about a billion dollars over the next two years and you and I pay them. Meanwhile, Nevada casinos continue to invest their profits from the lowest-taxed fiefdom on earth in places like California, competing with themselves and sending Nevada's economy into a death spiral.

Call your lawmaker and raise hell. The number is 1-800-995-9080. (Click here for complete contact info.)

DANSE GROTESQUE, PART DEUX. For those of you who don't know, the GPT is a regressive universal sales tax which extracts money from every business whether or not it's made a profit. The bastards would thus reimpose the worst tax of all — on groceries. It took years of work by the late Sen. Mary Gojack, D-Reno, among others, to repeal that onerous levy back in the 1970s. The GPT would also tax health care and just about every other aspect of society as the predatory gambling industry continues its pattern of privatizing profit and socializing risk.

Just yesterday came word that the Reno Hilton is the latest major hotel-casino to win a huge tax break because its cash flow is down. Don't you wish you could lower your house payment when work is slow? But we, the great unwashed, are not worthy.

THE AIR WAR AMPS UP. Look for some surprises both in print and on the airwaves this week. If you're on my e-mail lists, you'll get advance warning.

For starters, if you work graveyard or are heavily into sunrises, tune in KUNR fm 88.7 tomorrow morning at 5:30 a.m. and again at 7:30 a.m. Thereat, you will hear my rebuttal of UNR Prof. Shill Eadington's latest plaint that the Nevada gambling industry is so impoverished and oppressed that to raise its taxes would be the equivalent of bombing a defenseless third-world country or somesuch.

My heart bleeds, but I care more for my bleeding wallet if the gamblers succeed in once again picking the public pocket. Owls like me may go to the web version of this column for the text and a link to an audio download.

I'll also hold forth on Sam Shad's soiree at least twice this week. The usual suspects, scalawags, skulduggers and shell game shucksters will join us, so tune in for the legislative equivalent of political pornography.

"Nevada Newsmakers" airs Monday through Thursday at 12:30 p.m. on KRNV TV-4 (NBC) and repeats at 9:30 p.m. on Charter Cable Channel 12 in Sparks-Reno-Carson and Channel 19 in Douglas County. Audio rebroadcasts air from 9:00-11:00 a.m. Sundays on KKKOH 780-am.

Be well. Raise hell. | U-News | C.O.P. | Sen. Joe Neal
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Copyright © 1982-2003 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 34-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of and He hosts Deciding Factors on several Nevada television stations. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.



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