Naked perversions and taxing fixations
Expanded from the 6-10-2007 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
|"Our legislators cut the best deal we could under this stupid pledge of the governor's. They had to cut the best deal they could with this yahoo from Sparks."|
Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins, D.
After state lawmakers shut down last week, one Wal-Mart lobbyist snarled that corporations don't pay taxes, people do. Ronald Reagan used to retch the same raggage, giving it legitimacy and longevity.
But it's not true. Price competition is but one example of pressures keeping costs from being passed through to customers.
That's why I long ago saw through the machinations of that corporate front called The Tax Foundation, which annually publishes figures about how much each citizen is taxed. Few reporters bother to note that these blackguards lump all corporate and business taxes in with levies paid by individuals.
Right-wing Silver State moonhowlers have for decades used those bogus numbers as polluted proof that Nevadans are overtaxed. Individuals certainly are. The gambling and mining industries, certainly not.
Our antique system is so broken that none will risk fixing it. (Sen. Joe Neal, D-N. Las Vegas, has retired.)
Other discredited cliches have been most recently pimped by superannuated Sen. Bob Beers, R-Gomorrah South, and Gov. Jim the Dim.
Beers tried and failed to qualify a ballot question capping state expenditure increases at the combined annual rate of inflation plus population growth.
Gov. Jim the Dim tried to justify his "no new taxes" dogma by barking that growth must pay for growth.
His liberal wife, who succeeded him in the legislature a decade ago, apparently did not tell him that lawmakers has been reliably advised that growth had stopped paying for itself even then. (The only flaw I've ever found in first lady Dawn Gibbons, a capable and conscientious public servant, has involved her questionable taste in men. C'est l'amour. Say no more.)
Here's a quick primer on how to decode and deflate the demagogic detritus of political leaders whose primary concern remains re-election.
First, refuse to play the game within their boundaries. You may have heard how the Nevada state budget is about $7 billion over two years. You rarely see reported that most of our money actually comes from the federal government, which means our actual budget is about $20 billion for 2007-2009. So every time you hear a pol bash the feds for pork barrel spending, remember that you benefit from the bacon.
Next, remember that as much as Gomorrah South get bashed, Clark County tax revenue has long subsidized the rest of the state. For the first time since Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, ticked off the sleeping giant in 1990 and cost Washoe County millions foreverafter, Las Vegans are feeling they got hosed this year and will be after blood in 2009 just in time for the coming recession.
Third, remember where you are. As nationally noted economist David S. Schwartz marveled more than a quarter-century ago, "Nevada is Mars."
New to Nevada in 1969, I reported to Las Vegas DMV (a 12-wide mobile home in an unpaved field), showed them my laminated California license and was handed a flimsy card. They did make sure I was not blind.
I expressed amazement to the clerk, who told me I was not alone.
"We've grown so fast that Nevada hasn't thought of a lot of things that have been on the books in other states for years," she said.
Nothing has changed on planet Nevada.
We are famous for our perversions and the 2007 legislature did not disappoint. As I noted last week, we've gone from Gov. Dudley Do-Right, a man of no conviction, to Gov. Jim the Dim, who may face conviction. (Anybody taking bets as to whether the guv or the light-guv will be the first indicted?) 
Kenny Guinn was easily re-elected as a no new taxes governor, then as a lame duck tried to extract new levies from almost every segment of Nevada save his patroons in the gambling industry.
Sen. Neal and some smart business lobbyists turned the tables and Guinn was forced in 2003 to sign into law a major tax increase which delivered a mild hit to gambling companies and a major one to its high executives by making some of their compensation federally taxable.
Boy were they pissed!
MGM Mirage, which took the biggest hit, prostituted the fair name of green energy and snookered a bill through the 2005 special session providing huge tax breaks for energy saving construction. They then juiced the tax commission to extra-legally expand the law. Some of it was rolled back this year given the hemorrhage it will cause, but the biggie of the strip still scored like a card counter. Clark County and its schools stand to lose up to $300 million over the next decade because of MGM's revenge.
That perversion paled in comparison with a couple of other debauches.
Gibbons proposed putting $3.5 million into a program to indoctrinate high school dropouts into the wonders of military life (and death?). He didn't get it all, but we will now have a state taxpayer-funded propaganda machine, over and above ROTC, to recruit more raw meat for Dubya's hamburger grinder on the oily sands of Araby. 
Gibbons then added insult to injury by actually perverting a perversion. He took room tax money from convention and visitors authorities to fund debt to build roads, taking care of about $1 billion of a $5 billion shortfall.
As Sen. Neal often pointed out, the Fair and Recreation Board law of 1955 imposed room taxes to pay for county fairs and recreation, such as parks and ballfields. The gambling industry slowly skimmed away almost all of it to pay for tourism promotion, making the gambling-industrial complex our biggest corporate welfare queen while local parks, schools, roads, health, police and fire protection remain underfunded to this very day.
Most of the gambling industry was really ticked over this raid on one of their sweetest cookie jars.
In discussing this with a longtime lobbyist last week, I was informed that for many years, Nevada's congressional delegation funneled money into California to expand and maintain highways leading to Las Vegas and Reno. When the gamblers wanted state funds to do the same on federal highways on our side of the border, Sen. Neal and his colleagues scuttled it, a rare win for taxpayers.
Despite their spin, the gambling industry has not been our biggest taxpayer for many years. You and I bear the biggest burden through some of the highest sales and use taxes in the country.
The 1999 state "smoking gun" study which proves that the gambling industry has become a drain on our economy will be linked to the web edition of this column at Barbwire.US.
Mirroring the myopic moral obtuseness of his predecessors, Gov. Jim the Dim actually said "I think we have now put the education of our children as the top priority in the State of Nevada."
Nothing could be further from the truth and lots of little people have been hurt.
Be well. Raise hell.
1. Krolicki investigation broadens, Las Vegas Sun, 5-23-2007
2. Rinfret, Pierre A.; Peace is Bullish; Look magazine, 5-31-1966
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Andrew Barbano is a 38-year Nevadan, editor of NevadaLabor.com, JoeNeal.org, and a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413/AFL-CIO. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.
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