GOP leadership descends from
red scare to racism
only time I ever met Assemblyman John Carpenter (R-Elko), he
called me a socialist. No big deal. I don't care what you call
me, just spell my name right.
The occasion was a 1980 Elko
County Commission meeting. Mr. Carpenter sat on that body, which
heard a presentation from the Coalition for Affordable Energy.
The citizens group was headed by someone with whom Mr. Carpenter
would one day serve in the legislature, Randolph Townsend, now
a Reno Republican state senator. (Back then, he was a consumer-oriented
We got the cold shoulder for
asking Elko officials to support our statewide initiative petition
mandating that the legislature establish a consumer advocate's
office to fight skyrocketing utility rates. We also suggested
that Elko join with Winnemucca citizens and officeholders who
wanted to acquire their own power system. At the time, CP National
wanted to sell its northeastern Nevada electrical service and
Sierra Pacific Powerful was the only buyer.
We advocated the cost savings
of public ownership as an alternative to turning the power system
over to Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves. All of this proved too much
for a cowboy like Mr. Carpenter.
We ended winning one out of
two. The 1981 legislature established the consumer advocate's
office, which has saved Nevada telephone, electricity, gas and
water consumers tens of millions over the past 16 years. Alas,
Elko and Winnemucca were swallowed up by Sierra Pacific, much
to their citizens' financial detriment.
So I find it quite ironic
that Assemblyman Carpenter is now a practicing socialist working
for the little guy Sen. Townsend abandoned long ago. Mr. Carpenter
has been leading the charge to get a bill passed authorizing
Elko to vote for bonds to pay for a new public hospital. He is
swimming against a powerful tide churned by the Elko Daily Free
Press. The dukes of the Steninger newspaper family apparently
favor a private pirate ship similar to Washoe Medical Center.
Carpenter recently responded
with this editorial submission: "Many people, including
myself, do not think privatization is a good idea...especially
under the terms of the first contract that was presented which
was written to 'give' our hospital away." (If this brings
back nightmares of the 1985 giveaway of Washoe Med, it should.
"The professional managers
which you (Elko Daily Free Press editors) speak of do not always
hold costs down," Carpenter stated. (Sound familiar?) "During
the last two years, Elko General Hospital has had a profit of
nearly $3 million," Carpenter noted. (Chillingly, this is
the same dollar figure Washoe Med earned before it was privatized
under a big lie propaganda campaign that asserted that the hospital
would eventually start losing money. Never did. Never will.)
"There is no sugar coating
or free lunch. We either pay for the hospital with our taxes
and then we own it, or we pay off a bonded indebtedness issued
by a corporation and pay nearly double...and then end up with
the outside corporation owning 'our' hospital," Mr. Carpenter
He is acting in the best interests
of his constituents. He's also peddling a socialist program,
public ownership. It's all just a label game. Words like "socialist"
and "liberal" have been demonized by propagandists
for corporate America. We hate communists and disfavor socialists,
but love Social Security. Same thing, different media spin.
If you get caught up in namecalling,
you will not make progress in the public interest. John Carpenter
has matured as an elected official. Too bad the same cannot be
said of his party's leadership.
Last week, I detailed the
red scare tactics of the Nevada GOP. A bulletin from their state
chairman basically called labor unions a bunch of dirty commies.
I pointed out that the extreme policies of the national Republican
Party are hurling us toward communism under a new label. If you
eliminate the rights of workers to organize, then deregulate
business, you will eventually have one big corporation which
has swallowed up all other enterprises. When everyone works for
one monster corporation, you have communism.
Governments are formed by
citizens to regulate and protect a civil society - civilization.
Hate them or not, we need our governmental creations. Democracy
can exist only when based on a balanced tripod of business, government
and labor. Right now, the rights of U.S. workers have been ground
down to their lowest level in the industrialized world. Government
is the next tripod leg to be demonized, then termitized. Who
needs a government agency to regulate tobacco, food and water
anyway? It costs too much to prevent botulism or lung cancer,
doesn't it? The Nevada GOP bashes ABC News as a union dupe while
praising Food Lion, the east coast chain the network exposed
for selling tainted groceries.
Communism wrapped in a capitalist
label is the wave of the future. That's why I found the state
GOP calling labor unions communist to be such a hoot. Nothing
promotes democracy better than vocal, organized groups of citizens,
unions included. In his rebuttal to the Elko media lords, Mr.
Carpenter noted that 1,800 residents had signed a petition which
led to his legislative action to place the measure on the ballot.
That's democracy, dammit.
After last week's column,
someone sent me a file of other Nevada GOP propaganda. It should
make Assemblyman Carpenter and Sen. Townsend both angry and ashamed.
"Jesse Jackson: poverty
pimping race hustler," reads one installment. "He's
a secular socialist and I think secular socialists have developed
a network of pimping poverty," the GOP quotes a backlashing
yahoo named Star Parker, joined by Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.).
When I talked to party communications director Charles Muth,
he said their publications merely quote what others say. Right
- and publish them as official party bulletins. You can't pull
a Pontius Pilate that easily.
The GOP quotes backlashing
reactionary writer Thomas Sowell: "We already have far too
many people in college who have neither the desire nor the ability
to make the investment pay off," the oxymoronic black conservative
asserts. Apparently everyone and everything must be judged like
a corporate bottom line. Realistically, if we're being plunged
headlong into a third-world economy of hamburger flippers, who
needs education anyway?
Which brings me to the probable
cause of the current Republican venom. The AFL-CIO has targeted
Las Vegas with a program called the Building Trades Organizing
Project. Headed by the estimable Jim Rudicil of the United Brotherhood
of Electrical Workers, organized labor will spend $6.3 million
over the next two years. My brethren in the news media, despite
ample opportunity, have managed to miss the most important part
of the story.
Mr. Rudicil and his associates
are not only organizing Las Vegas, but training union organizers
from all over North America in techniques they can take back
home. That $6.3 million is buying seeds to grow trees for rebuilding
a severely weakened leg of democracy's tripod.
Mr. Rudicil's basic tactics
are scary to some: he (gasp) informs workers of their rights
under federal law. A worker who knows his or her rights can be
flat dangerous to an exploitive employer.
That's the reason for calling
unions communists and terrorists in Republican publications.
Better to keep the great unwashed ignorant, as Thomas Sowell
advocates, rather than organizing for better wages, benefits
and working conditions.
I suggest calling the local
GOP at 882-2467, state chairman John Mason at Lake Tahoe, (702)
588-6963, or Mr. Muth at (702) 454-0350; fax 454-7798; e-mail
Tell them that hatred, bigotry,
racism and red scare have no place in the party of Lincoln.
Be well. Raise hell.
Barbano is a Reno-based syndicated columnist and 28-year
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Barbwire by Barbano
has appeared in the Sparks Tribune since 1988. This column originally
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