Myth quiz '97: lies, damned lies and economists


Just this once, I'm going to keep my opinions to myself. Wait. Before you construe that as an admission that I have nothing to say, let me explain.

I'm going to hang another writer's work on the Barbwire, string it up and let it bleed. I'm not going to reveal the author's identity. I'm not going to say where the work first appeared. Maybe I'll give an extra 100 points to the first person who can name the writer and the publication.

Acting as sole judge and jury, I will award points to the best responses, both pro and con. But I'm looking mostly for cons. I defy anyone to prove the following puffs of pickle smoke true. The list is the work of the unnamed writer. The comments about the myths are mine. Some of the original writer's comments will be juxtaposed with those of local respondents when all the results are in.

Herewith, the top 10 myths about the U.S. economy.

MYTH #10: With our economy roaring, these are good times in America. Better yet, northwestern Nevada's jobless rate is well below the national average. Why, we're living in the workers' paradise. No wonder this is the fastest growing state in the nation.

Why, then, do our local food providers run out of food for the working poor so often? For years, Catholic Community Services director Kevin Day has publicly stated that many CCS clients are full time casino workers who earn so little that they need to seek some of their meals at downtown charitable facilities. Day recently told the Reno Gazette-Journal that his organization's clientele has mushroomed from 5,000 to 7,500 a month.

But remember the myth: you never had it so good, as President Herbert Hoover said so many years ago.

MYTH #9: Everyone is better off when we let our free-market system work.

Please see last week's column about that particular sacred cow. The free market is bull. Never has existed, never will.

MYTH #8: Businesses aren't to blame for driving wages down—global competition made them do it.

Two decades ago, the only other place which offered casino gambling was New Jersey, and they were barely getting started. Wages were lousy here then, they're worse now. National and international gambling competition doesn't seem to have made much difference in the stagnation spawned by the incestuous Reno-Sparks ruling class.

MYTH #7: Free trade agreements create more jobs.

I'll leave that one alone and see what you have to say.

MYTH #6: Big government is what's wrong with America.

Don't ask me about this, see an expert who believes it with all his heart. A man who acts only the best interests of Sparks and who talks like someone interactive with Rush Limbaugh on a regular basis. I'm talking about Sparks councilman Phil Zive, overwhelmingly re-elected earlier this month and trying to get big government off our backs at every opportunity. Call him (626-5050 or 333-1365) and ask him how he brings his anti-government views to bear for his Sparks constituents.

MYTH #5: Raising wages causes inflation and job loss.

The entire Sparks city government hierarchy, including the city manager and city attorney, will be able to provide you with great ammunition to support this point. Call (702) 353-2311. But don't call councilman John Mayer who still subscribes to the archaic idea that a good day's work merits a good day's pay.

MYTH #4: The federal budget deficit is destroying our future.

The defenders of this fairy tale will have a hard time coming up with anything original. I eagerly await its detractors. For enlightened perspective, read "The Debt and the Deficit, False Alarms/Real Possibilities" by eminent economists Robert Heilbroner and Peter Bernstein.

MYTH #3: There's nothing wrong that a little retraining won't fix.

All respondents to this whopper will be retrained as Flatbush bridge salesmen or telemarketers seeking to award random drawing winners.

MYTH #2: Unions are bad for the economy.

This is your chance to take your own poll. Go downtown on any busy weekend and start asking people this question: "If you had a choice between a union job and a non-union job, which one would you take?" Extra points on this project if you do.

MYTH #1: Income inequality is a fact of life that can't be helped.

See last week's column on the depredations of Social Darwinism.

EXTRA CREDIT DEPT. As I've said so many times before, get the Bible on these issues, Don Barlett and Jim Steele's "America" (What went wrong? Who really pays the taxes? Who stole the Dream?) series. I've given a couple dozen copies away since the 1992 debut of the trilogy by the Philadelphia Inquirer's two-time Pulitzer Prize winners. (They have since been hired away by Time magazine.) Their paperback books are available at any library or bookstore.

DISCREDIT DEPT. If you've got some myths to add to the above, send them in. The national publication which created the list is looking for more. Your career as economic guru could start right here.

THE MORALLY OBTUSE SIDESHOW AWARDS. Even if you don't want to address either side, you can still win the grand prize with these extra credit questions. First, who said "modern appliances and indoor plumbing make welfare unnecessary"? (You will find the answer in an installment of this column from around the time of the Republican National Convention last August.) Double points if you can name the Sparks official who just adores the person who said it.

Please hotfoot your entries to me via e-mail at or to the Sparks Tribune at P.O. Box 887, Sparks NV 89432. You can also drop comments off at Tribune world headquarters at 10th & "C" streets in Sparks, on the fringe of soon-to-be-world-class Victorian Square.

IF YOU CAN'T TAKE THE HEAT, GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN DEPT. As last week's column rebutted the June 3 assertions of Jeff Ackerman, publisher of the Carson City Nevada Appeal, I did the gentleman the courtesy of e-mailing him a copy. You should read his response, but he asked me not to print any of it. Rather curious conduct for a newspaperman.

No matter. He's got soul brothers all over the state. I criticized Mr. Ackerman for his vicious but vacuous and unoriginal comments trashing AB 506, the Displaced Workers Bill of Rights. (I think he listens to talk radio shows with Phil Zive.) The Las Vegas Review-Journal was equally as cruel in a Sunday, May 25, editorial. You can read the items online at and The largest newspaper in the state was as unoriginal as the capital city's: advocacy for workers' rights is communistic and thus treasonous - you know, all the basic J. Edgar Hoover red scare stuff so popular with corporate stooges right now when workers are grumbling about more than two decades of flat wages.

I'll delve deeper into the workers' rights bill later on. You can get a copy by calling (702) 687-4848 or (800) 992-0973. Let me know your comments and I'll include the best in a future analysis.

Be well. Raise hell.


© Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a Reno-based syndicated columnist and 28-year Nevadan.
Barbwire by Barbano has appeared in the Sparks Tribune since 1988. This column originally published 6/15/97.

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