The Fat 90's Downsize This! Awards


The 90's finally caught up with me. I've been downsized. All Daily Sparks Tribune columnists are now limited to 800 words. That's roughly 50% off my average the past year, but don't expect half-price subscriptions anytime soon. You'll find fuller versions of this and future installments here on the NevadaWeb.

I should look at the bright side. Unlike the average American worker who's lost double-digit ground since 1973, I've effectively been awarded a 50% pay increase. There is thus no better time for the Fat 90's Downsize This! Awards, named in honor of Michael Moore, populist author of the bestseller of the same name.

1. GENERAL MOTORS: With a $2.1 billion profit the past three months, why not spread some around to striking workers and overcharged customers? Matching pay increases with price cuts means zero effect on inflation and thus lower interest rates for GM, so everybody wins. I'll even downsize my economic consulting fee.

2. TCI CABLE, new owner of the Trib, had nothing to do with downsizing columns but still deserves an award because TCI subscribers, like me, pay a third more than Continental Cable customers, like my kid. And he gets more premium channels. Downsize that price! You can afford it.

3. MEGABUX MINING MOGULS win the propaganda trophy for ads praising themselves for merely following reclamation law. The ads don't mention their support of Rep. Jim Gibbons' (R-Nev.) attempts to repeal it.

4. THE GAMBLING INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX recently succeeded in raising taxes on everyone else, then pushed through tax cuts for itself. Casino funny money is now fully deductible at face value. A coupon which cost a fraction of a cent to print can generate a dollar or five dollars in deductions. Nevada already has the lowest gambling taxes in the country. This downsizes them further.

5. STEVE WINS AGAIN: Gomorrah South gambling mogul Steve Wynn got our corrupt state lawmakers to give him about $7.5 million in sales and personal property tax breaks on the art he's buying for the new Bellagio, an Italian-themed resort. The audacity of this legal thievery would make the Mafia envious.

6. MORAL OBTUSENESS AWARDS go to University of Nevada intellectual harlots and those who paid them off. Southern Pacific Railroad bought a study blaming the city of Reno for not moving SP's dangerous downtown tracks. Gamblers paid for a report supportive of legislation increasing taxes on everyone but themselves. ARCO funded one justifying as helpful to consumers a new law allowing BigOil to monopolize more gas stations. The professors who peddled the dirty papers made big bucks for whoring out the university's name to add legitimacy to bastardized, bogus, biased research against the interests of the very taxpayers who support higher education.

7. UTILITY BILLS: The same law which gave ARCO and friends a new license to steal also "deregulated" public utilities. The bottom line: you and I continue to pay more for gas and electricity than gamblers and miners. "It is doubtful that residential and small commercial users will see the same benefits large customers will," state consumer advocate Fred Schmidt told me.

8. BLUE PLATE SPECIAL: Holders of older blue and white auto license plates were pleased to learn that lawmakers okayed manufacture of new ones for current holders. Seems harmless, right? Wrong. The same law makes all drivers pay for new plates by 2001. It was pushed by companies selling license plate materials. They will score $3.4 million while our wallets get downsized by $6.5 million.

9. SUPER BALLS: Reno can't afford to fix potholes but Mayor Jeff Griffin wants to find $1.5 million to entice the San Francisco 49ers to move their training camp here. He suggests using room taxes, currently mismanaged by our bankrupt convention authority, proprietors of a financial hemorrhage called the National Bowling Stadium.

10. BOWLING TROPHY: Downtown gamblers recently praised the bowling palace as "worth its weight in gold" to them. Casino interests paid nothing for the still incomplete facility and have offered zero to cover some $20 million in cost overruns. To make up the difference, local parks and recreation will get skimmed for years.

11. SILVER SCREEN WELFARE QUEEN: Syufy/Century theatres, which last Monday won the right to buy choice downtown Sparks property at below-market value, courtesy of a unananimous city council.

12. WELFARE QUEEN TWO: The average welfare recipient, a despicable seven-year-old, who now faces starvation in the state consistently named the unhealthiest and most dangerous in the nation.

13. THE BOOZE BROTHERS: Nevada liquor and gambling interests succeeded in killing a liquor tax increase to fund substance abuse education. The tax would hurt sales, said juice lobbyist Harvey Whittemore. Nevada drug czar Dorothy North of Elko has vowed to take it to the people via statewide initiative. Roses to her, thorns to Darth Harvey and his booze troops.

14. A DRINK TO THE DOWNSIZED: Reno Hilton security guards, local cab drivers, Virginian Hotel and Woolworth's workers who lost their jobs and benefits this year in the name of corporate efficiency.

15. THE GRANDSTAND HOT DOG AWARD goes to Sen. Mark James (R-Las Vegas), whose ambition is only surpassed by his opportunism. He gave us the urgently needed Mike Tyson earbiting law and a ban on dirty cartoons like the naked androgynous Tinkerbells in Disney's 1942 Fantasia.

16. THE 120-DAY SOLUTION. Lawmakers hailed a bill allowing Nevadans to vote to downsize legislative sessions to only 120 days every two years. It's a shuck. A compressed timeframe means only fatcats get their bills introduced, let alone heard. Citizens may as well not show up. The fastest growing state in the nation cannot be run by a part-time legislature frozen in the 1960s. Might as well abolish the ledge and just let big business lobbyists write the laws and carry them to the governor for signature.

17. THE JOHN WAYNE BOBBITT AWARD goes to all our downsized Tribune columnists. Just remember, while the blade gets shorter each time it's sharpened, it cuts with more precision thereafter and...oops, out of space. Barely room for the standard signoff...

Be well. Raise hel


© 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. Part of this column originally published 7/20/97.

Reprints of the UNR financial scandal newsbreaks remain available for the cost of copying at
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