Nevada Banana Republic makes the poor pay


We've been sold out so many ways since the election that I expect to see ads for slaves in the Big Nickel. The overlords have decreed that the poor shall pay for the pecadilloes of the upper class. Let the lamentations begin.

MAKE 'EM FREEZE IN THE DARK. Wise man George Carlin once said, "the only reason we have a homeless problem is because some son of a bitch hasn't figured out a way to steal a couple million solving it."

Mr. Carlin, call your office. The Reno City Council just earmarked more than $91,000 of federal low cost housing money for the Riverside Hotel Artspace project.

GIMME LAND, LOTSA LAND. Governor-elect Kenny Guinn proved you can have a PhD and still be dumb as a fern. In his first act of gubernatorial foreplay, he participated in last Monday's Union Pacific gang-bang at the Reno railroad tracks. Guinn showed up to beam and nod in unison with other corporate politicos lined up like hula dolls on a stretch limo's dashboard.

The iron octopus glowingly announced it would not donate any money toward entombing its dangerous trains in a trench as they race through Reno's heart. UP will instead donate vague bunches of stuff. Collectible cow catchers and some land in Honduras, perhaps?

DR. GUINN, MILITARY MEDICINE MAN. Later in the week, Guinn became the first governor in recent memory to endorse a permanent military land withdrawal, just a few million square acres.

Just the kind of environmental obtuseness we'd expect from someone elected with just a few million casino dollars.

MORALLY OBTUSE GOOSE. The Reno Gannett-Journal disgraced itself worse than usual last week, stubbornly refusing to disclose that the man responsible for the Union Pacific-Southern Pacific merger sits on Gannett Newspapers' corporate board (one of two UP execs thereon).

Drew Lewis, former Reagan transportation secretary, lobbied the Surface Transportation Board into existence as a governmental rubber stamp to facilitate the merger which has made the railroad billions but royally screwed over customers and communities.

Reno will get goosed the worst, triple the number of trains at twice the speed. They will increasingly carry hazardous and nuclear cargo. The Reno paper has led the cheers for the track depression, but under orders from the top, has never informed its readers of its Union Pacific conflict of interest. Bring up the subject to a frontline reporter and he or she will walk away, silent. The names of the corporate sacred cows are unspeakable in the rusted copper palace on Kuenzli St.

I OWE MY SOUL TO THE COMPANY STORE. Nevada is a company town. In the Cow Counties, the mines rule their minions. In the metros, casinos hold the dice.

Some years back, corporate mining got a constitutional amendment passed keeping itself forever free from tax increases. Gambling, Inc., has done the same in the past two legislative sessions, facilitating new levies on everyone else. Gambling pushed the legislature to enable the sales tax hikes recently imposed on anyone buying just about anything in the Las Vegas, Reno or Sparks areas. Even hearing aids will now cost more.

SAY WHAT? Nevada gambling pays the lowest taxes in the country. Our gross gaming tax recently dropped to fourth among revenue generators for the state, behind the federal government and hidden taxes, such as those on insurance premiums, gasoline and hearing aids. Every retail outlet now doubles as the company store. You pay extra for a burger at McDonald's just so Steve Wynn, Don Carano and Union Pacific won't have to.

SCREW THE POOR. Taxes on consumer goods are bad because they impact the poor much more than the rich. The District of Columbia recently compared the nation's capital with the largest city in each state. Las Vegas ranked worst for the most regressive and unfair taxation in the nation, 51st among 51. The Reno-Sparks structure is almost identical with Gomorrah South. The lower your income, the larger the percentage taken for parks, roads, police and fire protection because the money for them has been shunted to subsidize downtown redevelopment projects, convention authority advertising and railroad track trenches.

WILL THE LAST PERSON LAUGHING PLEASE TURN OFF THE LIGHTS? The gambling industry is rife with insider talk of collapse at the margins. About a half-dozen more downtown Reno casinos could soon close or seriously curtail operations. Two along the tracks might be among them.

"Reno is changing from a gambling town to a town with gambling," said my old friend, Casino Throat.

You reap what you sow. If the Red Man eventually revenges centuries of exploitation by using legal casino con games to bankrupt latter-day conquistadores, so be it. If the gambling-industrial complex gets severely diminished through its own greed, so be it.

This will merely fulfill the predictions of the 1960s when Gov. Paul Laxalt pushed for licensing of corporations rather than strictly individuals.

Enter Howard Hughes to launder Mafia clubs into legitimacy and Atlantic City was up and running within a decade.

State Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, will prove correct on this one, too. Gambling has used its low Nevada labor costs and taxes to develop competition for its home base. Our own companies happily pay up five or six times higher taxes to operate elsewhere.

Don't let the Gannett-Journal fool you with more phony series like "If Gaming Dies." The big boys will do just fine. Smaller hotels will get bulldozed or go timeshare.

On the bright side, maybe one day Reno will use the river for something other than a toilet.

While northern and southern Nevada food banks have run out of food for the least among us, the fat cats imposed more taxes upon them. Even Kleenex for crying now costs more.

Inherit the wind, you greedy bastards.

What goes around, comes around.

Be well. Raise hell.


© Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a member of CWA Local 9413. He is a Reno-based syndicated columnist, a 30-year Nevadan, editor of U-News and was campaign manager for Democratic candidate for Governor, State Senator Joe Neal.
Barbwire by Barbano has appeared in the Sparks Tribune since 1988 and parts of this column were originally published 11/22/98.

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