Fumbling, flailing and falling toward fiscal failure
Expanded from the 3-25-2001 Sparks (Nev.)
Sometimes I darkly delight in watching politicians squirm. Not now. Neglect ripples through and tears up so many lives. Your elected officials are neglecting you.
Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., touts his continued support of the mining industry's rape and pillage our land. They export our mineral wealth to foreign countries and pay next to nothing for the privilege. Just as other states and nations tax gambling far higher than Nevada, other countries require and get much more from mineral exploiters.
While mining has been crying the blues, a recent report showed Nevada gold production up by four percent in 2000. The average ounce of gold sold for $279 over the past two years. The total cost of extracting and marketing that ounce is now well below $100 for modern operations.
"Nevada mines produced 8.58 million ounces of gold worth $2.4 billion last year," according to the Associated Press. About 30 tons of Nevada get gutted to chemically extract a single ounce of foolish gold. Gibbons praised the neo-Reagan/Watt administration for pushing to suspend new regulations, the most important of which would force corporations to post bonds ensuring cleanup and reclamation.
Nevada is littered with thousands of dangerous open shafts. Those responsible are long gone. Sealing them is too expensive for this stingy state, so we opt to lose a few people down old holes every so often. (Cory Farley's take on Gibbons' moral obtuseness is well worth reading in the Reno Gazette-Journal.)
Meanwhile, don't you dare eat fish from the Carson River or Walker Lake. Too much mercury from more than a century of mine-spawned pollution.
Gibbons and other apologists of pillage point to jobs and warn of shutdowns and employment exportation if these poor foreign corporations get slapped with restrictions. Where are they going to go? The gold they covet is here.
Working at these places grows increasingly dangerous. Two miners lost their lives this year under chillingly similar conditions. Rick Brandner, 45, and Thomas Scott, 30, both died when their trucks plunged down illegally unshielded open shafts.
Workers remain cheap and interchangeable. That's the message in the president's recent approval of congressional repeal of safety standards. Nevadans are familiar with such shenanigans.
Silver State casinos perenially win legislation to further shield themselves from lawsuits by abused guests or workers. Every "welcome to Nevada" sign should now bear disclaimers: enter at your own risk, families with children stay out.
Gov. Dudley Do-Right remains adamant about running for re-election as the "read my lips, no new taxes" hero. Alas, reality continues to bite him in the ass.
Last Tuesday, I attended a Carson City press conference at which Nevada State Education Association Executive Director Ken Lange begged lawmakers to impose a business income tax. Other than vague acknowledgment that there oughtta be law, he was met with silence from legislators. They fear opponents painting them as tax-raising spendthrifts.
The know-nothing voter mentality was well-typified by a letter to the Reno Gazette-Journal last week. One Lee T. Weston of Washoe Valley challenged political columnist Jon Ralston to produce "a statistically accurate survey of Nevada voters that shows that a majority supports new/increased taxes."
Ralston had noted that Rep. Gibbons' "Tax Restraint Initiative" imposed minority rule on the legislature.
Sen. Joe Neal's website, JoeNeal.org, has several studies showing Nevadans heavily supporting either a gross gaming tax increase or a general business profits tax. That explains why the legislature just killed funding for the long-established University of Nevada Alan Bible Research Center biennial poll. For years, it has shown two of three Nevadans supporting such tax increases.
Neal's site also has a state study proving that proliferation of low-wage gambling jobs is the cause of our fiscal problems.
Gov. Guinn and I have had two recent public faceoffs over the state's budget. As noted last Sunday, he told me he deserves re-election because of the one-time-only appropriations he has recommended for chronically underfunded programs. Last week, after more evidence appeared showing that the ledge may not be able to adjourn before a fiscal crisis hits, the guv talked of stopping those dollars.
In both our conversations, Mr. Guinn said its time for leadership. But no one, save an occasional maverick like Sen. Neal, D-N. Las Vegas, is willing to lead. Kenny Guinn -- ex-CEO of the Clark County School District, UNLV, Primerit Bank and Southwest Gas -- is a very corporate cover-your-tuckus guy. He admits waiting for business interests to lead him.
I thus read with amusement last Friday's editorial in the state's most corporate newspaper. The Reno Gannett-Journal wasted a thousand words headlined "This is no way to address state needs." Like Gov. Dudley, the paper offered no solutions other than the usual trashing of the teachers and Sen. Neal. Proper commentary should propose solutions.
Last Sunday, I forecast that we will soon close schools. The next day, Tribune columnist and former state board of education member Bill Hanlon, an in-law of the guv, stated in a Las Vegas Review-Journal installment that Gomorrah South might have to board up some of the 15 schools now under construction.
Perhaps Gov. Guinn can prove once and for all that he has some juice with Dubya and convince him to send some of the federal budget surplus here. Other than federal welfare, don't look for help from within.
Nevada is all about exploitation -- tourists, residents and itself. Families enter at their own peril.
Be well. Raise hell.
© Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a 32-year Nevadan, a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413 , editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal. org/ Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.
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