By Thomas Mitchell
January 5: It’s called voting with your feet. A remarkable number of well-heeled Americans are doing just that, and it should serve as a warning to Nevada voters and candidates as we enter an election year. Though Republican governors in recent years have shepherded through the Legislature record-high tax increases, Nevada still fares fairly well in comparison to other states when it comes to the tax burden borne by citizens of the Silver State. …
Perhaps that explains why, according to Internal Revenue Service data on taxpayer migration, from 2014 to 2015 about 10,500 Nevada taxpayers moved to California, while 17,700 California taxpayers moved to
Nevada. Even more telling is the fact that the Californians fleeing to lower-taxed Nevada averaged $91,000 in gross adjusted income, while the Nevadans heading to California averaged only $47,400 in adjusted
Things haven’t changed much. February 2: Nevada Democrats have taken identity politics to a whole new level. They have not just lowered the bar, they have buried it. Recently they held a press conference to announce the state party’s mascot for the 2018 election season — Mitch McTurtle. Apparently without a hint of embarrassment state Democratic Party Chairman William McCurdy unveiled the mascot. It was someone dressed in a turtle costume and holding a faux bag of cash, displaying a name tag reading “Mitch” and standing in front of a sign saying “shelling out millions for Dean Heller since 2011.”
The mascot looked like a parody of a Mutant Ninja Turtle, moviedom’s parody of super heroes, making it a parody of a parody. Is a parody of a parody a double negative and thus a positive?
March 2: The horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 dead and more than a dozen wounded at the hands of a 19-year-old armed with a semi-automatic rifle has again set off a flurry of rational and emotional debates over gun control, mental health and school security measures. Worthy topics all, but the event has also fostered an ancillary discussion about what we used to call the age of majority.
Two law professors are hanging their mortar boards on the emotional demands of frightened students that something be done to suggest that the voting age be reduced from 18 to 16. … Never mind that a 17-year-old, with parental consent, may join the military and be required to handle semi-automatic weapons. People forget the legal voting age was 21 not so long ago. The 26th Amendment lowered it to 18 in 1971 during the Vietnam War, when the slogan was: “Old enough to fight, old enough to vote.”
That slogan apparently doesn’t hold water, or alcohol, when it comes to drinking. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan signed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, requiring all states to raise the legal drinking age to 21 or forgo federal highway funds. …
Perhaps someone should proffer a 28th Amendment. One that raises the legal voting, drinking and gun purchasing age to 25. Do I hear 35? As Jonathan Swift once said, “I profess, in the sincerity of my heart,
that I have not the least personal interest in endeavouring to promote this necessary work, having no other motive than the public good of my country …”
April 6: Question 3 on the 2016 General Election ballot — the Energy Choice Initiative — passed by an overwhelming 72.4 percent to 27.6 percent. The measure failed in only one county, White Pine, but by only four votes.
Because the measure would amend the state Constitution it is back on the ballot this fall for final voter approval, but this time around a coalition headed by the state’s largest power monopoly, NV Energy, has
vowed to spend $30 million to defeat it. …
Why shouldn’t residential customers be able to shop for cheaper power? Of course, the voters were hornswoggled and rejected the measure at the ballot box in November.
May 11: Teachers are walking out of classrooms in Colorado and Arizona, demanding higher salaries and more education funding. Lawmakers are rushing to meet their demands.
Here in Nevada all the candidates for governor are kowtowing to the demand for more education funding. Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt has declared, “We must continue to move forward, not backward, in the areas where we’ve made great strides. In particular, Nevada policymakers have implemented a series of programs designed to address a critical area — improving early literacy. I’ll continue to champion these promising new programs. I pledge that under my leadership, these programs and our entire public education system will be properly funded — we will never go backwards from our current levels of education spending. I repeat: I will not scale back public education funding.” …
Pardon us for allowing a heretic to sound a sour note in the choir, but George Mason University economics professor Bryan Caplan has just published a book that — gasp! — says education funding should be cut,
because the vast majority of it is wasted. The book is called “The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money.”
To buoy his claims about the inadequacy of the American education system, Caplan cites the General Social Survey of adults that asked 12 elementary true-false science questions. Only 60 percent could answer
correctly, when 50 percent should be possible by merely guessing.
“Accounting for guessing, the public’s scientific illiteracy is astonishing,” Caplan writes. “Barely half of American adults known the Earth goes around the sun. Only 32 percent know atoms are bigger than electrons. Just 14 percent know that antibiotics don’t kill viruses. Knowledge of evolution barely exceeds zero; respondents would have done better flipping a coin.” Perhaps there are better things on which we could spend a half a trillion dollars a year.
June 8: If you thought the “green movement” was more about self-righteous politics than clear-headed science, here are two tales that prove the point. In Arizona a petition is being circulated in an effort to get on the ballot an initiative called the Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona Amendment. This would require 50 percent of the electricity generated in the state to come from renewable sources by 2030. …
Adding wind and solar to the power grid could increase the carbon dioxide output.
Retired electrical engineer Kent Hawkins wrote in February 2010 that “the introduction of wind power into an electricity system increases the fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions beyond levels that would
have occurred using efficient gas plants alone as the providers of electricity equivalent” to the wind generated power.
This is because every kilowatt-hour of intermittent electricity introduced into the grid must be backed up by a reliable fossil-fuel generator. When the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, the demand for electricity remains. …
This past week NV Energy announced plans to contract to build six new solar power projects at a cost of $2 billion and double the state’s renewable energy capacity, but only if voters reject the Energy Choice
Initiative on the November ballot that would end the company’s monopoly in most of the state and allow competition. No mention was made of how this might impact power bills.
In all three states emissions would likely increase, as well as power bills. Being green is a state of mind. Just never let the facts get in the way.
July 10: Today President Trump pardoned two Oregon ranchers who were sentenced to five years in prison under a law intended to punish terrorists because two backfires they set to protect their property
burned a few acres of public land, according to The Oregonian.
The decision frees Dwight Hammond Jr., 76, and son Steven Hammond, 49. Both were convicted in 2012 of arson. …
The resentencing of the Hammonds sparked the 41-day takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by protesters, including two of Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy’s sons. A jury acquitted them of
federal charges resulting from the takeover. They along with their fathers had charges against them dropped over the 2014 armed standoff with federal agents trying to confiscated Bundy’s cattle for failure
to pay grazing fees. A judge ruled the prosecution failed to disclose potentially exculpatory evidence.
The Hammonds played no part in the Malheur protest and quietly returned to prison. …
In 2014 the Bureau of Land Management refused to renew a grazing permit for the Hammond ranch, which has crippled the business, the family told the newspaper.
“If the Hammonds are unable to return to the ranch in the near future, the legacy and livelihood Dwight and Steven Hammond have been building for their family could truly be lost,” attorney Larry Matasar wrote in his petition. “A clemency would not only serve as a balm to the community’s angst about these sentences, but very practically, give the Hammonds a real chance to keep their ranch afloat.”
August 24: As they say on “The X-Files,” the truth is out there. Apparently it is still out there, because no one has revealed it. Maybe that is because it is classified. Yeah, that’s the ticket. It’s classified.
In December, The New York Times revealed that former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid had secretly managed in 2007 to direct $22 million in taxpayer money to a secret UFO study, with much of the money going to Reid
crony and contributor Robert Bigelow of Las Vegas. The program was called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), apparently the linguistic avatar for UFO studies.
According to the Times, money was spent by Bigelow’s company, Bigelow Aerospace, to hire subcontractors and solicit research, as well as modifying buildings in Las Vegas for the storage of metal alloys and
other materials “recovered from unidentified aerial phenomena.” …
Recently a Las Vegas television station got its hands on that 2009 letter and posted a copy online. The letter is a buzzword- and jargon-filled screed claiming extraordinary findings without a shred of supporting documentation or evidence. …
In fact, Reid’s letter specifically states that it is critical for industry partners to be protected, lest public awareness of such folly discourage industry participation. Reid’s letter further states, “Associated exotic technologies likely involve extremely sophisticated concepts with the world of quantum mechanics, nuclear science, electromagnetic theory, gravitics, and thermodynamics. Given that all of these have the potential to be used with catastrophic effects by adversaries, an unusually high degree of operational security and read-on discretion is required.” Gravitics? That’s not science. It is science fiction. …
The truth may be out there, but how are we to know?
September 21: Confederate memorials and statues all across the South are being torn down or moved out of sight. In dozens of states the Democratic fundraising dinners once called Jefferson-Jackson dinners have been renamed because Thomas Jefferson owned slaves and Andrew Jackson was an Indian fighter.
There have even been demands that Washington’s face be removed from our coinage because he was a slaveholder.
A gubernatorial candidate in Georgia has called for sandblasting the giant etching on Stone Mountain depicting Gens. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson and Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
There have been petitions to rename Jeff Davis Peak in Nevada’s Great Basin National Park. Books by Mark Twain — including “Roughing It,” which is about his tenure in Nevada — are being pulled from libraries and classrooms because they contain an ethnic slur common, nay, ubiquitous in his day. …
We should learn from past mistakes, not blot it from memory. I was once advised that when writing about someone that I should include warts and all, but not all warts either. Shortcomings, by current
standards, are a part of the whole story. It seems paradoxical that these censors are effectively shouting: “We will not tolerate intolerance.”
October 19: The libertarian-leaning Nevada Policy Research Institute has published this year’s edition of its popular “The Nevada Piggy Book” — a collection of anecdotes illustrating the tendencies of state
and local governments to lavishly overspend our money on inefficient and even counterproductive endeavors.
The introduction reaches the dismal conclusion that waste is endemic to government. While you and I watch our spending closely, not so with bureaucracies. “In fact, when agencies blow through their budgets,
odds actually increase that politicians, in years to follow, will award them ever larger sums of tax dollars!” NPRI relates. …
NPRI relates that a 2017 study by researchers at the University of California, Davis said that “tortoises that haven’t adjusted to the fencing pace along them, and sometimes overheat and die.” So much for
saving tortoises from becoming roadkill.
Fencing wasn’t the only problem.
It turns out, according to the Piggy Book, that a series of culverts under the highway — intended to be tortoise passages and costing $320,000 — had faulty drainage that resulted in, you guessed it, more
tortoise deaths. …
“The examples in this book might be merely the tip of a government-spending iceberg in Nevada — but they are powerful reminders of how important it is for the public to see what, exactly, government is doing with all those never-ending tax increases,” the Piggy Book concludes. “Many of the very same government agencies that are routinely found to be wasting tax dollars also go to great lengths to keep the public in the dark when it comes to spending.” …
November 9: Following up on a stance taken during his election campaign President Donald Trump now says he will sign an executive order ending so-called “birthright” citizenship. Trump told “Axios on HBO” he wants to “remove the right to citizenship for babies of non-citizens and unauthorized immigrants born on U.S. soil.”
“How ridiculous, we’re the only country in the world where a person comes in, has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years with all of those benefits,” the president was quoted as saying. “It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.”
As he did during the campaign Trump could not resist tweaking Nevada’s longtime senior Sen. Harry Reid. “Harry Reid was right in 1993, before he and the Democrats went insane and started with the Open Borders (which brings massive Crime) ‘stuff.’ Don’t forget the nasty term Anchor Babies. I will keep our Country safe. This case will be settled by the United States Supreme Court!,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
In a 2015 position paper on immigration Trump said, “End birthright citizenship. This remains the biggest magnet for illegal immigration. By a 2:1 margin, voters say it’s the wrong policy, including Harry
Reid who said ‘no sane country’ would give automatic citizenship to
the children of illegal immigrants.”
Of course, Reid’s 1993 speech on the floor of the Senate was a rare lapse into rational thought, which he now says was a mistake and argues, “Immigrants are the lifeblood of our nation.” As opposed to citizens?
But in 1993 Reid said, “If making it easy to be an illegal alien isn’t enough, how about offering a reward for being an illegal immigrant? No sane country would do that, right? Guess again. If you break our laws
by entering this country without permission and give birth to a child, we reward that child with U.S. citizenship and guarantee access to all public and social services this country provides. Now that’s a lot of
services. Is it any wonder that two-thirds of the babies born at taxpayer expense at county run hospitals in Los Angeles are born to illegal alien mothers?”
The argument that children born on U.S. soil are automatically U.S. citizens is loosely grounded in the 14th Amendment, passed after the Civil War, which says, “All persons born or naturalized in the United
States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States …” But nothing has happened.
December 15: The members of the Nevada Economic Forum met earlier this month and came up with a forecast for how much the total state general fund revenues will be for the next two years.
The Economic Forum was created by lawmakers in 1993. It is responsible for providing forecasts of revenues for each upcoming biennial budget period. The figures are binding on the governor and the Legislature in crafting a budget, so they don’t wildly overestimate potential revenue and cause a budget crisis when funds come up short.
The forum members reported that the past two-year’s revenues turned out to be $8.244 billion and the coming two-year period should generate 7.2 percent more funds or $8.835 billion, after application
of all applicable tax credits, of which there are a number.
Outgoing Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval has already drafted a budget for the next biennium, which will be handed over to incoming Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak and the majority Democratic lawmakers,
who take office in January. Of course, they all appear to anticipate spending every last dime of that $591 million windfall even though current inflation is running only 2.5 percent. …
Lawmakers should think about the burden on taxpayers as well as the beneficiaries of their customarily spendthrift ways. January 1, 2019: Welcome to more of the same.
By Thomas Mitchell