(Kurt Neathammer/ActionisBrewing) – With the State of the State address behind us, the honeymoon is over for Governor Sandoval, and with many new legislators having to move past campaign rhetoric, the real work begins. Nevada’s economy is a shambles. The nation’s highest unemployment, foreclosure, and personal bankruptcy rates finally catapult Nevada to the top of these dubious lists. It ain’t easy being number 1. Given the harsh truth, Nevada is in a depression, not a recession.
Governor Sandoval should not mistake enthusiasm for leadership. Senator Horsford’s petulant behavior by storming out immediately after the State of the State address shows he lacks the maturity necessary to work with anyone except his own political allies.
Republicans are a fractured body politic trotting out few ideas, often betraying their constituents by taxing and spending on par with Democrats while preaching personal responsibility. Even in the critical national midterm elections, the likes of Mayors Cashell and Martini (given the incestuous nature of Nevada politics) turned on their own party’s legitimate candidate. I guess that‘s part of the myth of “independent like Nevada.”
Democrats have become so disingenuous they metaphorically use the term “revenue enhancements” rather than telling Nevadans they intend to raise taxes. They blindingly support a failed education system fearing backlash from teachers unions. They caterwaul over the slightest of budgetary cuts. While 190,000 Nevadans have lost their jobs since the beginning of the Depression, not a single State employee has been laid off, yet they openly complain about bearing a disproportionate amount of hardship when faced with a 5% pay cut. Try 100%.
High-speed rail, rural internet, and “green” jobs were the new buzz words in the Governor’s State of the State address with tepid funding to match. While sounding warm and fuzzy, these projects are financial black holes requiring huge upfront costs and massive ongoing subsidies while ultimately creating few viable long-term jobs. If the new V and T Railroad in Carson City can’t pay for itself, what makes Governor Sandoval think a project hundreds of time larger will?
Illegal immigration is estimated to cost Nevada taxpayers $650 million a year in social services and education costs. Yet no politician on either side of the aisle dares to utter a word about a way to control these costs or make illegals pay for even a portion of these benefits. Like Elvis, the adults have left the building.
Where is the business community? Loudly lamenting the failed sate of the Nevada education system, they are, too often, reluctant to fund ongoing education and, even in good economic times, unwilling to value college degreed individuals. As a result, the majority of college graduates leave the state, perpetuating a brain drain. Casino growth was based on organically low wages with tips being the backbone of many household incomes. For decades, the only skills necessary for one to succeed in Nevada’s gaming industry was to have the ability to count to 21 or mix a drink.
And what of our U.S. Senators? John Ensign, an empty suit, and wrestling with personal demons, apparently was the last man person in Nevada to know his political career is over. He’s nowhere to be found.
Harry Reid, having been re-elected by an unholy alliance of gaming executives, unions, and special interest groups, immediately jetted back to Washington, D.C., to introduce the DREAM act, repeal DADT, and tweet Lady Gaga about his success, yet hasn’t done a thing for Nevada. Meanwhile, the Federal Government still owns 85% of Nevada’s land mass, suppressing even the possibility of new development.
Once propped up by now-dying gaming and construction industries, the citizens of Nevada are expected to believe that local and state politicians will be able to do in this depression what they couldn’t in the boom times: improve education, diversify the economy, and attract employers willing to pay more than minimum wage.
Unlike Governor Sandoval, if Nevada were a stock, I would be selling, not buying. Heretical as it may sound, perhaps Nevada simply can’t sustain a large population or a sound education system. Nothing says a state can grow ad infinitum. Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, once the bastions of American manufacturing prowess, now are states with much smaller populations struggling with many of the same issues Nevada faces. The jobs in those states aren’t coming back and, given that gaming in some form or another is now legal in 49 states, the real possibility exists that Nevada’s best days of gaming are past.
What of the average Nevadan? It’s often said that citizens deserve the government they get. Willful ignorance, lack of political involvement, voting for the same candidates simply because of name recognition, are all contagions of the past that now haunt the present.
The depression has made Nevada remove its rose-colored glasses after 30 years of unprecedented growth, forcing an unblinking look in the mirror. The enemy staring back might be Nevada itself.