Monday, April 4, 2011

Endure THIS! Everything They "Know" Is Wrong.

Well, isn't this lovely? Nevada's biggest beneficiaries of government largesse now bite the hands that built them and tell us to "endure the pain".

“You can’t argue gloom and doom. People don’t want to hear it right now, not when hundreds of thousands remain out of work or have had their hours cut.” [...]

In a March 8 letter to faculty and students at UNLV’s Boyd Law School, Smatresk wrote of likely tuition increases to counter lost revenue from budget cutting: “These additional increases will undermine the law school’s successful formula and render it a mediocre institution.”

He’s also been quoted as saying “we’ve already squeezed the blood from the stone. This is horrific to talk about people like this.”

The Strip [casino executive] counseled Smatresk that UNLV should endure the pain during the current legislative session, then he should reach out for a communitywide commitment to rebuild the university during upcoming sessions.

“Neal heard the message, and he’s seemed to have softened his approach,” the second executive said.

Corporate executives and education reform advocates want to hear talk of academic, spending and administrative reform by the university and School District. They do not want the debate to be purely focused on the spending side of the equation.

"Endure the pain"? Really? I don't remember MGM Resorts doing that when they came close to bankruptcy and losing CityCenter. Nope, instead they reached out to Harry Reid and had him call the banks to secure the funding needed to save the project (and the company, and The Las Vegas Strip!).

"Endure the pain"? Seriously? I don't remember Caesars Entertainment doing that when they came close to going bankrupt as all their debts were catching up to them. Nope, instead they reached out to Harry Reid and had him insert a provision in The Recovery Act so they can restructure their debt and stay afloat (which also helped keep The Strip afloat!).

"Endure the pain"? The gaming industry didn't have to do too much of that, and they've always been able to snatch a life preserver when needed. But when our state is failing, our schools are about to be obliterated, and our chance at basic survival is iffy at the moment, we're told to just suck it up and "endure the pain"?

No more. We the people have endured enough.

Why is it that casino execs and their Wall Street corporate fat cat buddies can roll in the bailout money provided by our tax dollars, but then whey whine and scream and throw a fit and demand "reform" when we're trying to stay in school, get better jobs, and make better lives? We the people are being responsible, yet we have to "endure the pain" while they get help whenever they need/want it?

UNLV tuition has nearly doubled in the last 3 years, and it's slated to be raised even higher if "benevolent butcher" Sandoval's budget is adopted. In the mean time, 6 academic departments have been eliminated and more are slated to be axed if Sandoval gets his way. Many teachers and staff have already been laid off, and 350 more may be out of work if Brian's brutal budget is passed. Sorry, anonymous casino executive, but we have already "endured the pain" and we shouldn't be forced to endure our own community's death because a few big mining conglomerates and other
multinational corporations refuse to pay their fair share.

If that anonymous gaming exec were serious about making those "endure the pain" who have been sheltered for far too long, he would call his Carson City lobbyists and at least tell them not to whip against AB 336 and AB 428, simple bills that would respectively enact a long needed net-profits tax on large corporations (AB 336) and reduce the most heinous mining tax deductions (AB 428) that allow the mining industry to get away with getting something for nothing.

Elliott Parker, esteemed economist at UNR, had to go to Nevada Appeal last week to appeal to Governor Sandoval to remember common sense.

[... W]e are deciding which faculty to fire, and which students will lose their degree programs. These are productive faculty who have worked hard, to help us improve this university. We have been cutting budgets by firing many good people over the past four years. This is really getting old, and it is completely reversing years of effort to make Nevadans proud of their oldest university.

My university alone has already lost 350 positions, mostly very educated people who then left the state — and Nevada already has too few of those. Now we have 150 more jobs on the block, and many more to come since we are less than halfway to your target. We aren't that big of a university, and these cuts are starting to cripple us. Your proposals will do incredible damage.

You are mistaken when you say these cuts are best for the state's economy. As an economist who looks at the data, I know these cuts are bad for the economy. Cutting state expenditures during a recession, especially educational expenditures, makes the economy worse, not better.

We know that education matters for the future of the state, both K-12 and higher education. Without our monopoly on gambling, Nevada doesn't have many resources, but nowadays the most productive resource is in the knowledge and skills of the workforce. It will take many years to undo the damage we are doing now.

This is a death spiral. If we gut higher education, productive people and productive investment will flow out of the state, not in.

We know this is not a temporary problem. Gaming is a much smaller share of our economy than it used to be, even though our state budget still largely depends on it. We have known for years that we need a tax system that better reflects our economy, a tax system that can apply low rates to a much, much broader base. Yet we keep procrastinating on the solution.

The budget problem is not too big to solve. While the state's budget gap is a large fraction of the general fund, it is only 1 percent of our state economy. For the average resident, it is roughly the cost of eating out once a month.

And he's correct. We can't endure any more of this pain. It's killing us, and it's time to start letting our state and our people heal.

Ultimately, a diversified economy will help the gaming industry in that it will lessen their tax burden here in Nevada. I guess that's why this strange rant surprised me. I know MGM and Caesars and other Nevada gaming companies haven't had the easiest of times, but we're not asking anything unreasonable from them. In fact, none of the bills mentioned above even affect them!

So instead of forcing working class Nevadans to endure any more lethal "pain", why not let our state heal, make us less dependent upon the casinos, and invest in our schools that we so badly need to produce the kind of educated workforce that will make our economy healthier in the long run?

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