Monday, April 30, 2012

Rotten Apple, Rotten Core

Did you know Apple Computer now has a corporate office in Reno? I bet you didn't. In fact, hardly anyone must have known until yesterday.

The New York Times on Sunday outlined legal methods used by Cupertino, California-based Apple to avoid paying billions of dollars in federal and state taxes.

One approach highlighted in the report: Even though the company is based in California, Apple has set up a small office in Reno, Nevada, to collect and invest its profits. The corporate tax rate in Nevada is zero. In California, it’s 8.84 percent.

While many major corporations try to reduce their tax bills, technology companies like Apple, Google Inc., Microsoft Corp. and others have more options to do so.

And what have we seen as a result of Apple using us as a lame excuse not to pay California corporate income tax opening a Nevada office? Well, there's one fewer vacant office in Washoe County. And we have another cool Reno factoid.

Otherwise, we have nothing. And that's the problem here. Big corporations come here to Nevada to avoid paying taxes, and we have nothing to gain from it.

Yet as Apple hides its corporate profits in Reno, it actually hires people in Cupertino. And there's a reason for that. It's because Silicon Valley is full of top notch schools that are full of inquisitive students, tech companies there always have a rich pool of highly skilled workers to dip into and hire.

While UNR and Washoe County are trying to create the same kind of synergy in Reno, their possibilities are more limited simply because UNR hasn't been allowed to grow into another Stanford or UC Berkley. Instead, we've had to argue over how much to cut from both K-12 and higher education.

We clearly suffer went we don't invest in the basics, like public education. And Nevada has clearly suffered as the result of underfunding our schools. There are just certain benefits that good education provides and unfair tax codes can not... You know, benefits like jobs and stable communities.

Perhaps Silicon Valley tech giants like to hide their corporate profits here in Nevada, but we're not really reaping any rewards from their tax evasion. Rather, we continue to deny ourselves a chance to create our own version of Silicon Valley by denying our state the revenue we need to properly fund public education. While it's nice to know Apple has an office in Northern Nevada, it would be nicer if we had the kinds of well paying high tech jobs that continue to go elsewhere.

No Se Puede, Dean Heller.

Remember Dean Heller's much publicized appearance at Hispanics in Politics in Las Vegas this past January? It came shortly after his botched meeting with the Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce, and it was seen as Heller's "neutralizing" of his own xenophobic record.

Well, it looks like Heller's Latino outreach is going along just smoothly. In January, he pledged to team up with Las Vegas Latin Chamber CEO and fellow Republican Otto Merida to craft a "mutually agreeable [immigration] reform bill". Today, he's endorsing Shelley Berkley for US Senate. Steve Sebelius made an interesting point as he questioned aloud how Heller's and Merida's collaboration on that "mutually agreeable reform bill" went.

Wow. I guess Mitt Romney isn't the only Republican with "a Latino problem". But then again, Mitt Romney isn't the only Republican embracing the extreme xenophobic agenda of Kris Kobach, Joe Arpaio, and Nevada's own Sharrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrron Angle.

Even Republicans notice there's a problem.

We'll have to wait and see if Heller ever gets his head out of the sand.

Thoughts on Demographics & 2012 Congressional State of Play

(This was originally published late last week at DK Elections.)

Since this subject has been coming up often this week, I figured now's a good time to discuss this subject a little more in depth. The nation's demographics are continuing to change. However, those demographic changes are more pronounced in certain parts of the country. And I believe this will have a hand in what happens in this year's election.

We're already seeing it in the Presidential map. Two decades ago, no one would have described Colorado as a "Democratic leaning state" and West Virginia as a "Republican leaning state". But alas, that's where we're at now.

I also believe we're seeing this dynamic appear in the Congressional map. We have ancestrally Democratic districts in Appalachia that may still be winnable for Team Blue, but are becoming more difficult to hold. And then, we have the increasingly demographically diverse and culturally progressive "Acela Corridor" and "New West", and even to a certain extent in "The New South", that are full of opportunity, yet still pose some down-ballot problems for Democrats.

I firmly believe that we're in the midst of a major realignment. As social and economic attitudes continue to move in Democrats' direction in the above mentioned regions, the long term trends look great for Democrats in states like New Jersey, Virginia, Colorado, and Nevada. Meanwhile in Appalachian and Ozark states, like West Virginia and Arkansas, the trends do not seem to be in our favor. Even while it looks like a progressive economic message should resonate there, cultural attitudes are still the primary stumbling block. This is why President Barack Obama's 2012 map doesn't quite resemble Bill Clinton's 1996 map.

So what does this all mean for the Congressional "state of play" for this year? Let me explain.

We have several districts in "The New West" that are ripe for the picking, but we can't take all of them for granted. In the new CA-52, for example, Coastal San Diegans care deeply about the local environment and favor marriage equality. Awesome! However, take a closer look at the voter registration numbers. Even though Obama won the district handily in 2008 and probably will again this year, Republicans still make the slight plurality of registered voters. And perhaps more importantly, the pool of "Decline to State" (what California calls independent) voters there continues to grow. This is why I doubt a Brian Schweitzer style "fire in the belly" populist would play very well here. Former San Diego City Council President Scott Peters, who's now running for Congress here, is probably the ideal ideological fit here (and I think has a great chance of defeating Brian Bilbray this fall).

My own district, NV-03, also poses a great opportunity for Democrats. It's "The Quintessential Swing District", yet a district that both President Obama and Senator Harry Reid have recently won. Women's rights, health care, and clean energy are among the many issues that GOP incumbent Joe Heck is simply out of step with Southern Nevadans on. But again, the two parties are at parity in voter registration and libertarian attitudes reign on issues like guns further complicate the playing field. Outgoing Assembly Speaker John Oceguera has a lot of juggling to do going forward, but it increasingly looks like he's up to the task.

Candidates in districts like CA-52 and NV-03 are smart to run with President Obama and point out that Obama needs more allies in Congress to get stuff done. In most Appalachian and Ozark districts, however, Democratic candidates can't do that. Here's where it gets tricky. On one hand, voters in districts like PA-12 and WV-01 are much more accustomed to voting "straight ticket Democrat" down the ballot than voters in CA-52 and NV-03. But on the other hand, hostility towards not just President Obama, but also affinity for "TEH CUL'CHUR WARZZZ!!!", complicates matters. Even though voters in these areas still identify with a more progressive economic vision, opposition to key progressive goals, like marriage equality and comprehensive climate change action, forces Democrats there to run as those pesky "Blue Dogs" that the progressive base always has problems with. In this kind of political climate when economic issues are front and center, Democrats probably still have plenty of opportunities in several of these Appalachian and Ozark districts. But going forward, the demographics of these regions (mainly, that they're older and whiter than the rest of the country) will make holding these seats more challenging in the future.

So if anyone was wondering why I focus so much on demographics and trends, I hope this better explains it.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday School Rant

Finally, CCSD got some good news late last week. In a recent poll conducted by the First Ladies' education PAC, 55% of Clark County voters favor a capital bond program to repair and renovate aging schools. It's nice to see that Southern Nevada voters now understand the value in restoring our public infrastructure. But still, it's saddening... And really, maddening that we've reached this point.

We've talked about this before at great length. Far too many of Nevada's kids are languishing in overcrowded classrooms while Nevada's teachers are being overworked and underpaid. This has played a key role in scoring our illustrious last in the nation rankings in everything we want, as well as our first in the nation rankings in everything we don't want.

We've talked about this before. Nevada actually has great potential to forge a new path of smart growth and sustainable development. But as long as we continue to allow our PreK-16 public education network to languish, I fear we'll never realize our full potential.

This morning, Jon Ralston proclaimed that Governor Brian Sandoval is "on the right track", even though he still won't admit which track he really wants to put Nevada on. Perhaps Sandoval put his political career back on track by running to the middle and embracing the very "sunset tax" deal he shunned in 2010. However, all he's doing is embracing the status quo. And right now, the status quo is failing Nevada's youth and jeopardizing Nevada's future.

I believe Jim Rogers ultimately has it right. Sandoval's flowery language and promise not to cut schools any more may sound good, but it's not enough. It's not enough to merely stop the cutting. Our schools need healing, and our public education system needs to be revived and restored if we truly want to get Nevada back on track.

Friday, April 27, 2012

What a Fool Believes, Nevada G-O-TEA Ready to Jump the Shark (Again)

Jeez, how did I miss this? On Monday, newly elected Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald was grilled "The Agenda" over his ethical failings and shady Las Vegas taxpayer funded bailouts senior housing developments.

(The fun starts at 10:00.)

And it looks like this is just a little taste of the rancor we may see at the Nevada Republican Party Convention in Sparks next weekend. Jon Ralston could barely contain his ecstatic glee "grief" over what's looking increasingly likely to go down next weekend.

As much as I would hate to see it, the Paul folks are intent on trying to do in 2012 what they almost did in 2008 — hijack the national convention delegation. Even though Republican National Committee rules mandate that the Nevada delegation votes proportionally to the caucus results — Romney received 14 delegates to Paul’s five — do the rules really apply to the Texas congressman’s acolytes?

It would seem any victory would be Pyrrhic, perhaps emphasizing Paul’s image in Establishment circles as the crazy uncle of the GOP. But the presumptive nominee also doesn’t want to alienate the legions of Paul sycophants.

Team Romney has sent a missive to every delegate to the state convention, trying to build the votes necessary to blunt the Paul surge. “It’s clear that now is the time to unite as Republicans to defeat Barack Obama in the fall! Attending the State Convention is a very important way for you to support the Republican Party’s efforts to turn Nevada red. We need your voice and your support at the convention,” Romney State Director Sarah Nelson wrote.

My guess is most of the Paul delegates immediately deleted the email. But, perhaps I am too cynical. Or conspiratorial.

Truly, I would hate to see chaos ensue at this hallowed event.

And I’m sure that won’t happen just because new GOP Chairman Michael McDonald, who will oversee the May 5 convention, is essentially an honorary Ron Paul person. His close allies — David Isbell and Jesse Law — are Paul guys. Bunce signed onto an endorsement list for McDonald. And Paulite James Smack, McDonald’s predecessor, endorsed McDonald. Oh, and the Romney campaign stayed out of the chairman’s election.

None of that can be good for Team Romney. But, I, of course, would hate to see any sparks in Sparks.

This goes back to Orrin Johnson's complaint that Ron Paul's campaign is out to steal national delegates from Mitt Romney. However, as I noted yesterday, Ron Paul's campaign has never really been secretive about its "delegate strategy". Remember, a senior Ron Paul campaign advisor went on MSNBC in February to boast about it! Doug Wead defended this by flatly saying, "80% of success is showing up, and our people show up", and that the Paul campaign is only playing by the very rules the RNC allegedly created to give Mitt Romney an extra advantage.

And now, some Republicans are worrying about this even more because of their new Chairman. After all, many of Ron Paul's loudest Nevada allies also happen to be big Michael McDonald supporters. Will he really be in the mood to stop another Ron Paul coup at the Nevada GOP Convention? Or might Ron Paul's campaign actually encounter more success this time than in 2008?

And it's not like McDonald doesn't have experience handling these kinds of issues. After all, he advised his "boyhood friend" Michael Galardi on how to bribe his way to becoming Southern Nevada's most powerful strip club owner (and extend his strip club empire to California!) and use local governments' regulatory authority to Galardi's advantage. That, of course, was the foundation of what we now know as "G-Sting".

Ron Paul's campaign has hurled a number of allegations of wrongdoing since Caucus Day. So how better for them to "fight back" than to enlist an expert in local government wrongdoing as a powerful ally! Just never mind that this powerful ally embodies everything that Ron Paul's "tea party" following supposedly reviles.

And to think, 2012 was supposed to be the year of "The Great Nevada Republican Comeback". Sure. It looks like Karl Rove is feeling awfully (NOT) confident about that.

Ah, what a fool believes...

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Squeezed at the Middle? Or No Mo' Status Quo?

We've been talking for a while now about the increasingly complicated landscape of Carson City. Brian Sandoval may have shaken up that landscape with his embrace of the 2009/2011 "sunset tax" deal, but it's also led to some unintended consequences. Everyone's favorite "Angle-philes" emerged from their "hobbit cave" "undisclosed location" to hurl unhinged screeds at Brian Sandoval and Michael Roberson. But perhaps more importantly, Chuck Muth is now unleashing his harpies anger at "moderates" who dare to agree with their fellow Republican, Brian Sandoval, on maintaining the status quo.

So the primaries are coming at full force... Yet not all of them are coming from the right.

We've talked before about the precarious situation that John Lee has fallen into. Last weekend, Steve Sebelius talked with John Lee about his "moderate dilemma"... And his Republican (??!!) campaign manager.

And today, Pat Spearman appeared on News 3 Las Vegas' "The Agenda" to show that she's offering a progressive alternative.

(Start the video below at 12:00.)

Last year, Lee stood with Sandoval on the budget. But now, he's catching heat in his district over it. Lee is now championing community college reform and change in the state's funding formulae. However, Spearman flat out said that it wasn't enough.

So are we finally seeing an election cycle when it's not just the far right that complains about the status quo in Carson City?

I've been saying for some time that Brian Sandoval may have opened Pandora's Box by trying to stake "middle ground" to put away complaints from the right and from the left on the state budget. And the more I see this play out, the less I doubt my initial call. We'll just have to see what happens in June to see where this goes next.

Nightmare @ Central Committee (That Is, Mitt Romney's Worst Nightmare Come True)

Earlier this week on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow noted the still unfolding drama in the G-O-TEA primary. Even though all the rest of us consider it over and done for Mittens, Ron Paul's loyal band of followers still refuses to give up. And believe it or not, they're causing the Romney campaign more headaches than the DC pundits had originally expected.

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And the drama isn't limited to the Midwest. In fact, there's quite a bit of that right here in Nevada! Remember that lovely legal, organizational, and "small d democratic" EPIC FAIL that was the Nevada Republican Caucus?

Ron Paul's Nevada supporters haven't. And apparently, they're now out for revenge.

Apparently, Reno conservative blogger Orrin Johnson isn't just keeping track of the Nevada GOP's Michael McDonald-"G-Sting"-Real Estate Bailout scandal. (And apparently, the Ron Paul folks also had their hands in that.) He's also has some serious accusations against Ron Paul's operation.

I recently received an E-mail from a disaffected Ron Paul supporter that Nevada Paul Campaign Chair Carl Bunce recently sent out to his supporters. The long and the short of it is that it’s a battle plan which encourages Paul folks to lie to pollsters to “fool” the Romney campaign, in order to make it easier to shock-’n'-awe their way to a Ron Paul National Convention slate. It’s full of paranoia about information control (Hah! Fail!) and secrecy, with a nice dab of Personality Cult for Doctor Paul.

Well, secret’s out, you dishonest goofballs. Everyone knows your game. [...]

Don’t these people realize that if they had a winning message, they wouldn’t have the need for all the secrecy? Don’t they see what hypocrites they look like when they cry about dishonesty and lack of transparency in government? And remember, this isn’t just some independent Paul supporter. This IS the Ron Paul campaign, and Ron Paul himself is directly responsible for it. Either the Congressman is blind to these types of shenanigans, or he endorses it. Which is it, Good Doctor? Will you renounce this assault on actual liberty being perpetuated in your name? There’s certainly nothing “libertarian” about any of this.

Nevada Republicans were promised by their Central Committee that their caucus votes would be proportionally binding all the way through the first round of voting at the national convention. I have to wonder – if these Paul people wind up going to the national convention, will they honor that promise? Or will they just openly betray the Nevadans they claim to want to represent?

Just remember this – people willing to lie, cheat, or steal in order to get power will lie, cheat and steal once they’re in power. Even if you find Paul’s platform compelling, after this there’s no way you could trust he’d follow through with any of it.

Now here's the thing: This was never really a well kept secret. In fact, this was NOT a secret at all. Back in February, Rachel Maddow actually interviewed Ron Paul campaign senior advisor Doug Wead and had him explain on national TV what their campaign is doing.

The only thing that surprises me about this is that it took Nevada GOP insiders and Mitt Romney operatives this long to realize what's been happening under their noses all along. So not only does Mitt Romney's campaign have to worry about loose cannons raising hell instead of money for the Nevada Republican Party, but they now risk a major embarrassment next month in Sparks if Ron Paul operatives actually succeed in hijacking the convention. Remember, they already took over the Clark County Republican Party at its convention last month. Is the state party next (again)? And will Nevada's Republican National Convention delegation be delivering an unwelcome surprise to Tampa this summer?

Perhaps revenge really is a dish best served cold. In February, many of them were denied a chance to caucus. Now, they get to deny Mittens a clean and easy nomination.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What a Fool Believes: Is "Tea Party" Showing Double Standard for McDonald?

The Nevada GOP has taken quite a few hits this week over the election of former Las Vegas City Council Member Michael McDonald as its new Chairman. And I'm not the only one talking. Ralston had this to say.

I want all of you — especially Gov. Sandoval, Sen. Heller and Rep. Joe Heck — to imagine it is October. CNN is here. Fox and MSNBC, too. You turn on your TV to hear, “Joining us now, the chairman of the Nevada Republican Party, Michael McDonald.”

Do you:

A. Pray

B. Hold your breath

C. Both

As the Nevada Policy Research Institute said in a screed Tuesday: “You just can’t make this stuff up.” The conservative think tank was referring to McDonald’s latest juice job at City Hall, with NPRI correctly pointing out that McDonald has a pattern of questionable conduct. Indeed, McDonald almost was thrown out of office 11 years ago after the state Ethics Commission found “his loyalty to his employer motivated him to assist (his private sector boss) in attempting to overcome a difficult financial situation by using access to staff and other members of the City Council (which an ordinary member of the public would not have) and lobbying them to take action which would benefit (his boss) and, therefore, himself. ... There was absolutely no evidence that the action Councilman McDonald was advocating ... was a good economic deal for the City of Las Vegas and in the public’s interest.”

Some things don’t change. The ex-councilman’s history neuters him when it comes to assailing Democrats on anything. McDonald is not just a flawed messenger; he is a fatally flawed messenger.

Maybe Michael McDonald is right in arguing that no one will pay any attention to him, that he will unify the party and that he will lead the GOP to smashing victories in November. Or maybe, as Michael McDonald also once said, that’s what a fool believes.

But perhaps the most searing indictment of the Nevada GOP for this move comes from one of its own, Orrin Johnson, who had this to say about his party's new leader.

Taken in the kindest possible light, new GOP Chair Michael McDonald’s past and current “property development” activities proves that he’s all for government-forced redistribution of wealth. A more honest assessment would be that he’s all about brazenly using positions of political power to enrich himself and/or his friends at taxpayer expense to the tune of millions of dollars.

Either way, he’s EVERYTHING the Tea Party Movement – and conservatism generally – is supposed to be against. And yet he was elected supposedly as the tea party, anti-establishment, “true conservative” option to chair the Nevada Republican Party. How did this happen?

The Nevada State GOP began hemorrhaging credibility back in October. With McDonald’s election, they’ve officially eliminated it completely. This will end badly for the state party, and for any politician stupid enough to get to close to Mr. McDonald. When it does, I just hope there are enough Republicans left untainted by this to save the conservative movement from total irrelevance for the foreseeable future.

Again, that's from a Republican! And hey, I at least have to give both Orrin Johnson and NPRI some credit in calling out their own.

However, do you remember the last time some "tea party" Republicans called out one of their own? Come on now, you must. It was only in February when none other than Chuck Muth took down Elizabeth Halseth and her political career by airing her dirty laundry. It was quite the sight to behold, since earlier that year he honored her as one of his "true conservative" stars.

Now as I said in February, Halseth made her dirty laundry into a legitimate problem by fleeing the state and her duties as a Nevada Legislator over it. And it only made things worse that she campaigned on "moral values" while failing to practice what she preached.

Back then, I gave Chuck Muth kudos for being honest about a politician he once backed. So why won't he do the same now? He's been a relentless cheerleader for Michael McDonald despite his sleazy "land deals cum bailouts" and "G-Sting" history. In fact, he's now attacking Orrin Johnson for simply pointing out the obvious! So Elizabeth Halseth was in the wrong for letting her affair with Tiger Helgelien get in the way of her public duty, but it's perfectly OK for newly elected Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald to cheat Las Vegas taxpayers and still refuse to apologize for his role in "G-Sting"?

And folks wonder why Nevada Republicans always seem to be in trouble?

Sorry, but this looks to me like a double standard. If Elizabeth Halseth had to face consequences for her ethical lapses, then so should Michael McDonald. I'm just perplexed as to why Chuck Muth can't see what all the rest of us see, especially since McDonald's line of "business" flies in the face of what the "tea party" is supposed to be about.

Oh, what a fool believes...

Why Do They Still Want Nevada Nuked?

Last August, Joe Heck introduced an amendment that would allow nuclear reprocessing at Yucca Mountain. It sent a signal to national Republicans and DC pundits that Nevada Republicans were becoming much more malleable on Yucca (and Nevada's safety and economic well-being) than ever before. Now, Mark Amodei is ready to capitulate "strike a deal" on Yucca.

Last spring, Nevada didn’t have anyone in Congress who was open to the idea of bringing nuclear waste to the state. Now, it has Republican Rep. Mark Amodei — and he says he’s ready to take on the pro-Yucca enthusiasts and try to work out a compromise.

It’s the first specific test of how far he’s willing to push his party on Yucca, and when they push back, whether he’ll fall into party line or object with his vote, as several Nevada representatives have before him. [...]

In the House, there’s probably no Yucca agitator more vocal than Illinois Rep. John Shimkus, who led a delegation of lawmakers to Yucca Mountain last year and has told colleagues he’s tired of Reid’s pushback.

But Amodei believes he can talk to Shimkus and that the time is ripe to start a conversation.

Despite his readiness to pursue a third way, Amodei may nonetheless find himself running up procedural quirks of the legislative process that have stymied lawmakers before him, including Nevada Rep. Joe Heck’s best-intentioned efforts to strike a compromise solution last year.

When presented last year’s almost identical appropriations legislation on Yucca, Heck, who is opposed to bringing nuclear waste to the state, attempted to repurpose $25 million to go toward a nuclear reprocessing research facility at the site instead. Amodei believes that for Yucca Mountain to be feasible as a reprocessing research facility, Nevada would have to accept the waste.

Well, at least Amodei is being a little more honest in his capitulation "move to compromise" than Heck. Joe Heck tried to argue last year that he really didn't want to allow nuclear waste to be trucked into the state, but his attempt at compromise was dead from the start mostly because Nye County doesn't have nearly enough water needed for the kind of reprocessing Heck championed. It was really just another attempt to keep Yucca open so that G-O-TEA dreams of a nuclear waste dump in Nevada wouldn't die.

And now, we have yet another attempt at reviving Yucca. Yet despite the overwhelming and bipartisan opposition to Yucca (with even Dean Heller and Brian Sandoval flatly opposed!), Mark Amodei and Joe Heck keep playing footsie with out-of-state G-O-TEA radicals looking to shove toxic waste down our throats. Never mind that Yucca lies on an active fault and would be an extremely dangerous place to store radioactive waste, Heck and Amodei want to be "good team players" and stay in John Boehner's good graces.

So do they really represent Nevada?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Meet the New Nevada GOP Chairman (Or What a Fool Believes)

And looky here, none other than the hacks "esteemed luminaries" at NPRI are out to give Nevada Republican Party Chair Michael McDonald a proper introduction.

In April 2009, the city council gave McDonald a sweetheart deal, selling him a 3.9-acre parcel of land for $1.3 million. They did so with full knowledge that McDonald planned to immediately spin off the property to a supermarket chain for $3.1 million — netting himself a quick $1.8 million by shorting taxpayers on the value of their land.

Moreover, McDonald was convicted of violating city ethics laws involving another land deal that he pushed for while a member of the city council in 2000.

Redevelopment financing is an area where those with political connections routinely exploit low-income taxpayers. However, the city council's current deal with their ethics-challenged former colleague — against the advice of city staff — blatantly rubs salt in the eyes of citizens.

And just recently, we saw this.

That's when Las Vegas city council members voted to award their former colleague Michael McDonald $3.5 million in redevelopment funds, as well as $1.1 million in federal grant funding to subsidize the cost of constructing a downtown housing development that will include some "affordable" housing units for seniors. McDonald was also awarded a 75-year land lease — worth $1.4 million in present value — for just one dollar.

City council members voted to approve the project even though city staff recommended they not do so.

Staff noted that the city's subsidy alone would amount to more than $115,000 per unit. (McDonald's estimates were much lower — about $65,000 each for the first 60 units — although, once the state subsidies sought by McDonald are factored in, total taxpayer support would amount to $183,000 per unit.) Yet the median value of existing homes in the surrounding area is only $72,000.

Oh, jeez. This may be the first (and perhaps ONLY) time I quote a NPRI publication!

So basically, Michael McDonald ran into quite a bit of trouble while he was on the Las Vegas City Council. And even though he's no longer on it, he's still using his "juice" at City Hall to get sweetheart deals. And now, he's the Chairman of the Nevada Republican Party, the party of crazy anti-government teabaggers "NO BIG GUV'MINT! NO BALE-OWTZZZ!!!"

But wait, there's more!

Yesterday, former City Councilman Michael McDonald was elected as the Chairman of the Nevada State Republican Party Central Committee replacing former Chairwoman Amy Tarkanian, who stepped down the day after the Nevada Republican caucuses in February.

Former Las Vegas City Councilman Michael McDonald has a very checkered past, he was connected to one of the biggest FBI sting operations in Las Vegas history, which was dubbed the “G-Sting”.

The “G-Sting” involved organized crime, strip clubs, politicians and the FBI. And Michael McDonald was front and center, giving advice to his “boyhood friend” and owner of the strip clubs Michael Galardi, who owned Jaguars, Cheetahs and Masters strip clubs.

Remember G-Sting? Apparently, Nevada Republicans don't. Either that, or they followed Chuck Muth's advice to not care about that pesky, minor stuff.

What a fool believes...

NV-03: Say It Ain't So, Joe!

House Republicans got an awkward start to the day when House Speaker John Boehner (R-"Jersey Shore?") actually blurted this out.

“I would say that there is a two-in-three chance that we win control of the House again but there’s a one-in-three chance that we could lose and I’m being myself, frank,” Boehner told Fox News, according to a transcript of the interview.

Until now the speaker has not raised any concerns about his party’s chances to keep control of the House this fall, and it’s unusual for a top party leader to publicly express a pessimistic outlook.

But a spokesman for Boehner’s political arm said the speaker was being “candid” and his comments were a deliberate move to remind supporters and potential donors that House Republicans need support this fall.

“We’re looking at both sides of the coin,” Cory Fritz told CNN. “Of course there is a chance that we could lose and we want to make sure we’re doing everything we can so that our members have the resources they need so they can run and win.”

So apparently, this is a desperate plea to "Tea Party, Inc." donors that they need to pony up, or else. Boehner especially sounded worried about House seats in Solid Blue States, like California and New York, where there won't be much motivation for Republicans to campaign for Mitt Romney.

However, he must also be concerned about what's happening in states like ours. After all, it's not like Mitt Romney is giving Nevadans any motivation to support him, either. He's gone extreme in his opposition to basic women's health care. He now opposes investment in renewable energy and green jobs. And he's proposed nothing to help young Americans stay in school and/or find work. And John Boehner must now be realizing that with Romney looking incredibly weak here in The Silver State, Joe Heck's campaign must not be feeling awfully comfortable right now.

After all, Joe Heck has embraced the same "tea party" agenda as Mitt Romney. He's actually said that access to contraception is "not a women's health issue". He's also stood with Mitt Romney in support of Paul Ryan's "tea party" budget, which guts Medicare, college student aid, and so much more. Oh, and Heck has even voted to continue subsidizing the fossil fuel industry instead of investing in green jobs here in Nevada! Joe Heck may have quite a bit in common with Romney and Ryan, but he seems to be losing touch of what Nevada values.

So maybe this is why John Boehner is starting to worry? After all, NV-03 is considered (again) to be one of the hottest Congressional races in the country. And NV-03 happens to be in a state where Republicans have problems swinging and winning marquee elections as of late. If Boehner now thinks his gavel is at risk, then he must know Heck's seat is at serious risk.

Wait, So He's NOT Coming? I Wonder Why...

Yesterday, there was excitement on the radical right as the Nevada GOP announced Paul Ryan will come to their convention in Sparks next month. But alas, that's not to be.

Nevada’s national Republican committeewoman Heidi Smith of Reno said Monday that U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wi, won’t be attending the State Republican Convention in Sparks May 5-6.

Smith, heading the organization of the convention, said Sunday Ryan would attend.

I wonder why...

After House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) released his Medicare-ending budget last spring, he and his fellow Republicans faced tough questions and protests at town hall meetings across the country. Protesters slammed Republican representatives for voting to end Medicare and cut vital safety net programs while slashing taxes for the rich.

The House passed Ryan’s newest iteration of the “Path to Prosperity” budget last week, and immediately, multiple Republicans faced backlash from their constituents. Voters gathered outside the Duluth, Minnesota office of Rep. Chip Cravaack (R), calling for a budget that preserves vital safety net programs like Medicare and raises taxes on the wealthiest Americans to help pay down the debt.

Well, Paul Ryan always has his BFFs here in Nevada... Right?

Funny enough, "Obamacare" saves Medicare by trimming waste and redirecting funds to patient care. Yet even as Joe Heck, Dean Heller, and Mitt Romney attack "Obamacare" while backing "Ryancare", their "Ryancare" plan would actually end Medicare. Is this why John Boehner resorted to the very "Deem & Pass" trick he complained about in 2010 to pass the deeply unpopular Ryan Budget?

So now, all of sudden, Paul Ryan won't be going to the Nevada GOP Convention next month? I wonder why...

Monday, April 23, 2012

He's Here! Nevada Republicans to Embrace Paul Ryan Himself in Sparks Next Month.

Yes, he will really be in town next month. In fact, Paul Ryan will be headlining the Nevada Republican Convention in Sparks next month! I guess it wasn't enough that the Nevada GOP picked a guy twice convicted by the Nevada Ethics Commission (while serving on the Las Vegas City Council) as their new Chairman. No, they needed to spice up their convention even more by bringing in the creator of "Ryancare"!

Remember Paul Ryan? He's just the G-O-TEA "Budget Czar" who wants to redistribute wealth from the middle class and working poor to the 1%. Both Joe Heck and Dean Heller have doubled down (literally!) their support for their BFF, Paul Ryan, and his plan to kill Medicare. I'm sure they will be thrilled to share a stage with him!

And I'm sure Mitt Romney is excited to remind Nevadans that he fully supports Paul Ryan's budget.

I'm sure Nevada Republicans must be excited about making such vivid memories to last a lifetime (or at least great campaign ads for Nevada DEMOCRATS!).

NV-03: In Attacking Oceguera, "Newspaper" Ignores Heck's Checks

Yesterday, a certain "newspaper" continued its activity of breathlessly copying from Republican Party press releases by rehashing a familiar attack against John Oceguera, who's now running against Joe Heck in NV-03. "Oooh, that big, bad GUV'MINT worker! Johnny O was a firefighter! Johnny O was a big, bad GUV'MINT worker & retired at 43!!!"

They make it sound like Oceguera is somehow "cheated the system", but here's what they won't say. They won't mention the insane work schedules that firefighters have to endure, work schedules that most often include 24 hour work days and so much more.

In most urban departments, firefighters work 24-hour shifts. The schedule involves a rotation of three shifts, so that two of every three days are free. Since firefighters literally live together for 24 hours, the firehouse becomes a combination of work and home, and coworkers constitute a sort of second family. Firefighters often spend more time with crew members than with their own families. [...]

Although the life of a firefighter may seem exciting and glamorous, it has many challenges. Camaraderie and strong bonds between coworkers, along with respect from grateful members of the community is extremely rewarding. However, firefighting is a physically demanding and dangerous occupation.

Chetkovich observes, "Meeting such hazards requires certain kinds of personal and social qualities, the physical capacity to do the work, the stamina to continue strenuous activity for hours with little rest. But the work requires firefighters to 'think on their feet,' rapidly assess the problem at hand, plan a course of action and then quickly react when conditions change. Throughout an emergency, a firefighter must maintain a constant and heightened awareness, never losing sight of the broader picture while attending to a specific task."

Other challenges include a work schedule that requires nights and weekends away from home, sleep deprivation due to work schedule and anxiety and a high level of stress due to exposure to trauma and tragedy.

Considering all of this, it's actually quite typical for firefighters to retire in their 40s, as John Oceguera did. And considering firefighters' line of work, their benefits really aren't as "astronomical" as a certain "newspaper" wants you to believe.

Now compare and contrast the supposed "crimes" that the supposedly "libertarian" "newspaper" want to lay on John Oceguera's feet with the kind of work that "tea party" darling Joe Heck has done. For all the "newspaper's" complaints about "BIG GUV'MINT!!!", where are the complaints on this?

Here are the facts-

Triple-dipping Instance 1:
Senator Joe Heck collected all the following checks simultaneously

Government Paycheck #1: Since 1993, Senator Joe Heck has had various contracts with the Southern Nevada Health District.

Government Paycheck #2: From 1998 to 2003, Senator Heck worked as a medical director at a federally supported facility... in Maryland.

Government Paycheck #3: Since 2002, Senator Heck has been paid as a consultant by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

Triple-dipping Instance 2:
Senator Joe Heck collected all the following checks simultaneously

Government Paycheck #1: Senator Heck served in the Nevada Legislature in the 2005 and 2007 legislative sessions.

Government Paycheck #2: Senator Heck received a $5,000 monthly retainer from the Southern Nevada Health District during the 2007 legislative session.

Government Paycheck #3: Senator Heck was under contract to receive compensation from Metro during April, May and June 2007, while the Legislature was in session.

All in all, Joe Heck has probably benefitted from over $1,000,000 in government contracts. In 2009, he signed a contract with Southern Nevada Health District to provide at least 35 hours per month of "consulting services" for $100 per hour (and rising to $125 per hour for "overtime"). So why wasn't the "newspaper" ever outraged by this kind of "government waste"? So compensating firefighters for dangerous work is "wasteful", yet pricey consultant contracts are not?

Wait, I thought the "tea party" was all about ridding the government of "wasteful spending" and "corruption". Joe Heck triple dipped with his "BIG GUV'MINT" consultant contracts, even while proclaiming loyalty to "tea party" values of attacking government and the public sector, and often did so while serving as a State Senator and belittling public servants elected to the Legislature. Where is the "newspaper" to decry this?

So "it's OK if you're a Republican"? And it's best to ignore the Republican "tea party" darling's real record of triple dipping hypocrisy while attacking Democrats and public servants? And folks wonder why this "newspaper" deserves no credibility as a legitimate source of real journalism?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Nevada's State of Play in 2012: Congressional Edition!

(Also at DK Elections)

OK, OK, I'm back! Have you really missed me that much? Since at least some of you have been asking about the state of the Congressional races here in Nevada, I figured I'd update you on what's happening here in The Silver State.

So what are you waiting for? Come with me. You're in The Wild, Wild West now. Let's play!

Ever since the new map emerged, we've been on a wild political roller coaster ride here. Some candidates were quick to jump in, yet some have already been forced to jump out. Overall, the new map provides Nevada Democrats with exciting new opportunities. And while there are still some clear challenges present now, the trend going into the future is looking great.

NV-01 (Urban Las Vegas, Paradise, & Spring Valley)

US-Pres 2008
Obama (D) 64.51%
McCain (R) 33.05%

NV-Sen 2010
Reid (D) 62.40%
Angle (R) 33.09%

She's back! And she won't be leaving us again any time soon. Dina Titus may perhaps provide us with the most dramatic, yet ultimately upbeat, comeback saga of 2010/2012. Two years ago, she lost NV-03 by the narrowest of margins (only 1,748 votes, or 0.66%). But this year, she's set to win big in the new NV-01. It's just over D+11, so Dina no longer has to worry about tough, grueling campaigns... For herself.

Still, she doesn't want to take any kind of back seat to this year's action. At the Clark County Democratic Party Convention this month, Dina Titus made it clear that she doesn't want to just go back to Congress next year, but she wants to go in the majority.

She's definitely a team player, but now she has the chance to play coach and help guide Democrats in tougher districts to victory. And since her own Republican opponent in NV-01 looks to be going nowhere fast, Dina can now afford to play elsewhere.

Race Rating: Safe Democratic (Hold)

NV-02 (Reno, Carson City, & Rural Northern Nevada)

US-Pres 2008
Obama (D) 49.43%
McCain (R) 48.23%

NV-Sen 2010
Angle (R) 49.57%
Reid (D) 43.96%

Mark Amodei has really lucked out. He hasn't been good at raising money, he doesn't seem to be building much of a strong profile, and his district may be trending the other way. Yet despite all this, one of his Democratic opponents has already dropped out of the race. And despite all this, hardly any one is seeing this race as all that competitive.

Why? Last year's special election catastrophe probably has a big role in this. The "major league candidates" have pretty much been scared away since then, leaving only a handful of "minor league contenders" to compete for the honor of losing to Amodei this November. At this point, Democrats' only hope is that somehow President Obama wins NV-02 again and wins well enough to create down-ticket momentum up north. And while that may be possible, it will be incredibly difficult for even that to really make Amodei sweat.

This race may quickly fall off the radar entirely if Amodei doesn't step into major doo-doo any time soon.

Race Rating: Likely Republican (Hold)

NV-03 (Henderson, Enterprise, Summerlin South, & Southern Clark County)

US-Pres 2008
Obama (D) 53.53%
McCain (R) 44.58%

NV-Sen 2010
Reid (D) 48.75%
Angle (R) 47.03%

While Mark Amodei has lucked out, Joe Heck has not. Funny enough, NV-03 became slightly redder after redistricting while NV-02 became slightly bluer. Yet despite that, Joe Heck has run into quite a bit of trouble lately.

Why? It's still a "Purple District" that's developing more of a Blue tint. So Joe Heck's positions on issues like women's rights, Social Security & Medicare, and green energy are looking increasingly out of touch with his district. This is why Heck's campaign kickoff in February turned out to be a rocky start.

And this is why this race will probably (yet again!) be the key barnburner that determines not just the composition of Nevada's Congressional Delegation, but also the balance of power on Capitol Hill.

Race Rating: Tossup

NV-04 (North Las Vegas, Summerlin, Northwest Vegas, & Rural Central Nevada)

US-Pres 2008
Obama (D) 56.40%
McCain (R) 41.44%

NV-Sen 2010
Reid (D) 51.14%
Angle (R) 43.87%

Late last month, Republicans tried hard to capitalize on a "newspaper" article attacking "reporting" on Steven Horsford's past financial difficulties. However, I seriously doubt they can get very far with that. Why?

Oh, yes. Kind of like what happened in 2010 when Nevada Republicans had a bunch of "D List" candidates itching to lose to Harry Reid, they again have a bunch of "D List" candidates itching to lose to Steven Horsford. Unlike NV-Sen 2010, it seems like Danny Tarkanian may finally break his recent losing streak and get past the G-O-TEA primary. But like (Sharrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrron Angle in) NV-Sen 2010, "Baby Tark" just doesn't seem to have much (other than his famous last name) to offer to voters.

What this race will probably come down to is turnout. As long as OFA turns out tons of Democratic voters in Clark County for President Obama, Horsford will probably have at least a fairly smooth sail to Congress. Republicans' only chance here lies with poor turnout in Clark County.

Race Rating: Leans Democratic (Pickup)

So as I've done before with the Legislature races, I'll close by ranking the districts in order of most likely to change hands.

NV-04 (R to D)
NV-03 (R to D)
NV-02 (R... Well, probably still R.)
NV-01 (D... & proud to be.)

This is really tricky. But if I had to stop the flipping somewhere, it would probably be at NV-03. Either way, the race there may be decided by another razor thin margin. But with even Joe Heck's campaign sensing trouble there, John Oceguera can't be counted out. But other than a possible close race in NV-04, the rest looks to be a snooze-fest.

Well, does that answer your questions?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

So Who's Left at the Center of It All?

On Monday, KSNV's "The Agenda" took on what's becoming a big issue in Carson City: Who's taking "the middle ground" on taxes? And really, where is "the middle ground" on taxes?

(Start watching at 10:30 below.)

We know how Brian Sandoval has been dancing on this, but there are other players who will be playing key roles here. For one, the renewed focus on C-Tax issues has brought Senator John Lee (D-North Las Vegas) back into the spotlight. After all, his committee has been holding hearings on this very issue. He also recently penned a Sun op-ed on community college reform. He's been getting out front on these issues.

However, controversy has also been catching up to him. California has flatly ruled out the kind of deregulation of Lake Tahoe that Lee spearheaded last year. He's also caught heat over his opposition to marriage equality, domestic partnerships, and transgender inclusive ENDA. But perhaps most importantly, John Lee initially agreed with Brian Sandoval's "no new tax" position until the Nevada Supreme Court's late May ruling completely reset the 2011 budget negotiations. So now, he's getting a primary challenge from Pat Spearman... And Nevada AFL-CIO is now signaling it won't fall in line behind John Lee.

Earlier today, Steve Sebelius joked on Twitter that "it's tough out there for a moderate". John Lee is starting to feel that. However, not all the primary action is happening on the Democratic side.

Rather, there's even more primary drama to be found among Nevada Republicans. Remember, the "tea party" here still feels betrayed after falling for Sandoval. So now, it looks like they're lashing out at him, Senate GOP Leader Michael Roberson, and all the Assembly & Senate GOP Caucus endorsed candidates who refuse to sign the Chuck Muth/Grover Norquist tax pledge. In fact, we're now seeing GOP Assembly and Senate primaries across the state turn hot over this. Even Pat Hickey, the incoming Assembly GOP leader that Muth once seemed to like, is now falling out of favor with Nevada's "Tea Party, Inc."

Just as I had suspected back in March, this is turning out to be much more complicated than Brian Sandoval's PR team had initially thought. They just figured Sandoval could simultaneously "claim the middle ground", help his favored Republican candidates in swing districts, and fend off calls for comprehensive, progressive tax reform, by agreeing to the sunset tax deal yet again. However, it's starting to look like Sandoval may have stirred a real hornet's nest in doing this. While Sandoval may yet succeed in claiming at least some "middle ground" for himself on the budget and taxes, moderates in both parties are now feeling the heat as the grassroots on neither side likes the politics or the policy behind the tax deal that Sandoval now owns.

Ah, the law of unintended consequences...

(The Need for Change Is) Still at the Center of It All

Yesterday, Governor Brian Sandoval razzle-dazzled the far right wing of the gaming-mining-lobbying industrial complex with his moving speech. Really, do you need me to tell you what he said?

Economic development is “a contact sport,” Sandoval said Wednesday during a speech at the Silverton for members of the Keystone Corporation, a conservative anti-tax business group. “If we want to be in the game, we have to have a cutting-edge approach.”

Earlier this year, Sandoval unveiled a new state economic development plan that relies on regional development authorities and “industry specialists” who will work with specific business sectors to increase exports, research and development.

Wow. I wonder what's "cutting-edge" about Sandoval's approach. Could it be? Could it possibly be... Oh, never mind.

Gov. Brian Sandoval today told conservative business group Keystone Corporation that his decision to support a two-year extension of taxes that were scheduled to expire eliminates the need for any new taxes to balance the state budget.

The governor received a standing ovation from the large gathering of business and political leaders at the Silverton in Las Vegas when he said he will block any new business taxes.

Of course, that isn't stopping the G-O-TEA wing of Sandoval's party from screaming "SELLOUT!!!" over his decision to extend the 2009/2011 "sunset tax" deal. And really, that's the point. By basking in the glow of "Bid'ness Establishment" praise while fending off nasty-grams from the likes of Chuck Muth and NPRI, Sandoval looks so "moderate" and "reasonable" by comparison.

But seriously, how "reasonable" is continuing the status quo? Can we really handle any more "moderate" solutions to the serious problems crippling our state's economy?

Brian Sandoval claims he took his new position on the budget because he doesn't want to cut education funding any more. OK, that's a start. But still, that's not enough to fix what's fundamentally wrong with our state. Jim Rogers clearly pointed that out last week.

One must question the timing of Sandoval’s pledge to education, especially during an election year. The governor may simply be posturing when he says, "no more cuts to education.” When push comes to shove, he certainly will follow the Republican party line to destroy public education. Education has little or no blood left. For all practical purposes, public education is dead in Nevada and Sandoval’s promise not to take the last half pint of blood is meaningless.

The governor is delusional if he believes the education community does not know he is anti-public education. Politicians have their own set of rules for truthfulness. That is, there are no rules. A politician will say anything on day one and just the opposite on day two and will actually believe that the day two statement will control and that no one will remember the previous contradictory statement. Sandoval has done everything possible to eliminate Nevada’s public education system. He now seems to believe that with a little play on words the public will forget what he has done.

Nailed it.

No, really. Look at CCSD trustees fighting with teachers over cost-of-living increases and education benefits. Look at WCSD Chief Heath Morrison fleeing to North Carolina taking over Charlotte's schools and leaving Northern Nevada behind. Nevada, we have a problem. And no, "moderate" looking continuation of the status quo won't do anything to solve it.

Brian Sandoval's BFF Monte Miller recently dropped his tax initiatives because he's satisfied that Sandoval and the gaming-mining-lobbying industrial complex want to continue the status quo. And remember, the status quo has only been delivering failure. The status quo is limiting our potential for future growth, development, and improvement.

Seriously, we can't afford any more of the status quo. At least the Nevada AFL-CIO seems to understand that. Maybe it really will take a full throated call to justice for Nevada's 99% to finally get some badly needed change.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Fast Justice?

Owly Images

(Image courtesy of @ydc226)

This is apparently the scene outside Palace Station Casino in Las Vegas today. Check #stationfast on Twitter, and you'll see the newest front in the ongoing conflict between Station Casinos and Culinary 226. Here's what Culinary has to say.

Thirteen workers from Station Casinos along with five union members will sacrifice food as part of the continued demand for a fair process for Station workers to decide whether they want representation.

Milton Farfan, a dishwasher at Red Rock Casino, said, "The truth-yes I'm a little worried about doing this for seven days. But it's a worthwhile sacrifice. It's a way to show the company that we're ready to do all that's necessary to be given a fair process. We're here to represent each one of our co-workers at Stations Casinos."

Thousands of workers at Station Casinos have signed a public petition asking for a fair process. A fair process would let workers make their own decisions as to whether to unionize in a way that is free from management interference, intimidation, bullying, or litigation. Over the years, tens of thousands of Las Vegas casino resort workers have utilized a fair and non-confrontational process, rather than NLRB litigation, to decide whether to have union representation with the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165.

The fasters will be supported by community and clergy leaders throughout the week.

As we discussed last month, this promises to be an epic continuing struggle over workers' rights. Both Culinary and Station have dug in their respective heels. But now, Culinary may be taking it to a whole new level by starting a week long fast.

But hey, what's a union supposed to do? And especially here, what are Culinary organizers and Station workers supposed to do when Station spends millions of dollars on TV ads bashing union organizers? Station may have deep pockets for media consultants, political strategists, and TV commercials. Culinary, on the other hand, has had to rely on its activists to snag "earned media" with events and social networks.

In many ways, this illustrates what this whole fight is about. Earlier today, Jon Ralston reported that the Fertittas are ponying up to participate in Sheldon Adelson's and Steve Wynn's $25,000+ per ticket fundraiser for House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Burnt "TEA") PAC on the 27th. Certainly if Station bosses can afford an uber-pricey Republican fundraiser with Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn, they can continue to go all in on their "nuclear war" against Culinary.

Culinary probably can't compete with Station in the money department (despite what Station's TV ads may suggest), so they and the Station workers have had to find other ways to tell their side of the story. So now, we're seeing a fast just outside the original Station Casino.

As we've discussed before, there's so much at stake here. One of the only reasons why this experiment we know as "Las Vegas" works is because hospitality workers here are paid far better than the national average (which is about minimum wage with zero benefits). Despite what some on the radical right suggest, the influence of Culinary 226 on this town has been a net positive in terms of securing so many well paying hospitality jobs both on and off The Strip. Without Culinary negotiating well paying union jobs at union casinos, which also forces the non-union casinos to bump up their salaries and benefits to remain competitive, it would likely be far more difficult for workers to survive in Clark County. Remember that hospitality workers are also local consumers and taxpayers, so our fortunes are tied to theirs even if we don't work anywhere near Las Vegas Boulevard.

So Station workers and Culinary workers fast as we wonder how much longer this conflict must last before it can reach a just resolution.

Alas, The Buffett Rule "Only" Raises Some Revenue & Brings About Some Tax Justice.

Yesterday, ProgressNow Nevada and PLAN were on the sidewalk just outside the Sunset Post Office (across Sunset Road from McCarran Airport). Why? They figured "Tax Day" would be the perfect day to highlight the many problems hidden in the federal tax code.

Here's the problem.

This Tax Day, a significant majority of Americans think that the rich are getting off easy compared to middle- and working-class Americans. According to the latest CNN poll, “68% of respondents said the current tax system benefits the rich and is unfair to ordinary workers, compared with 29% who disagreed with that view.” The poll’s respondents have good reason to think the rich pay less: Many millionaires pay a lower effective tax rate because their income comes from capital gains or other low-tax investments, instead of wages. Yet Senate Republicans blocked the Buffett Rule last night, which would have helped address this problem, even though it too has strong support from the public.

That's right. "The usual suspects" blocked The Buffett Rule. And they whined about "raising taxes" on the 1% who hardly pay any.

Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada has long supported the idea of the Buffett Rule and this bill. But Sen. Dean Heller, a Republican, voted against it Monday evening -- dismissing it as a “campaign gimmick,” anticipating the attacks Democrats will be lobbing his way with an answer.

“While Nevada struggles with high unemployment, the president and Senate Democrats have chosen to focus on a measure that will not create a single job,” Heller said in a statement. “They have ignored rising gas prices, have not passed a budget in more than three years, and shoved job-killing government health care on small businesses across the country. Now, the best they can do is push a tax hike designed for nothing more than a campaign press release. It’s no wonder the American people are so frustrated with Washington.”

Reid's statement following the vote stated: “Today Senate Republicans again put millionaires ahead of the middle class. Currently, most hedge fund managers pay a lower tax rate than many of their middle-class employees – but while the incomes for the wealthy have ballooned in recent years, middle-class wages haven’t kept pace with the price of a college education or a secure retirement. The measure that Republicans blocked today would have restored fairness to our tax code and reduced the deficit without asking middle class families or seniors to sacrifice any more than they already have."

Oh, jeez. Where has Dean Heller been? Oh yes, that's right. He's been busy attacking women's health care. I guess he just hasn't had time to actually do his job and propose any real solutions for the problems our country faces.

Meanwhile, Joe Heck has been busy trashing The Buffett Rule on Twitter. I guess he has to do whatever he can to have his BFF's back. After all, Joe Heck's BFF, Willard "Mr. 1%" Romney, only paid a 13.9% tax rate on his $21.6 million 2010 income. He certainly wouldn't want "job creators" like Mittens to pay what they're supposed to be paying in taxes.

Certainly, we've been hearing plenty of spin from the G-O-TEA this week on The Buffett Rule and federal taxes. Here are the facts. Our current federal tax code essentially makes the 99% subsidize the 1% by way of the massive loopholes that the super-rich use (and abuse) to avoid paying taxes. The big corporations that spend the most on lobbying pay the least in taxes. The very wealthiest Americans living in the highest income zip codes in the country pay less in taxes than the working poor living in low income zip codes. Notice a pattern here? Inequality in our federal tax code is real, and it penalizes working class families while continuing to provide "Billionaires' Bailouts".

Oh, and for all the G-O-TEA's whining on budget deficits, they're not proposing any real solutions to close that deficit. They may be whining that the reforms present in "The Buffett Rule" only raise about $47 billion in revenue, but their budget plans actually add to the deficit! So Joe Heck and Dean Heller claim The Buffett Rule is useless because it may "only" raise about $47 billion (which, by the way, is their figure!), yet their preferred policies only worsen the budget deficit while continuing to promote massive inequality. Funny enough, Heck, Heller, and Romney have gone so far to the radical right in opposing common sense tax reform that they even oppose their supposed idol!

And even at Mittens' recent campaign "roundtable", he couldn't stop participants from pointing out some inconvenient truths.

Whoops. So why again is The Buffett Rule such a bad idea? And did the ProgressNow and PLAN supporters rallying outside the Sunset Post Office near McCarran yesterday look so "crazy" after all? I guess they're not alone.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

No Se Puede, Mittens.

So Republicans are again claiming they're "The REAL Party for Latinos!" Yes, believe it or not, they're now trying to pin the blame for the filibusters they led on comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act on Democrats. Wow. Who are they trying to fool?

Mitt Romney is reaching for his Etch-A-Sketch because he's desperate to shake up and reset his campaign. His trouble with Latin@ and other minority voters is real, especially in key swing states that he would like to wrest away from Obama. PPP recently showed that Obama's support among Latino voters both here in Nevada and in Colorado is especially strong (so strong, in fact, that Obama now has healthy overall leads in both states), and now even PPP's newest Florida poll shows the same over there. Mittens now realizes he's in deep trouble, so he's grabbing that Etch-A-Sketch in a desperate move to reset his own campaign.

But seriously, can Willard make all of us forget what he was saying during G-O-TEA primary season? Remember that early this year, Willard's BFF Kris Kobach, the man behind such extreme, xenophobic "Papers, Please" state statutes like Arizona's infamous SB 1070 and its "copycats" in Alabama & Georgia, praised Mittens' commitment to anti-immigrant extremism. In fact, he exclaimed that "Romney stands far to the right" of the other G-O-TEA contenders on immigration.

No really, Kris Kobach is on record praising Romney's anti-immigrant policies... And Romney is on record embracing Kobach and his hate-fueled extremism!

Yet now, Romney and his RNC buddies want us to believe that he's better for Latin@ American families than Obama? Are they for real? Another infamous figure behind Arizona's SB 1070, recalled State Senator Russell Pearce, boasted that his and Romney's immigration policies are "identical".

And in case Romney's extreme anti-immigrant views aren't bad enough, there's even more for Latin@ voters not to like. His economic policies also aim to slap hard-working Latin@ families en la cara. Let's not forget this.

First of all, he supports Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plans that would cut Medicaid spending by $700 billion over 10 years, reduce food stamps by $127 billion, and cut in half the funding of Pell Grants. Gov. Romney’s own budget plans seek to impose a cap on overall annual federal spending at 20 percent of the nation’s GDP, which would necessarily slash vital programs for the poor and middle class such as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and Pell Grants. He also signed the Cut, Cap and Balance pledge promoted by a number of conservative and Tea Party groups.

His proposal to fund Medicaid through block grants to the states would result in deep cuts to a program that is at the crux of Latinos’ access to health care. In fact, according to the National Council of La Raza, in 2009, Medicaid and its sister program, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, covered more than one in four Latinos and nearly half (49.8 percent) of all Hispanics under age 18—representing 8.5 million children.

Social Security and Medicare are also of particular importance to Hispanics: Over three-fourths of senior citizens rely on Social Security for their income, and overall, Medicare serves approximately 3.5 million Hispanics. Gov. Romney’s plan to raise the retirement age for eligibility for Social Security would have a negative impact on Latinos because it would amount to an additional 13 percent across-the-board benefit cut. This would be especially unfair to low-income workers who are more likely to have significant health problems, and work in physically demanding jobs. It would also affect the elderly, who have a much harder time finding new work after being laid off.

Gov. Romney has also indicated that he would repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would insure 9 million Hispanics that currently lack health insurance, a position supported by only 29 percent of Latinos.

Finally, while Hispanics routinely cite education as a key issue and strongly support our public schools and access to college, Gov. Romney’s pledge to cut the budget would require cutting funds for Pell Grants—a program that benefits 12.1 percent of Latino undergraduate students.

Even now that G-O-TEA primary season is over, Willard is still pandering to the "tea party" by promising to end the "war on the rich" by showering the 1% with even more "Billionaire Bailout" tax cuts while he slashes the American social safety net to death. Does R.Money really think Latin@ voters love the idea of writing even more economic injustice into our tax code and budget? Es Mittens loco en la cabeza?

Ay, yay yay. And "Los Republicanos" wonder why Latin@ voters keep running away from them in droves?

What Do Fernley & North Las Vegas Have in Common? (More Than You Think...)

Last week, we were surprised by the City of Fernley filing a federal law suit challenging the current "C-Tax" revenue distribution. But in the coming weeks, will we hear more complaints about "C-Tax" inequity down south?

Long before Fernley dropped the big "game changer" law suit, the Nevada Legislature had already begun studying the current C-Tax structure to spot inequities in need of correction. Last month, this report detailing distribution of C-Tax revenue was submitted. Now pay close attention to Pages 48 & 49 in that report. Notice something strange?

Now go to Pages 168 & 169. Even though North Las Vegas has 217,482 residents compared to Henderson's 267,270 residents, Henderson receives just over DOUBLE the amount of C-Tax funds. (North Las Vegas received $36,539,000 in C-Tax funds last year, while Henderson received $73,965,000 in C-Tax funds last year.) Why? Apparently, it's all because the assessed value of Henderson properties is over double that of North Las Vegas. OK, that seems "kinda sorta" logical... But is that really constitutional?

Remember, Fernley is claiming that the current C-Tax structure violates both the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution and Article 3 of Nevada's Constitution in that it provides anything but equal protection under the law. Even though Fernley faces different structural issues from North Las Vegas, mainly that Lyon County provides police and fire services to Fernley, while North Las Vegas has to pay for its own, North Las Vegas' sad situation seems to strengthen Fernley's case that the C-Tax structure indeed denies many Nevadans equal protection under the law.

For instance, take a look at the local libraries. The C-Tax funds from the state provide direct funding to Las Vegas-Clark County and Henderson Libraries. North Las Vegas, on the other hand, has two libraries that are funded directly by the city. So in essence, North Las Vegas residents have to pay additional taxes for something that Henderson, Las Vegas, and unincorporated Clark County residents receive for no additional tax or fee. What's fair or equal about that?

Much has been said lately about the many woes at North Las Vegas City Hall. For one, many residents still question the move to a new City Hall. And it's looking increasingly possible that North Las Vegas will have to dissolve its own police and fire departments and contract with Clark County instead to save money. (Though unlike Fernley, North Las Vegas will still be paying for it regardless.) But even with that being said, should North Las Vegas residents essentially be punished just because of their zip code?

Believe it or not, Fernley may have found a real civil rights violation here. Why are some cities receiving more funding per capita than others? Yes, I know, it has to do with property values... But should that really be allowed to be a factor in what kind of local government one can expect? Should someone's zip code and/or property value determine whether one can expect a functioning library and adequate police service? Nevada, we have a problem... And it's bigger than even I had initially suspected.