Category Archives: Nevada

Demolition Days On End

The television talking heads are talking about today’s sound and fury from the White House as “Demolition Day;” as if every day the mullet-maned moron occupying the Oval Office hasn’t been doing this from day one.

What is buttressing my sanity for the moment is the fact that MMM had a 49.4% approval rating in Nevada as of January 2017 (38.9% disapproval) and dropped to an approval rating of 43.6% in September 2017 and a disapproval rating of 51.2% in the Silver State.  [CNBC]

Much more love from the Republican Congress and the President and Nevada’s going to find itself in a world of hurt.   Case in point:  If the Republicans get their way in the FY 2018 budget 56,044 Nevada families will lose food assistance as of 2023, and 52,613 will lose them as of 2027.   But wait, there’s even more fun … another grand idea in this budget fiasco is to shift $100 billion of SNAP costs to the states.  So, Nevada would have to come up with 10% of the costs by 2020 and this increases to 25% in 2023 and beyond. Just in case lower income, mostly working, families in Nevada aren’t punished enough the GOP plan says states will have more “flexibility” to cut benefit levels to “manage costs.”  Of course Nevada will have to figure out how to get lower income working families basic food items at the local groceries, at state expense.  In case someone’s thinking this makes economic sense (that tired old canard about welfare queens on food stamps with waste and fraud) the actual numbers indicate that for every $5.00 spent on food stamps $9.00 is generated in economic activity. [CBPP] [MJ]

Case in point: The FY 2018 budget calls for cuts in fire-fighting operations.  As if the fires in California weren’t headline news at the moment.  The IAFC isn’t happy  seeing an FY 2017 budget of $2,833,000 for wildland fire management cut to $2,495,058 in FY 2018; or cuts to State Fire Assistance from $78 million down to $69.4 million, and Volunteer Fire Assistance from $15 million to $11.6 million.  And, by the way, the FLAME program (pdf) funding (wildfire reserve suppression fund, large fires) would be eliminated in the GOP budget.  Supposedly, the FY 2018 would sustain current 10 year average costs for fire suppression. [ECO]  The word “supposedly” is used with some caution, because as we experience climate change effects, the cost of fire suppression can be reasonably expected to increase, with a coterminous effect on budgets.   Meanwhile, there’s the matter of expensive fires in Napa and Sonoma counties.

And, then there’s the not-so-small matter of FEMA:

“The president’s budget blueprint calls for FEMA’s budget for state and local grants to be cut by $667 million, saying that these grants are unauthorized or ineffective. The program it explicitly calls out as lacking congressional authorization is the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program, and a second proposed change would require all preparedness grants to be matched in part by non-federal funds. All of FEMA’s pre-disaster grants are meant to reduce federal spending after disasters, and according to the agency’s website, there’s evidence that $1 in mitigation spending saves $4 in later damages.”  [Newsweek]

There are two points to highlight in this paragraph.  First, the budget cuts are made to grants for disaster mitigation efforts, without saying why the grants are “ineffective,” and we should note that any program can be declared “ineffective” if the standards aren’t reasonable. Secondly, as in the case of food stamps, there’s an upfront economic benefit — for every $1 spent on mitigation we save $4 in subsequent damage costs.   Once more we have a grand example of being penny wise and pound foolish.

Nor are the Republicans keeping their promises not to mess with Social Security and Medicare.

“Not only would it (the FY 2018 budget) cut Medicaid by $1 trillion, it would also cut Medicare by more than $470 billion in order to pay for hundreds of billions in tax breaks to the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations in America. Further, the Republican tax plan this budget calls for would increase the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, which will likely pave the way for savage cuts to Social  Security.”  [SenDem]

Oh, and by the way… let’s sabotage the NAFTA talks, scrap the only treaty containing Iran’s arms aspirations (and tick off all the other European allies who signed on), send a signal to North Korea that our word’s not worth paper on which it’s written, let the health insurance market destabilize into chaos, and withdraw from UNESCO.

And here we sit, not a shining beacon on a hill, but a flickering flame bent to whatever winds happen to be blowing through the head of MMM in the White House.  Not only are programs and services in peril within our own state, but the nation and the world are facing similar dangers emanating from an unraveling White House.

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Filed under Economy, FEMA, Health Care, health insurance, Nevada, Nevada budget, Nevada economy, Nevada politics, Politics, public health, Republicans, Social Security, tax revenue, Taxation

Heads Up Nevada, We Could Once More Join The Sand States

Heads up, Nevada!  There’s another storm on the horizon, and it’s not meteorological, nor is it related to the proliferation of high powered rifles and stockpiles of ammunition.  It has to do with a crisis we thought we’d withstood and overcome.

We were one of the Sand States eight years ago, those with massive development projects in which homes were constructed, mortgages were offered, and then sold into secondary markets to be sliced, diced, tranched, and manipulated into financial products in the Wall Street Casino.  We know what happened next.  The investment banking sector collapsed, the financial markets were in ruins, and Nevadans felt the aftermath with unconscionable unemployment levels and lost income.

The response was the Dodd Frank Act, a set of regulations to control the excesses of the Wall Street Casino and investment banking practices.  The first major assault came from the House of Representatives last June:

“The House legislation, called the Financial Choice Act, would undo or scale back much of Dodd-Frank. The bill was approved 233 to 186. All but one Republican — Walter Jones of North Carolina — voted for the bill. No Democrats supported it.

Its major changes include repealing the trading restrictions, known as the Volcker Rule, and scrapping the liquidation authority in favor of enhanced bankruptcy provisions designed to eliminate any chance taxpayers would be on the hook if a major financial firm collapsed.

The bill also would repeal a new Labor Department regulation, largely still pending, that requires investment brokers who handle retirement funds to put their clients’ interests ahead of their own compensation, company profits or other factors.”

Representative Mark Amodei voted in favor of this bill, HR 10, on June 8, 2017.   What Representative Amodei voted for was to allow banks to play in the stock market with depositors money (remember deposits are guaranteed up to $250,000) and to allow financial advisers to recommend products to their customers which are not necessarily to the advantage of their retired clients, but which may happily enhance the financial advisers’ bottom lines.   In light of what happened to this Sand State in 2007-2008 Nevadans should be especially concerned about this.  But, wait, there’s more

Remember that one of the major problems for working Americans, Nevadans included, was the burden of pay-day lending?  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created by the Dodd Frank Act, is seeking to limit the negative impact of some of the more egregious practices in this sector of the banking industry.  Now the Comptroller of the Currency has another idea, publicized on October 5th:

“…the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency surprised the financial services world by making its own move—rescinding guidance that made it more difficult for banks to offer a payday-like product called deposit advance.”

Lovely, so now banks can “offer” those insidious high rate pay-day loans, only changing the name to “deposit advance,” and consumer will be right back on the hook.  At almost the same time as the CFPB issued a rule preventing pay day lenders from handing out loans without reviewing a customer’s capacity to repay the loans, the bankers get the green light to hand out “deposit advances.”

There is one bill in the US Senate which does offer some improvements on Dodd Frank, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Senator David Perdue (R-GA) have introduced a bill to address some of the problems for community banks.  There are more reasons to support this legislation than to oppose it, but beware of the rationalizations and gamesmanship.

Those who want to eliminate the CFPB, gut its authority, or toss the Dodd Frank Act altogether may wish to convince us that (1) the entire act needs to be repealed to “enhance the free market,” or some other euphemism for re-opening the Wall Street Casino, (2) the CFPB places “burdensome” regulations on those pay day lenders who (bless their hearts) are only trying to provide more “options” for consumers.   This isn’t the most interesting or engaging story of the moment, but it is an issue Nevadans would do well to follow very closely.

We don’t need to be ground into the sand again.

 

 

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Filed under Amodei, Economy, financial regulation, Nevada, Nevada economy, Politics

While We’re Ducking and Dodging

While we’re ducking, dodging, and otherwise attempting to avoid damage from the GOP, they’re still busy with legislation to make our lives just a bit more difficult.  Cases in point:

The House leadership has delayed, but hasn’t promised to discard, a bill, HR 367, to allow the general sale of silencers — which the proponents tell us will mitigate hearing loss for gun owners.  Pro Tip: A nice pair of headset style ear protectors will set you back about $30.00 (if the foamies will do you can buy’em for about 12 cents each in a bucket of 200) as opposed to spending $1300.00 on a suppressor for your AK/AR-some number or another.

The GOP tax cut legislation, which somehow is being titled “reform,” is a walloping giveaway to the top income earners in the U.S.  Not sure about this? See the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, that tells us those in the bottom 20% will see 1.3% of the tax benefits while the top 1% will enjoy 67.4%. Bringing this closer to home, the top 1% of income earners (which amounts to about 0.4% of our population) will get a 70.7% share of the tax cuts. For all that chatter about the Middle Class, the plan doesn’t really help middle class Nevadans:

“The middle fifth of households in Nevada, people who are literally the state’s “middle-class” would not fare as well. Despite being 20 percent of the population, this group would receive just 4.6 percent of the tax cuts that go to Nevada under the framework. In 2018 this group is projected to earn between $38,900 and $60,600. The framework would cut their taxes by an average of $380, which would increase their income by an average of 0.8 percent.”

Just to put this in context, a family in Nevada’s middle income range would see a tax cut of about $380…meanwhile back at the home mortgage, if that family is in Reno where the average home loan is about $187,000, the monthly payments are about $855 per month.  Congratulations Middle Class Nevadans, you may receive an annual prize of 44% of one month’s mortgage payment.  Color me unimpressed.

The GOP passed its version of the FY 2018 budget on a 219-206 vote.  Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) voted in favor of the bill; Representatives Kihuen, Titus, and Rosen were in Las Vegas attending to their constituents in the wake of the massacre at the music concert.   The AARP was quick to notice that the Republican plan calls for $473 BILLION to be cut from Medicare over the next 10 years.   Expect a cap on the Medicaid program funding; it wouldn’t be too far off to estimate cuts of about $1 TRILLION in that category.   Beware when Republicans speak of “entitlement reform,” that simply means cutting Social Security benefits and Medicare.  When they say “welfare reform,” they often mean cutting Food Stamps, Housing Assistance, and Medicaid.   Representative Amodei might want to explain why he supports cutting Medicare by $473 billion over the next decade?

Those in Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District can reach Representative Mark Amodei at 202-225-6155 (Washington DC) 775-686-5760 (Reno), or 775-777-7705 (Elko);  the office addresses are — 332 Cannon Building, Washington, DC 20515; 5310 Kietzke Lane #103, Reno, NV 89511; 905 Railroad Street, Ste 104D, Elko, NV 89801.

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Filed under Amodei, Economy, Federal budget, Health Care, health insurance, housing, Medicaid, Medicare, Nevada, Nevada economy, nevada health, nevada taxation, Politics, Republicans, Taxation

The Story Almost Lost in Las Vegas

If you haven’t bookmarked the Nevada Independent, please do so.  There’s a reward for you. Stories that almost get lost in the maelstrom of corporate media find a home therein.  Like this one:

“In a letter dated Sept. 25, attorney Mark Ferrario — representing Nevadans for Background Checks, the group that backed the ballot question — gave Sandoval and state officials a deadline of Oct. 9 to begin implementing the ballot measure before they turn to the court system to settle the matter.”

Attorney General Adam Laxalt and Governor Sandoval haven’t covered themselves in glory on gun issues in the Silver State. Did you catch the date? September 25, 2017. In a matter of days the Issue No One Wants To Talk About Now Except For People Who Are Tired Of Not Talking About It raised up in an horrific way.  Lives lost, lives interrupted and disrupted by injuries, lives transformed by heinous nightmares, lives shattered by loss.

One of the saddest elements of this story is that, no, more thorough background checking may not have prevented this act of evil.  But, the GOP test is irrational.  If any legislation must prevent the last carnage then there’s never a way to make any progress.

What would have prevented the shooter at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando being a disaffected disconnected loser with personal and domestic issues, from packaging his issues into a flurry of violence?  Certainly, some mental health therapy might have been useful, but there is more than one element to a crime.  He acted out his anger and disturbance with an AR-15.

The shooter at Virginia Tech in 2007 was a student with a history of mental health issues. Again, those issues contributed to his act, but the act could not have been accomplished without being able to secure a Walther P22 and a  9-mm Glock semi-automatic pistol.

Another misfit with serious social and emotional problems used a Savage Mark II to murder his mother before taking four other guns to the Sandy Hook Elementary School.  He used a Bushmaster Model XM15-E2S semiautomatic rifle to complete his massacre of teachers and little children.

No gun regulation bill is going to solve the psychological, emotional, and social problems of individuals who use guns to act out their various motives and grievances.  However, while the study of motives is informative and interesting it doesn’t address what made the atrocities so deadly.  It doesn’t take rocket science to see that in the three examples given above the acts were increasingly deadly because of the nature of the weaponry involved.

Members of the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, SC would have benefited had there not been a loophole in the background check laws, exploited by Dylan Roof. [NYT]  More thorough background reviews might have mitigated the shooting at Virginia Tech.  The point is that these examples call for greater care in the process of background checks, and NOT for dismissing the utility of background checks because of some perceived failure to stop a specific atrocity.

Perhaps it’s time for Governor Sandoval and AG Laxalt to move back from their slippery slope arguments against the common sense application of restraints on gun ownership and use, and note that church members, students, theater goers, night club revelers, and concert attendees have the right to be safe from the predations of the devils who invade their public spaces with ever more deadly weapons.

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Filed under Gun Issues, Nevada, Nevada politics, Politics, Sandoval

Aw Shucks Amodei’s Amazing Little Interview

Mark Amodei (R) is the Representative for Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District.  This afternoon he had a little moment in the spotlight during an interview with Velshi and Rhule on MSNBC.  It was one of his better “aw shucks” moments, complete with eye closings and head bobbing, incomplete in terms of any rationality beyond the NRA talking points.  This isn’t surprising given the $43,265 Rep. Amodei has gathered from gun rights organizations (NRA, Safari International) over his career.

His first deflection from the presenters’ inquiries incorporated the Perfect Solution canard, i.e. “If a problem needs to be addressed…” implying that legislation is not capable of solving specific shooting tragedies. If a proposition doesn’t perfectly address the elements of a particular crime, then it is not worthy of consideration. This line is so old it should be eligible for a reverse mortgage.

Deflection number two came as Amodei squirmed away from addressing common sense regulation by adopting the Bank Robbers Protection Argument — the shooter was not one “to be deterred by additional regulation.”  This is simply a veneer over the contention that felons don’t follow the laws therefore laws are useless.  Again, we don’t often adopt this philosophy about criminal behavior,  which we hope to proscribe, as in assault, battery, robbery, arson, and murder.

The third deflection, the interview was almost one continuing deflection, occurred with the predictable “we need more facts.”  Yes, the investigation is underway, and in some areas has barely started.  However,  Amodei “hoped” we’d find out “how many weapons were purchased in what period of time.”  If you are wondering why this is relevant, you aren’t alone.  The salient facts are — a man, using high powered modified guns, killed 59 people and injured over 500 others.  It is perfectly possible to begin discussions prior to the full completion of the police investigation.

It didn’t take Rep. Amodei long to reach deflection four — “it’s too soon” (to be discussing common sense gun regulation) and at this point Rep. Amodei appeared to be making up his own vocabulary saying we need to “de-emotionalize” the issue.  Translation: We (the NRA and I) don’t want to talk about gun controls of any kind and it will always be either too soon or too late to discuss the issues and proposed solutions.

At this point in the interview Rep. Amodei, head bobbing, eye blinking and aw shucks mannerisms in full, returned to his prior motifs — “we need more information,” “felons don’t care…”, and “how would legislation have stopped…”

When pressed about the modification of rifles (video) to automatic operations Rep. Amodei reverted to more aw shucks repetitions, needing to know “how legislation would have stopped (the slaughter).”  The presenters gave up trying to make the Representative explain how allowing the sale of kits to make legal guns illegal made even the most remote amount of sense.  The interview terminated with formulaic thanks, and Rep. Amodei’s obvious relief.

It would be a relief to northern Nevada residents to have a Representative in Congress who understands rifle modification, and who comprehends the parched and desiccated nature of the old NRA arguments against doing anything that might mitigate the next tragedies.

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Filed under Amodei, Gun Issues, Nevada, Nevada politics, Politics

Nevada, Mild Wild West: Laxalt and the Background Checks Initiative

Nevada’s getting some unwanted publicity with commentary like “wild west” in regard to the Silver State’s gun laws.  It’s not that the state’s residents haven’t tried:

“Last year, voters in the state narrowly passed Question 1, an initiative that required most private buyers and sellers of guns to conduct a background check through a licensed dealer. Millions of dollars from national groups supporting and opposing the law poured into the state.

The initiative, which passed by 50.4% to 49.5%, mandated that private-party gun sales — with a few exceptions, such as transfers between family members  — be subject to a federal background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is administered by the FBI.”  [LATimes]

Then came the December letter from the FBI saying it could not comply with the state’s requirements, and the Attorney General Adam Laxalt — not a fan of the initiative — announced that the state wouldn’t prosecute any violations of the act until the FBI changed its position.  Not only did Laxalt oppose the initiative, he bragged about blocking implementation, and was duly patted on the head by the leadership of the gun manufacturers’ interest group, the NRA:

“The attorney general who made the decision, Adam Paul Laxalt, spoke at the NRA’s annual meeting this year, where he was hailed by the NRA’s chief lobbyist for ensuring that Nevada’s new background check legislation for private sales was still not the law of the land. Laxalt had publicly opposed the background check measure before it passed, a mark of opposition the NRA had publicized in its fight against the measure.” [Guardian]

Lost in the messaging melee, any reference to the FBI’s statement that the state records could also be used to run background checks to implement the new statute.  Thus, the wrangle remains between gun background check advocates, anti-regulation interest groups, public safety officials, and an Attorney General’s office which has no interest whatsoever in implementing gun safety regulations.

Indeed, Laxalt sees himself as some version of Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus at the bridge:

“In fact, Laxalt, who is running to replace Sandoval, boasted of his role in opposing the measure. In an April 28 speech at the NRA’s annual convention, he cited his criticism of the initiative as an example of his record of supporting gun rights. “Attorneys General,” he said, served as “the last line of defense against the Obama Administration” on gun policy.”  [MJ]

A stance he will maintain in his campaign for the governorship.  He will no doubt adhere to the talking points established by the National Rifle Association, i.e. we can’t stop evil; we can’t legislate away 2nd Amendment rights; suggested legislation would not have stopped the last current outrageous tragedy. Worse still, there’s the canard about “it’s not the ‘right’ time to discuss firearm regulations.”

Perhaps the best we can hope for at the moment is that House Republican leadership will withdraw HR 367, the NRA bill to allow more sales of silencers (noise suppressors), a position in opposition to law enforcement leadership who say silencers make officers’ jobs more dangerous.  In a better world, the Congress and the states would move to:

Require universal background checks.  While this addition may not have prevented the Las Vegas disaster, but it could stop some of the other 33,000 annual gun deaths in this country.

Ban the sale of high capacity magazines.  Truth is, if I haven’t hit the target in the first ten rounds, odds are good I’m not going to — the only result may well be my attempts to explain to my insurance agent why I blew out the south end of my house trying to hit the burglar who was after a $179.95 television set.  The arguments in favor of high capacity magazines range from the bizarre to the totally unpersuasive.  If, as reported, most of the carnage in Las Vegas happened in the first five minutes, then limiting the capacity of the murderer’s guns could have at least reduced the number of dead and injured.

Ban the sale of kits designed to modify semi-automatic guns to automatics.  Allowing the sale of devices to make legal firearms illegal makes no sense whatsoever.

In a still better world we would:

Require safe storage for all firearms. We’re losing 1,300 children every year to gun related injuries. [CNN] [Pediatrics] Some of these are suicides, some are accidental, others are intentional…all are to be deplored and the issues addressed, if for no other reason than this is the equivalent of about 22 Las Vegas shootings per year.

In order to have rational discussions about how to more effectively keep concert goers, night club celebrants, movie theater patrons, and school children safe it’s going to be necessary to filter out the NRA noise — incomprehensible noises about Slippery Slopes, Gun Confiscations, and Law Abiding Folk.  Requiring insurance hasn’t deterred people from buying cars, requiring licenses hasn’t stopped people from taking bar exams and getting certified for positions in the trades and professions, and arguing that law breakers will ignore the law invites the rejoinder that if this is the case then why not legalize bank robbery if the robbers persist in going where the money is?

Some little sanity would go a long way.

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Filed under Gun Issues, Nevada, Nevada politics, Politics

Las Vegas in the Mourning

Las Vegas, NV has many nicknames, a few pejorative, most more amusing and fun. It’s an entire city for fun. The local economy is mostly based on games, amusements, gaming (we don’t often call it gambling), and recreation.  Las Vegas will sing, dance, spin, deal, and cater to you.  It will stay open all night for you, then offer you a buffet breakfast in the morning.  It will welcome you.  Last night it showed it will spare no effort to keep you safe.

It’s police officers will direct concert goers to safety during a hail of gun fire. It’s officers will locate, and subdue a shooter, within moments. It’s hospitals will provide medical assistance and services second to none.

And, it will graciously accept your prayers and condolences for the heinous attack by a lone wolf (which usually means white) shooter lodged at the Mandalay Bay attacking concert goers across the street.

I’m simply wondering when, if ever, some of those who are offering those kind phrases will pair them with action, as is advised in James 1:23-25: “For if a man be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he shall be compared to a man beholding his own countenance in a glass…”

Are there really any questions how a person amassed a small arsenal in a state with few regulations on gun ownership?  Are there really any questions about how many rounds he fired off in a state that doesn’t limit the purchase of ammunition, or high capacity magazines?  Are there actually any questions concerning the origins of yet another mass casualty incident in a country wherein the Congress is discussing legislation to allow the general purchase of silencers?  Was the disciple merely babbling when he wrote: “You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?” [James 2:20]

There was fully automatic fire from an elevated position.”   Yes, condolences are in order. They are appropriate for the family members of those slain in this act of violence. They are appropriate for the Las Vegas law enforcement personnel who lost one of their own, an off duty officer out for an evening concert.  They are appropriate for families dealing with an injured loved one.  However, the prayer half of the equation is, as the disciple said, empty without action.

But, we didn’t act after the tragedy at Virginia Tech, nor after the carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary School, not in the wake of the San Ysidro shooting, not after the tragic loss of life at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. [CNN]  What can we conclude other than we are people who look at ourselves in a polished glass, without seeing our natural face?

When will we pair our prayers with our actions?

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