Tag Archives: Mark Amodei

Amodei: Several Days Late and More Dollars Short

So, Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) spent time with reporters to talk about (1) Race relations in America? — uh, that would be “no.” Or, (2) American strategy in the Middle East and South Asia? — no, not that either. Perhaps it was (3) Infrastructure investment and jobs programs?  — no, that didn’t form a major part of his remarks. Maybe it was (4) tax reform, or at least tax cuts?  — well, that wasn’t a focal point either.  He wanted to talk about health insurance, “repeal and replace,” as if the GOP hadn’t bungled its strategy and tactics to an extent that was truly remarkable in modern politics.

Never one to climb out on even the sturdiest branch and get ahead of the game, or even to keep up with the topics at hand, Representative Amodei continues to play the “repeal and replace” tune without acknowledging that his party had seven years to come up with a viable, specific, and practical PLAN to replace the Affordable Care Act.  Not to put too fine a point to it:  They Blew It.   However, this doesn’t prevent the Representative from belaboring the issue, rather like listening to someone who persists in telling us what he did on Labor Day during the New Year’s Eve party.

 

 

Advertisements

Comments Off on Amodei: Several Days Late and More Dollars Short

Filed under Amodei, Health Care, health insurance, Nevada politics, Politics

Amodei, Your Banker’s Best Friend

House Roll Call Vote 412 wasn’t one of those votes likely to draw much general media attention, even its title seemed designed to induce yawns: “Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection relating to “Arbitration Agreements.”  Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) voted in favor of this measure on July 25th, and few noticed, much less commented.  It’s a small thing, but indicative of a mindset that favors the Big Banks over the interests of American consumers.

Background

 “In May 2016, the CFPB issued a proposed rule prohibiting predispute arbitration agreements in providing consumer financial services products. This rule would prohibit mandatory predispute arbitration agreements in consumer agreements for items such as checking or savings accounts, credit cards, student loans, payday loans, automobile leases, debt management services, some payment processing services, other types of consumer loans, prepaid cards, and consumer debt collection. The rule would also prohibit predispute arbitration agreements in connection with providing a consumer report or credit score to a consumer or referring applicants to creditors to whom requests for credit may be made.” [ABA]

Translation:  For “predispute” read Day in Court, as in the rule prevents a financial corporation from requiring arbitration before a person can take his or her case to court as a member of a group of consumers who have been hurt by the financial institution’s action or actions.   The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau explained:

“Many consumer financial products like credit cards and bank accounts have contract gotchas that generally prevent consumers from joining together to sue their bank or financial company for wrongdoing. These widely used clauses leave consumers with no choice but to seek relief on their own – usually over small amounts. With this contract gotcha, companies can sidestep the legal system, avoid accountability, and continue to pursue profitable practices that may violate the law and harm countless consumers.”  (emphasis added)

And, Representative Amodei supported the legislation to disapprove of this rule which was an attempt to protect consumers from actions like the following:

The poster child of bank malfeasance, Wells Fargo’s  —  “admitted its employees systematically created millions of sham bank accounts in its customers’ names, and then in many cases fraudulently billed those same customers for fees and services they never agreed to. Executives of the megabank knew this was happening but did nothing. Then, they decided to blame 5,300 “rogue” employees, who were summarily fired. Now, to ward off thousands of lawsuits, the company is hiding behind binding arbitration clauses in its victims’ contracts.” [USNWR]

And, there’s this —

“Military readiness has been negatively affected by unscrupulous payday lenders who prey on military servicemembers and veterans. The victims become overly indebted thanks to exorbitant interest rates and hidden fees they don’t understand, and then find themselves unable to obtain relief thanks to forced-arbitration clauses. Because of this, the Military Coalition, which represents nearly 6 million uniformed service members, veterans and their families, has formally petitioned Congress to ban the clauses.”  [USNWR]

It’s hard to imagine siding with unscrupulous bankers against the interests of enlisted personnel who are in the E6 to E9 ranks  in which pay runs from $2,486.99 to $4,186.09 for a person with more than eight years service, however Representative Amodei found a way to do it.  The problem became such a persistent issue for the military that in 2007 the Department of Defense started enforcing the Military Lending Act to protect its service personnel. However, pay day lenders found loopholes such that they could re-introduce their ‘products’ to members of the military. [MrktPlc] Who would support legislation designed to force members of the Armed Services to accept arbitration before they could have their day in court?  Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) and his Republican cohorts in the 115th Congress.

What makes this vote particularly noticeable regarding the protection of bankers is that there are ways — at least two — to ‘prevent’ that bete noir of all Republicans, the consumer lawsuit, without pitching the baby out with the bath water.

The first way would be to make all arbitration voluntary.  Companies could save time and money, and avoid publicity IF the consumer agrees.  If there is no agreement then the case goes to court.

The second possible solution would be to put the arbitration on a “business pays” status.  The American Bar Association offers this common sense proposal:

“The CFPB should require any consumer arbitration to be fully business-funded at no cost to the consumer. When a business faces transaction costs of nearly $2,000 per arbitration filed, repeat consumer filings will attract its attention. In addition, the CFPB could consider requiring that any consumer arbitration which results in a favorable consumer award on the merits should be awarded treble damages and attorneys’ fees. This provision would include a sort of “built in” incentivizing provision. The goal of this provision is to encourage organically what we already see occurring, increased settlement of consumer disputes. Still further, the CFPB should require that any consumer arbitration award must result in a written statement of decision, which permits other consumers to know how the arbitrator applied the law to the facts of that case. This will facilitate consumer knowledge of potential corporate overreach (and encourage more recovery), and will also help aid the consumer in arbitrator selection.”

In short, it is not necessary to go full-bore all-out in support of the banksters among us in order to prevent the unscrupulous from skinning the unwary or uninformed, but that’s what Representative Mark Amodei did on July 25, 2017.

Perhaps this may be explained by the fact that as of May 2017 Representative Amodei received $8,000 in donations from commercial banks for this election cycle, another $7,000 from credit unions, and $1,000 from finance and credit companies.  Or maybe it relates to the $25,000 he’s collected from the American Bankers Association over his political career?  Whatever the motivation, it’s clear that Representative Mark Amodei is placing the interests of the bankers above those of American consumers.   This situation could be rectified in 2018.

Comments Off on Amodei, Your Banker’s Best Friend

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

Amodei’s Bubbles: Republican Dreams for the AHCA

Nevada Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) is eager to let his constituents know that the District will not be negatively impacted by the GOP health insurance/tax cut bill currently being drafted in secret on Capitol Hill.  Not. So. Fast.

First, there will be losses.  Total coverage losses are projected to be felt by 37,500 under the AHCA, and 5,700 of those will be children, another 700 are disabled individuals in District 2.   Representative Amodei is optimistic about what will happen to these constituents —

Any Nevadan who has enrolled in the expanded Medicaid program from its inception in 2014 through the end of 2019 is free to remain in the program so long as their income does not exceed 138% of the national poverty level; …

In short, according to Rep. Amodei, his constituents are to be carefree and happy about their health insurance coverage until the end of 2019.  It’s now 2017.  Thus the recipients are to be reassured for another two years because:

  • Nevada will continue to receive the enhanced federal Medicaid funding for enrollees that it is currently receiving for as long as that enrollee stays in the program;

  • Present expanded enrollees lose eligibility only if they exceed income of 138% of the national poverty level, or if they elect to take employer provided or private health insurance;

Lovely, until we peek into the House version (the basis for the Senate version) and find:

“Medicaid provides coverage for over 70 million individuals and relies on both federal and state funding to continue growing. Under current law, the federal government covers, on average, 57 percent of each state’s total Medicaid costs, no matter the amount. The states pay for the remainder.

In contrast, under the AHCA’s per capita cap Medicaid program, starting in 2020, the federal government would provide states with a flat, capped dollar amount of funding for each person they enroll. The dollar amount is based on states’ 2016-level per-enrollee spending.”

One way to interpret this is that the District’s enrollees will be fine for the moment, but should be aware that the sword labeled ‘the Medicaid Per Capita Lid’ is swinging over head.  This has the potential to burst the first of Amodei’s bubbles.

Secondly, there’s this part of Representative Amodei’s eternal optimism:

“While we understand that Medicaid Expansion will eventually be phased out, we expect the recovery of our economy to continue, giving us reason to believe we will not need as robust of a safety net as we once needed at the height of the recession.  Additionally, with Nevada leading the nation in job growth in 2016, we also can expect employer-based coverage to become available to more people.”

A bit of confusion reigns here — don’t worry about Medicaid expansion cuts because Nevadans will be covered — but notice that the Medicaid expansion will “eventually be phased out.” One really doesn’t get to have it both ways.  But, there’s more.

Yes, the Gallup 2016 Job Creation Index gives Nevada top marks for job creation, but remember that this polling is based on asking workers if the employer is increasing hiring.   It is also statewide.  If we drill down we find positive news, but an incomplete picture.

“Employment increased in Nevada’s two large counties from September 2015 to September 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. (Large counties are defined as those with 2015 annual average employment of 75,000 or more.) Washoe County’s employment rose 5.0 percent and Clark County’s employment rose 3.7 percent.” [BLS]

What we are required to believe  is that employment increases in District 2 will be sufficient to cover some 37,500 people who will need to find employer paid insurance coverage by 2020.  Exactly how this is supposed to happen isn’t all that clear.

There are too many “ifs” in the proposition to adopt it with any enthusiasm.  IF there is continued employment increases — in the face of the financial deregulation legislation in the House and Senate which threaten to recreate the Wall Street Casino environment that wrecked Nevada’s economy in 2007-2008.  IF the employment increases in the rural portions of District 2 are sufficient to put Medicaid expansion enrollees into employer plans.

And then, there are the problems intrinsic in the AHCA in the employer sponsored insurance plans.  Those believing that the AHCA will deliver the same level of health insurance coverage in employer sponsored plans as the ACA may be in for a rude shock.

“The amendment (to the AHCA) would allow states to apply for waivers to rescind two major regulations of Obamacare, if the state can prove that healthcare costs would decrease as a result. That has led to concerns about its potential effects on the individual insurance market, but it could also change insurance for people that get coverage through their employers.

One of those Affordable Care Act-implemented protections — called essential health benefits (EHB) — requires insurers to cover a baseline of 10 health procedures and items including emergency-room visits, prenatal care, mental-health care, and some prescriptions.

Under Obamacare, employer plans could not place a lifetime limit on the amount that the plans pay out on EHBs, and required plans to limit the amount of out-of-pocket costs an employee had to pay annually, according to The Journal. That made plans more costly for employers but also provided better coverage for employees.”

Thus, there are three problems — junk plans might be back in the market; essential benefits can be reduced; and lifetime and annual benefit limits could be reintroduced.  We can safely assume that Representative Amodei’s analysis contains the usual measure of Trickle Down Happy Talk (if only the tax cuts are big enough all employers will hire enough people to make the magic happen! — See Kansas) and assumptions which sound superficially rationale but don’t hold up to much scrutiny.

Comments Off on Amodei’s Bubbles: Republican Dreams for the AHCA

Filed under Amodei, health insurance, Medicaid, nevada health, Nevada politics, Politics

Deregulation isn’t the solution, it’s the problem

Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) was pleased to vote for the so-called “Choice Act,” which rolls back some of the reforms enacted in the wake of the Wall Street casino debacle and subsequent recession as the Great Wall Street Derivative Monster collapsed like an air dancer in a Nevada wind.   The theory behind this ridiculousness is that regulations restrict commerce, and a restriction of commerce diminishes wealth, therefore diminished wealth impacts investment, ergo diminished investment equates to a limit on economic growth.  Not. So. Fast.

Yes, regulations restrict “commerce,” but only some kinds of “commerce,” generally the fraudulent variety.  I am free to issue shares of stock in my corporation — however, I am not free to issue shares of stock in the Reese River Steamboat Company.  Some sharp soul offered shares of this highly dubious company during one of the mining booms, and assuredly some investors were cheated by this obviously fraudulent sale.  We have regulations to prevent this.  We have laws and related regulations to prevent insider trading, to prevent “blue sky” stocks, and to reduce the possibility investors are cheated by financial products which promise high returns with little or no risk.  Sometimes the adage, “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is,” isn’t quite enough to prevent mismanagement of other people’s money.

Recently, Wells Fargo was found guilty of violating regulations and laws relating to the creation of phony accounts, the fine totaled a massive $185 million and some 5,300 individuals were fired. [NYT] The situation was all the more egregious because the bank was ripping off its own customers.  $100 million of that fine was the highest penalty the CFPB ever levied against a financial institution.  This is precisely the agency the so-called “Choice Act” wants to ham-string.

The “Choice Act” would eliminate the regulation regime which was intended to prevent the collapse of banking institutions.  Just for the record, let’s look at the list of US institutions that either disappeared or were acquired during the Great Recession: New Century, American Home Mortgage, Netbank, Bear Stearns, Countrywide Financial, Merrill Lynch, American International Group, Washington Mutual, Lehman Brothers, Wachovia, Sovereign Bank, National City Bank, CommerceBancorp, Downey Savings and Loan, IndyMac Federal Bank, HSBC Finance Corporation, Colonial Bank, Guaranty Bank, First Federal Bank of California, Ambac, MFGlobal, PMI Group, and FGIC.

If we extrapolate the “let the market sort it out” argument to its conclusion — it’s acceptable to allow banking institutions to over-extend themselves to such an extent that they will ultimately collapse; that’s just the market “at work.”  Fine, if the impact of such deregulation solely impinges on the banking institutions themselves, but that’s not what happens in the real world.  In the real world such supposedly safe havens (money market accounts) were in peril:

“A little over a year ago the collapse of Lehman Brothers sparked heavy redemptions from the dozen or so money market funds that held Lehman debt securities. The hit was particularly hard at The Reserve Fund, a money market fund that had a $785 million position in Lehman commercial paper. Soon The Reserve saw a run on its Primary Fund, spreading to other Reserve funds. Reserve tried to furiously sell its portfolio securities to satisfy redemptions, but this only depressed their values.

Despite its best efforts, The Reserve Primary Fund couldn’t find enough buyers and on Sept. 16 the unthinkable happened. The Primary Fund “broke the buck,” meaning that the net asset value of the fund, $1, fell to $0.97 a share. It was only the second time a money market fund, which are commonly thought of as guaranteed, broke the buck in 30 years.”

Meanwhile in Nevada, unemployment soared to 14+%, the state endured being listed among the states with the highest levels of foreclosures, and it took until 2016 for the state to recover almost all the wealth and jobs lost in the aftermath of the deregulated Wall Street casino debacle. [LVRJ]

Deregulation may sound fine when discussed in theoretical, ethereal, terms, it obviously didn’t work in the real world in which Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, WaMu, and IndyMac collapsed, and where the Reserve Primary Fund “broke the buck.”

The questions someone should ask of Representative Amodei, and other “deregulators,” are:

(1) Do you favor a return to the regulatory environment in which investment banks were allowed to over-extend and engage in risk taking far beyond their capacity to remain solvent?

(2) Do you favor a regulatory environment in which those being regulated are allowed permission to “self regulate,” without oversight from governmental agencies and institutions?

The second question is particularly important because it addresses the question of trust in commercial relationships.

The most basic of all commercial relationships is the simple act of buying and selling.  I have something to sell, and there is a potential customer for my goods or services.  This is another point at which deregulation can easily become part of the problem.  If I am selling food, there are self-evident reasons for regulating the conditions under which that food is prepared and served to the general public.  Deregulation invites disasters of the public health variety.  We trust that the food offered for sale by restaurants and groceries is safe for consumption.

If I am selling financial products does the buyer (consumer) have the expectation that my product is what it purports to be?  That it is backed by sufficient funds for ‘redemption?’ That it conforms to the standards of acceptable practices?  And, if it doesn’t, are there avenues of redress such that the consumer can be compensated?  In short, can the customer be assured that he or she can trust the product?

If I am selling a manufactured product, can the consumer trust that the item was produced in a safe way, that the product will perform as advertised, that the product will not create a hazard in my home or office?  There are voices on the fringe of Free Market thought calling  for the abolition or at least the restriction of the Consumer Product Safety Commivoicssion, who would love to see the return of Caveat Emptor, but most reasonable people agree that regulations pertaining to product safety are conducive to commerce, NOT restrictive.  A vehicle which meets or exceeds safety standards is more likely to be my choice than a vehicle which does not.  A vehicle which meets or exceeds fuel consumption standards is more like to be my choice than one which does not.  In short, regulatory standards benefit the best products (and their producers) while those who do not meet the standards have a more difficult time at the point of sale.  Now, the question becomes — do we want a regulatory environment which benefits the marginal, the inadequate, or perhaps even the corrupt producers?

Unfortunately, the deregulatory voices are answering this question in the affirmative.

Is this really the answer Representative Amodei and his cohorts want to give to constituents in the Second District? In the US?  To our customers around the world?

 

 

Comments Off on Deregulation isn’t the solution, it’s the problem

Filed under Amodei, banking, Economy, financial regulation, Foreclosures, Nevada economy, Nevada politics, Politics

SJR 34 and Your Internet Privacy

The purpose of SJR 34 (and HJR 86) was simple: To allow Internet Service Providers to collect and sell your Internet browsing history.  Not only did Senator Dean Heller support this, he signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill on March 7, 2017, one of 23 sponsors to do so.  Who’s impacted by this? Anyone who links through Comcast (17 million customers), AT&T (another 17 million customers), Time Warner Cable (add another 14 million customers), Century Link (additional 6.4 million customers), Charter (another 5 million customers), and a host of smaller providers. [Ecom] (See also PEcom)

Nevada customers of AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner, Charter, Cox and others, are also among those whose private browsing history can be tracked, collected, and sold off. [into link]

It seems bad enough to have the ISPs sell off information about browsing history to advertisers, who after browsing one day for sneakers, would want to be bombarded by advertising for the next year with sneaker ads?  Browsed for ‘best garden supplies?’ Expect ads for plant food, fertilizers, spades, and wheelbarrows for eternity? Then the scenarios become more pernicious.

Browse for information on asthma? Not only is the human browser now in line for a multitude of ads for medications, but there’s a hint here that some personal medical history may have been collected and sold.  The same issue might be raised about those looking up symptoms and treatments for everything from pediatric illnesses to Alzheimer’s Disease.  Thus far we’re only talking about the initial sales, and the use of the collections by commercial advertisers. However, there’s a question about what constitutes a buyer for the information?

The buyer might not have to be, for example, the Interpublic Group of New York City, one of the nation’s largest advertising firms. Could the buyer be the WPP Group of London, UK? Or, the Dentsu Group, of Tokyo. Could the buyer be RMAA, the largest advertising firm in Russia? Is there any protection in the bill to prevent the secondary sale of browser histories from an advertising agency to a data management and analysis company? What we have herein is a bill to allow the transfer of massive amounts of valuable data collected from individuals in the United States to the highest bidder, with little or no consideration of the after effects.

Gee, let’s hypothesize that I’m a foreign power with some experience dabbling in US state and national elections.  Let’s also assume that the foreign power is familiar with inserting ‘bots’ to drive traffic to particular websites, or insert fake news, confirmation bias ‘news,’ and other practices into the research patterns of American Internet users. What do I want? I want data on where those people ‘go’ on the Internet; the better I know my ‘target’ the better I can hone my message. Do those who go to Senator Bilgewater’s site also tend to go to sites concerning wildlife preservation?  If I can put these two bits of information together I can more effectively insert advertising either for or against the Senator. I can more effectively insert phony information into my messaging for the supporters or opponents of Bilgewater.  In short, I can ‘dabble’ more efficiently. Even more bluntly, have we handed our adversaries more ammunition for their advertising and propaganda guns?

The Senate twin in the House (HJR 86)/SJR 34 passed on March 28, 2017, only Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) voted in favor of the bill; Representatives Kihuen, Titus, and Rosen voted against it. [RC 202]

At the risk of facetiousness  on a serious topic, when Jill, of downtown East Antelope Ear, NV, goes online to search for a bargain on bed sheets, does she find herself viewing a plethora of ads for sex toys, a result of Jack’s periodic perusal of pornography sites? Would a simple search for high thread count sheets yield the splitting of those sheets in the Jack and Jill household? At least Jack and Jill will know whom to call about the issue — Senator Dean Heller and Representative Mark Amodei, who thought selling browser histories to be a grand idea at the time.

Comments Off on SJR 34 and Your Internet Privacy

Filed under Amodei, Heller, Internet, media, Nevada politics, Politics, privacy, Republicans, Titus

Amodei’s Fence Straddling: Science? No Science?

In his own, inimitable, fashion Congressman Mark Amodei (R-NV2) has encapsulated the wavering stance of those who don’t want to take any real action on climate change, but who’d like very much not to appear too much like the Inquisitors of Galileo.

“Amodei described himself as new to climate change issues and stopped short of endorsing the scientific consensus that rising global temperatures are driven by humans burning fossil fuels for energy.

But he said he will continue to gather research on the issue and added that facts should drive policy.

“It bugs me just as much when somebody starts out it is all BS as when somebody starts out the world is going to end tomorrow,” Amodei said. “If you are really going to be fact based then you need people who are going to argue both ways. You just don’t want a bunch of ‘yes’ people.” [RGJ]

First, Amodei noted that he didn’t think the request from the Trumpster transition team for a list of those Department of Energy employees who had worked on climate science projects was appropriate.  That’s good, because witch-hunts and purges have been notoriously counter productive.  Then come the excuses… “I’m new to the topic.”

This is analogous to “give me some time and I’ll get back to you.”

And, yes – facts should drive policy.  That would be scientific facts, not political ones.  Further, using the straw man technique doesn’t further even the political argument.  No one is saying “the world is going to end tomorrow.”  What scientists ARE saying is that there is concrete evidence that the increasing climate change is happening because of human activity.  These aren’t “yes men.” 

In fact, “The greater the climate expertise among those surveyed, the higher the consensus on human-caused global warming.”  [SSci]

What opponents of new energy sources and systems have been touting over the past few years is the MYTH of a lack of consensus:

“That’s why those who oppose taking action to curb climate change have engaged in a misinformation campaign to deny the existence of the expert consensus. They’ve been largely successful, as the public badly underestimate the expert consensus, in what we call the “consensus gap.” Only 16% of Americans realize that the consensus is above 90%.” [SSci]  (emphasis added)

Representative Amodei has firmly inserted himself into that mythological gap.  

On one side of his self constructed fence, he did co-sponsor the American Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit Extension, a bill which went to the House Ways and Means Committee, and then into oblivion.  On the other side, he co-sponsored the “Stop Green Initiative Abuse Act,” which amended the Energy Conservation and Production Act to repeal provisions of the Department of Energy’s weatherization assistance program for low income persons to increase the energy efficiency of dwellings. [OTI]

A some point it might behoove the Representative to note that not every one else is straddling a semantic fence and continue his education on the issue:

Here’s the Department of Defense on the implications of climate change on national security.

“The report finds that climate change is a security risk, Pentagon officials said, because it degrades living conditions, human security and the ability of governments to meet the basic needs of their populations. Communities and states that already are fragile and have limited resources are significantly more vulnerable to disruption and far less likely to respond effectively and be resilient to new challenges, they added.” [DoD]

In addition to national defense, there’s also the not-so-small matter of emergency planning and responses.  Emergency Managers have some thoughts on this:

“Since storms are becoming more severe, disaster response costs have risen. The costs of major hurricanes has increased sharply over the last decade, and the spending totals for cleaning up after major floods across the Midwest and South have spiked. More victims and more damages mean more money. If supplies are not available, they must be flown in. Victims may go without necessities and become ill, which results in increased medical costs or an increased demand for medical supplies. Disaster plans must account for the increasing severity of storms and how they create the need for more response supplies.” [EMD.org]

This scenario isn’t too difficult to follow.  Climate change leads to severe storms, severe storms cause more damage, more damage means more costs, more expenses mean more money.   The bottom line is that any emergency management plan which does NOT incorporate the effects of climate change isn’t really a plan at all – just a prayer and a wish list.

As much as Representative Amodei may want to dawdle, fence straddle, and muse about “collecting more facts,” the facts themselves are clear – climate change is happening – climate change is caused by human activity – and to ignore these facts is to make this country (and many others) more vulnerable.

***********************************************************

It has now been 2059 days since the president-elect promised to release his tax returns (April 27, 2011) In light of the ‘Russian Connection’ to the 2016 campaign it seems essential for the American public to find out what financial ties the prospective president has to the Russian government and economy.

Comments Off on Amodei’s Fence Straddling: Science? No Science?

Filed under Amodei, ecology, Nevada politics, Politics

Amodei Privatization Promoter: This Time It’s Public Land

No trespassing public land Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) is happily promoting his notion that the state of Nevada should control more of the federal land within its borders; the Reno Gazette Journal poses some serious questions:

“U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei has started meetings to transfer millions of acres of public land in Nevada from the federal government to the state.

He is coming off an election win and, more importantly, he was Donald Trump’s Nevada campaign manager through controversy and celebration. Now he may have the juice to finally realize his longtime dream of transferring land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management to the state of Nevada.

While this may bring control over the land closer to home, it will also put Nevada taxpayers at risk and decrease options for outdoor enthusiasts.” (emphasis added)

For the moment, let’s focus on the taxpayers side of the ledger, as summarized in the Gazette Journal editorial:

“There are big costs borne by whoever controls these lands. A few examples include fighting wildfires covering tens of thousands of acres every year; defending lawsuits by ranchers and environmentalists over land use; and simply monitoring tens of thousands of square miles of open range for people who would abuse it. If sage grouse are ever declared an endangered species – as it very nearly was recently – use of the land would be blocked until the species recovers, creating costs and ending any potential revenues. In each of these cases, all American taxpayers currently foot the bills. Under new plans, Nevada taxpayers will be on the hook – either by increased taxes or decreased services.”  [RGJ]

First, a bit of supporting evidence for the Gazette Journal’s editorial position. The newspaper is correct – fire fighting is an expensive business.

The latest statistics available online concerning the total costs for fighting wildland fires show that Nevada had a lucky year in 2015 – California not so much so.  The “Rough” Fire which began on July 31, 2015 and wasn’t contained until October 12, 2015 cost about $120,930,243. [NIFC pdf]  However, a state needn’t be as unfortunate as California and Alaska were in 2015 to have high firefighting expenses.  The 2012 statistics show that Nevada’s Long Draw Fire cost $4,360,000 and the Holloway Complex Fire cost $9,166,719. The Bull Run Fire cost another $4,816,272.  [PSNIFC pdf]

It’s all well and good to complain vociferously about the BLM and the National Forest Service – until the fire starts, the winds increase, and the state (not the national) taxpayers are liable for the associated expenses.  It’s also well worth noting that wildland fires often require multi-agency coordination, such as that provided by the National Interagency Fire Center.  The NIFC includes the Forest Service, the BLM, the National Weather Service, the National Park Service, the BIA, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and FEMA.  Consider for a moment the resources these combined agencies can bring to bear on a fire situation, and how these resources cannot be duplicated by a single state.  In 2015 the Nevada state fire assistance budget for the Division of Forestry was $1,348,200.  The Landscape Scale Restoration budget was $300,000. [FSUSDA.gov pdf]

The obvious way for the State to dodge responsibility for these kinds of expenses is to privatize (aka sell) the formerly public lands.   The Gazette Journal is also correct in citing Texas as an example of a loss of access to formerly public lands.  At present about 90% of the land in Texas is in private hands. [PWD pdf] The unique history of Texas creates a way to compare access in states with federal land management and a state with a traditional state and private management focus. [WOS] Loss of access in Texas spreads as urbanization, suburbanization, and resort development increase.

Anglers in California and Montana do well to hire guides, if for no other reason than not to get hit with trespassing charges in private waters. Want to hunt in Texas – there’s a map for that.  Idaho witnessed one of the more blatant examples of what happens under private ownership to the interests of hunters when ownership changes and the rules change along with it.  172,00 acres of land in Idaho were sold by the Potlatch Corp. to two Texas billionaires – who shut down hunting on their newly acquired property.

There’s something to be said for “freedom, private enterprise, individual responsibility,” and all the other catch phrases of modern Republican parlance.  There are other things to be said when the private owners cut off access to streams and rivers, hunting territory, snow mobile routes, hiking and horse riding trails, and historical or recreational sites.

There are also wildlife management questions to be answered if privatization is the result, even if access isn’t a leading issue.  Who protects the habitat for that which is hunted?  Who protects streams and habitat for trout, bass, and other pan fish?  Who raises the quail? How are these efforts to be coordinated?  Who pays for the coordination? Are these expenses shared nationwide, or is the expense posted to the state or to private entities?’

Privatization is a leading Republican banner …. leading straight for a barbed wire fence with a No Trespassing sign attached.

Comments Off on Amodei Privatization Promoter: This Time It’s Public Land

Filed under Amodei, Nevada politics, Politics, public lands