When ancient Romans wrote their plays, they perfected the use of a machine to solve plot problems. The Romans frequently put their "good guys" in untenable situations with the "bad guys" ready to destroy them. A mere human hero could not extricate them.
The clever Romans built a huge machine (a large winch and pulley), lowered a human actor into the middle of the mayhem, and called the actor "a god."
This "god out of machine" (deus ex machina) quickly made things right.
Today we are all looking for a deus ex machina to solve our state's revenue-spending problem. Unfortunately, it's not going to happen. And simply slashing our way out of our fiscal crisis will not work either.
Our state history provides little solace in solving our current problems. From our constitutional beginnings in 1864 to our current economic emergency, Nevada has had a boom-bust economic cycle.
The state has been historically exploited by key industries " mining, transportation and gaming. The result has been vast profits siphoned off to national and international corporations in good times with marginally little left in down times. Our historically small population (and its dispersion over huge geographic areas), a very strong "independent" character and a politically cultivated anti-government, anti-tax mantra have contributed to our current dilemma.
It is a tribute to both past and current leaders, who fought hard to build our state, that we have done as well as we have. But we are now in danger of failing completely. This is the time to rethink our way of life and our view of what we want from our government.
What are we willing to pay for and what services do we require to make life in Nevada more livable for all? If our leaders do not take dramatic, creative, courageous actions, we may not survive economically or socially. Businesses will not find Nevada attractive if the schools and universities are dismantled. People will no longer move to this state because it will offer little of what they need for their children and families to be safe, healthy and prosperous.
There will be no deus ex machina to help. We ourselves now must demonstrate the courage to fix our broken tax system.
Let's look at equalizing our taxes in a way that is more equitable for businesses, individuals and corporations. Let's re-examine tax breaks. They may not be working.
Traditionally we have protected mining and gaming; we now must tax them fairly. We shifted the cost of doing state business by passing taxes on to tourists. It was a mistake.
We have made a personal income tax unusable. It was a mistake. Let's put it back on the table, at least as an option to discuss.
We are one of the few states without a lottery. Why?
Finally, we must seriously develop alternative energy sources, "green industries," especially solar and geo-thermal but others as well. Let's build our universities to support these efforts rather than cut their budgets by half.
It will take more than one legislative session to do all that needs to be done. If, as our state song suggests, "Home Means Nevada," let's make our home more habitable and worthy of passing on to our children.
- Dr. Eugene T. Paslov, former Nevada superintendent of schools, is a board member for Silver State Charter High School in Carson City.