Letter: narrow interests don’t serve public welfare
I went to the meeting of the Task Force for Long Term Financial Analysis and Planning on Dec. 8.
Let me say up front I did not stay for the whole meeting. By the time a representative from the Legislative Council Bureau started explaining to this panel of “experts” step by step, how the budget is created and how the legislative process works, I’d had enough and left.
I did stay long enough to observe Mr. Ernaut’s swan song appearance as the Governor’s Chief of Staff, and there are a couple of points he made that need a response.
First, assumptions. Mr. Ernaut made quite a to-do about assumptions pointing out, quite correctly, that if the assumptions going in are no good, what comes out the other end won’t be very good either. But then the problems began as he spent the rest of his talk spouting false assumptions.
Mr. Ernaut waved his arm around crying about “wildly fluctuating revenues.” For the umpteenth time since 1981, the combined revenue to the general fund from sales and gaming taxes has never, repeat never, fallen year over year and that includes two recessions.
Mr. Ernaut made much of the crisis in the early ’90s, and the draconian cuts in the budget that had to be made. But was that a Nevada recession or a national recession? Again, combined sales and gaming revenues rose in ’91, ’92 and ’93. What state, operating with even the most “stable” tax base came through the last recession any better than Nevada?
More: reading the minutes of the first meeting of this committee two documents were presented to justify the “need” for a financial analysis. One was the Price Waterhouse/Urban Institute study bought and paid for by the Resort Association. The other was the “Outlook for State and Local Finances – the Dangers of Structural Deficits to the Future of American Education,” bought and paid for by the NEA.
While both these organizations are perfectly legitimate, they are also both powerful, self-serving factions within our society. They may sincerely believe that what’s good for them is good for society but is that assumption necessarily correct? No, it is not. Serving the narrow interests of powerful factions does not promote the general welfare. It promotes specific welfare and is trickle-down economics at its worst. Accepting these two reports as foundation documents for a financial analysis of Nevada government is a false assumption of a magnitude to match “the earth is flat.”
Finally, has anyone paid even the slightest attention to the makeup of this panel? There are no elected officials on it. It has 13 members, eight of whom (61 percent) are public employees. So we have public employees formulating policy decisions about whether or not the people of Nevada will be required to provide more resources to the government of Nevada. No conflict there, right? Oh, by the way, the bill that created this panel (AB 525) was introduced by Jan Evans, a public employee/legislator. No conflict there either, right?
I believe this panel is just another example of how we have undergone and continue to undergo a major restructuring of our system of government. This “new system” represents a governmental structure that is diametrically opposed to the classical liberal principles of representative government on which our nation and our state were founded. We abandon those principles at great risk to ourselves and future generations.