Newspaper column: Think tank provides road map for 2015 lawmakers

The state of Nevada — for the first time since before the Great Depression — has a Republican governor and Republican majorities in both the Assembly and state Senate, as well as all the statewide elective offices, providing an opportunity to finally attempt to curb the growth of state spending and address much-needed reforms in education, land management, commerce, health care, taxation, debt, labor and public employee pensions.

To achieve these objectives there ought to be a guidebook, something like Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” or Paul Ryan’s “A Road Map for America’s Future.”

As luck would have it — actually as good planning would have it, because luck had nothing to do with it — the libertarian-leaning Nevada Policy Research Institute this week has published “Solutions 2015: A Sourcebook for Nevada Policymakers,” a 114-page compendium of facts, figures, charts, graphs and recommendations for putting the ship of state on a more even keel, as related in this week’s newspaper column available online at The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News and the Elko Daily Free Press. The book’s contents expand upon “Solutions 2013,” also penned by Geoffrey Lawrence, NPRI’s director of research.

Lawrence uses historical Nevada data, as well as hundreds of hours of research into the best practices in other states, to buoy his reasoning for recommendations on more than 50 issues our 2015 Legislature needs to address.

The first rattle out of the “Solutions 2015” box is a call for one of the most significant and fundamental initiatives to curb state spending growth — Tax and Spending Control. TASC would limit real, per capita spending growth to that warranted by population growth and inflation.

This is needed because since 2003 spending outpaced population and inflation by $5 billion more than spending in the previous decade.

TASC was first championed in Nevada a decade ago by then-state Sen. Bob Beers, currently the only announced candidate for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Harry Reid.

As with its 2013 predecessor, “Solutions” is notable less for what it suggests lawmakers do as undo.

For example, the book notes that Nevada has the highest electric power bills in the Intermountain West and its per kilowatt-hour retail electricity cost is 37 percent higher than neighboring Utah’s.

The first recommendation is repeal of the so-called renewable portfolio standard (RPS) that requires 25 percent of all electricity sold in the state by 2025 to be generated by expensive solar, wind or geothermal facilities. According to “Solutions,” Nevada power bills are expected to rise 6 percent in the next decade due to RPS alone.

Next, repeal the 2013 law that requires the shutting down of all coal-fired power plants and deregulate the monopoly electricity market, which, by the way, the state was planning to do before the Enron market manipulation threw lawmakers into a panic.

Then there is the topic I have been fulminating about for decades, the 1937 prevailing wage law, which requires all public works projects in the state to pay wages based on a flawed survey of construction companies that always comes out to be union scale.

According to Lawrence’s research, this law requires the state, cities, counties, school districts and other government entities to pay 45 percent higher wages than necessary at a cost to taxpayers of $1 billion a year.

But probably the most important recommendations in “Solutions” are found in the section on public education, which recommends real reform and not just more funding. “Nevada has nearly tripled per-pupil funding, on an inflation-adjusted basis, while educational quality has deteriorated,” the book notes. “The U.S. Department of Education reports that, between FY1960 and FY2011, real, per-pupil funding for ‘current expenditures’ (not accounting for employee benefits, capital outlays and debt repayment) increased from $3,268 to $9,035. Over the same time period, test scores have remained flat while graduation rates have dramatically declined.”

The fundamental solution is competition through choice — private schools, charter schools, education savings accounts, education tax credits and scholarship programs.

In addition there needs to be competition in the classroom, where teachers would be paid based on merit — how much students progress during the school years — and not seniority alone, as is the case now.

Though Nevada has spent $2.5 billion on class-size reduction in kindergarten through third grade over the past 25 years, there has been no observable improvement in educational outcomes. In fact, according to reports Lawrence uncovered, Nevada students in classes of less than 15 on average did not score as well in reading and math as students in larger classes. End class-size reduction.

Also, all-day kindergarten and early childhood programs have shown no lasting benefit.

Perhaps this election will have consequences.

No sane country for old men

Obama reads his amnesty speech

First Obama waved his magic pen and granted those brought into the country illegally as children to stay without fear of deportation. Now he is unilaterally granting their parents green cards and Social Security cards. Perhaps second cousins will be given free airline tickets next.

An opponent of this kind of action once said:

“If making it easy to be an illegal alien isn’t enough, how about offering a reward for being an illegal immigrant? No sane country would do that, right? Guess again. If you break our laws by entering this country without permission and give birth to a child, we reward that child with U.S. citizenship and guarantee access to all public and social services this country provides. Now that’s a lot of services. Is it any wonder that two-thirds of the babies born at taxpayer expense at county run hospitals in Los Angeles are born to illegal alien mothers?”

First, it was babies born here, then children brought here and then their parents.

The “opponent,” of course, was Nevada Sen. Harry Reid who spoke those words on the floor of the Senate in 1993.

These days Harry gets up in the morning and pledges allegiance to the Democratic Party — not his insane country — and the power for which it stands.

By the way, that Earned Income Tax Credit that can come with that Social Security card can be quite lucrative, as The Daily Caller points out.

Under the EITC, two parents earning less than $47,000 in 2014 could get a $6,000 tax credit. Those with incomes of around $20,000 could get nearly $15,000. Nearly half of all legal and illegal immigrants have income below the poverty level.

No sane country gives away money to people who violate their laws.


‘If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported’ — starting when?

Obama speech tonight:

If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported.

Center for Immigration Studies report from May:

In 2013, ICE freed 36,007 convicted criminal aliens from detention who were awaiting the outcome of deportation proceedings, according to a document obtained by the Center for Immigration Studies. This group included aliens convicted of hundreds of violent and serious crimes, including homicide, sexual assault, kidnapping, and aggravated assault. The list of crimes also includes more than 16,000 drunk or drugged driving convictions. The vast majority of these releases from ICE custody were discretionary, not required by law (in fact, in some instances, apparently contrary to law), nor the result of local sanctuary policies.

The document reveals that the 36,007 convicted criminal aliens freed from ICE custody in many instances had multiple convictions. Among them, the 36,007 had nearly 88,000 convictions, including:

  • 193 homicide convictions (including one willful killing of a public official with gun)

  • 426 sexual assault convictions

  • 303 kidnapping convictions

  • 1,075 aggravated assault convictions

  • 1,160 stolen vehicle convictions

  • 9,187 dangerous drug convictions

  • 16,070 drunk or drugged driving convictions

  • 303 flight escape convictions


Nevada taxpayers will pick up the tab for Barry and Harry’s amnesty

Obama at Del Sol High School in 2008 (R-J photo)

Obama tonight will address the nation and explain how he is going to unilaterally rewrite legislation to grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants and then come to Las Vegas’ Del Sol High School with his pen in hand to sign the deal with Harry Reid at his side.

“This is personal to me,” Reid said in a statement. “There is no issue I have worked on more in my time as Democratic leader than immigration reform.”

What Barry and Harry fail to say is just who is going to pick up the tab for this magnanimity. Hint: The states, because it is the states that pay for education and most medical care and welfare benefits.

And Nevada will be among the hardest hit, because Nevada has by far the highest percentage of illegal immigrants of any state and the level has gone up in recent years.

According to a Pew Research report this week, in 2012 Nevada’s population included 7.6 percent illegals, its workforce was 10.2 percent illegals and its school enrollment included 17.7 percent whose parents are not in the country legally, all the highest levels in the nation, and those figures are up from two years prior.

And those figures could go up with amnesty since more illegals would be expected to try to join family members already here, expecting little chance of detection or deportation.

Just a few years ago the Las Vegas newspaper documented a small portion of the burden on the medical system of illegals by noting the cost of providing dialysis to illegals was costing UMC $24 million a year. Gov. Brian Sandoval has expanded Medicaid, which could make newly “legal” immigrants eligible for that and other benefits.

A Heritage Foundation report has estimated the lifetime fiscal cost of amnesty could reach $6.3 trillion, depending on how many are covered by the action.

Heritage chart

A report by the Federation for American Immigration Reform spells out some of the benefits for which newly legalized immigrants will be eligible, many state funded. Aliens with so-called deferred action are eligible for ObamaCare (which is disputed by some news reports), Social Security, Earned Income Tax Credit, Unemployment, Medicare. If they are children and pregnant women, they are also eligible for health care benefits through Medicaid and SCHIP in states that have opted to cover them, the report says.

Here’s the bill.




Emperor Obama coming to Vegas to grant a boon to his subjects

Obama — bringing his pen and his phone — is coming to Las Vegas Friday reportedly to tout his executive fiat by which he is granting amnesty to millions of illegal aliens, paying no heed to the fact that the Constitution gives the power to legislate to Congress and not the president. The announcement of his plan is expected Thursday evening.

When Obama last spoke at Del Sol High School in January 2013 about immigration, Harry Reid said:

“President Obama offered a clear vision of the steps we need to take to fix our broken immigration system, and made clear that he stands ready to work with the members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who are currently drafting a common-sense, bipartisan solution to this issue.”

But now Reid says, “I think when the president decides to do his executive order, he should go big. As big as he can.”

But this is nothing new for Obama.

His administration has unilaterally rewritten the ObamaCare law at least 42 times, pushing back deadlines and giving tax abatements to those in the federal exchange though the law says they are only for those in state exchanges — the latter coming to a Supreme Court near you soon.

His IRS investigated conservative groups that tried to get tax-exempt status.

His EPA wrote rules that made coal power virtually illegal, exceeding the law, as it did with clean water rules.

His federal land agencies have overstepped on enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, punished oil companies that kill birds but giving free rein to windmills and solar power plants.

His Education Department waived requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act and told college campuses how to restrict “free speech.”

Obama ordered American citizens to be killed with drones but without due process.

His agencies illegally obtained the phone records of reporters.

The Department of Justice illegally sold guns for export to Mexico as part of Fast and Furious.

He failed to notify Congress as the law requires before releasing Gitmo terrorists in exchange for release of an AWOL American.

Sen. Ted Cruz added the list of Obama’s abuses of power:

• Disregarded 1996 welfare reform law in granting broad work waivers for work requirements of welfare.

• Refused to prosecute violation of drug laws with certain mandatory minimums.

• Illegally refused to act on Yucca Mountain’s application to become a nuclear waste repository.

• Illegally revealed the existence of sealed indictments in the Benghazi investigation.

• Though probably not unconstitutional, lied about Benghazi.

• Continued to give Egypt aid after the military took over its government, even though federal law prohibits aid to Egypt in the event of a coup.

• Had SWAT teams raid a Gibson guitar factory and seize property, on the purported basis that Gibson had broken India’s environmental laws — but no charges were filed.

• Government agencies are engaging in “Operation Choke Point,” where the government asks banks to “choke off” access to financial services for customers engaging in conduct the Administration does not like — such as “ammunition sales.

• Aided drug cartels instead of enforcing immigration laws — as found by a federal judge. Border Patrol agents, multiple times, knowingly helped smuggle illegal immigrant children into the U.S.; “the DHS is encouraging parents to seriously jeopardize the safety of their children.”

• Dismissed charges filed by Bush Administration against New Black Panther Party members who were videotaped intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling station during the 2008 election.

Investor’s Business Daily today had a partial list of Obama misdeeds:

• Abrogate well-established bankruptcy law to turn over control of General Motors to its unions who helped elect him.

• Issue unlawful recess-appointments at influential regulators — the National Labor Relations Board and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — while the Senate remained in session.

• Sue states for enforcing their own voter ID laws.

• Claim executive privilege to shield an attorney general held in contempt of Congress for not responding to subpoenas to turn over records pertaining to a reckless and unprecedented program known as Fast and Furious that resulted in a border patrol agent’s murder.

• Be held in contempt of court for illegally obstructing oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

• Attempt to block a major manufacturing company — Boeing — from its legal right to open a manufacturing line in a right-to-work state, South Carolina.

• Arbitrarily declare the existing law under the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and unenforceable.

• Sue states for enforcing immigration laws passed by Congress.

• Have his Environmental Protection Agency repudiated by a federal judge for illegally attempting to shut down coal operations in Appalachia.

• Bypass Congress and ram through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, aka Dream Act, by executive order.

• Authorize the release of 36,000 criminal aliens, including rapists, kidnappers, arsonists, burglars, sex offenders and 193 murderers.

Michael Ramirez cartoon


Reporting on solar power plants — a week late and few dollars short

Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System just across the California border. (AP file photo by John Locher)

The Las Vegas newspaper finally got around to printing an AP story about the fact that huge solar thermal power plant just across the border in California is not performing as advertised.

In fact, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System  is producing half of its expected annual output, the story says, though others have put the output at 30 percent of rated capacity or even one quarter — and that was more than a week ago.

Though the story relates that the $2.2 billion project was built by BrightSource Energy with a $1.6 billion federal loan guarantee, it doesn’t bother to mention that the billionaire owners are not paying loan payments and are seeking a $539 million cash grant from the Treasury Department, as reported by The Wall Street Journal on Sept. 23.

Though it has been reported that the plant has applied to use more natural gas to get its boilers operating when the sun fails to do the job, the story details that operators had thought they would need to use natural gas an hour a day, but instead are using gas an average of 4½ hours a day. So how much of the plant’s half-capacity production is from solar and how much from gas? Perhaps that’s were the one quarter figure comes from.

The story also makes no mention of the thousands of birds that have been killed in 800-degree heat of the sun’s rays focused by thousands of mirrors on the plant’s 450-foot tall towers.

Harry Reid was once quoted in a BrightSource press release about the Ivanpah project: “I am very happy to see utility-scale solar projects like this one moving forward with strong Administration support, and I am hopeful that this project will serve as a cornerstone of the clean energy economy in the Southwestern U.S. I look forward to BrightSource and other solar companies putting more Nevadans to work by building major projects like this in Nevada very soon.”

In 2010 Harry held a fundraiser at BrightSource’s headquarters in California, shortly after the firm got the $1.6 billion loan guarantee.

A website called The Party Blog reported on some other cozy relationships. Brightsource reportedly paid $40,000 to R&R Partners, supporters of Reid, to work on stimulus funding matters. BrightSource also had a deal with Harvey Whittemore’s moribund Coyote Springs Land Company — Whittemore was tight with Harry until he went to prison for illegal contributions to Reid — for the lease of some land for further solar projects.



Winners are the ones who get to write history so ‘nuances’ can be found among the graves

Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman (Library of Congress/AP photo)

Does the end justify the means?

That eternal question came to mind as I perused a light, little historic piece in the Sunday Las Vegas newspaper on the 150th anniversary of Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s sacking of Atlanta and March to the Sea. (The Review-Journal does not post all AP stories on its website, but a version can be found at the Washington Post site.)

Here is a snippet:

Sherman remains a rare Civil War figure still readily remembered.

Many Southerners quote family stories about “the devil incarnate.” Confederate-interest websites brand him “a war criminal” and worse.

But the passage of time has allowed a more nuanced view.

At a re-enactment in Atlanta, David French, portraying one of Sherman’s troops, said, “He took the chivalry out of war, and frankly it’s why he won. He was really one of the first modern generals.”

Many military historians agree, saying he influenced a broadened view of what’s acceptable war-making.

The story recounts how Sherman’s army “lived off the land” by taking civilians’ food and a few sundry items of some intrinsic value for later, and how the army burned “cotton gins, barns, factories, Confederate leaders’ homes,” as well as tearing up railroad tracks.

But the presence of historic facts allow a less nuanced view of the deeds of Lincoln’s general’s behavior at the same time the first Geneva Convention was being drafted.

Then of course Lincoln had his own bit of sophistry in the form of General Orders No. 100, which among other things dictated:

All wanton violence committed against persons in the invaded country, all destruction of property not commanded by the authorized officer, all robbery, all pillage or sacking, even after taking a place by main force, all rape, wounding, maiming, or killing of such inhabitants, are prohibited under the penalty of death, or such other severe punishment as may seem adequate for the gravity of the offense. (emphasis added, of course)

While the AP story makes no mention of it — historian Thomas J. DiLorenzo, author of “The Real Lincoln” and “Lincoln Unmasked” — points out that rape by Sherman’s troops was quite common. Whether it was ordered by an authorized officer is not so well documented.

“Although it is rarely mentioned by ‘mainstream’ historians, many acts of rape were committed by these federal soldiers,” DiLorenzo writes. “The University of South Carolina’s library contains a large collection of thousands diaries and letters of Southern women that mention these unspeakable atrocities.”

Nor do most mainstream stories mention Sherman’s troops sacked the slave cabins as well as the plantation houses. Nor that is was routine for Union soldiers to hang slaves by the neck until they told where the plantation owners’ valuables were hidden.

Perhaps Sherman was just following orders.

DiLorenzo notes that from the beginning Lincoln set out to make the civilians of the South suffer for their states’ attempt to secede. The “Anaconda Plan” was to blockade all Southern ports and starve the economy and the people. Medicine was a contraban.

Sherman’s artillery bombardment destroyed 90 percent of Atlanta and its civilian population was scattered into the already desolated countryside in winter.

Not everyone agreed with such scorched earth tactics. Shortly after  Gen. George McClellan wrote Lincoln asking that the war be conducted according to “the highest principles known to Christian civilization,” Lincoln sacked him.

Occasionally one can find Sherman quoted as to his disdain for the citizens of the South:

To the petulant and persistent secessionists, why, death is mercy, and the quicker he or she is disposed of the better. Satan and the rebellious saints of Heaven were allowed a continuous existence in hell merely to swell their punishment. To such as would rebel against a Government so mild and just as ours was in peace, a punishment equal would not be unjustified.

The victor is the one who gets to write the history.

If the South had won the war, would Sherman have told a tribunal he was just following orders?