Editorial: Steyer ups ante in bidding war for votes

All of the candidates still seeking the Democratic presidential nomination have at one time or the other advocated doubling the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. Recently billionaire businessman Tom Steyer upped the ante in his vote buying scheme by calling for tripling the minimum wage to $22 an hour.

As The Wall Street Journal editorialists point out, this is not a serious campaign ploy. It is the punchline of a Republican joke. “When liberals call for a nationwide $15 minimum wage, conservatives often offer a half-serious rhetorical response: Why stop there?” the editorial recounts, adding that Steyer doesn’t get the joke.

Tom Steyer illustration

At a campaign stop in South Carolina Steyer told his audience, “The fair number should be $22 an hour. That should be the minimum wage in the United States of America: $22. Think about what this country would be like if we had a $22 minimum wage: completely different.”

Yes, think about the number of people who would be unemployed. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25, though a number of states and cities have raised their minimum wages, with often counterproductive results. One study found the average low-wage worker in Seattle lost $125 a month because the minimum wage was raised to $15 an hour and hours were cut.

This past year the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that somewhere between 1.3 million and 3.7 million would lose their jobs if the minimum wage were raised to $15 an hour. What would that number be at $22? How many businesses would be bankrupted by such a wage hike?

A Cato Institute analysis in 2012 found that a 10 percent increase in the U.S. minimum wage raises food prices by up to 4 percent. Image what a 200 percent increase would do.

The problem is that study after study has found that raising the minimum wage does not lift more people out of poverty, but rather its net effect is to actually increase the portion of families that are poor and near-poor, according to an analysis of those studies by the Heritage Foundation. This is because a few will see higher income, others will have their work hours reduced and some will drop from minimum wage to zero wage due to layoffs and businesses closing their doors.

But all the Democratic candidates are on board for raising the minimum wage.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has called for $15 an hour and indexing to the median hourly wage so low-wage workers keep up with middle-income workers.

Sen. Bernie Sanders said, “A job must lift workers out of poverty, not keep them in it,” calling $7.25 a starvation wage.

Pete Buttigieg could also phase out the subminimum for tipped workers.

Warren also would index the minimum wage to median hourly wages.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar would start in her first 100 days in office by raising the minimum wage for federal contractors to $15 an hour.

Mike Bloomberg would hike the minimum wage and index it to inflation.

They are all in the same choir. Just one is singing much more loudly than the others.

As Thomas Sowell points out in his book “Basic Economics,” “Making it illegal to pay less than a given amount does not make a worker’s productivity worth that amount — and, if it is not, that worker is unlikely to be employed. Yet minimum wage laws are almost always discussed politically in terms of the benefits they confer on workers receiving those wages. Unfortunately, the real minimum wage is always zero, regardless of the laws, and that is the wage that many workers receive in the wake of the creation or escalation of a government-mandated minimum wage, because they either lose their jobs or fail to find jobs when they enter the labor force.”

Nevada’s Democratic caucus is Saturday. It doesn’t look like Democratic voters have much choice on this issue.

Now that Nevada has election day voter registration, we wonder how many Republicans might switch over just to keep this bidding war alive. Not suggesting it, of course.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

 

Editorial: What better time to rein in welfare handouts?

By the caterwauling of the Democratic politicians, you’d think federal bureaucrats were stealing into homes in the middle of the night and snatching food out of the pantries of starving families.

The Agriculture Department has announced plans to cut back on the eligibility waivers that states have been liberally granting to increase the number of people getting food stamps under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

“The Trump administration,” complained Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, “is driving the vulnerable into hunger just as the Christmas season approaches.”

Getty Images via WSJ

“Both the final and proposed rule changes to SNAP are unconscionable, and will have devastating impacts to low-income Nevadans who make up our most vulnerable citizens — including families, children, and veterans,” bemoaned Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak in a press release. “While we appreciate the issuance of a temporary waiver, the Administration’s rule changes, both final and proposed, have created uncertainty for the states, and I will be working with DHHS (Nevada Department of Health and Human Services) to determine next steps on how to address the increased hardship and hunger that will be created by taking away low-income families’ basic food assistance.”

The governor’s press release said 78,000 of the 400,000 Nevadans currently receiving food stamps could lose eligibility due to a tightening of eligibility rules.

In September, the Trump administration announced that it would no longer allow states to automatically issue food stamps to anyone receiving any federal welfare benefits whatsoever. Only those households receiving $50 a month for six months or more from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program would be eligible.

At the time Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue said, “For too long, this loophole has been used to effectively bypass important eligibility guidelines. Too often, states have misused this flexibility without restraint.”

But Gov. Sisolak then complained, “This is an absolutely unconscionable act that would have dire impacts on the most vulnerable populations in our state, especially those with disabilities, the elderly, and low-income children on free and reduced-price school meals.”

This past week the administration said it also is tightening the work requirements for childless adults. According to The Wall Street Journal, a 1996 welfare reform act said that childless adults had to work or train at least 20 hours a week to get food stamps. The new rule says waivers for this requirement will only be granted in areas with an unemployment rate in excess of 6 percent. Nevada’s October not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3.7 percent.

This change does not affect families, the disabled or those older than 50 — only able-bodied adults living in a country where there are now 7 million job openings for only 6 million job seekers. The national unemployment rate is at a 50-year low. What better time to rein in the free ride?

Expensive welfare handouts should be reserved only for those truly in need and not become a universal entitlement. The current lax rules waste billions of dollars of taxpayer money.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Editorial: Bill language should not allow water grab

A growing number of public and private entities are joining a concerted effort to make sure a bill pending before Congress does not inadvertently create a means for Clark County to tap rural groundwater, though Clark County officials protest that is not the intent of the proposal.

According to Great Basin Water Network (GBWN) — a coalition of conservationists, rural officials, tribes and agricultural interests — there are fears that the wording in the proposed Southern Nevada Economic Development and Conservation Act, whether intentional or not, could skirt a federal judge’s ruling blocking a proposed 300-mile right-of-way for a network of water pipelines.

The bulk of the bill, not yet introduced in Congress, proposes freeing up more than 40,000 acres of public land in Clark County for economic development, but two sections at the end of the 21-page bill call for the Interior Department to give the Southern Nevada Water Authority rights-of-way for an electric power line that “shall be subject only to the terms, conditions and stipulations identified in the existing rights-of-way, and shall not be subject to further administrative or judicial review. The right-of-way shall be granted in perpetuity and shall not require the payment of rental fees.” Opponents fear that a right-of-way for a power line could just as easily be used for pipelines.

Two years ago a federal judge ruled that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) could grant the water agency right-of-way for its network of pipelines to take groundwater beneath White Pine, Lincoln and Nye counties, but first it had to come up with plans to mitigate the potential loss of wildlife habitat due to a draw down of the water table, as is required by the CleanWater Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.

That might prove to be impossible, since federal studies show the interconnected aquifers are already at equilibrium — meaning water that is now being drawn from the aquifers is being replaced gallon for gallon annually with no leeway for additional withdrawal. The water agency proposes to withdraw 84,000 acre-feet of groundwater per year. The project is projected to cost more than $15 billion and could triple water rates in Clark County.

This past week more than a dozen entities joined in opposition to Congress approving the right-of-way proposal. These include several Nevada and Utah counties, three Indian tribes and a number of environmental groups.

“What Clark County is proposing is a pro-pipeline bill,” said Kyle Roerink, executive director of the GBWN. “Elected officials, attorneys, and non-profit organizations that span Nevada, Utah and the region all agree: The SNWA wants the congressional delegation to carry its water by surreptitiously advancing a project that has consistently lost in federal and state courts. The Nevada delegation deserves better than sneaky end-runs masked as technicalities. For now, the name of the bill should be the Great Basin Water Grab Act of 2019.”

A resolution passed by the Duckwater Shosone Tribe warned, “Science has shown that the pipeline would ultimately destroy Bashsahwahbee, killing off Swamp Cedars and drying up the Sacred Water Valley’s springs and aquifers that plant and wildlife currently depend upon.”

A spokesman for the water authority told the Las Vegas newspapers there is no intention to use the right-of-way for anything other than power lines. Though he thought the language was sufficiently clear, he said it has been modified recently. Another official offered that it might be further altered to allay concerns.

Clark County could use the economic development. Changing the language in the bill should satisfy the opposition.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Nevada State Sen. Pete Goicoechea and Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network, discuss efforts by Clark County to tap rural groundwater. (Pix by Roger Moellendorf)

 

Newspaper column: Trump appeals court nominee looks right for the job

This past Friday President Trump nominated former Nevada Solicitor General Lawrence VanDyke to a seat on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which handles cases for nine Western states and territories in the Pacific.

As solicitor general, VanDyke served in the office of then-Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt. He also served as solicitor general in Montana and Texas. 

VanDyke earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Montana State University-Bozeman and graduated magna cum laude in 2005 from Harvard Law School, where he was editor of both the Harvard Law Review and Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. He is a member of the conservative Federalist Society and currently is a deputy assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division at the Department of Justice.

Nevada’s Democratic U.S. Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen immediately issued a statement sharply critical of the nomination.

Lawrence VanDyke

“We’re frustrated the White House is choosing to ignore the bipartisan work undertaken by our offices in concert with Nevada’s legal community to identify and recommend qualified Nevadans for the Ninth Circuit,” said their statement. “The Administration’s decision to put forward this nominee ignores the broad, consensus-based opinion of Nevadans. Instead, the White House has chosen to move forward on their extreme judicial agenda. While we will review the full record of this nominee, we are disappointed that the White House has chosen to nominate a candidate with a concerning record of ideological legal work.”

Only two days before the two senators had announced the formation of what they called “bipartisan judicial commissions to make recommendations for Nevada’s judicial vacancies,” and said, “We are establishing the commissions to encourage this and future administrations to nominate candidates that reflect the diversity and values of the Silver State.”

Republican President Trump paid no heed whatsoever.

Critics of VanDyke quickly jumped on his record in Montana of advancing friend of the court briefs defending bans on same-sex marriage and abortion, as well as challenges to gun rights. 

The voters of both Montana and Nevada had amended their state constitutions to prohibit same-sex marriage, and in 2014 Montana filed a legal brief defending those amendments before the 9th Circuit. Cortez Masto, then Nevada attorney general, refused to defend the state’s amendment. The 9th Circuit eventually ruled both state’s amendments were unconstitutional.

VanDyke was quoted by a Montana newspaper, while running unsuccessfully for a seat on that state’s Supreme Court, “My job was to represent the interests of the people of Montana and defend our state’s laws. So simply because I worked on a specific case or made a specific recommendation obviously can’t be taken as representative of my personal views. In fact, as Montana’s solicitor general, I worked on cases and took positions that were sometimes at odds with my personal or political views.”

While working under Laxalt, VanDyke was said to be a key figure in securing an injunction staying the Environmental Protection Agencies’s 2015 “Waters of the United States” rule, which unduly expanded federal power over every stream, ditch, seasonal puddle and muddy hoof print as being covered by the restrictions of the Clean Water Act of 1972. 

The conservative National Review also notes that VanDyke’s challenge of the Bureau of Land Management’s over-broad greater sage grouse land plan caused the agency to back off. The plan would have withdrawn more than 10 million acres of federal public land from use for such things as grazing and mineral exploration. He also challenged the Obama-era EPA’s Clean Power Plan that threatened to raise power bills.

“VanDyke also litigated in defense of the Second Amendment and religious freedom,” the National Review article continues. “He filed the multi-state amicus briefs at both the circuit and Supreme Court level in the Trinity Lutheran case. He was also part of the successful multi-state challenge to the Obama administration’s DAPA program, which attempted to legalize and grant numerous benefits to over 4 million illegal aliens without statutory authority. As the lead lawyer for a 22-state coalition, he successfully challenged the Obama administration’s Overtime Rule.”

Sounds like the kind of person who could help change the future rulings of the once uber-liberal 9th Circuit.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Editorial: Nevada senators back amendment abridging free speech

Nevada Democratic Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto, left, and Jacky Rosen. (R-J file pix)

This past week every Democratic member of the U.S. Senate — including Nevada Democratic Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen — signed on as sponsors of a proposed constitutional amendment that would rip the heart from the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution — the part that says, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech …”

The Democracy for All Amendment, as it is wrongly called, would overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC. That 5-4 ruling overturned a portion of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law under which the Federal Election Commission barred the airing of a movie produced by Citizens United that was critical of Hillary Clinton during the 2008 Democratic primary.

The court said the First Amendment was written to protect speech, no matter who the speaker may be, whether an individual or a group, such as a corporation or a union.

The proposed amendment would allow Congress and the states to “distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities created by law, including by prohibiting such entities from spending money to influence elections.”

Sen. Cortez Masto put out a press release saying the amendment is intended to get big money out of politics. “Citizens United opened the floodgates for big money in politics by wrongly allowing corporations and special interests to buy undue influence in American elections,” Nevada’s senior senator wrote. “It’s time the effects of this disastrous ruling were reversed. A constitutional amendment putting the democratic process back in the hands of voters will help ensure that our government represents the will of Americans, not just the wealthy few.”

Sen. Rosen has long been a proponent of overturning Citizens United. During her campaign against Sen. Dean Heller, she declared, “Washington hasn’t been listening to the needs of Nevadans because billionaires and special interests are drowning out the voices of real people in our communities. If we’re going to make real progress on issues like climate change, gun violence and health care, then we need to bring some transparency and accountability to our broken campaign finance system. Unlike Senator Heller, I will stand up for Nevadans by speaking out for real reform and a reversal of this catastrophic Supreme Court decision.”

Ironically, the amendment concludes by stating, “Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress or the States the power to abridge the freedom of the press.’’

Who do they think owns the “press” in the United States? Billionaires and corporations, such as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, and casino owner Sheldon Adelson, who owns the largest newspaper in Nevada. A handful of giant corporations own the vast majority of news media outlets in this country. In order to get around this amendment, all a billionaire or corporation has to do is buy a “press.”

In fact, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion in Citizens United, singled out the media exemption that was written into McCain-Feingold. Kennedy wrote, “The media exemption discloses further difficulties with the law now under consideration. There is no precedent supporting laws that attempt to distinguish between corporations which are deemed to be exempt as media corporations and those which are not. ‘We have consistently rejected the proposition that the institutional press has any constitutional privilege beyond that of other speakers.’ … And the exemption results in a further, separate reason for finding this law invalid: Again by its own terms, the law exempts some corporations but covers others, even though both have the need or the motive to communicate their views.”

Aren’t political parties themselves tantamount to corporations — groups of individuals uniting their voices and money in furtherance of a political agenda. Should political parties be silenced?

As Justice Kennedy concluded, “The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves.”

Congress should not deem itself the arbiter of who gets to speak and who must be gagged. Cortez Masto and Rosen should reverse course.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Newspaper column: Book offers historic perspective on the press

The premise of conservative commentator Mark Levin’s new book, “Unfreedom of the Press,” is that modern journalism has devolved into an opinionated, group-think pack of politically partisan propagandists who oppose President Trump at every turn and think he is a danger to freedom of the press.

While we don’t think that conclusion is totally valid, the book does offer a worthy historic perspective on the behaviors of the press and our presidents.

Levin notes that for more than a century the American press was unabashedly partisan, often surviving on printing contracts from the party in power when the newspapers were able to put them there. He seems to accept the notion that sometime early in the 19th Century journalists altruistically embraced the concept of objectivity.

Actually the conversion was mostly profit-motivated. It was borne of the penny press.

The newspaper business model changed from being dependent on government printing contracts and political party handouts to one of being supported by advertisers, whose customers paid the same for a pair of shoes no matter which party they embraced. So why alienate half of your potential customers with partisanship? The newspaper that delivered the highest readership fetched the highest advertising dollar.

Levin’s book does point out correctly that Trump’s often repeated and tweeted animus for the press is benign compared to past presidents.

With the ink still damp on the First Amendment President John Adams pushed through the Federal Congress a series of Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798. These acts made it a crime to “write, print, utter or publish … any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either house of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States, with intent to defame the said government, or either house of the said Congress, or the said President, or to bring them, or either of them, into contempt or disrepute …” The penalty was a fine or imprisonment for up to two years.

Under those laws more than 20 Republican newspaper editors were arrested and some were imprisoned. Among those was newspaperman James Callender who called Adams a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” These details are not in the book, by the way.

Levin notes Abraham Lincoln enforced censorship during the Civil War and jailed several reporters, editors and publishers.

Sun takes cheap shot at owner of newspaper into which it is inserted

We do believe the Jewish owner of the Sun insert in the morning newspaper just called out the Jewish owner of that morning newspaper.

In an editorial about a spike in hate crimes for which it blames President Trump the Sun alleges:

For one, Trump’s Jewish financial backers must take responsibility for the president giving aid, comfort and recruiting material to white supremacists.

In backing Trump and his agenda, these donors are helping anti-Semitism thrive in America and putting Jews increasingly at risk by figuratively providing matches to light the torches of extremists.

Trump’s Jewish backers are engaging in self-interested, history-denying behavior — you’d have to imagine the NAACP funding the Ku Klux Klan to find something as perversely self-destructive.

The owner of the morning paper is the family of Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, who have given $113 million to GOP causes this election year. Trump is giving Miriam the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Friday.

The Sun — which is owned by the family of Brian Greenspun, who is CEO, publisher and editor — editorially links Trump’s so-called embrace of nationalism with “white supremacy” and sees a causality link between that and a rise in hate crimes, especially anti-Semitic ones, such as the mass shooting at a synagogue in the Pittsburgh area.

It further pokes Adelson in the eye by saying, “Americans won’t stand for this corrosion of our values, as they showed during this year’s midterm referendum on Trump. That was particularly true in Nevada, where candidates who aligned themselves with Trump got destroyed in the balloting in favor of those calling for an end to the administration’s divisive politics.”

Adelson’s morning newspaper editorially endorsed virtually every one of those losing candidates and Adelson generously contributed to many of them.

The Sun is inserted into the morning paper under a joint operating agreement (JOA) that began in 1990 and runs through 2040. The Newspaper Preservation Act allows competing newspapers to skirt anti-trust law and combine operations if one of them is about to go out of business, which the Sun was at the time.

The Sun in the past has sued the morning paper disputing the amount of money it received under the agreement. That went to private arbitration. In January the Sun started charging for access to online content, saying it was no longer getting a share of profits from the JOA because there are no profits.

We wonder how much longer this pissing match can continue.