Editorial: Immigrants should be self-supporting

When the Trump administration announced that it is going to start enforcing a Clinton-era law that denies legal immigration status and work cards for non-naturalized immigrants who have come to rely on government welfare programs, Nevada Democrats recoiled in horror.

How dare the administration insist that immigrants earn their own way and not be a burden on the taxpayers.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services acting Director Ken Cuccinelli said at a White House press briefing that President Trump was delivering on his promise to enforce longstanding immigration law. 

“Today, USCIS, the agency I head as part of the Department of Homeland Security, has issued a rule that encourages and ensures self-reliance and self-sufficiency for those seeking to come to, or to stay in, the United States,” Cuccinelli said. “It will also help promote immigrant success in the United States as they seek opportunity here. …  The virtues of perseverance, hard work, and self-sufficiency laid the foundation of our nation and have defined generations of immigrants seeking opportunity in the United States.”

Ken Cuccinelli

As of Oct. 15 legal immigrants would no longer be able to stay and work in this country if during a 12-month period over the past three years they had received a certain level of cash benefits, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, most forms of Medicaid and some housing programs such as Section 8.

In a Twitter posting Las Vegas Democratic Rep. Dina Titus charged, “The Trump Administration just put forward another cruel plan to cut legal immigration and put food, health care, and housing further out of reach for immigrant families. That’s why I co-sponsored a bill to block this disgraceful proposal from going into effect.”

Democratic Rep. Steve Horsford, who represents northern Clark County and much of Southern Nevada, put out a press release blasting the new criteria. “This is just the latest attack from the Trump administration on immigrant communities — taking health care and food away from children and families …” the congressman said. “This fight isn’t over. We must continue to stand up, speak out, and fight back to protect immigrant families. This regulation forces millions of families to choose between the things the food, shelter and health care they need and the people they love.”

Back in October, when the administration first broached the changes in legal immigration eligibility, Nevada senior Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto joined with several other senators in a letter declaring, “Frightening people away from critical resources would compromise families and communities across our country. The wellbeing of children and parents are inextricably linked. It is impossible to single out one member of a family without having a ripple effect on children and other members of the household. One in four children in America have at least one foreign-born parent, and children of immigrants make up 31 percent of all children in families that receive relevant benefits. Furthermore, over nine million of these children are U.S. citizens.” 

According to various studies as many as 50 to 60 percent of households headed by non-citizen immigrants rely on some form of welfare compared to 30 to 40 percent of homes headed by native-born citizens.

This past week Nevada Democratic Attorney General Aaron Ford decided to spend Nevada tax money to fight the new rules, joining with a dozen other attorneys general in filing suit against the federal government. 

“I pledged to protect Nevada’s families, and I will continue to protect our families from the Trump Administration’s numerous attacks,” Ford said in a press release announcing his action. “This proposed change is not only mean-spirited, it essentially makes legal immigrants choose between maintaining their legal status and receiving assistance to meet basic needs, like food, health care and housing. It’s unconscionable.”

U.S. taxpayers should not be expected to feed, house and provide health care for everyone on the planet who manages to make it to our doorstep.

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: New endangered species rule falsely maligned

When the Interior Department released new rules for enforcing the 45-year-old Endangered Species Act (ESA) this past week, self-styled environmentalists and many in the news media falsely maligned the changes, saying they would require the Fish and Wildlife Service to consider economic impact in deciding whether to list a species as endangered or threatened.

In fact, the press release announcing the finalizing of the new rules specifically states that designations will be based solely on the “best available scientific and commercial information” as the original law dictates. The change simply allows the public to be informed of economic impacts created by the law by removing the phrase “without reference to possible economic or other impacts of such determination.”

The rule change proposal noted, “Since 1982, Congress has consistently expressed support for informing the public as to the impacts of regulations in subsequent amendments to statutes and executive orders governing the rulemaking process.” The only change is giving the public more information.

“The best way to uphold the Endangered Species Act is to do everything we can to ensure it remains effective in achieving its ultimate goal — recovery of our rarest species. The Act’s effectiveness rests on clear, consistent and efficient implementation,” said Interior Secretary David Bernhardt in the press release. “An effectively administered Act ensures more resources can go where they will do the most good: on-the-ground conservation.”

Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto reacted on Twitter: “Trump’s gutting of the Endangered Species Act — even as species struggle with the effects of the #ClimateCrisis & human activity — threatens protected species & could put even more plants and animals at risk.”

The rule changes actually should help address a fundamental problem with the enforcement of the ESA up until now — that it focuses almost entirely on limiting any conceivable profitable use of land or water that is “critical habitat” of an endangered or threatened species, thus maintaining a fragile status quo rather than actually encouraging recovery of the species population.

The Property and Environment Research Center (PERC), which refers to itself as the home of free market environmentalism, reports that more than 1,600 species are listed under the ESA, but only 39 species have been determined to be recovered since the law passed (half of those mistakenly listed in the first place), while 11 have become extinct. Nevada has 16 endangered species and 11 threatened.

Previously, when states tried to reintroduce endangered species by breeding, the federal government threatened to sue, saying possession of the species required a federal permit, which it refused to issue.

Another significant change requires that when designating critical habitat that the species is actually present or the area has features essential to the species’ conservation.

This addresses issues raised by a Supreme Court case out of Louisiana in which the owner of 1,500 acres of land was prohibited from using the property because it was declared critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog, even though none of the frogs had been seen in the area for 50 years and the land itself could no longer support the frogs.

The case was finally settled in July in the property owner’s favor. 

Mark Miller, an attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation which sued on behalf of the landowners, said of the agreement, “This federal frog feud is over, and property rights and good government win. The government tried to ban development of 1,500 acres of private property at a cost of $34 million in the name of an endangered frog that does not live on the property and cannot survive there. The feds may as well have labeled this Louisiana property critical habitat for a polar bear. It would have done just as much good.”

Also, in the future a species listed as threatened would not be treated as stringently as those listed as endangered, as currently is the case. 

Advocates of the changes say this will provide incentives for landowners to help species recover. In the past, landowners confronted with restrictions under the ESA were said to have been incentivized to shoot, shovel and shut up. No species. No restrictions. 

“Our interest is getting this landmark wildlife protection law to work better,” said PERC’s executive director Brian Yablonski in a statement. “That means fostering conditions so landowners become more enthusiastic in their role as stewards for species recovery, not worried if they find an endangered species on their land. States and landowners will respond better to carrots, not clubs, in our efforts to improve species recovery results.” 

Delisting of species is preferable to merely maintaining the status quo in perpetuity.

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: Equality Act would be damaging for women

Good intentions don’t always make good law.

Take this past week’s 236-173 vote, largely along party lines, in the House of Representatives to pass the so-called Equality Act, which amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include “sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The devil is in the details.

The bill was sponsored in the House by all but one Democrat — including Nevada Reps. Dina Titus, Steven Horsford and Susie Lee. A companion bill in the Senate is sponsored by all but one Democrat — including Nevada Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jackie Rosen.

Unfortunately, the bill would curtail free speech rights, religious freedoms and gender privacy for the vast majority of Americans.

All Democrats present voted for the bill, but only eight Republicans voted aye.

Titus, who represents Las Vegas, posted on Twitter, “I joined my House colleagues today to pass the #Equality Act and ensure all Americans are treated equally under the law. It is unacceptable that the #LGBTQ community still faces discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Lee posted to Twitter a video of herself on the steps of the Capitol saying she was about to go in and vote for the Equality Act.

Horsford, who represents part of Clark County and southern rural Nevada, boasted on Twitter, “I’ve always fought to end discriminatory practices and promote equality, both in Nevada’s State Legislature and now in the House. Proud of today’s passage of the #EqualityAct.”

Rep. Mark Amodei, who represents Northern Nevada, agreed up to a point.

“No person should ever be discriminated against — period. The diversity of backgrounds, culture, religion, and heritage are all part of the fabric that has shaped us into the great nation we are today,” Amodei wrote in an email. “With that said, many of the bills House Democrats have made us vote on this Congress are merely feel-good messaging bills intended to add fuel to the political fire, while doing nothing to solve the issue at hand. The same rings true for the Equality Act, legislation that would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act by redefining ‘sex’ to include ‘gender identity.’”

Amodei explained that the bill would do significant damage to Title IX, which bars discrimination due to sex in any education program receiving federal funding. The congressman said passage of the bill would end gender specific sports as we know it. Already a number of biological males have won women’s sports championships by merely saying they are transgender.

“Additionally, it would force doctors to leave any religious, moral, or expert objections at the door, even if moving forward with a certain operation might not be in the patient’s best interest. While the goal of this bill is to protect all people, ironically, it will end up causing harm to some of the very issues it’s seeking to address,” Amodei wrote.

The Heritage Foundation warned, “Medical professionals would be pressured to provide gender-affirming treatments like puberty blockers and hormones — these are irreversible decisions that have not been shown to help mental health while creating a litany of permanent physical health problems. Subjecting children to such radical procedures is even more dubious when one considers that 80 to 95 percent of children with gender dysphoria no longer feel distressed by their bodies after puberty.”

The bill also would take away a parent’s right to make health care decisions, such as allowing gender transition, and rights of people to exercise religious conscience.

The bill would force women to share bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, dormitories and shelters with men who “identify” as women.

The bill may not be brought up for a vote in the Senate. Even if it were to pass there, the president is likely to veto it.

But voters should remember how our delegation stood on this matter come election time.

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.

Branco cartoon

Negotiating skills such as these one can find every day

Perhaps you saw the headlines. They were all over Nevada’s newspapers. They largely said in varying language: Cortez Masto wins fight to remove plutonium from Nevada.

Nevada’s senior Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto sat down with Energy Department Secretary Rick Perry earlier and he sent her a letter agreeing to begin removing in 2021 the half metric ton of plutonium that had been sent to the National Nuclear Security Administration site from South Carolina, where a federal judge had ordered it removed. Perry also said no more South Carolina plutonium would be shipped to the Nevada site. On Tuesday Cortez Masto agreed to stop blocking nominees for high-level Department of Energy jobs.

But you’d need to read the Exchange Monitor to learn that the agreed upon removal schedule was what the Department of Energy (DOE) planned to do all long.

Perry’s letter to Cortez Masto states, “DOE commits to commencing removal of this material from Nevada beginning in calendar year 2021, and completing the removal by the end of 2026.”

In a Nov. 20 letter to then-Gov. Brian Sandoval the DOE said the plutonium would to transferred to the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico by the “2026-2027 timeframe.”

In his letter, posted online by the Nevada Independent, Perry noted that the judge had ordered one metric ton of plutonium be removed from South Carolina by 2019 and he said no more would be shipped to Nevada but rather to New Mexico. He did not bother to mention whether that was DOE’s plan all along.

Cortez Masto tweeted a video bragging of her success in getting the DOE to do what it apparently planned to do all along:

Editorial: Democratic House bill is a naked power grab

With Democrats firmly ensconced in power in the House of Representatives, the first order of business is, of course, to hold onto that power in perpetuity.

The 600-page H.R. 1, dubiously dubbed “For the People Act,” wrests voting law decisions from the states and shreds the First Amendment right of free speech. It is co-sponsored by all three of Nevada’s Democratic representatives — Dina Titus, Susie Lee and Steven Horsford.

The bill would require automatic voter registration, online voter registration and registration on Election Day, allow felons to vote, require 15 days of early voting, end the automatic purging of voters from registration lists when they don’t vote or fail to respond to mailed inquiries, dole out a 600 percent government match for certain “small” political donations and make Election Day a holiday — all of which erode the integrity of the ballot.

H.R. 1 also seeks to curb the free speech protections for corporations, unions and other groups upheld by the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC by requiring increased disclosure of donors and online advertisers. 

In what is an embarrassing ignorance of history the bill declares, “The Supreme Court’s misinterpretation of the Constitution to empower monied interests at the expense of the American people in elections has seriously eroded over 100 years of congressional action to promote fairness and protect elections from the toxic influence of money.”

The very first such congressional action mentioned is the Tillman Act of 1907 that prohibited corporations from making contributions in connection with federal elections.

Lest we forget, the sponsor of the legislation was none other than Democratic Sen. Benjamin “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman of South Carolina — the leader of a Ku Klux Klan-style lynch mob known as the “Red Shirts,” a man who declared, “The Negro must remain subordinated or be exterminated” in order to “keep the white race at the top of the heap.”

The sole purpose of Tillman’s bill was to gag northern corporations who hired blacks and tended to favor Republicans.

Also, as Justice Clarence Thomas noted in his dissent in Citizens United, disclosure requirements have spawned a cottage industry that uses donor information to intimidate, retaliate, threaten and boycott individuals and businesses with whom they disagree. 

Thomas wrote, “The disclosure, disclaimer, and reporting requirements in (the law) are also unconstitutional. … Congress may not abridge the ‘right to anonymous speech’ based on the ‘simple interest in providing voters with additional relevant information …’”

The Founders frequently engaged in anonymous speech and protected it with the First Amendment. The Federalist Papers were penned under pseudonyms.

In addition to Nevada’s Democratic House delegates, the state’s two Democratic senators — Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen — have both railed against the free speech funded by what they pejoratively call “unaccountable dark money.”

Nevada Rep. Lee called H.R. 1 “a sweeping package of pro-democracy, and anti-corruption reforms that will put electoral power back in the hands of the American people. H.R. 1 will curb the influence of big money in politics, make it easier, not harder for Americans to practice their fundamental right to vote, and ensure that politicians actually serve the public — not special interest groups.” Special interest groups like the Democratic Party?

While the House is likely to pass this legislative and constitutional abomination, its chances in the Republican-controlled Senate are slim. 

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky rightly stated in an op-ed in The Washington Post, “They’re trying to clothe this power grab with cliches about ‘restoring democracy’ and doing it ‘For the People,’ but their proposal is simply a naked attempt to change the rules of American politics to benefit one party. It should be called the Democrat Politician Protection Act.” 

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: Nevada still has a role to play in nuclear deterrence

After learning this past week that the Department of Energy had secretly shipped a thousand pounds of weapons-grade plutonium to the Nevada National Security Site in Nye County before the state had filed a federal lawsuit in November seeking to block such shipments, Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak and the state’s entire Democratic delegation to D.C. flew into paroxysms of apoplexy, accusing the Trump administration of deception and dealing unfairly with the state.

Sisolak put out a statement declaring, “I am beyond outraged by this completely unacceptable deception from the U.S. Department of Energy. The Department led the State of Nevada to believe that they were engaging in good-faith negotiations with us regarding a potential shipment of weapons-grade plutonium, only to reveal that those negotiations were a sham all along. They lied to the State of Nevada, misled a federal court, and jeopardized the safety of Nevada’s families and environment.”

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto was similarly indignant, charging that the Energy Department had “negotiated in bad faith, hiding the timing of their shipment and refused to share crucial information with Members of Congress who had the security clearance to know.”

Rep. Dina Titus said, “Time and again, we have seen Trump Administration officials treat Nevada as the dumping ground for the nation’s nuclear waste.”

Sen. Jacky Rosen called the shipment “deceitful and unethical” and said “the lack of transparency from the Department of Energy is absolutely unacceptable.”

Rep. Susie Lee decried, “Nevada officials were deceived by sham ‘negotiations’ while the safety of millions was jeopardized, as was the environment and economy of dozens of states. Nevada is not the nation’s nuclear dumping ground. Period.”

Rep. Steven Horsford, whose district includes what most Nevadans still call the Test Site, also bemoaned, “Our state is not a dumping ground for the nation’s hazardous waste, and we have no intention of letting it become one.”

The Energy Department responded with its own statement, saying it was inaccurate to state that the Nevada delegation was not informed and the agency made efforts to ensure members of Congress and state officials representing the states involved were notified as early as August 2018.

The agency also said, “It is also inaccurate to characterize this material as ‘waste’. This material is essential for maintenance of the U.S. weapons stockpile, and is handled with the highest standards for safety and security. NNSA routinely ships this type of material between its sites as part of our national security missions and has done so safely and securely for decades.”

Of course the shipment was secret. No one wants to give potential terrorists an itinerary. As for deceiving the court, the shipment had already been sent when the state’s suit was filed and the court was told this past week when the information was declassified.

What does anyone think the test site is used for in the first place? Since the Cold War it literally has been ground zero for nuclear tests and development of our nuclear deterrence. It is remote and secure.

Speaking of deterrence, the ruckus over the plutonium shipment came mere days before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. is pulling out of a nuclear arms control pact with Russia because of its ongoing and flagrant violations.

“When an agreement is so brazenly disregarded and our security is so openly threatened, we must respond,” Pompeo said. “Russia has jeopardized the United States’ security interests and we can no longer be restricted by the treaty while Russia shamelessly violates it.”

This means the U.S. will need to catch up with its potential adversaries, Russia and China, both of which have deployed long-range, nuclear-tipped missiles. That means maintaining and, yes, even adding to our nuclear arsenal.

The very reason the plutonium was shipped to Nevada was because a federal court had ordered it removed from the Savannah River facility in South Carolina because the government had failed to build a facility to convert the plutonium into nuclear reactor fuel. It is being stored here until it can be shipped to Los Alamos, N.M., where it can be processed for weapons with which to defend our country.

That is the role the test site has fulfilled for decades and needs to continue to do, despite the histrionics from Democratic politicians.

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.

Newspaper column: Ending net neutrality speeded up Internet

It has been a year since the Federal Communication Commission repealed net neutrality rules created by Obama’s FCC in 2015. Yet, the Internet miraculously survives. In fact, it is running 36 percent faster now that the meddlesome feds have been removed from the equation and the free market has been allowed to compete and innovate.

Net neutrality resurrected 1930s-style Ma Bell regulations to prohibit Internet service providers from charging anyone different rates, even the bandwidth gluttons such as Netflix and Google.

Back in May the Senate even passed a resolution seeking to bring back net neutrality. Though the effort fortunately stalled, Nevada’s Democratic delegation to D.C. was all for putting the Internet under the heavy hand of the central planners.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto took to the Senate floor in support of the resolution, saying, “Net neutrality has leveled the playing field for every American consumer, allowing everyone to access and enjoy an open Internet. … We can’t afford to repeal net neutrality. (FCC) Chairman (Ajit) Pai’s misguided decision to repeal net neutrality protections threatens to change the Internet as we know it. It threatens our small businesses, access to online education, job growth and innovation by giving those who can afford to pay more the ability to set their own rules.”

Rep. Dina Titus declared, “I agree with the vast majority of Americans who want the internet to promote innovation, access to information, and a competitive economy. All of that is at risk without strong net neutrality protections.”

Getty Image via WSJ

Then-Rep., now-Sen. Jacky Rosen stated, “This administration’s reckless decision to repeal net neutrality gives internet service providers the ability to stack the deck against Nevada’s hardworking families and small businesses who could be forced to pay more to connect to an internet with slower speeds. This resolution would reverse the FCC’s misguided ruling, which places large corporate profits ahead of people, and restore access to a free and open internet for Nevadans.”

Sen. Dean Heller at the time reasonably argued for the free market approach. “I do not want the federal government to determine content. …” Heller said. “I also don’t want the federal government to tax the Internet. I believe the Internet is the last bastion of freedom in America, frankly both good and bad, but it’s freedom. … Access to free and open internet service providers is especially important for Nevadans living in rural communities.”

Heller was right. Rosen was wrong.

According to Speedtest, fixed broadband speeds in the United States are rapidly increasing. Data for 2018 revealed a 36 percent increase in mean download speed and a 22 percent increase in upload speed. This meant the U.S. ranked seventh in the world for download speed and Nevada ranked seventh in the nation.

Back when the net neutrality rules were jettisoned many in the news media predicted doom and gloom. CNN declared it was “the end of the internet as we know it.”

But The Wall Street Journal correctly stated at the time that net neutrality created uncertainty about what the FCC would allow and thus throttled investment in new technology, because it prohibited paid prioritization — under which bandwidth hogs, such as video streaming companies, could have opted out of heavy traffic and switched to a toll road — which could increase profits to pay for innovation and greater speed.

The newspaper predicted both content providers and consumers would benefit from increased investment in faster wireless and fiber technology in the free market.

The invisible hand of the free market has again proven itself superior to the heavy hand of the central planners.

As economist Milton Friedman once said: “When government — in pursuit of good intentions tries to rearrange the economy, legislate morality, or help special interests, the cost come in inefficiency, lack of motivation, and loss of freedom. Government should be a referee, not an active player.”

Be forewarned, when Democrats take control of the House, expect another ill-advised attempt to resurrect net neutrality, despite empirical evidence to the contrary.

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.