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

Editorial: Minimum wage hike will increase prices and crime

Despite all the evidence that it will do more harm than good, a bill to raise the minimum wage in Nevada is still wending its way through the halls of the Legislature in Carson City.

Assembly Bill 456 would raise the minimum wage 75 cents per hour each year as it climbs from the current $7.25 per hour for those receiving company health insurance and $8.25 for those not insured until it reaches $11 or $12 per hour.

In his State of the State speech, Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak called for raising the minimum wage and declared, “It’s impossible for an individual, let alone a family, to live on $7.25 an hour,” ignoring the fact almost no one “lives” on minimum wage. Fewer than 3 percent of workers are paid the minimum wage and most of them are under age 25 and working part-time. Most are supplementing family income rather than being self-supporting.

In fact, raising the minimum wage often results in jobs being cut and/or working hours reduced. One study found the average low-wage worker in Seattle lost $125 a month because the minimum wage was raised to $15 an hour.

Now, a recent study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that raising the minimum wage can harm even those who are not being paid the minimum wage.

Using national crime data from 1998 to 2016, the study found “robust evidence that minimum wage hikes increase property crime arrests among teenagers and young adults ages 16- to-24, a population for whom minimum wages are likely to bind.”

The study projects that raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour nationally would result in approximately 231,000 additional property crimes, costing the nation $1.3 billion. Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would generate over 410,000 additional property crimes and $2.4 billion per year in additional crime costs.

“We conclude that increasing the minimum wage will at best be ineffective at deterring crime and at worst will have unintended consequences that increase property crime among young adults,” the study authors concluded. They said that previous studies that projected a decrease in crime due to raising the minimum wage ignored the possibility of hours being cut and jobs being lost.

Don’t ignore the costs imposed on everyone when the minimum wage is hiked. A Cato Institute analysis in 2012 found that a “comprehensive review of more than 20 minimum wage studies looking at price effects found that a 10 percent increase in the U.S. minimum wage raises food prices by up to 4 percent and overall prices by up to 0.4 percent.”

The Congressional Budget Office in 2014 estimated that if the federal minimum wage were increased to $10.10 an hour — as proposed by President Obama and others — up to a million workers would lose their jobs.

According to the American Enterprise Institute, when the minimum wage rose 41 percent between 2007 and 2009, the jobless rate for 16- to 19-year-olds increased by 10 percentage points, from about 16 percent in 2007 to more than 26 percent in 2009 — even higher for minorities.

Without those entry level jobs younger Americans cannot build the skills needed to earn higher pay for a lifetime.

Still another Heritage study reported that every dollar increase in minimum wage really only raises take-home pay by 20 cents once welfare benefits are reduced and taxes are increased.

It’s the immutable law of unintended consequences. Lawmakers should abandon their support for this bill, which would cause more harm than good.

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: Same-day voter registration invites fraud

Progressives are always clamoring to make it easier to vote. To that end Democratic state Sen. James Ohrenschall of Las Vegas has introduced Senate Bill 123 that, among other things, would allow people to register to vote on Election Day.

“The purpose of SB123 is to make it more feasible for people to be part of the government of ourselves, by making it easier to register to vote, and offer a few more options to vote during the early voting period,” Ohrenschall said during a recent hearing on his bill, according to The Nevada Independent.

Election officials testified that the bill will cost millions of dollars to implement and take years to adequately change the system to comply.

Additionally, Clark County Registrar Joe Gloria warned, “If same-day registration process is handled with a paper form, other than signing an affidavit affirming that the voter has not already voted in the election, there can be no guarantee that the voter has not registered to vote at another location on Election Day. Not until after the election will clerks have the ability to identify that the voter has not voted at another site, which is problematic.”

Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, calls same-day voter registration a prescription for fraud and says it does almost nothing to increase voter participation.

“Allowing a voter to both register and vote on Election Day makes it nearly impossible to prevent duplicate votes in different areas or to verify the accuracy of any information provided by a voter,” von Spakovsky writes. “Election officials are unable to check the authenticity of a registration or the eligibility and qualifications of a registrant by comparing the registration information to other state and federal databases that provide information not just on identity, but also on citizenship status and whether the individual in question is a felon whose voting rights have been suspended. Since Election Day registrants cast a regular ballot, even if election officials determine that the registration was invalid after the election, they have no means of discounting the ballot.”

He notes that Wisconsin allows same-day registration and after a comprehensive investigation of voter fraud in the 2004 election, the Milwaukee Police Department concluded that the “one thing that could eliminate a large percentage of fraud or the appearance of fraudulent voting in any given Election is the elimination of the On-Site or Same-Day voter registration system.”

Von Spakovsky also points out that Oregon dumped its same-day registration law after a cult tried to take over a county by planning to bring in large numbers of nonresidents, many of them homeless, to flood the polls with ineligible voters.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said at a Heritage Foundation meeting in 2013 that voters can make up names and addresses and go from poll to poll to vote, and there is no automated system that can stop such nefarious deeds.

While Election Day registration invites fraud, it does little to actually increase turnout.

In 2008, according to von Spakovsky, four of the eight states with same-day registration reported lower turnout than in 2004. The state with the largest decrease in turnout in 2008 was Maine, which also has Election Day registration.

“It has always been abundantly clear that, after four decades of making it easier to vote and having turnout decline (among most groups) except for elections driven by fear and anger,” wrote Curtis Gans of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate in 2008, “the central issue governing turnout is not procedure but motivation. These new procedures, except for Election Day registration for some states, don’t help turnout and pose some discrete dangers for American democracy.”

In Nevada one can already register online or at the DMV or any county elections office.

The risks of fraud due to Election Day registration far outweigh any convenience for those too lazy or disinterested to register to vote by the deadline before each election.

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 Democrats wrongly predict disaster over Paris Climate Accord pullout

Trump explains amount of global temperature increase. (Reuters pix via R-J)

The caterwauling over President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord and renegotiate was quick, loud and anguished — including from Nevada’s usual Democratic suspects.

Freshman Nevada U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto fired off this prediction of doom and gloom: “Withdrawing from the deal would weaken efforts to combat one of humankind’s biggest threats, not only risking irreversible damage, but also harming our economy. President Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Agreement is the height of irresponsibility and an affront to our moral duty to protect our planet.”

Rep. Dina Titus of Clark County was equally over the top: “Any move to abandon this agreement will jeopardize our physical wellbeing, further undermine our standing as a world leader, and endanger our economic vitality for years to come.”

Freshman Congressman Ruben Kihuen, who presents much of Southern Nevada, chimed in by bemoaning: “Now is not the time for America to be stepping away from our leadership role on the world stage, especially when it comes to the future of the planet.”

Freshman Rep. Jacky Rosen of Clark County joined the chorus with this statement: “This decision not only places our country at an economic disadvantage relative to other countries in clean energy production and innovation, but it places us in harm’s way.”

At least Republican Sen. Dean Heller was realistic, while expressing his support for renewable energy development: “Our country will continue to move forward with the development of innovative new energy technologies that make our state and our nation’s energy supply cleaner, more affordable, and more reliable — with or without our participation in the Paris Agreement.”

Was anyone really listening to what Trump said?

Just what is the “irreversible damage?” What is the jeopardy to “our physical wellbeing” and the “future of the planet?” And how are we placed in “harm’s way?”

“Even if the Paris Agreement were implemented in full, with total compliance from all nations, it is estimated it would only produce a two-tenths of one degree — think of that; this much — Celsius reduction in global temperature by the year 2100. Tiny, tiny amount,” Trump said in his half-hour long Rose Garden speech this past week. “In fact, 14 days of carbon emissions from China alone would wipe out the gains from America — and this is an incredible statistic — would totally wipe out the gains from America’s expected reductions in the year 2030, after we have had to spend billions and billions of dollars, lost jobs, closed factories, and suffered much higher energy costs for our businesses and for our homes.”

(According to a Heritage Foundation report, if the entire industrialized world cut carbon emissions to zero, global warming would be reduced by four-tenths of a degree Celsius by 2100.)

Just how many jobs and dollars would it take to avert this impending climate cataclysm?

Citing an economic study, Trump stated that by 2040 the Paris Climate Accord would cost the economy $3 trillion in lost gross domestic product and 6.5 million in industrial jobs, as well as reduce the incomes of households by $7,000 each.

Then there is the fundamental unfairness of the deal negotiated by the Obama administration but never ratified by the Senate.

“Not only does this deal subject our citizens to harsh economic restrictions, it fails to live up to our environmental ideals,” Trump said. “As someone who cares deeply about the environment, which I do, I cannot in good conscience support a deal that punishes the United States — which is what it does — the world’s leader in environmental protection, while imposing no meaningful obligations on the world’s leading polluters.”

In fact, the United States over the past 14 years has already reduced carbon emissions by 10 percent, according to data from the U.S. Department of Energy, and that is not due to wind and solar power generation, which still accounts for only 3 percent of the nation’s energy output. It is largely due to fracking producing cheaper, clean-burning natural gas to replace coal-fired generation.

But under the Paris Accord, China will be allowed to increase its emissions for another 13 years. India’s participation is contingent upon receiving billions in foreign aid, largely from the United States.

“China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants,” Trump reported. “So we can’t build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement.”

Trump noted the agreement doesn’t eliminate coal jobs, it merely transfers them overseas.

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: Stop giving high-tax states an IRS deduction

We have long advocated making the IRS sales tax deduction permanent, instead of having to renew it every year or so, because Nevada is one of only nine states with no state income tax to deduct, which has been deductible practically from the start of the federal income tax in 1913. It’s only fair.

Actually, the fairest thing to do would be to eliminate all itemized state and local tax deductions for IRS taxes, because residents of high-tax states — mostly run by tax loving Democrats — get to deduct a disproportionate share. This causes low-tax states — and Nevada still ranks nearer the bottom despite recent tax hikes — to essentially subsidize the higher-taxed states by paying a greater share of federal taxes.

Although it has been tried before — by Ronald Reagan in 1986 — in this election year a number of GOP presidential candidates are including in their tax reform packages elimination of state and local tax deductions.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Ben Carson all have proposed repealing this tax break, while Donald Trump, as usual, is vague on specifics.

The Heritage Foundation has estimated that dropping this deduction could allow the federal tax rates to be reduced by as much as 12.5 percent across the board.

Nevadans — along with residents of New Hampshire, Florida, Wyoming, Texas, South Dakota and Alaska — get to deduct about 1 percent or less of their adjusted gross income, while those who live in New York, Maryland, D.C. and California deduct more than 5 percent.

Not surprisingly, The Wall Street Journal reports that all of the top 10 high-tax states voted for Obama, while most of the lower-taxed states voted for Mitt Romney, with Nevada as one of the exceptions. Nearly one-third of the cost of the repeal would be borne by Californians and New Yorkers, both heavily Democratic states.

“If marginal tax rates were reduced in a revenue-neutral and distributionally neutral manner, the more than 70 percent of taxpayers who do not itemize would face lower combined federal and state income tax burdens,” write Heritage researchers Rachel Greszler and Kevin D. Dayaratna. “Additionally, this could lower overall taxes for some taxpayers who itemize but who have relatively lower incomes or live in lower-tax states.”

They concluded that the deductions subject federal tax revenues to the whims of state lawmakers and largely benefit wealthy taxpayers and those in high-tax states.

“The rationale for it is that since state and local taxes reduce individuals’ after-tax income, the income used to pay those taxes should be excluded from federal taxation. …” Greszler and Dayaratna write. “In practice, however, the deduction allows states to raise taxes higher than they otherwise would and has significant perverse distributional impacts, redistributing income from the poor to the rich and from people in low-tax states to people in high-tax states. Despite some efforts to eliminate it, the deduction for state and local taxes remains one of the largest deductions in the federal tax code.”

Using 2010 statistical data from the IRS, you find Californians who filed for state and local income tax deductions claimed deductions of $10,700 per return. Nevadans who filed for the state and local sales tax deduction claimed only $1,430 per return.

Calculated on a per capita basis, Californians claimed $2,116 in federal income tax deductions, while Nevadans claimed only $166 per person for sales tax deductions.

A version of this editorial appeared this past week in many 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. It ran as a column in the Elko Daily Free Press.

Newspaper column: Minimum wage hike proposal would have opposite effect of its intention

Be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it — good and hard.

A group of altruistic, benevolent and well-meaning Nevadans calling themselves the Committee to Raise the Minimum Wage in Nevada has filed a petition with the Nevada Secretary of State’s office that — if it garners enough signatures to be placed on the 2016 ballot and then enough votes at the polls — would nearly double the minimum wage over the next decade.

The petition, filed this past week, would amend the Nevada Constitution to increase the minimum wage to $9.25 an hour upon passage and by 75 cents a year until it reaches $13 an hour, after which it would increase to match any federal minimum wage hike or equal to an increase in the cost of living. The current constitutional minimum wage is $7.25 an hour if health insurance is provided and $8.25 if not.

Fast-food workers rally for minimum wage in Las Vegas (R-J photo)

The petition also states that tips and gratuities shall not be credited as a way to offset the minimum wage and removes the $1 credit for providing health insurance. It also removes the exemption for those under 18 employed part-time by non-profits, but it does allow a lower wage if it is part of a “bona fide collective bargaining agreement” — the usual sop to the unions.

A measure to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour never made it out of the 2015 Legislature.

The committee must gather 55,000 signatures from across the state to qualify for placement on the ballot.

One of the leaders of the petition drive, Neal Anderson, a Unitarian minister from Northern Nevada, told The Associated Press, “All labor has dignity and therefore we need to value that work. At some point we need to change policy as well, not just provide charity, which is never enough.”

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.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that if the federal minimum wage were increased to $10.10 an hour — as proposed by President Obama and others — up to a million workers would lose their jobs.

According to the American Enterprise Institute, when the minimum wage rose 41 percent between 2007 and 2009, the jobless rate for 16- to 19-year-olds increased by 10 percentage points, from about 16 percent in 2007 to more than 26 percent in 2009 — even higher for minorities.

These are entry level jobs without which younger Americans cannot build the skills needed to earn higher pay.

Another Heritage study reported that every dollar increase in minimum wage really only raises take-home pay by 20 cents once welfare benefits are reduced and taxes are increased.

Then there are the affects on everyone. A Cato Institute analysis reports that a “comprehensive review of more than 20 minimum wage studies looking at price effects found that a 10 percent increase in the U.S. minimum wage raises food prices by up to 4 percent and overall prices by up to 0.4 percent.”

Victor Joecks, executive vice president of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, has warned that this proposal is not only anti-business, but anti-worker as well.

“Ultimately, it is the workers who get paid the least that will suffer the most from hikes in the minimum wage — with many of them losing their jobs as businesses close or turn to automation to replace entry-level jobs,” Joecks writes on the NPRI website. “The primary value of entry-level jobs is that they allow workers to gain basic employment skills, which in turn allows them to earn higher wages in the future. Raising the minimum wage, however, makes it harder for low skill workers to get those first jobs. Having that first job is crucial, because two-thirds of minimum wage workers earn a raise within a year.”

He points out that Nevada teenage unemployment already is 23.6 percent.

If this petition is successful it could put countless Nevadans on the dole for life.

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

Those who fail to remember history … will see their life savings wiped out

Foreclosure sign in Las Vegas (R-J photo)

When your life savings disappear when the bubble bursts again, who ya gonna blame? But what difference does it make then?

Heritage Foundation fellow Stephen Moore has an interesting — and all too familiar — lede on one of his two columns posted online Friday.

Moore tells of his 13-year-old son talking at the dinner table about how Franklin Roosevelt ended the Great Depression. That’s what his history book says. “Of course, the New Deal exacerbated the pain and financial devastation of a stock market crash, and unemployment lingered in double digits for a decade after Roosevelt was elected until the start of World War II. We get this kind of rampant revisionism because the left writes the history books — which they are doing right now,” Moore morosely relates.

He goes on to note how the Great Recession is being blamed on greedy bankers and a lack of regulation, and now Ben Bernanke in the Wall Street Journal is claiming he saved the economy with $3 trillion in quantitative easing and zero interest rates, though this is what actually created the crash.

“As my fellow Heritage colleague Norbert Michel and other scholars have thoroughly documented, the crash of 2008 was caused by government policies and regulatory failure, including easy money policies that flooded the markets with debt,” Moore writes. “Within a decade, these policies led to preposterous mortgage loans being issued, and massive over-leverage of government, companies, and households.”

Easy credit caused housing prices to balloon until they burst in a foreclosure crisis.

In a separate column on the same theme in Investor’s Business Daily, Moore points out that Fannie and Freddie are again guaranteeing mortgages with down payments as low as 3 percent — “the same subprime mortgages that crashed eight years ago. The housing lobby demands it, and Congress complies. So taxpayers are back on the hook with the same Fannie and Freddie policies that required $150 billion in bailouts.”

The blame game is easy to play after the fact, but the problem is that no one is learning from the history just what caused the problem and acting to prevent a reoccurrence.

Here is a FactCheck.org run down from 2008 trying to explain what caused the Great Recession — a partial list at best:

  • The Federal Reserve, which slashed interest rates after the dot-com bubble burst, making credit cheap.

  • Home buyers, who took advantage of easy credit to bid up the prices of homes excessively.

  • Congress, which continues to support a mortgage tax deduction that gives consumers a tax incentive to buy more expensive houses.

  • Real estate agents, most of whom work for the sellers rather than the buyers and who earned higher commissions from selling more expensive homes.

  • The Clinton administration, which pushed for less stringent credit and downpayment requirements for working- and middle-class families.

  • Mortgage brokers, who offered less-credit-worthy home buyers subprime, adjustable rate loans with low initial payments, but exploding interest rates.

  • Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, who in 2004, near the peak of the housing bubble, encouraged Americans to take out adjustable rate mortgages.

  • Wall Street firms, who paid too little attention to the quality of the risky loans that they bundled into Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), and issued bonds using those securities as collateral.

  • The Bush administration, which failed to provide needed government oversight of the increasingly dicey mortgage-backed securities market.

  • An obscure accounting rule called mark-to-market, which can have the paradoxical result of making assets be worth less on paper than they are in reality during times of panic.

  • Collective delusion, or a belief on the part of all parties that home prices would keep rising forever, no matter how high or how fast they had already gone up.

Sound familiar?

They left out federal government debt.

In 2008 the debt was $10 trillion. Now it is $18 trillion, but low interest rates are protecting Obama and foisting the problem onto the next administration, possibly a Republican one, to take the blame. Obama wants to raise the debt ceiling and have Congress let him write a blank check.

Even Donald Trump, whose crystal ball is often clouded, sees the problem ahead. He told The Hill recently a crash is coming. “You know who gets hurt the most? People who practice the American dream and did what should have been the right way — the people that went through 40 years of their life and saved a hundred dollars every week …” Trump said. “They worked all their lives to save and now what happens is they’re being forced into an inflated stock market and at some point they’ll get wiped out.”

Moore concludes:

“The point is that government and politicians have no learning curve. All of the conditions of financial wreckage are reappearing. The presidential candidates should start warning voters that Washington is rebuilding another financial house of cards.

“If they don’t, when the financial crash comes and Americans see their life savings disappear, the media and the history books will again blame conservatives for the destruction from the rampant financial negligence of government.”