Newspaper column: Census should ask about citizenship

Ignorance is not bliss.

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have sued in an effort to block the 2020 Census from asking about citizenship status, claiming the question will prompt illegal immigrants to not respond and thus result in an undercount of population. That, they say, could result in the loss of congressional representation and federal funding for states, such as California, that have large immigrant populations.

According to the 14th Amendment, “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed.” That’s the whole number of persons, not just citizens.

The stakes for Nevada are also high.

According to a Pew Research report, in 2012 Nevada’s population included 7.6 percent illegal immigrants, its workforce was 10.2 percent illegals and its school enrollment included 17.7 percent whose parents are not in the country legally. All of those levels were the highest in the nation and climbing.

According to estimates posted by the Census Bureau in July, fully 19.3 percent of Nevada residents were foreign born. Fully 27 percent of Californians were foreign born. The problem is that there is no accurate number for how many of those have attained citizenship or legal residency.

The citizenship question was asked up until 1950 and is still asked on the more detailed American Community Survey that goes to about 2.6 percent of the population each year.

The Census Bureau explains why the citizenship and place of birth questions are on the long form: “We ask about people in the community born in other countries in combination with information about housing, language spoken at home, employment, and education, to help government and communities enforce laws, regulations, and policies against discrimination based on national origin. For example, these data are used to support the enforcement responsibilities under the Voting Rights Act to investigate differences in voter participation rates and to enforce other laws and policies regarding bilingual requirements.”

Those who oppose asking about citizenship status do so under the purely speculative supposition that non-citizens will spurn the census entirely, ignoring the fact the Census Bureau is legally bound by strict confidentiality requirements. It may not share individual data with ICE, the IRS, the FBI, the CIA or anyone.

Additionally, refusing to comply with the Census can result in a $100 fine and providing false data can result in a $500 fine, though reportedly no one has been fined since 1970.

Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto railed, “This decision trades the accuracy of a census designed to provide complete count of the entire nation’s population for a political win for President Trump. This is a direct attack on immigrant populations that could lead to undercounted and underfunded minority districts across the country. It is an assault on our representative democracy and our Constitution which requires a complete and accurate count of everyone living in the country, no matter their citizenship status.”

Nevada Rep. Jacky Rosen, a Democrat running for Republican Sen. Dean Heller’s seat, said the citizenship question “politicizes the census and drags its integrity into question. It’s clear that the Trump administration is looking to ensure Nevada’s immigrant communities are underserved and underrepresented for the next decade.”

The mostly Democratic-majority states that are suing over the Census question about citizenship are claiming the knowledge will somehow dilute minority representation, but the opposite is the case.

A Wall Street Journal editorial recently pointed out, “The progressive critics are also missing that Commerce says the Justice Department requested the citizenship question to continue a longtime progressive policy: to wit, enforcing Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits voting practices that discriminate by race. Justice supposedly needs detailed data on citizen voting-age population by census block, which the American Community Survey doesn’t provide.”

Hans von Spakovsky explained in an essay penned for The Heritage Foundation, “Citizenship information collected in the 2000 census was vital to our efforts to enforce the Voting Rights Act when I worked at the U.S. Department of Justice. When reviewing claims of whether the voting strength of minority voters was being diluted in redistricting, it was essential to know the size of the citizen voting age population.”

So it certainly seems that the self-styled progressives are ignoring the facts, the statistics and the well-being of those they claim to wish to protect.

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.

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Newspaper column: Two different approaches to Internet access

When boiled down to its essence, the key difference between the two major political parties is this: Democrats believe government is the solution. Republicans believe government is the problem.
This difference is on display with bills being pushed by two Nevada senatorial candidates — incumbent Republican Dean Heller and challenger Jacky Rosen, currently a freshman congresswoman.
Rosen recently introduced legislation that would reinstate the Obama administration’s 2015 net neutrality rule, which gave the Federal Communications Commission sweeping powers to micromanage the internet. The FCC recently voted 3-2 to remove that rule, saying itwas stifling internet innovation.
“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,” Rosen said in a press release following the introduction of her bill. “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.”

Fiber optic cables. (AP pix)

Actually, according to The Wall Street Journal, the rule 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, just as occurs on congested highways. The newspaper said both content providers and consumers would benefit from increased investment in faster wireless and fiber technology in the free market.
The Journal noted that the new FCC rules “would require that broadband providers disclose discriminatory practices. Thus cable companies would have to be transparent if they throttle content when users reach a data cap or if they speed up live sports programming. Consumers can choose broadband providers and plans accordingly.” Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission would still have authority to police predatory and monopolistic practices as it had prior to the net neutrality power grab.
In an opinion article penned for the online news service The Nevada Independent, Rosen made the specious argument, “Nevada families should not be forced to pay more for slower Internet because big telecommunications corporations want to increase their profits,” showing the customary Democratic disdain for profits. She also claimed, “Without net neutrality, rural communities, who are often limited to only one Internet service provider, could find themselves at the mercy of a single provider,” ignoring the fact that curbing profits ensures the continuation of such monopolies.
As for rural communities, Heller has offered a bill that would help cut through the thicket of government bureaucracy to actually speed up private internet investment, innovation and construction. Noting 85 percent of the land in Nevada is controlled by various federal land agencies, Heller’s bill would create a 270-day clock for the Interior Department and the Forest Service to approve or deny applications for easements or rights-of-way across federal land for broadband infrastructure projects. If the federal agencies miss the deadline, the application is deemed approved. If the application is denied, the agency must explain the reason for denial.
The bill further requires the federal agencies to establish regulations within one year that reflect a streamlined, consistent, and standardized process for application review.
“Access to high-speed broadband is a pillar of economic growth in the U.S., yet Nevada’s rural communities continue to lag behind because bureaucratic red tape prevents expansion of broadband infrastructure,” Heller said in a press release. “Given that nearly 85 percent of Nevada is owned by the federal government, many applications to deploy broadband on federal lands remain stalled in a lengthy interagency approval process. From Ely to Pahrump, I continue to hear that this bureaucratic hurdle is stifling innovation and job creation in our rural communities.”
Asked via email for comment on this topic, Heller’s Republican primary challenger Danny Tarkanian replied, “Overall, I believe in the most freedom-centered version of the internet possible. Technology, on the whole and more specifically the internet, are a boon to democracy and have done more to lend a voice to the people than just about any modern invention. Keeping the internet as an instrument of free-communication as well as of commerce are essential to the cause of liberty.”
Tarkanian added that he opposes any regulation that allows carriers to restrict access or create false tiers with which to charge customers increased rates for service.
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.

Bill would require corporations to disclose harassment and discrimination settlements

What’s that old saying? When your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

On Valentine’s Day Nevada’s first-term Democratic 3rd Congressional District Congresswoman Jacky Rosen, who happens to be running this year for Dean Heller’s Senate seat, filed a bill that would require all publicly traded companies to file with the Securities and Exchange Commission details about settlements involving sexual harassment and discrimination. It appears to be an effort to pry lose information about legal settlements like those kept secret about casino executive Steve Wynn.

The bill is titled Sunlight in Workplace Harassment Act (H.R. 5028).

Rosen and Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who has introduced a companion bill in the Senate, put out a press release today.

“The flood of allegations of sexual misconduct against powerful individuals has created a moral imperative for all of us to shine a spotlight on these abuses of power in the workplace,” Rosen was quoted as saying. “This is a real problem for workers in Nevada and across the country, and Congress has a responsibility to take a leading role in putting an end to workplace sexual harassment and discrimination. Requiring public companies to report these settlements will help lead to greater transparency, safer work environments, and a more robust discussion of how to prevent workplace misconduct and hold people in power accountable.”

Perhaps the legal system is just not transparent enough. Why not a bill to limit sealed settlements?

The bill would require corporations to disclose “measures taken by the covered issuer and any subsidiary, contractor, or subcontractor of the covered issuer to prevent employees of the covered issuer and any subsidiary, contractor, or subcontractor of the covered issuer from committing or engaging in sexual abuse, covered harassment, or covered discrimination.”

Contractor or subcontractor covers a lot of ground. Disclosure presumably could include: “We fired the S.O.B.”

The bill also prohibits the disclosure of the name of any victim of sexual harassment, abuse or discrimination. So much for the right to confront witnesses against you. It is silent on whether the name of a harasser, abuser or discriminator could or should be revealed or not.

Sen. Warren was quoted as saying, “Our bill will help unmask secret settlements that provide cover for the powerful to get away with abuse, harassment, and discrimination, while simultaneously protecting accusers’ privacy. Congress has a responsibility to pass it right away.”

 Meanwhile, another Wynn Resorts shareholder has filed suit agains the board of directors for failing to disclose earlier information that resulted in the decline in value of company stock. The AP story lede states: “The board of directors of Las Vegas-based Wynn Resorts is facing another lawsuit from shareholders who allege they breached their fiduciary duties when they ignored what has been described as a longstanding pattern of sexual abuse and harassment by the company’s founder, Steve Wynn.”

The story quotes one of the litigants as saying, “These board directors and officers were duty-bound to protect employees and the company, yet they failed to confront allegations of predatory behavior.”

A little transparency is all that is needed.

Editorial: Candidates should promise to end earmarks

Everybody loves to hate earmarks. Don’t they?

Nevada Democratic Congresswoman Jacky Rosen, who is running for the Senate in a bid to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Dean Heller, recently introduced legislation to ban earmarks.

Earmarks are those special interest spending bills that get attached to unrelated bills in Washington by Congress critters hoping to bring home the bacon in the form of bridges to nowhere, freeway intersections, veterans homes in tiny hamlets without enough vets to fill the beds and the like.

“Congress made the right decision when it ended the practice of earmarks,” said Rep. Rosen in a press release. “Earmarks represent a return to political favoritism, unethical practices, and wasteful government spending. Our constituents deserve better and I believe that compromise, not pork barrel projects, is how we cut through partisan gridlock. I’ll continue working to put Nevada families first by reaching across the aisle to find issues that both Democrats and Republicans agree on, and not through the politics of bribery that this administration is looking to embrace.”

Heller agrees. In fact he called for ending earmarks back in 2010, though he has not been averse to using them on occasion since then.

“The earmark process has become a symbol of the glut in our nation’s Capitol,” Heller said in a statement those eight years ago. “Congress must rein in reckless spending. This is why I will not request earmarks for the following fiscal year, and I call on all the members of the Nevada delegation to join me in this effort.”

So, not a campaign issue then, since they both agree, right? Just a matter of who will fight harder on this principled stance.

Will Rosen pay heed to the person who hand picked her to run for the House two years ago and for the Senate this year – former Sen. Harry Reid?

During his final year in the Senate Reid proudly labeled himself an earmarks user and passionately called for bringing them back, “I am one of the kings of earmarks. I think it was a terrible idea, a disservice to America to come up with this stupid idea, stupid idea to stop congressional directed spending – of course we should be doing it.”

According to press accounts at the time, Reid went on to say that he’s “never apologized to anybody” for supporting the earmark practice. “I go home and I boast about earmarks, and that’s what everybody should do. It’s a way we get things done around here. It’s the way it’s been done for centuries. And all of a sudden somebody comes up with the bright idea that all the government agencies and the White House can do it better than we can? They can’t. We have a constitutional obligation to do congressional-directed spending.”

But Heller can’t hang his hat on that link to Rosen, because the head of his own party, President Donald Trump recently declared, “Our system lends itself to not getting things done, and I hear so much about earmarks — the old earmark system — how there was a great friendliness when you had earmarks. But of course, they had other problems with earmarks. But maybe all of you should start thinking about going back to a form of earmarks.”

As for Heller’s Republican primary opponent Danny Tarkanian, who has tried to tie himself closer to Trump than Heller, he too long ago declared his opposition to earmarks.

Back in 2010, when he first ran for the Senate, Tarkanian said he would not seek earmarks for Nevada if elected and would work to wean Congress from what he called wasteful pork-barrel spending.

“I would not take earmarks and I would fight for all states not to get earmarks. I would not propose earmarks on our behalf. You have to lead by example,” Tarkanian told reporters then.

“I firmly believe and I will stake my campaign on it that the people of Nevada do not want this wasteful spending,” Tarkanian said. “They want the money in their pockets.”

We hereby encourage Heller, Tarkanian and Rosen to stick to the principles they have declared and campaign on the promise of ending the corrupting you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours practice. It results in a waste of tax dollars.

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 delegation reveals its priorities and political posturing

Trump signs spending bill

All of Nevada’s Democratic delegates to Congress voted to continue the federal government “shutdown” rather than trust the Republicans to bring to a vote the issue of amnesty for illegal immigrants.

The House voted 266-150 for a stopgap spending measure to fund the government until Feb. 8. The Senate voted 81-18 on the measure.

“It’s about time that Democrats came to their senses and made the decision to end their political games that led to the Schumer Shutdown. Their filibuster of legislation that would open the government, pay our troops, and fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was reckless and an example of Washington dysfunction at its worst. Because of their political posturing, Democrats sacrificed our national security, paying our troops, and care for this country’s most vulnerable children. It was particularly disappointing that for days, Senate Democrats blocked a vote on a piece of legislation that not only would have avoided a government shutdown and pay our troops, but contained many priorities – like CHIP and delaying the Cadillac tax – that they actually support. In fact, the legislation passed today is the same bill that was initially proposed last week with the exception of moving up the next deadline by eight days,” said Sen. Dean Heller.

His Democratic opponent this year, Rep. Jacky Rosen, showed where her priorities lie by stating, “I remain deeply disappointed by the systematic failure to address the critical issues facing this Congress, and I believe the only path forward to stop this dysfunction is a meaningful commitment to bipartisan problem-solving. Congress needs to work across the aisle to protect Nevada’s Dreamers and TPS workers, fund our community health centers, and pass a long-term budget that provides certainty for our government, our military, and our economy. … I will keep working across the aisle and fighting for a permanent solution in Congress that fixes President Trump’s cruel decision to end the DACA program and safeguards these young people.”

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto had a similar take on what is more important to her, “President Trump created a manufactured crisis when he ended Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Now, thousands are losing their jobs, their status, and their livelihoods. President Trump and Senator McConnell, when faced with the decision to bring up a long-term, bipartisan budget to address issues like providing health care for low income kids, funding our military, putting Dreamers on a pathway to citizenship and addressing the growing opioid epidemic, chose to hold Americans hostage and shutdown the government. … Dreamers cannot wait.”

Lame duck Rep. Ruben Kihuen, himself once an illegal immigrant, had this to say, “While I am pleased that today will end four months of Congressional Republicans’ holding nearly 9 million CHIP recipients hostage, I cannot support the legislation that passed the Senate earlier this afternoon. Unfortunately, this deal hinges upon the word of a Senator with a long history of breaking his promises and going back on his word. I cannot support a continuing resolution that fails to provide a permanent solution for DREAMers, fails to reauthorize funding for community health centers that serve nearly 90,000 Nevadans and 26 million people across the country, and fails to provide disaster relief to Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Texas, California, and Florida.”

 

Priorities, priorities. Who represents who?

 

Editorial: An ounce of wildfire prevention worth a pound of cure

A house burns in Napa County, Calif., in October. (Getty Images)

Wildfires have become an increasingly costly and devastating problem in the West over the past decades as federal land managers have increasingly restricted logging and road building and maintenance.

The average number of acres burned each year in the past decade has topped 6 million, compared to 3 million a year in the 1970s. As of the end of October of this year there already had been nearly 53,000 fires that burned more than 8.8 million acres. In 2015, 9.7 million acres burned by the end of October.

The cost just for fighting wildfires this year is approaching a record breaking $3 billion, and that doesn’t take into account the economic costs of burned homes, agriculture and infrastructure. The wine country fires in mid-October in northern California are estimated to have resulted in $85 billion in economic losses.

The cost of fighting fires for the Forest Service has grown over the recent years from 15 percent of the agency’s annual budget to 55 percent.

Currently there are efforts on two fronts to change land management practices and spending from the costly and dangerous battling of fires to actually preventing them from occurring.

Earlier this year, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who is over the Bureau of Land Management, and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, who heads the Forest Service, directed all federal land agencies to adopt more aggressive efforts to prevent wildfire through robust fuels reduction and other prevention techniques.

“This administration will take a serious turn from the past and will proactively work to prevent forest fires through aggressive and scientific fuels reduction management to save lives, homes, and wildlife habitat. It is well settled that the steady accumulation and thickening of vegetation in areas that have historically burned at frequent intervals exacerbates fuel conditions and often leads to larger and higher-intensity fires,” said Secretary Zinke in a press release. “These fires are more damaging, more costly, and threaten the safety and security of both the public and firefighters. In recent fire reviews, I have heard this described as ‘a new normal.’ It is unacceptable that we should be satisfied with the status quo. We must be innovative and where new authorities are needed, we will work with our colleagues in Congress to craft management solutions that will benefit our public lands for generations to come.”

On that Congressional front, this past week the House passed and sent to the Senate the Resilient Federal Forests Act, sponsored by Rep. Bruce Westerman, an Arkansas Republican and licensed forester, that would shorten the environmental review process for forest thinning, curb frivolous litigation by self-styled environmentalists and allow federal land managers to contract with private lumber mills to remove dead and dying trees and use the proceeds of the timber sale to better manage the lands.

The bill passed 232-188, largely along party lines, with less than a dozen Democratic votes. Nevada Republican Rep. Mark Amodei voted in favor of the bill, while Nevada Democrats Dina Titus, Jacky Rosen and Ruben Kihuen opposed it.

“This is a bill based on a simple idea — that we must do more to expand active management in federal forests,” Republican Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, was quoted as saying. “With this bill, we tackle not only the symptoms of the crisis but also its root causes. We provide the resources for our firefighters, but also tools for our land managers to improve conditions on the ground and proactively mitigate the threat of wildfire.”

Rep. Amodei spoke on the floor of the House in 2015 in support of a similar bill that passed the House but died in the Senate, noting the need for fire prevention because once high desert forests in Nevada burn it takes a hundred years for them to grow back. He also noted that the fires devastate endangered and threatened species and their habitat.

Oddly enough, one of the main arguments against the bill by the environmentalists is that logging threatens endangered and threatened species. More so than raging wildfire?

We applaud the efforts by Secretaries Zinke and Perdue to spend our money more wisely and encourage the Senate to pass the the Resilient Federal Forests 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: Tax reform bill divides Nevada delegation along party lines

Like everything else to come out of Washington, the House tax reform bill introduced this past week has turned into a partisan hissing match in a fact-free zone.

Republicans hail it as an economy stimulating second coming, while Democrats decry it as a sop to the wealthy and a death knell for the middle class.

The bill lowers the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent, doubles the standard deduction, lowers the individual tax rates for all but millionaires, allows 100 percent expensing of business costs instead of the current 50 percent, eliminates deductions for state and local taxes, except for property taxes, and allows mortgage interest deduction.

Republican Dean Heller said the bill will provide tax relief for middle class families, while Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto said the bill rewards corporations and the rich at the expense of working families, seniors and the poor.

“As a member of the U.S. Senate’s tax-writing committee, I’m waking up each and every day with the sole focus of ensuring that Nevada’s hardworking families and small business owners come out ahead when the Senate passes its final product,” Heller said in a statement, adding, “I’m going to continue fighting for a major tax overhaul that will help my state and push for policies that will create jobs, boost growth, and make it easier for Nevadans to provide a better life for their kids.”

A Cortez Masto press release fulminated, “Republicans in Congress have one priority: ripping off America’s middle class and working families. Rather than transparently writing a bill that puts economic growth and American’s financial security first, the current Republican tax proposal targets Nevada families. The latest Republican proposals would put our country even further in debt, take money out of working families pocketbooks …”

Cortez Masto also claimed, “The average tax increase on families nationwide earning up to $86,100 would be $794.”

But the Washington Post fact checked that claim and found it was based on a report by Democrats on the Joint Economic Committee who actually said, “If enacted, the Republican tax reform proposal would saddle 8 million households that earn up to $86,100 with an average tax increase of $794 …”

But you see, there are 122 million households making less than $86,100. Thus only 6.5 percent of those households would see a tax hike of that amount. The Post reported that more than 97 million, or 80 percent, of that group would get a tax cut averaging about $450.

Republicans say the bill would result in a tax savings of $1,182 for a typical household of four with gross income of $59,000, resulting in their tax bill being only $400.

Las Vegas Democratic Rep. Dina Titus joined the partisan fray by calling the bill “a red herring tax plan that relies on the myth of trickle-down economics in order to give the nation’s top earners a handout.”

Titus said she could not see how working families could save money if the bill removes certain deductions, including the one for state and local sales taxes — ignoring the fact 70 percent of Americans take the standard deduction and do not itemize, nor the fact Nevadans who do itemize can deduct only about 10 percent as much as taxpayers in high-tax states such as California and New York and thus are subsidizing those states.

Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen, who represents southern rural Nevada and northern Clark County, used the occasion to solicit contributions while slamming the bill by saying, “We expected Paul Ryan and the Republicans would bend over backwards to make big corporations and the super rich the winners in this plan, and that’s exactly what they did. Meanwhile, it’s all at your expense.”

Republican Congressman Mark Amodei, who represents northern Nevada, took a more nuanced approach, promising in an email to constituents to thoroughly research the 429-page bill, while also saying, “I think we can all agree the American taxpayer would be better off if Congress were to reform our current tax code in favor of a system that is simpler, fairer, and has lower tax rates.”

The bill also eliminates the $7,500 tax credit for purchasing electric cars, such as Teslas, whose batteries are built in Sparks, and drops the tax exemption for municipal bonds to finance sports stadiums, such as the one planned for Las Vegas for the Raiders.

Next, Congress needs to address the runaway federal spending.

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.

(AP pix)