Newspaper column: House $15 minimum wage bill would kill jobs

The House this past week passed a bill that would increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 and phase out the sub-minimum wage currently allowed for tip earners. The vote was 231-199, largely along party lines.

While all three of Nevada’s Democratic representatives put out statements bragging about voting for the Raise the Wage Act and citing how many people in their districts would be eligible for pay hikes under the law, Republican Mark Amodei, who represents Northern Nevada, warned of the many problems that the bill could create and said the only good thing about it is that it is unlikely to pass in the Senate.

“It makes a good campaign ad in certain neighborhoods, I guess,” Amodei said during a conference call on Friday. He said the bill, while it may raise hourly wages for some by 107 percent, others will lose their jobs entirely or have their hours cut. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that somewhere between 1.3 million and 3.7 million would lose their jobs.

Amodei said the bill is especially problematic for Nevada because a third of the workforce is tipped workers. “In a state that has 45 million-plus people a year who come here for the resort industry … they tip people in the housekeeping industry, they tip people in restaurants, they tip people in casinos,” the congressman noted, adding that the current federal minimum wage for tipped workers is $2.13 an hour and the increase to $15 an hour would constitute a 600 percent increase.

“When you say everybody is going to make 15 bucks an hour you’re picking winners and losers,” Amodei said. “Because what do business people do in response to that? They take a look at, first of all they’re going to raise prices, which by the way is kind of that vicious circle — the good news is you’re making more money, the bad news is it costs you more on everything this impacts.”

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. Imagine what 107 percent would do.

Amodei also noted that the National Restaurant Association reports that almost two-thirds of restaurant owners, when faced with higher minimum wage requirements, reduce hours for workers, half eliminated jobs and all raised prices. “So the good news is you’re getting 15 bucks and hour, the bad news is you’re not going to work as many hours,” he said.

Newspaper column: Energy Department catches possible error, then catches hell

Umbrage has been duly taken.

On the afternoon of July 3 Energy Department Deputy Secretary Daniel Brouillette called Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak to let him know the department may have been mistakenly shipping unstable nuclear material to the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) monthly for a dozen years.

Mixed low-level radioactive waste — which must be protected from moisture when disposed — may have been mislabeled as merely low-level radioactive waste, which includes such things as rags, papers, filters, equipment, discarded protective clothing and construction debris and need not be protected from moisture. Further, the governor was told the waste might include “reactive” material, which could explode or release toxic fumes if exposed to water.

In a subsequent briefing this past week, Sisolak was told the department had not yet confirmed any of the waste was indeed reactive and the mislabeled shipments from the agency’s Y-12 facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn., had only been coming to Nevada since 2013 and involved only 32 containers.

Though Energy Secretary Rick Perry did not take office until his 2017 appointment by Republican President Donald Trump and his agency caught the apparent error, suspended further shipments and informed Nevada public officials of the possible error, Nevada Democratic office holders unleashed a fusillade of fury, including Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford calling for Perry to resign.

“I am outraged and shocked to hear about the Department of Energy’s repeated transgressions on the people of Nevada,” Horsford said in a statement. “Today we found out that, against the will and consent of Nevadans, the Department of Energy has been covertly shipping dangerous radioactive waste into our state.”

He concluded, “Secretary Perry must resign immediately.”

Democratic Rep. Dina Titus blustered, “The level of incompetence at the Department of Energy is only matched by its dishonesty. For decades, the DOE has been an untrustworthy partner and this latest round of illegal shipments is truly a new low. I’m grateful that Governor Sisolak continues to stand up for Nevada and refuses to let this violation of the law go unchallenged.”

Democratic Rep. Susie Lee fulminated, “The continued carelessness with our safety is exactly the concern of every Nevadan who is told that we should welcome the storage of nuclear waste in our own backyard. But let me be clear: we’re not just Nevadans, we are Americans, and it’s clear that the Department of Energy does not take Americans’ health, safety, or security into consideration before making decisions.”

In a joint statement Democratic Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen decried, “Last week, we were contacted by the Department of Energy and made aware of the situation. As a result, along with Governor Sisolak we’ve taken immediate action and sent a letter demanding answers from Secretary Perry, and scheduled an immediate classified briefing to ensure there is accountability and oversight on behalf of the State of Nevada. Yet again, the DOE has violated its mission, broken Nevadans’ trust and failed to follow its own compliance procedures.”

Gov. Sisolak released a statement after this past week’s briefing by Energy officials  saying, “I was beyond disappointed to learn of problems related to shipments of low-level radioactive waste from the DOE’s Y-12 facility to Nevada. … While we appreciate the courtesy of the in-person briefing, we will continue to do everything in the state’s power to hold them accountable, ensure there is a plan to fix this problem and prevent it from occurring again, and above all else, protect the health and safety of Nevadans.”

The errors apparently occurred for four years of the Obama administration without anyone catching it, but the agency that caught the error and reported it is dishonest, careless, incompetent and to blame.

The Energy Department released a statement to the media saying, “The components that were shipped pose no risk to the safety and health of the general public or workers at the facility at NNSS. The Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration has launched an internal investigation to determine how this went undetected for a six-year period.” Three of those years were during the previous Democratic administration, by the way.

Umbrage always seems to be taken only when the offended ones are of a different political party and, especially when the information can be used to bludgeon attempts to dispose of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain.

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.

NNSS Area 5 storage area (file pix)

 

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: 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.