Thursday, May 09, 2013

Moving!

We've moved!

Our new site is here: cleanupnv.com/

We're still in the process of getting settled and there's a lot of dust and unopened boxes in the new place but we're soon it will be home.

NV Dems: Standing Up for Hollywood Millionaires, Sticking It to Middle-Class Moviegoers

While I was writing the post below I received an email from the Nevada Democratic Party, urging me to Help Nic Cage.
Dear Friend,

This week, Nicolas Cage wasn't playing a historian or a con man or a ghost rider with a flaming skull for a head on the silver screen -- he was in Carson City, trying to get Nevada lawmakers to get something important done.

The legislature is considering a bill that would create incentives for movie companies to bring production to Nevada. It's a move that could create hundreds of Nevada jobs. It would boost local economies. And Ghost Rider just told us to do it.

Want to stand with Nicolas Cage and Nevada Dems? Sign our petition and urge the Nevada legislature to take action now!

I'm going to be corny here and quote Ben Gates (aka Cage's character in National Treasure): "If there's something wrong, those who have the ability to take action have the responsibility to take action."

Today, Cage took action. And now, it's our turn.

Let's show the legislature how much real support is behind creating Nevada jobs -- sign the petition right now.


This may seem a bit funny. But making our state a more attractive venue for movie production is good for our economy, and what's good for Nevada's economy is good for Nevada families.

Nicolas is on to something. And we need to have his back.

Sign the petition now.


Thanks!

Zach

Zach Zaragoza
Executive Director
Nevada State Democratic Party
Very interesting contrast with the post below. On the one hand, the Nevada Democratic Party is supporting giving tax breaks to Hollywood millionaires while, on the other, one of their leaders is proposing to raise the cost of seeing those movies!

So, there you have it. Nevada Democrats: Standing up for Hollywood millionaires, sticking it to middle-class moviegoers.

I'm not a fan of giving tax breaks to filmmakers who film in the state in the first place. It's just another form of corporate welfare - transferring money from one group of businesses and individuals (from Nevada) to give to another group of businesses and individuals (from Hollywood). On top of that, from the standpoint of a conservative, that money is likely going to go to fund a movie that is probably going to ridicule you and attack everything you stand for.

There are, however, some very good conservatives who support this and thinks it's a good idea. I just don't happen to agree.

Dems' Latest Revenue Grab: Taxing Family Fun




If you drive a car, I'll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I'll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I'll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I'll tax your feet.

-The Beatles

Until now Democrats had been willing to commit to any specifics regarding how they wanted to take more money from Nevada residents, everyone knew they just wanted more. Yesterday Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, unveiled her plan to fund the Democrats’ spending wishes – an expansion of the state’s live entertainment tax, called the Nevada Entertainment and Admissions Tax (NEAT).

It may not be so NEAT if you have a life. Guess I don’t need to worry.

NEAT (aka AB498) would apply an 8% tax to just about any activity individuals and families do for fun. It would tax movie tickets, concert tickets, show tickets, sporting event tickets (including minor-league baseball & NASCAR, which had been exempt), bowling, golf, dancing, tennis, gym memberships, club memberships, strip clubs, the list goes on and on and on and on.

Essentially, it taxes the entry fee into just about any place in which someone has to pay to get inside. Don’t think you can get around the tax by letting people in for free then requiring a minimum purchase while inside, either, because that’s covered, too.

And, as they say in the infomercial, THAT’S NOT ALL!

NEAT also taxes all food and drink purchased inside these venues as well. It even places a tax on many complimentary food and drinks, or “comps”. 8% of nothing is definitely not nothing when it comes to the taxman getting his cut. The proposal would, however, allow the Nevada Gaming Commission to grant exemptions for comps to gaming businesses in which comps are “a necessary and critical business practice”.

The current live entertainment tax applies only to “live” entertainment events, events like shows and concerts. It contains a variety of general exemptions, such as for outdoor events, except those held at casinos, and specifically exempts minor-league baseball and NASCAR. It also has a tiered structure, with a 5% tax levied on events in big venues (7,500 or more capacity) and 10% on events in venues below the 7,500 threshold.

NEAT would remove the tiers, imposing an 8% rate on all items subject to the tax, eliminate virtually all the exemptions, except for events held by non-profits and those held in venues with a capacity less than 50, and expand the range of activities taxed to include virtually everything that people have to pay to attend.

On the positive side, it will take a 2/3 majority of each house of the Legislature to pass NEAT, and to override a veto by Republican Governor Brian Sandoval, who has vowed to veto all tax increases except the extension of the scheduled sunsetting taxes. So NEAT is unlikely to become law unless Democrats are able to sway a few Republicans who have thus far claimed to be opposed to tax increases or if it is part of a grand bargain at the end of the session.

As the saying goes, “when you tax something you get less of it.” NEAT taxes many things that make life enjoyable, so if it passes don’t be surprised if, as a result, Nevadans find life a little less enjoyable.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Big Business and Big Labor Agree to Give the Little Guy the Shaft

Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. Every small business owner who’s hoping for a little clarity and leadership from Washington on immigration should write this statement one hundred times on their office wall.

If published reports are true, an impending deal between Big Business and Big Labor may result in the little guy getting the shaft.
The agreement resolved what the pay level should be for low-skilled immigrants - often employed at hotels and restaurants or on construction projects - who could be brought in during labor shortages.

 Labor groups wanted to ensure that guest workers would not be paid less than the median wage in their respective industries, and the two sides compromised by agreeing that guest workers would be paid the higher of the prevailing industry wage as determined by the Labor Department or the actual employer wage.

As a post at RedState points out what this means in practice is that landscapers, nursing homes, hotels and restaurants would likely have to pay immigrant guest workers union wages, regardless of whether they are union or not.

In the construction industry the term “prevailing wage” has a very specific meaning. These wages are determined by the Department of Labor (or the Nevada Labor Commissioner) according to the Davis-Bacon Act. In general they reflect the wage and benefit rates paid by companies subject to union collective bargaining agreements, which can be much higher than the market wage paid to most workers.

The prevailing wage as determined by the U.S. Department of Labor differs from that calculated by the Nevada Labor Commissioner. Although in some cases the DoL rate is lower, it still is the collectively-bargained union wage rate for most classifications, including drywallers, roofers, electricians, equipment operators, HVAC workers and concrete workers.

Forcing residential and small commercial construction contractors to pay union wage rates will result in higher costs for housing and commercial buildings, which means fewer of these will be built. The industry is just starting to slowly emerge from a massive collapse and this could douse the light at the end of that tunnel.

And that may not even be the worst part for construction companies. According to the New York Times article,

    No more than 15,000 visas per year would go to construction occupations.

Employment in the construction industry in Nevada is down 100,000 from its peak. If the industry’s recovery picks up there may be a need for more than 15,000 additional construction workers in Nevada alone, not to mention the entire country.

While this may sound like a good deal for the workers, the reality is that it will mean far fewer of them will be hired. Labor is no more immune from the law of supply than any other aspect of the economy – the higher the price, the lower the demand.

As with many government impositions on the economy, this will hurt smaller businesses much more than the big corporations, especially in the Silver State. Most of the big casinos and the hotels and restaurants associated with them are already subject to collective bargaining agreements so this will have little effect on them. But it will have a major impact on their smaller competitors – the mom-and-pop restaurants throughout the state, many of whom are just squeaking by as it is.

Costs for companies in these industries will be going up and, as a consequence, so will prices for consumers.

This could be the final nail in the coffin of many small businesses, who are already struggling from the effects of the economic downturn and sluggish recovery. Consumers are reluctant to pay higher prices and those businesses that are unable to pass these additional costs on to their customers may not survive.

This is just the type of ill-advised policy that could smother the recovery in its crib.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Second Reform-Minded NV Schools Super Resigns In a Month

Reform-minded Superintendent of Nevada Schools James Guthrie resigned earlier today after less than a year on the job.
Guthrie — whose ideas surrounding class-size reduction sparked controversy among teachers and legislators recently — did not explain his reason for leaving.
“All I can say is I’m resigning, effective immediately,” Guthrie said when reached by phone Friday afternoon.
Guthrie was a defender of school choice. His declared belief that our education system would experience greater benefit from fewer (but highly-effective) teachers rather than from smaller classes put him at odds with the teachers unions.

Find out more, including more reasons the teachers unions weren't enamored with Guthrie at Watchdog Wire - Nevada.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Up Is Down, At Least When Talking About Insurance Premiums with Obamacare



When Pelosi said they had to pass the bill to find out what was in it, she must have been referring to Harry Reid.

His claim that insurance premiums would fall by $1,600 per year after the passage of Obamacare was ridiculous when he made it back in January of 2010. But that was back when they were trying to convince people what a great idea it was.

Now we're finding out the truth, that Obamacare is forcing insurance premiums up instead of down. As Sean Hackbarth at the Free Enterprise blog reveals,
Even Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius acknowledges that many people will pay more for health insurance because of the added benefits mandated by the government. She argues that “with subsidies available to a lot of that population that they are really going to see much better benefit for the money that they’re spending.”

Of course those subsidies have to be paid by someone, and it’s from the hundreds billions of dollars in new taxes placed on a sluggish economy.
Hackbarth references a report by The Society of Actuaries that estimated
Insurance companies will have to pay out an average of 32 percent more for medical claims on individual health policies under President Barack Obama's overhaul.

Whoever could have predicted this? The truth is, just about everybody who looked very closely at the legislation predicted it.

Even the people who wrote the law realized it at the time, which is why they created so many subsidies to hide the cost increases and shift them from the consumers of health insurance.

The reality of Obamacare is exceeding even the most nightmarish predictions.

Eminent Domain Proposal for Underwater Homeowners Gets Local Hearing

The City of North Las Vegas has taken a beating as a result of the recession and slow recovery. Some people consider it the epicenter of the mortgage meltdown, with 75% of homeowners underwater on their mortgages.

Looking for answers, at a recent City Council meeting NLV entertained a proposal to use the power of eminent domain to seize certain mortgages and refinance them in an attempt to help homeowners avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes. The proposal was presented by a group called Mortgage Resolution Partners (MRP), which has traveled the country offering similar plans.

According to MRP’s Byron Georgiou, who was a member of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission and presented the proposal at the NLV City Council meeting, “The average foreclosure costs local government, the borrower and neighbors roughly $43,000 and the only way to really address this in a significant way is to take, acquire, the loans and reduce the principal in an attempt to stop foreclosures.”

MRP’s proposal has generated a significant amount of controversy and opposition. San Bernardino County in California and the City of Chicago recently rejected the idea.

The Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors (GLVAR) testified against the proposal, arguing, “we believe use of eminent domain in these circumstances is an extremely poor public policy solution with serious ramifications for future real estate lending in our community.”

In email and phone interviews after the meeting, John Vlahoplus, Chief Strategy Officer of MRP, defended the use of eminent domain, referencing an article on Watchdog Wire – Nevada regarding federal control of public lands. He compared proposals calling for Western states to use that power to take control of federally-owned property with the situation of mortgages held by investors in far-off lands.

More at Watchdog Wire - Nevada.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Obamacare's Pre-Existing Conditions Plan Closed to New Enrollees



The passage of Obamacare was supposed to mean everyone with pre-existing conditions would be finally be allowed to obtain health insurance. But people attempting to enroll in Obamacare’s Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) are now greeted with a message telling them enrollment in the program has been suspended.

PCIP quit accepting new applications for enrollment last month. Despite low enrollment the plan was in danger of blowing through the $5 billion Congress granted the program if it continued to accept new applicants.

One of the major points supporters of Obamacare used to sell the program was the idea there were hordes of Americans who were uninsured only because insurance companies refused to provide them coverage due to pre-existing conditions. According to HealthCare.gov, which touts the benefits of Obamacare,
The number of people who both have a pre-existing condition and are uninsured ranges from 9 to 25 million.
Read more at Watchdog Wire - Nevada.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Citigroup Party



Contrary to popular perception, it is the Democrat, not the Republican, that is the Party of Wall Street. Witness President Obama's decision to tap Citigroup alum Jack Lew to be his new Treasury Secretary, replacing Timothy Geithner, another Wall Streeter.

Lew's story is quite interesting. While Obama trashed Romney during the campaign for having offshore accounts, he's obviously not concerned with Lew's. Also, Lew was a VP at Citi during the banking meltdown but didn't have a clue about any of the bad bets Citi made that nearly drove the company under, forcing it to accept a bailout. 

There are some other unanswered questions with Lew as well.
We wrote recently about the oddity of New York University paying severance to Mr. Lew in 2006 when he left there voluntarily to work at Citigroup. NYU hasn't explained why it would pay someone for quitting to take a job on Wall Street.

As for the Citi paycheck, the story is how Wall Street has become a get-rich-turnstile for Democratic political operatives. The terms of Mr. Lew's original employment contract with Citi included a bonus guarantee if he left the bank for a "high level position with the United States government or regulatory body."

Most companies include incentives for top employees not to leave, but in this case the contract was written to reward Mr. Lew for treating the bank like a revolving door. Citi says it likes to accommodate employees who do public service or work at nonprofits. But the Lew contract was specific about a senior job in the federal government. There would be no special payout if he left to run the Red Cross or the New York state budget office.
WSJ documents several other members of the Citi-Democrat Administration revolving door.

As Michael Barone puts it,
One inference you could draw is that Robert Rubin, the Clinton administration treasury secretary who has been exceedingly well paid at Citigroup even as it headed to bailout territory, wants to keep a Citigroup alumnus running Treasury.
It's this type of incestuous relationship between big business and big government that gives capitalism a bad name. Not coincidentally, it's also one of the most useful tools of anti-capitalists in big government.

It feeds the perception that big business runs the government for its own purposes while at the same time increasing government's control of the economy. It simultaneously increases the power of government and weakens the free market while it feeds public mistrust and animosity of the free market. It's a win-win for those who favor central planning over free markets, today's Democrats.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Falling for the "Entitlement" Deception

Vin Suprynowicz has an excellent column in the RJ this morning blasting the myth behind Social Security. We've all been taught to believe, a belief reinforced by every politician who prefers not to be the target of a vicious smear campaign by a very powerful lobby, that SS is a type of insurance or annuity that we pay into and that these payments impose an obligation on the federal government to repay that "investment".
It's a lovely idea, and there's no doubt politicians going back at least as far as Franklin Roosevelt have gone to considerable pains to convince Americans this is exactly what's going on. It's so less warm and cozy, after all, to say the "Social Security tax" was just another general purpose tax, spent as it came in on wars and Solyndra subsidies and locking up pot smokers, while in the meantime Social Security checks are nothing but welfare payments to the unemployed elderly, directly transferred from the paychecks of today's young workers - as long as we have some left.

The notion that "It's insurance, it's an annuity" is far more attractive - the only teensy problem being that it's not true.
As Suprynowicz points out even the Social Security Administration's own website reveals this to be a myth. No less than the United States Supreme Court, in the 1960 ruling in Flemming v. Nestor, ruled that Social Security is not a contractual agreement requiring the government to make payments to you or anyone else, you have no property right to your Social Security benefits.

In other words, as soon as the money is taken out of your paycheck, it no longer belongs to you in any way, shape or form. The money isn't in an account with your name on it, you cannot pass it on to your heirs, and if you die before you begin collecting all of the money you paid in goes to someone else who's not related to you. And if Congress decides to change the law regarding who can collect and/or how much, the only recourse you have is to try to get another Congress to change it.

Starting a couple years ago SS began taking in less money than it pays out every year. So the only way to continue to pay benefits at the current levels is to raise taxes, cut other spending or take on more debt.

Beginning with those retiring last year, SS will now have a negative return for the average retiree. That's right, the average SS recipient will now receive less money than he paid in.

Would you put your money in an investment with a negative return? Not if you didn't have a choice and you don't have a choice with Social Security. It's such a great bargain that the government forces people to participate and it's defenders go ballistic over any attempts to let people opt out of it - except for government workers, that is.


Liberal Admits Conservatives Were Right About Obamacare

WSJ's James Taranto finds a column on a lefty website that issues what he terms a "powerful indictment of ObamaCare."
[Sahil] Kapur's argument amounts to the following: Democrats passed a law that had and still has insufficient public support (points 1 and 4), that cannot achieve its goals without unconstitutional means (point 2), that did not allocate the necessary resources to accomplish its objectives (point 3), and that lacks and still lacks even minimal support across the political aisle (all four points).

That sounds very much like the conservative critique of ObamaCare. At this point it's fair to say that ObamaCare opponents have won the argument. Of course, since supporters won the political battle three years ago (and Obama won re-election), this monstrosity is now the law of the land, ensuring that both sides' victories will have been Pyrrhic.
Contrary to what the President and the law's other supporters would like everyone to think, the reason the American people continue to oppose Obamacare is because it is a bad law, not because of conservative criticism of it, though the criticism has helped to highlight some of the worst aspects of it. The proponents never took any criticism of it seriously and never undertook a serious analysis of its potential consequences.

Now, however, even some on the left, including some of those who voted for it, are beginning to realize that it is severely flawed.  But some of us have known that for a long time.


Never Miss an Opportunity

Dr. Ben Carson certainly doesn't. For the few who haven't already, set aside a half hour to listen to Dr. Carson's speech at the National Prayer Breakfast. Speaking with President Obama just two seats to his side and other prominent political figures in attendance, he tells it like it is.




 
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