Death by politician

The power appetite of pols is lethal for society

By Steven Miller
  • Thursday, June 3, 2010

Nevada's current legislative leaders don't want you to hear it, but the message rolling in from around the world is quite clear: The welfare-state ideology they're trying to impose on the Silver State spawns fiscal catastrophe.

All across Europe, countries that have long subscribed to the democratic socialist vision of free rides for all on the backs of the productive are now on the brink of national bankruptcy. Cradle-to-grave government produces out-of-control costs. Simultaneously, metastasizing government precludes the healthy economic growth necessary to pay those costs.

That Nevada politicians would be so indifferent to the consequences of this European ideology that they would seek to foist it on us all seems impossible to many.

Yet the strange, collectivist notions of the politicians currently running the Nevada Legislature are now beyond dispute. Their scheme for tax-eating "Vision Stakeholders" to design the state's future through an essentially socialist wish-list tells you all you need to know.

Remarkably, the basic plan here — pushed forward most energetically by Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford and Assembly bosses — is to ignore current and looming financial pressures on Nevada households and impose on families instead an entirely new level of predatory government taxation.

That elected Nevada politicians would become so indifferent to the plight of the great majority of their constituents shows who they see themselves as working for. And it's definitely not taxpayers.

Indeed, this was implicitly acknowledged earlier this year by Horsford in repeated comments. He and his colleagues in the legislative leadership proudly operated as agents for the 5.5 percent of Nevadans who have state or local government jobs — and not for the 94.5 percent who have to pay for those jobs.

This is the root of Nevada's problem — as well as Europe's. In pursuit of ever-greater personal and party power, Western politicians have formed essentially symbiotic bonds with government-employee unions.

Akin to the relationships in nature between the pilot fish and the shark, or the teeth-picking crocodile plover and the crocodile, these relationships work out well for the partners in the symbiosis but not so well for those upon whom the predators feed.

In the political symbiosis, the pols abandon the hard-won knowledge of centuries regarding good and limited government, and corruptly use taxpayers' money to purchase the support of politically powerful government-employee unions. In return, the government-union political machines mobilize on all fronts during elections to ensure their pet politicians retain a permanent grasp on power.

Although widely tolerated by our increasingly cynical and calloused culture, this bargain is not only corrupt but, for civilized society, ultimately lethal.

It is how you get countries like Greece, where 30 percent of the population has some kind of government job, where 30 percent of the economy is off-the-books (since taxes are over the moon), where the country for decades has faked its budget numbers and where paying off government debt is impossible because government spending and debt increase faster than any such state-smothered economy can grow.

It is also how you get not only the fiscally desperate PIIGS — Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain — but also looming fiscal disaster in every European and North American country.

No society in the Western Hemisphere now has enough money to fill the troughs at which government employees feed. All their luxurious perks and pensions have become a lethal burden on these societies. While no one in Nevada wants to say so, this state also —when its pension liabilities are appraised on the basis of real market risk — is technically bankrupt.

Today reality is presenting its bill in Europe, revealing to all the fraud that lies not only at the core of the euro and the European Currency Union, but also at the core of the European welfare-state model itself.

Tomorrow, in the U.S. and Nevada, that same reality will present our bill. And it most likely will be even harsher than the current recession.

Nevertheless, Horsford's Interim Finance Committee, like the statist Obama administration, remains insistent that its discredited and job-destroying social-democratic model must be imposed quickly. Both are anxious to secure their power grabs before active majorities awaken and stop them.

The desire to expand the state's coercive power and exercise it upon other human beings is, fundamentally, pathological. Ever-larger government means increasingly totalitarian government — necessarily sabotaging the constitutional safeguards that protect people from the power-seeking.

"All men having power ought to be mistrusted," wrote James Madison, author of the Bill of Rights, more than 200 years ago.  

Some truths, apparently, every generation has to learn anew.

Steven Miller is vice president for policy at the Nevada Policy Research Institute. For more visit

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