D. Dowd Muska
As casino gambling sprouts up across the United States—and a number of indicators suggest fewer tourists are vacationing in Nevada—the need for economic diversification of the state’s one-industry economy has received renewed interest.
Residents of Southern Nevada await Clark County Commissioners’ inevitable imposition of the quarter-cent sales tax increase, a hike voters overwhelmingly approved earlier this month. In Northern Nevada, Washoe County Commissioners gave initial approval to the quarter-cent increase on November 17. Since 1997, when legislators passed a bill which allowed commissioners to raise their counties’ sales tax rates, debates have raged over the need for additional revenue to fund infrastructure projects in Las Vegas and Reno. But these battles have missed a more significant point: Residents of Nevada already face one of the highest sales tax burdens in the country. This burden is particularly onerous for low-income workers and families. A tax on sales is inherently regressive, since its rate remains the same for all, regardless of income. Herewith, a look at why Nevada’s sales tax is harmful to less affluent citizens—and detrimental to the Silver State’s economic health as well.
In 1997, Amtrak discontinued the Desert Wind, its route between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. This decision meant rail service between Las Vegas and Los Angeles was no longer available. But that will soon change, with a new route which directly links the two cities. Funded in part by Southern Nevada casinos, it will shuttle passengers between Las Vegas and L.A. in Spanish-built Talgo trains. Many casino executives and politicians have high hopes that the new rail route will alleviate traffic congestion on I-15. However, reality flies in the face of this assumption. Trains now carry a minuscule portion of American travelers, and despite the shorter trips Talgo trains provide, they are unlikely to lure Vegas-bound gamblers away from their cars. Furthermore, America’s nationalized passenger rail service is a fiscal disaster. Rather than seeking for ways to prop up Amtrak with "public-private partnerships" such as the one currently at work in Southern Nevada, Congress should privatize the service completely, or defund it altogether.
In the 1950s, almost 100 nuclear bombs were set off in Southern Nevada. It is now known that residents, livestock and military personnel in the immediate vicinity of the blasts suffered adverse health effects. But for many years, activists have claimed that nuclear fallout from atomic testing made thousands of additional Americans sick—people who did not live or work close to the Nevada Test Site (NTS). This claim received a bit more credibility last year, when a federal health institute concluded that as many as 75,000 children developed thyroid cancer due to nuclear fallout. While there is no doubt that Americans were exposed to radioactive material from explosions at the NTS, the public health consequences of the blasts remain murky. Earlier this month, two federal science panels concluded that there is little evidence to indicate widespread thyroid cancers from nuclear testing, and thus a national screening program for the disease is not needed.
Rape in Nevada, which had decreased since 1994, rose dramatically in 1997. According to "Crime and Justice in Nevada 1997," a collection of statistics compiled by the Nevada Uniform Crime Reporting Program, the rape rate rose almost 18 percent last year. The horror of rape has been brought home to residents of Las Vegas, where a serial rapist has attacked seven women since December of 1996. Although Metro Police officers have worked diligently to make an arrest, their dedication cannot change a fundamental reality about personal safety: Law enforcement personnel cannot possibly be present to ensure the security of every citizen at all times. Ultimately, individuals are responsible for protecting themselves against violent predators. More and more women have recognized this, and have made the choice to arm themselves.
The United States currently faces a severe juvenile crime wave. Youths violate the law with increasing frequency, and criminologists believe things are likely to get worse before they get better. States have responded to this crisis in a number of ways. Perhaps the most popular option is to "crack down" on violent offenders. These juveniles are often tried as adults and incarcerated at adult facilities.
Last October the Nevada Casino Dealers Association (NCDA) filed a lawsuit against 17 tobacco companies and organizations. Claiming that casino dealers are "particularly vulnerable" to "the dangers of secondhand smoke," the NCDA filed its suit in Reno federal court on behalf of nine dealers. Since then, separate lawsuits have been filed by individual dealers making similar claims. But a ruling last month by U.S. District Judge William Osteen may take much of the wind out of the sails of the NCDA lawsuit, as well as other attempts to attack the tobacco industry for the alleged health effects of secondhand smoke. On July 17, Osteen found that the Environmental Protection Agency dishonestly linked secondhand smoke to cancer in its landmark report on the issue in 1993. Herewith, a look at the little-known facts about "dangers" of secondhand smoke, and the weak science upon which secondhand smoke lawsuits are based.
In June Harley-Davidson celebrated its 95th anniversary with a parade and party in Milwaukee, the company’s home town. Over 100,000 motorcycle enthusiasts turned out to pay tribute. For millions of Americans, motorcycles (of any type) are symbols of the individuality and mobility permitted in a country as vast and free as the United States. But in most states—including Nevada—riding a motorcycle isn’t quite as free as it once was. Helmet laws are currently in place in all but four states. To non-riders, helmet requirements may seem entirely reasonable. Yet helmet laws raise serious financial, constitutional and philosophical questions, all of which have the potential to affect non-riders. Herewith, an examination of the helmet law debate.
The Department of Energy continues to investigate whether Yucca Mountain is a viable location to store the high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) produced by America’s commercial nuclear reactors. Nevada’s elected officials, fully aware that their political lives depend on resistance to the Yucca Mountain Project (YMP), continue to fight the proposal. The rhetoric they employ to oppose the YMP usually features apocalyptic scenarios—fantasies of terrorist attacks or cataclysmic volcanic eruptions. It is unfortunate that YMP foes rarely advance the free-market argument that the federal government should not be responsible for disposing of waste generated by for-profit corporations. Events in Utah may bring attention to this oversight—a possible interim storage facility in the Beehive State suggests that the HLRW problem does not require a government-dominated solution.
Last month "Project Censored," an annual public relations stunt by the far left, revealed its list of the top censored stories of 1997. The list is comprised of trendy liberal topics that are largely overlooked by the mainstream press. The list’s name is disingenuous—the stories are not "censored" at all, but regularly see print in ultra-leftist publications such as The Nation and Mother Jones. The Reno News & Review compiled its own list covering subjects within the state, including "overpopulation" in Washoe Valley and Nevada’s "rule by the rich." NPRI has a somewhat different take on the types of stories to which Nevada’s media turns a blind eye. Herewith, NPRI’s list of the most-overlooked stories of the last 12 months.