In the plot-defining scene early on in the "The Matrix," Laurence Fishburne's character, the sage Morpheus, reveals to the protagonist Neo that the world he thinks he's been living in is not real. Rather, it's but a mere simulation of the world as it looked at the end of the 20th Century, a "dream world" created to prevent the entire human race from discovering a horrible truth.
That truth, says Morpheus, is that it is really some 200 or so years later, a time when machines rule the earth and have enslaved their human creators. Now the system merely grows the humans in small pods – just for the purpose of harvesting their energy and nutrients.
It is a world in which humans have no control over their own destinies, exist solely to serve the needs of the ruling system, and remain blissfully unaware of their condition thanks to the delusions that system inculcates.
Or, as the Left would call it, utopia.
Here in Nevada, too, it is difficult not to conclude that, in the minds of those who make up the state's ever-expanding governing class, citizens exist first and foremost to feed, with their nutrients, the machinery of the state – thus allowing it to further grow in power and influence over us all.
In recent years, nearly every legislative session produces a new and creative plan by which government confiscates as much of Nevadans' hard-earned money as possible, while using a series of red herrings to prevent people from discovering their own horrible truth. A new study by the Nevada Policy Research Institute, however, has finally begun to lift the veil on this scandalous practice.
The study, authored by the Institute's own Steven Miller and titled "Getting Plucked in Nevada: How Government Covertly Increases Your Tax Burden," exposes for the first time the systematic way in which Nevada politicians have implemented a series of hidden taxes over the past several decades. The cumulative effects of all of these hidden taxes are a Nevada that is increasingly reflective of Leftist economic policies and, thus, an erosion of its long-held status as a taxpayer-friendly state.
The study is rife with examples of government duplicity on taxation, but one in particular really boils the blood. Miller calls it the "tax shaft."
Miller explains how in 1981, the threat of a popular revolt over increasingly crippling property taxes became a grave concern to Nevada's politicians. The politicians managed to placate the people through a "tax shift" – a reduction in property taxes that was offset (quietly, of course) by higher taxes in other areas: sales taxes, gasoline taxes and drivers' license fees, for example.
It all sounded nice, but the joke, as usual, was on taxpayers. The politicians, Miller writes, proceeded to use the 1981 property tax cuts as justification for further tax hikes in those other areas through the late 1990s. Then Miller gets to the fun part: "Nevada property owners at the end of the period were paying higher property taxes than at the beginning. However, now their burden also included all those other new taxes."
This blatant disregard for both taxpayer interests and the idea of honest government reveals what is, at its core, the governing class' complete lack of respect for ordinary citizens. To raise our taxes is bad enough, but to do so in a way that suggests we're not entitled to the truth about it is much worse – it is dehumanizing. And it makes plain the elitist mentality of a government unaware, apparently, that it exists to serve our ends.
That, after all, is the heart of the matter. Those who govern increasingly see us not as private and free citizens with a right to set our own priorities, but as mere cogs in their supernal machine, necessary only insofar as we can be harvested in order to feed it.
Andy Matthews is vice president for communications at the Nevada Policy Research Institute. This commentary was first published in the April 2008 issue of the Nevada Business Journal.