All politics is economic

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All politics no longer are local in the 20th century sense. But local politics are still all important.

Former House Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill of Massachusetts once said, “All politics is local.” Whether the operative verb should be is or are (politics singular or politics plural?), the message was the same.

In Massachusetts or Nevada, politics were local in Tip’s day. But Speaker O’Neill is semi-ancient history, as is Sen. Ted Kennedy. Brown is now the color of the once reliably blue Bay State.

In that recent Massachusetts special election to choose the late Sen. Kennedy’s replacement, Republican Scott Brown beat Democrat Martha Coakley. (Not to worry, we’ll get back to Nevada soon).

Brown got big money, campaign pros and phone bank help from outsiders, including the latter from Nevada GOP Senate hopeful Sue Lowden. Brown ran as an insurgent Republican and got a boost because the Obama administration disappointed some voters.

The more things change, however, the more they stay the same. Coakley, her state’s attorney general, beaned herself in Bean Town. Her patrician attitudes about the beloved Boston Red Sox and woeful campaign at the nuts-and-bolts (local) level did her in.

So in the run up to November’s election, folks favoring Republicans shouldn’t conclude Brown’s victory automatically proves the GOP just turned golden.

Brown’s win shows party labels are overrated. The middle, filled with Independents, is both more global and local while less loyal. Those riled in the voting ranks sting anyone offending them.

How does this translate in other states, including Nevada? If an incumbent governor seeks reelection, he’s in the fight of his life no matter what his party affiliation. A Senate incumbent must have a huge campaign finance war chest and will still run scared.

Problems plague Nevada. State unemployment hit 13 percent as 2010 began. Would you want to be an incumbent?

We’re going local loco. The news reports that budgetary, salary and benefit cuts in Reno-Washoe County governments may go on for years. Heartening to some conservatives, for sure, but it demonstrates that the local economy sucks.

Property tax revenue will fall 7 percent in 2010-11, reflecting decimated home values. Sales taxes, which brought in $103 million four years ago, are forecast to realize but $65 million next fiscal year. Commerce is barely on life support.

Reno Mayor Bob Cashell says Reno-area gaming won’t return to its glory days in his lifetime. At Lake Tahoe, partly because of Native American casinos in northeastern California, gaming revenues on the lake’s Nevada side are down a third from a decade ago.

Las Vegas led the nation last year in house foreclosures and, despite fewer expected in 2010, the state’s largest city still faces more. Shadow housing inventory also means trouble even if home prices keep firming. Consequently, the National Association of Home Builders sees problems through 2011. It reports Las Vegas’ new home production, usually an economic engine, will limp along at 70 percent of normal.

Casinos in Nevada and Vegas got a recent bump, but only after nearly two years of declining monthly revenues. Even if recovery means the nation’s economy grows and the Vegas Strip win firms, booming revival isn’t in the cards long term.

Now, anyone can gamble almost anywhere; housing went from ATM machine to value trap; commerce crapped out and jobs just vanished from many Silver State Main Streets.

Gambling got localized and legalized all over the world, including on Wall Street, and the Nevada goose that once laid the golden egg is overcooked.

Tip your hat to Tip. We’re living in a global village. All politics remain local.