Politicians need dollar sense

Nevada’s women politicians have had a special relationship with motorized vehicles for nearly a century. Anne Martin, Nevada’s first female candidate for the U.S. Senate, trekked across the state in a Model T Ford in 1914. Now two women senatorial candidates are getting attention for their wheels.

Sharron Angle, whose radical right wing endorsement credentials include the Republican Tea Party Express, Phyllis Schlafly, and now the allegedly influential Club for Growth, turned out at a recent rally dressed in black leather, riding a Harley. And Sue Lowden, of “chickens for checkups” fame, has taken to cruising the American outback in a luxury bus that may or may not have been legally donated to the campaign.

Both women are candidates running in the hotly contested Republican primary to determine Harry Reid’s opponent in the November election. Although they may inherit Anne Martin’s status as female candidates, the similarity ends there. Like far too many GOP politicians these days, they are falling over themselves to claim the anti-tax mantle. Back in the “good old days,” Nevada’s first woman candidate argued in favor of education, rights for working miners and other progressive reforms.

The mania against taxes in this country is going to be the death of us all, I swear. Look, people. Taxes are the backbone of a civilized state. Without them, there is no education, roads, police force, or the cultural amenities that make life and business thrive. Nations or states that fail to provide for this infrastructure will not attract new business. And our state, which is already one of the leanest in the nation for taxes spent on governing, will never be able to cut its way out of the projected $2-3 billion shortfall projected for next year. I am not saying that all taxes are good—only that we can’t keep allowing taxation to be the only benchmark of an elected, or electable, politician. Sadly, media blowhards who will never have to make a tough decision about how to balance a state budget are driving fiscal common sense off the ballots.

Take Brian Sandoval, leading Republican candidate to challenge Jim Gibbons’ seat. He started out as a strong moderate conservative, with sensible ideas about raising revenue—including taxes—to heal our crippled economy. However, he abandoned his moderate stance earlier this month, coming out in favor of Arizona’s controversial anti-immigration law, supporting Gibbons’ lawsuit against the federal health-care legislation and pledging not to raise taxes.

Sandoval may simply be playing the age-old, historic GOP head-fake of catering to radical right talking points to get elected with the intention of returning to his moderate roots. That has become an increasingly risky game, however, with the right-wing media and Tea Party activists calling out “RINOS” (Republicans In Name Only) for precisely this tactic. Nevertheless, in my opinion, Sandoval remains the strongest Republican contender for the gubernatorial race. Sadly, because Nevada’s primaries are closed, I can’t vote for him. Another argument for open primaries—but that’s a different column.

Meanwhile, huge corporations continue to reap enormous benefits from Nevada’s leaky tax structure. The price of gold has soared to unprecedented heights, but the vast majority of that wealth—extracted from our delicate high country ecosystems—will not only leave Nevada but the United States as well, since Canadian companies like Barrick Gold, Kinross and Goldcorp own Nevada mines.

Sadly, our state traditionally punishes politicians who honestly support fiscal responsibility. Still, Nevadans who would like to restore our state to prosperity for the middle classes should steer clear of leatherbound motorcyclists and other anti-tax fanatics as they head to the primaries in June. We deserve to have a sane and honest debate about real problems and real solutions this fall.