It has become positively de rigueur for politicians to salt their audiences with living, breathing examples of their topic, even if they have to stretch the point a bit to work them in.
Gov. Brian Sandoval's State of the State speech this past Monday was no exception. To single out for a few rounds of applause and recognition, he had in the Assembly chambers the obligatory soldiers, an honored state trooper and an honored but recently canned educator.
But his best example of what is wrong with this economy and the state of the business community in Nevada -- the one for whom he had the fewest answers and for whom there was no applause -- appeared in the form of a letter. The governor quoted a woman who works in a small dental practice in Las Vegas. He said she told him that, for the first time in 20 years, the practice had lost money.
"The assault on our practice finances comes from everywhere -- insurance companies, the state, the federal government, OSHA regulations, EPA regulations, payroll taxes and the cost of dental products and supplies," Sandoval quoted.
The governor said, "She begged me to 'help set new directions ... that free up some of our time and money.' Otherwise, she said, ' a lot of small businesses will decide that it isn't worth it to sacrifice the time and effort '
"Ladies and gentlemen, it is worth it," Sandoval said. "I want that dental practice and other Nevada businesses, as well as their employees and families, to succeed. That is exactly what I'm fighting for."
All the woman was asking for was that government taxes and regulations not lay the last straw on her back. You know, the one that puts the camel in traction.
But no sooner had Gov. Sandoval stepped from the dais than Democratic Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford declared the governor's budget dead on arrival.
"I will not process a budget as proposed that cuts education in this manner," said Horsford, suggesting businesses should be taxed in order to avoid those proposed cuts.
"The business community needs to be a part of it," said Horsford, who is the CEO of the Culinary Training Academy, a nonprofit joint venture of casino management and labor unions.
While not so blunt as Horsford, Democratic Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, a North Las Vegas firefighter, hinted at a need for tax hikes in his pre-recorded Democratic response to the State of the State address.
"Rebuilding and investing in Nevada will cost us," Oceguera said. "But putting off solutions which are right in front of us will cost us dearly. We get what we pay for.
"We know it's never a good time to raise taxes. There is never a good time to fire employees. But this is the right time to shoulder our responsibility and do the right thing for our state."
Speaking of shouldering: While listening to the negative reactions to Sandoval's austerity budget, one could hear a plaintive undertone, something like a plea for a "modern government," a 21st-century government that does things for its citizens. An active, supportive government.
At the same time, one could eavesdrop on a conversation from our distant past or imminent future:
"'Why are they all running to Colorado?' he asked. 'What have they got down there that we haven't got?'
"The young man grinned. 'Maybe it's something you've got that they haven't got.'
"'What?' The young man did not answer. 'I don't see it. It's a backward, primitive, unenlightened place. They don't even have a modern government. It's the worst government in any state. The laziest. It does nothing -- outside of keeping law, courts and a police department. It doesn't do anything for the people. It doesn't help anybody. I don't see why all our best companies want to run there.'
"The young man glanced down at him, but did not answer."
Then I shook myself from my reverie and shrugged -- consigned to the fact that when the Legislature meets next month, everyone will be clamoring to create a thoroughly modern and progressive government for Nevada.
Then I turned to the next page of "Atlas Shrugged," wondering all the while if that woman works in my dentist's office.
Thomas Mitchell is senior editor of the Review-Journal. He may be contacted at (702) 383-0261 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at lvrj.com/blogs/mitchell.