A U.S. Senate candidate to be afraid of

By now most Nevada TV watchers have figured out the Harry Reid jump-cut campaign ad strategy. It would be amusing if it weren’t turning a nationally watched campaign that should feature a legitimate debate on the best long-term cure for the American economy into a game of video-clip “Gotcha.”

The 70-year-old, four-term senator can’t very well talk about his own popularity (38 percent, nearing “kitten abuse” territory), nor his and his Democratic allies’ “accomplishments” in destroying the American economy.

But let Republican challenger Sharron Angle, a pleasant and principled opponent of higher taxes who served several terms in the Nevada Assembly without being revealed as some kind of lunatic baby-killer, speak in public anywhere, saying, “When I get to Washington, I’m going to kill Harry Reid’s entire job-destroying agenda. I’m going to stand by my principles; I don’t care if they come at me with an assault weapon.” (Cheers.)

The next week, in grainy black-and-white and with ominous introductory music more suitable for coverage of a mass murderer, voters will be treated to a version of that speech as edited by Harry Reid’s campaign team, with Nevadans bizarrely cheering Sharron Angle after she apparently says, “When I get to Washington, I’m going to kill Harry Reid … with an assault weapon.”

The Reid campaign misrepresentation that seems to have gotten the most mileage, as the senator unleashed a $10 million TV-and-Internet ad campaign at the defenseless challenger while she was out trying to raise her first $2 million last month, was that Sharron Angle wouldn’t have picked up the phone to extort unwise bank financing to help complete the new CityCenter hotel-casino project, as Sen. Reid did a couple years back, and that this proves Ms. Angle doesn’t care about “creating thousands of jobs in Nevada.”

Ms. Angle stopped by the Review-Journal offices for an hour on July 23, and responded to the charge by asking, if the opening of CityCenter “brought 8,000 new jobs” to Southern Nevada (more if you add in short-term construction jobs), why didn’t its grand opening in December 2009 cause the region’s unemployment rate to drop?

The answer is because Las Vegas now operates with excess hotel capacity. At least for the foreseeable future, we’re overbuilt. The guests who checked into CityCenter are guests who otherwise might have checked into vacant rooms at some other resort on the Las Vegas Strip — maybe the Riviera, say, whose parent company filed for bankruptcy July 12.

The guests shifted their reservations to CityCenter, which therefore needed the workers, who came from other Strip properties, which were happy to let them go because their own occupancy rates are down. As Ms. Angle said, “It just shifted the employment from one property to another, to a property that the senator made that call for,” away from the scores of other properties — “little guys” who received no such powerful intervention to help them with their financial problems.

Are we to believe Harry Reid called those bankers to make them aware of new figures indicating CityCenter was going to cost less than anticipated to complete, or that tourism, occupancy and cash flow were going to be better here in 2010 and 2011 than the anxious banks anticipated?

Give me a break.

Bankers under thumb

“But isn’t that the job of a U.S. senator, to make that call for a constituent?” the columnists and reporters bray.

Sharron Angle says no. And fortunately, there’s a rule book we can use to resolve the dispute. It’s called the U.S. Constitution, and nowhere in the powers of Congress — 144 words in Article I — do we find anything remotely resembling, “The senators shall, upon the request of constituents who have favored them with whopping campaign contributions, call on federally regulated banking institutions and twist their arms to extend credit to said home-state constituents, despite the fact the bankers in their best judgment shall have determined any further such lending to be reckless and unwise.”

The squawkers will insist such “theoretical” arguments don’t reflect the real political world as it now exists.

So let’s talk about “the real political world as it now exists.” Banks today are regulated to an extent the founders could never have imagined. So heavily regulated are they that the current economic recession — quickly approaching a second Great Depression — was caused precisely by the Congress using its regulatory powers to threaten severe consequences for banks that refused to make large numbers of loans to minority home-buyers in neighborhoods believed to have been “red-lined,” even though said loans failed to meet the banks’ own common-sense standards for predicting which would-be home buyers would likely be able to keep up their payments, especially in the face of an economic slowdown.

They made the loans. Millions of those loans went “upside down” and defaulted. Meantime, it turned out those “mortgage securities” had been bundled and sliced up like sausage, becoming part of the asset portfolios of all kinds of outfits whose investors had no idea they were in the mortgage business. Toxic assets. Meltdown. Bailouts. Hyperinflation still to come. You know the story.

The SEC blew it. As a reward, Congress last week exempted the SEC from the Freedom of Information Act, so in future we’ll know even less about what these cretins are up to.

Virtually every Friday afternoon, in this country today, a handful of local bank presidents look out the window to see the banking regulators arriving to shut them down. Non-performing loans poison the balance sheet, which is thus deemed to hold inadequate assets to keep the operation running.

Boards of directors do not make these decisions. Faceless, unelected regulators answerable to Harry Reid make these decisions.

Under those circumstances, arranging for a bank president to get a call from the most powerful member of the U.S. Senate is not exactly like having your Uncle Ned call to give you a good character reference. Bankers receiving that phone call have to go, “Uh-oh. Do you know what this guy could do to us if we piss him off?”

So Jim Murren of MGM Mirage, a big campaign donor to Harry Reid, presumably picks up the phone and asks the senator to call the bankers, who are threatening to cut off the credit needed to finish the over-budget CityCenter. The Godfather makes the call; the financing is extended; the project is completed.

Bailouts forever

Now let us presume that, having looked at the returns from their first six or nine months of operation, CityCenter management, just hypothetically, decides they can make a go of things only if they can shed their debt. Let us suppose they file to reorganize under bankruptcy — perhaps a few weeks after the November elections.

Might it turn out, at that point, that the bankers who extended those lines of credit to the over-budget project acted in a way not in the best interest of their own stockholders and depositors — sort of like all those banks that made unsafe home loans to satisfy the feel-good requirement of the oh-so-politically-correct Community Reinvestment Act? Could an (entirely hypothetical) CityCenter bankruptcy filing endanger those banks, with their tens of thousands of employees?

If that happens, do you think those bankers will hesitate to pick up the phone and say, “So, senator, we extended those loans just like you asked, and now CityCenter’s not paying. You are going to intervene with the banking regulators to make sure we’re not punished, right? You are going to send us $8.5 billion in tax moneys to get us bailed out on this one, right?”

And so the endless stream of bailouts of outfits “too big to fail” would continue — just as Sharron Angle warns.

The campaign of 2010 is a campaign for the soul of a free-market, capitalist America. The Tea Party candidates — for all their imperfections and inconsistencies, perfectly predictable when the voters are trying to send a bunch of Grandma Smiths to Washington to replace a bunch of pinstriped oligarchs — have the mainstream media shocked, shocked at their refusal to back down from their insistence that what our economy really needs is a much smaller government with significantly lower taxes and less meddling in the economy.

“You really said you wouldn’t have bailed out GM; you would have let them go through a regular bankruptcy and shed their union contracts? You really said you’d close down the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, the EPA, leave all those functions to the states, just like we did from 1787 to 1969? Ahhhhh!” the reporters shriek, holding out their microphones like crucifixes. “Unclean! Unclean!”

Will Democrat and RINO incumbents, backed with tens of millions of dollars from the eco-extremists, the government unions and the rest of America’s Marxist elite, be able to sow enough fear, suspicion and distrust to win re-election against such an imperfect, ill-organized, populist revolt?

If the Tea Parties are defeated, what do we get? Forced unionization via “card check.” Carbon tax. Cap ‘n’ trade. The biggest hike in income and death taxes in the history of the world. Rationed national health care with death panels. An 18 percent national sales tax.

All directed by Harry Reid.

Who represents Nevada?

And who is Harry Reid? Twelve years ago, Harry Reid was merely a vindictive man, wreaking his political vengeance on anyone who stood in his way, ginning up “milker” bills to threaten those who refused to endorse him.

Today, Harry Reid is 70. Re-elect him, and he’ll be in the Senate till he’s 77, though what kind of shape he’ll be in at that point is worth contemplating.

Harry Reid had a stroke five years ago. Since then, he has repeatedly claimed that taxation is voluntary. (Irwin Schiff agrees. They put him in prison for saying so.) On March 5, Sen. Reid said on the Senate floor, “Only 36,000 people lost their jobs today, which is really good.” On July 13, Sen. Reid said there were no illegals working construction in Las Vegas. On July 24, he said Ford would have gone out of business if Republicans had their way and the firm had not been bailed out by Washington. But Ford was not bailed out by Washington.

Ten days ago he said he was going to have to pull his cherished national energy tax off the floor because he didn’t have enough votes. “It’s easy to count to 60. I could do it by the time I was in eighth grade,” the senator said.

The mainstream press barely acknowledges these little “slips of the tongue,” while savaging conservatives like Sarah Palin not only for their own statements, but for those made by their impersonators on “Saturday Night Live.”

So perhaps it’s fair to ask whether the mainstream press has now decided not to tell us that Sen. Reid is … failing.

Sharron Angle, speaking carefully in an environment where Reid operatives are now ready to pounce on the slightest misstatement or manipulable sound bite, did seem to relax at one point during her July 23 visit at the Review-Journal — to say something from the heart.

“These days,” she said, “when you talk to your kids on the phone, you ask ‘How are you?’ And what you mean is, ‘Do you still have a job? Are you making your mortgage payments?’ “

It’s not a statement that’s likely to go down in the annals of political oratory. But Sharron Angle lives here, and she was only saying what all of us who live here know to be true. That’s where Nevada’s at, thanks to the greedy vultures now in charge in Washington.

Harry Reid would be unlikely to ever say such a thing. He doesn’t live here, and his kids are all members of the ruling class, anyway — either elected officials in their own right, or lobbyists making millions by using the Reid name to attract supplicants in need of a guide through the maze of Washington power, atop which their dad sits like the Master Gargoyle.

When Sen. Reid talks to his kids, he doesn’t have to ask them whether they still have a job and they’re able to make their mortgage payments. Sen. Reid expects to spend more than $20 million buying this election — $20 million in “donations” from fat cats who expect him to use his influence to get them their share of all that money that used to be ours, to make sure their projects get financed … while ours don’t.

Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Review-Journal, and author of “Send in the Waco Killers” and the novel “The Black Arrow.” See www.vinsuprynowicz.com/.

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