GOP stumbling on Medicare fixes

To the editor:

It was interesting to see Rep. Joe Heck in the room with his constituents. Like so many other Republicans, he was ill-prepared for selling the Medicare debacle to voters. He actually used the “everyone over 55 is safe” canard, hoping that the crowd is as satisfied as he is to shovel the future generations under as long as “they are OK.”

He even went so far as to lament that the voucher system “isn’t perfect but there are … no other ideas” — as if we need another idea. The problems with Medicare are tied to its administration efficiency, its unnecessary complexity and the uncontrolled cost of health care — and everyone knows it. There are numerous ways to reconstitute Medicare for the future while making it stronger instead of weaker at no additional net cost increase.

Unfortunately, none of these possibilities is appealing to the Republicans.

Let’s not be too hard on Joe Heck, however. We the voters knew who he was when we elected him. We are now getting the government we voted for.

Jim Cassidy


Mining’s friend

To the editor:

Sen. Harry Reid’s attempt to end certain tax breaks on the oil companies was defeated in Congress. He has repeatedly called for the oil companies to pay their “fair share” of taxes. If only Sen. Reid was as concerned about the mining companies paying their “fair share.”

The mining companies of gold, silver, uranium and copper have enjoyed a very special tax break called royalties since 1872. While the government receives taxes from oil, coal and mining companies, there is a special break only for the miners of gold, silver, uranium and copper. The government receives 12.5 percent in royalties for onshore oil and gas and 18.75 percent for offshore drilling. The government receives from coal companies 8 percent for underground mining and 12.5 percent for surface mining. For gold, silver, uranium and copper companies the government receives 0 percent. Eighty percent of the gold extracted from the United States comes from Nevada.

In 1993 the House passed a bill imposing an 8 percent royalty and Sen. Reid helped kill the bill. In 2007 another bill imposing royalties on these mining companies was passed by the house but killed by Sen. Reid. Why does Sen. Reid keep killing bills that even the playing field for companies that extract minerals and oil from our public lands?

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Sen. Reid has received $750,000 from the mining industry since 1993. Sen. Reid received $127,000 from Nevada’s two largest gold producers for his 2010 re-election campaign. These two companies had profits of $5 billion last year and yet paid no royalties for the minerals taken out of Nevada and other public lands.

So Sen. Reid, please pass a bill that will collect a royalty for our minerals and if not for us for our children.

Michael O. Kreps

Las Vegas

Tax hypocrisy

To the editor:

Your Thursday paper reports that the Democrats in the Legislature want to create $571 million in new taxes and extend another $626 million in taxes set to expire (“Deadline of budget worries educators”). That’s more than $1 billion in new and extended taxes in their budget plan.

Meanwhile, another story that day (“Democrats advance higher education budget plan”) quotes Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, as saying that tuition increases included in the plan are “the imposition of a tax at a time when they can least likely afford it.”

Is he serious?

In my mind, an increase in the cost of a service essentially purchased by the person who most benefits from it — i.e., an education paid for by the student who receives it — is far less an evil than the imposition of more than $1 billion on the state at large for services many will never need or use.

The arguments put forth by Democrats are not about making difficult choices between a variety of uncomfortable options. Instead, they are about not “imposing taxes” on things which they wish to make entitlements, often benefiting their union supporters, while railing for increases in taxes on all of us to avoid actually making the adult decisions they were hired to make.

The hypocrisy of the Nevada Democrat legislators is maddening.

Lee Stahl

Las Vegas

Smoking hot

To the editor:

As a tavern owner and former casino manager, I have a real problem with the latest piece of “research” from academia that appeared in the Business section on Thursday “Ban on butts and better off”). Everything the researchers did was “conclusive” and everything asserted by the tavern industry is “purported.”

The timing was pretty coincidental, since the Legislature is currently looking at this issue. This was the same tactic used when the ban first passed. At that time, the UNLV School of Nursing said that a smoking ban would have no effect on taverns and that the tavern income had been diminishing due to a “trend” that they studied over the past decade, etc., etc. Trouble was, the data they analyzed had absolutely no tavern-only data.

The data they used was extrapolated from the Gaming Control Board Abstract for all restricted licensees, which also includes restaurants, supper clubs and other businesses. When I challenged their spokesperson on a public radio show, he admitted they had no tavern-only data in their study.

After the smoking ban passed, there certainly was a significant economic impact when people got laid off after taverns closed. If 100 taverns have closed at an average staff of 17 people, that’s 1,700 people out of a job. That’s real people losing real jobs, not “purported losses of taverns.” The trickle-down damage is obvious — unemployment benefits, loss of sales and gaming taxes and license fees; bankruptcies, default, etc.

I understand that smoking is bad for you and it injures both patrons and employees. But I’ve got a suggestion for both patrons and employees: Don’t come in and don’t go to work there. Go be a rocket scientist.

What’s next? Banning circumcision? Oh no, California thought of that first — damn.

Joe Wilcock

Las Vegas

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