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Shall we save the economy … or the government?

Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt — the latter continued and amplified the former’s policies in a kind of one-two punch, as revealed in Murray Rothbard’s “The Great Depression” — did all the wrong things from 1930 to 1938.

In an environment of surplus labor but collapsing capital and credit, free-market entrepreneurs put people back to work by hiring men at low wages (giving them the pride of honest work, and the chance to make more as their skills improve) to make things consumers will buy at new, lower prices — can-openers, washing machines, chicken wire, whatever.

Instead, Roosevelt and the Democrats, especially, taxed the heck out of the greedy capitalists — taking away the loot they might have used to hire men at low wages, and eventually even banning the practice.

Our kids are taught in the mandatory government youth camps that Roosevelt’s New Deal “ended” the Great Depression. When? In 1935? In 1936? Unemployment went up, not down, from 1932 to 1937.

My mom is a lifelong Democrat. “But Vin, Roosevelt put people back to work when there were no jobs,” she has always insisted. “They planted trees. They built parks and playgrounds.”

A great example of “what is seen and what is not seen.” The money to pay the men in the Civilian Conservation Corps came from “taxes on the greedy rich.” But once the money was shifted from private investors to Uncle Sam, there was no longer any incentive for those doling out the cash to put people to work making things that would provide a “return on investment” — things people would buy.

So most of those government jobs involved planting trees, cutting trails, building log cabins and installing nice mosaic tiles in the subway stations — things that are shown to have minimal economic value by the fact pretty much no one would ever pay to enjoy them. It was all a giant boondoggle, totally non-productive in any economic sense. (What is the secondary market in “trails”?)

Let us now savor a delicious historical irony. The folks about to be sworn in in Carson City and Washington City this coming January do not have the excuse of ignorance, because the historic example of 1930-1939 stares them in the face. Yet it appears they are about to do the same thing.

President-elect Obama and the Democrats vow to “tax the obscene profits of the greedy rich” and use the proceeds to “put young people to work” in some kind of big Homeland Security Domestic Peace Corps, handing them green funny money to build windmills or “solar farms” that will generate 15 percent of the power we need (if we’re lucky), which will then to be made to look “affordable” by effectively banning far less expensive nuclear and coal-fired power plants, the latter in order to “halt global warming,” which is minimal, harmless, comes in regular cycles, and is not caused by mankind.

Then, their pals the Greens will file lawsuits, preventing construction of the transmission lines needed to get even that minimal power to market.

It’s perfect!

Meantime, up in Carson City, Nevada Gov. Jim “No New Taxes” Gibbons prepares to make himself a one-term governor by signing onto a hike in the state’s hotel room tax, which is — beginning to notice a pattern here? — precisely the wrong thing to do.

Nevada has entered a recession. Visitor volume is down. That’s our problem.

Our problem is not that reduced tax revenues make it difficult to keep paying every functionary on the government payroll all the raises and benefits they’ve been promised. That falls more properly into the column of “unforeseen benefits.”

To solve the real problem, we need to turn Las Vegas and Nevada back into a bargain destination.

What the Legislature thus should be talking about in their special session in Carson City Dec. 8 is legalizing bordellos and hashish bars in Clark and Washoe counties. But given the utter lack of vision and courage evinced by our current political class, that’s a non-starter.

On to Plan B:

To spur economic recovery, slice back the gaming tax by 2 to 4 percentage points, and then eliminate the hotel room tax, all airport landing fees and taxes, all rental car taxes, etc.

This means government which has been growing without limit for 50 years, would have to be pared back.

That’s so easy you can do it at home. Close every office, department or program that Nevada didn’t have in 1958. If that doesn’t save enough, try 1908.

Closing down the Department of Motor Vehicles, alone, would make headlines around the world. “Nevada gives up license plates! Not much difference seen in traffic patterns!”

If any of these programs are “mandated by the federal government,” sue at the U.S. Supreme Court, demanding that the federals either drop these mandates or fully fund them. If we lose, eliminate the programs anyway. After all, we’ll no longer have any money to pay for them. If the Supreme Court wants to try levying the taxes, let the justices go from Nevada business to Nevada business, rattling their begging bowls and threatening, “There will be consequences!”

To be free, the slave must first refuse the master’s gruel.

Meantime, what’s the biggest single state government expenditure? The government schools, which proudly turn out quasi-literate graduates who can’t name a dozen U.S. presidents and who evince a lifelong aversion to “ever picking up a damned book again.”

But the state constitution requires state funding for only one high school per county. So eliminate school compulsion beyond age 14, close at least two-thirds of the high schools in Clark and Washoe counties, making admission to the remaining schools by competitive examination.

Allow our best government-school teachers to say, “You’re the best of the best; for each of you sitting here today there are two other kids out building windmills who’d love to be in this classroom. So if any of you aren’t willing to sit up straight, maintain good order and work hard, raise your hands now; you’re free to go; we’ll call someone on the waiting list.”

Ask any dedicated teacher how that little speech and a select, “all-volunteer” student body would change things in his or her classroom.

The answer is more freedom, lower taxes, and lots less government. What was the question?

Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Review-Journal and author of “The Black Arrow.” See www.vinsuprynowicz.com/ and http://www.lvrj.com/blogs/vin/.

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