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Tax eaters host a dinner

Consider the benign-sounding Nevada Vision Stakeholder Group and be afraid. Very afraid.

The tax eaters who run the Legislature plan to use it to lure you over for dinner and then cook and eat your wallet, your children’s wallet and your children’s children’s wallet.

It sprang to life last year when the Legislature took $500,000 of your money (what budget crisis, right?) and created the stakeholder group, tasking it to discover a strategic “vision” for Nevada’s quality-of-life goals.

Sounds like a “woo-hoo!” Yes? Anything but.

It’s a ploy by the tax-and-spend crowd to quantify just how crummy Nevada is as a state so that legislators with a public employee union election base can use it to as a fulcrum to raise taxes and waste more of your money.

You think I’m overstating the case? Then take a look at who legislators selected as members of the stakeholder panel. One group, representing about 5 percent of Nevadans miraculously found a way to get appointed to 47 percent of the voting positions. Can you guess what group that was?

Right you are, sir! Ding, ding, ding!

Nine of the 19 “stakeholders” are either government employees, retired government employees or public employee union executives.

Don’t get the wrong idea.

I like all of the people I know who are on the commission. Drank with a few. Received good tips from a few. Perfectly fine people, as people go. Well-meaning. Diligent. Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera. So don’t even try to resort to an argument that I somehow hate the people on this panel or want government downsized to the point of anarchy, its workers dismembered in the town square. I don’t.

But I also don’t need a fortune-teller to know the future of this creature.

It is designed to articulate how backward Nevada is as a state. And believe me, judging from the first few reams of paper generated by the group, Nevada is Stone Age backward.

How cruel we are to our underprivileged. How shabbily we educate our children. Perfectly good printers have already died publishing the statistics for how much our quality of life would improve if only Nevadans were not so greedy and stupid.

In the end, there will be a report. Testimony will be heard. And after every last dog and pony dies of exhaustion, the show will provide political cover for the mindless mother of all tax increases in the 2011 Legislature.

As you may have gathered by now, the whole idea gives me heartburn. I think it should give most Nevadans heartburn.

First, it’s pure government Kabuki, staged to produce a specific ending. Save the $500,000 and assign a staffer from the state employees union to write the report now.

Second, the nonvoting chair of the Nevada Vision Stakeholder Group is a Virginia professor who — and I kid you not — has lived in Nevada since January.

Not January 1988.

Not January 2009.

January … as in a few weeks ago.

Have we no pride? We’ve commissioned a half-a-million-dollar quality-of-life vision study guided by a guy who hasn’t lived in the state long enough to hook up his cable? This, my friends, is your Legislature at work.

Finally, and most importantly, the whole “stakeholder” pretense is based on the spectacularly false premise that government plays an important role in a citizen’s quality of life. Beyond public safety and basic infrastructure, quality of life in Nevada stems not from government, but from faith, family and freedom.

That’s Nevada’s heritage. That’s what’s worth studying.

Do you think this contrived legislative study will, even for a page, leave room for the idea of sustainable, smaller government designed to protect and incubate the private sector as the true long-term driver of life quality?

It won’t. It should, because there are still Nevadans out there who hold on to the notion that government services should be evaluated based on necessity, efficiency and efficacy, not on the wages and benefits of those who provide the services.

Imagine a state with substantially lower taxes, higher opportunity and more freedom. That’s a vision worth striving for, isn’t it?

I wonder how many Nevadans are with me on this. Let’s take a count in November.

Sherman Frederick (sfrederick@ reviewjournal.com) is publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and president of Stephens Media.

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