Thursday, December 18, 2008

Solutions for a broken economy

This first published December 18, 2008 in the Henderson Home News, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

How many B-2 bombers would it take to bail out the state of Nevada? That’s easy. One and a half would suffice.

I turned on Discovery Channel the other night hoping to catch “How It’s Made.” Instead, I caught the program “Destroyed in Seconds.” I really enjoy “How It’s Made” so much that I can blow a whole evening watching how things are manufactured.

Being of the male gender, I was also a bit fascinated seeing things get blown up while everyone survived. I’m not sure which was more amazing: how quickly something got trashed or the fact that everyone survived.

In the episode I watched, there was a segment showing the crash of a B-2 Stealth bomber. Miraculously, the pilots ejected and only received minor injuries. However, the bomber blew up in flames.

Do you have any idea how much a B-2 bomber cost?

Don’t be concerned, because I asked several of my friends on different occasions if they could tell me how much a B-2 bomber cost. One said, $100 million and another said $200 million. Neither is even close. The closest answer I received was a half a billion dollars, and that isn’t even close.

For fun I asked how many B-2 bombers would it take to bail out the state of Nevada. No one had a clue. It would take nearly two Stealth bombers to dig Nevada out of its budget shortfall at $1.5 billion a piece.

This exercise put a few things in perspective for me, such as the size of the state’s budget shortfall and just how easily the federal government could bail out Nevada.

When you think about the size of a B-2 and the size of our state, the $1.5 billion price tag doesn’t seem that great.

I’m also reminded by the program just how quickly a Stealth bomber can be destroyed and just how quickly budgets can go up in flames. Even more importantly, it reflects how fragile our economic base is in Nevada.

We should be doing everything possible to diversify our economy here in Nevada. There are several ideas being tossed around, such as renewable energy, but will that help in the immediate future to solve our economic woes?

Not a chance, but it’s definitely an option for our long-term future.

Nevada could expand mining opportunities — except we are one of the largest producers of gold in the country as it is. However, we are being pillaged by the mining industry. Unlike casinos, which pay a gross revenue tax on gaming winnings, the mining industry pays taxes on net profits after exemptions.

Since 2000, Nevada miners have extracted more than $25 billion in gold from this state and have put a tiny fraction of that into state revenues.

During 2007, mining operations extracted more than 6 million ounces of gold from Nevada. Next to water, gold is Nevada’s most precious natural resource, and it is being sucked out faster than the waters of Lake Mead. By the end of this year, 8 million ounces of gold are projected to be produced in Nevada, with very little money going into state coffers.

Can you imagine how many B-2 bombers could have been built with the gold extracted from Nevada soil since 2000? The answer is 16. The only thing stealthier than the B-2 Bomber are the mining profits leaving Nevada.

Here in Nevada, where the state budget was “destroyed in seconds” and gaming and mining are “how it’s made,” we need to work together to develop solutions to fix our broken economy.

Smelly tourists

At the risk of my critics calling me a Harry Reid apologist, I should clear the air regarding his recent remarks about being able to smell the tourist coming to Washington, D.C., in the summer.

Well folks, having been to the capital in the sweltering heat and humidity of summer, I can testify to the fact you can, indeed, smell the visitors as they shuffle by the thousands through the halls and galleries. I should know since I’ve been one! So your sweat don’t stink?

What stinks worse than the capital in the heat of summer is the goofy commentators, editors and other media types who took the opportunity to water the already rabid far right. This proves one thing: Sen. Reid has a target on his political back and Republicans such as presidential candidate-turned-talking head Mitt Romney will do anything to keep the heat on.

Fortunately the capital now has air conditioning to keep visitors cool, and most Nevadans will keep cooler heads to keep Nevada the most powerful state in the union by not only returning Reid to the Senate in 2010 but also Sen. John Ensign in 2012.

Gee, all this flap over new air conditioning in the capital and a straight-talking senator from Searchlight, Nev.

Nuff said!

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or He writes a regular column at the Home News.

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