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Looking for More Complete and Detailed Accountability

by Ralph Heller

any people were surprised and delighted over last month’s detailed review of all legislative, gubernatorial and other education initiatives of the last decade. We called the report Ten Years of Education Reform, providing parents and taxpayers with an update on each and every education initiative of the last 10 years right up through 1996, to see whether or not each initiative had "delivered" on the promises and hoopla that had heralded it in the first place.

In this issue Managing Editor Erica Olsen completes the report with a summary of important education initiatives that surfaced in 1997. Here at NPRI we call it "public accountability," the sort of accountability every taxpayer and citizen is entitled to. But when is the last time you saw such a review of legislative and other measures in your daily newspaper?

This month’s cover story, Scalping Science, brings you a report by NPRI Research Analyst D. Dowd Muska on Nevada’s famous Spirit Cave Mummy, and on the extraordinary determination of Nevada’s Indians to block all further tests of the 9,400-year-old mummy under a federal statute known as the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act. Their problem is that the Spirit Cave Mummy does not appear to be closely related ethnically to America’s Indians, raising the awkward question of who really may have been the very first Americans, a question Indians and certain apostles of political correctness would just as soon never be answered.

What is obviously slipping through our fingers is truth itself, as we increasingly find ourselves at the mercy of bureaucrats and others who prefer that the results of education initiatives remain unknown, along with the real identity of the first Americans.

Perhaps we see this flight from the truth and accountability most clearly in the ongoing refusal of the daily press to tell taxpayers the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the taxes we all must pay. This month’s centerfold feature provides readers with state-by-state lists of "per capita tax burdens" in each of the 50 states for federal as well as for state and local taxes, along with state-by-state lists of state and local taxes per $1,000 of personal income and per capita state and local spending.

What Nevadans are customarily treated to is not this sort of complete information, but the sort of tax accountability the Reno Gazette-Journal reprints from Money magazine which includes income and property taxes plus state sales and gasoline taxes, but conveniently omits Nevada’s county sales and gasoline taxes, insurance premiums tax, automobile registration fees and a dozen additional taxes and fees, all of which are higher than such taxes and fees in most other states.

And this is the rub. Increasingly, the accountability to which you’re entitled from government but which isn’t forthcoming has been deliberately withheld from you, and the problem is found not only in Washington, Carson City and the press, but all too often right at your own city hall.

Incline Village resident David Strongin reports in this issue on a classic example of rapidly vanishing government accountability at the local level, and while we’re thinking of local government, when is the last time you saw a report of what you’re actually paying each of your own city and county employees? Not "salary ranges," but the actual cost of each employee as represented on W-2 forms? But would the same people who withhold this information from you nonetheless recommend that you do your weekly shopping, say, at a supermarket that refuses to provide an itemized cash register receipt on your way out of the store?

We round out this issue of your favorite monthly magazine with a report on today’s fashionable anti-smoking zealotry from Independence Institute Senior Fellow Linda Gorman, and the beginning of a new monthly report on organized labor activities in Nevada we’re calling "Power and Privilege." This month’s first installment of the new feature reviews the history of Nevada’s right-to-work law.

Add to all this the usual entertaining offering from NPRI rural correspondent Dan Steninger and you’ll find yourself reading an unusually informative and well researched magazine. There are rumors we could also report, of course, like the story recently in National Review that the Clinton Presidential Library will be the first presidential library to offer a special "adult books and movies" section, but NPRI deals in facts, truth and accountability, not rumors, so we’ll undertake no detailed report on this—not at least until the Clinton Presidential Library materializes and we see long lines of men waiting to get in.

Meanwhile, if it’s accountability you are looking for, you’ve come to exactly the right magazine.

Happy reading! u

Ralph Heller is Senior Consulting Editor for Nevada Journal.


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