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Government, Thy
Name is Arrogance

by Ralph Heller

ertain personalities have come to personify the arrogance we increasingly associate with today’s government—like Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, for example, who earlier this year boasted of his city’s falling crime rate: "Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country."

Two newspaper reports from Illinois published on the same day last month underscore the degree to which today’s government tends to thumb its nose at its constituents while going to extraordinary lengths to protect its own employees. In Richmond, Illinois a 17-year-old high school student used a rubber band to fire a paper clip across a room and hit a cafeteria worker but didn’t injure her. Nonetheless, the 17-year-old was held in jail for seven hours and school authorities want him prosecuted for a "misdemeanor battery" which in Illinois will mean a year in prison.

The same day’s newspaper also carried a story about a paramedic who was drunk while driving a Chicago Fire Department ambulance and rear-ended a school bus but who cannot be fired because his union’s labor contract with the City of Chicago permits only a period of probation for driving an ambulance into a school bus while drunk.

This is government today. A 17-year-old can be sentenced to a year in jail over a paper clip, but a government employee—an ambulance driver, no less—can’t be fired no matter what he does.

We see this arrogance at all levels of government, of course. For example, the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the exclusive right to declare war, but President Clinton has thus far sent American combat troops to Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Rwanda and to the Iraq area, all without even bothering to ask for congressional approval.

The basis for some of today’s government arrogance resides in the law itself, sadly. Did you know that the U.S. is one of only five countries to permit the execution of defendants who committed their crimes before they were 18? "Ah well," you say, but it turns out that the other four nations are Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. It seems that in the field of criminal law we travel in interesting company.

Aggravating our rapidly mounting problem with arrogant government at all levels increasingly out of control is an equally arrogant press that all too frequently substitutes what might be called "government apologetics" for "government accountability." Earlier this year Nevada gubernatorial candidate Kenny Guinn assured a meeting of unionized state employees that he’d try to "close the gap" between state and local government salaries.

Conveniently not mentioned in press accounts of the meeting was the fact that Nevada state employee salaries already rank 17th highest among the 50 states according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and that the "gap" exists between state and local salaries because Nevada’s city and county employees now enjoy the 8th highest salaries among city and county employees in the 50 states!

Are there really any taxpayers in the entire state who are anxious to close that gap? Who deserves a raise—maybe those in charge of the state’s S.I.I.S. who did nothing about its financial crisis until unfunded liabilities reached $2.4 billion? How about the DMV employees who arbitrarily fined hundreds of properly insured motorists for not having insurance? Is there anything about government in Nevada that suggests to you that state salaries should rank higher than 17th among the 50 states?

What we’re seeing is abundant evidence of arrogance, an unending demonstration of government’s contempt for you and me. In this issue of Nevada’s most reliable magazine is a feature article by Steve Miller about government arrogance in the extreme, an attempt by an official state agency to prosecute an innocent company because one of the state’s politically influential unions wanted the company punished for daring to be non-union. Perhaps the political impact of unions in our right-to-work state can be best understood if you know that major gubernatorial appointee Danny Evans just happens to be the brother of Nevada AFL-CIO President Claude L. "Blackie" Evans. Danny Evans earned the position to which Governor Miller appointed him strictly on merit, of course.

Elsewhere in this month’s magazine you’ll find a fascinating article about what "soccer moms" and cowboys both better worry about by Contributing Editor Diane Alden, an article about the much heralded computer meltdown coming up in just 18 months, a chronology of federal education legislation assembled by Congressman Henry Hyde, and even a 172-year-old story datelined Quincy, Massachusetts about a couple of citizens you’ve heard of, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

And yes, if I may anticipate the phone calls coming into NPRI, city and county government salaries in Nevada really are the 8th highest among the 50 states, which is what happens when the press behaves as arrogantly as government and fails to provide accountability. In Reno, where the offices of NPRI are located, city salaries haven’t been reported by either government or the press since 1984. But would these same government officials and newspaper editors recommend that taxpayers patronize a supermarket that refuses to provide itemized cash register receipts? u

Ralph Heller is Senior Consulting Editor of Nevada Journal.


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