Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Column 150 – Gibbons (again)

Just when you think there's nothing more to say about Governor Jim Gibbons, he up and pulls another one. Like other grandstanding Republican governors including such luminaries as Sarah Palin and Bobby Jindal, Gibbons has indicated he is considering refusing Federal Stimulus unemployment funds. What makes Gibbons more fun than Palin and Jindal, is that he's so inept at handling the political side of decisions like this.

First of all, he's made it an ideological issue – it's about "the Federal Government usurping state powers." Not really, but doesn't it sound great if you're a 1950's conservative? Then when Reps. Dina Titus and Shelly Berkley (both Democrats, of course – remember Reagan's 11th Commandment) have the temerity to question turning down the funds, he criticizes them for their "attitude that Nevada should bow down to the federal government and give up its own state sovereignty in a mad grab to claim every last penny of stimulus dollars." Wow. Bow down to the federal government? State sovereignty? We're in the worst economic shape since 1929 and this governor is worried about state sovereignty? Give me a break!

Then we find out that, while the staff in the governor's office has been cut substantially (good economic move, except for those fired), the salaries of those remaining are being raised (bad move economically, politically, socially, morally, ethically). Let's cut teachers' salaries and make them pay more for their medical insurance, let's cut money from higher education, let's cut the pay of other state employees, lay them off, etc. But let's give Gibbons' staff a pay raise? I have an idea, let's ask all the people that have taken on more jobs in their work place because other people were let go and didn't get a raise. What do you think they would say?

I've been following the blogs on this last issue, and some people are trying to defend the governor saying it's good business practice – let people go, then raise the salaries of those who remain – after all, it's a net savings – Gibbons' office is under budget (and, incidentally, therefore exempt from legislative review of his practices). You know – like AIG paying "retention bonuses" to the people who stay on, like there aren't ten equally qualified people out of work who could replace them if they left. Well, I work with a lot of businesses – big ones. Businesses with budgets and workforces larger than that of the State of Nevada, and I've noticed something about the companies that aren't looking for a bailout – that are struggling through this downturn. For them, and by them I mean the CEOs of these companies, good business practice includes, but is not limited to, the balance sheet – it includes doing the right thing by their employees and the communities and society of which they're a part. Most of those CEOs, and most of their employees, would rather take a pay cut across the board so that people don't have to lose their jobs. Sure, no one likes it, but no one likes to see their neighbor or co-worker out of work either. Gibbons, apparently, doesn't feel that way about his staff.

I've been tough on Gibbons in these columns – I think he's intellectually, morally, and ethically challenged, and no more fit to be Governor of Nevada than he is to be an Olympic Diver. But can't he at least make a show of giving a damn about the people of the state? To put some vague ideology about "state sovereignty" ahead of jobs, to cut education in a state that's perennially at the bottom of the ladder for educational quality in the country – as Joseph Welch said to another official who put doctrinaire conservatism ahead of basic honesty and humanity: "If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty I would do so. I like to think that I am a gentle man, but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me…Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

By the way, I've heard from a number of you asking if I'm going to write a column on the IVGID Board's reversal on the domestic partner benefits issue. I actually wrote one online, and the Bonanza posted a link to it in last week's paper – if you missed that, it's at or on my blog at or on my Facebook page.

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