Commentary

Lombardo campaigned on no more shutdowns. He better tell that to House Republicans.

January 12, 2023 8:41 am

Stars of stage and screen Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Congress kept Nevada – and its state budget – afloat during Steve Sisolak’s administration.

It may sink Nevada during Joe Lombardo’s.

Long story short: If House Republicans refuse to approve legislation allowing the U.S. government to pay its bills, the economy could crash and burn.

Long story longer: During his unconditional surrender to his party’s loudest and most extreme gluttons for attention while craving the job of House speaker, Kevin McCarthy promised them they wouldn’t vote on letting the government continue to pay its bills unless there are meat-cleaver style budget cuts first – cuts to which even Republicans in the Senate almost certainly wouldn’t condone, let alone the majority Senate Democrats.

Further jeopardizing the chance of legislation that would effectively prevent the United States from defaulting on its debt, McCarthy loaded up the House Rules Committee with conspiracy-mongering right-wing extremist loons, effectively allowing said loons to determine what the full House will  – and won’t – be allowed to vote on.

These moves, and similarly scorched-earth demands to which McCarthy acceded so he wouldn’t have to move his stuff out of the speaker’s office, are prompting alarm that when the U.S. government hits its debt limit, perhaps within a matter of weeks, House failure to act would pitch not only the U.S. but the global economy into a severe tailspin in a matter of months.

The last time Republicans flirted with default, in 2021, Moody’s Analytics projected “catastrophic” national consequences, including a loss of more than 6 million jobs, a 9% unemployment rate, and a deep recession. The report also envisioned markets going into free fall and a loss of $15 trillion in household worth.

No matter how low Nevada’s taxes on “job creators,” or how much public money is transferred to private schools in the name of “choice,” or how many mild criminal justice reforms (that Lombardo’s chief of staff voted for) are repealed – that is, no matter how much of Lombardo’s campaign agenda were to be enacted, even a steroid-enhanced version – none of it would do jack squat to prevent Nevada’s economy suffering impacts comparable to a shutdown, with damaging effects that could last months or even years.

Additional analysis from two years ago envisioned that the longer the House fails to act, the higher the possibility of curtailed Social Security benefits, curtailed pay for federal employees, curtailed spending on the military generally, delays in payments to health care providers offering services covered by Medicare and Medicaid, and more.

A different direction alright

In diametric opposition to the way Congress saved Nevada state government’s ability to continue providing services (such as they are) over the last three years or so, House Republican failure to govern would devastate Nevada’s state budget, rendering state government incapable of assisting Nevadans and their families when they would need help most. 

Thanks to federal legislation passed by Biden and Democrats in Congress over the last couple years, Lombardo took office with the rosiest state budget of perhaps any Nevada governor ever.

If Lauren Boebert, Max Gaetz, Jim Jordan and other ridiculous House Republican extremists crash the economy, while so-called “normal” Republicans like self-styled reasonable person Mark Amodei of Nevada sit idly by offering nothing more than quirky grins and folky quips, the state’s plumpy (for Nevada) budget outlook would go poof. 

Roughly a third of Nevada’s budget is provided by the federal government. Some of the biggest items are the federal share of costs for Medicaid and benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Even during the best of times, Nevada’s industry-coddling tax structure would be in no position to pick up the slack in any of those areas.

It’s hard to imagine any state would be.

Nevada is one of 27 states with Republican governors. Some of them are as fruity as Boebert, Gaetz, et al. But some of them aren’t. And one or two of them – most notably Chris Sununu in New Hampshire – have a reputation for being more or less sensible.

The celebrity mascot of the group of course is Florida’s Ron DeSantis. But given his presidential aspirations, perhaps he more than any of them has an ambition-oriented personal stake in not seeing a bunch of House chuckleheads with an R after their names incinerate the national economy for fun and headlines. That might tarnish a Republican presidential nominee’s chances in 2024.

The aforementioned House chuckleheads appear to have little interest in anything anyone else has to say. Their collective cone of daftness probably impedes even the voices of their own governors. 

And Lombardo’s a newbie from a relatively small state anyway, his sole notable distinguishing characteristic being he’s the only Republican in 2022 to defeat an incumbent Democratic governor.

But it looks like slightly less extreme House Republicans are not going to stand up to McCarthy’s captors anytime soon. And they probably never will unless urged and persuaded to do so by fellow Republicans, including and maybe especially governors.

Lombardo will give a state of the state speech later this month, in which he’ll lay out his aforementioned lofty plans (no new taxes, private schools, tough on crime, etc.) A couple weeks later legislators will gather in a remote Reno exurb as they do every other year, and the riveting public haggling over three-fifths of a percent of some department’s budget here and three-tenths of a percent of another department’s there can begin in earnest.

Hopefully they’ll still be locked in customary last-minute insider-heavy special-interest conniving 120 days later when the session is scheduled to end. Because if they’re not, it might be because they’re preoccupied by the madness of House Republican crowds plummeting the nation into economic chaos. On their own and with no federal rescue in the works, Lombardo and legislators would be forced to slash state spending, probably across the board, and inflict even more pain on their constituents.

Well, Republicans said they would take things in different direction.

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Hugh Jackson
Hugh Jackson

Hugh Jackson was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and author of the Las Vegas Gleaner political blog. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and editor at the Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune.

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