Is 2019 the end of an era and the start of a new age, or the end of an age and the start of a new era? Are we doomed to a year of hellish torment or a year of righteous change? No matter where you look, the predictions (contradictory though they might be) are coming in left and right. The one thing everyone is certain of is that Things Shall Not Continue As They Have and Everything Must Change.
Personally, I think they’re right, except where they’re wrong.
Everyone else’s prognosticating and prophesying got me thinking, though — could I do any better? Granted, like most Libertarian men on the Internet, my reality is an isolated existence filled with computer screens, fluorescent light and technical jargon, one largely devoid of direct social contact and filled instead with snark and arcane arguments over whether the Non-Aggression Principle is applicable when someone uses the “forbiddem glymph” in a Lemgthbook group.
Consequently, perhaps I’m a poor judge of the direction of the future. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be a mediocre white man with a platform if I didn’t boldly go where everyone else went, only middlingly so and weeks late to boot, so, without further ado, here are my predictions for Nevada’s future in 2019 — and, in the spirit of SSC, these will be scored.
When it comes to the economy, there’s not much I disagree with Sparks Tribune’s Andrew Barbano on, especially regarding Tesla. Tesla started the new year by announcing a price cut, a loss of a key federal subsidy and a failure to meet production targets. Given how Tesla has internalized all of its costs — costs that its competitors wisely push on to others when given a chance — this is seriously bad news. I think there’s a solid chance (let’s say 60 percent) that Tesla will file for some form of bankruptcy protection by the end of 2019.
I’m about 90 percent certain that ReReno’s real estate pricing predictions for 2019 are solid — they’re just for the wrong market. I think Clark County’s housing prices will decline slightly (between 5-10 percent) over the next year as described in ReReno’s piece, and as they’re already starting to do. As Tesla falters, however, I think Northern Nevada’s real estate prices will drop by closer to 15-20 percent, especially once layoffs start and the larger in-progress housing developments complete at the same time.
Big outliers in the region will be Fernley, which was hit with an economic neutron bomb in 2008 and will be the hardest hit as Tesla goes under, and Carson City, which I actually expect to trend positively. Why do I think Carson City’s real estate market will remain positive (with 95 percent confidence, in fact)? Twenty percent of state workers are expected to leave in the next five years.
One of the more interesting effects of the Great Recession on Nevada is that, thanks to Gov. Sandoval’s furloughs and other cuts to state employment, many state employees that would have started their careers in the late ‘00s or early ‘10s were instead laid off, moved to county or local government jobs, moved into the private sector, or otherwise left state employment. Consequently, many of the state employees who remained through it all were those that were established in their careers and nearing retirement.
That was nearly a decade ago. They’re about to retire, if they haven’t already.
What this means for Carson City specifically is that, even if Gov. Sisolak and the Democrats in the Legislature leave state government alone (which they won’t), replacement workers are going to need to move into the area — an area that’s full of newly retired state workers. Because just over 30 percent of the Carson City population works for the government, replacing even 20 percent of them will mean a number of adult residents equal to 6 percent of Carson City’s existing population will need to move in over the next five years. (What this means for the state government, meanwhile, is that, even if Nevada’s Democrats want to expand the size and scope of the state government, they’re going to be hard-pressed to keep existing positions staffed, especially given Nevada’s tightening labor market.)
The “good” news, if you want to call it that, is that if and when Nevada’s economy starts to sour, there will be a pool of private sector workers looking for work, and state government will be hiring. That said, the state isn’t looking for thousands of laid-off battery assemblers (sorry, Tesla workers). On the contrary, the state’s mostly looking for nurses, social workers, and highway maintenance workers, at least for now. How the state will be able to fill those positions, and keep them filled, will be one of the most pressing questions going into the 2019 session.
2019 is a legislative year, so something has to be said about what will happen to our body of laws between February and June. Since I have close to no inside information whatsoever, just a series of hunches, this is where I test the strength of the limb I’m sitting on.
Let’s start with a safe (99 percent certain) prediction: Sen. Joseph Hardy’s Bill Draft Request, BDR 20-110, to prohibit prostitution throughout the state of Nevada is going absolutely nowhere.
Well, that was easy.
Let’s make a slightly less safe (only 95 percent certain) prediction: Taxes are going up.
That isn’t a bold take given Democratic control over the legislative process. For example, SJR14, which resets property depreciation after sale or transfer of ownership, passed handily in 2017 without a single Democratic “no” vote and is consequently virtually guaranteed (99 percent certain) to pass the Legislature again in 2019. As SJR14 amends the Nevada Constitution, it will then need to be approved by the voters in 2020 before it takes effect. (If it is, Nevadans looking to make a move will face an unpleasant choice: stay in their homes and places of business with their far lower depreciation-adjusted property tax bills, or potentially pay three to four times as much in property taxes for a basically equivalent but new, higher-taxed property, as they do in California. The Golden State has a lot going for it, don’t get me wrong. Having one neighbor pay several times as much in property taxes as their other neighbors, however, is a practice best left on the wetter side of the Sierras — or, better yet, in the dustbin of history.)
Beyond fighting SJR14, Republicans are going to be (I’m 90 percent certain) absolutely apoplectic about what Democrats do to the Commerce Tax rates. Those are the rates that are most likely to rise because Nevada’s sales tax rate, already the 14th highest in the nation, doesn’t have much room for increase, especially as Nevada’s counties rely on sales taxes to balance their budgets; besides, sales taxes are regressive, which means their load falls disproportionately on the poor, and the Dems won’t want that. As for Nevada’s property tax rates, more than two-thirds of Washoe County’s voters already said no to a 0.0248% increase in their property taxes to cover the cost of a proposed flood control project, which would have raised the annual property taxes of the average home in Reno by about $25. If less than a third of Northern Nevada voters can be convinced to pay an extra $2 a month in property taxes to keep flood water out of all of our homes, it’s a pretty safe bet the appetite for property tax increases for any other reason will be found dangerously (to those seeking re-election) wanting.
So, in order for the Democratic Legislature and administration to fund the planned extra spending on education, health care, and other issues promised during the election, there’s only one option left: increasing one or more industry rates in The Commerce Tax.
Beyond the issue of taxation, criminal justice reform is one of the issues incoming Attorney General Aaron Ford is passionate about, and, unlike the past session, this is going to be the session where Democrats get their way. Now that recreational marijuana is more or less legalized, for example, vacating marijuana-based convictions only makes sense, as Democrats rightly attempted to address with AB259 in the 2017 session. Private prisons, meanwhile (an institution even many conservative-leaning libertarians are becoming skeptical of), were also supposed to be on their way out with the passage of AB303. Both of those bills, among several others, were vetoed by Governor Sandoval in 2017. I think there’s a 90 percent chance they’ll be back in 2019.
Why 90 percent and not 95, or 99, you ask?
Because it’s easy to say, for example, “Repeal Obamacare!” when you can enjoy the benefits of voting to “repeal Obamacare” without experiencing the drawbacks of actually repealing it, as Republicans in Congress learned before 2016. It’s substantially harder, however, to roll things back when you’re no longer politically insulated from the consequences of your positions, as Republicans learned after 2016. I really, truly, genuinely hope that Democrats don’t cynically support criminal justice reform so they can look good to their voters, knowing full well there will be no attack ads on the other side of the vote accusing them of being “soft on crime.” However, 10 percent of me is cynical enough to fear that, when faced with the opportunity of actually letting someone out of jail — or anyone, really — some Democrats will flinch.
Granted, it’s not 1988 anymore. Crime isn’t as big of an issue today as it was back then, and Democrats aren’t facing 1988’s voters. Today’s voters are far more aware and far less forgiving of the excesses of America’s carceral system than they were thirty years ago. Even so, though, old habits die hard. Unless Nevada’s voters start actively punishing politicians who refuse to advance meaningful reform on this issue, Nevada’s politicians have every incentive to do just enough to keep the status quo.
A good bellwether will be SB19, which would upgrade poop-flinging (seriously!) from a gross misdemeanor to a category D felony, punishable with up to four years of prison time. Don’t get me wrong, nobody should fling their feces at anyone, but gross misdemeanors are already punishable with fines and potential jail time in a county jail. Upgrading this offense to a felony would be an expensively symbolic act that would transfer the burden from our municipal jails to our already overcrowded state prison system and create more nigh-unemployable ex-felons. If Democrats can’t hold the line here, don’t expect them to make much progress anywhere else.
Just in the past month or two, we learned that The Left wants to make Santa gender-neutral — except they don’t. We also learned that Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was problematic - except it’s not. And we learned that some conservatives believe Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is unserious because she made a dance video in college — if by “conservatives,” you mean recently deleted Twitter account @AnonymousQ1776 and nobody else.
Each of these “stories” — and that term is looser in this context than an infant in a pair of plus-sized parachute pants — all share a common trait: They take our biases about what we believe others think, find a single source that confirms those biases, and use that source to tell us we’re right.
Of course conservatives would be offended by a college-aged congresswoman exhibiting some basic athleticism on video. Well, a single Twitter user did, anyway. Of course liberals find traditional Christmas characters offensive. Well, a graphics company that wanted to make a splash with an intentionally inflammatory survey and some sarcastic online personalities do, anyway. That’s what conservatives and liberals do, right? That’s how they actually think?
Look, the Internet’s a big place. It’s a big enough place, in fact, where you can find someone with a dumb opinion, real or ironic, about anything. Want to find someone that thinks Josef Stalin was a trans person of color? They’re out there. Can I now generalize that liberals or The Left or progressives or whatever believe that one of history’s bloodiest monsters checks every conceivable idpol box under the sun? Sure — if I have no conscience, integrity, or intelligence.
Unfortunately, painting our adversaries, real or imagined, as cartoon strawpeople with ridiculous opinions is frightfully tempting and, sadly, extremely effective. Because it’s effective, I don’t see it going away anytime soon. Consequently, I’m going to state, with 100 percent certainty, that 2019 will be yet another year full of bad takes on bad opinions amplified and ballooned out of proportion by bad people who should know better.
Decades of Internet snark and arcane arguments may make me wrong about everything else, but they leave me absolutely certain I’m not wrong about that.
David Colborne has been active in the Libertarian Party for two decades. During that time, he has blogged intermittently on his personal blog, as well as the Libertarian Party of Nevada blog, and ran for office twice as a Libertarian candidate. He serves on the Executive Committee for both his state and county Libertarian Party chapters. He is the father of two sons and an IT professional. You can follow him on Twitter @DavidColborne or email him at [email protected].