This grand opening deserves a cold shower. First, don't assume that the coming of two other major sports retailers in Sparks and south Reno will necessarily drive down prices. Does having a gasoline market dominated by a half-dozen oil companies work? We suffer instead from an oligopoly, a narrow number of suppliers controlling prices.
Next, don't delude yourself that the big boxes mean bargains. Wal-Mart is a case study of the use of clever loss leaders and store layouts to create the illusion of discounts. Bill Moyers interviewed Pulitzer Prize winner David Cay Johnston on his Jan. 18 PBS program. Investigative reporter Johnston's new book ("Free Lunch: How the wealthiest Americans enrich themselves at government expense and stick you with the bill") has an interesting revelation. Here's part of the transcript:
MOYERS: One of your most revealing stories in here for me is about the small merchant of a fishing and outdoor gear (store) who's put out of business by a big competitor who gets $32 million in subsidies from the local government.
JOHNSTON: Well, you know, if you walk into many of the big box retailers today, you have to pay sales tax at the cash register on whatever you buy. Well, in many of those stores, the government never gets the money. The owners of the stores get to keep it. And who are the big beneficiaries of that? The Walton family that owns Wal-Mart and the Cabela family who own Cabela's, which is a fin, feather and fur outfitting club for fishermen and hunters. And in this little town - in the Poconos, 4,100 people - they came and said, "We want to build the world's largest outdoor store, 32 million dollars. And the local town fathers went for it because they said all these jobs it'll create and all this economic benefit. And Jim Weaknecht who runs this little tiny store that makes enough money that his wife can stay home and raise their children, he's outraged.
He goes, "Nobody gave me a subsidy. If I had gone to City Hall and said, 'Give me a million dollars,' they would have laughed at me." And, you know, he charged lower prices than Cabela's. They still ran him out of business. This little town gave the Cabela family the equivalent of about 11 years of the entire city budget for police and fixing the streets and everything else. And this is going on all across America.
MOYERS: Cabela promised jobs and more money flowing through the economy but that hasn't happened.
JOHNSTON: No, it hasn't happened. And, in fact, that's the argument made everywhere. What you're really doing is using this government subsidy to draw business away from the existing local merchants who are effectively being taxed to subsidize the newcomer.
(See cabellyup.com for continuing revelations of Cabela's depredations.)
Former Reno Kazoo-Journal boss Ward Bushee is taking over the San Francisco Chronicle. I hope The City will help him recover his ethics. I confronted him on a 1998 KNPB TV-5 show about failing to inform his readers of the Gannett newspaper chain's conflict of interest with Union Pacific. At the same time, UP was vacuuming local taxpayer pockets to get a free railroad trench. Mr. Bushee said he didn't think his readers needed such information.
Hairy Carey Department
However you want to spell hara kiri, it still means suicide and the Democrats are proving their expertise once again.
Bill Maher was entirely correct last year when he told Jay Leno that Edwards/Obama would be a helluva ticket.
Months ago, I made the GOP a slight favorite to win the presidency. Right now, the leader is warmonger John McCain, a man who saw the horrors of war, but advocates it; who shopped states after Vietnam to settle in the one giving him the most likely chance of election to congress; who just switched his religion from Episcopal to Southern Baptist for obvious reasons - it paid off in South Carolina. (Keep the white sheets pressed.)
We forget that Bill Clinton never won a majority. Only the maverick candidacy of madcap Ross Perot allowed Bubba to prevail by plurality.
Sen. Obama may be a rock star, but found out in New Hampshire that racism is alive and well. Just before the NH vote, I reminded a longtime African-American officeholder of the five to 10 percent every black candidate must allow for whites who refuse to admit to a pollster that they would never vote for a black person.
My friend disagreed, stating that Obama had put the black/white gap to rest. Then came New Hampshire.
Poor John Edwards, we really screwed him over. He worked so hard in Nevada which rewarded him with only four percent. The Culinary Union did and didn't do what I feared. They endorsed Obama out of emotion but didn't do the advance work necessary to allow him to prevail. So Hillary won Las Vegas and the whole idea of the Nevada caucus - to make labor a kingmaker - failed miserably.
Michael Moore said Bill Clinton served the fourth and fifth terms of the Reagan Administration. McCain may win the eighth. The only silver lining: the next four years are going to be disastrous. We will pay for our sins. Witness the worldwide stock market crash hitting right now.
The next president will be the new Herbert Hoover. Better, perhaps, that it be a Republican so that maverick GOP author Kevin Phillips' 2000 prediction may come true: the restoration of a royal family usually leads to destruction of its power. He thus predicted the end of the Republican Party.
We are all paying the upfront price of the funeral right now.
America is being stirred with a long stick. The result will be the country continuing on the path it's been traveling for decades, breaking up into regions, as I've been preaching for 25 years.
We're in for a very bumpy ride.
Be well. Raise hell.
Andrew Barbano is a 39-year Nevadan and editor of NevadaLabor.com. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.