Friday, January 27, 2012

Nearly 25% Unemployed in Fabulous Las Vegas

Think about that for a moment. Almost 1 in 4 people of working age that you might see shopping for groceries in a Las Vegas Wal-Mart are without a job. Although you might occasionally see them in a casino buying a cheap hot dog, I doubt you'll find many of them at an expensive mall, a restaurant, a movie theater, or playing black jack.

If you see them walking the streets of Las Vegas (excluding the Las Vegas Strip), it's probably because they've also lost their cars...and might be living on the streets.

Sin City's economy was built on gaming and tourism, and went through 20 years of boom times. Yet during the Great Recession, Las Vegas went bust.

While although tourism and gaming revenue might be slowly rising again, the state's largest casinos still lost $4 billion last year.

There are plenty of casualties along the Las Vegas Strip. The half-built skeleton of the Echelon, a planned five-hotel mega resort, had construction stopped when the recession hit, and has never resumed. Up the Strip, the bankrupt Fontainebleau is also unfinished. The historic Sahara closed its doors last May.

Even MGM's massive City Center, the largest privately-funded construction project in U.S. history that was completed and opened in December of 2009, nearly didn't make it, but it is still billions of dollars in debt. But to the outrage of MGM shareholders, MGM's CEO Jim Murren was still paid $13.75 million in 2009, including stock options worth $7.09 million. And just like Mitt Romney, he will only have to pay a tax rate of 15% on those capital gains.

Nevada led all states with foreclosure sales, accounting for nearly 57 percent of all home sales according to RealtyTrac. Several other states had foreclosure sales that made up at least 20 percent of all homes.

The average foreclosure sales price in Nevada in the third quarter of 2011 was $116,101 - - 23.7 percent below the average sales price of homes that weren't in foreclosure. Nationally, foreclosed homes carried average sales prices of $165,322, which was 34 percent below non-foreclosure properties.

The New York Times reported that auction houses have been busy thriving with bargain hunters on foreclosed homes. People from around the world have scooped up houses that are often sold for less than half of the value of the mortgage.

But if this were the case, and the banks were willing to accept these 50% losses, why couldn't they have just renegotiated the original homeowners' mortgages by 50%, instead of evicting whole families - - those who have already had payment histories (including principal) - - and especially with the current historically low interest rates?

Many, if not most Americans, might have been able to keep their homes, which in turn, might have helped prop up the surrounding property values in those neighborhoods. But instead, there's been an influx of foreigners who have been eager for cut-rate prices on houses that they can easily resell or rent out.

Maybe there should have been some strings attached to those $700 billion TARP loans to the big banks. And maybe we also have Newt Gingrich's $1.7 million in lobbying efforts on behalf of Freddie Mac to blame too.

The unemployment rate in Las Vegas is currently reported as 12.7% (which once peaked at 15.2% in 2010), but that number doesn't represent the true story because a great many jobless people are no longer being counted anymore after exhausting all their unemployment benefits.

Bill Anderson, chief economist for the Nevada's Department of Employment says, “When you account for the discouraged workers and the under-employed due to economic reasons, the unemployment rate is running over 23%."

Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich doesn't believe that the unemployed in Las Vegas want jobs, but instead, are demanding food stamps. (Herman Cain said we all should blame ourselves if we're unemployed.)

Statewide, the jobless rate in Nevada averaged slightly less than in Las Vegas last year, but Nevada's Republican leaders (like ALL other Republicans) seem little concerned about the unemployed, the homeless, or the suicidal.

It should come as no surprise that Las Vegas also has the highest suicide rate in America. Sin City scores over three times above the national rate.

And most of those who work with the homeless in Las Vegas expect this year's count to reveal the homeless population has grown because of the long-troubled economy and cuts to programs that help the poor. Final results are expected later this year.

Police in the downtown area have been criticized in the past for harassing the homeless, rousting them in the early morning hours, sometimes arresting them on minor charges such as trespassing or sleeping on a bus bench.

And then there are those who are have been living underneath Las Vegas, a secret community living in the dark and dirty underground flood tunnels below the famous and glamorous Las Vegas Strip - - in a city of billionaires. Now we have Las Vegas Sands' Sheldon Adelson and his wife financing Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign with $10 million donated so far (which if elected, also means less food stamps for the unemployed that were laid off by Sheldon Adelson).

Nevada's Republican Senator Joe Heck (pictured below) said he voted for the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act (The House-passed version of H.R. 3630) to extend the payroll tax and unemployment benefits for one year.

Senator Joe Heck said that this version of the bill was fully paid for by cutting other "offsetting costs" to pay for the year long extension, like cutting other programs that the poor and unemployed need, and/or reducing the number of weeks of unemployment benefits.

FULL DISCLOSURE: This blogger, a laid-off casino bartender, now relies on food stamps and Medicaid; and his room-mate, also a laid-off casino worker, receives unemployment benefits... necessities we need for our basic survival...programs that our Republican Senator Joe Heck wants to cut.

Someone should ask our Senator Joe Heck that if the next time Nevada has a natural disaster (or another man-made one), and if we needed any financial help from the federal government, can we count on HIM to cut other "offsetting costs" to pay for emergency disaster relief...such as cutting HIS $174,000 annual salary and by raising HIS taxes next time?

Also, Republican lawmakers in more than 30 states in the past year have also considered legislation to require drug tests for welfare recipients, and several have also targeted unemployment claimants too.

Republican Virginia State Senator Richard Black says, "I think the use of drugs for some people is the reason they are unemployed. I don't believe that taxpayers have an obligation to pay for recreational drug use. And I think if a person has the money to pay for illicit drugs, then they have the money to support themselves.'"

Maybe he and Nevada Republican Senator Joe Heck should also be forced to take a drug test before they can pick up their taxpayer-paid paychecks too. After all, what's good for the goose...

Also, I'd like to know how the Republican presidential candidates would answer this question during the debates: 

"If 50% of all U.S. workers now earn less than $26,364 a year, and the poverty level for a family of four is $22,350, how can families afford their own health insurance plans when these plans averaged $414 per month in 2011, when the cost of housing, energy, and food is so high?"

Last night during the debate in Florida, Mitt Romney called these people "free-riders" for using emergency rooms in the hospitals when they get sick or injured.

Why do all the Republicans such as Mitt Romney, Joe Heck, and Richard Black always castigate the poor and unemployed?

1 comment:

  1. Episode #1 of "F**KED: The United States of Unemployment" - Posted on the pages of yesterday. You can also view it on YouTube.