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Lombardo should have run against Rosen • Nevada Current

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Gov. Joe Lombardo issued another press release masquerading as a letter to President Joe Biden about housing Thursday.

Lombardo’s latest idea to address affordable housing – or rather, for the federal government to do it – as articulated in his press release/letter to the president Thursday, is to tell Biden to “embrace free market principles that rely on supply and demand and rein in excessive federal spending.” 

Sounds legit. Joe Biden accomplished more significant legislation in his first two years than most presidents achieve in two terms, legislation that brought the U.S. and Nevada economy back from the pandemic much more quickly than anyone thought possible – and that assured when Lombardo was sworn in as governor he and the Nevada Legislature would have a plumpy budget. So the White House is probably really interested in the economic insights of a guy whose last job was running a publicly subsidized security service for the Las Vegas resort industry.

You may recall Lombardo also sent a letter to the Nevada press, er, the president last month, in which the governor urged Biden “to take immediate action on the affordable housing crisis” by making it easier for the development industry to obtain ownership of federal land.

There are any number of things the development industry might do if it acquired parcels of federal land on the outskirts of the Las Vegas metro area. Developing affordable housing isn’t one of them. 

Even if you take the charitable view – more new development would put more product on the market and eventually might lead to more “affordable” housing – it’s an uncertain and distant, at best, response to the region’s dearth of affordable housing.

Meanwhile, Lombardo seems increasingly committed to the proposition that Nevada’s affordable housing policy is the federal government’s problem, not his.

Maybe he’s in the wrong job.

Economic analyst Joe Lombardo

Inflation “spiked” in March, and was 3.5% higher than it was in March 2023, Lombardo said in the press release he sent to the president Thursday.

A 3.5% year-over year increase in the consumer price index, while a couple tenths of a percent higher than anticipated is hardly a “spike.” The 9.1% rate in June, 2022 … that was a spike.

In any case, Lombardo would have you believe the sole culprit for inflation is “excessive federal spending.” 

He’s got economic myopia.

As you may recall, there was a pandemic. Lombardo surely must remember; it’s one of the main reasons he has the job he has now.

During the pandemic and as the economy began to emerge from it, shifts in consumer purchasing patterns combined with supply bottlenecks and industrial disruptions, and prices went up. 

Corporate profiteering ensued – if people are paying more, hurray, let’s see just how much more they’ll pay – that sort of thing. If inflation had been caused solely or even mostly by “excessive federal spending,” corporations would have been feeling the pressure just as much as consumers, and wouldn’t have been able to afford to do what they did – inflate prices and spend billions of the profits on stock buybacks to enrich CEOs and whale shareholders.

And speaking of whales, the pandemic and its chaos also created opportunities for people with, let’s say, excess capital. Just the other day, a report estimated that private equity investment has jacked up the price of housing more in Nevada than in all but two other states.

Given his newfound and newly professed interest in affordable housing policy, perhaps the governor would care to see if there’s anything the state might do to confront the pernicious impact on housing costs inflicted by private equity ownership. (There is, by the way.)

And given his concerns about the impact of higher costs generally on Nevadas, perhaps the governor would care to see if there’s anything the state might do to relieve the pain inflicted on lower- and middle-income Nevadans by the state’s upside down tax structure that overburdens those Nevadans while coddling rich ones. (There is, by the way.)

But no. The governor of late seems far more interested in federal policy than any state-level solutions he might be expected to have anything to do with.

In his press release/letter to Biden in March, in his press release/letter Thursday, and in his endorsement of Democratic Rep. Susie Lee’s bill to make America safe for land appraisers (a bill which, like Lombardo’s call for making more federal land available to developers, is indirectly at best connected to the cost of rent), Lombardo’s newfound interest in affordable housing is confined to blaming the federal government for it, and relying on the federal government to fix it.

When it comes to making housing more affordable and lowering needless costs borne by Nevada’s working class, apparently to be a Nevada governor is to be a potted plant.

If Lombardo is going to punt to the feds, the least he could do is spread his support around to initiatives sponsored by other members of Nevada’s Democratic congressional delegation.

Specifically, he could endorse the bill Rep. Dina Titus is co-sponsoring with Arizona Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego to boost the number of federal Housing Choice Vouchers in fast-growing metro areas like Clark County, which traditionally has been short-changed by the voucher program compared to some other metro areas, and where the waiting list for vouchers is huge

The Titus-Gallego legislation, which has the support of the Nevada Apartment Association, dovetails with Biden’s budget, which calls for more spending on the federal housing voucher program. But the bill also specifically targets those metro areas – like Las Vegas – that over the years have received less voucher support per capita than other parts of the country.

The legislation would also do something that Lee’s bill and Lombardo’s suggestions would not: directly and, if enacted, relatively quickly confront the Nevada affordable housing crisis in a meaningful way.

The Lee legislation Lombardo endorsed, like most legislation supported by the Problem Solvers Caucus, is cotton candy by comparison. But unlike the Titus bill, it doesn’t involve federal spending, so however irrelevant and inconsequential to Nevada’s immediate housing problem, it got a nod from economic analyst Joe Lombardo.

Lombardo should run for Congress (although talk radio is another option)

Governors have a responsibility to bring issues that are crucial to their state to the attention of federal officials, including the president. And if a governor is conveying trenchant information about a state-specific issue, information that federal officials may be unaware of or don’t fully understand, federal officials have an obligation to take a governor’s insights seriously.

Telling a president to “embrace free market principles that rely on supply and demand and rein in excessive federal spending” is not an example of a governor fulfilling that responsibility. It’s the regurgitation of simplistic economic bromides beloved by angry right-wing white men who host talk-radio shows. The White House doesn’t need Lombardo for that. It can get that from Sean Hannity.

If the governor is convinced, as his recent actions suggest, that Nevada’s problems can only be solved by the federal government, instead of sending press releases to the president, he should have run for his party’s nomination to challenge Democratic incumbent Sen. Jacky Rosen, or filed to challenge Titus, or Lee, or Nevada’s other Democrat in the U.S. House, Steven Horsford.

Alas, the filing period for federal office closed a month ago. It’s too late now. 

So Lombardo, and Nevadans, would be better served if he quit lobbing banal trickle-down talking points at the Nevada press, er, the White House, as if waiting for the federal government to fix things, and see if there are ways Nevada can fix some of those things itself. (There are, by the way.)


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