11 February 2009

Get Over It Goodman

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman is asking President Obama to apologize. The mayor has taken offense to a comment made Monday. I think Goodman is deliberately taking it out of context with the (successful) hope of getting media attention. But there are bigger things (and actual issues) worth news time. And now my former mayor has gone and annoyed me.

"You can't take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers' dime," - President Barack Obama, 9 February 2009

That's the statement President Obama made Monday in Elkhart, Indiana. I think it's self explanatory when taken as a message to financial institutions - which is what it was. Mayor Goodman saw it slightly differently, telling the President his "comments are harmful to the meetings and convention industry as a whole and Las Vegas specifically." Excuse me Oscar, you seem to be missing the point.

As a taxpayer, I do not want to be funding trips to Vegas if I can't afford to take one myself. The President was specifically talking about banks like Wells Fargo, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs, which received TARP funds and have not yet used them for their intended purpose. I lived in Vegas. I know tourism is it's bread, butter, milk, honey and steak. I doubt the President (or anyone who cares about the economy) is advocating businesses cancel trips to Las Vegas, as long as those businesses pay for the trips themselves.

I have been against the $700 Billion TARP since it's inception. The lack of oversight is just one of my qualms. I am against wasting money, and doubly against wasting my money. How would Oscar feel if someone came to him crying financial ruin, then used a substantial amount of his money to live lavishly? It's rude. It's not how people treat friends, and should be unacceptable for tax dollars.

That's my interpretation of President Obama's statement. When he was Senator Obama, he visited Nevada several times. He knew the importance of the Silver State and I presume that came from an understanding of its economy. The President had nothing to say about the Consumer Electronics Show or AVN Adult Entertainment Expo coming to Las Vegas. They were both pre-inauguration, but I still don't think those are the businesses he'ds targeting. He is not pretending to create business models for specific companies or industries - provided they did not accept government funds. Mayor Goodman is a smart guy. A man who conducts business flanked by showgirls should understand context. But the onus is not solely his. Las Vegas media have some explaining to do as well.

Mayor Goodman did not back down when asked about companies receiving TARP funds. He says those companies still need "to do business and offer incentives to employees." It must be nice for Oscar, to still have "employee incentives" while companies are cutting everything they can to avoid cutting more jobs. I think the story is less that Oscar Goodman wants an apology and more that Oscar Goodman is out of touch with reality. Oscar says whatever he wants to say, and I think media are obligated to put it in context. In this case I do not think they did - especially considering Las Vegas on one of the hardest hit cities by the mortgage crisis. For the same companies responsible for ARMs and foreclosures to reward their employees with the tax dollars contributed by people bordering on homelessness is ridiculous. I hope the President either ignores Mayor Goodman entirely or replies reminding him of efforts to eliminate wasteful spending. And I hope Oscar learns a lesson.