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Why Nevada politicians should stop trying to help veterans

Sometimes the best way for politicians to help veterans is to stop helping them.

It’s a lesson Nevada lawmakers need to remember as they go to Carson City and consider bills like AB67. Requested by Nevada Treasurer Dan Schwartz, AB67 would create a public-benefit corporation, funded by $10 million from the State Permanent School Fund, to fund emergency loans.

“This is not a partisan issue,” said Grant Hewitt, Schwartz’s chief of staff. “This is about helping folks who need assistance so they don’t find themselves in a cycle of debt.”

Although it’s true that payday lenders are incredible ripoffs, this should be an easy vote for lawmakers.

Government doesn’t exist to offer loans to businesses or individuals.

But there’s a political problem with this logic. AB67 restricts the loans to Nevadans who are military veterans and work in education.

“Veterans have done remarkable things for our country,” Hewitt noted.

If a legislator votes against AB67, the campaign mailer writes itself: “Your assemblyman/senator voted against protecting veterans from predatory lenders.” The implication is that your legislator hates veterans and that to show support for our troops, you must vote against the incumbent.

This is why the bravest elected officials are the ones who vote “no” on giveaways like AB67. It’s easy to cave to the pressure, the prevailing narrative and special interests. After all, it’s not like politicians are loaning their own money. They’re giving away someone else’s money — your money.

But veterans don’t join the service to become a special interest group. I know, because I’m a veteran.

It’s time for politicians to stop picking winners and losers, even if you or I am selected as winners, at the expense of other taxpayers

That’s the principle, but there’s also the practical. Government giveaways rarely work as expected. If you make short-term loans more attractive to veterans, veterans are going to use them more instead of changing the personal financial choices that created the need for an emergency loan.

Last session, the Senate and Assembly unanimously passed AB71. Among other things, the bill temporarily exempted employers who hired unemployed veterans from paying a portion of the Modified Business Tax. That same session, two-thirds of the Legislature voted to increase the MBT as part of the largest tax increase in Nevada history.

When employers sit down to figure out whether they can afford to hire a new employee, they’re going to consider the overall MBT rate, not whether they can afford the new employee if he or she happens to be an unemployed veteran.

Keeping the MBT rate low for everyone would have helped more veterans than carving out a special exemption for veterans.

There are instances where veterans need political help. On the federal level, removing the union protections that prevent the Department of Veterans Affairs from firing inept employees springs to mind.

But for the most part, politicians shouldn’t seek to lavish special privileges on veterans. We fought for freedom, not political favors.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Nevada section each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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