Las Vegas – The Most Unsurvivable City in America

April 3, 2012

Among my clients is a friend who is also an expert in survival (if you’ve seen the Nat-Geo series “Preppers” you’ll have an idea of what we’re talking about here), and in working with her on a series of seminars for how to prepare to survive The End Of The World As We Know It (Teotwaki – “tea-oh-TWAK-key”), it has come to my attention that Las Vegas is far and away the least survivable city in North America above the Rio Grande.

Las Vegas is sitting on a massive series of underground fault lines, and the National Geologic Survey gives us a 50-50 chance of a major quake within my lifetime (and I’m 60).  Vegas has very few roads in and out of town, and because two cross the Colorado River, they are easily blocked.  We’re in a remarkably dry desert, and all of our water depends on electricity to pump it, so a grid failure means no more water.  We have no arable land near us, and roughly two days of food on the store shelves at any given time.  Plus we have – at any given moment – several hundred thousand tourists who don’t even have the basics for survival.

However, this blog isn’t about our physical survival in a disaster – it’s about our fiscal survival in the ongoing financial disaster.  While the stock market has crept up slowly to pre-2008 levels, that’s done nothing for unemployment in Las Vegas – and nothing for bankruptcies and foreclosures.  We have an “official” unemployment rate above 15 percent, but when you take in the uncounted unemployment – people who have given up, or who’ve exhausted their 99 weeks, or people who’s documentation is lacking (i.e., illegal aliens), we have a functional unemployment rate of 25 percent.

By the way, we’d all like to thank President Obama for all his help in creating this local unemployment rate – his comments in 2009 attacking Las Vegas as a “legitimate” destination for government meetings, or even for corporate meetings involving government contractors, caused a literal overnight shut-down of mostly hourly, mostly union jobs in this city, and they have not come back.  So thank you, President Obama.

To go along with that staggering unemployment rate, we have America’s highest foreclosure rate – and, in a related statistic – our highest bankruptcy rate.  Housing values have been devastated.  Houses that appraised for $325,000 at the start of 2007 aren’t selling for $50,000 today (if they sell at all).  And the housing market has something above a 10-year inventory (some say it’s as high as 18 years) – which means if no new houses are built, it will take from 10 to 18 years for the natural increase in population (and home ownership) to absorb vacant houses already on the market.

Nevada went for Barack Obama four years ago.  Two years ago, against all rational reason, Harry Reid was re-elected (even as his son lost big-time to a Republican in the race for governor – lost to a Hispanic-American Republican, which I mention just for those who think Republicans are out of touch with Hispanics).

Which brings me to November, 2012.

Just as Harry Reid should have lost in 2010, Obama should lose in Nevada in 2012.  He did more than I would have thought any one man could do to destroy Las Vegas’ tourism economy in 2009, he’s overseen the collapse of the housing market and has done nothing to turn things around … and people who have been paying the price should remember that (and act on that memory) when they go to vote in November.

Yet, having seen how we Republicans did in 2010, I will not say that Romney or Gingrich or Santorum will have a cake-walk here in 2012.  I’ve been following politics since I was 13 (when Goldwater ran and lost), and I have never ceased to be amazed at Republicans’ collective “gift” for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.  To defeat President Obama, here in the state which seems to be suffering more (and longer) from his gentle ministrations than any other state, here in the city which under his leadership has become the (economically) least survivable city in America, we’re going to have to pull together behind whomever is nominated.  We’re going to have to put aside our conservative hopes and dreams – Reagan is dead and he’s not coming back (at least not in 2012) – and work damned hard for whomever is nominated.

Then, perhaps Las Vegas can come back from the brink.  At least until that earthquake hits …

Ned Barnett – Nevada Conservative



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