Viva Las Vegas

[22 September 2009]

By Rodger Jacobs

Las Vegas can be a scary place to live, sort of like Bakersfield except with continuous sunshine and slot machines in every corner market.

William Anderson, chief economist for the state of Nevada’s Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation noted on Friday, 18 September 2009, that the jobless rate in the Nevada area continued at a record-breaking pace in August with unemployment in the gaming and construction industries topping out at 13.4 percent.

The jobless rate in the Reno, Nevada area is at 12.4 percent, however. Why the discrepancy between north and south? The Pulitzer Prize-winning Las Vegas Sun explains:

Anderson said, “There are certainly a number of factors accounting for the high unemployment rate in Southern Nevada compared to the north.”

The Las Vegas area “is more concentrated in those industries or sectors which have been impacted the most by the current recession,” he said. “For instance, as of August, 8.7 percent of all jobs in Southern Nevada were in the hard-hit construction sector, compared to 5.7 percent in the Reno metro area.”

He said the gaming and recreation sectors in the Las Vegas area have been harder hit than in Reno. “In the Las Vegas metro area, leisure and hospitality establishments account for nearly 30 percent of all jobs in the region.” In the Reno area, that percentage is 17.4 percent.

The problem is simple: Vegas is too heavily invested in gaming and construction projects related to gaming (building new casinos and resorts) than their brethren to the north. But that still doesn’t stop the locals here from vicious scapegoating where the loss of construction jobs is concerned, mouthing off in the comments section at the Sun online every opportunity they get:

The illegals have taken jobs from taxpaying American Citizens and must be deported ASAP. We have a huge population of illegals that are allowed to exist right along side taxpayers in Nevada. They have invaded the United States and are costing taxpayers billions every year. If you tolerate illegals than you should be ashamed of yourself. Illegals have stolen jobs from Americans for far too long and should be deported.

The “illegals have ruined everything” argument has spread across the Las Vegas Valley like an insidious virus. And you know what? It’s a sad and tired sentiment, the last hateful gasp of a white middle-class in America who refuse to assume any level of personal responsibility for their own failures. Almost 10 years into the 21st century, many people in many job sectors are discovering that the chores and services they provided, jobs that they took for granted would always be there when they wake up in the morning, is an illusion. It’s somebody else’s fault, they believe, and, more often than not, that somebody else is a non-white.

In Willy Vlautin’s outstanding Nevada-based novel Northline (2008) the character of Jimmy Bodie, a young, unemployed construction worker (and a skinhead to boot) explains the sentiment that has washed over many Southern Nevada residents and, by rote, over many other pockets of the United States whether we choose to accept it or not:

I mean, look at Vegas. The population’s almost tripled in twenty years. That means from when you were born it went from around 400,000 people in the whole county to maybe 1,700,000 now. It was a dump to begin with, then you add all the fucking new people. And the Mexicans come in like fog, cover everything, get in everywhere. They fuck up their country and then they come here. Our border controls are fucked. The INS is fucked. They should stay and fix their own fucking country … Pretty soon they’re gonna ruin everything. Leaving dirty diapers in parking lots, pouring motor oil down drains, throwing trash in the reservoirs, ruining houses, neighborhoods. The fucking rich people start it all and then they go and live in the goddamn suburbs in gated communities. They never have any contact with them in the first place except when they need their lawns mowed or their houses cleaned or food served. Put all the Mexicans back in Mexico. And the blacks? They have no respect for themselves. Their men abandon their women. Look at my old neighborhood. The Mexicans and the blacks moved in and now it’s a fucking cesspool. My grandma got so scared when her neighborhood went to shit that she now lives in an old folks’ home. My grandpa built her goddamn house by himself in the 1950s. The whole thing for her, just the way she wanted it. Brick by fucking brick, after work he did it. He was a damn welder. All day long he was busting his ass for someone else and then he comes home and builds her a house. She hated leaving, she loved that house, but there were three murders on her street in less than five years. She had to get an alarm system. My dad put bars on her windows. In the end everyone was so scared about her being there and finally we made her leave. You don’t see that happening in white neighborhoods, do you?

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/111787-viva-las-vegas/