George Pyle: We know what we are. We’re just haggling over the price.

Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune Looking south past the Utah State Capitol building, and into the inversion blanketing the Salt Lake valley, Thursday, December 29, 2016.

Open with a joke.

A rich and famous man at a fancy dinner party says to a young woman seated next to him, “Would you sleep with me for a million dollars?”

“You know," she giggles, "I think I would.”

“Would you sleep with me for 50 dollars?"

"Really, what kind of a woman do think I am?"

“We’ve already established that. Now we’re just haggling about the price.”

OK. That was funny in the 1930s, when the man in question was supposedly, but not really, Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw, Groucho Marx or someone else important enough to get away with spouting such sexist trash.

Now, not that I’ve looked that carefully, but it does seem that Utah is noticeably devoid of houses of prostitution, casinos, giant discount liquor stores or cannabis shops that don’t require a doctor’s note. Why might that be?

We’re not that kind of state?

Or we’re just not very good at haggling about the price.

The Utah Legislature seems to be making short work of a bill that would, if passed into law, make it possible for the EnergySolutions facility over Tooele way to accept much more dangerous forms of radioactive waste, possibly including depleted uranium. That’s the stuff that might pass the Geiger counter test today but that gets hotter and hotter over thousands and millions of years.

And why would our betters in the Legislature even consider such a thing? Are they being public spirited in volunteering to clean up the mess made by other people a long way away? Are they hoping to acquire super powers after an accident (Warning! This is a plot complication!) involving a lightning strike or an encounter with a radioactive spider?

Nope. It’s the same reason so many politicians offer for so many things, from James Baker’s justification for the invasion of Iraq to Mitt Romney welcoming new permits for coal mines near Utah’s national parks.


Jobs. It is a magic incantation. Just say the word and all opposition is supposed to fall before you. Even if, as in the case of EnergySolutions, it won’t be that many jobs.

Or even when, in the case of coal mines, we are banking on a dying industry that, despite a personal Twittervention from the president of the United States, just lost its market with the Tennessee Valley Authority. And which gets to watch as Germany, long one of the most carbon-hungry nations on earth, has announced it will close all 84 of its coal-fired power plants by 2038.

It really doesn’t make much sense that our elected leaders are so eager to secure for Utah more of the kind of jobs that are just dirty, and not that secure or well-paying. That they would offer our state up to $50 dollar encounters by gutting environmental and safety regulations, offering giant tax breaks or, as in the case of the spontaneously combusted Inland Port Authority conjured up a year ago by this same Legislature, seizing taxing and land-use authority from the state’s largest city.

There is some hope that the port will be state of the art -- lots of electric vehicles and LEED platinum carbon-neutral buildings -- and that it will pass by more low-paying warehouse (Amazon) jobs for more high-wage career (McDonnell Douglas) companies. But if that happens it will be because the Port Authority Board holds out for it, or lucks into it, not because the Legislature cares.

And, of course, there is the established fact that, in eviscerating the Medicaid expansion that the voters approved, the Legislature went to great effort to torpedo a chance to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars to boost an industry that is decided to saving lives -- as it pays some of the best wages around and boosts our state’s scientific and technical cred.

Apparently those jobs we don’t want in the medical profession are too wimpy -- helpful, sanitary, life-prolonging, education-reliant, downright feminine -- to appeal to the Real Men of Utah, who aren’t interested in any profession where you have to wash your hands.

We want jobs that are carbon-heavy, polluting, dangerous and attract employees who have little other choice in life because they didn’t have the opportunity to get a college degree. Even in one of those STEM fields our leaders always claim to be so hot about.

It is like the line from comedian Rita Rudner, noticing that men who would never go near the kitchen are eager to fire up the backyard barbecue. They’ll cook, as long as there is danger involved.

If all we wanted was increased cash flow, we’d legalize every vice and bad habit (at least for consenting adults) and tax the bejeezus out of them. Jobs for everyone. Budget deficits no more. And lots more eager donors to our politicians’ campaign accounts.

If anything, brothels and bookie joints would be less harmful than nuclear waste dumps or coal-fired power plants. People can choose to avoid the sin bins, but not the bad air and gamma rays.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tribune staff. George Pyle.

George Pyle, editorial page editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, would seek a large legislative appropriation and honking big tax break for his own profession. Except he doesn’t want to be beholden to those dirty birds. gpyle@sltrib.com