From drama to disaster in under eight months

Reno Gazette Journal September 19, 2021 https://www.rgj.com/story/opinion/columnists/2021/09/16/drama-disaster-under-eight-months-sam-kumar/8357657002/

Monday marks eight months of the Biden administration and just about everything the president has touched is an absolute disaster. Let’s look at some of the major areas where the president has failed.

Afghanistan: Americans have been left behind. Incompetence led to thirteen American (and hundreds of Afghan) lives lost. Afghans who stood side by side and helped our armed forces and intelligence officers have been betrayed. $86 billion of our high-tech military equipment has been left behind for China and Russia to reverse-engineer. Yet, President Biden and his minions brag about 120,000 people being evacuated.

Let’s look at the 120,000 evacuees. Out of the 120,000 people, 5,500 are Americans. Were the other 114,500 people Afghan translators and their families? Either we assigned dozens of translators for every military team or we just picked up anyone who is willing to get on a plane to run up the score. Which one is it? Oh… and now we don’t know who we blew up with a Hellfire missile during the hasty retreat.  Was it a terrorist?  Was it an aid worker?  Unknown at this time.  So much for “over the horizon” certainty.

COVID: During the campaign, Biden promised that he would ”shut down the virus”. As candidates, Biden and Kamala Harris both expressed significant skepticism of the vaccine. Now that they are in office, everyone should forget their past skepticism and go get vaccinated? Oh, yes, his vaccination mandate is “going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated coworkers”. Huh?

Economy: Under Biden’s budget plan, public debt will go from $21 trillion in 2020 to $40 trillion in 2031. Inflation is soaring. A quick trip to the gas station, the grocery store or Home Depot will confirm that. Biden claims that more government spending will curb inflation. I wonder if he thinks that eating more will mitigate obesity. In many cases, Biden administration pays more to stay home than to work. It should come as no surprise that job openings currently outnumber unemployed by more than two million. Labor shortages are popping up everywhere. On top of all of that, real weekly earnings fell by 0.9% from August 2020 to August 2021. In short: A smaller economy with fewer workers.

Foreign policy: As vice president, Biden opposed the raid that killed bin Laden. When Trump killed Soleimani, Biden said Trump “just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox”. Since Biden assumed office, China has lectured us on human rights. North Korea has launched missiles. The hasty Afghanistan retreat has created a power vacuum for China, Russia and Iran to exploit. To quote Obama Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Biden has “been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”

One final point: This administration has been an unmitigated disaster in every single way. As I wrote in July, the southern border is a mess.  The Middle East is ablaze as Hamas terrorists funded by Iran are waging a war against Israel. Iranian Navy vessels are taunting U.S. Navy vessels in the Strait of Hormuz.  Violent crime is skyrocketing in various major cities.

Americans have taken note of this mess. Biden’s net approval has dropped by over 20% since April. Students, Biden’s prime constituency, are chanting “F#*k Joe Biden” at college football games. Biden has united Yankees and Mets fans as they went with the same chant. Marchers organized by Teachers for Choice in New York City also chanted the same slogan. As I have admitted in the past, Trump created too much drama. With Biden, we have gone from drama to disaster in under eight months.

God bless our Armed Forces

Reno Gazette Journal September 5, 2021 https://www.rgj.com/story/opinion/columnists/2021/09/02/god-bless-our-armed-forces-sam-kumar/5703103001/

August 31 marks the first day in nearly two decades when there is no American military presence in Afghanistan. Since combat operations started in 2001, nearly 2500 American military personnel have lost their lives in Afghanistan. The most recent attack on August 26 claimed 13 more, making it the deadliest since 2011.

Armed forces around the world are trained to neutralize the enemy, protect the nation, and win. While the US Armed forces are better than any other in history in taking down enemy targets, only the United States military has the compassion to save lives. There is no greater testament to this fact than the countless images we all witnessed of Afghan mothers handing over their children to the US Armed Forces. This is who we are as a country, and our armed forces reflect those values. The thirteen fallen soldiers from August 26, 2021, and the many more from the previous two decades, died trying to save Afghans. In her heartbreaking final Instagram post titled “Kabul, Afghanistan: I love my job”, 23-year old Nicole Gee, the fallen hero from our neighboring Roseville, CA is seen cradling an Afghan child. Nicole is a Marine, but unlike the thugs we just allowed to take back Afghanistan, her happiness comes not from taking down enemy targets, which I have no doubt she is exceptionally good at, but from saving the Afghan people and their children. Nicole truly exemplifies the spirit of compassionate and caring American, and her parents should be proud. As Nicole’s friend Mallory Harrison wrote in her moving tribute, Nicole’s car is still parked in the parking lot at her base, Camp Lejeune, NC. You should read Mallory’s Facebook post. If Mallory’s tribute to Nicole doesn’t break your heart, you don’t have one.

Nicole’s story is just one of thirteen in just this one attack. It his hard to fathom what these military families go through. Your loved one enlists, and the family is overjoyed they will be serving this great country. Then they are deployed. They are away from the family for long periods of time. How many videos have we seen where a father returns home to a child who can barely recognize him? There is the inevitable stress on the spouse as (s)he has to take care of all family needs while their other half is serving the country. Then the unimaginable: an attack like the one in Kabul. You know your loved one is there. You know the base has been hit. You know there are casualties. You don’t know if your loved one is one of those casualties. Every door knock is a cardiac event. Every vehicle entering the street could be bad news. The sacrifices those in the Armed Forces and their families make in service of this country is immeasurable and we all owe them a debt that will never be paid.

One final point: Thirteen of our very best were killed in the suicide attack at the Kabul airport, eleven of which came from the Marines. There is no better way to conclude this column than by quoting from the United States Marine hymn: “….If the Army and the Navy ever look on Heaven’s scenes, they will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines”. Those in Heaven should be honored to know that these thirteen of our nation’s heroes will be the most recent ones guarding their streets for a long time to come. May God bless the families of the thirteen heroes and their broader family, the United States Armed Forces.

Nevada should reject corporate welfare for A’s stadium

Reno Gazette Journal August 22, 2021

https://www.rgj.com/story/opinion/columnists/2021/08/19/nevada-should-reject-corporate-welfare-as-stadium-sam-kumar/8195010002/

The Oakland A’s, currently in tense negotiations with the City of Oakland to build a new stadium, are considering a move to Las Vegas. Unhappy with the Oakland City Council’s unwillingness to pass the team’s proposed stadium financing on to the taxpayers, the A’s have taken two trips to Vegas to look at potential stadium sites. While both the team and the Oakland City Council agree on the need to build a new $1 billion stadium, there is significant disagreement on who should pay for it resulting in the A’s considering a move to Las Vegas.

“The past is but a prelude to the future” said Cicero in 55 BC. Five years ago, in 2016, the Oakland Raiders could not reach an agreement with the City of Oakland and Alameda County. The city and the county decided not to fund the stadium using taxpayer dollars. Instead, Oakland and Alameda tried to form a public-private partnership where the infrastructure improvements would be funded using public funds but the funding for stadium construction would come from private sources. Not satisfied with the offer, the Raiders went in search of greener pastures.

Enter Nevada, which was eager to do what the City of Oakland and the County of Alameda were unwilling to do: raise taxes and use taxpayer funds to build the Raiders stadium in Las Vegas. At that time, a $400 million shortfall was forecast for the following budget cycle. The potential shortfall notwithstanding, Nevada passed legislation to fund the stadium to the tune of $750 million.

To be sure, the process to approve the $750 million taxpayer subsidy wasn’t easy. A special legislative session was convened in October 2016 for the purpose of approving the stadium and the tax increase that came with it. For that session, the Washoe County Commission appointed two Republicans (an Assemblyman and a Senator) just in time to vote in the tax increase. Those two appointees, Jesse Haw for Senate and Dominic Brunetti for Assembly, had never run for public office, nor have they since. Their sole purpose was to attend the special session, cast the vote(s) needed to raise taxes and fund the stadium. To date, that is the only vote they have cast in their political careers.  Ethics rules, which require self-reporting of potential conflicts of interest, were waived through a voice vote during the special session with no opportunity for public comment.

One final point: As a matter of principle, a non-essential business should not be subsidized through taxpayer dollars. A business that cannot thrive without taxpayer subsidy probably has bigger underlying problems such as lack of sufficient demand for the product. Government subsidies merely mask the broader issue with the business.

While I believe that major sports teams are a profitable business if they are decently managed, many such sports teams tend to play to the populace’s affinity for sports and pit one city against another into a bidding war. While Nevada should attract businesses with a low-tax, business-friendly environment that organically creates high paying jobs, business friendly does not in any way mean taxpayer funded subsidies. Corporate welfare benefits politicians, lobbyists and special interest groups and comes at the expense of the taxpayer. Nevada shouldn’t fall into this trap for a second time and increase taxes or subsidize the business. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

The incoherent handling of COVID

Reno Gazette Journal August 8, 2021

https://www.rgj.com/story/opinion/columnists/2021/08/05/incoherent-handling-covid-sam-kumar/5494423001/

Last week, the CDC reversed its mask policy and issued a recommendation that fully vaccinated people begin wearing masks indoors in areas with substantial and high COVID transmission rates. California’s Governor Newsom followed suit. Just hours later, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak took the CDC recommendation and turned it into his most recent mask mandate

The mask edicts have been replete with inconsistencies from the beginning. Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has often pushed masking has gone back and forth on the topic several times as you can see from this video compilation. Passengers are required to stand six feet apart at the airline counter only to be packed into an airplane inches away from each other’s faces just minutes later. We see athletes in contact sports sitting on the bench with a mask, only to enter the game where they play without a mask, sweat splashing on each other’s faces. Last summer, we saw BLM protests where crowds of protestors were marching without masks. The same “experts”  who were critical of people who were reluctant to wear masks were suddenly arguing that social justice matters more than social distancing. None of this presents a consistent and convincing message to the broader population.

On top of the inconsistencies, there’s the blatant hypocrisy. Fauci was caught without a mask at a baseball game. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (who recently called Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy a moron for opposing the mask mandate) was photographed without a mask at the Capitol Building. Previously, the Speaker was also caught without a mask in a security camera footage at a San Francisco salon while an earlier mask mandate was in force. California Governor Gavin Newsom was caught without a mask at an exclusive restaurant (reports suggest the bar tab alone was $15,000!). Just last week, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser imposed a mask mandate and partied without a mask right after. Here in Nevada, last June Governor Sisolak was photographed without a mask while the state was under a mask mandate.

Then there is the politicization of government agencies. The CDC last September issued an eviction moratorium. Whatever your opinions may be on the issue of eviction, for CDC to issue an eviction moratorium is way beyond its remit. In addition to that, CDC was also caught in another controversy when a Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) request revealed that the agency incorporated language from the Teacher’s Unions in its guidance for school re-openings. Another example of such politicization is the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, IHME. The IHME tracks COVID data among other things and felt the need to proclaim that “Racism is a public health issue” and declare its support for Black Lives Matter. Their job is to collect data and create visualizations, why the foray into politics? Politics is divisive and when reputable organizations get into politics, their credibility becomes questionable.

One final point: We were told nearly a year and a half ago, the restrictions were to flatten the curve and manage hospital capacity. Just two months back, vaccines are effective, get vaccinated and you don’t have to wear a mask, said the President. If you are vaccinated, you cannot spread the virus, said the CDC. We have reached a vaccination rate of 70% and what is the end game? Things seem to change on a frequent basis. I am all for science evolving (except climate science, which is clearly “settled”, but that’s a topic for a different time), but this is science zig zagging. The response to COVID at both the federal and the state levels is just as incoherent as a sentence put together by President Biden.

Biden’s man-made illegal immigration crisis

Reno Gazette Journal July 25, 2021

https://www.rgj.com/story/opinion/columnists/2021/07/22/bidens-man-made-illegal-immigration-crisis-sam-kumar/8055632002/

US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) has made more than 1 million arrests of illegal immigrants at the US-Mexico border this fiscal year (starting October 1, 2020). This is the highest number of arrests since 2000. This past June, 188,829 illegal immigrants were arrested, the highest monthly tally in more than 21 years.

To be sure, the number of arrests is a proxy for illegal immigrant traffic across the border. What we don’t know is how many illegal immigrants actually escaped the overextended CBP and entered the country. As this graph and the accompanying table from CBP shows, the current surge started in February of this year and has accelerated since. President Biden took office on January 20, 2021, and signed three executive orders on Immigration on February 2, 2021, reversing the immigration policies of President Trump creating this crisis. To illustrate the point, let’s look at the numbers: the average monthly arrests for the twelve months prior to President Biden’s executive orders was 49,140; for the five months since the executive orders, the monthly average is 164,536.

The arrests are just the tip of the iceberg. Seventeen states including Nevada offer Drivers Licenses to illegal immigrants, making us the only country in the world to do so. These illegal immigrants are also eligible for plenty of benefits at the expense of the taxpayer. For instance, an estimated 2.1 million illegal immigrants were eligible for COVID stimulus checks of up to $1400. Their children, if born in the US, will be American citizens. We are one of the few countries with birthright citizenship. Most European countries do not grant birthright citizenship. This citizen-child now makes the parents and siblings also eligible for American citizenship. As Yahoo news recently reported, President Biden’s policy encourages an explosion in the practice of “Birth Tourism” (visiting the US for the specific purpose of giving birth to a child here so the child becomes a US citizen).

It should come as no surprise that illegal immigrants are less educated than American citizens and legal immigrants. Let’s be honest, it’s not Doctors, Scientists and Lawyers who are walking across the Rio Grande. 29% of adults have less than 9th grade education (compared to 2% among US adults), 47% have less than high school education (compared to 8% for US adults). Most of them do not even have a working knowledge of English, further complicating things. The children of these illegal immigrants become part of the subculture and continue speaking their native language, creating a burden on our educational system. That barely scratches the surface as the price of illegal immigration is immense and is best covered in a later column.

One final point: This crisis once again begs the question of the role of government. Is it the responsibility of the United States federal government to save the people of Central American countries because they are economically impoverished? Is it our responsibility to accept the burden of illiterate immigrants from those countries? How about the starving children in Africa and India? Should we bring them here and bestow the privileges of residency and/or citizenship? Where does this end?

I recognize that some in the Democrat party find it their moral obligation to save the world. Moral obligation should be the responsibility of individuals and not the government. Those who want to save impoverished children should feel free to form a charity, donate to an existing charity, or better yet, adopt one of those children. Morality starts with self-sacrifice. Confiscating money from American taxpayers to fund the moral aspirations of a small minority of the Democrat party is disingenuous.

Nevada’s ‘public option’ is another legislative blunder

Reno Gazette Journal July 11,2021

https://www.rgj.com/story/opinion/columnists/2021/07/09/nevadas-public-option-another-legislative-blunder-sam-kumar/7903783002/

During the recently concluded 2021 legislative session, the Nevada State Legislature passed the state-managed “Public Option” in healthcare making it just the second state in the nation to pass such a law. The public option plan will be available for purchase to eligible participants starting in 2026.

For starters, if you are wondering what public option is, and where does it fit in with the other multitude of government “solutions” like Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare, you are not alone. For the purposes of this column, our primary focus is the public option. Nevada’s version of public option will force health insurers who participate in the state’s Medicaid program to submit a bid for the public option plan. Additionally, the premium for the public option plan must be five percent below similar plans sold on the Obamacare exchange (the law requires the premium to be 15% lower than similar plans in four years). Additionally, healthcare providers who accept Medicare patients or the state employees’ health insurance plan will be required to accept patients on the public option plan.

Set aside the fact that I have serious issues with government “requiring” private entities and individuals to do something. Government involvement in setting premiums and reimbursement rates is a slippery slope. Take Medicare for instance. Medicare reimbursement rate is at about 80% of the amount private companies pay. Providers often lose money while serving Medicare patients, but they make it up by billing private companies at a higher rate. With the public option plan, as government forces premiums down, providers will end up losing money on public option patients. This will lead to providers pulling out of the public option, which will make them ineligible to treat Medicare patients. Eventually, this will impact the long-term viability of both programs.

Public option is a government program, and every government program starts with some seemingly noble claim. Sponsors of public option claim that it will expand coverage while cutting costs. Show me one government program that cut costs in a sustainable manner. We have seen this movie before. There will be some temporary cost cuts in the early going. Over time, the bureaucracy will increase, and so will the costs. Then come the government subsidies, so the lower premium reduction claim can be preserved. We can all see the explanation: adverse selection has resulted in the government plan covering the patients with the most illness making it expensive. Wait times will increase as providers exit. In the end, public option will expand until it can no longer be sustained.

To gain an understanding of how government programs start and expand, we do not have to look any further than social security. When the program started in 1940, it was 0.29 percent of the total federal expenditure. By 2000, in just 60 years, it became the biggest annual federal expenditure increasing nearly hundred-fold to 22.88 percent of the federal spending (Source: Social Security Administration).

One final point: Government is the most inefficient sector of the economy. It is run by bureaucrats who report to politicians. Politicians worship at the altar of special interest groups and lobbyists. Most government programs are influenced by special interest groups and riddled with government waste. Take the San Francisco homeless encampment as an example. The encampment costs the city of San Francisco $60,000 per tent, per year, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. That is twice the median cost of a one-bedroom apartment in that city. That is the only kind of “savings” that government is capable of delivering and public option in Nevada will follow a similar trajectory.

Economic reasons for opposing the mining tax

Reno Gazette Journal June 27,2021

https://www.rgj.com/story/opinion/columnists/2021/06/24/economic-reasons-opposing-mining-tax-sam-kumar/5334462001/

My last column focused on the Nevada Legislature’s Republican Surrender Caucus of Heidi Gansert, Jill Tolles and Ben Kieckhefer from the Washoe county and Tom Roberts, Keith Pickard and Scott Hammond from Clark county. While that column focused primarily on disagreement in political philosophy, my strong feelings on this topic stem from a deeply rooted economic philosophy. This column focuses on my economic disagreement with the mining tax increase.

It goes against the fundamentals of taxation: As I wrote in my column on tax reform in November 2017, a good tax plan should have a broad base with a low rate.  A broad base minimizes preferences while maximizing revenue, allowing rates to be kept relatively low. A low rate disincentivizes cheating. As evidenced in many economies with high taxes around the world, very high rates result in an underground economy where transactions are off the book, resulting in no revenues from such transactions. Mining tax increase flies in the face of one of the key fundamental principles of taxation as it is very narrow in targeting a single industry.

Government should not be picking winners and losers: In selectively increasing tax on one industry, government is picking winners and losers. Today its mining, tomorrow it will be gaming, who knows what comes next? When government selectively goes after one industry, it is not done with the best interest of the state and its people. Instead, politicians and their favorite lobbyists determine who gets the shaft (pun intended). This is where pay for play happens and political punishment is meted out. Do we really believe that mining will be facing higher taxes today if most of the mines are in Clark county? Speaking of which, in case you did not notice, all the Surrender Caucus members are from Clark and Washoe county, none representing the rural counties.

Mining tax disproportionately impacts rural counties: Rural counties are home to most of the mines. Taxing mining takes money away from the rural counties and sends them to the two biggest counties in the state (Clark and Washoe).

There is no need for a tax increase: As this publication reported a few weeks back, Nevada is getting a direct bailout of unrestricted funds from the federal government to the tune of $2.7 billion, which is more than half of our state’s annual spending. Based on other reports, the total bailout from the federal government will exceed $7 billion. Furthermore, AP reported earlier this week that $1.1 billion in relief is designated for schools. With that significant infusion of cash, where is the need for higher taxes?

One final point: The common argument is that mining cannot pick up and leave. If that is true, I have no doubt our politicians would have increased the taxes to a much higher level much sooner. The fact is, all else being equal, when the cost of mining increases in one location, it decreases the amount of mining activity at that location as other locations become more profitable. Just like water finds its way to the lowest point, economic activity always shifts to areas of lower cost and mining is no exception.

Let’s take gold as an example. In 1970, South Africa produced two-thirds of the world’s gold. As late as 2006, South Africa was the largest producer of gold in the world. Today, just 15 short years later, South Africa is not even one of the top-10 gold producers in the world. Do we really want that fate for Nevada’s mines?      

The Nevada Legislature’s GOP Surrender Caucus

Reno Gazette Journal June 13, 2021

https://www.rgj.com/story/opinion/columnists/2021/06/10/gops-surrender-caucus-sam-kumar/7629096002/

This is an open letter to the Nevada Legislature’s GOP Surrender Caucus (which consists of Jill Tolles, Tom Roberts, Heidi Gansert, Ben Kieckhefer, Scott Hammond and Keith Pickard):

Dear friends,

I consider some of you in this open letter as my friends. While I continue to consider you friends, I recognize that you may not feel the same way after reading this column. If so, that is unfortunate, but that will be your choice. We have a policy disagreement and I intend to lay it all out.

While this letter was precipitated by your decision to raise mining taxes in the 2021 legislative session, the problem I intend to address in this column is much broader and has to do with your incompetence and betrayal. Increasing taxes takes a two-thirds majority, and consequently, the only leverage we Republicans have as a super minority. While I am in favor of a reasonable compromise, giving up the only lever you have and getting nothing in return is not a compromise, it is surrender. If you had received concessions in return (e.g., election reform, a truly neutral redistricting commission, etc.), I could have understood your decision and may have even reluctantly supported it. Instead, you received nothing in return.

This is not the first time that some of you have been involved in such incompetence. Ben, this is directed straight at you. You voted for a $1.5 billion tax increase in 2015. Remind me again, what do you have to show for your increased funding to schools? Our children are coming out of these left-wing indoctrination institutions learning about liberal idiocies like Critical Race Theory and thinking Socialism is great. School boards send out dumb emails about events in Washington, D.C., while ignoring the riots downtown. You barely won re-election in a heavily Republican district as there were no decent opponents running against you. We all know you have aspirations for higher office, now you can kiss that goodbye (Same for your surrender caucus colleagues Heidi and Jill).

Nevadans delivered a massive sweep to the Republicans in the 2014 election cycle. Republicans won all three partisan levers of power: Assembly, Senate and Governorship. Nevadans were hit with a $1.5 billion tax increase with again, nothing to show for it. Grassroots Republicans fought hard, invested in campaigns, knocked on doors in the 2020 election cycle to place you in a super minority in the 2020 election cycle just so you could stop frivolous tax increases. What did we get? Tax increases. Why should voters ever trust your brand of Republicanism? Next time you complain about having to waste money to fend off primary challenges, you may want to look back at this surrender. Next time you wonder how Conservatives could vote for Trump, you may want to look at yourself in the mirror. Trump’s tweets may be crazy, but he doesn’t betray us Republicans like you do (I haven’t forgotten that some of you are never-Trumpers; you know who you are). Next time you wonder how the Conservative people of Pahrump could vote for the pimp Dennis Hof, you may again want to look at yourself in the mirror. Sadly, Conservatives will take a pimp any day over deceptive and incompetent tax hikers like you.

One final point: I have written nearly a hundred columns for this publication, not once have publicly voiced my displeasure at a Republican. Despite my many frustrations with fellow Republicans (e.g. former President Trump’s tweets, Senator Romney’s bizarre behavior), I have bitten my tongue and dealt with my disagreements in private. I did that for the sake of party unity. But sometimes, unity comes from directly taking on the forces that cause disunity. This is one of those instances where you have committed an egregious blunder thinking that we will stay silent and let you get away with it. You have made a massive miscalculation. We are now determined to write your political obituary and inscribe your names next to the likes of former legislators Pat Hickey, Randy Kirner, James Oscarson, Mike Roberson and Dean Heller, all of whom either retired or were rejected resoundingly by Nevada voters after supporting policies like the one you have just supported. I will not vote for any of you for any office, for you have proven to be unfit for public office as a Republican. You have lost my trust and that of most grassroots Republicans. If you have any sense of integrity, you should resign and do so immediately.

Biden first four disastrous months

Reno Gazette Journal May 23, 2021

https://www.rgj.com/story/opinion/columnists/2021/05/20/biden-administration-first-four-months-sam-kumar/5184965001/

The Biden administration has completed its first four months in office and the economic data has started to arrive. An early assessment does not paint a pretty picture.

Let’s start with the jobs situation. April hiring, which was expected to be at a million ended up at 266,000. Meanwhile, the number of job openings ballooned to 8.12 million. In other words, jobs are there but employers are having a tough time filling those jobs. How could that be? Well, let’s start with the unemployment benefits. In Nevada, the unemployment benefit averages $354.70 a week. Add to that a federal weekly benefit of $300. That amounts to $654.70 a week or $16.34/hour. By staying home, you also save expenses associated with travel to work and childcare.  With these enhanced benefits, you are looking at well over $25 an hour. Why would anyone show up to work to get paid less than you would if you stayed at home? This administration, its allies in Congress, and here in Nevada, Governor Sisolak have created a strong incentive to stay at home. This will result in employers shipping jobs overseas in some cases and increasing the wages in some other cases. Increased wages mean higher inflation, which leads us to the next topic.

April inflation clocked in at 4.2%, the highest since 2008. The core inflation, which excludes food and energy came in at the highest level since 1981. Inflation has far reaching effects. Take, for instance, lumber prices which have increased by 280%. With the increased price of lumber and other building materials, the price of homes, already high and out of the reach of many will continue to climb. As home prices jump, so will the rental rates. Those who own homes will keep pace with inflation, while those who don’t own assets like homes will fall behind. Like in most cases, the liberal agenda seems good on the surface but often hurts the same people they are supposedly trying to help.

Simultaneous to the increase in unemployment and inflation, we have seen gasoline prices steadily rise. The average price of gasoline, which was $2.10 on election day, stands at $3.05, a 45% increase in just six months. Recently, long lines and gas shortages were caused by the cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline. Ironically, infrastructure cybersecurity is not one of the items addressed in the Administration’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure bill (in addition to $3.7 trillion in other spending bills) which defines caregiving for elderly amongst other things as infrastructure. $5 million in ransom was paid to hackers, which will likely encourage future hackers, but President Biden had no comment. Corporate computer systems have redundancy built into them to recover from potential viruses and ransomware attacks. If these pipelines are critical to our infrastructure, why do we not have redundancy? Is that because of the environmental fanaticism espoused by the liberal elites who filed lawsuit after lawsuit to prevent their construction?

One final point: The economy is just the tip of the iceberg. The border crisis, which the administration is yet to acknowledge as a crisis. Violent crime is skyrocketing in various major cities. The Middle East is ablaze as Hamas terrorists funded by Iran are waging a war against our ally Israel. Iranian Navy vessels are taunting US Navy vessels in the Strait of Hormuz. Climate Envoy John Kerry shared intelligence of Israeli attacks on Iran, according to Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. On the world stage, the image of the president squinting into his teleprompter, his eyes focused at infinity, is hardly the expression of strength and emboldens terrorist organizations like Hamas, their state sponsor Iran, and belligerent states like North Korea, Russia and China. If this trend keeps up, we are in serious trouble.

Gun control is not as easy as liberals claim

Reno Gazette Journal April 25, 2021

https://www.rgj.com/story/opinion/columnists/2021/04/22/gun-control-complicated-sam-kumar/7333407002/

Following last week’s deadly shooting in Indianapolis, President Biden called gun violence a “national embarrassment”. He called for “commonsense gun violence prevention legislation like Universal Background checks and a ban of weapons of war”.

While I share President Biden’s frustration with the situation and the meaningless loss of lives, I am not clear on specifically what the President is trying to accomplish or how he plans to accomplish it. To review some statistics from the FBI, for the year 2019 (the most recent year for which such statistics are available), 6,368 homicides were attributed to handguns, 364 to rifles and 1,476 to knives and cutting instruments. Is he talking about preventing homicides by handguns or rifles? (Most homicides are from handguns but the far fewer homicides by rifles although they grab the most media attention). Is President Biden merely proposing a ban on purchases or is he proposing confiscation? Since Background Checks have been in place for decades, and you cannot buy a firearm without a Background Check, what does he mean by “Universal Background Checks”? And, what does he mean by “weapons of war”?

There are approximately 857 million firearms owned by civilians around the world, out of which 393 million are owned by Americans according to the annual survey by Swiss firm Small Arms Survey. These numbers are from 2018, the most recent year for which the survey is available. Since then, firearms ownership has exploded in the US and we are probably clear over 400 million firearms at this time. Even if he were to magically stop all firearms sales and manufacturing starting tomorrow, what does the president propose we do with the 400 million in circulation?

Let us assume that the President is serious about drastically reducing gun related homicides, has solutions in hand, and is not merely posturing. In 2020, Chicago had 769 homicides. Why not try his solutions out in Chicago? The Governor of Illinois is a Democrat, the Mayor of Chicago is a Democrat, and the 50-member Chicago City Council does not have even a single Republican Alderman. Heck, President Biden can even recruit his buddy President Obama to implement the solutions in the former President’s hometown! Whatever President Biden wants to do, he can do it and prove to all of us that his solutions are practical and produce results. If the guns are coming from neighboring states, then he could possibly set up check points. If he cannot successfully monitor a few hundred miles of interstate border, how is he going to monitor 2000 miles of US-Mexico border?

My rhetorical point in the previous paragraph notwithstanding, the fact remains that there are no acceptable solutions that will both have sufficient support and will produce results. Identifying who will commit a crime in the future is nearly impossible in almost all the cases. While phrases like “commonsense gun laws”, “banning weapons of war” and “Assault Rifle ban” are appealing bumper sticker material, they don’t solve problems.

One final point: Gun control is complicated, and the more you get into details, the less support specific policy have historically had. While we are all for solutions which will prevent deaths, such solutions should be grounded in reality. Before we go about issuing executive orders or passing legislation, we should model the legislation to see which of the incidents in the past would have been prevented if that legislation would have been in place at the time. Without such retroactive analysis to prove effectiveness, Executive Orders and legislation are just activities that appease the base and check the box but don’t accomplish anything other than to place hurdles for law abiding citizens to purchase firearms. President Biden should stop setting unreasonable expectations and stirring up his base with vague and unimplementable generalities.