Banning Firearms will have More Costs than Benefits

Reno Gazette Journal August 18, 2019

Last week, in El Paso, Texas, a lone gunman killed 22 and injured 24 innocent people who were out shopping on a Saturday morning at Walmart. Less than 15 hours after the El Paso shooting, another gunman in Dayton, Ohio killed nine people in 32 seconds including his own sister before brave law enforcement officials brought him down. Each and every one of those victim’s families deserve our heartfelt condolences. What those families are going through with these senseless acts of violence is unfathomable.

Following these two mass shootings, the nation has been engaged in a discussion on gun violence. Before we evaluate the solutions proposed, let’s look at the statistics of gun violence. For the year 2017, the most recent year for which statistics are available from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), roughly 40,000 firearm related deaths were recorded in the U.S. Out of those deaths, over 24,000, or 60%, were either suicides or unintentional deaths. The FBI statistics show a total of around 11,000 murders where a firearm was the weapon. Of the 11,000 firearm related homicides, over 7000, or 64%, were by handguns. A mere 403 homicides, or four percent, were using rifles, with the rest coming from shotguns and “firearm unknown”.

Let’s take it one step further. According to the FBI, in 2017, 1591 homicides were committed using knives and cutting instruments. Compare that to the 403 by “assault rifles”. Yet, we haven’t heard calls for banning knives. Wonder why? The answer is simple. The benefits of banning something has to be weighed against the cost of banning it. Clearly, if you ban knives, the costs outweigh the benefits. The same holds for banning firearms. Remember when that illegal immigrant killed four people in our neighborhood? Northern Nevada was on edge and every moving tree limb and shadow made us fear for our lives. Have you ever had your home broken into? You hate coming home because you fear someone is lying in wait for you. During such times, the only defense you have is a gun, which gives you a fighting chance to defend yourself and your family. Think of that farmer who lives in the middle of Montana. If he were attacked, his screams would be heard by no one and his body would not be discovered for days. Even if he were to call for help, a police station is tens, if not hundreds of miles away. The only chance he has is with his firearm. If you think through some of these scenarios, you will realize that the costs of banning firearms far exceeds the benefits.

One final point: Guns have always been legal and readily available in America. Yet, mass shootings with alarming frequency have only happened in the last few decades. What has changed? We have 24-hour cable news which cover mass shootings endlessly. We live in the age of social media where we interact less and less with other human beings and people have become de-sensitized to the suffering of others. Nearly a quarter of millennials say they have no friends. When you have no human interaction, you have no concept of human suffering. Video games and Hollywood movies where people shoot each other indiscriminately have also added to this de-sensitization. We need to address the real issue, which is the lack of empathy to other human beings. Let’s stop using mass murders as fundraising opportunities and try to find real solutions to stop these senseless killings.

Bob Mueller’s Last Act

Reno Gazette Journal August 4, 2019

The highly anticipated testimony by Special Counsel Robert Mueller has come and gone and here are my key takeaways from his separate Congressional testimonies in front of the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees.

For starters, it was a huge bust. At many points during his testimony, Mueller seemed lost. He claimed that the origins of the probe were out of scope for the investigation, yet, failed to explain why Paul Manafort’s crimes which occurred way before the probe (and had nothing to do with the probe) were in scope. He stated that he did not take into consideration the political affiliation and the resulting conflicts of interest of his team members, almost all of whom have contributed to Democrats. Sadly, Mueller couldn’t even recall the cornerstone of this entire investigation, Fusion GPS, which compiled the Steele dossier, which was sourced mostly from Russian officials and served as the origin of FBI’s spying into President Trump’s campaign. Mueller also failed to cite a single instance where a prosecutor exonerated a target that was being investigated. All this is very strange, given that Mueller has a history of excellent preparation before he testifies.

Here’s my speculation on Mueller: Rosenstein requested Mueller to lead the probe because he wanted someone credible; Mueller agreed under the condition that he could lead the probe but be totally hands off; Mueller recruited Weissman as his chief deputy; Weissman recruited the rest of the team which did all the work and kept Mueller periodically updated; Mueller was never operationally involved with the probe. Again, that is purely my speculation and not based on any inside information.

As for the Democrats, the far left wants to impeach the President. Those who won in districts carried by the President are worried about a backlash. Speaker Pelosi is in a bizarre position when she claims that the President has committed a crime but does not want him to be impeached. Their Russia collusion storyline is best summarized by an email I received a few months back: “While we recognize that the subject did not actually steal any horses, he is obviously guilty of trying to resist being hanged for it”.

As for the House Intelligence Committee, Chairman Schiff continues to be consumed by his hatred for the President instead of concerning himself with Iran, North Korea, China, Russia and other global adversaries. Somewhere in the Kremlin, Putin is smiling.

While Republicans were unable to get much information on the origins of the probe, they were able to get two key concessions from Mueller: (1) When asked if he was obstructed in any way, Mueller responded that he was not; (2) Mueller also confirmed that there was insufficient evidence on obstruction. “We did not reach a determination as to whether the President committed a crime” said Mueller.

One final point: Assigned to the dangerous Mutters Ridge in Vietnam, Mueller gallantly led the Marines through an eight-hour battle that earned him the Bronze Star. Four months later, Mueller led his platoon to rescue pinned-down American troops under heavy fire. Despite taking an AK-47 round to his thigh, he held his position until the troops safely retreated, earning him the Purple Heart. Mueller led the FBI’s transition after the 9/11 attacks and served as FBI director for 12 years under both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He was, and always will be a hero. It is sad to see heroes go out on a whimper, and if this testimony is his last act, it is a disappointing end to a highly distinguished career.

Women’s Soccer and the Equal Pay Debate

Reno Gazette Journal July 21, 2019

As the United States women’s soccer team won the World Cup and was getting ready to receive the medals, chants of equal pay were heard from many in attendance. Similar chants were also heard at the New York City Hall during the celebration honoring the team. Senator Joe Manchin introduced a bill that would enforce equal pay for women’s teams. Is there an issue with pay inequity in sports in general, and is there inequity in pay for women’s soccer in particular?

Soccer’s international governing body awarded $30 million in prize money for the women’s World Cup this year. In contrast, the men were awarded $400 million for their World Cup last year. Just based on the headline number, one may conclude that there is significant disparity, but the details behind the numbers paint a completely different picture.

Why are male soccer players paid significantly higher than female soccer players? It starts with viewership. More viewers mean higher priced advertising, higher revenues and profits. Over 3.572 billion people watched the 2018 men’s World Cup. The final match alone was watched by 1.12 billion people. In contrast, for the recently concluded women’s World Cup, the total viewership was 22.2 million, just before the final. The final had a total viewership of 14.27 million, down by 44% from the previous final. Suffice it to say, men’s soccer audience well over 100 times as big as the women’s audience.

The ratio is further exaggerated in advertising revenues. While numbers for the current cycle are not complete, for the 2014 men’s World Cup, ESPN took in $529 million in advertising revenues while Fox took in $17 million for the 2015 women’s World Cup. The men’s advertising revenues were 31 times as much as the women’s revenues.

Let’s take a look at the prize money as a percentage of the revenue. In 2011, the women’s World Cup brought in $73 million and received prize money of $10 million, or 13%. In contrast, the 2010 men’s World Cup brought in $4 billion and received prize money of $348 million, or 9%. In 2018, men brought in $6 billion and received $400 million in prize money, or 6.7%. In contrast, women’s revenues for the entire 2019-2022 four-year cycle is projected at $131 million and the prize money was $30 million, a full 23%, which is over 3 times that of the men.

As you can see, by virtually every business measure, women are getting compensated better than men. Yet, you hear this constant drumbeat of gender disparity. This drumbeat has everything to do with jockeying for position and trying to gain a bigger advantage than it has to do with equality. If the women feel that they are getting the short end of the stick, why not form their own federation? I will give it two years before such a federation goes bankrupt.

One final point: As President Obama famously said in 2012, “this is a math problem”. Liberal politicians and the liberal media elite see racists in every street corner, a homophobe in every shadow, a misogynist in every man, and a Nazi in every person who disagrees with them. This country would be better served if politicians and the media act responsibly by looking at the data instead of assigning everything they don’t like to some type of systemic bias. Arguments claiming inequality, gender wage gap and other forms of biases collapse under the weight of data, if only they take the time to look.

Author’s note: The online version has several links to the data.

Questions for Democrat Presidential Candidates

Reno Gazette Journal July 4, 2019

During the recent Democrat Presidential debates, several of you spoke in Spanish, and every single one of you in the second debate raised your hand when you were asked if government health plan should cover illegal aliens. Time after time, just about every single one of you have claimed preventing anyone from entering this country is immoral. I would like to understand your broader immigration strategy and have a few questions:

  1. Back in 1986, Reagan signed a bill granting blanket amnesty to 3 million illegal immigrants, but the enforcement provisions were conveniently ignored once the bill was passed resulting in 12 million illegal immigrants today. What lessons have you learned from that experience?
  2. You don’t want a wall. You have laws which require anyone who seeks asylum to be granted entry into the country. You want to decriminalize illegal entry.  You are against deporting illegal immigrants who haven’t committed a crime. You want to provide illegal immigrants free medical care. You have supported sanctuary cities. How exactly is that different from open borders?
  3. Roughly 14% of the population in 2017 is foreign born and expected to increase to 20% by 2050. How much immigration do you consider optimal?
  4. Here are a few statistics: 1.1 million immigrants gained permanent residency in 2017, nearly double the number from 1999. Nearly 85,000 came into this country as refugees in 2016. Do you believe there should be a limit for the number of immigrant visas granted by this country? Do you think there should be any restrictions or vetting that should be part of the equation or should we admit everyone?
  5. 43% of the immigrant population speaks Spanish at home. Only 17% of them speak English at home. Instead of encouraging them to learn English, you pander by speaking Spanish yourself. Do you believe that immigrants should speak English, or do you believe that we should all speak Spanish?
  6. You constantly make the argument that central American people who arrive at the border are escaping violence. If they are merely escaping violence, why not stay in Mexico? Why are they trekking clear across multiple countries to come to the US?
  7. If a parent is reckless in crossing a river to get into this country illegally and gets their child killed, how is that not child abuse? And, how on earth is that America’s fault?
  8. If you cheat and get into college, you go to jail. But if you cheat and get into this country, you get free college and free medical care. Did I get that right?

One final point: I will cut to the chase. This topic is beyond politics as I am extremely worried about the direction we are headed with immigration. We have a significant portion of the immigrant population that is foreign born, poorly educated, and it is growing at a rapid pace. Most immigrants come from a completely different culture and do not have an understanding of this great country’s history. At what point do we lose our sense of identity as a country? We are at the tip of a perilous precipice and the entire Democrat field seems intent of pushing this country over that precipice for nothing more than short-term political gains.

Summarizing the Nevada Legislative Session

Reno Gazette Journal June 23, 2019

The Nevada Legislature has adjourned following its biennial session and several hundred bills have been passed. While it is not possible to summarize all the activities of the four-month session in a short column, this column will attempt to give you a high-level view of the key legislation.

Fancy footwork on taxes: The governor, in his state of the state speech, outlined several spending measures and promised his balanced budget will have no “new taxes”. I guess that depends on the definition of “new”, “tax” and “emergency”. In addition to raiding the “rainy day fund” which is there for an emergency, the governor increased the Modified Business Tax rate, extended the vehicle registration fees, and authorized counties to increase sales tax, all skirting the two-thirds requirement the state legislature needs to raise taxes. The courts will likely decide the legality of this move. This entire argument that increasing the tax rate, or extending a sunsetting tax, is not really a “new” tax is just verbal gymnastics. Using that logic, you can increase the state sales tax from 6.85% to 30%, quadruple the state budget, and still claim that’s not a “new” tax.

Collective bargaining for state employees: Collective bargaining works as follows: unions collect dues and fund campaigns; lawmakers get elected with the help of union funds; lawmakers then turn around and negotiate with the unions and give them lavish raises using taxpayer money. No conflict of interest there! This will increase state spending by $500 million annually when state workers already have better job security and earn 29% more in compensation than identical jobs in the private sector. The governor signed the bill surrounded by union leaders and proclaimed that the unions now have a seat at the table. What the governor failed to mention is that the taxpayers are now on the menu.

Minimum wage hike: The current minimum wage of $8.25 will increase to $12 over five years. This will result in higher prices, lower employment and robots replacing humans. I covered the many reasons why increasing the minimum wage is a bad idea in my column Higher minimum wage lowers incentive for college in March 2017.

Office of New Americans: Nevada now has a new “Office of New Americans”. Explain to me again why we are spending money to assist illegal immigrants who are not supposed to be here in the first place? While you are at it, tell me why these “New Americans” keep waving other nation’s flags on our streets?

Expansion of “prevailing wages”: “Prevailing wages”, which is a fake term for overpaying employees on government contracts by an average of 45%, were expanded. If you are an iron worker, your average pay is $26.25 an hour. But if you are doing the same job for a school building, you will get paid $56.74. This is the difference between conservatives and liberals: conservatives are frugal with taxpayer money like it were their own; liberals spend it like it is someone else’s.

One final point: At the federal level, the legislative branch which did not want to make the tough decisions, has surrendered its responsibility to the executive branch (e.g. immigration crisis), and in some cases, to the judicial branch (e.g. Roe v Wade). A similar dynamic is at play at the state level. When the legislature approved the new school funding formula, it gave the governor inordinate amount of flexibility. A similar approach was taken to collective bargaining for state employees. This is nothing short of an abdication of responsibility by the legislative branch. The liberals will come to regret this precedent when there is a Republican governor.