TRUMP’S TAX RETURNS: “JUST SAY NO!” DON’T PUBLIC FIGURES LOSE ENOUGH PRIVACY?

It appears, if anyone is going to go against the grain about disclosing personal income tax returns, Donald Trump may be the one to say, “Enough is enough.”

American politics already delves into every aspect of a candidate’s life. Do we really need to pry into personal tax returns as well? And what do we really learn when we do? Not much. Rather, transparent disclosure requirements are a far superior way to identify potential conflicts of interest.

Candidates usually have to make disclosures of their assets and liabilities. But personal tax returns are deemed confidential by federal law for all U.S. citizens. That is why any disclosure must come from candidates voluntarily.

Unfortunately, the public has been grossly misled about what tax returns reveal. In a recent editorial by a major U.S. newspaper, a number of false arguments were made. Here are some examples.

Trump’s “boasting ought to be tested against hard information about how his companies performed, how they were managed and governed, how shareholders and bondholders were treated, how Trump was compensated, how he managed his tax burden, and to what extent he has been a philanthropist” opined one publication.

Yet a personal income tax return may provide little or no information about how a person’s companies performed or how they were managed or governed or even where they were located nationally or internationally. Very little of this information goes on a personal tax return; rather, it would be on corporate returns and other documents. And if overseas entities sent funds to U.S. corporations who paid Trump, his tax returns would not show this trail anyway.

A personal tax return almost never will have information about how shareholders and bondholders were treated. That information is likely to be completely confidential for privately-held companies so, again, claims that personal tax returns will provide such transparency are likely to be false.

In one of the most deceptive statements disseminated by a number of publications, former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney stated, “the potential for hidden inappropriate associations with foreign entities, criminal organizations, or other unsavory groups is simply too great a risk to ignore for someone who is seeking to become commander-in-chief,’ despite the fact Romney knows a personal income tax return is highly unlikely to reveal any of this kind of information..

While a personal tax return may show some of Trump’s compensation, it likely would not show the vast majority of it, which probably is in the form of stock and various rights. If Trump’s assets rose by $1 billion last year, it is likely that came in the form of asset appreciation rather than cash payments to Trump. And do we really care? Isn’t it obvious Trump makes far more money than the rest of us? Do we need a tax return to show what a pittance most of us earn?

How Trump manages his “tax burden” seems immaterial. Either he pays his taxes or he doesn’t. If he doesn’t, the IRS ultimately will file public liens against him but these will not be on his tax returns.

To use a tax return as a measure of Trump’s philanthropy could be terribly misleading. Someone such as Trump, who controls many different business entities, could be donating goods, services, and space through his businesses and none of this would show up on his personal tax returns.

Furthermore, no one has proven a relationship between elected officials who are generous with their money and elected officials who govern well. Simply because a person is philanthropic does not mean he or she will serve the public better. Perhaps a parsimonious candidate might be better suited for government service today.

Those who argue the release of candidates’ tax returns is an important part of the disclosure process because the returns will reveal a person’s financial relationships do not understand what most tax returns include. A majority of financial relationships will not be reflected on personal tax returns.

The answer to the public’s need for transparency is to improve disclosure requirements and have them cover a reasonable period of time. If we did that, we could skip tax returns altogether.

If he wants, Trump is positioned to lead a needed pushback against demanding too much of candidates and elected officials. There are enough disincentives for those considering running for office. Let’s remove unnecessary personal intrusions so more people will consider public service.

And most importantly, who needs to see Trump’s tax returns to come to conclusions about his candidacy?

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Aaron Harber, a graduate of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs, and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, was the President of the Colorado Accounting & Tax Services, and is the host of “The Aaron Harber Show,” seen on Channel 3 KCDO-TV, ION Television (KPXC-TV), and COMCAST Entertainment Television. Go to http://www.HarberTV.com to watch programs 24/7. Send e-mail to Aaron@HarberTV.com. © Copyright 2016 by Aaron Harber and USA Talk Network, Inc. All rights reserved.

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IS THE REPUBLICAN SUPREME GAMBLE PLAYING WITH FIRE? IS A DEAL THE SMARTER MOVE FOR ALL CONCERNED?

The stunning death of Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia continues to send shockwaves across the country. The Court’s most conservative jurist — known for his intellectual prowess, extraordinary articulateness, great sense of humor, and biting opinions (particularly when in the minority) — was the anchor of many opinions which (1) pleased strict constructionist conservatives who believed the Constitution should only be interpreted literally and (2) infuriated liberals who saw the Constitution as a “living, breathing, evolving” document that had to be relevant to an ever-changing world.

Despite knowing President Barack Obama has the right and obligation to nominate Scalia’s successor, all the Republican Presidential candidates and many others on that side of the aisle have called for the President to defer nominating anyone for a year so the next President can make the selection.

While any President, regardless of party affiliation, would be unlikely to wait, getting the Court to its full strength of nine Justices for the new term beginning in the Fall of 2016, should be a priority for the country so decisions — rather than 4-4 ties — can be made. Nevertheless, because Republicans are cognizant of what is at stake, they do not want to give Obama the opportunity to steer the country sharply to the Left.

At the same time, everyone knows one of the responsibilities and rights of the Presidency is the authority to nominate federal judges — including Supreme Court Justices. For many years, both parties respected this right and the concept “Elections have consequences.” That bipartisan perspective rarely exists today. (See my interviews with Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sandra Day O’Connor, at www.HarberTV.com/SCOTUS.)

Scalia was nominated by President Ronald Reagan and was confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate in 1986 by a vote of 98-0. Who can imagine such a unanimous vote for any nominee today?

A nomination right now would have extraordinary political implications. It will mobilize the Right as Second Amendment supporters, Pro-Life forces, and unrestricted political campaign spending advocates join others in an effort to elect a Republican President to prevent a change from the Court’s current 5-4 conservative majority to a 5-4 liberal majority. Those on the Right fear this would open the floodgates for dramatic change.

The Left simultaneously will mobilize as it attempts to exploit a historical opportunity for change which has not been available for several decades. Similar coalitions will seek to elect a Democratic President to stop what they believe has been the regression of the country in recent decades.

Republicans in control of the Senate could delay consideration of any Obama nomination for months. Hearings could be postponed and then dragged out. The Senate could vote down one or two nominees — forcing Obama to restart the process.

If Obama nominated a candidate representing a political base critical to the 2016 General Election, he might be able to turn the tables because Republicans — by rejecting that nominee — could alienate a significant element of the electorate in a very competitive election year. This could cost Republicans U.S. Senate seats or even the Presidency.

Nevertheless, anyone Obama nominates at first will be attacked by the Right no matter how impressive his or her credentials are. That nomination will fail. Obama could be strategic and first nominate a very liberal candidate who would serve as a sacrificial lamb. Then the President would be positioned to put forward a moderate but still left-leaning candidate who might be found suitable by the 60 Senators needed to confirm a nominee.

However, Republicans blocking an Obama nominee in 2016 could be playing with fire. In their zeal to stop Obama at any cost, Republicans may get their wish to have the next President select the new Justice.

What Republicans may not have thought through, however, is the potential impact of the volatility of the 2016 General Election. First, given the fact the Democratic nominees for President have won the popular vote in five of the past six Presidential Elections, the next President certainly could be a Democrat.

While many people discount the likelihood Hillary Clinton could prevail in November, she has plenty of time to overcome the challenges she faces. And although most “experts” discount Bernie Sanders chances of becoming President, they may be underestimating his appeal to non-Democratic voters concerned about political and financial corruption (i.e., some of the same supporters of another “outsider,” Donald Trump).

Even more significant is the fact Democrats could take control of the U.S. Senate because, in this year’s election, Democrats have 10 seats to defend while Republicans have 24. If Democrats hold their own and gain just 5 of the 24 Republican seats, they will constitute the Senate majority.

Although Democrats still would be short of blocking a filibuster, it only takes a simple majority vote to make a rules change so a Justice could be confirmed with the same simple majority. And if Democrats somehow gain more than 5 seats, they might get the 60 votes needed to approve any nominee outright.

With a Democrat in the White House and a Democratically-controlled Senate, the next President’s nominee could make any Obama nominee look tame in comparison. Hence, Republicans could “win the battle but lose the war.”

This is why a compromise on both sides may make the most sense. If the Republican-controlled Senate allows the President to nominate a moderate candidate, Republicans avoid the risk of later having someone they would find much worse. And if Obama compromises, he gets the chance to expand his legacy by nominating a Justice who will have influence for decades to come.

So the only question for the Republican Senate leadership, is, “How lucky do you feel?”

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Aaron Harber, host of “The Aaron Harber Show,” seen on Channel 3 KCDO-TV, ION Television (KPXC-TV), and COMCAST Entertainment Television. Go to http://www.HarberTV.com to watch programs 24/7. Send e-mail to Aaron@HarberTV.com. (C) Copyright 2016 by Aaron Harber and USA Talk Network, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Cirque Dreams Holidaze

Cirque du Soleil productions never cease to amaze and the company always finds a way to astound its audiences, no matter how many productions one sees.  A similarly-named company, “Cirque Productions,” creates competitive shows and does a good job with “Cirque Dreams Holidaze.”

For those of us spoiled by the big tent and large arena events of Cirque du Soleil (including both traveling and permanent shows), the question for a relatively smaller-scale indoor production limited by the stage size of even a large venue is, “How much dazzling can Cirque Productions do with heights limited to 40 feet and lengths limited to 100 feet?” — which is the case for the beautiful Buell Theatre in the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.  It turns out the production company can do a lot.

Relying on a constant stream of multiple levels of activity, “Holidaze” never stops — with one act seamlessly flowing into another.  And, as expected, some of the feats performed by the cast are as extraordinary as even a seasoned Cirque audience expects them to be.

The physicality of Cirque Productions is ever-present in “Holidaze” but the show uses singing performances to tightly weave together its stories.  There are ample interactions with the audience to make everyone feel they are as close to the production as one can be.  And the individual “dreams,” themselves, can be riveting at times.

Though Cirque audience veterans expect extraordinary feats of physicality — and “Holidaze” delivers — some of the most entertaining moments are unexpected.  One, in particular, does not involve typical Cirque out-of-this-world acrobatics; rather the audience is totally mesmerized when they watch a series of costume changes on stage which seem absolutely impossible to achieve in the seconds the performers are given.  It is one of the most amazing feats seen on a stage.

“Cirque Dreams Holidaze” is a production which no one in the family should miss.  If you see only one holiday production this year, “Holidaze” should be the only one on your list.

Tickets are available through Sunday, December 22nd, at www.DenverCenter.org or 303-893-4100.  Get them before they all disappear just like Cirque magic

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Aaron Harber hosts “The Aaron Harber Show,” seen on Channel 3 KCDO-TV (K3 Colorado) on Sundays , and on ION Television and COMCAST Entertainment Television as well as at www.HarberTV.com.  He has been involved in the arts for many years, including serving as the President of the Nancy Spanier Dance Theatre of Colorado, a member of the Boulder Philharmonic Board of Directors, and a cabinet member of the Macky Auditorium Renovation Fundraising Campaign for the University of Colorado.  Send e-mail to Aaron@HarberTV.com.  (C) Copyright 2013 by USA Talk Network, Inc. and Aaron Harber.  All rights reserved.
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The Spider-Web: Why The Obamacare Site Won’t Be Done On Time

[NOTE: This column originally was written on November 1, 2013 — a month before the HealthCare.Gov Website was scheduled to be fixed.]

The biggest mistake the Obama Administration made when promising the government’s health care Website would be fixed by the end of November was making that promise.  In a “Ready, Fire, Aim” approach, the Administration failed to take the time to assess what actually needed to be done to make the site work.

Obama’s decision to bring in some of the nation’s top computer talent to fix the Website would have been a brilliant move had it been made when the planning for the system began.  Those with experience in the high technology world have seen the misery which occurs when a product’s design is seriously flawed and needs to be “fixed.”  The cost of major fixes after release of a product can be ten times the cost of fixing them during the design stage.

In this case, the complexity of the effort appears to never have been totally appreciated by the Administration’s non-technical decision-makers. The biggest challenge was the new system needed to connect and interact with numerous, diverse, and often incompatible existing systems such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Internal Revenue Service, et cetera. This was similar to bringing people together to work as a team, each of whom spoke a different language and none of whom knew a language other than their own.

This lack of appreciation for the new system’s complexity was magnified by (a) the failure to properly test the new system and (b) the decision to require visitors to create an account prior to being able to see the Health Exchange’s offerings.

The failure to properly test the new system was inexcusable.  That testing should have occurred more than half a year ago so there would have been time to make corrections.  Instead it was only partially done and even that was at the last minute.  Problems were identified with too little time to fix them before the system went “live.”  Other problems went unidentified until the public began to use the system.  This demonstrated an extraordinary degree of incompetence by almost everyone involved — from the top down.

Just as irrational was the decision to require visitors create an account in order just to see what was available.  This countered the entire culture of shopping in America.  Online consumers always have been able to view goods and see prices to determine their level of interest before providing any information.  Retailers and other sellers understand a key principle in marketing — “Make it as easy as possible to buy our product or service.”  The Administration, by making consumers work harder, put up a barrier which discouraged people from even exploring what was available.

By demanding highly confidential data, the Administration drove people away.  Given the lack of trust in Government, magnified by revelations of Government abuse of private information, many citizens do not want to share their private information just to window shop.  The Government’s failure to recognize this demonstrated how out-of-touch it was with the American people.

The problems with the new system discouraged those who logged on from completing the process.  As word rapidly spread how broken the system was, others did not even bother to try.  Failing to recognize how forcing users to spend an excessive amount of time on the system would discourage participants, the Government again erred egregiously.

Shopping should be simple.  Users should have the choice of plugging in their income before they shop so they can see what the actual cost of a plan is going to be.  And it should be stated upfront whether the user should enter Adjusted Gross Income or Taxable Income — which is not stated initially (yet another design failure).  Users should be able to view all the plans at once but cannot today.

This begs the question that most plans are more expensive and that, too, discourages people from signing up at all.  This will create further problems for Obamacare if as millions of healthy people — needed to subsidize those with greater medical needs — abandon the health care system.

The high tech geniuses who looked at the problem probably threw up their hands and recommended the Administration start all over but this could entail allowing the current system to limp along for many months while its replacement is built.  Maybe on November 30th the Website will work smoothly but my guess is — no matter what the Administration does — HealthCare.Gov likely will be a mess for months to come.

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Aaron Harber hosts “The Aaron Harber Show,” seen on Channel 3 KCDO-TV (K3 Colorado) on Sundays , and on ION Television and COMCAST Entertainment Television as well as at www.HarberTV.com.  As president of a software company, he managed the conversion of over 3 million lines of computer code for a complex statistical software product and was president of an international computers’ users group.  Send e-mail to Aaron@HarberTV.com.  (C) Copyright 2013 by USA Talk Network, Inc. and Aaron Harber.  All rights reserved.
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A Teachable Moment: The Failure Of Amendment 66

In a stunning electoral defeat, Amendment 66 — representing a much-needed re-writing of the byzantine Colorado Finance Act — went down in flames despite seeming to have everything on its side.

Its supporters amassed an extraordinary eight-figure war chest — well over $10 million — which it used to blanket airwaves, e-mail addresses, Social Media ads, and mailboxes — in a dominating effort to convince voters to increase taxes by almost $1 billion annually.  Even more poignant was its lack of a well-funded opposition.  That, alone, made may pundits believe it would pass either due to the enthusiastic response of voters or, at the minimum, it would slip through unnoticed by a disengaged, off-year electorate (similar to the marijuana proposal which voters surprisingly passed in 2012 due, in part, to a lack of organized opposition).  If only supporters voted in a lackluster turnout, the proposal was sure to pass, right?

Who could be against smaller class sizes, returning art and music to the classroom, funding preschool for at-risk kids, imposing tougher standards on teachers’ classroom performance, and helping poorer school districts in desperate straits?  That would be the same as voting against the American flag and apple pie.

The proponents, however, failed to address key issues on the minds of many voters — relying on their money, ads, and organization to win support.  These issues included challenges which have been in the public eye for years but have been intentionally ignored by higher tax proponents.

Many voters do not believe spending more money on education automatically results in a better education for students, proportional to the dollars spent.  And increasing taxes in a sluggish economy did not resonate.  Given the chronically poor results in many school districts across the state and nation, despite major increases in per-pupil spending, many voters understandably question whether or not spending more actually accomplishes much.

Although Charter Schools were included in the sharing of revenue, they continue to remain at a financial disadvantage to traditional public schools.  Mustering support from Charter school families requires a greater commitment.

Changing Colorado’s Flat Tax from a single rate on net income to a two-tier structure was too great a “slippery slope” for voters to risk (i.e., why not three tiers in a few years and then four?).  A true Flat Tax has many attractions.  Going backwards was not palatable.

Many voters were worried a significant portion of the new tax funds would be used to pay outstanding retirement obligations.  They realized this meant the funds would not go into the classroom.

Proponents of more funding continue to make the mistake of “going it alone.”  Years ago, on my public affairs program, two of the guests debated education funding.  One was the President of the Denver School Board.  She wanted more funding for the classroom.  The other was a proponent of funding charter schools and offering vouchers for private schools.  I suggested they both could get their way if they teamed up.

My idea was for the two sides to join forces and seek new tax revenues such as a one penny increase in the state sales tax which would be totally dedicated to kindergarten through high school education funding.  This would include a voucher program for financially disadvantaged families (to give them some of the choices wealthy families already have) and new support for Charter schools to put them on equal footing with traditional public schools.

The proposal would guarantee public schools would always be funded at least at the same level as prior years, even if the schools were to lose enrollment. This should make the public school teachers, administrators, and parents happy because their per-pupil funding would increase.  At the same time, the rise of private schools and increase in Charter schools would foster competition among all schools.  This could only be good for students as each school was pressured to do better.

Until those seeking statewide tax increases for public education decide to join together with their opponents, they are unlikely to succeed.  Now is the time to reach out and develop a plan which will help all of Colorado’s children.  With the failure of Amendment 66, the opportunity is before us today.

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Aaron Harber hosts “The Aaron Harber Show,” seen on Channel 3 KCDO-TV (K3 Colorado) on Sundays , and on ION Television and COMCAST Entertainment Television as well as at www.HarberTV.com.  He was the valedictorian at Fairview High School in Boulder and received degrees from Princeton and Harvard Universities.  Send e-mail to Aaron@HarberTV.com.  (C) Copyright 2013 by USA Talk Network, Inc. and Aaron Harber.  All rights reserved.
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State’s First-Ever Recall Is A Huge Victory For The NRA: Major Colorado & National Implications Of The Recalls

The successful recall of two Colorado State Senators due to a campaign spearheaded by the National Rifle Association and other gun rights organizations sent a shockwave through Colorado which reverberated across the entire nation.

The successful legislative recalls were the first to ever occur in the history of the State.  One of them took out the sitting State Senate President, John Morse, a former police chief who already was term-limited and whose legislative service was scheduled to end in 34 weeks.  The other recall took out State Senator Angela Giron, who presided over a Democratic-leaning district in Pueblo.

The two State Senators faced irate voters who were upset with their support of what appeared to be relatively modest gun control legislation.  One bill limited the size of gun magazines to 15 rounds in an effort to force a mass murderer to either reload or use additional weapons (but clearly did not impact hunters).  The second bill expanded background checks for gun purchases so it would be more difficult for criminals to buy weapons.

Nevertheless, the NRA and other groups saw the legislation as restricting the 2nd Amendment rights of citizens and were concerned this was the beginning of an effort to limit citizen rights.  By targeting these two legislators, the gun rights groups wanted to send a message across the country that, “If you mess with our rights, we’ll come after you.”  That message was sent to every elected official in America on November 10th.

Another shock to Democrats was the fact money not a determining factor — passion was, and the recall supporters had that advantage.  Both sides spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the two hotly contested races so neither had an overwhelming monetary advantage.  This made the NRA win even more impressive.

IT COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE

Going into the recall elections, Democrats had 20 State Senate seats compared to 15 for Republicans.  The outcome resulted in Democrats having 18 seats to the Republicans 17.

The good news for Democrats is it could have been worse.  Had another recall been successful, Republicans would have gained control of the State Senate.  Gun rights supporters did attempt to recall Democratic State Senator Evie Hudak at the same time they targeted Morse and Giron.  The recall effort barely fell short of collecting enough signatures to force Hudak to defend her seat in a swing district.  Had Hudak faced a recall, it would have been likely she, too, would have been defeated and suddenly Republicans would have controlled the State Senate with 18 votes to the Democrats’ 17.

FURTHER IMPLICATIONS

The results of the recall elections are foreboding for Democrats and represent a new opportunity for Republicans.  While Democrats understandably are urging everyone to “move on,” the reality is the successful recalls provided evidence Republicans now have a tactic which is more potent than many political experts had surmised.

There are many Democrats who supported what the majority of legislators thought was reasonable gun control legislation who now have to be concerned the NRA’s sights may be turned on them for the 2014 elections.  And what is different about the gun rights debate is that it is not about to go away.

The State’s most prominent race — the gubernatorial election — may be the new nexus for the issue.  Incumbent Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper, who has been one of the most highly approved and most popular Governors in the country since his election in 2010, signed the two controversial pieces of gun control legislation.  He has to be wondering what the impact of his approval of the two bills might have on an election more than 1½ years after their passage.

One of Hickenlooper’s opponents, former Congressman Tom Tancredo, is a long-time 2nd Amendment rights supporter and has made Hickenlooper’s gun control legislation approval one of his major campaign themes.  Political pundits have been surprised at Tancredo’s strong showing in the polls — statistically tied with Hickenlooper in all four surveys published to date — but often have discounted Tancredo’s ability to ultimately gain enough support to win.  The recall election results may cause many of them to change their opinions, especially if Tancredo is successful in making the 2014 election a referendum on 2nd Amendment rights.

THE FUTURE

Colorado was a Red State which evolved into a Purple State.  With a fast-growing Hispanic population and significant influxes of citizens from other states, Colorado is expected to become even more Blue yet the 2nd Amendment issue plays well in a state where many residents hunt and others desire firearms for the protection of themselves and their families.  And many Coloradans see themselves as part of the Wild West.

It seems unlikely a candidate such as Tancredo can secure a plurality of the vote with a one-issue campaign but it now seems obvious the gun rights issue can firmly secure a base which allows him to go after the few additional percentage points he needs to win.

Other Republican gubernatorial candidates such as Secretary of State Scott Gessler and State Senator Greg Brophy, although trailing Hickenlooper, also are within striking distance so it appears, with the help of this one issue, Republicans have the opportunity to do something which has not occurred in Colorado for over half a century — defeat an incumbent, elected Governor.

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Aaron Harber hosts “The Aaron Harber Show” seen on Channel 3 KCDO-TV (K3 Colorado) on Sundays and at www.HarberTV.com.  Send e-mail to Aaron@HarberTV.com.  (C) Copyright 2013 by USA Talk Network, Inc. and Aaron Harber.  All rights reserved.

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THE NRA IS RIGHT!

National Rifle Association President Wayne LaPierre’s post-Newtown press conference was seen as bizarre by many observers.  It included the incendiary recommendation that armed guards should be posted at every school.  Many scoffed at the idea and the majority on the Left saw it as a demonstration of the NRA”s lack of sensitivity to or understanding of the seriousness and complexity of the problem America faces — where guns are used to kill over 30,000 people annually.

The USA numbers (+/-10,000 homicides annually) are particularly striking when compared to annual gun deaths in other countries such as Canada (+/-175), Japan (+/-18), England (+/-41), Spain (+/-90), Germany (+/-190), Australia (+/-30).  Adjustments for population differences don’t make us look much better.

Others argued simply posting an armed guard guaranteed little because a person or group plotting an attack could easily take out that person first.  And some questioned the rationality of potentially escalating the situation by having armed personnel at school — possibly resulting in an even greater tragedy if some fraction of those hired to protect schools went berserk.

Despite these objections, the NRA’s proposal could be a good one for a number of reasons.  Here are the arguments for it.

First, having one or more armed guards at a school would reassure parents, faculty, staff, and students that they are being protected to the highest degree possible.

Second, it would give children direct exposure to the concept that their society has people they can trust to protect them.  This could have long-term benefits in regard to the relationship between police officers and the communities they protect.

Third, with approximately 100,000 public schools and 35,000 private schools as well as 7,000 institutions of higher education (both public and private) in the United States, this would generate a minimum of 200,000 and probably closer to 300,000 jobs.

The latter number assumes there would be an average of 1½ full-time equivalents per school, with small schools needing only one FTE and larger ones (especially institutions of higher education) adding an average of four FTE’s to their campuses. There also would be staffing to administer the program.  That easily would get the total number of new positions to 300,000.

Fourth, one of the key sources of staffing for these positions could be Veterans as well as many of the law enforcement officials who were laid off in recent years by state and local governments experiencing budget shortfalls.  There are several hundred thousand looking for jobs.  In turn, this approach would have the additional benefit of giving students the opportunity to meet former members of the U.S. military and law enforcement officers.

Assuming each position is paid an average of $40,000 annually (less than $20 per hour) and there are $25,000 in additional costs such as equipment, training, certification programs, taxes, benefits, vacation and sick leave, office space, other overhead, et cetera), the cost per person could easily be $65,000.

This means, for 300,000 positions, the annual tab would be almost $20 billion.  To fund these positions, all guns would have to be registered in the United States with an initial Community Safety Fee of $350 per weapon and an annual renewal fee of $50 per weapon plus a small tax on ammunition (e.g., averaging 25 cents per shell).

With 10 million weapons sold annually, sales would generate $3½ billion each year.  With almost 300 million guns held by Americans, a $50 annual renewal fee would generate $15 billion each year.  Estimates of the number of rounds of ammunition sold annually vary but assuming an average of 500 shells for new weapons and 100 for existing weapons, this would total approximately 35 billion rounds.  If the fee was set at just 25 cents per round, this would generate almost $9 billion.

The resulting Community Safety Fee total would be approximately $27½ billion annually.  The extra funds would cover the initiative’s start-up costs so schools could get protection right away.  Extra funds also could go towards additional safety equipment (such as metal detectors in high schools) and building modification expenses (such as creating entry vestibules).  Of course, it is possible this annual revenue number would go down over time because some gun owners might trim their collections and not be willing to pay fees for weapons which are worth less than the fees.

To address potential rogue owners, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, would be in charge of ensuring all weapons are properly registered.  To create a disincentive for anyone to cheat, those who fail to register a weapon would be subject to a fine of $10,000 per weapon and $5 per round of ammunition for any unregistered weapon.  Funds generated by these penalties would be dedicated to the Community Safety Program protecting the nation’s schools.

The elegance of this solution is that it allows America to continue its unique love affair with weapons while protecting its children.  While some gun owners may protest at the cost, it is a fair price to pay for a right which the vast majority of advanced nations do not bestow upon their citizenry.

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Aaron Harber hosts “The Aaron Harber Show” seen on Channel 3 KCDO-TV (K3 Colorado) on Sundays at 8:00 pm and at http://www.HarberTV.com.  Send e-mail to Aaron@HarberTV.com.  (C) Copyright 2012 by USA Talk Network, Inc. and Aaron Harber.  All rights reserved.

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