Everything you know about gun ownership and violence is wrong

handguns

Excerpts from a Harvard study on gun ownership and gun control. It’s a fascinating read. They found no correlation between gun ownership and violence.

[T]here is no consistent significant positive association between gun ownership levels and violence rates: across time within the United States, U.S. cities, counties within Illinois, country – sized areas like England, U.S. states, regions of the United States, nations, or population subgroups…

[T]he determinants of murder and suicide are basic social, economic, and cultural factors, not the prevalence of some form of deadly mechanism… This correlation does not necessarily prove gun advocates’ assertion that gun controls actually encourage crime by depriving victims of the means of self – defense. The explanation of this correlation may be political rather than criminological: jurisdictions afflicted with violent crime tend to severely restrict gun ownership. This, however, does not suppress the crime, for banning guns cannot alleviate the sociocultural and economic factors that are the real determinants of violence and crime rates.

A story about our broken health care system.

broken-net

We have a broken health care system. People can’t get the help they need, and the broken parts don’t communicate with each other – as witness this story.

A woman, married and with a child, got pregnant. Her family’s income was about the median for her county, which made her eligible for Medicaid as a result of her pregnancy. Unfortunately, she miscarried. There followed several months of unexplained abdominal pains. Doctors and specialists were unable to diagnose them. They told her if she was in pain, go to the ER, which she did about a dozen times over six months. The ER, of course, treated the pain but did no diagnostics. They told her to go back to her primary care doctor for diagnosis. But neither the primary care doctor nor the specialists were able to identify a cause for her pain.

Then one day, a PA in the ER flagged her as a possible drug seeker because of her frequent visits. As a result, Medicaid put her on restriction, which means that only her primary care doctor can prescribe for her, and she can’t see any other doctor without a referral, and she can only get her prescriptions filled at one pharmacy (Walmart).

Here’s the fun part: her doctor told her to get a flu shot. Medicaid covers flu shots. However, Walmart doesn’t offer them, and since she is restricted to one pharmacy, she was unable to get one that was covered by her insurance.

Then there’s even more fun: she got pregnant again. She’s allowed to see an OB/GYN, because her primary care doctor referred her. But the OB is not allowed to prescribe for her, nor refer her to any other specialists. For that, she has to go back to her primary care doctor. The average wait time for an appointment is ten days. Ten days, when a woman is pregnant, can make the difference between a healthy baby and a miscarriage.

Her nine-year-old son was also eligible for Medicaid, until the family bought a $2,000 car. Medicaid determined that the car was actually worth $4,000, which put the family over the $3,500 limit for personal assets. That disqualified the son from Medicaid. There is no appeal over the value of a vehicle – they use a table that overrules both actual and market price.

I think Medicaid is a great program. But our system is so flawed that it doesn’t work for many people.

Democrats want to raise taxes on S Corps, hurting small business

Credit inc.com
Credit inc.com

According to Accounting Today newsletter, the Democrats have resurrected their plan to tax the profits of an S Corporation as payroll. They proposed this a couple of years back, claiming that “millionaires” were using the loophole to avoid payroll taxes. While that is probably true, according to IRS statistics for 2003 (the most recent year available), 3.3 million S Corporation returns are filed. The average S Corporation grosses $1.2 million in receipts and has a profit of $52,000 — about the median family income for the country. IRS itself has encouraged small sole proprietorships to incorporate to save on taxes, and many small businesses (earning less than $50,000) have taken advantage of the S Corporation structure.

The advantage of the S Corporation is that profits are taxed as ordinary income to the taxpayer, with no corporate-level income tax. S Corp owners are required to pay themselves a salary, on which payroll taxes are deducted. But any profit from the corporation is not subject to either corporate taxes or payroll taxes. This was implemented to encourage small businesses, and it has been wildly successful. The Dems want to change that.

Few dispute the principle that a business owner is entitled to a salary, and also a return on his or her investment in the business based on profits generated. The Dems argue that some S Corp owners are taking too small a salary, thereby avoiding payroll taxes on more “profit” than they are entitled to. There’s no doubt that this happens. The primary reason is that IRS has refused to define what a “reasonable” salary is for an S Corp owner. Obviously, in the absence of an IRS standard, S Corp owners will tend to reduce their salary to reduce their tax burden. IRS could fix that problem with the stroke of a pen. They have refused to do so.

In a brilliant marketing move, the Dems are now referring to this as the “Newt Gingrich/John Edwards” loophole. But eliminating this so-called “loophole” will actually penalize millions of small businesses across the country, many of whom are barely scraping by as it is.

Our government has failed – or maybe presidential democracy has

house-falling-down

Our government has failed us. As we complete our first week of drastically scaled-back government, the impacts can be seen everywhere. On Tuesday, Utah stopped issuing WIC vouchers and closed its health clinics, denying children and pregnant women much-needed food and medical care. NPR reports cutbacks in Meals on Wheels programs in states across the nation, so the elderly poor aren’t getting fed either. Paid reservations at national parks, including the Grand Canyon, are not being honored. And the indirect effects are even worse: communities that rely on autumn tourism are being hit hard because of the national park closures. Even our cheese business is suffering, since three of the six markets we attend each week rely on tourist traffic for success. Our sales yesterday were a dismal 20% of normal. Reduced income for local businesses ultimately means less tax revenue for states, and for the Fed itself.

And there’s a moral effect to all this as well. Our government is now faced with the choice of not paying its furloughed workers, which is hardly fair to the men and women who serve our government and have bills and mortgages to pay, or paying 800,000 workers for work they didn’t do, which is unfair to the taxpayers. Neither is a good choice. As the U.S. is promotes Presidential democracy as the ideal system for nations throughout the world, this is hardly an example worth imitating. Our system has failed – why would anyone else adopt it?

The Tea Party members in Congress have little incentive to resolve this dilemma. They want to see all non-essential government shut down anyway. What we’re experiencing now is what government would look like under Tea Party rule.

On the other hand, I have little sympathy for the Democrats, who continue to spend as if money can be printed at a whim without economic consequences. Borrow-and-spend economics has inflated the money supply five times faster than our GDP growth over the past twelve years. The national debt began exceeding GDP in 2011 for the first time since World War II, and shows no sign of improving. We are a nation hovering on the brink of financial disaster.

China, of course, is using this opportunity to suggest that their system is a better choice. At the moment, it would appear so – though to accept the two models as the only two options is as much a failure as allowing only two parties to run the U.S. government. There are never only two choices. Our current system is premised on a fallacy.

In any case, it is time for Americans to admit that our system has indeed failed. It is time to look for a new system. Whether that is a parliamentary democracy or something else is a matter to be decided by the people in a Constitutional Convention. Perhaps it will be decided that our nation is too big and too diverse to remain a single unit.

The current political impasse emphasizes that there’s one choice we cannot afford to make, and that is more of the same. Our government has failed us, and it is time for a change.

The Shutdown Prophet
Washington couldn’t have gone dark without a radicalized Republican Party. Or maybe it was destined to all along.

In a famous 1990 essay, Linz observed, “All such systems are based on dual democratic legitimacy: No democratic principle exists to resolve disputes between the executive and the legislature about which of the two actually represents the will of the people.” Presidential systems veered ultimately toward collapse everywhere they were tried, as legislators and executives vied for supremacy. There was only one notable exception: the United States of America.

Until now?

14% of Americans receive food stamps

food-stamp-use-by-state

What strikes me as a Utah resident is that nearly 10% of Utah’s 2.8 million residents are on food stamps (and federally mandated cuts are coming)

And yet Utah has one of the lowest food stamp usage rates in the country. Mississippi heads the list with 20.6%, followed by Oregon with 20%. That’s 1/5 of their residents!

The qualification guidelines are complicated (hard to believe for a government program), but to qualify, basically income must be below the poverty level. That’s a pretty striking statement on our national well being!