Friday, December 21, 2012

A modest proposal to save our kids

Most of America, it seems, is lined up on one side or the other of what we're calling the new "gun control" debate. The fact is that we've been having this debate for decades, and it's pretty much over: Americans have - and will continue to exercise - a constitutional right to own guns. The rest of the shouting, over marginal things like "what's an 'assault weapon'" or "gun show loopholes" (Fact check: There's no such thing) are just a lot of noise.

If you want to stop mass school killings, here's how you do it: You post a trained, armed guard in every school in America. Let's think about the mechanics and cost of that.

There are approximately 99,000 schools in America. Across America there are currently about 800,000 trained police officers, along with tens of thousands of former military personnel as well. So finding 99,000 men and women to train as school guards is a snap.

And because we only want they very best guarding our children, let's make it a relatively high-paying job. Say, $70,000 a year. Would you be willing to work what would essentially be about a 7:30-3:30 job, about nine months out of the year, for $70K? I think we can find lots of qualified people who would say "yes," particularly when they understand they would be serving to protect the lives of innocent school children.

(I realize $70K isn't a big draw in a New York City public school, but there are thousands of rural districts where gun-toting talent can be had for a lot less. It will average out.)

So how do we pay for it? 99,000 schools at $70K per school is about $6.9 billion dollars, which seems like a whole big pile of cash. Let's round it up to $7 billion a year. Where can we find that kind of money?

Well, first of all, in the grand government scheme of things, it's almost nothing. The federal government spends $1 billion about every 2.5 hours. Multiply that times seven, and we're talking about less than 18 hours of federal government spending, in order to protect every schoolchild in America with an armed guard.

But that's overall government spending. Let's look at a few specific places where we might be able to carve out $7 billion to protect school children.

 - Let's start with everyone's favorite whipping boy, defense spending. We're going to be somewhere around $633 billion in defense spending this year. Could we drop that to $626 billion? It wouldn't be my first choice, but we could probably find the money.

 - The U.S. Dept. of Energy spends $27 billion a year. Of course, it's never produced a drop of oil or a kilowatt of electricity. All it really produces are regulations that drive up the cost and reduce the availability of energy. Could they continue to push paper for only $20 billion a year? I think so.

- Over at the Dept. of Agriculture, they're planning on spending $23 billion this year, and their web site says that their budget "invests $6.1 billion in renewable and clean energy." Hmmm...Couple of questions there:

 1) We've been "investing" billions in "alternative energy" firms like Solyndra (bankrupt), A123 Batteries (bankrupt), Beacon Power (bankrupt), Ener1 (bankrupt), Abound Solar (bankrupt) and many others. Should we maybe leave the development of these "alternatives" to the private sector? And are these "investments" really more important than the safety of our schoolchildren?

 2) If the Dept. of Agriculture is "investing" billions in alternative energy, what's the Dept. of Energy doing? So it probably seems reasonable to think we could find $7 billion - for the children - in the Ag budget.

 - We send out over 62 million Social Security checks a month, about 744 million a year. If we just take $9.40 or so from each of those checks, we've got our $7 billion. The average check is $1,240 a month, so $9.40 seems like a pretty small price to pay to prevent another Columbine or Newtown from taking place, doesn't it?

But maybe all of these programs are absolutely vital and need every nickel they currently get, and we should be looking for "new" revenue for our school guards. I can think of a couple sources:

 - Newspapers. The editorial boards of newspapers seem especially interested in protecting school kids, at least for a couple of weeks after any shooting, so let's give them a chance to put their money where their mouths are. On an average day, 55 million newspapers are sold in the United States. That's 385 million papers a week, just over 20 billion papers a year. Let's put a modest 35-cent per paper tax on each issue - we'll call it the "Save a child's life surcharge" - and there we have it: A fully-funded school guard program, and the editorial writers can have the satisfaction of knowing they actually helped solve a problem, rather than simply complain about it.

 - There's considerable research that shows violence in movies, television and video games encourage increased violence. U.S. box office receipts were about $12 billion last year, TV ad revenue was about $8 billion and video game sales were about $17 billion. There's nearly $40 billion in annual revenue, so just a 17% or so surtax on this revenue would protect every school child in America.

The overall point being that where there is a will, there's a way. I'm suspicious of most government spending, but this seems like a really good use of $7 billion, certainly better than most of what we currently spend on.

Or, of course, there's the Obama method: Just add another $7 billion a year to the national debt. Borrow the money from the Chinese and pass the tab on along to the children who, after all, will be the most direct beneficiaries. What's another $7 billion in a $1.2 trillion deficit? If it's a good enough way to pay for Solyndra, fighter jets for the Muslim Brotherhood or ag subsidies, it's certainly good enough "for the children."

1 comment:

  1. Tim, Tim, Tim!!
    Solyndra, the Muslim brotherhood, and ag subsidies (and robbing those nasty rich corporations who are the only hope for JOBS) are MUCH more important to obama than our own children! I thought you understood that!! And your common sense, real-world solution would NEVER fly in the obama never-neverland!

    TFMH :-}