- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Talk about accurate aim. A dozen Republican presidential hopefuls are bound for the National Rifle Association’s annual convention, which begins Thursday in Nashville, Tennessee. It is a bodacious and powerful event, expected to draw 70,000 folks intent on affirming their allegiance to guns, guts, fellowship and America — with some prayer, country music and family time to go with it.

Everything about the three-day gathering is large — there are 16 acres of firearms displays, 400 exhibitors, multiple laser and air-gun shooting ranges, law seminars. On hand to address the organization’s sold-out leadership forum Friday: Govs. Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal and Mike Pence; Sens. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham; and such other GOP notables as Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and Donald Trump.

“It is one of the most popular and highly anticipated political gatherings in America,” advise the organizers, noting that “the nation’s top Second Amendment leaders in government, the media, and the entertainment industry” will be there in force. And the mission: “Build our battle plan for defending freedom and defeating Barack Obama’s gun control agenda.”

Of course, Ted Nugent will be along - and the organization’s top leadership, from CEO Wayne LaPierre to President Jim Porter and Executive Director Chris Cox.

ADVOCATES AIM TO PROTEST NRA

Also in Nashville for the three-day NRA gathering: Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and 400 gun safety advocates. The group will spend time “on the sidelines” of the convention, their mission “to counter the gun lobby’s dangerous agenda and rally for safer gun laws that are supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans,” the organizers say.

The group “will remind the extremist leadership of the NRA — and Tennessee lawmakers — that gun safety advocates are going toe-to-toe when it comes to fighting dangerous gun legislation in statehouses across the country,” they state.

The coalition, incidentally, has released a public service announcement featuring children reading quotes originally attributed to NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, complete with a crayon “NRA” on their podium. The spot was produced by Everytown for Gun Safety, the umbrella gun violence prevention lobby founded by Michael Bloomberg.

HOW MUCH TAX COMPLEXITY COSTS

The National Taxpayers Union Foundation has done all the math on tax code complexity to reveal that the U.S. economy is out $233.8 billion in “lost productivity” and out-of-pocket costs as Americans wrestle with complicated taxes. Their rationale: Filing their forms amounts to 6.1 billion hours of activity — an estimated value of $202.1 billion — plus $31.7 billion in costs for professional preparers and software to comply with “a complex and invasive tax code,” the researchers say.

“Americans face a rising tax complexity burden that essentially prevents anyone from being able to comply without assistance,” says study author Michael Tasselmyer. “This year’s study gives an indication of future challenges, revealing the additional complications the Affordable Care Act will add to the Tax Code and filing.”

Indeed, the researchers also found a “staggering” 3,322 pages of legal guidance for the Affordable Care Act at the IRS website. The content includes regulations, Treasury decisions, assorted notices, revenue procedures, and revenue rulings. The study also notes that the estimated length of the Tax Code itself is about 4 million words — seven times the length of Leo Tolstoy’s novel “War and Peace.”

The researchers grimly recall that the Form 1040 instructions were once just two pages long. Now there are 209 pages of instructions, quadruple the number in 1985, the year before taxes were “simplified,” it states.

RAND PAUL’S PROMISING START

Now on the official presidential campaign trail, Sen. Rand Paul has some significant recognition: 68 percent of Americans are familiar with the lawmaker from Kentucky while 51 percent of Republicans give him a positive review, says Andrew Dugan, a Gallup Poll analyst.

With a 51 percent approval rating among younger voters, Mr. Paul bests Jeb Bush and Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio in that demographic. But among conservatives? Not so much.

“Though Paul is closely associated with the conservative Tea Party movement, he is not currently the most well-liked candidate among conservative Republicans. Conservatives — who make up 77 percent of Republican tea party supporters — instead give the highest favorable rating to Cruz, at 63 percent, while Paul is roughly tied with Bush at just under 60 percent. Rubio has 53 percent of conservative Republicans viewing him favorably,” Mr. Dugan writes.

“As Paul tries to gain traction in a brimming Republican field, his opponents will undoubtedly call attention to his supposed political heresies. Time will tell if this strategy is successful in discrediting Paul among the Republican primary electorate — but after spending nearly six years in the Senate staking out controversial political positions, Paul nonetheless enjoys comparably high familiarity and favorability ratings with the GOP,” Mr. Dugan observes.

THAT PESKY GOVERNMENT OVERREACH

An interest group concerned about “paychecks, not politics” is not impressed with the March report showing 126,000 new jobs on the books.

“The cost of federal regulations on the average manufacturer is nearly $20,000 per employee. It shouldn’t surprise us whenever hiring is flat in this sector because government overreach presents a major challenge to manufacturing expansion,” says Alfredo Ortiz, president and CEO of the Job Creators Network, a consortium of major business and franchises founded by Bernie Marcus, also the founder of Home Depot.

Mr. Ortiz cites data from the National Association of Manufacturers revealing that government regs also placed a burden of $34,671 per employee on small manufacturers with payrolls under 50 workers.

“If we’re going to stop crawling toward economic recovery and start running, then we need regular monthly job growth numbers closer to 300,000,” he says. “That will be much harder to accomplish with a federal rule book that practically pays manufacturers to create good paying jobs outside of America. Just trimming this huge regulatory burden by 10 percent would put thousands of dollars back in play.”

POLL DU JOUR

76 percent of Americans agree that if an attack on a pregnant woman leads to the death of her unborn child, a murder charge is appropriate; 89 percent of Republicans, 73 percent of independents and 72 percent of Democrats agree.

66 percent of Americans overall believe that “fetuses in the womb are people”; 80 percent of Republicans, 67 percent of independents and 56 percent of Democrats agree.

52 percent overall agree that “life begins at conception”; 71 percent of Republicans, 52 percent of independents and 39 percent of Democrats agree.

20 percent overall say life begins when “a fetus is able to live outside the womb”; 17 percent of Republicans, 22 percent of independents and 20 percent of Democrats agree.

18 percent say life begins “at birth”; 7 percent of Republicans, 13 percent of independents and 31 percent of Democrats agree.

10 percent are “not sure”; 5 percent of Republicans, 13 percent of independents and 10 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A YouGov poll of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted April 3-6.

Murmurs and asides to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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