Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Coming Age of Inflation (or how to fix the deficit)

US citizens pay too little taxes.   I just made a lot of enemies with that statement.

Note I said pay too little, not that the rate is too low.  The rates are actually pretty high, we just give a ton of tax write-offs and deductions.  Partly to citizens, but mostly to corporations.  I myself take advantage of the mortgage deduction, which saves me a lot of money.  But corporations that, on paper, have one of the highest tax rates in the world, in reality pay less than 1% of taxes on their net profit.  Worse, small business tend to pay high taxes, while the big businesses find ways to pay nothing. Example: GE's Taxes

Another problems is the Capital Gains Tax.   Conservatives want to keep it low to encourage re-investment of profits.  This is a good idea, it just has some bad consequences that we don't take into consideration.  Right now, the Long Term Capital Gains Tax rate is significantly lower than the income tax rate.  The problem is that once you make more than a $500,000 a year, you quickly start making investments (unless you are a huge spendthrift) and those investments quickly make more profit than your salary.  So people making more than $500,000 a year end up paying LESS taxes (as a percentage of their total profit), then people making $50,000.

This was fine up until GW Bush took over.  He made two major mistakes.  1) He saw that under Clinton, we had a surplus and choose to spend it by lowering taxes even further - with no auto tax hike when the surplus vanished and 2) He started two expensive wars.   These two things combined destroyed the surplus and sent us into a debt spiral.

Now, we don't want to raise taxes because it will hurt the economy.  This is despite the fact that technically the economy has already recovered. By recovered, I mean that things are no longer getting worse (recession), even if people are still unemployed or underemployed.

The conservatives continue to want to cut services and more tax cuts.  The problem is that services have already been cut to the bone.   There is no real place to cut significant money except for Military, Medicare, and Social Security and as a people we do NOT want to cut those.  Welfare was already gutted under GW Bush, and what is left is both insignificant (compared to our debt) and desperately needed (see unemployed and underemployed).

The Ffture is pretty clear to me.  We will continue to spend more than we take in from taxes.  The Republicans won't raise let anyone raise taxes until the debt gets FAR worse than it is.   The Debt will rise till the taxes we take in are about the same as the interest payments we pay on the debt.  At that point someone will point out that we literally could cut everything and not pay the debt and finally we will have to raise taxes a HUGE amount.

Before this happens, several other fixes will be made.  First, to 'save' social security, the rich will lose their ridiculous exemption for social security tax.  They will pay social security tax on all their income, not just the first 100,000 of it.  This is almost a certainty, because with this change, social security becomes solvent and without it, we have to reduce benefits.

Second, Interest Rates will SKY ROCKET.  Because as US debt grows, other countries will slowly realise we are not rock solid any more and will demand higher rates.  If the Fed is smart, they begin to respond by issuing longer duration bonds.  Instead of maintaining a 1 year average duration for our debt, we will slowly push it out towards 15.  Note that means we will make some of that debt back merely from inflation - after interest rates rise that is.

There is however one way out:  Raise taxes.  It does not have to be income taxes.  Half of the money in the US is owned by only about 400 people, who each own in excess of 1 billion dollars.  So lets tax all assets owned by a household (single person or couple) when the assets exceed half a billion.  Keep the tax small, but NO exemptions besides the first 500 million.

A simple "Federal Property Tax", issued on all assets (real estate, stocks, bonds) that is of 1%, with the first $500 Million of property exempted (so no one except the very very rich would pay - if you have half a billion dollars, you are very rich), would easily solve most of our problems.  Effectively, that should total around $250 billion per year. (Estimated assets of $50 trillion, half of that falls under the 500 million exemption, times .01%)   The  US Deficit under GW Bush's first term was about $223 Billion. Unfortunately after GW Bush's last term it is a trillion dollars.  Still, that is 1/4 of the way there. I don't think we could get away with 5%, which would kill the current defecit - that is too high a property tax.

In addition, we also need laws to prevent either additional spending or tax reductions without tax increases.  The idea of paying for spending increases with offsetting reductions has failed.  We simply do not have enough reductions that enough people are willing to do.  We can afford to use spending reductions only to reduce the deficit.  Anything else is just wishful thinking.

More importantly, we need an emergency reserve, to pay for things like Hurricanes, Wars, Volcanoes, etc.   This is on top of the surplus created by the tax.  The surplus is there to pay down our debt, nothing else.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Conservative vs Liberal

Originally the word Conservative referred to a political belief in the value of tradition.  Conservatives wanted to avoid change.  They wanted to continue what worked so well in the past.   Liberal referred to a political belief in the value of progress.  Liberals wanted to fix the problems that existed by fixing the political system.

But in the 1960's and 1970 that began to change.   Liberals began to win on discrimination, pollution, abortion and other major political battlegrounds.  Some claim that the death of Kennedy created a martyr and Nixon's crimes sealed the deal.  Other claim that a cultural movement pushed by the anti war movement in the 60's created a wave of liberals which slowly took over the political landscape.  It doesn't really matter why the the change happened, just that it did.

Suddenly the Conservatives were no longer fighting to keep things the same, but instead to return things to the way they USED to be.  This was despite the fact that the liberals had proved some of their methods worked as well.   The liberals eventually had to start fighting to keep things the same, as opposed to reverting to an older model.  Their positions were reversed from the original tradition.

Some conservatives saw this change and attempted to redefine both terms.  They claimed that conservative meant limited government, despite the fact that they want huge government interference on social issues such as abortion, gay marriage, immigration, placement of mosques, etc  There is a word for limited government it is Libertarianism. Conservative has little to do with limited government, except as an excuse to kill liberal programs - the claim is that they are not against poor people, they are just against big government.  Real Libertarians are as likely to vote Democrat as to vote Republican, because Liberals want limited government too - just different areas limited.

Conservatives also claimed that liberal meant tax+spend.  This was proven wrong during the 2000's.  During the Bush years Republicans spent more than the Democrats.  Yes, they cut taxes - creating the worst deficit ever. The truth is all career politicians pretty much have to spend, because when you cut programs, you lose a bunch of zealots that loved the program but gained only some slight support. If you are not spending money, you have nothing to brag about.

But that's OK, because honestly, America is one of the richest countries in the world, so we have money if we choose to spend it. In addition, we continue to have many problems that people WANT the government to spend money on.  The Military and Social Security are great examples.  Those are two of our most expensive programs, and people are generally proud of them.

So, what is the difference between conservatives and liberals?  I think it is a simple evaluation of the human mind.

  • Conservatives think humans are weak willed, but are capable of accurate foresight.

  • Liberals think that humans are strong willed, but shortsighted creatures

This explains why:  Conservatives want a huge amount of government interference in the prevention of 'sin', but minimal business intervention.  They want to regulate things that a sinner would be tempted to do, but not things that a wise, careful, ethical person would foresee.   Actions they consider to be immoral, such as sexual activities, violent video games, marijuana use, abortion,  stem cell research, prayer (required in school), must be stopped be - because people will be seduced into doing it.  Similarly, that is why they want the right to bear arms and don't trust unions or immigrants, or pay welfare.  Good men need the ability to protect themselves and worthy people can thrive because they have foresight, so you don't need a government, union, or welfare to protect you.

Liberals on the other hand believe humans are strong willed creatures that routinely don't bother to plan for the future.   Therefore people don't need to be protected from the evils of seduction, but do need 'insurance' and regulation, to protect against bad luck and to avoid the tragedy of the commons (where a shared resource such as clean air, trust, privacy, is overburdened).  Liberals are not scared of citizens doing things they know are evil.

Instead liberals think we need to be protected from bad luck and bad planning.  Liberals don't sex is evil, nor do they believe abortion is murder.  Violent video games don't 'convert' or 'damage' a mind.  Marijuana does not induce you to crime, etc. etc.    At heart, the liberal belief is that humans choose  to do evil (as opposed to being tricked or seduced), often because we don't think things through.  Hence the idea of restricting weapons as you don't know who is going to use it (and the worry about guns being used by owner's kids or used in a moment of passion or by a criminal that steals it), paying for welfare, social security, unions to protect people, etc. etc. 

Honestly, there is some truth in both - some humans are week willed, some are strong.  Some take complex steps to plan for future problems, others are just after immediate gratification.  But it makes more sense to base government on the liberal view. I would rather arrest people for being week willed, then let them starve for being short sighted.

I used to be an independent, but George W Bush and experience cured me of that.  I have a strong personality and the idea that a video game, comic book, hearing about gay married people, etc. corrupting me sounds foolish.   But I do believe that many people are penny wise and pound foolish.  True, people do sometimes give in to sin, but I think it is a choice that they should be punished for, not something they need to be protected from.

Worse, the belief in a weak willed human sounds sounds like an excuse to me.  To paraphrase some of what I have heard conservatives say: "Oh, it's not my fault I had gay sex in a men's room, I was seduced into it by hearing about my next door neighbor's happy gay marriage.   It's not my fault I cheated on my first three wives, I was seduced.  Its' not my fault I got addicted to Oxycontin, I was seduced by the evil drug.  But those gay people, they may  have been tricked but we have to stop them from seducing my children.  We have to punish the people caught with the illegal drugs because they are seducing others (but not those of us that misuse prescription ones)."  This stuff is lame and we should not accept it and forgive them..

These people were not seduced or tricked, you failed to foresee the possible consequences of your actions, and made bad decisions.    Stop complaining, man up and take responsibility for your own mistakes

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Nuclear Power and Environmentalism

I am an environmentalist.  I favor attempts to save all endangered animals (knowing that most attempts will fail), I know that Global Warming is a definite reality (and almost certainly caused by humans), and am fully aware that we are poisoning our seas with Mercury, our air with Carbon Dioxide, and our land with nasty chemicals.   

Nuclear Power is very safe.   Today, that is.  Back when they built Chernobyl, the Soviets claimed they did not need a 'containment vessel' to trap radioactive gas. That is most of the reason why Chernobyl was worse than Three Mile Island (thousands, of deaths vs a possible two in Three Mile Island).   Truthfully, the world had already figured it out before the Russians built Chernobyl, but the USSR was cheap and arrogant.   The recent problem in Japan is in part because of two factors:  1) they used a relatively weak containment vessel as opposed to the best one and 2) they went with a badly designed, active cooling systems.  Even with the poorly designed cooling system, they managed to keep the situation from getting out of hand.   The Fukushima Daiichi containment vessel may have cracked, but it exists and contained much of the radiation.  This gave Japan time to deal with the issue.  Worst case scenario, the deaths from the nuclear problems are going to be less than a thousand, despite the fact that they are dealing with an earthquake, tsunami , and volcano eruption (small though it was) at the same time they are preventing a nuclear disaster.

So, if Chernobyl killed thousands, and Fukushima Daiichi might kill hundreds why do I say it is 'very safe'.

First of all, the earthquake plus tsunami killed many thousands of people.  Are you going to blame the buildings  that failed on the buildings or the earthquake and tsunami.  This was a disaster, but the cause was seismic activity.

Second of all, radiation has a bad rep.   Did you know that all humans are already radioactive?  We have always been so, even before the nuclear age.  Sleeping next to another human being increases your exposure to radiation.   Truthfully all living things are radioactive because all living things are carbon based life forms.  When paleontologists do "Radiocarbon dating", they are examining how radioactive the carbon in from organic matter is, years after it stopped eating/breathing in radioactive carbon. That means that anything that is alive or used to be alive is radioactive.

Including Oil, Natural Gas and Coal.  Honestly, most of the radiation from oil, gas and coal comes from impurities, not the actual fuel.  Oil and gas drilling releases radium and radon.  The radon goes into the atmosphere, the radium tends to be collected.  There are state and federal rules to regulate the radium and other radioactive byproducts of oil.  But the radiation danger from Oil and gas is generally not considered that dangerous, at least when compared to ... coal.

The problem is that coal often has uranium and thorium impurities.  When the power plants burn coal, that leaves ash high in uranium and thorium.   Some of that ash is light enough to float on the the hot air and carried into the atmosphere.  Other is simply placed in land fills.  When both a coal plant and a nuclear power plant are working perfectly, the coal plant releases 100 times more radiation  than the nuclear power plant.  (Source: JP McBrides' 1978 article in Science Magazine)

If you live near a coal plant, you get more radiation than someone working in a nuclear power plant.   OK, your chance of death from a properly working coal plant is greater than from a properly working nuclear power plant.   What about emergencies?   Well, Japan has just proved that with a modern nuclear power planet, even after an earthquake AND a Tsunami, the danger is minimal.

More importantly, the mining of coal has additional problems besides the radiation.  There are cave ins, black lung disease, nitrous oxide (smog) , sulfur dioxide (acid rain), environmental issues with mining waste, and mercury (that's where the mercury we eat in fish is originally coming from - burn the coal, release the mercury into the air, rain it down to the oceans, fish eat it).  Every year people die directly from coal mining (not counting the indirect side effects of burning the coal).   Most years people don't die at all from nuclear power plant, from obtaining the material all the way to use.  In fact, there has NEVER been a single confirmed death in the USA from an accident at a nuclear power plant, not in all 50+ years of operating them.  (The possible two deaths I mentioned from Three Mile Island were theorized to be the possible cancer deaths from the radiation released).  This compares with 100,000 American miners killed in accidents the past century due to coal mining, not counting those affected by black lung, radiation, mercury, asthma (via the smog), etc.   In the US alone, on average a thousand people die from mining the coal. each year.  If we had 10,000 people die today from a nuclear accident (far worse than Chernobyl), coal would still have killed more people.  China has an even worse reputation, (4 times as bad a safety record).

Coal industry causes a  larger number of direct deaths.  But people are willing to accept thousands of deaths of workers, but not of non-workers.  Coal also causes more 'indirect' deaths, but it doesn't have the false connection with bombs.  Nuclear power plants are not more similar to nuclear bombs than a coal plant is to a TNT bomb. But we fear nuclear plants more than coal plants.  That is human nature, but not reasonable.

Nuclear power is safer than Coal.   There is no reason not to allow new nuclear power plants to be built, particularly if we have strict standards for the containment vessel and similar issues.  We need the electricity, we know how to deal with the danger. Allowing coal mining but preventing nuclear power plants is foolish.

Monday, March 28, 2011


World War II was about many different things.   I am not talking about why it happened, but about how.   Opposing sides used directly competing philosophies to aid their effort.  On one side you had Racism, the other Diversity.

The Axis ( Germans, Japanese, etc) used a philosophy of racial superiority. By teaching their citizens that they were superior and everyone else was inferior, it gave moral excuses to allow the invasion of other countries and the horrendous treatment/genocide of those deemed 'inferior'.   The problem is, once you conquer your enemies, discrimination makes assimilating them very difficult.  For some reason, the Jews did not do as much for the German war effort as black Americans did for the American war effort.

The Allies (Americans, Russians, British, etc.)  used a philosophy of "All men are created Equal".  Note, the communists did a lot of things wrong, but they were all for equality.   As such, the Allies were able to cooperate a lot better, even though the capitalists hated the communists and vice versa.   The US supported the other allies via the Lend Lease Act even before it joined the war.  Navajo Indians were an important part of the war effort.  We had active black combat soldiers, pilots, and sailors.  Their were no Jews fighting for Germany in WWII.

World War II taught the United States the true value of some of the principles it was founded on, but had ignored.  As we learned those values and took positions of power, it enabled the Civil Rights movement which eventually led to an African American President  (Note, in general I have objections to using the words African American to refer to "black", - not all black people are Americans.  But in this case the term is particularly appropriate, considering his citizenship - native born American  with a Kenyan father.)

While the United States of America has made great strides in racism (African American President for example), it still exists.  There are still many people in America that do not want an African American as President, even if they totally agreed with all of his political goals.

So where are these people?   Where are the pieces of trash spouting "n!@@3r"?  Well, America has mostly wised up enough not to use that word (obviously, even I am hesitant to spell it).  There might be a couple of hundred Americans stupid enough to use that word when referring to the President, but not thousands.  But that does not mean there aren't racists out there.  They generally are smart enough to use the words "African American" instead of the "N" word.

OK, but why aren't people saying that they they don't want an African American President?  Well, just as most racists are smart enough not to use the "N" word, most are also smart enough to know that if they come out and say they don't like Obama because he is African American, they will be ignored.

Again, where are these people?  Well, I think that some of them have realized that if they drop the word "American" from the phrase "African American", then a) they are pretending that reality is how they wish it was true and b) suddenly their objection sounds reasonable.  After all, most of them wish that there were no black Americans and if Obama wasn't an American he couldn't be President.

Now, I am not saying that every yahoo that claims President Obama is Kenyan (African) instead of an American citizen is a closet racist.  But I am saying that a lot people that are racists are using the birther stupidity to disguise their racism.   They know they can't publicly object to an African American President of the USA, but they have no problem lying (sometimes to themselves) and objecting to an African President of the USA. 

Over 90% of non-white votes think Obama is an American.  That number roughly stays the same whether you are in the North, West, South, or anywhere else in America.  But when you look at whites, you get regional differences.   About 90% of whites living in the Northeast, Midwest, and West believe Obama is a citizen.  But only about 47% of white southerns believe it.  23% of white southerns think  he was born somewhere else, 30% are not sure. Source  Lets assume that the 30% are just going along with the propaganda of their friends, and 10% are just hoax fools.   To me that indicates that about 23-10= 13% of white southerns are very likely to be racists. 

That is why the birther hoax continues to thrive.  In addition to the 5-10% idiots that believe any crazy conspiracy, there is another 13% wants to live in a fantasy world where no black man could ever be President of the USA - because none of them would be citizens.   But just wishing something doesn't make it so.

Obama is an African American citizen who was legally elected President.   His mother is a relative of George Washington, the founder of our country.   You can't get more American than that.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Everyone Claims They are Innocent

This is a popular myth of conservatives.   The basic belief is that all prisoners claim innocence.   It sounds so obvious - if you are in prison then of course you want to get out, so of course you will lie and claim innocence.

To bad it is false.  Almost entirely so. 

  1. Most people confess after they are arrested.   You know that scene on TV or the movies, where the bad guy is in the interrogation room and cops tricks them into confessing?   It's real.   A large number of criminals confess when caught. That's why they have interrogation rooms. 
  2. When they don't confess, they take a plea deal.  Lawyers are not stupid.  They know how good a case is and they also know how expensive a trial can be.  According to the American Bar Association, over 90% of those charged with a crime end up pleading guilty.   More so for felonies.  Less than 10% of convicts have always maintained a claim innocence.
  3. It is not that hard to understand why.   In 2009, New York State, of the 106,995 felony arrests, over 68% were convicted,  about 0.4% were acquitted.  Of the rest, about 23% were dismissed (possibly sent to a treatment program),  about 4% the DA decided to withdraw charges, and the rest were 'other' or 'combined into other court cases' .   I repeat, out of every 200 people arrested for a felony, 134 get convicted, about 54 have charges dropped/dismissed,  you might get ONE man found innocent by a judge or jury.
  4. But it is not quite as bad as it sounds - sometimes the jury finds them guilty, but of a lesser charge.  Only about a third of those charged with a felony ended up being convicted of a felony.  About 42% had charges downgraded to misdemeanors and the rest ended up with 'non-criminal offenses'.  This does include plea bargains as well as the trial, so I don't know how often this the jury does something like finding the guy who beat up a drug dealer guilty of illegal disposal of trash.
  5. Back to that 90% pleading guilty (closer to 94% for felonies).  DNA analysis has found that about 5% (aka 1/20) of people convicted of crimes where DNA was found but not analyzed are actually innocent.
  6. Ignoring the cases where people admit guilt after being convicted and also the all too common cases where innocent people plead guilty of crimes they did not commit (mainly to get a deal offered by the DA), we have some interesting numbers.  Assuming that the DNA statistics hold true, then if 1/10 people plead not guilty and 1/20 actually are innocent, that means that of the people that claim innocence, about half of them actually are telling the truth. 
Most of my data came from here

What it comes down to is that most criminals admit their guilt and of the few that claim innocence, about half of them are probably telling the truth.

I should also add a couple of things.  First, I agree with Justice Scalia (and this is pretty much the only time I ever have), when he says we should be proud of the 5% innocence number.  I think that having only 5% of convicts be actually innocent is a fairly good number.  If we forced that number down to say 1%, it would probably involve letting the smart guilty people go free, which sounds like a bad idea to me.  Also, the 'not guilty' findings are very low, which means the judges and prosecutors don't waste tax payers time and money unless there really is evidence.

But that 5% figure also means that when criminals claim innocence even after being convicted that we should actually give them the benefit of the doubt.  I don't mean let them go, but we should not interfere with appeals if they have steadfastly maintained their innocence.  The DNA evidence indicates that about half of the appeals are NOT 'frivolous'.  Our best guess is that at least half of all those people desperately and repeatedly appealing our legal system are actually innocent.  Particularly for people serving time for their first ever conviction.  I could see refusing to pay for their appeals, but if a charity/pro-bono lawyer decides to make the appeal, the state should fund the DA in their attempt to deny it.

So stop railing about frivolous appeals, man up and admit that innocent people go to jail.  We have about 2.3 million American convicts, if only 4.3% of them (less than the 5% from DNA), are innocent, that is over 100,000 innocent people in jail.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Government Shutdowns

The GOP is currently considering actions that will result in a shut down.  Slow down, you say, you blame the Democrats?  Sorry, that makes no sense.  The Democrats are (according to the GOP, at least) all in favor of more government, not less.

First, lets talk about what a shut down is not:

  1. The army still fights (some civilan D.o.D. employees - less than 1/3 of them - don't work)
  2. People still get Social Security (new applications still get worked on - but slower)
  3. Courts, FBI, Border Patrol, Cost Guard, Prisons all still work
  4. Post  Office still works
  5. Medicare, veteran benefits, air traffic control, food inspection, etc. still work.
What gets substantially shut down (loses more than  1/3 of their workers)
  1. Parks get shut down
  2. passport applications slow to a crawl
  3. toxic waste cleaners stop cleaning
  4. new regulations are not worked on
  5. federal paychecks sometimes are delayed - but still payed.
  6. federal contractors don't work
  7. EPA practically shuts down
  8. NASA goes dark (still minimum maintenance - we are talking 7% of normal working pop)
  9. Census bureau stops working 
Basically, what happens is we cut government down to the smallest possible size, without risking being invaded by other countries or by criminals, or interfering with the money we owe senior citizens or health care providers.

Wait a second, isn't that exactly what the GOP says they want????

They continuously state that they want small government.  A shut down is the smallest government we think we can have safely.  QED, the ideal conservative government is practically identical to what we get if we simply shut down the government.

It is very, very clear, that the Democrats want to spend more money than is spent when the government shuts down, so clearly the Democrats do not want a shut down government.  The GOP claims to want a small government, so it makes sense for them to want it.

So, why don't they intentionally do it?

I have never heard a 'small government' GOP explain why 'shutting down' the government permanently - or at least for a year to help get our deficit under control - is a good idea.

But I think I know why.  It's a 'be careful what you ask for' thing.  It is a two fold issue.

  1. Most of the GOP is not being sincere when they say the want a small government (and that the Democrats want a big government).   Oh, some of them are honest (and naive), and want a small government - but they are in the minority. The small vs big, spend vs cut is mostly partisan "truthiness", not real, honest to god truth.   The real issue is what we spend our money on (and who will pay it), not how much we pay.
  2. When the government shuts down people suddenly realize the government was doing things they WANTED to do.  That no, the government was not wasting your money, (shutting down does not save a lot of cash), the money buys things we want.   A shut down government reveals the truth - that government does good and necessary work and that a microscopic government is not a good idea.  It teaches Americans that no, government does not waste all their money, most of it is well spent and that we, as Americans WANT a big government - we want national parks, an EPA, NASA, etc.   

Friday, March 25, 2011

Gun Rights

I like guns.   Living in New York City, without a car, makes gun ownership a problem, but if I lived in a locale that was friendlier to gun ownership, I would own some.

However, I don't like the NRA.   It has become obsessed with it's own wealth and survival, not about getting things done.

I propose we do a simple trade.  Ignore the rhetoric and solve two of the major desires of the NRA and one of the anti-gun lobby.

How can I do this?  Simple.  Take them both at their word and craft a law that does what they need while at the same time dealing with the valid objections of their opponents.

Make the law three parts, and clearly state that if one part is thrown out, the other goes with it.

Part 1. A Federal Concealed Carry permit.  It is just plain silly that you need to get each individual states carry permit, if you happen to be traveling.

Part 2. A private gun registration system, administered by the states.  That is, the states license private corporations to act as registrars for guns.  If you buy or sell a gun, you must register the purchase or sale with the private gun registration of your choice, licensed by the state you live in..  That gun registrar is required by law to a) tell the federal government and the state you live in the gun's serial number has been bought/sold.  b)  never identify the current owner of the gun without a warrant.  c) to identify the gun if a legal warrant is presented.

Part 3.  Require every gun manufacturer to fire a test bullet for each gun's serial number, sending them to the federal government.

Note that the fact that both purchase and sale are required to be notified presents a good way to check up on the private companies- if company a registers a sale but company b does not register the buy, then the government knows something is off.

Let the states regulate the private registrars as they wish - with some kind of corporate licensing fee to fund the states regulation of the registrars.  Then let the free market take care of everything.

Note that a) this protects gun owners rights to privacy, preventing the government from knowing who owns which guns, b) allows the police to accurate trace any weapon from any bullet found, and c) gets rid of bureaucrat bull crap that makes it difficult to legally transport guns.