Category Archives: Politics

Say no to Kansas taxpayer-funded campaigning

Kansas taxpayers should know their tax dollars are helping staff campaigns for political office.

As reported by the Wichita Eagle, it is perfectly allowable for some Kansas state government employees to work on political campaigns.1

Can you spot the taxpayer-paid state employees on the campaign trail? The Wichita Eagle says there are two. (Click for larger)
Can you spot the taxpayer-paid state employees on the campaign trail? The Wichita Eagle says there are two. (Click for larger)
Not all Kansas state government employees can work on campaigns while being paid by taxpayers. Only personal staff members of elected officials can. But this can be quite a large number of people. The Eagle reports that Governor Sam Brownback has 21 personal staff members.

It’s not only the governor that has taxpayer-paid employees on the campaign trail. The Eagle also reports that a member of Senate President Susan Wagle‘s office has been on the campaign trail.

That senate employee, along with an employee of the governor’s office, were spotted campaigning for Gene Suellentrop. His Facebook page seemed pleased with their participation, again according to Eagle reporting:

Rep. Gene Suellentrop, R-Wichita, who is seeking the vacant seat in Senate District 27, posted a photo of himself and 10 campaign door walkers on Facebook last month with a message saying, “The Suellentrop for Senate crew! Coming soon to your door step.”

The photo, posted on June 14, a Tuesday, includes Ashley Moretti, a member of Brownback’s staff, and Eric Turek, who works for Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita.

“Those two showed up late that afternoon on their own, I have not requested any help from any leadership,” Suellentrop said in an e-mail. “They were sure happy to get into a picture of our winning campaign.”

The first question the taxpayers of Kansas ought to ask is this: If these taxpayer-paid staff members have time to work on political campaigns, who is doing the work of the people of Kansas in their absence? What tasks are postponed so that these staff members can work on campaigns?

The answer to this question, I’m afraid, is that there are too many staff members.

The second question we should ask is this: Why is this practice allowed? There is a ruling from the ethics commission that allows this use of personal staff. Which leads to the third question: Why hasn’t the legislature passed a law to prohibit this practice?

The answer to that last question, I’m afraid, is that the ruling class protects its own. For example, there is an organization known as the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Its job is to re-elect Republican senate incumbents. It doesn’t say this, but that is what it does. This is representative of the attitude of the political class. Once most officeholders have been in office a few years, they comfortably transition to the political class. Thereafter, their most important job is their re-election campaign, followed closely by the campaigns of their cronies.

This is why you see Brownback and Wagle lending taxpayer-funded staff to the Suellentrop campaign. Should he be elected to the Kansas Senate, well, how can’t he be grateful?

Here’s what needs to happen.

First, this process must stop. Even though it is allowable, it is not right. We need leaders that recognize this. (Both Republicans and Democrats are guilty.)

Second. The trio of Suellentrop, Brownback, and Wagle need to reimburse Kansas taxpayers for the salaries of these staff for the time spent working on campaigns. (We should not blame the staff members. It’s the bosses and rule makers that are the problem.)

Third. Brownback and Wagle need to send staff to work for Suellentrop’s Republican challenger to the same degree they worked on the Suellentrop campaign. Either that, or make a contribution of the same value of the campaign services these taxpayer-funded Kansas state government workers supplied. Any other candidate in a similar situation — that of having taxpayer funds used to campaign against them — should receive the same compensation.

Now, some may be wondering how is this different from the governor endorsing senate candidates in 2012. It’s one matter for an officeholder to endorse a candidate. It’s an entirely different matter to send taxpayer-paid staff to work on campaigns. I hope that didn’t happen in 2012.

Fourth. Apologies to Kansas taxpayers are in order, as is a quick legislative fix. And, a reduction in personal staff members, as — obviously — there are too many.

Finally, thanks to the Eagle’s Bryan Lowry for this reporting.


Notes

  1. Lowry, Bryan. Taxpayer-funded campaign staff can knock at Kansans’ doors. Wichita Eagle, July 17, 2016. Available at www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/election/article90179637.html.

Candidate forum: Kansas Senate and Sedgwick County Commission

The Sedgwick County Republican Party held a candidate forum. Invited were candidates for Kansas Senate, district 27, and Sedgwick County Commission, district 3. Candidates are:

  • In Senate district 27: Lori Graham and Gene Suellentrop
  • In Sedgwick County Commission district 3: David Dennis and Karl Peterjohn.

This is an audio presentation recorded on July 14, 2016.

At Pachyderm: Chapman Rackaway on the Kansas primary elections

Voice for Liberty radio logo square 02 155x116On Friday May 20, 2016, Professor Chapman Rackaway of Fort Hays State University briefed members and guests of the Wichita Pachyderm Club on the August primary elections. Two surprises: Will Jerry Moran have a Republican challenger, and who does Dr. Rackaway believe Donald Trump should select for a running mate? This is an audio presentation. Accompanying visual aids are here.

Shownotes

Electioneering in Kansas?

An op-ed written under the banner of a non-profit organization appears to violate the ban on electioneering.

In a recent Wichita Eagle op-ed, former state budget director and senior fellow at the Kansas Center for Economic Growth Duane Goosen offered some wise advice to Kansas voters: “Before voting, check out legislative candidates carefully.”1

But he then follows immediately with this: “If a candidate supported Brownback’s fiscal experiment and wants to stay the course, being a financially literate voter requires marking your ballot for somebody else.”

This seems to cross a line, that line being electioneering by non-profit organizations. KCEG itself is not a recognized non-profit organization. Instead, it is a side project of Kansas Action for Children, Inc., which is a section 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.

In exchange for their tax exempt status, these organizations face certain restrictions. In particular, the Internal Revenue Service says these organizations are “absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”2

The IRS says voter education activities conducted in a non-partisan manner are allowed. But: “On the other hand, voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.”3

The candidates Goossen recommends voting against, while not named in his op-ed, are a clearly-defined set. Their names appear in news stories, editorials, the Journal of the House of Representatives and other places. This is an example of “oppose a candidate in some manner,” and is where Goossen appears to cross the line from voter education to electioneering.

  1. Goossen, Duane. Governor, lawmakers flunk financial literacy. Wichita Eagle, May 7, 2016. Available at www.kansas.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/article76165857.html.
  2. Internal revenue service. The Restriction of Political Campaign Intervention by Section 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Organizations. Available at www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Charitable-Organizations/The-Restriction-of-Political-Campaign-Intervention-by-Section-501(c)(3)-Tax-Exempt-Organizations.
  3. ibid.

‘Islamophobia’ Is Still Not the Problem: In Kansas, Another Case Study

From National Review, expert opinion the Wichita Eagle declined to use.

‘Islamophobia’ Is Still Not the Problem: In Kansas, Another Case Study
By Andrew C. McCarthy

In March, the Islamic Society of Wichita rescinded an invitation to Monzer Taleb, a longtime sympathizer of Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and a formally designated terrorist organization under American law. Taleb was to speak at a fundraiser, but the Islamic Society canceled his appearance when community members protested and Representative Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) publicly raised questions about the matter. The Wichita Eagle covered the controversy. In my opinion, the paper’s reporting stressed the allegations of “Islamophobia” posited by Islamist sympathizers in reaction to the protests. The paper also focused on what it described as “a trend by anti-government militias of targeting Muslims.” The impropriety of a prominent Islamic organization’s decision to give a platform to an apologist for a terrorist organization seemed of, at best, secondary importance. Consequently, last Thursday (April 7), I submitted a proposed op-ed to the Wichita Eagle. This weekend, a member of the paper’s editorial board informed me that the paper believed it had adequately covered the matter and therefore had decided to decline my op-ed. I have reproduced it, below.

Continue reading at ‘Islamophobia’ Is Still Not the Problem: In Kansas, Another Case Study.

Lawrence school funding and employment

A Kansas school board president complains about funding, but the district has been able to grow employment faster than enrollment.

A newspaper article features the Lawrence school board president complaining about school funding. (Advocates rally for school funding amid competing claims about cuts, March 14 Lawrence Journal World)

There are competing claims. Some look at total spending. Others, as noted in the article, say analysis of spending must be nuanced by consideration of “special education, retirement fund contributions and aid for special budget funds such as bond and interest funds and capital outlay.”

The same article also notes: “But because lawmakers converted school funding to a block grant system last year, combining several different kinds of aid into a single grant, exact comparisons to previous years are difficult to make.”

All this is true to some extent. But there is a way to clear some of the fog, and that is to look at the number of employees in a school district compared to the number of students.

Schools tell us that their largest expenditure is on personnel costs. Across the country, the portion of current expenditures going to salaries and benefits hovers around 80 percent. 1

So looking at the number of employees tells us a lot — almost everything, in fact — about how the school district is faring.

When we look, we find that starting in 2011 the number of employees in the Lawrence school district has risen faster than the number of students. (The count is divided into certified employees and K-12 teachers, and does not include special education teachers.) Correspondingly, the ratios of these employees has fallen over the same period. The pupil-teacher ratio has fallen from 17.28 to 15.47, and the certified employee-pupil ratio has fallen from 11.70 to 10.85.

So however spending is compartmentalized, whether KPERS contributions are included or not, whether the funding comes from state or local sources, whether spending is adjusted for inflation, the Lawrence school district has been able to improve its employee-pupil ratios substantially.

Data is from Kansas State Department of Education. Visualization created using Tableau Public. You may use the visualization to view figures from all Kansas school districts here.

Lawrence school district employment and enrollment. Click for larger.
Lawrence school district employment and enrollment. Click for larger.
  1. National Center for Education Statistics: The Condition of Education, Elementary and Secondary Education, Finance, Public School Expenditures. Available at: http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cmb.asp.

Should the U.S. implement austerity measures?

From Michael Smith, Chair of Department of Social Sciences at Emporia State University: “Video is now available for the debated hosted by Murad Gündüz Jalilov on behalf of Up to Us and the Public Administration Club: Should the U.S. implement austerity measures due to the size of the national debt? Featuring Dr. Max Skidmore of UMKC and Mr. Bob Weeks of wichitaliberty.org.”

View below, or click here to view at YouTube. The video was recorded in a challenging acoustical environment. An audio recording that I captured and processed for clarity is available at Debate: The National Debt.

Ranzau petition to Kansas Supreme Court

A filing by a group seeking to recall a county commissioner declares “facts” that can’t possibly be known at this time.

Those hoping to recall Sedgwick County Commissioner Richard Ranzau have filed a petition with the Kansas Supreme Court seeking to overturn the finding of the Sedgwick County District Attorney. That finding was the petition did not meet the grounds and conditions proscribed in Kansas law.

(Many news headlines and reporting use phrases like “District Attorney blocks petition.” That’s not accurate. The DA simply ruled that the petition did not meet the legal requirements.)

In the filing, under a section title “Statement of Facts,” paragraph 2 starts with “It is the will of the electors of Sedgwick County’s District 4 to seek the removal of Richard Ranzau from office …”

I’d like to know how the petitioner knows the will of the electors (voters) of district 4, specifically that they want to remove Ranzau from office. Since August 2008, Ranzau has prevailed in all four elections regarding his current office. In each election the revealed preference — or “will” — of the voters is that they preferred Ranzau to the alternatives, both other Republicans in two primary elections, and Democrats in two general elections. Each election was contested by experienced politicians who had held offices including that of Sedgwick County Commissioner, Wichita City Council Member, Kansas State Representative, and Kansas State Senator.

The only fact we know so far is that there are 100 citizens of Sedgwick County (not just district 4 residents) who have signed up to become recall petition circulators. Should the recall petition be approved, these circulators would have to gather a large number of valid signatures in a short period of time. If that petitioning effort is successful, there will be an election. It is at that time — and only that time — that the electors (voters) of district 4 express their will regarding the recall of Richard Ranzau.

Year in review: 2015

Here are highlights from the Voice for Liberty for 2015. Also be sure to view the programs on WichitaLiberty.TV for guests like debate expert Rodney Wren, radio talk show Joseph Ashby, Congressman Mike Pompeo, Dave Trabert and James Franko of Kansas Policy Institute, author Shari Howard McMinn, Sedgwick County Commissioners Karl Peterjohn and Richard Ranzau, Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute, Rodger Woods of Americans for Prosperity, Jeffrey Tucker of Foundation for Economic Education, Radio talk show host Andy Hooser, and Jonathan Williams of American Legislative Exchange Council.

January

A chance for Wichita to embrace transparency
Promises of transparency were made during the recent Wichita sales tax campaign. If the city cares about government transparency, the city should implement its campaign promises, even though the tax did not pass. Click here.

Wichita loan agreement subject to interpretation
In 2009 the City of Wichita entered into an ambiguous agreement to grant a forgivable loan, and then failed to follow its own agreement. Worse yet, there has been no improvement to similar contracts. Such agreements empower the city to grant favor at its discretion. Click here.

Wichita TIF projects: some background
Tax increment financing disrupts the usual flow of tax dollars, routing funds away from cash-strapped cities, counties, and schools back to the TIF-financed development. TIF creates distortions in the way cities develop, and researchers find that the use of TIF means lower economic growth. Click here.

Government intervention may produce unwanted incentives
A Kansas economic development incentive program has the potential to alter hiring practices for reasons not related to applicants’ job qualifications. Click here.

Wichita city hall falls short in taxpayer protection
An incentives agreement the Wichita city council passed on first reading is missing several items that city policy requires. How the council and city staff handle the second reading of this ordinance will let us know for whose interests city hall works: citizens, or cronies. Click here.

In Kansas, PEAK has a leak
A Kansas economic development incentive program is pitched as being self-funded, but is probably a drain on the state treasure nonetheless. Click here.

Kansas Democratic Party income tax reckoning
A story told to generate sympathy for working mothers at the expense of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is based on arithmetic that is not plausible. Click here.

A Kansas calamity, at $15,399 per pupil
If things are so bad in Kansas schools at this level of spending, will any amount of spending satisfy school districts? Click here.

Sin-tax or vice-tax?
As Kansas considers raising additional revenue by raising the tax on tobacco and alcohol, let’s declare the end to governmental labeling of vice as sin, and people as sinners. Click here.

Ray Merrick on the gotcha factor
The Kansas House of Representatives, led by its Speaker, decides to retain the ability to cast votes in secret. Click here.

February

Availability of testimony in the Kansas Legislature
Despite having a website with the capability, only about one-third of standing committees in the Kansas Legislature are providing written testimony online. Click here.

Kansas spring elections should be moved
Moving spring elections to fall of even-numbered years would produce more votes on local offices like city council and school board. Click here.

Making Wichita an inclusive and attractive community
There are things both easy and difficult Wichita could do to make the city inclusive and welcoming of all, especially the young and diverse. Click here.

How do school choice programs affect budgets and performance of school districts?
Opponents of school choice programs argue the programs harm school districts, both financially and in their ability to serve their remaining students. Evidence does not support this position. Click here.

What we can learn from the piano
The purchase of a piano by a Kansas school district teaches us a lesson. Instead of a system in which schools raise money voluntarily — a system in which customers are happy to buy, donors are happy to give, and schools are grateful to receive — we have strife. Click here.

Community improvement districts in Kansas
Community Improvement Districts are a relatively recent creation of the Kansas Legislature. In a CID, merchants charge additional sales tax, up to an extra two cents per dollar. Click here.

Industrial revenue bonds in Kansas
Industrial Revenue Bonds are a confusing economic development program. Click here.

STAR bonds in Kansas
The Kansas STAR bonds program provides a mechanism for spending by autopilot, without specific appropriation by the legislature. Click here.

Sam Williams, CPA?
Sam Williams, a candidate for Wichita mayor, is not entitled to use the title “CPA,” according to Kansas law. Click here.

Rally for school choice in Kansas
This month, parents and children from around Kansas rallied in the Kansas Capitol for school choice. Click here.

March

School choice and state spending on schools
States like Kansas that are struggling to balance budgets could use school choice programs as a way to save money. Click here.

Energy subsidies for electricity production, in proportion
To compare federal subsidies for the production of electricity, we must consider subsidy values in proportion to the amount of electricity generated, because the magnitude is vastly different.
Click here.

Block grants a chance for more school choice in Kansas
The block grant school funding bill under consideration in the Kansas Legislature would hold districts harmless for enrollment declines due to school choice. Click here.

Downtown Wichita deal shows some of the problems with the Wichita economy
A look at the Wichita city council’s action regarding a downtown Wichita development project and how it is harmful to Wichita taxpayers and the economy. Click here.

April

Study on state and local regulation released
Kansas Policy Institute released a study of regulation and its impact at the state and local level. This is different from most investigations of regulation, as most focus on federal regulations. Click here.

Wichita city council member Jeff Longwell should not have voted
A sequence of events involving Jeff Longwell should concern citizens as they select the next Wichita mayor. Based on Wichita law, Longwell should not have voted on a matter involving the Ambassador Hotel, either for or against it. Click here.

Rich States, Poor States, 2105 edition
In Rich States, Poor States, Kansas continues with middle-of-the-pack performance, and fell in the forward-looking forecast for the second year in a row. Click here.

Sedgwick County elections have an anomaly
A Wichita statistician is thwarted in efforts to obtain data that might explain a strange observation. Click here.

Wichita Eagle fails readers, again
In its coverage of the 2015 election, the Wichita Eagle prints several stories that ought to cause readers to question the reliability of its newsroom.
Click here.

Economic indicators for Kansas
During this century the Kansas economy has not kept up with the national economy and most neighboring states. Click here.

Did Jeff Longwell dodge a tough city council vote?
On election day, Wichita city council member and mayoral candidate Jeff Longwell appears to have ducked an inconvenient vote and would not say why. Click here.

Intrust Bank Arena loss for 2014 is $5 million
The depreciation expense of Intrust Bank Arena in downtown Wichita recognizes and accounts for the sacrifices of the people of Sedgwick County and its visitors to pay for the arena. But no one wants to talk about this. Click here.

Wichita has examples of initiative and referendum
Citizens in Wichita have been busy exercising their rights of initiative and referendum at the municipal level. The Kansas Legislature should grant the same rights to citizens at the state level. Click here.

May

Wichita economic development, the need for reform
An incentives deal for a Wichita company illustrates a capacity problem and the need for reform. Click here.

Wichita property tax rates up again
The City of Wichita says that it hasn’t raised its mill levy in many years. Data shows the mill levy has risen, and its use has shifted from debt service to current consumption. Click here.

Brownback derangement syndrome on display
A newspaper op-ed illustrates some of the muddled thinking of Kansas newspaper editorialists, not to mention Brownback derangement syndrome. Click here.

In Wichita, bad governmental behavior excused
A Wichita newspaper op-ed is either ignorant of, or decides to forgive and excuse, bad behavior in Wichita government, particularly by then-mayoral candidate Jeff Longwell. Click here.

Soviet-style society seen as Wichita’s future
If local governments don’t fund arts, we risk a Soviet-style existence. This line of thought is precisely backwards. Click here.

Wichita water statistics update
Updated statistics show that the Wichita ASR water project has not been producing water at the projected rate, even after projections were halved. (This article was updated each month as new statistics became available.) Click here.

Kansas public school establishment ought to thank Sam Brownback
Kansas public schools ought to thank the governor and legislature for failing to give parents the power of school choice. Click here.

June

In Wichita, campaigning for a tax, then asking for exemption from paying
Having contributed $5,000 to persuade Wichita voters to raise the sales tax, a company now seeks exemption from paying any sales tax. Click here.

Taxation in the states
Examining tax collections by the states shows that Kansas collects more tax than many of our neighbors, and should put to rest some common myths. Click here.

With tax exemptions, what message does Wichita send to existing landlords?
As the City of Wichita prepares to grant special tax status to another new industrial building, existing landlords must be wondering why they struggle to stay in business when city hall sets up subsidized competitors with new buildings and a large cost advantage. Click here.

How to turn $399,000 into $65,000 in downtown Wichita
Once embraced by Wichita officials as heroes, real estate listings for two floors of a downtown Wichita office building illustrate the carnage left behind by two developers. Click here.

Kansas sales tax has disproportionate harmful effects
Kansas legislative and executive leaders must realize that a shift to consumption taxes must be accompanied by relief from its disproportionate harm to low-income households. Click here.

July

The candlemakers’ petition
The arguments presented in the following essay by Frederic Bastiat, written in 1845, are still in use in city halls, county courthouses, school district boardrooms, state capitals, and probably most prominently and with the greatest harm, Washington. Click here.

Wichita property taxes still high, but comparatively better
An ongoing study reveals that generally, property taxes on commercial and industrial property in Wichita are high. In particular, taxes on commercial property in Wichita are among the highest in the nation, although Wichita has improved comparatively. Click here.

In Wichita, wasting electricity a chronic problem
The chronic waste of electricity in downtown Wichita is a problem that probably won’t be solved soon, given the city’s attitude. Click here.

Kansas school standards evaluated
A new edition of an ongoing study shows that Kansas school standards are weak, compared to other states. This is a continuation of a trend. Click here.

Wichita schools could increase engagement at no cost
The Wichita public school district could boost its engagement with citizens with a simple step that would add no cost. Click here.

For Sedgwick County Zoo, a moratorium on its commitment
As the Sedgwick County Zoo and its supporters criticize commissioners for failing to honor commitments, the Zoo is enjoying a deferral of loan payments and a break from accumulating interest charges. Click here.

August

Sedgwick County spending beneficiaries overwhelm others
That so many speakers at a public hearing were in favor of government spending is not surprising. Click here.

In Wichita, benefitting from your sales taxes, but not paying their own
A Wichita real estate development benefits from the sales taxes you pay, but doesn’t want to pay themselves. Click here.

Federal rules serve as ‘worms’ buried in promises of ‘free money’
An often unappreciated mechanism throughout the Kansas budget severely limits the ability of legislators and governors to adapt to changing state priorities. A new paper from Kansas Policy Institute explains. Click here.

In Sedgwick County, expectation of government entitlements
In Sedgwick County, we see that once companies are accustomed to government entitlements, any reduction is met with resistance. Click here.

In Wichita, an incomplete economic development analysis
The Wichita City Council will consider an economic development incentive based on an analysis that is nowhere near complete. Click here.

In Sedgwick County, a moral crusade
In Sedgwick County the debate over the budget has the dimension of a moral crusade, except for one thing. Click here.

Cost of restoring quality of life spending cuts in Sedgwick County: 43 deaths
An analysis of public health spending in Sedgwick County illuminates the consequences of public spending decisions. In particular, those calling for more spending on zoos and arts must consider the lives that could be saved by diverting this spending to public health, according to analysis from Kansas Health Institute. Click here.

Wichita Chamber speaks on county spending and taxes
The Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce urges spending over fiscally sound policies and tax restraint in Sedgwick County. Click here.

Wichita property tax delinquency problem not solved
Despite a government tax giveaway program, problems with delinquent special assessment taxes in Wichita have become worse. Click here.

Kansas school standards found lower than in most states
A second study finds that Kansas uses low standards for evaluating the performance of students in its public schools. Click here.

Wichita Business Journal reporting misses the point
Reporting by the Wichita Business Journal regarding economic development incentives in Wichita makes a big mistake in overlooking where the real money is. Click here.

The Kansas economy and agriculture
There’s no need for Kansas state government to exaggerate the value of agriculture to the Kansas economy. Click here.

Wichita CID illustrates pitfalls of government intervention
A proposed special tax district in Wichita holds the potential to harm consumers, the city’s reputation, and the business prospects of competitors. Besides, we shouldn’t let private parties use a government function for their exclusive benefit. Click here.

September

Another week in Wichita, more CID sprawl
Shoppers in west Wichita should prepare to pay higher taxes, if the city approves a Community Improvement District at Kellogg and West Streets. Click here.

Wichita’s demolition policy
Wichita homeowners must pay for demolition of their deteriorating homes, but the owners of a long-festering and highly visible commercial property get to use tax funds for their demolition expense. Click here.

Sales tax exemptions in Kansas
Can eliminating sales tax exemptions in Kansas generate a pot of gold? Click here.

Kansas Center for Economic Growth and the truth
Why can’t Kansas public school spending advocates — especially a former Kansas state budget director — tell the truth about schools and spending, wonders Dave Trabert of Kansas Policy Institute. Click here.

Criminal justice reform: Why it matters
Mark Holden, Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Koch Industries, Inc., speaks about criminal justice reform initiatives Koch is encouraging in and why they’re important from moral, constitutional and fiscal perspectives. Click here.

Where are our documents?
Government promotes and promises transparency, but finds it difficult to actually provide. Click here.

State taxes and charitable giving
States with higher rates of economic growth grow total charitable giving at a faster rate than states with low rates of economic growth, finds a new report by American Legislative Exchange Council. Click here.

October

Wichita perpetuates wasteful system of grants; feels good about it
While praising the U.S. Economic Development Administration for a grant to Wichita State university, Wichita city planners boost the growth of wasteful government spending. Click here.

Wichita cheers its planned economy
While success in growing a company is welcome in Wichita, there are broader issues that affect the rest of the metropolitan area. Click here.

Despite growth of sharing economy, Wichita relies on centralization
The sharing economy provides for the decentralization and privatization of regulation, but the City of Wichita clings to the old ways. Click here.

Kansas school fund balances
Kansas school fund balances rose slightly this year, both in absolute dollars and dollars per pupil. Click here.

Merit pay fairness is not about teachers
Opposing teacher merit pay based on fairness issues isn’t being fair to students. Instead, it’s cruel to students. Click here.

Wichita’s growth in gross domestic product
An interactive visualization of gross domestic product for metropolitan areas. Click here.

Wichita Chamber calls for more cronyism
By advocating for revival of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce continues its advocacy for more business welfare, more taxes, more wasteful government spending, and more cronyism. Click here.

Kansas school support
An interactive visualization of data provided to members of the Kansas 2015 Special Committee on K-12 Student Success. Click here.

Bombardier can be a learning experience
The unfortunate news of the cancellation of a new aircraft program can be a learning opportunity for Wichita. Click here.

Wichita officials, newspaper, just don’t get it on Ex-Im Bank
Wichita’s establishment prefers cronyism over capitalism. Click here.

November

Kansas NAEP scores for 2015
Reactions to the release of National Assessment of Educational Progress scores for Kansas and the nation. Also, an interactive visualization. Click here.

Wichita Eagle: Reporting, then research
Wichita Eagle reporting on a controversy involving religion might leave discerning readers wondering just what is the correct story. Click here.

Kansas fiscal experiment
Those evaluating the Kansas fiscal “experiment” should consider what is the relevant input variable. Click here.

Campaign contribution changes in Wichita
A change to Wichita city election law is likely to have little practical effect. Click here.

Wichita to consider three tax abatements
When considering whether to grant three property tax abatements, the Wichita city council is unlikely to ask this question: Why can’t these companies expand if they have to pay the same taxes everyone else pays? Click here.

For Wichita’s mayor, too many public hearings
Is the Wichita city council burdened with too many public hearings? Wichita’s mayor seems to think so. Click here.

Historic preservation tax credits, or developer welfare?
A Wichita developer seeks to have taxpayers fund a large portion of his development costs, using a wasteful government program of dubious value. Click here.

Kansas cities force tax breaks on others
When Kansas cities grant economic development incentives, they may also unilaterally take action that affects overlapping jurisdictions such as counties, school districts, and the state itself. The legislature should end this. Click here.

December

Wichita checkbook register
A records request to the City of Wichita results in data as well as insight into the city’s attitude towards empowering citizens with data. Click here.

Kansas school reform
A Wichita economist and attorney offers advice to a committee of the Kansas Legislature on reforming Kansas schools for student achievement. Click here.

Employment by metropolitan area
An interactive visualization of employment in metropolitan areas. Click here.

Survey finds Kansans with little knowledge of school spending
As in years past, a survey finds that when Kansans are asked questions about the level of school spending, few have the correct information. Click here.

A simple step for transparency in Kansas government
There exists a simple and inexpensive way for the Kansas Legislature to make its proceedings more readily available. Click here.

Wichita Pachyderm Club: 2015 speakers and programs
Here is a list of all the Wichita Pachyderm Club programs in 2015. For many of the programs a video or audio presentation is available. Click here.

Wichita Pachyderm Club: 2015 speakers and programs

Here is a list of all the Wichita Pachyderm Club programs in 2015. For many of the programs a video or audio presentation is available. For those programs, the link is clickable.

Thank you to club president John Stevens for compiling the list, and to vice-president John Todd for putting together these programs.

Click here to access this document.

Guest host for Voice of Reason

Bob 2015-12-17 11.25.52On Thursday I filled in as guest host on The Voice of Reason with Andy Hooser as the host took a few days of vacation. Joseph Ashby of the Joseph Ashby Show was the producer. Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn was in-studio guest for most of the show. Jennifer Baysinger of Colaition for a Better Wichita called to discuss Wichita’s future water supply.

Arthur Brooks in Wichita

Arthur C. Brooks, author of The Conservative Heart, spoke about being a happy warrior in the conservative movement during the keynote speech of the Annual Awards Dinner of the Kansas Policy Institute on October 20, 2015, in Wichita. Brooks was introduced by KPI President Dave Trabert. Videography by Paul Soutar. View below, or click here to view at YouTube.

Criminal justice reform: Why it matters

Mark Holden, Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Koch Industries, Inc., speaks about criminal justice reform initiatives Koch is encouraging in and why they’re important from moral, constitutional and fiscal perspectives. Holden spoke at a luncheon of the Wichita Pachyderm Club on September 18, 2015. View below, or click here to view in high definition at YouTube. Videography by Paul Soutar.

More information about this topic is at The Overcriminalization of America.

Politics, the courts, and innovative solutions

Voice for Liberty radio logo square 02 155x116The Honorable 18th Judicial District Court Judge Phil Journey presented an inspiring and forward thinking presentation at the Wichita Pachyderm Club luncheon meeting titled, “Politics, the Courts, and Innovative Solutions.” Said Pachyderm Club vice-president John Todd: “Judge Journey’s common-sense, fair, effective, and innovative methods of dealing with people who appear in his court is superb.” This audio presentation was recorded on July 24, 2015. The accompanying visual presentation is here.

A Republican dark horse?

Wondering if “the GOP isn’t on course to nominating their very own [Michael] Dukakis?” the Weekly Standard suggests a few possibilities, including Kansas’ Mike Pompeo:

Who could such a mysterious dark horse be? Well, it’s not as if every well-qualified contender is already on the field. Mitch Daniels was probably the most successful Republican governor of recent times, with federal executive experience to boot. Paul Ryan is the intellectual leader of Republicans in the House of Representatives, with national campaign experience. The House also features young but tested leaders like Jim Jordan, Trey Gowdy and Mike Pompeo. There is the leading elected representative of the 9/11 generation who has also been a very impressive freshman senator, Tom Cotton. There could be a saner and sounder version of Trump—another businessman who hasn’t held electoral office. And there are distinguished conservative leaders from outside politics; Justice Samuel Alito and General (ret.) Jack Keane come to mind.

From An October Surprise For the GOP?

Intellectuals vs. the rest of us

Why are so many opposed to private property and free exchange — capitalism, in other words — in favor of large-scale government interventionism? Lack of knowledge, or ignorance, is one answer, but there is another. From August 2013.

brain-diagram-cartoonAt a recent educational meeting I attended, someone asked the question: Why doesn’t everyone believe what we (most of the people attending) believe: that private property and free exchange — capitalism, in other words — are superior to government intervention and control over the economy?

It’s question that I’ve asked at conferences I’ve attended. The most hopeful answer is ignorance. While that may seem a harsh word to use, ignorance is simply a “state of being uninformed.” That can be cured by education. This is the reason for this website. This is the reason why I and others testify in favor of free markets and against government intervention. It is the reason why John Todd gives out hundreds of copies of I, Pencil, purchased at his own expense.

But there is another explanation, and one that is less hopeful. There is an intellectual class in our society that benefits mightily from government. This class also believes that their cause is moral, that they are anointed, as Thomas Sowell explains in The vision of the anointed: self-congratulation as a basis for social policy: “What all these highly disparate crusades have in common is their moral exaltation of the anointed above others, who are to have their very different views nullified and superseded by the views of the anointed, imposed via the power of government.”

Murray N. Rothbard explains further the role of the intellectual class in the first chapter of For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto, titled “The Libertarian Heritage: The American Revolution and Classical Liberalism.” Since most intellectuals favor government over a market economy and work towards that end, what do the intellectuals get? “In exchange for spreading this message to the public, the new breed of intellectuals was rewarded with jobs and prestige as apologists for the New Order and as planners and regulators of the newly cartelized economy and society.”

There it is: Planners and regulators. We have plenty of these at all levels of government, and these are prime examples of the intellectual class. Is it any wonder that the locus of centralized planning in south-central Kansas — sustainable communities — is at a government university?

As Rothbard explains, intellectuals have cleverly altered the very meaning of words to suit their needs:

One of the ways that the new statist intellectuals did their work was to change the meaning of old labels, and therefore to manipulate in the minds of the public the emotional connotations attached to such labels. For example, the laissez-faire libertarians had long been known as “liberals,” and the purest and most militant of them as “radicals”; they had also been known as “progressives” because they were the ones in tune with industrial progress, the spread of liberty, and the rise in living standards of consumers. The new breed of statist academics and intellectuals appropriated to themselves the words “liberal” and “progressive,” and successfully managed to tar their laissez- faire opponents with the charge of being old-fashioned, “Neanderthal,” and “reactionary.” Even the name “conservative” was pinned on the classical liberals. And, as we have seen, the new statists were able to appropriate the concept of “reason” as well.

We see this at work in Wichita, where those who advocate for capitalism and free markets instead of government intervention are called, in the case of Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and Wichita Eagle editorial writer Rhonda Holman, “naysayers.”

The sad realization is that as government has extended its reach into so many areas of our lives, to advocate for liberty instead of government intervention is to oppose many things that people have accepted as commonplace or inevitable. To advocate that free people should trade voluntarily with other free people — instead of forming a plan for them — is to be dismissed as “not serious.”

Rothbard further explains the role of intellectuals in promoting what they see as the goodness of expansive government:

Throughout the ages, the emperor has had a series of pseudo-clothes provided for him by the nation’s intellectual caste. In past centuries, the intellectuals informed the public that the State or its rulers were divine, or at least clothed in divine authority, and therefore what might look to the naive and untutored eye as despotism, mass murder, and theft on a grand scale was only the divine working its benign and mysterious ways in the body politic. In recent decades, as the divine sanction has worn a bit threadbare, the emperor’s “court intellectuals” have spun ever more sophisticated apologia: informing the public that what the government does is for the “common good” and the “public welfare,” that the process of taxation-and-spending works through the mysterious process of the “multiplier” to keep the economy on an even keel, and that, in any case, a wide variety of governmental “services” could not possibly be performed by citizens acting voluntarily on the market or in society. All of this the libertarian denies: he sees the various apologia as fraudulent means of obtaining public support for the State’s rule, and he insists that whatever services the government actually performs could be supplied far more efficiently and far more morally by private and cooperative enterprise.

The libertarian therefore considers one of his prime educational tasks is to spread the demystification and desanctification of the State among its hapless subjects. His task is to demonstrate repeatedly and in depth that not only the emperor but even the “democratic” State has no clothes; that all governments subsist by exploitive rule over the public; and that such rule is the reverse of objective necessity. He strives to show that the very existence of taxation and the State necessarily sets up a class division between the exploiting rulers and the exploited ruled. He seeks to show that the task of the court intellectuals who have always supported the State has ever been to weave mystification in order to induce the public to accept State rule, and that these intellectuals obtain, in return, a share in the power and pelf extracted by the rulers from their deluded subjects.

And so the alliance between state and intellectual is formed. The intellectuals are usually rewarded quite handsomely by the state for their subservience, writes Rothbard:

The alliance is based on a quid pro quo: on the one hand, the intellectuals spread among the masses the idea that the State and its rulers are wise, good, sometimes divine, and at the very least inevitable and better than any conceivable alternatives. In return for this panoply of ideology, the State incorporates the intellectuals as part of the ruling elite, granting them power, status, prestige, and material security. Furthermore, intellectuals are needed to staff the bureaucracy and to “plan” the economy and society.

The “material security,” measured in dollars, can be pretty good, as shown by these examples: The Wichita city manager is paid $185,000, the Sedgwick county manager is paid $175,095, and the superintendent of the Wichita school district is paid $224,910.

‘Roast of Trump’ best left unserved

A celebrity roast of Donald Trump provides insight into the honoree’s character.

Anyone who is thinking of supporting Donald Trump for president might want to view the Comedy Central Roast of Trump. This was recorded in 2011, and several roasters referred to Trump’s possible presidential candidacy. You can find it on YouTube.

In these roasts the humor is raunchy and vulgar. The language is foul. I’m not sure I understand all the jokes, and I’m a little ashamed to admit that I do understand many. The roasters — a collection of has-beens like Larry King and celebrities who seem to do nothing but appear on roasts — poke fun at the roastee, in this case Donald Trump.

Well, it’s much more than poking fun. The roasters skewer Trump. No aspect of his life seems off limits. Multiple jokes refer to his several young wives and his sex life. These jokes are often funny. They’re funny because they exaggerate some aspect of Trump. They have to have a whiff of plausibility, some grounding in reality, in order to be funny.

If, for example, a roaster were to poke fun at Trump for being poor or short, that wouldn’t be funny. Trump is not poor; he’s extremely wealthy, and he’s tall. There’s no platform from which to exaggerate for humorous effect.

But when a roaster crudely jests at how Trump’s ego intrudes on his sex life (it has to do with Trump being more interested in himself than in his partner), that’s pretty funny. It references things that are true about Trump — his massive ego and his several beautiful young wives — and exaggerates a little.

Jokes like this could not have been a surprise to Trump. He (or his people) must have known the nature of the humor employed at these roasts. So the question is: Why did he appear in such a forum? Is this a way to appear presidential?