A few weeks ago Kansas University political science professor Burdett Loomis had an opinion piece in The Wichita Eagle. Commenting on it at the time, I wrote “Overall, Loomis presents an argument for the status quo in Kansas government, and the potential for change in the direction of restraining its growth has Loomis — in his own words — ‘concerned — worried, even.'” Now Alan Cobb of Topeka, who is vice president of state operations at Americans for Prosperity Foundation, comments. Following is the unabridged version of Cobb’s op-ed that appeared in today’s Wichita Eagle.
A few weeks ago, noted KU political science professor and nice guy, Burdett Loomis, commented that everything is fine here in Kansas, so why would anyone want to lower taxes or change anything?
Where to start? If you compare Kansas to much of the world, yes, we are okay. Hot water comes out of the hot water tap, you can watch your favorite college team on TV, and you have about two dozen different road combinations to make it to Grandma’s house for the Holidays. (We don’t need that many options, but that is another editorial.)
If you compare Kansas to places more similar to Kansas than Bhutan or Belarus, we have a bit different story.
One of the simplest ways to measure economic growth is population growth. People go where there is economic opportunity.
Over the last decade, Kansas’ population increased 6.1 percent while Colorado increased 16.9 percent, (remember tax and spending limits decimating Colorado?) Missouri 7 percent, Oklahoma 8.7 percent, and Nebraska 6.7 percent. Maybe the most sobering statistic is South Dakota’s growth of 7.86 percent, an astonishing rate of nearly 30 percent higher than Kansas. South Dakota has a lot of fine attributes. But there is no reason that Kansas can’t at least equal that, is there? Or maybe come closer? Or if we really put on our thinking caps, maybe even we can beat South Dakota.
Kansas’ population growth is because our birth rate exceeds our mortality rate. We aren’t attracting folks from out of state. We still have more people moving out of Kansas than moving in. And the folks moving out have a higher annual income than those moving in and they are leaving Kansas on some of the best roads in America. Oh, South Dakota is a net importer of residents and South Dakota doesn’t have an income tax.
One can think about this stuff until the cows come home, or until one tries to do Chinese math with a liberal arts mind, but it is really pretty simple. People live in and move to where they think they can improve their lives.
There are a few parts of Kansas that are growing, though I can’t say that is improvement, at least not with a straight face. During the last decade, the number of Kansas government employees has increased by 15,000 jobs while private sector employment has decreased by 35,000. The size of today’s private sector workforce in Kansas smaller than it was in 2000. Oh, but everything is fine, really.
To make the dwindling private sector worker feel even better, the average annual salary for a State government worker in Kansas is $46,000 while the private sector is $38,500. Of course that doesn’t include the generous health and retirement benefits rarely seen in the private sector.
Though some are satisfied with the status quo, I and the 40,000 members of AFP are not.
The final point to address is Bird’s kind of lame back handed swipe at AFP as if we represent only wealthy interests. I’ve been with AFP-Kansas since the beginning. I’ve attended hundreds and hundreds of AFP events and meetings. I’ve been to Pittsburg, Liberal, Leavenworth, Goodland and many towns in between. Bird would have been awed by the vast amounts of wealth present at the Big Cheese Pizza in Independence, at Spears Cafeteria in Wichita, the Liberal Train Depot or the Topeka Public Library.
But, I’ve never seen Bird attend any of those meetings.
I am sure that among that 40,000 members of AFP in Kansas there are some rich folks. But their interests are the same as all AFP members: personal liberty, economic freedom and growth, and debate based on facts.