Tag Archives: Economics

Brownback and Obama stimulus plans

There are useful lessons we can learn from the criticism of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, including how easy it is to ignore inconvenient lessons of history.

It’s been three years since the tax cuts in Kansas took effect; tax cuts said by Governor Brownback to be a “shot in the arm” for the Kansas economy. Opponents of the governor and the tax cuts take great delight in reporting the generally anemic growth of the Kansas economy since then. Month after month, the tax cuts are condemned by Kansas newspaper editorial writers and the governor’s detractors.

I don’t think it’s a particularly strong form of argument to defend someone by showing how someone else is equally as bad — or worse. Similarly, criticizing someone for their fixation on A while they ignore the equally bad B: We need to know why they ignore B. Have they forgotten B? Do they not have time to write about B? Or do they ignore B because the fact of B is inconvenient to their ideology or their criticism of A? But I see that not everyone shares these ideals, and even so, perhaps we can learn something.

Many people remember that President Barack Obama promised that the unemployment rate would not top eight percent if the stimulus was passed. In January 2009 two Obama administration officials, including Christina Romer (who would become chair of the Council of Economic Advisers) wrote a paper estimating what the national unemployment rate would be with, and without, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, commonly known as the stimulus. That plan passed.

The Romer paper included a graph of projected unemployment rates. The nearby chart from e21 took the Romer chart and added
actual unemployment rates. (The accompanying article is Revisiting unemployment projections. That chart and article were created in 2011. I’ve updated the chart to show the actual unemployment rate since then, as black dots. The data shows that the actual unemployment rate was above the Obama administration projections — with or without the stimulus plan — for the entire period of projections.

The purpose of this is not to defend Brownback by showing how Obama is even worse. (Disclosure: Although I am a Republican, I didn’t vote for Brownback for governor.) Instead, we ought to take away two lessons: First, let’s learn to place an appropriately low value on the promises and boasts made by politicians. Then, let’s recognize the weak power government has to manage the economy for positive effect. Indeed, the lesson of the Obama stimulus is that it made the unemployment rate worse than if there had been no stimulus — at least according to the administration projections.

And, there is one more lesson to learn about our state’s newspaper reporters and editorial writers, but I think you’ve discovered that already.

Unemployment with and without stimulus through 2014-01

Kansas, a rural state?

How does the population in Kansas compare to the nation and other states?

One of the most-often repeated themes in Kansas is that we are a rural state. Therefore, comparisons of Kansas to other states must be tempered and adjusted by this. It seems to be common knowledge.

Rural populations of the states. Click for larger version.
Rural populations of the states. Click for larger version.
There may be several ways to measure the “ruralness” of a state. One way is the percent of the state’s people that live in rural areas. The U.S. Census Bureau has these statistics. In the chart made from these statistics, Kansas is right in the middle of the states. 25.80 percent of Kansans live in rural areas.

That’s not too far from the country as a whole. For the entire United States, 80.7 percent of the population lives in an urban setting, according to the 2010 census. For Kansas, the figure is 74.2 percent.

Over time, Kansas is becoming more of an urban state, just as are most states and the country as a whole.

Do these numbers mean anything? It’s common for Kansas politicians to emphasize — even exaggerate — whatever connections they may have to a family farm. It’s part of a nostalgic and romanticized view of Kansas, the Kansas of Home on the Range. We are the “Wheat State” and “Breadbasket of the World,” and “One Kansas farmer feeds 128 people (plus you).”

So while Kansas is in the middle in the ranking of percent of population living in rural areas, our state’s politicians continue to play the “rural card.”

Voters and policymakers should keep this in mind, although politicians may not.

Click here to view and use an interactive visualization of states and urban population.

Percent urban population by state, with Kansas emphasized. Click for larger.
Percent urban population by state, with Kansas emphasized. Click for larger.

Employment by state and industry

An interactive visualization of employment in the states.

I’ve gathered employment data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis is an agency of the United States Department of Commerce, for the states and present it in an interactive visualization using Tableau Public. In the visualization you may use several different presentations of the data and filter for specific industries. The series are presented as the percentage change since the first values, so that relative growth, rather than magnitude, of employment is shown.

Growth in private nonfarm employment, Kansas emphasized. Click for larger.
Growth in private nonfarm employment, Kansas emphasized. Click for larger.
The nearby example from the visualization shows growth in private nonfarm employment, with Kansas emphasized against the other states.

Click here to access the visualization.

Employment by metropolitan area

An interactive visualization of employment in metropolitan areas.

Growth in Employment by MSA. Wichita is the bottom line.
Growth in Employment by MSA. Wichita is the bottom line. Click for larger version.
I’ve gathered employment data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis is an agency of the United States Department of Commerce, for all available metropolitan areas and present it in an interactive visualization using Tableau Public. In the visualization you may use several different presentations of the data and filter for specific areas and industries. The series are presented as the percentage change since the first values, so that relative growth, rather than magnitude, of employment is shown.

In the nearby example we can see that Wichita –- the bottom line — has performed poorly compared to some peers of interest.

Click here to access the visualization.

GDP by state and industry

An interactive visualization of a new data series from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis is an agency of the United States Department of Commerce. BEA describes its role as “Along with the Census Bureau, BEA is part of the Department’s Economics and Statistics Administration. BEA produces economic accounts statistics that enable government and business decision-makers, researchers, and the American public to follow and understand the performance of the Nation’s economy. To do this, BEA collects source data, conducts research and analysis, develops and implements estimation methodologies, and disseminates statistics to the public.”

This week BEA issued a release of a new series of data: gross domestic product (GDP) by state for 21 industry sectors on a quarterly basis. BEA defines GDP as “the value of the goods and services produced by the nation’s economy less the value of the goods and services used up in production.” It is the value of the final goods and services produced.

In describing this data, BEA says “These new data provide timely information on how specific industries contribute to accelerations, decelerations, and turning points in economic growth at the state level, including key information about the impact of differences in industry composition across states.” This data series starts in 2005. The announcement of the release of this data from BEA is here.

I’ve gathered the data for this series for all states and present it in an interactive visualization using Tableau Public. I present the series in real dollars, meaning that BEA adjusted the numbers to account for changes in the price level, or inflation.

In the visualization you may use several different presentations of the data and filter for specific states or industries. The series are presented as percentage change over time since the first values, so that growth, rather than magnitude, of GDP is shown.

Click here to open the visualization.

Using the visualization. Click for larger version.
Using the visualization. Click for larger version.

Kansas school reform

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

This week saw the third meeting of the 2015 Special Committee on K-12 Student Success for the Kansas Legislature. Of special interest was the short testimony of Robert Litan, a Wichita economist and attorney. His testimony summarized some of the important problems with Kansas public schools and points to ways that Kansas can move forward in providing education to schoolchildren. His written testimony may be viewed here.

In arguing for starting with a “clean sheet” instead of merely tweaking the current formula, Litan wrote: “The reason is quite simple. Despite continued increases in real spending per pupil in the state, educational outcomes in Kansas are not improving nor are the gaps between the performance of students from low-income families and all other students.”

He also touches on several ways that Kansas schools could improve efficiency in their operations without consolidating school districts. The savings could be several hundred million dollars per year, a significant sum in Kansas.

Kansas needs to improve the performance of schools, focusing particularly on closing the achievement gap between students from low-income families and others, said Litan. A possible problem, he writes, is that the additional money allocated for “at-risk” students may not be spent in ways specifically targeted to those students. A problem is lack of tracking systems to see how this money is spent. (The at-risk weighting is substantial. For its first few years, starting in 1992, the weighting added five percent to state funding for each student classified as “at-risk.” It rose over the years, reaching 45.6 percent in 2008.)

Litan also touches on the importance of having good teachers and the controversies surrounding how to evaluate teachers. But it is important to reward good teachers, he writes.

Cost savings might also be used to reward school districts that provide more student attendance time: “Other things being equal, more schooling time should enhance student performance.” Of note, this year’s agreement with the teachers union for the Wichita school district reduces the school year by two days.

Finally, the importance of school choice, which is nearly non-existent in Kansas. A new funding formula needs to allow for school choice:

Finally, there are limits to how much any change in the way funding for schools is allocated among districts can affect student performance. That is because today parents’ and students’ ability to choose their public education provider is very limited, or non-existent.

That is not true in some other states, where parents and their children have more choices, as they do in other spheres of life for other goods and services. While broader choice is not directly on the table of today’s hearing, hopefully any changes this Committee and the Legislature may make in funding will not penalize any new schools that may be formed in the wake of any possible future change in Kansas law governing charter schools.

Are we winning the war on poverty?

For about 50 years we’ve been fighting a war on poverty. Initially, the poverty rate declined, before the start of the war on poverty. But over the last four decades the poverty rate has gone up and down, but is largely unchanged over this period. Spending on welfare programs, however, has continually risen, and rapidly in the past few years. The accompanying chart shows the poverty rate and welfare spending. The spending is per person in the U.S., adjusted for inflation, and doesn’t include spending on health care.

poverty-rate-welfare-spending-2013-12

For more on this topic, see:
The American Welfare State: How We Spend Nearly $1 Trillion a Year Fighting Poverty — and Fail (Cato Institute)
Examining the Means-tested Welfare State: 79 Programs and $927 Billion in Annual Spending (Heritage Foundation)
The Failure Of The War On Poverty (FreedomWorks)
Does Welfare Diminish Poverty? (Foundation for Economic Education)

CBPP pushes political viewpoint as economic analysis

The Center on Budget & Policy Priorities (CBPP) is at it again, pushing their political viewpoint disguised as economic analysis, writes Dave Trabert of Kansas Policy Institute.

CBPP pushes political viewpoint as economic analysis

By Dave Trabert, Kansas Policy Institute

Well, the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities (CBPP) is at it again … pushing their political viewpoint disguised as economic analysis. CBPP’s November 30 blog post attempts to use Gross Domestic Product (GDP) data to warn other states that Kansas’ tax reform is failing.

CBPP’s simplistic look at annual changes in GDP seems merely designed to support their political preference for higher taxes and spending, as a look at the underlying data throws a lot of cold water on their contention.

First of all, CBPP is talking about total real GDP, which includes government and is adjusted for inflation. The intent of tax reform was to grow the private sector, not government, so an honest analysis would at least show the difference. The CBPP chart shows 2013 growth at -0.3% for Kansas and 1.9% for the nation; Kansas also trailed (1.8% to 2.2%) in 2014. The adjacent table shows private sector growth is closer to the national average, but that is just the beginning.

Tax policy certainly has an impact on economic growth but some change is unrelated to tax policy. For example, Kansas is much more reliant on aerospace that most states and changes in that industry are driven by global demand more than anything else. The Kansas economy is also more reliant on oil and gas than most states, so declining oil prices have disproportionate economic impact on extraction and refining.

Each of those three areas declined in 2013 (aerospace is a sub-sector of Other Transportation Equipment Manufacturing) in Kansas but they increased in the nation as a whole. But Kansas outperformed the nation on everything else (97% of the U.S. economy, 95.4% in Kansas), growing 2.5% to the nation’s 2.2%.

That’s not to say that tax reform is a success — it’s far too early to judge — but it does show that factors other than tax reform had a very significant negative impact in 2013.

Let’s now look at 2014. BEA has not yet published sub-sector data for 2014 but we can look at the sectors that include them. Mining (oil & gas extracting) increased in Kansas and the nation, but much less so in Kansas. Non-Durable Goods (petroleum manufacturing) did slightly better in Kansas than across the nation but Durable Goods (aerospace) declined in Kansas while the nation as a whole increased. But once again, everything else grew faster in Kansas (2.5%) than the nation overall (2.3%).

We won’t know for certain until the sub-sector data is published, but there is a reasonable possibility that, aside from those three relatively small sub-sectors, Kansas again outperformed the rest of the nation in private sector GDP.

This is really easy information to find if one bothers to look, but CBPP apparently isn’t interested in real economic analysis; they distort data to support their political perspective as we have shown here and here.

The 2015 projection comes from Kansas Legislative Research and appears to include government rather than just reflect the private sector. Their underlying rationale has been requested and will be addressed here once they provide the data.

Wichita to consider tax abatements

Wichita considers three tax abatements, in one case forcing an “investment” on others that it itself would not accept.

This week the Wichita City Council will consider three tax abatements to companies in the aerospace business. Two are very large companies, and one is in the small business category.

In two cases the tax abatements are implemented through industrial revenue bonds. Under this program the city is not lending money. Instead, the program is a vehicle, created by under Kansas law, for companies to avoid paying property tax. In some cases companies may also avoid paying sales tax.

In another case the property tax abatement is conveyed through the city’s Economic Development Tax Exemption (“EDX”) program, which allows the city to forgive the payment of property taxes. In many instances, the issuance of Industrial Revenue Bonds is required by law in order to achieve tax forbearance. The EDX program does away with the often meaningless issuance of bonds, and lets the city implement, in a streamlined fashion, the primary economic goal: Granting permission to skip the payment of property taxes.

The goal of the industrial revenue bonds, however, is often obscured by news media and the city itself. For example, in the agenda material for the Cessna IRBs, the city states “Bond proceeds will be utilized to finance capital investment in the Wichita facilities.”

But later in the same document, we see “The IRBs will be purchased by Cessna and will not be offered to the public.” So the IRBs — the bonds the city is authorizing — aren’t really financing anything. By buying the bonds itself, Cessna is self-financing the purchases or obtaining the funds in some other way. The IRBs are merely a device to grant tax abatements. Nothing more than that — except that the bond program obfuscates the true economic meaning of the transaction, adds costs to the applicant company, and adds cost to the city (offset to some degree by fees paid by the applicant company).

Regardless of the cost and hassle to Cessna, the program has a payoff. City documents state that Cessna could save as much as $317,357 per year in property taxes.

For the Bombardier Learjet IRBs, the city tells us that “Bond-financed purchases are also exempt from state and local sales taxes.” The amount of abated taxes is not given.

For Perfekta, an aerospace supplier, the city is using the EDX program to convey a property tax abatement, with the estimated value of the tax exemption in the first full year being approximately $110,792, according to the agenda packet.

In this case, the city did not award a 100 percent tax abatement. This is due to the city’s policy of requiring a benefit-cost ratio of 1.3 to one, although there are exceptions the city may use. In this case, the city adjusted the amount of tax abatement down until the 1.3 benchmark was achieved, as described in city documents: “To achieve the ratio of benefits to costs of at least 1.3 to 1.0 as required in the City/County Economic Development Policy, the percentage abatement should be reduced to an 89% tax exemption on a five-plus-five year basis.”

The benefit-cost ratio is calculated by the Center for Economic Development and Business Research (CEDBR) at Wichita State University based on data supplied by the applicant company and the city. The rationale behind these calculations is a matter of debate. Even if valid, calculating the ratio with such precision is folly, reminding us of the old saw “Economists use a decimal point to remind us they have a sense of humor.”

Of note, while the city wants to “earn” a 1.3 ratio of benefits to costs, it forces a lower ratio on two overlapping jurisdiction, as shown in city documents:

City of Wichita 1.34 to 1
City of Wichita General Fund 1.30 to 1
Sedgwick County 1.24 to 1
USD 259 1.17 to 1
State of Kansas 7.94 to 1

The county and school district have no choice but to accept the decision made by the city and accept a “return” lower than the city would accept for itself.

The city presents a benefit-cost ratio to illustrate that by giving up some property taxes, it gains even more tax revenue from other sources. But a positive benefit-cost ratio is not remarkable. Economic activity generally spawns more economic activity, which government then taxes. The question is: Did the city, county, school district, and state need to give up tax revenue in order to make these investments possible?

The problem with these actions

Part of the cost of these companies’ investment, along with the accompanying risk, is spread to a class of business firms that can’t afford additional cost and risk. These are young startup firms, the entrepreneurial firms that we need to nurture in order to have real and sustainable economic growth and jobs. But we can’t identify which firms will be successful. So we need an economic development strategy that creates an environment where these young entrepreneurial firms have the greatest chance to survive. The action the Wichita city council is considering this week works against entrepreneurial firms. (See Kansas economic growth policy should embrace dynamism and How to grow the Kansas economy.)

A major reason why these tax abatements are harmful to the Wichita economy is its strangling effect on entrepreneurship and young companies. As these companies and others escape paying taxes, others have to pay. This increases the burden of the cost of government on everyone else — in particular on the companies we need to nurture.

There’s plenty of evidence that entrepreneurship, in particular young business firms, are the key to economic growth. But Wichita’s economic development policies, as evidenced by this action, are definitely stacked against the entrepreneur. As Wichita props up its established industries, it makes it more difficult for young firms to thrive. Wichita relies on targeted investment in our future. Our elected officials and bureaucrats believe they have the ability to select which companies are worthy of public investment, and which are not. It’s a form of centralized planning by government that shapes the future direction of the Wichita economy.

These targeted economic development efforts fail for several reasons. First is the knowledge problem, in that government simply does not know which companies are worthy of public investment. This lack of knowledge, however, does not stop governments from creating policies for the awarding of incentives. This “active investor” approach to economic development is what has led to companies receiving grants or escaping hundreds of millions in taxes — taxes that others have to pay. That has a harmful effect on other business, both existing and those that wish to form. Young entrepreneurial companies are particularly vulnerable.

Embracing Dynamism: The Next Phase in Kansas Economic Development PolicyProfessor Art Hall of the Center for Applied Economics at the Kansas University School of Business is critical of this approach to economic development. In his paper Embracing Dynamism: The Next Phase in Kansas Economic Development Policy, Hall quotes Alan Peters and Peter Fisher: “The most fundamental problem is that many public officials appear to believe that they can influence the course of their state and local economies through incentives and subsidies to a degree far beyond anything supported by even the most optimistic evidence. We need to begin by lowering expectations about their ability to micro-manage economic growth and making the case for a more sensible view of the role of government — providing foundations for growth through sound fiscal practices, quality public infrastructure, and good education systems — and then letting the economy take care of itself.”

In the same paper, Hall writes this regarding “benchmarking” — the bidding wars for large employers: “Kansas can break out of the benchmarking race by developing a strategy built on embracing dynamism. Such a strategy, far from losing opportunity, can distinguish itself by building unique capabilities that create a different mix of value that can enhance the probability of long-term economic success through enhanced opportunity. Embracing dynamism can change how Kansas plays the game.”

In making his argument, Hall cites research on the futility of chasing large employers as an economic development strategy: “Large-employer businesses have no measurable net economic effect on local economies when properly measured. To quote from the most comprehensive study: ‘The primary finding is that the location of a large firm has no measurable net economic effect on local economies when the entire dynamic of location effects is taken into account. Thus, the siting of large firms that are the target of aggressive recruitment efforts fails to create positive private sector gains and likely does not generate significant public revenue gains either.'”

(For a summary of the peer-reviewed academic research that examines the local impact of targeted tax incentives from an empirical point of view, see Research on economic development incentives. A sample finding is “General fiscal policy found to be mildly effective, while targeted incentives reduced economic performance (as measured by per capita income).”)

There is also substantial research that is it young firms — distinguished from small business in general — that are the engine of economic growth for the future. We can’t detect which of the young firms will blossom into major success — or even small-scale successes. The only way to nurture them is through economic policies that all companies can benefit from. Reducing tax rates for everyone is an example of such a policy. Abating taxes for specific companies through programs like the Wichita city council is considering this week is an example of precisely the wrong policy.

In explaining the importance of dynamism, Hall wrote: “Generally speaking, dynamism represents persistent, annual change in about one-third of Kansas jobs. Job creation may be a key goal of economic development policy but job creation is a residual economic outcome of business dynamism. The policy challenge centers on promoting dynamism by establishing a business environment that induces business birth and expansion without bias related to the size or type of business.”

We need to move away from economic development based on this active investor approach, especially the policies that prop up our established companies to the detriment of dynamism. We need to advocate for policies — at Wichita City Hall, at the Sedgwick County Commission, and at the Kansas Statehouse — that lead to sustainable economic development. We need political leaders who have the wisdom to realize this, and the courage to act appropriately. Which is to say, to not act in most circumstances.

Spending in the states, per capita

An interactive visualization holding per-capita spending in several categories for each state.

Tableau sort icon
Tableau sort icon
In the visualization you may select one of more spending categories, select any combination of states and regions, select years, and view data as a table or chart. By hovering near column titles and clicking on a sort icon, you may sort in ascending or descending order.

Of note: Some of the spending categories should not be selected at the same time, as the stacked bar chart adds them. For example, you would not want to select anything else if “Total Spending” is selected, as the other items are already included in “Total Spending.” Similarly, you would not want to select “Population” along with any items that are money amounts.

Data is from State & Local Government Finance Data Query System. slfdqs.taxpolicycenter.org/pages.cfm. The Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center. Data from U.S. Census Bureau, Annual Survey of State and Local Government Finances, Government Finances, Volume 4, and Census of Governments (2012). Date of Access: (07-Jan-2015). Visualization created using Tableau Public.

Click here to use the visualization.

Using the visualization. Click for larger version.
Using the visualization. Click for larger version.
A table from the visualization. Click for larger version.
A table from the visualization. Click for larger version.

In Depth with Walter Williams

This Sunday Dr. Walter E. Williams appeared on the C-SPAN program In Depth. It’s three hours with the great economist, and every moment is worthwhile. Click here to view the program.

My interview with Dr. Walter Williams.
My interview with Dr. Walter Williams.
It was Dr. Williams that first got me to think about libertarian ideas and principles. For that I shall forever be grateful.

In 2011 Williams visited Wichita and I had the privilege of interviewing him for a moment. Coverage of the visit, including my interview, is at Walter Williams: Government must stick to its limited and legitimate role.

Walter Williams on C-SPAN, November 1, 2015
Walter Williams on C-SPAN November 1, 2015

Kansas fiscal experiment

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

State General Fund Expenditures by Major Purpose chart 2015-11An experiment implies changing inputs (one or more independent variables) and examining outputs (dependent variables). If we are to consider the Kansas budget an experiment — and I’m not sure that analogy is apt — what is the independent variable? Is it tax revenue collected, or government spending?

If we believe the purpose of taxation is to pay for spending, then the independent variable is the level of spending. As can be seen in the nearby table and chart, Kansas spending has risen in recent years. Perhaps it has not risen as fast as some people want. Also, these numbers are not adjusted for inflation (which has been low).

But to conclude the “experiment” is a failure because tax revenue is lower is not looking at the right input variable. We should be looking at spending, which keeps going up.

State General Fund Expenditures by Major Purpose table 2015-11

WichitaLiberty.TV: Wichita’s regulations and economic development

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Do Wichita’s many laws and regulations accomplish their goals? Then, are Wichita’s economic development policies likely to work? Episode 98, broadcast October 18, 2015. View below, or click here to view in high definition at YouTube.

Entrepreneurship in Wichita

As Wichita seeks to reboot its spirit of entrepreneurship, we should make sure we do things that have a chance of working. The Kauffman Foundation has conducted research. One paper is Guidelines for Local and State Governments to Promote Entrepreneurship. In its introduction, it holds this:

In this paper, we begin with a critical overview of two of the most commonly used strategies to promote entrepreneurship: creating public venture funds and business incubators. We then explain that these strategies often neglect an essential principle: connectivity and learning by entrepreneurs. Next, we describe ways in which public venture funds and incubators can be reorganized based on the connectivity principle before concluding with several other recommendations for how cities and states can promote entrepreneurship and begin to see real results that transform economies and provide new opportunities to residents.

Kauffman also has many videos based on its research into this topic. An example is Myth-busting Entrepreneurship.

Video: Jeffrey Tucker, ‘Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World’

Jeffrey A. Tucker, Director of Digital Development at the Foundation for Economic Education, talks about his new book, “Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World.” The book is an explanation of how Bitcoin type cryptocurrencies work as a “peer to peer” innovative payment network and an alternative exchange system. Tucker gave the presentation October 2, 2015, at the Wichita Pachyderm Club. View below, or click here to view in high definition at YouTube. Videography by Paul Soutar.

Tucker’s website is www.jeffreytucker.me. The book’s page at Amazon is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World. Liberty.me is here.

WichitaLiberty.TV: Jeffrey Tucker and ‘Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World’

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Jeffrey Tucker talks about his most recent book “Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World” and how Bitcoin and other distributed technologies are affecting the world. View below, or click here to watch in high definition at YouTube. Episode 97, broadcast October 4, 2015.

Tucker’s website is www.jeffreytucker.me. The book’s page at Amazon is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World. Liberty.me is 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.

From ALEC: Charity is a crucial component of efforts to address societal challenges and help individuals thrive. From religious organizations to community charities, philanthropic donations drive the institutions of civil society and enable communities to develop around a greater sense of shared purpose. Despite this important role, charitable giving is rarely addressed in discussions around public policy — especially state tax policy.

ALEC State factor charitable giving cover imageThe report uses data collected from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and focuses on both the levels of charitable giving and the growth of charitable giving throughout the states. We examined these trends over two different time periods. First, the IRS data begins in 1997 and is available through 2012. Second, we measured state charitable giving from 2008 to 2012 to understand how states fared during the recession.

Here are some of the most significant findings from our report:

  • States with higher taxes generally experienced lower levels and lower rates of growth in charitable giving compared with their lower tax counterparts
  • A one percent increase in a state’s total tax burden is associated with a 1.16 percent decrease in the state’s rate of charitable giving
  • A one percent increase in a state’s personal income tax burden is associated with a 0.35 percent decrease in the state’s rate of charitable giving as a percent of total state income
  • In every category, over each time period, the nine states without income taxes grew their rates of charitable giving more than the nine states with the highest income taxes

The report is available to download and read at The Effect of State Taxes on Charitable Giving. Following is material from the report’s executive summary:

An often overlooked aspect of public policy is the role that charitable organizations have in addressing some of society’s most pressing concerns. Because of this important role and since charitable organizations are funded privately through donations, understanding how state policies interact with charitable organizations is crucial for a robust discussion about public policy. This State Factor examines state tax policies that encourage charitable giving, apart from the charitable giving deduction.

While many factors certainly influence an individual’s choice about donating to charity, there are broad policy choices that can encourage higher rates of growth in charitable giving. By examining various tax burdens and tax rates with rigorous economic analysis, this paper’s research findings show that a 1 percent increase in the personal income tax burden is associated with 0.35 percent decrease in charitable giving per dollar of state income. Similarly, this State Factor found that an increase in personal income tax burden of roughly 1 percentage point of total state income results in a roughly 0.10 percentage point decrease in the level of measured charitable donations as a percent of income.

When all state taxes are considered, a 1 percentage point increase in the total tax burden is associated with a 1.16 percent drop in charitable giving per dollar of state income. Similarly, this State Factor found that an increase in total tax burden of roughly 1 percentage point of total state income results in a roughly 0.09 percentage point decrease in the level measured charitable donations as a percent of income.

According to the new report, The Effect of State Taxes on Charitable Giving the following states donated the most to charity as a percent of total income between 1997 and 2012, in order from 1st to 10th: Utah, Wyoming, Georgia, Alabama, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Maryland, Idaho, North Carolina and Mississippi. The report examines patterns of philanthropic contributions in the states over time and uses rigorous economic analyses to draw significant conclusions about charitable giving in the United States.

The report is written by Jonathan Williams, William Freeland, research analyst for the ALEC Center for State Fiscal Reform, and Ben Wilterdink, research manager for the ALEC Center for State Fiscal Reform. The report reveals that states with higher rates of economic growth grow total charitable giving at a faster rate than states with low rates of economic growth.

Kansas private nonfarm employment by county

Here is an interactive visualization of private nonfarm employment in Kansas, for each county. Data is from Bureau of Economic Analysis, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Click here to open the visualization.

The sample below shows job growth for the state as a whole, along with the five largest counties. Click it for a larger version.

Kansas private nonfarm employment by county, five largest counties, 2015-09

Introduction to Austrian Economics

“For Austrians, on the other hand, man is a purposeful being. … He has spirit and will.” The author of these remarks, Dr. Richard Ebeling, delivered a lecture on Austrian Economics to an audience in Wichita.

Austrian Economics focuses on man as a human actor, rather than as a cog in a system of equations. Dr. Richard Ebeling delivered an introductory lecture on Austrian Economics to an audience in Wichita on September 10, 2015.

A companion article to the lecture is Austrian Economics and the Political Economy of Freedom, in which Dr. Ebeling explains: “The Austrian view of man refutes the positivist, historicist, and neoclassical conceptions of man as a mere physical, quantitative object, or as a passive subject controlled by the dark forces of history, or as a ‘dependent variable’ in a system of mathematical equations. … For Austrians, on the other hand, man is a purposeful being. He thinks, plans, and acts. Man may be made up of matter, but he possesses consciousness. He has the capacity to imagine, create, and initiate. His mind is not simply reducible to lifeless matter. He has spirit and will.”

View video of the lecture below, or click here to view at YouTube in high definition (recommended). Videography by Paul Soutar.

Austrian economics to be explained

Voice for Liberty presents Richard M. Ebeling, Ph.D. for an informative breakfast event. Ebeling is BB&T Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Free Enterprise Leadership at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. His topic will be “An Introduction to Austrian Economics.”

Richard M. Ebeling, Ph.D.
Richard M. Ebeling, Ph.D.
This meeting is Thursday September 10, 2015, from 7:30 am to 9:00 am. It will be at the Petroleum Club, 9th floor of the Ruffin Building at 100 N. Broadway in Wichita.

The cost is $15, which includes a delicious breakfast. RSVP is not required, but if you plan to attend, would you please let me know by email at bob.weeks@gmail.com? This will help with planning. But please attend even if you can’t RSVP.

About the speaker
Dr. Richard M. Ebeling is the recently appointed BB&T Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Free Enterprise Leadership at The Citadel. He will be conducting courses such as “Leadership, Entrepreneurship, and Capitalist Ethics” as well as “The Morality and Economics of Capitalist Society.” Dr. Ebeling is recognized as one of the leading members of the Austrian School of Economics and the author of Political Economy, Public Policy, and Monetary Economics: Ludwig von Mises and the Austrian Tradition (Routledge 2010). He is currently editing a forthcoming volume in the Collected Works of F.A. Hayek (Univ. of Chicago Press), the noted Austrian economist and Nobel Laureate. Prior to his appointment at The Citadel, Dr. Ebeling was professor of Economics at Northwood University in Midland, Michigan (2009-2014). He served as president of the Foundation for Economic Education (2003-2008), was the Ludwig von Mises Professor of Economics at Hillside College in Hillsdale, Michigan (1988-2003), and Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Dallas in Texas (1984-1988). He lives with his wife Anna and their dog “Fritzie” in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina.

Ludwig von Mises, a giant in the field of Austrian Economics, and economics in general.
Ludwig von Mises, a giant in the field of Austrian Economics, and economics in general.
Austrian economics
From Austrian Economics and the Political Economy of Freedom by Richard Ebeling:

The Austrian view of man refutes the positivist, historicist, and neoclassical conceptions of man as a mere physical, quantitative object, or as a passive subject controlled by the dark forces of history, or as a “dependent variable” in a system of mathematical equations. Positivism tried to reduce man and his mind to mere magnitudes to be studied and manipulated like the inanimate matter experimented on in the natural sciences. Historicism claimed that man is determined and molded by external laws of history that shape his thoughts, actions, and destiny, with little latitude for the individual to design and guide his own future. Neoclassical economics treats man like a mathematical function possessing given tastes and preferences, which are themselves induced by his surroundings and on the basis of which he responds in predictable ways when confronted with various constraining and objective tradeoffs in the form of market prices.

For Austrians, on the other hand, man is a purposeful being. He thinks, plans, and acts. Man may be made up of matter, but he possesses consciousness. He has the capacity to imagine, create, and initiate. His mind is not simply reducible to lifeless matter. He has spirit and will. Man reflects on the circumstances in which he finds himself. He judges aspects of his physical and social surroundings less than satisfactory. He imagines states of affairs that would be more to his liking. He creates in his mind plans of action that would bring those preferred states of affairs into existence. He discovers that the things he can use as means to achieve some of his ends are insufficient to achieve all of his ends. He has to weigh the alternatives and decide which he prefers more, since some of them, in the face of scarcity, will have be forgone today or forever. He therefore has to decide the tradeoffs he is willing to make, and as a result he determines the costs of his own choices in the form of goals he is willing to give up in order to pursue others that he considers more important.