Tag Archives: Jerry Moran

Renewable Portfolio Standard costly for Kansas

A policy promoted by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback will result in higher electricity costs, fewer jobs, and less investment in Kansas.

This is the conclusion of a new study by Kansas Policy Institute and Beacon Hill Institute. The policy is Renewable Portfolio Standard, or RPS, which mandates that a minimum amount of a state’s electricity be produced by renewable sources. In Kansas, the primary renewable source of electricity is wind.

In a press release accompanying the report, KPI said “Renewable energy is more expensive than conventional energy, so government mandates are necessary to ensure that more renewable energy is purchased. However, the unseen consequences of well-intended efforts to increase energy independence are rarely considered. The authors estimate that by 2020, the average household’s electricity bill will increase by $660, approximately 12,000 fewer jobs will have been created, and business investment in the state will be $191 million less than without the mandate.” The press release and summary is at The Economic Impact of the Kansas Renewable Portfolio Standard, and the full report is here.

Brownback has supported, first as U.S. Senator and now Kansas Governor, renewable portfolio standards, mandating the production of wind power. U.S. Senator Jerry Moran favors the production tax credit that makes wind feasible, but forces taxpayers to subsidize an expensive form of energy. Together they penned an op-ed that tortures logic to defend the tax credits. Each has spoken out on his own on the national stage. See Brownback on wind, again and Wind energy split in Kansas.

Driving through western Kansas and marveling at all the wind farms might lead one to conclude that the efforts of Brownback and Moran are a success. Viewing the spinning turbines — when they are in fact spinning — is just the start of understanding the impact of wind power, mandates for its use, and taxpayer subsidy for its production. The KPI report is an important document that lets us understand more of the full effect of renewable portfolio standards.

Energy subsidies exposed

On the campaign trail, President Barack Obama calls for an end to energy subsidies for the fossil fuel industry. It turns out, however, that this industry receives relatively little subsidy, while the president’s favored forms of energy investment — wind and solar — receive much more. Additionally, coal, oil, and gas industries paid billions in taxes to the federal government, while electricity produced by solar and wind are a cost to taxpayers.

Saturday’s Wall Street Journal piece The Energy Subsidy Tally: Wind and solar get the most taxpayer help for the least production gathers the facts: “The nearby chart shows the assistance that each form of energy for electricity production received in 2010. The natural gas and oil industry received $2.8 billion in total subsidies, not the $4 billion Mr. Obama claims on the campaign trail, and $654 million for electric power. The biggest winner was wind, with $5 billion. Between 2007 and 2010, total energy subsidies rose 108%, but solar’s subsidies increased six-fold and wind’s were up 10-fold.”

When looking at subsidy received per unit of power produced, the Journal found that oil, gas, and coal received $0.64 per megawatt hour, hydropower $0.82, nuclear $3.14, wind $56.39, and solar $775.64. Commented the Journal: “So for every tax dollar that goes to coal, oil and natural gas, wind gets $88 and solar $1,212. After all the hype and dollars, in 2010 wind and solar combined for 2.3% of electric generation — 2.3% for wind and 0% and a rounding error for solar. Renewables contributed 10.3% overall, though 6.2% is hydro. Some ‘investment.’”

In Kansas, there is disagreement among elected officials over wind power. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and U.S. Senator Jerry Moran favor the production tax credit that makes wind feasible. Together they penned an op-ed that tortures logic to defend the tax credits. Each has spoken out on his own on the national stage. See Brownback on wind, again and Wind energy split in Kansas.

Brownback has also supported, at both federal and state levels, renewable portfolio standards. These in effect mandate the production of wind power. Recently Kansas Policy Institute produced a report that details the harmful effect of this law: “Renewable energy is more expensive than conventional energy, so government mandates are necessary to ensure that more renewable energy is purchased. However, the unseen consequences of well-intended efforts to increase energy independence are rarely considered. The authors estimate that by 2020, the average household’s electricity bill will increase by $660, approximately 12,000 fewer jobs will have been created, and business investment in the state will be $191 million less than without the mandate.” See The Economic Impact of the Kansas Renewable Portfolio Standard.

In Wichita, Mayor Carl Brewer is recruiting wind power companies to come to Wichita. If he is successful, you can be sure it will be at great cost to Kansas and Wichita taxpayers.

Contrast with the position taken by U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, a Republican who represents the Kansas fourth district, which includes the Wichita metropolitan area. Recently he wrote: “Supporters of Big Wind, like President Obama, defend these enormous, multi-decade subsidies by saying they are fighting for jobs, but the facts tell a different story. Can you say ‘stimulus’? The PTC’s logic is almost identical to the President’s failed stimulus spending of $750 billion — redistribute wealth from hard-working taxpayers to politically favored industries and then visit the site and tell the employees that ‘without me as your elected leader funneling taxpayer dollars to your company, you’d be out of work.’ I call this ‘photo-op economics.’ We know better. If the industry is viable, those jobs would likely be there even without the handout. Moreover, what about the jobs lost because everyone else’s taxes went up to pay for the subsidy and to pay for the high utility bills from wind-powered energy? There will be no ribbon-cuttings for those out-of-work families.”

Pompeo has introduced legislation in Congress that would end tax credits for all forms of energy production. See H.R. 3308: Energy Freedom and Economic Prosperity Act.

The Energy Subsidy Tally
Wind and solar get the most taxpayer help for the least production.

President Obama traveled to Iowa Tuesday and touted wind energy subsidies as the path to economic recovery. Then he attacked Mitt Romney as a tool of the oil and gas industry. “So my attitude is let’s stop giving taxpayer subsidies to oil companies that don’t need them, and let’s invest in clean energy that will put people back to work right here in Iowa,” he said. “That’s a choice in this election.”

There certainly is a subsidy choice in the election, but the facts are a lot different than Mr. Obama portrays them. What he isn’t telling voters is how many tax dollars his Administration has already steered to wind and solar power, and how much more subsidized they are than other forms of electricity generation.

Continue reading at the Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Brownback on wind, again

This week Kansas Governor Sam Brownback again made the case for government spending on a particular industry. The industry is wind power, and the governor made his remarks at a national conference of the wind industry.

The wind industry, with Brownback’s support, wants to extend the production tax credit (PTC) for the production of electrical power by wind. In March Brownback and U.S. Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas wrote an op-ed making the case for extending the PTC. At the conference this week, Brownback called for extending the PTC, although he did support a four-year phaseout.

The PTC pays generators of wind power 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour produced. To place that in context, a typical Westar customer in Kansas that uses 1,000 kilowatt-hours in the summer pays $95.22 (before local sales tax), for a rate of 9.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. (This is the total cost including energy charge, fuel charge, transmission charge, environment cost recovery rider, property tax surcharge, and franchise fee, according to a March 2010 illustration provided by Westar.) So 2.2 cents is a high rate of subsidy for a product that sells for 9.5 cents.

Brownback and Moran contend that the PTC is necessary to let the wind power industry “complete its transformation from being a high tech startup to becoming cost competitive in the energy marketplace.” The problem with this line of argument is that wind is not an industry in its infancy. The PTC has been in place since 1992, a period of twenty years. If an industry can’t get established in that period, when will it be ready to stand in its own?

The authors also contend that canceling the PTC is, in effect, a “tax hike on wind energy companies.” To some extent this is true — but only because the industry has enjoyed preferential tax treatment that it should never have received, coupled with a misunderstanding of the tax credit mechanism.

The proper way to view the PTC is as a government spending program. That’s the true economic effect of tax credits. Only recently are Americans coming to realize this, and as a result, the term “tax expenditures” is coming into use to accurately characterize the mechanism of tax credits.

Amazingly, Brownback and Moran do not realize this, at least if we take them at their written word when they write: “But the wind PTC is a winning solution because it allows companies to keep more of their own dollars in exchange for the production of energy. These are not cash handouts; they are reductions in taxes that help cover the cost of doing business.” (Emphasis added.)

It is the mixing of spending programs with taxation that leads these politicians to wrongly claim that tax credits are not cash handouts. Fortunately, not everyone falls for this seductive trap. In an excellent article on the topic that appeared in Cato Institute’s Regulation magazine, Edward D. Kleinbard explains:

Specialists term these synthetic government spending programs “tax expenditures.” Tax expenditures are really spending programs, not tax rollbacks, because the missing tax revenues must be financed by more taxes on somebody else. Like any other form of deficit spending, a targeted tax break without a revenue offset simply means more deficits (and ultimately more taxes); a targeted tax break coupled with a specific revenue “payfor” means that one group of Americans is required to pay (in the form of higher taxes) for a subsidy to be delivered to others through the mechanism of the tax system. … Tax expenditures dissolve the boundaries between government revenues and government spending. They reduce both the coherence of the tax law and our ability to conceptualize the very size and activities of our government. (The Hidden Hand of Government Spending, Fall 2010)

U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita recognized the cost of paying for tax credit expenditures when he recently wrote: “Moreover, what about the jobs lost because everyone else’s taxes went up to pay for the subsidy and to pay for the high utility bills from wind-powered energy? There will be no ribbon-cuttings for those out-of-work families.” See Mike Pompeo: We need capitalism, not cronyism.

So when Brownback and Moran write of the loss of income to those who profit from wind power, we should remember that these profits do not arise from transactions between willing partners. Instead, they result from politicians like these who are willing to override the judgment of free people and free markets with their own political preferences — along with looking out for the parochial interests of the home state. We need less of this type of wind power.

Five questions with Mike Pompeo

Originally published in The Washington Times. Below, U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo from Wichita explains his opposition to tax credits for all energy production, the problems with over-regulation of business, and the state of the economic recovery. As Decker notes, Pompeo’s stance against energy tax credits, which includes the production tax credit for wind power, is contrary to that of several Kansas politicians, including Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and U.S. Senator Jerry Moran. These have editorialized in favor of tax expenditures to support the wind power industry.

5 Questions with Rep. Mike Pompeo: “We can’t spend our way out of this mess”
By Brett M. Decker
The Washington Times

Rep. Mike R. Pompeo was elected in 2010 by the 4th Congressional District of Kansas. A native of Wichita and graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, he patrolled the Iron Curtain as an Army officer before the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. After leaving active duty, Mr. Pompeo attended Harvard Law School, where he was as an editor of the Harvard Law Review. Before running for office, he managed two small businesses. He founded Thayer Aerospace, which grew to employ more than 400 workers, and was president of Sentry International, a company that manufactures oilfield equipment. You can find out more about the congressman’s work at: pompeo.house.gov.

Decker: You have authored a bill to eliminate all energy tax credits. That can’t be popular for a congressman from a corn state. What’s so important about your legislation that it is worth ticking off constituents back home?

Pompeo: The federal government has been a proven failure in picking winners and losers in the energy sector. Democrats and Republicans alike have used our tax code to reward their favorite energy sources — that is, ones in their home district — with tax loopholes. This causes every American taxpayer to subsidize those industries and causes consumers to pay higher prices for energy. This results in terrible energy policy and even worse tax policy. More importantly, taxpayers are getting hammered both coming (higher taxes) and going (higher energy costs).

My bill, the Energy Freedom and Economic Prosperity Act (HR 3308), would eliminate all energy tax subsidies from our Internal Revenue Code and turn that savings toward lowering our corporate tax rate to foster job growth here in America. The bill is revenue neutral and supported by every major conservative group, such as: Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, Club for Growth, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Freedom Action, Heritage Action, National Taxpayers Union, 60 Plus Association and Taxpayers for Common Sense. It gets rid of every tax credit related to energy; it favors no company, no person and no energy source. It treats them all equally. That is the American way.

When I’m at home, Kansans tell me they want honest and serious leadership from their elected representatives, not the business-as-usual policies that got us into this economic mess. I am working hard to provide solutions to meet a most pressing goal: preserving our way of life for our kids and grandkids.

Decker: I understand that you would use savings from the elimination of energy subsidies to lower the corporate tax rate. How would that work and why is it necessary?

Pompeo: My goal in getting rid of tax loopholes is not to raise taxes. Our problem in Washington, D.C. is not a revenue problem, it is a spending problem. My goal is to make the tax code fairer and flatter and reward energy sources that lower costs for consumers. So, any increase in taxes that occurs because these tax goodies are eliminated will be offset by lower taxes for every single business in America. My bill would mean fewer tax loopholes for the powerful and the connected, and lower tax rates for everyone willing to take risk and engage in American commerce. This is the perfect combination and the way our tax code needs to be reformed. The Energy Freedom and Economic Prosperity Act does this in one small place — the realm of energy tax credits — and it provides a model for the broader tax reform that will set our nation on a prosperous course for decades to come.

Sen. Jim DeMint [of South Carolina] has sponsored a companion provision which garnered the support of a majority of the Republican Conference, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell [of Kentucky], during a recent vote on the Senate Floor. In the House, my bill enjoys the support of strong conservatives, including Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan [of Wisconsin]. I believe there is a growing consensus that my bill represents a free-market model for how to enact real, comprehensive tax reform.

Decker: Before coming to Washington last year, you spent your career in the private sector, including building a successful aerospace company from the ground up. I have had many job creators tell me that if they had to start all over again that creating their own company would no longer be worth all the hassle, harassment and heartache. What are the most damaging government hindrances to entrepreneurs today?

Pompeo: I’d start a business again in a heartbeat. Indeed, I hope that one day I may get the chance to do so when my mission here in Washington, D.C. is complete.

It is true that President Obama has unleashed a slew of regulations upon small business. I struggled against that regulatory burden firsthand while running a company in Kansas. It is difficult to create jobs when you face an overwhelming tax burden, as well as countless compliance and reporting rules. I’ve been there. I’ve grappled with these issues while keeping the lights on and making payroll. That’s why we need to roll back government interference and grow our economy so people can find jobs. The energy sector is a perfect example where the Obama administration’s actions are harming both businesses and consumers. Having run a small business that provided oil and gas exploration equipment to domestic energy producers, I have seen this firsthand. Why, for example, has this president’s Environmental Protection Agency attacked with intent to destroy the coal industry that provides over 50 percent of all American power? Layer upon layer of regulations aimed at — in the president’s own words — “bankrupting” that industry. Why, for example, has this president put 10 (ten!) agencies on the beat to regulate hydraulic fracturing — a process that has been effectively regulated by states for decades with a tremendous safety record.

These are the reasons some entrepreneurs are reluctant to start businesses and take risks. We can do better, we can create jobs in America, and I am confident the next administration will.

Decker: Every time I sit down with a business leader, I get an earful about 2002’s Sarbanes-Oxley Act that dramatically altered federal accounting regulations and 2010’s Dodd-Frank Act to supposedly reform Wall Street. Should these laws be repealed? Why or why not?

Pompeo: I’ve heard a great deal more about Dodd-Frank than I have Sarbanes-Oxley from Kansans. Both laws have had very significant and negative consequences for our economy. I support the repeal of Dodd-Frank in its entirety. Its goal to protect taxpayers from failures of the nation’s largest financial institutions is not accomplished and, instead, has negatively impacted community and regional banks along with their customers. It has also created yet another “do-good” organization, the Consumer Financial Protection Board. The CFPB will not protect consumers. Instead, it will add to the cost for every hardworking taxpayer who seeks to purchase a home with a mortgage or who wants to engage in other banking activity. Once again, the federal government, in its effort to protect citizens, fails in its mission and instead creates a bureaucracy that eclipses any good that might have been sought.

Decker: The Obama administration talks an awful lot about an economic recovery, yet the unemployment rate is still sky high, record numbers of Americans are on food stamps and the national debt continues to mount due to runaway federal spending. What does such an anemic recovery say about the real state of our economy?

Pompeo: This very weak data shows this is not a recovery that will truly provide the jobs and opportunity our nation must have and the next generation deserves. The $831 billion “economic stimulus,” passed into law in 2009, dug the hole deeper and did not accomplish what the president said it would – keeping unemployment below 8 percent. This should come as no surprise. Businesses have no interest in hiring new employees in this environment of higher taxes, regulatory uncertainty and the staggering costs of Obamacare. Republicans were swept into power in 2010 because Americans saw our solutions for recovery: less spending, less government and less regulation. All of these things are what will kick-start our recovery. We can’t spend our way out of this mess. That’s been tried and it failed. The real economy, private-sector job growth, will return when leaders in Washington, D.C. recognize what Kansans already know: The solutions are not to be found in ever-expanding government. The solutions are found through freedom, liberty, innovation and rewarding earned success.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Thursday May 17, 2012

Watchdog reporter at Pachyderm. This Friday (May 18th) the Wichita Pachyderm Club features Paul Soutar, Reporter for Kansas Watchdog, speaking on “The evolution of journalism and how the new media empowers citizens.” The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club. … The club has an exceptional lineup of future speakers as follows: On May 25th: Ron Estes, State Treasurer of Kansas, speaking on “A report from the Kansas Treasurer.” … On June 1st: Gary Oborny, Chairman/CEO Occidental Management and Real Estate Development, CCIM Designated member of the Storm Water Advisory Board to the City of Wichita, speaking on “What is the economic impact of EPA mandates on storm water quality in Wichita?”

Kansas senators vote for cronyism. Veronique de Rugy explains the harm of the Export-Import Bank of the United States in Why Would Anyone be Against the Export-Import Bank? “First, the Ex-Im Bank is nothing more than corporate welfare. This is an agency that is in the business of subsidizing private companies with taxpayer dollars. … An excellent paper by Cato Institute’s trade analyst Sallie James exposes just how unseemly, inefficient, and irrelevant the Export-Import Bank is. As James explains, the Bank not only picks winners and losers by guaranteeing the loans of private companies, but it also introduces unfair competition for all the U.S. firms that do not benefit from such special treatment.” The bill is H.R. 2072: Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Act of 2012. Both Kansas senators Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts voted for this bill. So did U.S. Representative Kevin Yoder of the Kansas third district. But Representatives Tim Huelskamp, Lynn Jenkins, and Mike Pompeo voted against it.

Koch = big oil? Politico: “The Koch brothers have an unlikely ally in the war of words with their liberal adversaries: the nation’s journalistic fact-checkers. Both The Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog and the nonpartisan site FactCheck.org have dinged critics of David and Charles Koch in recent weeks for referring to the billionaire brothers as Big Oil. Why? Because Koch Industries’ business interests extend well beyond the company’s involvement in petroleum refining and other oil-based operations. And while no corporate midget, the company isn’t anywhere near as big as true oil giants like ExxonMobil. ‘So even if all of Koch Industries’ revenues came from its refining business — which they do not — they would still be a fraction of the revenues of the companies that actually represent ‘Big Oil,” the FactCheck.org critique read.” More at Fact-checkers and Kochs’ ‘Big Oil’. Another example of how facts don’t get in the way of Koch critics. Or try For New York Times, facts about Kochs don’t matter.

Economic freedom. Why does the political left criticize Charles and David Koch? In the following video from last year, Koch Industries CEO and board chairman Charles G. Koch explains the principles of economic freedom, something that he and David Koch have worked to advance for many years. These principles, according to Koch, include private property rights, impartial rule of law, free trade, sound money which reduces boom and bust cycles, and a small and limited government. These principles are good for everyone, I should add, including those currently at the bottom of the economic ladder.

We aren’t Greece … yet. “Once again, Greece finds the international community questioning its ability to pay its debts. Default and an exit from the Euro Zone (or countries which share the Euro as a common currency) threatens on the horizon. Here in the U.S., we face high debts and have a lowered credit rating due to Washington’s inability to agree on deficit reduction. Just how alike are our two nations?” An infographic from Bankrupting America explains.


Bankrupting America

Pompeo: Ending tax credits for energy doesn’t violate pledge

In a news conference last week, U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita and two others criticized President Barack Obama for misunderstanding of the meaning of a taxpayer protection pledge that Pompeo has signed.

The pledge is the famous pledge advanced by Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, where signers pledge not to increase taxes. The “tax increase” the president refers to are various tax credits that benefit some forms of energy production, particularly wind and solar power. Norquist, along with Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, participated in the conference.

Pompeo said the president “called out” those who signed the ATR pledge, specifically arguing that allowing the wind production tax credit (PTC) to expire would be a violation of the pledge. The ATR taxpayer protection pledge is to “One, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses; and two, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.”

Pompeo has introduced legislation in the House of Representatives that would end tax credits on all forms of energy production. By itself, that might be a violation of the pledge. The bill, however, specifies that the savings from the elimination of the spending on tax credits would be used to lower the corporate income tax rate. The use of the savings to reduce tax rates is in agreement with the second plank of the ATR pledge.

Pompeo’s bill is H.R. 3308: Energy Freedom and Economic Prosperity Act. This bill is currently in committee. Sen. DeMint introduced an amendment to a Senate bill that would have accomplished the same, but the amendment received only 26 votes. Pompeo characterized this as an advance, as just a few years ago, he said such a bill or amendment would have received only a few votes. But this received the votes of a majority of Republican members of the Senate, including that of minority leader Mitch McConnell.

In his remarks, DeMint said that while the president talks about eliminating corporate loopholes, he is hypocritical in his criticism of this legislation. If Congress could eliminate the tax credits — loopholes — for big oil and all energy and lower tax rates for all, it would be “a model for what we could do across our whole tax code.”

Norquist emphasized the temporary nature of many loopholes or tax advantaged treatment added to the tax code. These are usually pitched as temporary measures, needed because the policy goal is good, the industry is in its infancy, and it needs temporary help. But as in the case of the wind PTC, these special advantages are often extended or made permanent.

The issue of special tax treatment for the oil and gas industry arose. Norquist said that these tax considerations almost always fall into the categories of depreciation and expensing, which are available to all industries. He said if these are available to General Electric and Wal-Mart, they should also be available to all industries, including oil and gas.

Not everyone, including all conservatives, agree that tax credits are a form of spending implemented through the tax code. Recently Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and U.S. Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas made the case for extending the production tax credit for the production of electrical power by wind. See Wind tax credits are government spending in disguise.

In their op-ed, the Kansans argued the PTC is necessary to let the wind power industry “complete its transformation from being a high tech startup to becoming cost competitive in the energy marketplace.” As the PTC has been in effect is 1992, a period of 20 years, Norquist’s warning about the temporary nature of these programs is relevant.

The proper way to view the PTC is as a government spending program, recognizing the true economic effect of tax credits. Only recently are Americans coming to realize this, and as a result, the term “tax expenditures” is coming into use to accurately characterize the mechanism of tax credits. Canceling this spending is what would let tax rates be reduced, according to Pompeo’s proposed legislation.

Amazingly, Brownback and Moran do not realize this, at least if we take them at their written word when they write: “But the wind PTC is a winning solution because it allows companies to keep more of their own dollars in exchange for the production of energy. These are not cash handouts; they are reductions in taxes that help cover the cost of doing business.” (Emphasis added.)

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Wednesday May 2, 2012

When government pays, government controls. Although most liberals would not admit this, it sometimes slips through: When government is paying for our health care, government then feels it must control our behavior. The Wichita Eagle’s Rhonda Holman provides an example of this, when she wrote in a blog post about Kansas relaxing its smoking ban: “Especially with Medicaid costs swallowing up the state budget, lawmakers should be discouraging smoking, not accommodating more of it.”

The moral case for capitalism. “Two main charges are typically marshaled against capitalism: it generates inequality by allowing some to become wealthier than others; and it threatens social solidarity by allowing individuals some priority over their communities. … Capitalism does allow — and perhaps even requires — inequality. Because people’s talents, skills, values, desires, and preferences vary and because of sheer luck, some people will be able to generate more wealth in a free-enterprise system than others will; inequality will result. But it is not clear that we should worry about that. … If you could solve only one social ill — either inequality or poverty — which would it be? Or suppose that the only way to address poverty would be to allow inequality: Would you allow it? … More by James R. Otteson in An Audacious Promise: The Moral Case for Capitalism at the Manhattan Institute.

Moran to address Pachyderms. This Friday (May 4th) the Wichita Pachyderm Club features United States Senator Jerry Moran speaking on “A legislative update.” The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club. … The club has an exceptional lineup of future speakers as follows: On May 11th: Gary Oborny, Chairman/CEO Occidental Management and Real Estate Development, CCIM Designated member of the Storm Water Advisory Board to the City of Wichita, speaking on “What is the economic impact of EPA mandates on storm water quality in Wichita?” … On May 18th: Paul Soutar, Reporter for Kansas Watchdog, speaking on “The evolution of journalism and how the new media empowers citizens.” … On May 25th: Ron Estes, State Treasurer of Kansas, speaking on “A report from the Kansas Treasurer.”

Funding pet projects without earmarks. Wonderful! While this plan still relies on government to some degree, it is largely voluntary, which is the direction we need to steer things. “There is a creative workaround that allows funds to flow to those prized pet projects: a commemorative coin bill.” Read more at Heritage Action for America.

Harm of taxes. In introducing the new edition of Rich States, Poor States, authors Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore explain the importance of low taxes. “Barack Obama is asking Americans to gamble that the U.S. economy can be taxed into prosperity. That’s the message of his campaign for the Buffett Rule, which raises income-tax rates on millionaires to a minimum of 30%, and for the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. He wants to raise the highest income tax rate by 20%, double the rate on capital gains, add a new 3.8% tax on all capital earnings, and nearly triple the dividend tax rate. All this will enhance “economic efficiency,” insists a White House economic report. As for those who disagree, says President Obama, they’re just pushing “the same version of trickle-down economics tried for much of the last century. … But prosperity sure didn’t trickle down.” Mr. Obama needs a refresher course on the 1920s, 1960s, 1980s and even the 1990s, when government spending and taxes fell and employment and incomes grew rapidly.” More in the Wall Street Journal at Laffer and Moore: A 50-State Tax Lesson for the President: Over the past decade, states without an income levy have seen much higher growth than the national average. Which state will be next to abolish theirs?

Role of prices. Prices convey information more accurately and efficiently than any centralized organization — such a government. It provides a, well, automatic mechanism for adjusting to the changes in the world, changes which happen every day, and even every minute. Sometimes we may not like the information that price signals are sending, but they represent the truth. Daniel J. Smith of Troy University explains in this video from LearnLiberty.org, a project of the Institute for Humane Studies: “Why are prices important? Prof. Daniel J. Smith of Troy University describes the role that prices play in generating, gathering, and transmitting information throughout the economy. Information about the supply and demand of different goods are dispersed among different buyers and sellers in an economy. Nobody has to know all this dispersed information; individuals only need to know the relative prices. Based on the simple information contained in a price, people adjust their behavior to account for conditions in supply and demand, even if they are unaware of that information.”

Wind tax credits are government spending in disguise

Recently Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and U.S. Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas made the case for extending the production tax credit (PTC) for the production of electrical power by wind.

The PTC pays generators of wind power 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour produced, a high rate of subsidy for a product that sells for 9.5 cents, according to a March 2010 illustration provided by Westar.

Brownback and Moran contend that this tax credit is necessary to let the industry “complete its transformation from being a high tech startup to becoming cost competitive in the energy marketplace.” But wind is not a new industry. The PTC has been in place for twenty years. If an industry can’t get established in that period, when will it be ready to stand in its own?

The authors also contend that canceling the PTC will result in a “tax hike on wind energy companies.” To some extent this is true — but only because the industry has enjoyed preferential tax treatment that it should never have received.

The proper way to view the PTC is as a government spending program in disguise. That’s the true economic effect of tax credits. They are equivalent to grants of money.

Amazingly, Brownback and Moran do not realize this — at least if we take them at their written word as they describe the PTC: “These are not cash handouts; they are reductions in taxes that help cover the cost of doing business.” (Emphasis added.)

It is the mixing of spending programs with taxation that leads these politicians to wrongly claim that tax credits are not cash handouts. But not everyone falls for this seductive trap. In an article in Cato Institute’s Regulation magazine, Edward D. Kleinbard explains:

Specialists term these synthetic government spending programs “tax expenditures.” Tax expenditures are really spending programs, not tax rollbacks, because the missing tax revenues must be financed by more taxes on somebody else. … Tax expenditures dissolve the boundaries between government revenues and government spending. They reduce both the coherence of the tax law and our ability to conceptualize the very size and activities of our government. (The Hidden Hand of Government Spending, Fall 2010)

U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita recognized the cost of paying for tax credit expenditures when he recently wrote: “Moreover, what about the jobs lost because everyone else’s taxes went up to pay for the subsidy and to pay for the high utility bills from wind-powered energy? There will be no ribbon-cuttings for those out-of-work families.”

This is an example of the seen and unseen, where thinking is confined only to what is easily seen. Many years ago Frederic Bastiat explained this problem in his famous parable of the broken window. More recently the school of public choice economics has warned us the problem of concentrated benefits and dispersed costs. Politicians hope we won’t notice.

When Brownback and Moran write of the loss of income to those who profit from wind power, we should remember that these profits do not arise from transactions between willing partners. Instead, they result from politicians who override the judgment of free people and free markets with their own political preferences — along with looking out for the parochial interests of the home state. We need less of this type of wind power.

Brownback, Moran wrong on wind tax credits

In the following commentary, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and U.S. Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas make the case for extending the production tax credit (PTC) for the production of electrical power by wind.

The PTC pays generators of wind power 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour produced. To place that in context, a typical Westar customer in Kansas that uses 1,000 kilowatt-hours in the summer pays $95.22 (before local sales tax), for a rate of 9.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. (This is the total cost including energy charge, fuel charge, transmission charge, environment cost recovery rider, property tax surcharge, and franchise fee, according to a March 2010 illustration provided by Westar.) So 2.2 cents is a high rate of subsidy for a product that sells for 9.5 cents.

The authors contend that the PTC is necessary to let the wind power industry “complete its transformation from being a high tech startup to becoming cost competitive in the energy marketplace.” The problem with this line of argument is that wind is not an industry in its infancy. The PTC has been in place since 1992, a period of twenty years. If an industry can’t get established in that period, when will it be ready to stand in its own?

The authors also contend that canceling the PTC is, in effect, a “tax hike on wind energy companies.” To some extent this is true — but only because the industry has enjoyed preferential tax treatment that it should never have received, coupled with a misunderstanding of the tax credit mechanism.

The proper way to view the PTC is as a government spending program. That’s the true economic effect of tax credits. Only recently are Americans coming to realize this, and as a result, the term “tax expenditures” is coming into use to accurately characterize the mechanism of tax credits.

Amazingly, Brownback and Moran do not realize this, at least if we take them at their written word when they write: “But the wind PTC is a winning solution because it allows companies to keep more of their own dollars in exchange for the production of energy. These are not cash handouts; they are reductions in taxes that help cover the cost of doing business.” (Emphasis added.)

It is the mixing of spending programs with taxation that leads these politicians to wrongly claim that tax credits are not cash handouts. Fortunately, not everyone falls for this seductive trap. In an excellent article on the topic that appeared in Cato Institute’s Regulation magazine, Edward D. Kleinbard explains:

Specialists term these synthetic government spending programs “tax expenditures.” Tax expenditures are really spending programs, not tax rollbacks, because the missing tax revenues must be financed by more taxes on somebody else. Like any other form of deficit spending, a targeted tax break without a revenue offset simply means more deficits (and ultimately more taxes); a targeted tax break coupled with a specific revenue “payfor” means that one group of Americans is required to pay (in the form of higher taxes) for a subsidy to be delivered to others through the mechanism of the tax system. … Tax expenditures dissolve the boundaries between government revenues and government spending. They reduce both the coherence of the tax law and our ability to conceptualize the very size and activities of our government. (The Hidden Hand of Government Spending, Fall 2010)

U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita recognized the cost of paying for tax credit expenditures when he recently wrote: “Moreover, what about the jobs lost because everyone else’s taxes went up to pay for the subsidy and to pay for the high utility bills from wind-powered energy? There will be no ribbon-cuttings for those out-of-work families.” See Mike Pompeo: We need capitalism, not cronyism.

So when Brownback and Moran write of the loss of income to those who profit from wind power, we should remember that these profits do not arise from transactions between willing partners. Instead, they result from politicians like these who are willing to override the judgment of free people and free markets with their own political preferences — along with looking out for the parochial interests of the home state. We need less of this type of wind power.

Strengthening our Nation’s Domestic Energy Supply

By Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and U.S. Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas.

The increasing cost of conducting business in the United States threatens innovation and investment in new technologies. In today’s unstable business environment, American industries are understandably reluctant to invest the time and resources necessary to grow their businesses. This is especially true for domestic energy production.

Energy production is one of the most highly regulated markets in the United States today. Government policies are hurting our country’s ability to compete within the global economy, limiting our domestic energy supply and driving up the cost of energy for consumers. To ensure Kansans have access to a reliable and affordable supply of energy, we must develop more of our nation’s natural resources.

One resource that is plentiful in Kansas is wind. Our state has the second highest wind resource potential in our country and leads the nation in wind production capacity currently under construction. If we expect the wind energy industry to provide for our country’s future energy needs and make long-term investments in their businesses, Congress must reauthorize the wind production tax credit (PTC) that expires this year. By extending the wind PTC, Congress will allow the wind industry to complete its transformation from being a high tech startup to becoming cost competitive in the energy marketplace. Failure to do so will result in a tax hike on wind energy companies and will only further delay this industry’s ability to compete.

There are those who view government intervention in the energy sector as picking winners and losers. But the wind PTC is a winning solution because it allows companies to keep more of their own dollars in exchange for the production of energy. These are not cash handouts; they are reductions in taxes that help cover the cost of doing business. Unlike President Obama’s failed stimulus plan that rewards individual, unproven companies like Solyndra with cash handouts, the wind PTC is an industry tax credit that has led to $20 billion in annual private investment in our energy infrastructure.

Today, the American wind industry includes more than 400 manufacturing facilities in 43 states. In 2005, just 25 percent of the value of a wind turbine was produced in the United States compared to more than 60 percent today. Because of their close proximity to wind farms, American workers can produce the critical components at a lower cost than their European and Asian counterparts. As more components are manufactured in the United States and not overseas, the cost to produce electricity from wind farms will be further driven down.

If the wind PTC is allowed to expire, local economies across our state will suffer. Kansas counties will lose $3.7 million in annual payments from wind companies. Kansas landowners will lose nearly $4 million annually in additional income they earn from leasing or selling their land for wind farms. And every Kansan will ultimately be affected because the power generated by these wind facilities contributes to our supply of electricity. By eliminating additional sources of electricity, utility rates will climb.

To meet our country’s energy needs and remain competitive in the global market, Congress must develop a national energy policy. Recent events in the Middle East have demonstrated once again the importance of having access to an ample domestic energy supply so we are less dependent on foreign sources. If Congress fails, Kansans will soon be paying much higher energy prices — for the gas to fill up our cars, for the fuel to power our farm equipment, and for the electricity to turn on our lights.

Temporarily extending the wind PTC is not about picking winners and losers — it is about preparing our country to meet our growing energy demand. Rather than make it more difficult for the private sector to develop energy sources, we should lower taxes, reduce regulations, and allow the private sector to succeed in the free market. In turn, the wind industry will grow and become fully competitive — no longer needing the wind PTC. By strengthening American energy production, our country’s future will be stronger and more secure.

Wind energy split in Kansas

Despite the promise as a temporary subsidy when it started twenty years ago, wind energy is reliant on government handouts. Today’s Wall Street Journal brings this into focus, writing: “The truth is that those giant wind turbines from Maine to California won’t turn without burning through billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars. In 2010 the industry received some $5 billion in subsidies for nearly every stage of wind production.” (See Republicans Blow With the Wind: Another industry wants to keep its taxpayer subsidies..)

The piece also properly refutes the argument that oil and gas receives the same type of tax credits as does wind and other renewable energy forms. “The most dishonest claim is that wind and solar deserve to be wards of the state because the oil and gas industry has also received federal support. That’s the $4 billion a year in tax breaks for oil and gas (which all manufacturers receive), but the oil and gas industry still pays tens of billions in federal taxes every year.” There’s a difference between tax deductions, which reduce taxable income, and tax credits, which are government spending programs in disguise.

Despite this: Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas has joined with five other senators in urging the Senate to pass an extension of the subsidy program for wind power. Kansas, it should be noted, has a lot of wind. Our former governors Sebelius and Parkinson bought into the green energy fantasy, and current governor Kansas Governor Sam Brownback agrees, having penned op-eds in support of wind energy subsidy programs and usage mandates. Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer has been busy promoting Wichita as a site for wind energy-related industry, despite its failing economics based on government handouts.

(By the way, it’s not only wind that is receiving subsidy on Kansas. Recently the Department of Energy announced the award of a $132.4 million loan guarantee to a cellulosic ethanol plant in southwest Kansas. At the time of the award, no commercial cellulosic ethanol had been produced in America. See Kansas and its own Solyndra.)

Contrast this with U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita, who has introduced legislation to end all tax credits related to energy production. Writes the Journal: “Here’s a better idea. Kill all energy subsidies– renewable and nonrenewable, starting with the wind tax credit, and use the savings to shave two or three percentage points off America’s corporate income tax. Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo has a bill to do so. This would do more to create jobs than attempting to pick energy winners and losers. Mandating that American families and businesses use expensive electricity doesn’t create jobs. It destroys them.”

Republicans Blow With the Wind

Another industry wants to keep its taxpayer subsidies.

Congress finally ended decades of tax credits for ethanol in December, a small triumph for taxpayers. Now comes another test as the wind-power industry lobbies for a $7 billion renewal of its production tax credit.

The renewable energy tax credit — mostly for wind and solar power — started in 1992 as a “temporary” benefit for an infant industry. Twenty years later, the industry wants another four years on the dole, and Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico has introduced a national renewable-energy mandate so consumers will be required to buy wind and solar power no matter how high the cost.

The truth is that those giant wind turbines from Maine to California won’t turn without burning through billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars. In 2010 the industry received some $5 billon in subsidies for nearly every stage of wind production.

Continue reading at the Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Kansas Senator Jerry Moran wants to pick losers in the market: His choice is big wind

In Kansas, we have a lot of wind — no doubt about that. But the economics of wind as a source of electricity generation is another matter. There’s a split in Kansas over this. On one side are Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, who has been vocal in his support of wind power, along with Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, who has been busy promoting Wichita as a site for wind energy-related industry. Now we see Kansas’ newest U.S. Senator Jerry Moran jumping in to promote the wind power subsidy program. Contrast this with U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita, who has introduced legislation to end all tax credits related to energy production. It’s important to remember that the government subsidy program for wind power is in the form of tax credits, which are equivalent to grants by the government. The term “tax expenditures” is starting to see widespread usage to accurately describe the economic effect of tax credits.

Senator Jerry Moran wants to pick losers in the market: His choice is big wind

By Daniel Horowitz

If I were pressed to offer one anecdote exemplifying our failure to elect consistent conservatives to Congress last November, the story of Senator Jerry Moran and Big Wind would be at the top of the list.

In 2010, then-Congressman Jerry Moran beat former Congressman Todd Tiahrt for the Republican nomination for Senate in Kansas running as a red meat conservative. He easily won the seat in this solid Republican state and summarily joined the ‘Tea Party Caucus’ in the Senate. Nothing emblematizes the convictions of the Tea Party more than its fervent opposition to special interest handouts and government interventions in the private sector as a way of picking winners and losers. Yet, Senator Moran let the cat out of the bag last week that he has absolutely no compunction about picking winners and losers, or in the case of Big Wind, big losers.

Last week, Senator Moran announced that he is submitting an amendment to the terrible Senate highway bill (S.1813) that would extend the 2.2 cent/ per kilowatt-hour Production Tax Credit (PTC) for another 4 years. This special interest handout to Solar and Wind is slated to expire at the end of the year. What happened to Moran’s Tea Party views? Well, he unabashedly threw them under the solar-powered bus:

Asked about opposition to extending the credit expressed by Rep. Mike Pompeo of Wichita, Moran said: “There are members of Congress who feel we ought not to pick winners and losers, to let the markets decided. I believe it’s better to get this industry up and running, then let the country decide … rather than pull the rug out overnight.”

Wow! At least he’s honest. I wish we had known that before the election.

The PTC is the corporate version of the Earned Income Credit for green energy. It is among 51 ‘tax extenders’ that have either expired last December or are slated to expire this December. The PTC offers a 2.2 cent/per kilowatt-hour refundable credit for wind, solar, or geothermal. According to the Heritage Foundation, if the oil industry received a commensurate subsidy, they would get a $30 check for every barrel produced.

Headed into the November elections, one of our most potent and popular arguments we have is to paint the Democrats with the Solyndra economy — an economy where the government intervenes to pick winners and losers, at the detriment of consumers and taxpayers. How can we effectively articulate an alternative free-market vision when we have a member of “the Tea Party Caucus” supporting Obama’s policy of picking losers in the energy sector? Talk about pale pastels!

Folks, this is not how we win elections. Moreover, this type of special interest peddling — from energy subsidies to farm welfare — creates dependency in some of the reddest states. This is not a winning message for the future of conservatism, especially when it emanates from such a Republican state.

There is a better way. Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-KS) introduced legislation (HR 3308) to sunset all targeted energy tax credits and grants, including those for fossil fuels and nuclear power. The bill would use the savings from the repeal of these credits (roughly $90 billion over ten years) to lower the corporate tax rate on everyone. Senator DeMint has introduced a companion bill in the Senate (S.2064).

Every member of Congress who seeks a clean break from a centrally-planned Solyndra economy must cosponsor this bill. Additionally, as we look for more congressional candidates to endorse, it is these issues — energy and farm subsidies — that will separate the men from the boys. We must fight this election by offering voters a choice, not an echo.

Cross-posted from The Madison Project

Kansas gas storage regulation might not improve safety

Due to a jurisdictional issue, underground natural gas storage facilities in Kansas have not been inspected for 19 months — at least not inspected by government regulators. Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran have introduced legislation that would allow Kansas to resume inspections.

The safety of underground natural gas storage is important, especially in Kansas, where in 2001 gas leaked under Hutchinson and caused fires and explosions that killed two people and caused much property damage. So should Kansans be relieved that government regulation and inspection may be resumed soon?

Reading news stories from after the January 2001 Hutchinson disaster should teach us to be wary of relying on government regulation and inspection for ensuring safety. For example, a February 2001 in the Wichita Eagle contained this: “State officials in Kansas knew that the 20-year-old regulations governing underground gas storage were inadequate, years before a gas leak in Hutchinson claimed two lives. Officials with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment met with industry representatives in 1996 and told them new regulations were needed to ensure safe operation of 630 gas storage wells in the state. The new regulations were never written. The update was delayed because the KDHE was short staffed, said Don Carlson, chief of the industrial programs section. The department has two people assigned to permit, inspect, oversee and write regulations for the 6,000 underground injection wells in Kansas that are used to store natural gas and propane, dispose of hazardous waste or mine salt, he said.” (emphasis added)

So for 20 years Kansas operated with inadequate regulations. Was this know by the general public? It doesn’t appear that it was. Instead, people assumed that government was watching out for their safety.

The Hutchinson News concluded in 2004: “True, some of the company’s reports misled the regulator. But the state official also did little, if anything, to check the company’s information or to inspect the site. A local diner serving two dozen cheeseburgers a day received more attention than an underground facility storing billions of cubic feet of natural gas and other volatile hydrocarbons.”

So how well were Kansans served by its regulators? Not well at all, we must conclude.

Eventually the operators of the gas storage facility were held accountable for their errors. But it wasn’t direct government action that did that, although the operators were fined $180,000. But government operates courts where the victims received compensation for their losses — if it is possible to compensate for loss of life with mere money.

What about the other party to this disaster — the State of Kansas: Was it held accountable? Not at all. Examples of regulatory failure rarely result in punishment of government or those who work for it.

A recent example is the Washington Post story Eight SEC employees disciplined over failures in Madoff fraud case; none are fired. Bernie Madoff stole tens of billions from clients over a long period of time in a highly-regulated industry. The Securities and Exchange Commission chief was advised to fire one person, but declined to do even that. Instead, eight employees received punishments such as “suspensions, pay cuts and demotions.”

Not only did the state not perform adequate inspections, and not only did the SEC fail to detect Madoff’s ongoing theft, the presence of government regulation makes people think things are safe.

Sadly, it is only after disasters like Hutchinson or sensational cases like Madoff’s that we become aware of the weak protections that government regulation provides.

Kansas and its own Solyndra

At this moment, we can’t say that Kansas has its own version of Solyndra, the subsidized and politically-connected solar energy firm that recently shut down its operations and declared bankruptcy. But as far as absorbing the important lessons from Solyndra, we may have another chance to learn them in Kansas.

Solyndra is a failure in several ways. Much money was lost. It may be that corrupt or criminal activity was involved; we don’t know that yet. It appears that Solyndra will be a useful political scandal for Republicans to exploit, especially in the upcoming election campaign against the president. We can be sure that Republicans will keep us informed on this.

But the largest and most important lesson from Solyndra is one that many politicians — Democrats and Republicans both — don’t want to recognize: Government intervention in the economy is wrong for the health of the country.

The problem is that when government intervenes in the economy, it almost always gets it wrong. It’s not that Obama and other politicians aren’t smart. It’s the problems inherent in government interventionism: There will be both routine and spectacular examples of waste, as people — politicians and bureaucrats, especially — are not spending their own money. Decisions will be made to benefit the well-connected and for political, not market-based reasons. Cronyism and corruption flourish, as many will find it easier to compete in the marketplace for politicians rather than in the free market where fickle consumers rule with their fleeting tastes and preferences.

But politicians and bureaucrats love to intervene. For bureaucrats, intervention — government programs, that is — provides jobs, and well-paid jobs, too. Since much government intervention in the economy is in the form of subsidies, it allows politicians to dispense other peoples’ money and take credit for having “created” jobs or having built a bridge, probably to be named for them later on.

Other government intervention is in the form of creating unneeded regulations or tax loopholes that favor politicians’ friends or harm their competition.

All of this means that economic activity is directed according to political, not economic, considerations. It’s wasteful. It’s harmful. It diminishes market-based investment, that is, investment made according to what people really want and need. It reduces the freedom, liberty, and prosperity of everyone.

Back to Kansas: Last week the Department of Energy announced the award of a $132.4 million loan guarantee to Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Kansas, LLC. This is the same federal agency and the same loan guarantee program involved in the Solyndra matter. The difference is that it’s an even newer so-called green energy technology involved: cellulosic ethanol production.

The plant in Kansas is to be at Hugoton, in southwest Kansas. The press release from DOE promotes the number of jobs that will be created.

Cellulosic ethanol is produced from plant material that is usually considered waste, such as corn stalks or wheat straw. That’s different from the usual input to ethanol production in America, which is corn that would otherwise be used as animal or human food. Because of this, cellulosic ethanol is thought of by many as the “silver bullet” that will dramatically improve the path of America’s energy future. That may be the case, or it may not be. Because of the reasons listed above, government is particularly unsuited to make that decision and to participate in the scientific and entrepreneurial experimentation that will produce the answer.

At one time President George W. Bush praised the potential of this fuel. A Reuters analysis from July opens with: “The great promise of a car fuel made from cheap, clean-burning prairie grass or wood chips — and not from expensive corn that feeds the world — is more mirage than reality. Despite years of research, testing and some hype, the next-generation ethanol industry is far from the commercial success envisioned by President George W. Bush in 2006, when he pledged so-called cellulosic biofuels would be ‘practical and competitive’ by 2012.”

That hints at the problem: despite much effort, scientists haven’t been able to demonstrate cellulosic ethanol production on a commercially-successful scale. According to the Wall Street Journal, as of this summer, no commercial cellulosic ethanol has been produced.

The loan guarantee is not the only form of government subsidy and boost ethanol producers received. There is a tax credit for each gallon produced and a tariff that protects producers from cheaper imported ethanol.

Despite these very large measures of government intervention, cellulosic ethanol backers blame the government for lack of progress in the industry, citing the government’s failure to mandate production levels and provide assurances that the industry would receive subsidies. And the loan guarantees are not made fast enough, they add to the list of complaints. An analysis by ClimateWire that appeared in the New York Times in January had industry boosters blaming the federal Department of Energy for its slow pace in issuing loan guarantees.

We won’t know the success or failure of the Abengoa plant in Kansas for some time, and now we taxpayers are placed in the position of hoping that it succeeds. But it has the pedigree of a government plan to correct a perceived market failure, and that’s a danger sign.

Both Kansas Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran have spoken approvingly of this plant despite the government intervention involved; Moran in a statement after the announcement, and Roberts in previous years as plans were being made. U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp, who represents the district where the plant is located, has not commented on this plant, and offered no comment for this story.

Sedgwick County considers a planning grant

This week the Sedgwick County Commission considered whether to participate in a HUD Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant.

A letter from Sedgwick County Manager Bill Buchanan to commissioners said that the grant will “consist of multi-jurisdictional planning efforts that integrate housing, land use, economic and workforce development, transportation, and infrastructure investments in a manner that empowers jurisdictions to consider the interdependent challenges of economic prosperity, social equity, energy use and climate change, and public health and environmental impact.”

The budget of the grant is $2,141,177 to fund the three-year plan development process, with $1,370,000 from federal funds and $771,177 of “leveraged resources” as a local match. These leveraged resources are in the form of in-kind contributions of staff time, plus $60,000 in cash.

While Sedgwick County will be the grant’s “fiscal agent,” the work will be done by Regional Economic Area Partnership (REAP), an umbrella organization with the mission of, according to its website: “Guide state and national actions that affect economic development in the region and adopt joint actions among member governments that enhance the regional economy.”

REAP’s members include city and county governments in a nine-county area in south-central Kansas. One of its duties is to administer the Kansas Affordable Airfares Program, the program that pays subsidies to airlines to provide service to the Wichita airport. In 2011, Sedgwick County paid $15,272 in “assessments” for its membership in REAP, while the City of Wichita paid $27,192. Governments pay smaller amounts as part of REAP’s water resources program.

The counties that are considering participating in this planning grant are Reno, Harvey, Sedgwick, Sumner, and Butler.

County documents specify the county’s in-kind contribution as $120,707. That consists of portions of the salary and benefits for four existing employees, plus $85,800 in “indirect administration costs.” There is no cash match at this time.

John Schlegel, Director of Planning for the Wichita-Sedgwick County Metropolitan Area Planning Department, told commissioners that the end product of this grant would be the development of a regional plan for sustainable development. He said that we don’t know what the plan would contain, but that the purpose of the grant program is to get regions to work together on sustainability issues. The target area of the grant is a five-county area around Sedgwick County.

He said that examples of issues would be economic development, workforce development, fiscal sustainability such as balanced budgets and spending priorities, and working together to create efficiencies in the region like joint purchasing and cost sharing.

Commissioner Richard Ranzau asked to see a copy of the completed application, but the application is not complete.

In his remarks, Ranzau described the application process, reading from the application document: “The applicant must show a clear connection between the need that they have identified within the region, the proposed approach to address those conditions, and the outcomes they anticipate the plan will produce.” He said that it appears that REAP will do these within the application, but the commission is being asked to approve and commit to these items without having seen them, which he described as irresponsible. He made a motion that action on the grant be delayed until these things are known.

Joe Yager, chief executive officer of REAP, said that last year’s grant application is available on the REAP website, and that is the closest thing to a draft application that is available today. This year’s application is a second year of the program. Last year the commission voted not to participate in the grant by a 3 to 2 vote.

Commissioner Karl Peterjohn wondered if the new planning consortium is a duplication of existing regional authorities. He listed seven different groups, besides REAP, that are involved in planning for the region.

In further remarks, Peterjohn was concerned that smaller counties will have the same voting representation as Sedgwick County, which is many times larger than the small counties.

In response to a question from Peterjohn, Yager said that the current application is for category 1 funds only, which are for planning purposes. If REAP is successful in the application, it could apply for category 2 funds, which are for implementation of a plan.

Answering another question, Yager said that “livability principles,” which applicants must be committed to advance, are providing more transportation choices, promoting equitable and affordable housing, enhancing economic competitiveness, supporting existing communities, coordinating policies and leveraging investments, and valuing communities and neighborhoods. Peterjohn said these principles were not supplied in the information made available to commissioners.

Peterjohn said these principles sound innocuous on their face, but when details are examined, he said he could not support a “Washington-driven agenda” that could not pass the present Congress. He described this effort as part of an “administrative end-around,” baiting us with a federal grant, that will allow Washington, HUD, and EPA to “drive what we do in our community.”

The motion on deferring the item failed on a 2 to 3 vote, with Peterjohn and Ranzau voting for it.

The commission heard from three citizens. In his remarks, John Todd referenced a slide titled “Common Concerns” from a presentation given by REAP. Todd listed these concerns, which include: “A method of Social Engineering to restrict residence in the suburbs and rural areas and force Americans into city centers; a blueprint for the transformation of our society into total Federal control; will enforce Federal Sustainable Development zoning and control of local communities; will create a massive new ‘development’ bureaucracy; will drive up the cost of energy to heat and cool your home; will drive up the cost of gasoline as a way to get you out of your car; and will force you to spend thousands of dollars on your home in order to comply.”

Susan Estes of Americans for Prosperity challenged the attitude of some commissioners, particularly Jim Skelton, which is that approving the planning grant does not commit us to implementing the plan. She told the commissioners “If you know you don’t like the federal government coming in and planning for you, say so now. Let’s get it over with and be upfront and honest to those involved,” referring to the other cities and counties that may participate in the grant and planning process.

She characterized the language that appears in the grant materials as meaning “more control and less liberty.”

In his remarks, Ranzau asked Schlegel what problem we will solve by participating in the grant. Schlegel answered that the purpose of the grant is to “build the greater regional capacity for regions to better compete in what is really becoming a global marketplace.” This is the end product, he said.

Ranzau said that we don’t need more planning, that we have more than enough planning at the present time. This grant, he said, would create another consortium that is unaccountable to the people, as no one is elected to them. The organizations receive tax dollars, and while some elected officials serve on these bodies, it is not the same as being directly accountable to the people. The fact that the grant requires a new consortium to be formed is evidence that the agenda is to circumvent the will of the people, he said.

Ranzau also said that Schlegel told him that “acceptance of this grant will take REAP to another level, because right now they are struggling, and this will help plot the course for REAP.” He said that REAP, which is housed at the Hugo Wall School of Public Affairs at Wichita State University, needs to expand its role and authority in order to give it “something to do.” He said the grant will promote the “progressive agenda” of the Obama administration in this way.

Later Commission Chair Dave Unruh disputed the contention regarding the workload of REAP.

Ranzau also questioned whether we want the federal government to be a “source of solutions” for our local communities. He also questioned one of the stated goals of the program, which is to reduce cost to taxpayers. It’s a new program, he said, and would not reduce the cost to taxpayers.

He further questioned the ability of the grant program to help teach local communities to be fiscally responsible. With federal spending out of control, he said the federal government is not in a position to help in this regard.

He further said that talking in generalities sounds benign, and that he wanted to know what he is committing the county to this year. Repeating the concerns of Peterjohn, Ranzau said that accepting this grant would be accepting the policies of the Obama Administration as our own. He said that in the 2010 elections the people repudiated the agenda of the president, and this grant program is an example of the type of programs people have said they don’t want. It is concern with the agenda behind this grant program that is his greatest concern, he later explained.

Continuing, Ranzau questioned the ability of the federal government to create conditions for sustainable growth: “You’ve got to be kidding me. Look at the vision they now have for growth in this county. It’s a disaster. And now they want to take the same policies that have created and made our current economic situation worse — they want to bring them to our local communities by these sorts of grants.”

Both Ranzau and Peterjohn questioned the ability of this grant to produce affordable housing, citing the government’s role in the ongoing housing crisis.

Ranzau, who has voted against many grants, added that this is the “the worst and most troublesome grant” he’s seen in his time in office, adding that the grant is clearly an agenda created by President Obama. He said there are politicians who ran for office on platforms of limited government and fiscal responsibility, and this grant is an opportunity for them to “act on those values.”

In further discussion, it was brought out that each region makes its own definition of what sustainability means to it, but Yager provided this definition of sustainability: “Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

In his remarks, Unruh said that Sedgwick County has been involved in sustainability thinking and planning for at least two years. He said this is a strategy that helps the county plan for the future. He asked manager Buchanan if the county had a definition of sustainability. Buchanan replied the County has taken a similar approach to the International City/County Management Association, which he said involves four factors: Economic stability — sufficient jobs and economic development; ensuring that local governments are fiscally healthy so that they can provide quality services; social equity, which he said ensures that the delivery of services in communities is equitable; and the environment, which he said was not about global warming, but rather making sure we’re not wasting natural resources.

Unruh said that we are not opposed to these principles, that these are reasonable activities for elected officials. He added that regionalism is the “whole measuring stick.” We must consider communities close to us when planning, he added. It is reasonable to get these people together on a voluntary and non-binding basis. While he said he didn’t like excess spending at the federal level, it is his money that the federal government is spending, and we should take advantage of this program, adding that we need to plan. If the plans are not acceptable, he said we could simply not adopt them. He disagreed with the contention of Ranzau and Peterjohn that this process causes the county to yield to any master plan developed by the federal government. He again mentioned that we are using our money to develop this plan, and asked our federal officeholders to stop spending money in this way.

He added that he believes in limited government and fiscal responsibility, and that accessing these resources does not make him “hypocritical, insincere, or untruthful.”

In rebuttal to Buchanan, Ranzau said that the grant funding document says that one of the goals is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which are believed by many to be a cause of global warming or climate change. The document does mention helping regions “consider the interdependent challenges of … energy use and climate change.” This language was transmitted to commissioners in a letter from Buchanan. Ranzau again said it is important not to downplay the agenda that is associated with the grant funds. In earlier remarks, Ranzau had described how applications would be scored or ranked, and that winning applications would need to conform to the goals of HUD.

The commission voted to approve the grant, with Unruh, Norton, and Skelton voting in favor, and Ranzau and Peterjohn voting against.

Commentary

Discussions such as these, where the role of government and the nature of the proper relationship between the federal government and states, counties, and cities, are a regular feature at Sedgwick County Commission meetings, due to the concerns of Peterjohn and Ranzau. These discussion do not often take place at the Wichita City Council, unless initiated by citizens whose testify on matters.

The remarks of chairman Unruh illustrated one of the important conundrums of our day. Many are opposed to the level of federal (and other government) spending. Polls indicate that more and more people are concerned about this issue. Yet, it is difficult to stop the spending.

In particular, the grant process is thorny. The principled stand of Ranzau, and sometimes Peterjohn, is that we should simply refuse to participate in the spending — both federal and local — that grants imply, and in the process also accepting the strings attached to them. Others, Unruh and Skelton in particular, have what they believe is a pragmatic view, arguing that it is our money that paid for these grant programs, and so by participating in grants we are getting back some of the tax funds we send to Washington. This reasoning allows Unruh to profess belief in limited government and fiscal responsibility while at the same time participating in this spending.

But there is no doubt that accepting federal money such as these grant funds means buying in to at least parts of the progressive Obama agenda, something that I think conservatives like Unruh and Skelton would not do on a stand-alone basis. This is an example of the power and temptation of what appears to be “free” federal money, and Ranzau and Peterjohn are correctly concerned and appropriately wary.

It is even more troublesome to realize that this power over us is exercised using our own money, as Skelton and Unruh rightly recognize, but nonetheless go along.

There may be a legislative solution someday. First, we can elect federal officials who will stop these programs. But the temptation to bring money back to the home district, either through grant programs or old-fashioned pork barrel spending, is overwhelming. Just this week U.S. Senator Jerry Moran, who voted against raising the debt ceiling in August, pledged to find more federal funds to pay for Wichita’s aquifer storage and recovery program.

An example of legislation that may work is a bill recently introduced by U. S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita and others. The bill is H. R. 2961: To amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to have Early Innovator grant funds returned by States apply towards deficit reduction. The purpose of the bill is to direct the early innovator grant funds that Kansas Governor Sam Brownback returned towards deficit reduction, rather than being spent somewhere else.

The fiscal conservatives who vote to accept federal grant funds should be aware of research that indicates that these grants cause future tax increases. In my reporting on such a study I wrote: This is important because, in their words, “Federal grants often result in states creating new programs and hiring new employees, and when the federal funding for that specific purpose is discontinued, these new state programs must either be discontinued or financed through increases in state own source taxes.” … The authors caution: “Far from always being an unintended consequence, some federal grants are made with the intention that states will pick up funding the program in the future.”

The conclusion to this research paper (Do Intergovernmental Grants Create Ratchets in State and Local Taxes?) states:

Our results clearly demonstrate that grant funding to state and local governments results in higher own source revenue and taxes in the future to support the programs initiated with the federal grant monies. … Most importantly, our results suggest that the recent large increase in federal grants to state and local governments that has occurred as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) will have significant future tax implications at the state and local level as these governments raise revenue to continue these newly funded programs into the future. Federal grants to state and local governments have risen from $461 billion in 2008 to $654 billion in 2010. Based on our estimates, future state taxes will rise by between 33 and 42 cents for every dollar in federal grants states received today, while local revenues will rise by between 23 and 46 cents for every dollar in federal (or state) grants received today. Using our estimates, this increase of $200 billion in federal grants will eventually result in roughly $80 billion in future state and local tax and own source revenue increases. This suggests the true cost of fiscal stimulus is underestimated when the costs of future state and local tax increases are overlooked.

The situation in which we find ourselves was accurately described by economist Walter E. Williams in his recent visit to Wichita. As I reported: “The essence of our relationship with government is coercion,” Williams told the audience. This, he said, represents our major problem as a nation today: We’ve come to accept the idea of government taking from one to give to another. But the blame, Williams said, does not belong with politicians — “at least not very much.” Instead, he said that the blame lies with us, the people who elect them to office in order to get things for us. A candidate who said he would do only the things that the Constitution authorizes would not have much of a chance at being elected.

The further problem is that if Kansans don’t elect officials who will bring federal dollars to Kansas, it doesn’t mean that Kansans will pay lower federal taxes. The money, taken from Kansans, will go to other states, leading to this conundrum: “That is, once legalized theft begins, it pays for everybody to participate.”

We face a moral dilemma, then. Williams listed several great empires that declined for doing precisely what we’re doing: “Bread and circuses,” or big government spending.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Tuesday March 29, 2011

Follow-up to Koch profile. A few pieces have provided amplification and commentary on the Weekly Standard profile of Charles and David Koch, notably Politico and Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post. … Has a secret conspiracy been uncovered by Politico? Groups identified as lined up against the Kochs include a non-profit group titled Brave New Films, Greenpeace, Public Citizen, Common Cause, Ruckus Society, AFSCME (an arm of AFL-CIO), Service Employees International Union, and Center for American Progress with its attack blog ThinkProgress. Asks Post’s Rubin: “[a conspiracy] not of the Kochs but of the left-leaning groups that have mounted a campaign against them. … In other words, groups that purport to be nonpartisan are actually involved in a coordinated effort to smear the Kochs.” … Rubin notes the commonality shared between many of these groups: they receive millions from “foundations controlled by or linked to Soros,” referring to left-wing cause financier and anti-capitalist George Soros. … And are the Koch donations overly generous? Writes Rubin: “Left unsaid in all of this is the degree to which the Kochs’ political giving has been exaggerated. How much do they give? Over the last 20 years, about $11 million. Not chump change for you and me, but kind of stingy actually for billionaires whom the left would have us believe are taking over the American political system. By way of comparison, Duke Energy — the third-largest nuclear power plant operator — has been a major donor to Democrats, including the president. That would be the same Duke Energy that just forked over a $10 million line of credit for a single purpose — the 2101 Democratic Convention. Just the sort of thing Common Cause would be concerned about. After the next conference call with the other members of the Soros gang, I’m sure it’ll get right on it.” … Both articles are worth reading.

The decline of Detroit: a lesson for Wichita? William McGurn in The Wall Street Journal: “Most Americans did not need to be told that Detroit is in a bad way, and has been for some time. Americans know all about white flight, greedy unions and arrogant auto executives. The recent census numbers, however, put an exclamation mark on a cold fact: A once-great American city today repels people of talent and ambition.” How did this happen? McGurn quotes Rev. Robert A. Sirico: “Detroit is a classic example of how a culture that was legendary for enterprise and innovation was slowly eroded by toxic politicization from the 1960s on.” … Later McGurn asks “What happened to this Detroit? In many ways the answer is liberal politics and expanding government.” … Could this happen to Wichita? Our population is not declining. But Wichita has been said to be more dependent on one industry (aircraft manufacturing) than Detroit was on automobile manufacturing. And Wichita government is becoming more liberal — notwithstanding the protests of several self-styled conservative city council members who will soon be leaving office. Increasingly business looks to city hall rather than markets for inspiration and financing. Our mayor, city council members, and bureaucrats want more “tools in the toolbox” for intervening in the economy. … Yes, the devastation seen in Detroit could happen here.

Moran to vote “no” on debt ceiling. United States Senator Jerry Moran, a newly-elected Kansas Republican, has informed President Obama that he won’t vote for an increase in the national debt ceiling. Wrote Moran: “Americans are looking for leadership in Washington to confront the problems of today, not push them off on future generations. To date, you have provided little or no leadership on what I believe to be the most important issue facing our nation — our national debt. With no indication that your willingness to lead will change, I want to inform you I will vote “no” on your request to raise the debt ceiling.” The entire letter from Moran is at I will vote “No.”

Golden geese on the move. Thomas Sowell: “The latest published data from the 2010 census show how people are moving from place to place within the United States. In general, people are voting with their feet against places where the liberal, welfare-state policies favored by the intelligentsia are most deeply entrenched.” Sowell notes that blacks, especially those young and educated, are moving to the South and suburbs. “Among blacks who moved, the proportions who were in their prime — from 20 to 40 years of age — were greater than in the black population at large, and college degrees were more common among them than in the black population at large. In short, with blacks, as with other racial or ethnic groups, those with better prospects are leaving the states that are repelling their most productive citizens in general with liberal policies.” Detroit, he writes is “the most striking example of a once-thriving city ruined by years of liberal social policies.” Finally, a lesson for all states, including Kansas: “Treating businesses and affluent people as prey, rather than assets, often pays off politically in the short run — and elections are held in the short run. Killing the goose that lays the golden egg is a viable political strategy.” (Mass Migration Of America’s Golden Geese.) The migration statistics concerning Kansas are not favorable, although some are trending in a better direction.

Legislators will have more access to SRS case files. Kansas Health Institute News Service reports” “Parents whose children have become state wards now have the option of signing a one-page form that gives state legislators unrestricted access to information in their family’s case file.” Previously legislators had access to the information, but “social workers decided what information from the file would be shared. And legislators were not given documents or copies from the files but verbal briefings.” Some are concerned that information harmful to children will be made public.

Wichita unemployment rate improving. Writes Friends University finance professor and Mammon Among Friends blogger, Malcolm Harris, as saying, “‘We’re seeing a trend, and that trend is in the right direction’…But, he cautioned, ‘we’ve got a long way to go.’” More at Wichita’s Unemployment Rate Falls Compared to Last Year.

Government planners vs. individuals. Another reading from Economics for Real People: An Introduction to the Austrian School by Gene Callahan. The topic is individuals acting in markets vs. government planning: Economics does not hold that the desires of the consumers are pure or virtuous. It does illustrate that the market process is the only way to approximately gauge those desires. All other systems must attempt to impose the rulers’ values on the ruled. Those who plan on doing the imposing have a very high regard for their own judgment, and a very low regard for that of the rest of us. To paraphrase the economist G.L.S. Shackle, the man who would plan for others is something more than human; the planned man, something less. … [Ludwig von] Mises describes those who would coercively replace the value judgments of their fellow men by their own value judgments: [They] are driven by the dictatorial complex. They want to deal with their fellow men in the way an engineer deals with the materials out of which he builds houses, bridges, and machines. They want to substitute “social engineering” for the actions of their fellow citizens and their own unique all-comprehensive plan for the plans of all other people. They see themselves in the role of the dictator — the duce, the Führer, the production tsar — in whose hands all other specimens of mankind are merely pawns. If they refer to society as an acting agent, they mean themselves. If they say that conscious action of society is to be substituted for the prevailing anarchy of individualism, they mean their own consciousness alone and not that of anybody else. (The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science)

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday February 28, 2011

Elections tomorrow. On Tuesday voters across Kansas will vote in city and school board primary elections. Well, at least a few will vote, as it is thought that only nine percent of eligible voters will actually vote. Many of those may have already voted by now, as advance voting is popular. For those who haven’t yet decided, here’s the Wichita Eagle voter guide.

Kansas schools can transfer funds? A recent legislative update by Kansas Representative Bob Brookens, a Republican from Marion, tells readers this about Kansas school finance: “Most school districts in our area braced for this possibility by taking advantage of a law passed last year by the legislature; the new provision allowed schools this one time to transfer funds from certain other areas to their contingency reserve fund, just in case the state had a budget hole in fiscal year 2011; and most of the school districts around here moved all they were allowed to.” Thing is, no one can seem to remember the law Brookens refers to. There were several such laws proposed, but none made their way through the legislature to become law.

Ranzau stand on federal funds profiled. New Sedgwick County Commission member Richard Ranzau has taken a consistent stand against accepting federal grant funds, as explained in a Wichita Eagle story. While his efforts won’t presently reduce federal spending or debt, as explained in the article by H. Edward Flentje, Professor at the Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs at Wichita State University (“Those funds are authorized, they’re budgeted, they’re appropriated, and (a) federal agency will commit the funds elsewhere.”), someone, somewhere, has to take a stand. While we usually think about the federal — and state — spending problem requiring a solution from the top, spending can also be controlled from the bottom up. Those federal elected officials who represent Sedgwick County and are concerned about federal spending — that would be Representative Mike Pompeo and Senators Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts — need to take notice and support Ranzau. Those serving in the Kansas legislature should take notice, too.

Kansas legislative chambers don’t agree. Kansas Reporter details the problems conferees from the House of Representatives and Senate face coming to agreement on the rescission bill. Funding for special education seems the problem. The rescission bill makes cuts to spending so that the current year’s budget balances. More at House, Senate can’t agree how to fund special ed.

Citizens, not taxpayers. A column in the McPherson Sentinel argues that we should think of ourselves as “citizens,” not merely “taxpayers.” The difference, as I read the article, is that a citizen is involved in government and public policy: “It takes work, hard work, to make this system work.” Taxpayers, on the other hand, just pay and expect something back: “‘Look at how much I paid,’ these people cry. ‘Give me my money’s worth!’” The writer makes the case that government “is not a simplistic fiscal transaction” and that citizens must participate to make sure that government does good things with taxes. … The writer gets one thing right. Meeting the needs of the country is complex. Where I don’t agree with the writer is that government is the best way — or even a feasible way — to meet the needs of the country. A method already exists: people trading voluntarily in free markets, guided by profit and loss, with information conveyed by an unfettered price system. Government, with its central planning, its lack of ability to calculate profit and loss, and inevitable tendency to become captured by special interests, is not equipped for this task.

Kansas Economic Freedom Index. This week I produced the first version of the Kansas Economic Freedom Index: Who votes for and against economic freedom in Kansas? for the 2011 legislative session. Currently I have a version only for the House of Representatives, as the Senate hasn’t made many votes that affect economic freedom. The index now has its own site, kansaseconomicfreedom.com.

Increasing taxes not seen as solution. “Leaving aside the moral objection to tax increases, raising taxes won’t in fact solve the problem. For one thing, our public servants always seem to find something new on which to spend the additional money, and it isn’t deficit reduction. But more to the point, tax policy can go only so far, given the natural brick wall it has run into for the past fifty years. Economist Jeffrey Rogers Hummel points out that federal tax revenue ‘has bumped up against 20 percent of GDP for well over half a century. That is quite an astonishing statistic when you think about all the changes in the tax code over the intervening years. Tax rates go up, tax rates go down, and the total bite out of the economy remains relatively constant. This suggests that 20 percent is some kind of structural-political limit for federal taxes in the United States.’” From Rollback: Repealing Big Government Before the Coming Fiscal Collapse by Thomas E. Woods, Jr. Hummel’s article may be read at Why Default on U.S. Treasuries is Likely.

Wichita city hall parking garage closes

Today the Wichita city hall parking garage closes, as far as citizens are concerned. All members of the public, including those who qualify to park in handicapped spaces, will park outside and farther away.

The reason given for the change is security.

Unlike Wichita city hall, most businesses go to great effort and expense to make parking convenient for their customers. But the city is not a business. It is not concerned about matters such as calculation of profit and loss. It is not concerned about the attitudes of its customers, except perhaps at election time. Even then, it’s only a handful of elected officials that are concerned.

We might also ask why business firms are not generally concerned with terroristic attacks being made upon them, but government is. Could it be because business operates on voluntary exchange with its customers, while government operates on coercion?

On the Wichita Eagle editorial blog, a commenter observed: “Many shopping centers, retail stores, medical offices, hospitals require their employees to park back out of the way. The idea is to preserve convenient parking for their paying customers … the people who make it all possible. But Wichita’s city hall has developed an elitist attitude towards the citizens and public.”

Another summed it up succinctly: “This simply puts an exclamation point on the City attitude toward the citizens of Wichita.”

John Todd contributes the following observations, making the case for a free market in security, letting the parties who have the greatest interest in being safe provide the security service.

I notice that effective Monday, November 8th, the public will not be allowed to use the parking garage at city hall due to “security” considerations.

Of all the battles I can recall reading about in history, I can’t think of anything that compares to the economic harm, havoc, and hysteria that has resulted in our country that tops the 9/11 attack on us by a small handful of people and airplanes. The sad result of this tragedy is the overreaction of government that has allowed government to mandate greater and greater intervention into our lives in the name of “security” while many of us witness and are horrified by the loss of liberty that has resulted at the hand of our own government!

Several years ago in an economics seminar presented at Jean Garvey’s Independent School, a class leader shared this story with us. He said, that in the earlier years of seafaring, the lighthouses that dotted the seaboard for the protection of ships and sailors, were privately owned and operated. Families of seamen, seaman associations, and other private groups supplied this important function for their own vested interests. What a novel idea this is!

Congressman Jerry Moran stated at a recent Wichita Pachyderm Club luncheon that the Federal government currently employs over 100,000 people in airport security as a result of 9/11. After the meeting I shared the lighthouse story with him and suggested that the U.S. government get out of the airport security business and turn it over to Delta, United, Southwest and other airlines with a vested interest in protecting their customers. The private market would then control airport security.

If Delta did a bad job of protecting passengers, they lose market share to their competitors. I believe this system would work, and I believe more favorable public relations skills for airline passengers would result. I can’t help but think it would cost less and work better than the mandated government security now in place. And besides that, the airline companies, with a vested interest in airline market share, would pay for the security, and leave the public treasury out of it.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Thursday October 21, 2010

Honest journalist too much for NPR. Juan Williams has been fired by National Public Radio. His offense: He spoke in a not-politically-correct way about Muslims. On Monday’s O’Reilly Factor Williams said: “But when I get on a plane — I got to tell you — if I see people who are in Muslim garb, and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.” According to Williams, NPR said this is a bigoted remark that “crossed the line.” Across all forms of media, this is sure to be a big issue. Williams is an accomplished journalist and reporter who has written many books on civil rights in America. He has been critical of established black leaders like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Williams will appear on The O’Reilly Factor tonight, with the Fox News promotion teasing “Is he the first victim of George Soros’s new war on Fox News?”

Star recommends retaining judges. The Kansas City Star recommends retaining all judges on the ballot in Kansas. The newspaper evidently didn’t take into account or give much weight to the admonishment of Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss over an ethics issue. The Star supports the elitest system of judicial selection in Kansas, where lawyers have much more input than do ordinary citizens.

How the right wing echo chamber works. Here’s another instance of left-wing journalists and bloggers claiming to have discovered something that sits in plain sight. Allegations of existence of an “echo chamber” sound sensational and sinister. The left has these, too, as documented in Politico. If you’ve followed some of the attacks on Koch Industries this year, you’re aware that there is a network of websites and blogs that cut-and-paste the same material for wide distribution. This left-wing echo chamber exists in the mainstream media too, when publications like the Wichita Eagle relies on ThinkProgress and the New York Times editorial page for evidence criticizing Jerry Moran on climate change. Who are these sources the Eagle relies on? ThinkProgress is a project of the hard left — but innocently-named — Center for American Progress Action Fund, which in turn is a project of convicted inside trader George Soros. And the New York Times editorial page is, well the New York Times editorial page — enough said.

You — not me — should sacrifice. Another global warming alarmist revealed as a hypocrite. “A Youtube film, released by Irish documentary film makers Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer, has revealed the shocking hypocrisy of James Cameron, the director of Avatar. The film shows that Cameron, who has publicly stated that ‘we are all going to have to live with less,’ has continued a lifestyle of extravagant consumption. Cameron, yesterday, announced he was donating $1m to oppose California’s Prop 23. Prop 23 will suspend Global Warming legislation and is being bitterly opposed by environmentalists. Supporters of Prop 23 say that if it is defeated California will lose jobs because of an increase in energy prices.” The video is just over two minutes long and may be viewed by clicking on James Cameron — Hypocrite.

Most expect local tax increases. Rasmussen: “A sizable majority of Americans say their states are now having major budget problems, and they think spending cuts, not higher taxes, are the solution. But most expect their taxes to be raised in the next year anyway.” More at Most Expect State or Local Tax Hikes In the Next Year.

Texas vs. California. “In Texas, the payroll count is back to prerecession levels. California is nearly 1.5 million jobs in the hole. Why such a difference? Chalk it up to taxes, regulation and attitude, says Investor’s Business Daily (IBD).” Summary at NCPA: A Trenchant Tale of Two States .

Email spam spreads to Facebook. I’m sure I’m not the first person to receive something like this, but the well-known Nigerian fraudulent schemes that for many years have used regular email have now spread to Facebook messages. Today I was notified by “barrister James Mawulom a solicitor at law” that a man with my same surname had died in Africa, and I am due to receive a lot of money.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Friday October 15, 2010

Moran at Wichita Pachyderm today. Today’s speaker at the Wichita Pachyderm Club is current United States Representative and Republican Party Senate nominee Jerry Moran. As a large audience is expected, please arrive by 11:45 to get your buffet lunch in time for the noon start (the larger meeting room will be used). Cost is $10, which includes lunch.

Rasmussen: Voters don’t trust politicians’ promises. “Half (50%) now believe that when politicians break campaign promises, it’s because they deliberately made a false promise to get elected. Thirty-nine percent (39%) disagree and say unforeseen events after they took office forced them to break their promises.” In keeping with my belief in limited government, I might suggest that candidates promise to do less. But then liberal candidates say that conservative candidates don’t have a plan. More at Voters Believe Overwhelmingly That Politicians Don’t Keep Their Promises, and Most Say It’s Deliberate.

No developer welfare; no apartments. The Wichita Business Journal reports that since developer Jason Van Sickle isn’t able to obtain federal historic preservation tax credits on a property, he’s abandoning plans to develop the project. Tax credits are, in effect, grants of money paid to — in this case — real estate developers through the tax system. But not to worry for the developer: he’s planning to hit up the state of Kansas and its taxpayers for historic preservation tax credits.

Capitalism saved the miners. Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal: “It needs to be said. The rescue of the Chilean miners is a smashing victory for free-market capitalism. … The president of the U.S. is campaigning across the country making this statement at nearly every stop: ‘The basic idea is that if we put our blind faith in the market and we let corporations do whatever they want and we leave everybody else to fend for themselves, then America somehow automatically is going to grow and prosper.’ Uh, yeah. That’s a caricature of the basic idea, but basically that’s right.” Henninger lists all the innovative technology used in the rescue, that innovation driven by capitalism in the countries where it is not snuffed out. A lesson: “In an open economy, you will never know what is out there on the leading developmental edge of this or that industry.” Innovation is driven by private companies with profit as their motive.

Holland demands debates, then skips out. According to the Lawrence Journal-World, “[Kansas Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Tom] Holland was invited to the hour-long debate broadcast on WIBW radio and TV, but he declined because he said WIBW had already sponsored an earlier gubernatorial debate at the Kansas State Fair, and because the debate moderators were conservative radio talk show hosts Raubin Pierce and Megan Mosack.” Yes, Pierce and Mosack are conservatives. But Holland, who at one time demanded a series of 10 debates with Brownback, should have appeared. Conservative candidates and officeholders are summoned before liberal newspaper editorial boards all the time. They go and suffer the inevitable criticism. Holland should have done the same — and by all accounts, the questions were fair. And if the questions weren’t fair, Holland could have done what many candidates do in forums: they say whatever they want without regard to answering the question that was asked.

This Week in Kansas. KAKE’s Chris Frank appears to talk about Hawker Beechcraft and Louisiana. Then Kansas Public Radio Statehouse Bureau Chief Stephen Koranda and myself discuss Kansas politics and poll results. Tim Brown is the host. “This Week in Kansas” airs in Topeka on WIBW TV channel 13 Saturdays at 11:30 am, and in Wichita on KAKE TV channel 10 Sundays at 9:00 am.

Jim Anderson Program features candidate debate. Kansas fourth Congressional district hopefuls Democrat Raj Goyle and Republican Mike Pompeo will appear on Anderson’s radio show. Evidently, minor party candidates Susan Ducey (Reform Party) and Libertarian Shawn Smith will not appear, despite having made credible appearances on a recent KWCH televised forum. After this, Attorney Genreal candidate Derek Schmidt will appear. The Jim Anderson Program airs from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm Saturdays on KNSS Radio 1330 on your old-school AM radio, live on the station’s website, or on your iPhone through the station’s free app.

Kansas statewide races polled. KWCH and SurveyUSA report poll results under the headline GOP poised to win statewide races. The closet contest is for Attorney General, where challenger Derek Schmidt leads incumbent Stephen Six 48 percent to 40 percent. For the race the pollster notes: “Compared to other, stable Kansas statewide contests, there is notable volatility in the Attorney General race, uniquely; any outcome is possible.”

Stossel on the future, tonight. “This Friday at 10pm [9:00 pm Central time], Fox News will broadcast my heated argument with NYC Transit Worker’s Union President John Samuelsen. It’s part of my special, ‘The Battle for the Future.’ More at Stossel’s blog.

Tea party rules? The New York Times reports: “Enough Tea Party-supported candidates are running strongly in competitive and Republican-leaning Congressional races that the movement stands a good chance of establishing a sizeable caucus to push its agenda in the House and the Senate, according to a New York Times analysis. … While the numbers are relatively small, they could exert outsize influence, putting pressure on Republican leaders to carry out promises to significantly cut spending and taxes, to repeal health care legislation and financial regulations passed this year, and to phase out Social Security and Medicare in favor of personal savings accounts.” Related: FiveThirtyEight estimates Congressional Tea Party Caucus founder Michele Bachmann has 98.9 percent probability of winning her reelection contest.

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Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday October 11, 2010

Moran at Wichita Pachyderm: This Friday’s speaker at the Wichita Pachyderm Club is current United States Representative and Republican Party Senate nominee Jerry Moran. As a large audience is expected, please arrive by 11:45 to get your buffet lunch in time for the noon start (the larger meeting room will be used). Cost is $10, which includes lunch.

Wichita, get control of incentives: Rhonda Holman’s lead editorial in yesterday’s Wichita Eagle urged caution and restraint in Wichita’s use of tax incentives — a welcome message not expected from the Eagle. One conservative wrote to me: “I am stunned to find myself to be largely in agreement with today’s editorial by Rhonda Holman. Wow.” The editorial was critical of past city policy and practice, with Holman referring to special taxing districts as “tax tricks.” On the need for public investment in downtown, she wrote “the city must ensure its use of special taxing districts is strategic, fair, farsighted and defensible.” Whether our present political and bureaucratic leadership can accomplish this is, in my opinion, unlikely.

Rasmussen key polls from last week: California Senate moves from “leans Democrat” to “toss-up” … Most Americans feel Nobel prizes are politicalHarry Reid’s son trails in race for Nevada governor … Cyber bullying seen equally dangerous as physical bullying.

Kansas initiative and referendum: The Wichita Eagle takes a look at initiative and referendum. A focus of the article is Secretary of State candidates Chris Biggs and Kris Kobach, which is a little misplaced, as they don’t have a say in whether Kansas has I&R, although they would administer the process and Kobach has made it a campaign issue. Key takeaways: “States with initiatives spend and tax less than states without them.” Politicians of both stripes hate I&R, with Kansas Senate President Steve Morris — a big-spending, big-taxing, liberal Republican — hating the idea, according to the article. Same for Speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives Mike O’Neil, a conservative. Not reported in the article is one of the first things the people may do in states that have I&R: impose term limits on their elected officials, an idea most of the political class hates.

China Emerges as a Scapegoat in Campaign Ads: The New York Times reports: “With many Americans seized by anxiety about the country’s economic decline, candidates from both political parties have suddenly found a new villain to run against: China. … Democrats and Republicans are blaming one another for allowing the export of jobs to its economic rival.” Kansas fourth district Congressional hopeful Democrat Raj Goyle is mentioned as one of 29 candidates using China as a foil in campaign ads, just in case you thought Goyle’s attacks were novel. But the issue is murky, as the Times notes: “Never mind that there is hardly any consensus as to what exactly constitutes outsourcing and how many of the new overseas jobs would have stayed in American hands.”

Regulation — Baptists and Bootleggers: “Here is the essence of the theory: durable social regulation evolves when it is demanded by both of two distinctly different groups. ‘Baptists’ point to the moral high ground and give vital and vocal endorsement of laudable public benefits promised by a desired regulation. Baptists flourish when their moral message forms a visible foundation for political action. ‘Bootleggers’ are much less visible but no less vital. Bootleggers, who expect to profit from the very regulatory restrictions desired by Baptists, grease the political machinery with some of their expected proceeds. They are simply in it for the money. The theory’s name draws on colorful tales of states’ efforts to regulate alcoholic beverages by banning Sunday sales at legal outlets. Baptists fervently endorsed such actions on moral grounds. Bootleggers tolerated the actions gleefully because their effect was to limit competition.” From Bruce Yandle, Bootleggers and Baptists in Retrospect. A podcast on the topic is Bruce Yandle on Bootleggers and Baptists.

Obama fails education: From Three Reasons Obama’s Education Vision Fails at Reason: “While he brags constantly about his Race to the Top initiative, in which states competed for $4 billion to fund innovative programs, he’s spent more than $80 billion in no-strings-attached stimulus funds to maintain the educational status quo.” Obama also killed a school choice program in Washington, and has snuggled up to the teachers unions with a stimulus bill to preserve and add union teacher jobs “despite the fact that there are already more teachers per student than ever.” The status quo describes outgoing Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson and his education “vision.” Not that presumptive incoming governor Sam Brownback is a radical on school reform, however. His education plans are quite tepid and not likely to produce the results Kansas schoolchildren need.

Wichita Eagle Opinion Line: “If Kansans want lower taxes and less government, why are there so many homeowners’ associations here?” I guess the distinction between government and voluntary action escapes this person.

Political site FiveThirtyEight looks at polls, statistics

The political website FiveThirtyEight provides an innovative look at political forecasting and also supplies useful information about candidates and political districts.

The site FiveThirtyEight.com was active during the 2008 campaign season. Now it is a feature of the New York Times and can be accessed at fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com. The name comes from from the number of electors in the United States electoral college.

FiveThirtyEight uses a variety of methods to arrive at its results, including polls, where polls are weighted by several factors including recency, sample size, and the polling firm’s track record. Some polls are considered so unreliable that they are not included. The weighted polls results are adjusted by several factors, including a trendline adjustment and likely voter adjustment.

The data is further adjusted by factors such as the state’s Partisan Voting Index, individual monetary contributions received, and “a variable representing stature, based on the highest elected office that the candidate has held.”

There are additional steps in the analysis. Finally, the FiveThirtyEight procedures uses simulation, where various factors are considered randomly over a large number of trials.

When FiveThirtyEight reports its results, it also calculates the probability that a candidate will win the election. It might forecast, for example, that a candidate will finish with 55 percent of the vote, with the probability of winning at 85 percent. Winning, of course, means that the candidate gets at least one more vote than the closest opponent — no margin of victory is implied in the probability.

The site is also a useful repository of information such as voting record in selected issues, campaign finance, district demographics, and previous election results.

The FiveThirtyEight site doesn’t say this, but we can easily surmise that the lead that some candidates currently enjoy is the result of not only the policy positions of the candidate and the political landscape of the district, but importantly the product of the campaign the candidates have waged so far. Candidates with leads need to realize this and keep up their efforts.

FiveThirtyEight forecasts for Kansas

In Kansas, here are the results FiveThirtyEight forecasts:

For United States Senate: Democrat Lisa Johnston 31.2 percent; Republican Jerry Moran 66.2 percent. The probability of a Moran win is 100 percent. This forecast has held steady over time.

For Kansas Governor: Republican Sam Brownback 60.5 percent; Democrat Tom Holland 37.6 percent. Probability of a Brownback victory is 99.9 percent. The vote difference has been narrowing very slightly, but the probability of a Brownback win is still overwhelming.

For U.S. Congress, District 1: Republican Tim Huelskamp 72.7 percent; Democrat Alan Jilka 24.5 percent. Probability of a Huelskamp win is 100 percent.

For U.S. Congress, District 2: Democrat Cheryl Hudspeth 35.6 percent; Incumbent Republican Lynn Jenkins 62.8 percent. Probability of a Jenkins win is 100 percent.

For U.S. Congress, District 3: Democrat Stephene Moore 42.5 percent; Republican Kevin Yoder 55.0 percent. Probability of a Yoder victory is 92.7 percent. This is the only Kansas Congressional district that is remotely competitive, described as “leaning Republican.” Yoder’s margin has been increasing very slightly.

For U.S. Congress, District 4: Democrat Raj Goyle 36.5 percent; Republican Mike Pompeo 61.0 percent. Probability of a Pompeo victory is 99.9 percent. Pompeo’s lead over Goyle has been growing since the September 17th version of the model for this contest. These results don’t include the SurveyUSA poll of just a few days ago, which showed Pompeo’s lead over Goyle widening.

Kansas primary election analysis

At State of the State KS, Fort Hays State University Political Science Professor Chapman Rackaway contributes analysis of the statewide and Congressional races.

Rackaway notes that the Kansas first and fourth Congressional districts were expected to be very close races, but both Tim Huelskamp and Mike Pompeo won going away with large margins.

The big message of the night, he writes, is this: “[Jerry] Moran’s win in the Senate primary suggests that the Kansas GOP prefers a more centrist message. But Moran’s win was an anomaly. Kobach, Pompeo, Brownback, and Huelskamp suggest that the state has taken a turn to the right.”

At National Review Online, Denis Boyles, author of the insightful book — despite its name — on Kansas politics Superior, Nebraska: The Common Sense Values of America’s Heartland, contributes (Mostly) Good News from Kansas. he starts by laying out the essential facts of the Kansas political landscape: “In Kansas, local politics is often made confusing by the powerful presence of very liberal RINOs [Republicans In Name Only]. They constitute a third party, and their half-century of influence has done some nasty work, most recently insuring the victory, twice, of Kathleen Sebelius.”

Boyles is enthusiastic about the first Congressional district result: “But for people who like their conservatism straight up — no glass, no ice — the best news may be the victory of state Sen. Tim Huelskamp.”

About the fourth district, Boyles wrote: “In Tiahrt’s district, a very liberal Democrat named Raj Goyle will spend a lot of his own money to try to defeat the GOP’s Mike Pompeo, a local businessman with a military career (he graduated first in his class at West Point) behind him. The Wichita newspaper, a McClatchy thing, has always been loyal to Goyle. Fortunately, fewer and fewer readers will notice.”

But for the Kansas statehouse, the picture is not as bright. He presents a message he received from an unnamed Kansas legislator, who wrote: “Overall though, I am very disappointed … we did not change the left-wing Republican margin in the House.”

Boyles concluded: “It’s true that the state senate and the house are both at the mercy of liberal Republicans. RINOs really do tear up the landscape.”

For results of statewide races and other state offices, click on 2010 unofficial primary election results at Kansas Secretary of State.

Tiahrt, in close campaign, comes in second

At an election night watch party at the Hilton Hotel in Wichita, supporters of Todd Tiahrt in his campaign for United States Senate were encouraged by early returns from Sedgwick and Johnson counties.

Tiahrt led and won in the state’s two largest counties.

But as western Kansas votes started to be tallied, Jerry Moran‘s margin steadily increased as votes for the popular western Kansas Congressman rolled in. The Associated Press called the race for Moran.

At shortly after midnight, Tiahrt and his wife Vicki entered the hotel ballroom to rousing applause from his supporters.

“We want Todd! We want Todd!” chanted the crowd.

“Thank you very much. I love you guys,” said the candidate. He said we ran a strong campaign.

We have a great country, a resilient county, he said. “Lower taxes, smaller government — this is what Kansans want — and what we campaigned on.” He said that he won the third and fourth Congressional districts. The win by Tiahrt in Johnson County was unexpected by most observers.

He thanked his supporters and said he was sorry that he didn’t win.

Addressing the audience, Vicki Tiahrt thanked the supporters and volunteers. “We are winners tonight,” she said.

After his speech, Tiahrt said that his goal is to have a Republican Senator elected from Kansas, so he will be calling Jerry Moran to offer his congratulations and support. He also said he will work to make sure Mike Pompeo is elected to Congress as his successor.

He listed some of his accomplishments — the repeal of the Wright amendment, a new runway at the Wichita airport, grade separations in downtown Wichita, and the capture of the BTK serial killer — and said he had a good run in Congress.

He added that he believes that Pompeo will work as hard as he has.

Asked if he would consider running for other office he said it’s too early to think about that now.

Kansas Republican senate primary closer

A poll released today by KWCH Television in Wichita and SurveyUSA shows a closer contest for the Republican Party nomination for United States Senate from Kansas between Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt.

Moran has 49 percent support, while Tiahrt draws 39 percent. Two other candidates, one having withdrawn, shared five percent of the vote. Only six percent of voters are undecided according to this survey.

The pollster says that compared to two weeks ago, Moran is down one percentage point, and Tiahrt is up three. Tiahrt’s strategy to paint himself as the true conservative appears to be working, at least among conservative voters. Today he leads among conservatives by five percentage points, where two months ago Moran led by 21 percentage points in this group.

The poll notes potential trouble for Moran: “Most ominous for Moran: Among the 17 percent of voters who report they have already cast their ballots, Tiahrt is nominally ahead, 46 percent to 43 percent. Among those who tell SurveyUSA they are likely to vote, but have not yet done so, Moran leads by 13.”

If something were to happen on election day to suppress turnout, that would be bad news for Moran. Temperatures across Kansas are expected to top out at over 100 degrees tomorrow, but with little chance of precipitation or storms.

In this sampling of Republican voters who have either voted or are likely to vote, 63 percent of voters identified themselves as conservative, 29 percent as moderate, and five percent as liberal.

Kansas Republican Senate pollsKansas Republican Senate polls

Moran – Tiahrt opinion and reporting roundup, part two

Here’s some additional reporting and opinion on the campaign for the Republican Party nomination for United States Senate between Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt. An earlier collection is at Moran — Tiahrt opinion, reporting roundup.

Club for Growth gives slight nod to Tiahrt over Moran (Bob Weeks, Voice for Liberty) “Of the groups that analyze legislators and their votes, the Club for Growth produces a scorecard that focuses on votes relating to economic growth.”

Tiahrt, Moran vote ratings show slight difference (Bob Weeks, Voice for Liberty) “The campaign for the Republican Party nomination for the United States Senate from Kansas between Todd Tiahrt of Goddard and Jerry Moran of Hays is making national news. The issue is over who is the most conservative. A new article in U.S. News and Word Report states: ‘Both Tiahrt and Moran have portrayed themselves as fiscal conservatives, favoring lower taxes and less spending by the federal government.’”

Wichita could sway Senate race (Rick Plumlee, Wichita Eagle) “Is the U.S. Senate race really all about Johnson County? Doesn’t Wichita fit in there somewhere? The answers are yes and yes.”

Campaign mailings turn aggressive (Dave Helling and Steve Kraske, Kansas City Star) “Even in an Internet age of blogs and tweets, old-fashioned mailboxes this week are still packed with political messages that often contain the most aggressive and misleading claims anywhere.”

Candidate Profile: Todd Tiahrt and Jerry Moran (Ben Bauman, KTKA) “The two long-time GOP Congressmen are battling it out for the Senate seat being vacated by Sam Brownback, who’s running for governor. Tiahrt has been in the Congress one term longer than Moran. Tiahrt was elected in 1994, and Moran two years later. Prior to their elections to Congress, both served in the state legislature.”

What’s the Matter with Kansas Politics? Moore Questions about Moran. (Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review Online The Corner) “But here’s what I do know in the midst of the eleventh-hour campaign noise: In a post-Santorum Senate, the body can use as many courageous voices in defense of innocent human life as it can get. They’re losing one, with Sam Brownback’s leaving. That seat would remain filled with Tiahrt. (In fact, Tiahrt stood apart from even Brownback in opposing former Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius’s nomination as secretary of Health and Human Services, because of her ties to late-term-abortion provider George Tiller, who was later murdered.) That’s not to say Jerry Moran is not pro-life — Paul Moore stresses that he can’t and won’t make that claim. But he’s seen both candidates and knows which one’s the leader there.”

Moran, Tiahrt spar on trade vote: Moran denies quid pro quo allegation by Rove, Tiahrt (Tim Carpenter, Topeka Capital-Journal) “Tiahrt knows what it is like to be under the ethics spotlight in Washington. He was the subject of an investigation by a House panel regarding budget earmarks secured for his campaign contributors. He was cleared by the committee in February, but some evidence was forwarded to the U.S. Department of Justice by an arm of the House, the Office of Congressional Ethics. Likewise for Moran. The Office of Congressional Ethics decided in June to drop a review into whether Moran received improper gifts by paying below-market rent to live near the Capitol at a residence operated by a religious organization.”


Race sees character issue rekindle: As Moran-Tiahrt contest for Senate seat wraps up, they air old accusations.
(John Hanna, Associated Press) “Kansas Reps. Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt are returning to character issues they’ve long raised about each other as the end nears in their bitter race for the Republican nomination for an open U.S. Senate seat.”

Kansas’ often genial politics turns nasty in Senate race as GOP looks for conservative fighter (John Hanna, Associated Press) “The big issue in Kansas’ U.S. Senate race is which of two veteran Republican congressmen will fight hardest — and loudest — against President Barack Obama’s agenda. The fiery contest is unusual in a state where politicians are better known for being polite. It also underscores Republicans’ national strategy in 2010 — find candidates who’ll give Obama and his fellow Democrats no quarter whatsoever.”

Voting records tell how Tiahrt, Moran differ (Dave Helling, Kansas City Star) “Here are 10 important votes in the House since 2007 in which Tiahrt and Moran made different choices. The bills were picked by The Kansas City Star.”

Earmarks and Kansas elections (Bob Weeks, Voice for Liberty) “So how do the two veteran Kansas Congressmen rank on earmarks and ‘pork’ spending? The Club for Growth compiles a scorecard called the RePORK Card. This measures votes on ’68 anti-pork amendments’ in the 2009 Congress. Club Executive Director David Keating writes ‘The RePORK Card will help taxpayers measure the dedication of their representatives to changing the culture of corruption that surrounds pork-barrel spending.’ For 2009, Moran scored 96 percent, voting against 65 of the 68 measures. Tiahrt scored 29 percent, voting against 20 of the 68.”

Moran – Tiahrt opinion, reporting roundup

Here’s some reporting and opinion on the campaign for the Republican Party nomination for United States Senate from Kansas between Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt.

What Kind of a Senator? (Burdett Loomis, Kansas University political science professor) Tiahrt’s endorsements come from the party establishment, while “several of Moran’s most prominent backers are well-known senatorial gadflies,” writes Loomis in this piece that looks back at the last four elected senators from Kansas. Where I would quibble with him is in his claims that both candidates have “clearly satisfied their constituents.” With the approval rating of Congress at 11 percent, it’s hard to make a case that anyone in Congress is doing a good job, even though almost all members are reelected each cycle.

Pay attention to five factors in Moran vs. Tiahrt (Steve Kraske, Kansas City Star) “Cakewalk? Or a race so close that it turns your knuckles white, then red, then purple and blue? Those two forecasts are in play in the Jerry Moran-Todd Tiahrt war for the U.S. Senate that’s rapidly turning off Republicans all over Kansas.”

Millions going up in flame in Tiahrt-Moran race (Ric Anderson, Topeka Capital-Journal) “The latest campaign spending reports showed that Moran had plowed $3 million into beating Tiahrt in the primary election, while Tiahrt had spent $1.74 million. Come on, nearly $5 million to split hairs?”

Kansas GOP Senate hopefuls’ ads could help distinguish, but might backfire (Dave Helling and Steve Kraske, Kansas City Star) “In TV commercials now playing across the state, Republican hopefuls U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt and U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran are bitterly accusing the other of misinformation and distortion in the race’s final days. The ads feature all the familiar traits of televised political pitches: ominous music, grainy photographs, lots of small print and misleading claims.”

Gloves are off in Kansas U.S. Senate primary (Steve Kraske, Kansas City Star) “It’s one haymaker after another in the Republican primary race for the U.S. Senate in Kansas.”

Moran, Tiahrt join Tea Party Caucus (Rick Plumlee, Wichita Eagle) “Both Rep. Jerry Moran and Rep. Todd Tiahrt, two of three Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate in Kansas, have joined the newly formed Tea Party Caucus.”

Candidates decry tactics – Moran criticizes political survey; Tiahrt complains about mailings (Tim Carpenter, Topeka Capital-Journal) “Yvonne Starks turned down the volume of pundit Rush Limbaugh’s radio show Wednesday to articulate why listening to telephone polling in praise of U.S. Senate candidate Todd Tiahrt and critical of primary rival Jerry Moran determined her vote in the August primary. ‘That poll last night was the clincher,’ said Starks, a Republican Party activist from Olathe. ‘There were half-truths, contorted lies. That is despicable.’”

Bias cited in poll (MATTHEW CLARK, Pittsburg The Morning Sun) “Holly Friesen thought that it was no big deal to take a phone poll regarding this year’s primary campaign. But, after participating in the robo-call poll on Tuesday, Friesen, a Manhattan resident, had a completely different view of things.”

Tiahrt, Moran have raised $18 million over careers, much from big business (Fred Mann, Wichita Eagle) “Todd Tiahrt was first elected to Congress in 1994. Jerry Moran was first elected in 1996. Since then, between them, they have raised more than $18 million in campaign contributions. Those contributions give some insight into their bases of support.”

U.S. Senate candidates clash over who’s most conservative (George Diepenbrock, Lawrence Journal-World) “Both Jerry Moran, of Hays, and Todd Tiahrt, of Goddard, have criticized each other on issues including immigration, government spending and taxes, health care and what to do with terrorist suspects.”

Earmarks and Kansas elections (Bob Weeks, Voice for Liberty) “So how do the two veteran Kansas Congressmen rank on earmarks and ‘pork’ spending? The Club for Growth compiles a scorecard called the RePORK Card. This measures votes on ’68 anti-pork amendments’ in the 2009 Congress. Club Executive Director David Keating writes ‘The RePORK Card will help taxpayers measure the dedication of their representatives to changing the culture of corruption that surrounds pork-barrel spending.’ For 2009, Moran scored 96 percent, voting against 65 of the 68 measures. Tiahrt scored 29 percent, voting against 20 of the 68.”

Club for Growth gives slight nod to Tiahrt over Moran (Bob Weeks, Voice for Liberty) “Of the groups that analyze legislators and their votes, the Club for Growth produces a scorecard that focuses on votes relating to economic growth.”

Tiahrt, Moran vote ratings show slight difference (Bob Weeks, Voice for Liberty) “The campaign for the Republican Party nomination for the United States Senate from Kansas between Todd Tiahrt of Goddard and Jerry Moran of Hays is making national news. The issue is over who is the most conservative. A new article in U.S. News and Word Report states: ‘Both Tiahrt and Moran have portrayed themselves as fiscal conservatives, favoring lower taxes and less spending by the federal government.’”

Moran poll indicates big lead in Kansas Senate race

A poll in the race for the Republican Party nomination for United States Senate from Kansas conducted on behalf of the Jerry Moran campaign shows him leading his chief rival, Todd Tiahrt, by a large margin.

The survey shows Moran with 56 percent of the vote, and Tiahrt with 24 percent. 15 percent of voters are undecided, and two other candidates garnered four percent of the vote.

Independent polls have shown Moran with a large lead over Tiahrt. Recently the Tiahrt campaign released its own survey showing a very close race, with Moran holding a lead within the statistical margin of error of the poll.

The contest for this nomination has been heated. In recent forums, both candidates have scarcely paid attention to the moderators’ questions, instead using them as launching pads for attacks on the record of the other candidate.

The Moran poll, keeping in mind that it is an internal effort, contends that Tiahrt has been the most aggressive with negative campaigning: “Fully 44% of primary voters say Tiahrt is running a more negative campaign, with just 10% saying Moran has been more negative.”

Tiahrt has admitted that his commercials are a little “rough,” as he said at a recent rally in Wichita.

In response to the release of this survey, the Tiahrt campaign released a statement contending that “this internal poll from the Moran campaign is about as bad as Congressman Moran’s record on taxes, immigration and national security.”

As with all polls produced on behalf of a candidate, we need to remember that polls produced and released by campaigns are just that, and the results would probably not be released by a campaign if the results did not portray the candidate favorably. Without knowledge of the questions being asked, there is always the possibility that a poll is a “push poll,” meaning an instrument designed to influence participants and produce a desired result.

As it has been seemingly forever since Kansas last elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate, it is likely that the winner of this primary election will be the next senator from Kansas.

Reporting from the Wichita Eagle is at Tiahrt’s campaign objects to Moran’s in-house poll.

Tiahrt poll indicates closer Kansas Senate contest

A new poll shows Todd Tiahrt gaining ground on Jerry Moran in the contest for the Republican Party nomination for the United States Senate from Kansas.

The poll, which was conducted on behalf of the Tiahrt campaign, showed Moran with 37 percent and Tiahrt with 34 percent. 26 percent were undecided.

These results indicate a much closer contest than other polling. As the Wichita Eagle’s reporting noted, “Campaigns often don’t release internal poll results. It should be noted that they are undertaken by partisan polling operations and should be viewed in that context.”

Tiahrt also picked up an endorsement from radio talk show host and Fox News personality Sean Hannity. Hannity said “Sarah Palin endorsed him; Mark Levin endorsed him. A great protector of our Constitution, if you are out in Kansas, you’ve got to pay attention to Todd Tiahrt. He is pro-family, pro-Second Amendment. This is the kind of commonsense conservative we need in the US Senate. He’s never voted for a tax increase; He fought to end wasteful spending coming out of Washington. That’s the kind of guy we’re looking for.”

Earmarks and Kansas elections

The topic of earmarks is playing a role in contest for the Republican Party nomination for United States Senate from Kansas between Todd Tiahrt and Jerry Moran.

The United States Office of Management and Budget provides one definition of earmarks: “Earmarks are funds provided by the Congress for projects, programs, or grants where the purported congressional direction (whether in statutory text, report language, or other communication) circumvents otherwise applicable merit-based or competitive allocation processes, or specifies the location or recipient, or otherwise curtails the ability of the executive branch to manage its statutory and constitutional responsibilities pertaining to the funds allocation process.”

What is the difference between earmark spending and “regular” government spending? Speaking on the floor of the House in March 2009, Ron Paul, the libertarian member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Texas and Republican presidential candidate in 2008, made these remarks:

In reality what we need are more earmarks. Just think of the 350 billion dollars that we recently appropriated and gave to the Treasury Department. Now everybody is running around and saying, “We don’t know where the money went, we just gave it to them in a lump sum.” We should have earmarked everything. It should have been designated where the money is going. So instead of too many earmarks we don’t have enough earmarks. Transparency is the only way we can get to the bottom of this and if you make everything earmarked it would be much better.

This is a key distinguishing characteristic of earmark spending: legislators, rather than agencies like the Treasury Department, decide how and where the money is spent.

According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, earmarks are estimated to cost $11 billion in the current fiscal year (2010), which is down from $15 billion the year before. The Washington newspaper The Hill warns, however, that some of this decrease is due to a change in classification of some spending.

While some view earmarks and their elimination as a defining issue, we must remember that the level of earmark spending is relatively small compared to the entire federal budget. The 2010 budget calls for spending $3.55 trillion, so earmarks account for 0.3 percent of this amount. Considering discretionary spending only — and earmarks are discretionary — earmarks are 0.8 percent of $1.368 trillion planned discretionary spending.

This is not to say that this spending is not harmful and should not be eliminated.

Paul — accurately self-described as “America’s leading voice for limited constitutional government, low taxes, free markets, and a return to sound monetary policies” — defends his insertion of earmarks into appropriations bills. In an article titled Earmarks Don’t Add Up, Paul explained why:

The total level of spending is determined by the Congressional leadership and the appropriators before any Member has a chance to offer any amendments. Members’ requests are simply recommendations to allocate parts of that spending for certain items in that members’ district or state. If funds are not designated, they revert to non-designated spending controlled by bureaucrats in the executive branch. In other words, when a designation request makes it into the budget, it subtracts funds out of what is available to the executive branch and bureaucrats in various departments, and targets it for projects that the people and their representatives request in their districts. If a congressman does not submit funding requests for his district the money is simply spent elsewhere. To eliminate all earmarks would be to further consolidate power in the already dominant executive branch and not save a penny.

A spokesman for House Appropriations Chairman David Obey, a Wisconsin Democrat, was quoted in The Hill article as saying “Earmarks represent less than 1 percent of the federal budget, and they don’t add a dime to it — they are simply a way for Congress to direct funding that would otherwise be directed by administration officials.”

So here we have both liberal and conservative legislators defending the system.

It goes without saying that we need to reform this process. Currently, it allows members to say that since the money’s going to be spent somewhere, let’s spend it in my district. The motivation of members is that since their districts are taxed to send the money to Washington, they need to fight to get their districts’ fair share back — and some more, for good measure. This used to be one of the measures of success of a Congressman.

But the rise of federal spending and indebtedness has been one of the primary motivating factors of the tea party movement, and earmarks are a favorite target of conservative ire and anger.

So how do the two veteran Kansas Congressmen rank on earmarks and “pork” spending? The Club for Growth compiles a scorecard called the RePORK Card. This measures votes on “68 anti-pork amendments” in the 2009 Congress. Club Executive Director David Keating writes “The RePORK Card will help taxpayers measure the dedication of their representatives to changing the culture of corruption that surrounds pork-barrel spending.”

For 2009, Moran scored 96 percent, voting against 65 of the 68 measures. Tiahrt scored 29 percent, voting against 20 of the 68.

In the previous year for this project (2007), the two representatives’ scores were much closer: Moran scored four percent, while Tiahrt scored zero percent.

According to analysis by Taxpayers for Common Sense, Tiahrt was responsible for 13 “solo” earmarks in the 2010 budget, totaling $5,550,000 in spending. Moran was close behind with eight earmarks with a total value of $5,150,000. Solo earmarks are defined as “The total of earmarks on which only that member’s name appears.”

Considering solo earmarks and earmarks with other members, Tiahrt notched spending of $63,400,000, with Moran at $18,600,000. These earmarks are defined as “The total of earmarks on which that member’s name appears, either by itself or with other members. TCS does not split an earmark.”

In a recent forum of candidates for the Republican Party nomination for United States Congress from the fourth district of Kansas sponsored by the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, candidates were asked about earmarks.

(The candidates and their campaign websites are Wichita businessman Jim Anderson, Wichita businessman Wink Hartman, Wichita businessman Mike Pompeo, Latham engineer Paij Rutschman, and Kansas Senator Jean Schodorf.)

Rutschman said representatives want to do things that are in the interest of their states, but we should not pass earmarks that are detrimental to the nation.

Schodorf said that the appropriation process should be transparent, but that we need to cut spending today.

Anderson said that he is against earmarks, saying that the process provides for corruption of the political process. He would support legislation outlawing the process.

Hartman said he is totally against earmarks, noting that many people think that earmarks are good when they “make your grass turn green,” but a “bridge to nowhere” is different. He seconded Anderson’s concern about corruption.

Pompeo said he is against earmarks, saying that if “safe roads make good sense, we in Kansas can figure out how to fund them.” He agreed with concerns about corruption.

Olathe Republican straw poll produces wins by Tiahrt, Yoder

Yesterday’s Olathe Republican Party picnic featured a straw poll that provided insight into statewide and local races as Kansas nears its August 3rd primary. The annual event is very popular, and this year 430 people paid the $2 fee to participate in the straw poll.

Martin Hawver, dean of Kansas Statehouse reporters, describes the importance of the event: “The picnic/poll has been closely watched in recent years because Olathe is a conservative bastion and it tends to bring Republican politics into a comfortably conservative venue from which the party’s internal strife can be measured.”

Voters vote only once in the poll.

In the straw poll for the Republican Party nomination for United States Senate from Kansas, Todd Tiahrt outpolled Jerry Moran 315 to 112.

Tom Little of Mound City and Bob Londerholm of Overland Park, little-known candidates who filed close to the June 10th deadline, each received two votes.

Tiahrt’s numbers were undoubtedly boosted by the 69 folks who made a 178-mile bus trip from Wichita to Olathe courtesy of the Tiahrt campaign. Subtracting these leaves Tiahrt with a still-large victory margin of 246 to 112. These results are a boost to the Tiahrt campaign, as it is thought that northeast Kansas is a key battleground in this contest. Hawver’s caveat that Olathe is a conservative bastion must be kept in mind, as Tiahrt makes an explicit appeal to conservative voters.

Both Tiahrt and Moran — along with many members of their campaign staffs — attended the event. Moran had to leave the picnic before the speechmaking started to attend to his mother, who was recently diagnosed with leukemia. Kansas Senator Karin Brownlee, an Olathe Republican, spoke in Moran’s place. Tiahrt spoke in person, and his speech was enthusiastically received by the audience.

It is commonly thought that the winner of this August Republican primary election will cruise to victory in the November general election.

In the contest for race for the Republican Party nomination for United States Congress from the third district of Kansas, the straw poll showed these results:

Kevin Yoder 156
Patricia Lightner 117
John Rysavy 55
Dan Gilyeat 52
Jean Ann Uvodich 23
Craig McPherson 7
Garry Klotz 5
Dave King 0
Jerry Malone 0

The winner of the primary will face the winner of the Democratic party primary, either Stephene Moore (wife of current officeholder Dennis Moore) or Thomas Scherer.

In these straw polls, it is common for campaigns to pay the poll fee ($2 for this poll) for their supporters. In this case, the Yoder campaign went a little further, distributing free coupons that, when turned into a Yoder campaign representative, would let a family avoid paying the $10 admission fee. It is not known how many of these tickets were used, and other campaigns may have done the same.

In Kansas, Sarah Palin chooses Todd Tiahrt

Yesterday former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin endorsed Todd Tiahrt for the Republican Party nomination for United States Senate from Kansas.

Tiahrt’s opponent is Jerry Moran. It is commonly thought that the winner of this August Republican primary election will cruise to victory in the November general election.

Palin’s endorsement, which can be read on her Facebook page, reads as follows:

I’m happy to endorse Todd Tiahrt’s campaign to be the next U.S Senator from Kansas. Todd is a protector of our Constitution, a pro-family, pro-Second Amendment Commonsense Conservative who has never voted for a tax increase and has fought to end the wasteful spending coming out of Washington. He didn’t just stand on the sidelines complacently, but instead actually battled against the bailouts, the debt-ridden stimulus spending, the cap-and-tax energy schemes, and Obamacare. In fact, remember on the day Obamacare was being debated, Todd Tiahrt was on the House floor all day working to defeat it, and he’s helped lead the charge to repeal and replace Obamacare the moment it was signed into law. We can count on Todd to take on the liberal spending agenda of the Obama administration and fight for lower taxes, more individual freedom, and less government intrusion.

At a meet-and-greet opportunity yesterday evening, Vicki Tiahrt, wife of the candidate, said the campaign was pleased with the endorsement.

Palin’s endorsement has been a benefit to most candidates she has endorsed. A recent Time Magazine article noted that “her record in tightly contested races [is] 8-3 overall this midterm election year.”

The most recent public poll in this race is from May, and showed Moran leading by 52 percent to 29 percent.

Kansas news digest

News from alternative media around Kansas for June 25, 2010.

Public sector grows along with KPERS dependency

(Kansas Liberty) “Between April 2008 and April 2010, the private sector in Kansas has experienced an overall loss in jobs of approximately 5.89 percent, while the public sector has experienced an overall gain in employment of approximately .83 percent. … As the public sector and its salaries continue to grow, so does the dependence on the state’s pension plan, KPERS.”

Kansas working toward implementing aspect of Obamacare

(Kansas Liberty) “The Kansas Department of Insurance is working with the federal government to create a temporary high-risk insurance pool, in accordance with regulations set forth by the new federal health-care law. High-risk insurance pools are designed to provide coverage for residents with pre-existing conditions who are unable to find coverage elsewhere. The temporary high-risk pool will operate until 2014, when the law prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage to those with preexisting conditions.”

Budget cuts hit small towns harder, KC Fed reports

(Kansas Reporter) “TOPEKA, Kan. – Kansas government’s continuing financial jam may threaten the economic recovery of the state’s small town and rural communities, according to a new analysis published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.”

Researchers debate number of student dropouts

(Kansas Reporter) “TOPEKA, Kan. – By one count, slightly more than one in 100 students drop out of school; by another count, only 75 students out of 100 actually receive diplomas. Trying to figure out the number of students in Kansas who have graduated high school, versus the number that have dropped out before graduation is tricky and confusing business.”

Info about Ethics Commission meeting not found by attending

(Kansas Watchdog) “On Tuesday the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission held their monthly meeting in Topeka. The agenda for the meeting was a bit curious: The plan was for a 15-minute session that started at 11:45, followed by a 30-minute session 90 minutes later.”

Business Owners Ask Kansas Courts to Stop Smoking Ban

(Kansas Watchdog) “Owners of private clubs and bingo operations have asked the courts to stop the statewide smoking ban (HB2221) from taking effect July 1. Attorney Tuck Duncan Friday filed a motion to intervene in a temporary injunction sought by Michael Merriam to stop implementation of the ban while courts hear claims that the ban violates various U.S Constitutional rights.”

Tiahrt and Moran Trade Shots Over Support for Federal Bailouts

(State of the State KS) “The Tiahrt (R) and Moran (R) campaigns traded shots Wednesday over the issue of government bailouts with Tiahrt firing the first shot saying Moran was misleading voters when Moran said claimed he never voted for a bailout.”

Opinion by Senate President Stephen Morris – The 2010 Legislative Session: Keeping Our Promises to Kansans

(State of the State KS) “The 2010 Legislative Session is now officially history. When this chapter of the Kansas story is written, it will go down as perhaps the most significant since the Great Depression. In fact, the challenges facing lawmakers this year were unprecedented. As we enter the election season, you may hear a lot of misinformation about what actually happened in Topeka this year; I would like to set the record straight.”

Response by Americans For Prosperity to Opinion Article by Senate President Steve Morris

(State of the State KS) “The recent letter to the editor submitted by Senate President Stephen Morris caught my attention. He claims passing the largest sales tax increase in Kansas history was the ‘only responsible way’ to address the budget shortfall. A shortfall he blames on an ‘economic crisis.’”

Club for Growth gives slight nod to Tiahrt over Moran

Of the groups that analyze legislators and their votes, the Club for Growth produces a scorecard that focuses on votes relating to economic growth.

The Club for Growth describes itself as “a national network of thousands of pro-growth Americans, from all walks of life, who believe that prosperity and opportunity come through economic freedom. We work to promote public policies that encourage a high growth economy and a swift return to America’s founding principles primarily through legislative involvement, issue advocacy, research, training and educational activity.”

Each year the Club for Growth produces a scorecard for both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate that ranks members on their votes, based on the Club’s judgment of which votes distinguish between legislators who believe in pro-growth policies and those who don’t.

The Club warns of limitations of scorecards like these, including my own Kansas Economic Freedom Index: “A study of roll call votes on the floor of the House and Senate and legislative actions is just that. It can not account for a lawmaker’s work in committee, advocacy in his party’s caucus meetings, and effectiveness as a leader in advocating pro-growth policies.”

That caveat aside, let’s look at how the Club ranked members of the Kansas House delegation, particularly Todd Tiahrt and Jerry Moran. These two are candidates for the Republican party nomination for the U.S. Senate. It is commonly thought that the winner of this August Republican primary election will cruise to victory in the November general election.

One of the themes in the election — promoted especially by the Tiahrt campaign — is who is the most conservative candidate. So the Club for Growth scorecard is an important measure for someone promoting conservative, pro-growth credentials.

On the Club’s scorecard for 2009, Tiahrt earned a rating of 90 percent, which ranks him 64th among members of the U.S. House according to Club for Growth’s criteria.

Moran scored 85 percent, which ranks 94th.

(A higher rating means more votes in alignment with the Club’s positions. Other Kansas House members are the second district’s Lynn Jenkins, a Republican from Topeka, who scored 87 percent, ranking 83rd, and Democrat Dennis Moore of the third district in northeast Kansas, who scored four percent with a ranking of 297th. On the Senate rankings, Sam Brownback scored 85 percent, ranking 24th among the 100 members of the Senate. Pat Roberts scored 93 percent, ranking 19th.)

Is this difference between Tiahrt and Moran significant? That question, of course, must be answered by each voter. To help voters decide, I examined the Club’s scorecard and listed the votes where the two Congressmen voted differently. This is not a comprehensive examination of their voting records that would find all votes that were different. It only looks at the votes in the Club’s scorecard that are different.

The Club for Growth’s scorecard looked at 24 votes. Following are the votes where Tiahrt and Moran voted differently. Information on the bills is from Govtrack.us.

H.R. 12: Paycheck Fairness Act
“To amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide more effective remedies to victims of discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex, and for other purposes.”

Moran voted in favor of the Club’s position, while Tiahrt was absent for this vote. On a scale of one to ten that the Club uses to gauge the relative importance of votes, this bill was given a weight of one, meaning that it was judged relatively unimportant, relative to others.

H.R. 2: Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009
“To amend title XXI of the Social Security Act to extend and improve the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and for other purposes.”

Tiahrt voted in favor of the Club’s position, while Moran voted against it. This bill was weighted four on the scale of one to ten of relative importance.

H.R. 3435: Making supplemental appropriations for fiscal year 2009 for the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save Program
“Makes emergency supplemental appropriations of $2 billion for FY2009 and FY2010 to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of the Department of Transportation (DOT) for the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save Program (Cash for Clunkers Program)”

Moran voted for the Club’s position, while Tiahrt voted against it. This bill was weighted two on the one to ten scale of relative importance.

H. Res. 806: Providing for the concurrence by the House in the Senate amendment to H.R. 1035, with an amendment
“Sets forth the rule for consideration of the Senate amendment to H.R. 1035 (Morris K. Udall Scholarship and Excellence in National Environmental Policy Amendments Act of 2009)”

Tiahrt voted in favor of the Club’s position, while Moran voted against it. This bill was weighted one on the scale of one to ten of relative importance. The meaning of this resolution is obscure.

H.R. 3639: Expedited CARD Reform for Consumers Act of 2009
“To amend the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 to establish an earlier effective date for various consumer protections, and for other purposes.”

Tiahrt voted in favor of the Club’s position, while Moran voted against it. This bill was weighted two on the scale of one to ten of relative importance.

These are the only votes that differ between the two candidates. The Club’s scorecard also takes into account other factors, such as points awarded by the National Taxpayers Union (Tiahrt earned five; Moran three), and points awarded for not sponsoring anti-trade bills (Tiahrt and Moran both earned four points)

The scorecard also includes points awarded based on the Club’s RePORK Card, which scores legislators on how they voted on legislation that the Club considers to be pork-barrel spending. Tiahrt’s score of 29 percent earned him zero points, while Moran’s score of 96 percent earned two points.

The scorecard also separately considered H.R. 1321: Healthy Americans Act, “To provide affordable, guaranteed private health coverage that will make Americans healthier and can never be taken away.” Tiahrt and Moran voted the same on this measure.

While Tiahrt scores higher overall than Moran on the Club’s scorecard, it is not a consistent trend across all votes and measures.

Tiahrt rally features Rove endorsement

On Saturday, about 300 supporters of Todd Tiahrt gathered in a steamy hot airport hanger in Wichita to hear the Congressman and his guest, political strategist and commentator Karl Rove. Rove enthusiastically endorsed Tiahrt’s candidacy for the United States Senate from Kansas, one of only two such endorsements he said he is making.

Tiahrt’s best-known opponent in the August 3rd Republican primary is first district Congressman Jerry Moran of Hays. Tom Little of Mound City and Robert (Bob) Londerholm of Overland Park have also recently filed for this nomination.

Speaking before Rove, Tiahrt said that the tea party movement has been successful in some elections, and he is proud to be associated and endorsed by Tea Party Express and Kansas groups like the 9.12 group and Icaucus.

He said that although he’s been campaigning for 18 months, the real campaign is just beginning. He said some of his televisions ads are “a little rough,” because “we need to tell the truth.” Tiahrt told the audience that he’s never voted for a tax increase, while his opponent has, adding that he favors the Fair Tax.

Tiahrt called for regulatory reform, saying that for manufacturing in America, regulation adds 17 percent to costs. Cutting that in half would make America more competitive.

He said we need to get health care back “into our hands,” adding that a free market system would lower the costs and give more choices to patients and doctors.

He told the audience that energy independence is important for putting Americans back to work.

Finally, he said that litigation reform is important, saying that America has more lawsuits than any other country. Although not opposed to lawyers — noting that his daughter is an attorney — he said there are too many lawyers in Congress. He let the audience know that Moran, his opponent, is a lawyer.

Rove said that he is endorsing only two candidates in the Republican Senate primary elections — Tiahrt and Marco Rubio of Florida.

He said that he knows and has worked with both Tiahrt and Moran, and that’s why he’s endorsing Tiahrt. He called Tiahrt a “principled conservative,” saying that although you may disagree with him, you always know he comes to a conclusion because he thinks it’s right.

Referring to Moran’s statement criticizing Rove as a Washington insider, Rove told the audience that Moran went to Washington five years before he did.

He told a story about working with Moran on an issue, trying to get his vote. The Kansas City Star’s Steve Kraske reported this based on an interview with Rove earlier in the day:

In the interview, Rove was particularly harsh on Moran for how the congressman approached a 2001 bill on trade promotion authority that Rove said was aimed at knocking down trade barriers and would have helped Moran’s rural western Kansas district.

Rove said Moran tried to cut a deal on the bill, offering to back it, but only if the president or Commerce Secretary Don Evans agreed to come to Kansas to help Moran raise campaign money.

Rove said the idea was ridiculous because Moran already had a big cash-on-hand total and likely wouldn’t face a serious opponent. Moran was from one of the safest Republican districts in the nation.

It was, ‘What’s in it for me?’” Rove said of Moran. He said Moran told him, “You’ve got to give the president to me in a safe Republican district or the secretary of commerce to me in a safe Republican district to do a fundraiser.”

The Bush team eventually pressed a North Carolina Republican to vote for the bill, which resulted in its narrow passage.

Referring to Moran, Rove told the Wichita crowd that it is the Washington insider that says “I’m not doing what’s right for my state or my people, or my district, unless you give me something.”

The Moran campaign released a statement that read, in part: “Karl doesn’t like Jerry Moran because Jerry stood up to him. Karl’s job was to line up votes to pass the President’s agenda and while Jerry agreed with much of the Bush agenda, he put his foot down against major increases in spending and government bureaucracy, like opposing No Child Left Behind.”

Rove said that we have important battles to fight, and we need to put forth the best team: “We need people who will go there and do the tough things that are necessary to put our country on the right path again.”

In questions after the speeches, Tiahrt said he was honored to have someone with the knowledge and stature of Rove endorse him. On why he is the “real conservative” in this race, Tiahrt said conservatism is his core value, and that he is not an election-year conversion, mentioning an Almanac of American Politics description of Moran’s voting record as “moderate.”

Rove said that in order to win this election, Tiahrt needs to tell Kansans what he would do and believes in, and contrast that with the record of his opponent.

Rove said that the tea party movement is a grass roots movement driven by concerns about government spending, deficit, and debt. He said that Tiahrt’s record in Congress fits in with the tea party philosophy.

I asked Rove if he thought it was possible for Republicans to take majorities in the House or Senate this year. Rove said that for the Senate, the Republicans would have to keep every seat that is up for election, and then win many Democrat seats., noting that Republicans have twice as many seats up for election as do Democrats. He said he believes Republicans will gain more seats in both chambers than the historical average since World War II in mid-term elections like this.

I asked if a conservative strategy was the best strategy in the third congressional district in Kansas (Wyandotte and Johnson counties, and part of Douglas county), noting that the district had elected blue dog Democrat Dennis Moore to several terms and moderate Republicans before that. Tiahrt said that he believes a majority of Johnson County voters are conservative. Rove said that Moore didn’t get out of the race “because he thought conservatism was on the wane in the third district.” He added that Moore had been saying he was a blue dog Democrat, but then voted for liberal policies in Congress.

When I asked what it means that Moore’s wife Stephene is running for the office, Rove said “It means he’s got better political judgment than she does.”

I asked if the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is Obama’s issue, or will it impact Congressional races? Rove said that it will impact the midterm races indirectly because it impacts the president’s popularity, adding that in midterms, the president’s job approval and the unemployment rate are two of the biggest drivers in voting. “That’s why Democrats lack enthusiasm and Republicans have intensity, because of what President Obama’s done in office.”

I mentioned a recent Wall Street Journal editorial by Fred Barnes, which leads with this sentence: “In Washington these days, President Obama is rumored to be hoping Republicans capture the House of Representatives in the midterm election in November.” The idea is that “If Mr. Obama wants to avert a fiscal crisis and win re-election in 2012, he needs House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to be removed from her powerful post. A GOP takeover may be the only way.” Would a Republican takeover of the House lead Obama to a Clinton-style presidency, since the GOP took control of Congress in 1994, Clinton’s first midterm election?

Rove said that Clinton was a centrist to begin with, and therefore was able to work with a Republican Congress. He said we haven’t seen this ability in Obama.

I asked Tiahrt if he would endorse one of the fourth district Republican Congressional candidates, and he said no, he trusts the voters to decide.

More coverage from State of the State KS is at Karl Rove Endorses Todd Tiahrt, Takes Shots At Jerry Moran.

Tiahrt, Moran vote ratings show slight difference

The campaign for the Republican Party nomination for the United States Senate from Kansas between Todd Tiahrt of Goddard and Jerry Moran of Hays is making national news. The issue is over who is the most conservative. A new article in U.S. News and Word Report states: “Both Tiahrt and Moran have portrayed themselves as fiscal conservatives, favoring lower taxes and less spending by the federal government.”

The Washington insider publication The Hill recently wrote of the “internecine fight for the GOP Kansas Senate.”

Merriam-Webster defines internecine as “of, relating to, or involving conflict within a group,” which might describe any contested political primary election. But this one is turning in to something resembling the other definition given: “marked by slaughter: deadly; especially: mutually destructive.”

Perhaps the reason why this campaign is turning negative is that on many issues, there just isn’t much difference between the two candidates and their voting records. Looking at vote rankings from several sources can help us see this.

One respected source of vote ratings is National Journal. Some Tiahrt supporters are using a chart of National Journal vote ratings on Facebook, showing their approval of Tiahrt’s performance in these ratings.

Tiahrt and Moran vote ratings from National Journal

The chart shows Tiahrt with a more conservative vote rating in years past, but converging to nearly identical values last year. The chart shows Moran moving in the more conservative direction, while Tiahrt, after three years of less-conservative ratings, moving to a more conservative rating.

National Journal produces three ratings for each legislator, based on votes on economic, social, and foreign policy issues. The number I plotted in the chart is the average of the three values for each year. In its own method of producing composite scores for 2009, National Journal gives Tiahrt a score of 85.3, and Moran gets 84.3.

In terms of where they rank in order, Tiahrt is the 54th most conservative voter, and Moran is the 64th.

For 2009, the average composite score for Republican members of the U.S. House was 79.4, ranging from 57.8 to 94. So while Tiahrt and Moran rank as more conservative than average, neither are anywhere near the top, in terms of conservative voting according to National Journal.

Other organizations produce vote ratings too, such as the American Conservative Union. In these ratings, Tiahrt and Moan have the same, or nearly same score in all years except 2007, when Tiahrt had a more conservative rating. For the period shown, Tiahrt’s average score is 92.5, and Moran’s is 91.3.

Tiahrt and Moran vote ratings from American Conservative Union

From Americans for Tax Reform, we find a mixed picture. For the period shown, the average rating for Tiahrt is 94.6, and for Moran, 90.3.

Tiahrt and Moran vote ratings from American for Tax Reform

Do these relatively small differences in vote ratings amount to a true distinction between the candidates? While Tiahrt generally earns the more conservative rating, the differences are so small that voters will want to make sure they take into account other factors when they decide who to support.

Kansas News Digest

News from alternative media around Kansas for May 21, 2010.

Light withdraws bid for re-election: Will others follow?

(Kansas Republican Assembly) “State Representative Bill Light withdrew his candidacy for re-election to the Kansas House May 12. Light was facing a strong conservative challenge in the August primary by Dan Widder of Ulysses.”

Historic sales tax increase and nanny-state laws mark the 2010 session in Kansas

(Kansas Liberty) “So far Gov. Mark Parkinson has signed into law a total of 149 bills, and Parkinson now has until May 28 to take action on any remaining bills that were passed by the Legislature during the veto session. Parkinson has not allowed any bill to become law without his signature at this time and has vetoed two bills. Conservative Republicans in both chambers were largely overpowered yet again in the 2010 legislative session by a coalition of left-wing Republicans and Democrats which has managed to retain the majority in both the House and Senate.”

Kansans exposed to tax hike starting July 1

(Kansas Liberty) “Starting July 1, Kansas residents can expect to start paying 19 percent more in sales tax so that the state government can continue to spend at the level deemed appropriate by Governor Mark Parkinson, left-wing Republicans and Democrats in the Kansas Legislature. Small-business advocates said the coalition of ‘tax and spend’ legislators ‘did not want to believe there was an alternative’ to a tax hike.’”

Kansas survey: 10,000 new ‘green’ jobs by 2012

(Kansas Reporter) “TOPEKA, Kan. – The environmentally conscious ‘green’ movement has the potential to create 10,000 new jobs in Kansas by 2012, according to a new state survey released Tuesday.”

Tax package means go-head for giant Kansas freight hub

(Kansas Reporter) “TOPEKA, Kan. – Legislation approving Kansas’ recently voted 1-cent sales tax increase will trigger construction this year of a controversial Johnson County intermodal rail freight hub, the Kansas Department of Transportation said Tuesday. KDOT and developers of the long-planned 1,000 acre rail-truck shipping center and logistic park complex along Interstate 35 in Edgerton said they reached an agreement in which the state will provide a $35 million grant to BNSF Railway in exchange for a pledge to begin work on the project this year.”

Kansas lawmakers touch tax and budget records

(Kansas Reporter) “A new analysis by the Kansas Legislative Research Department of the final budget lawmakers sent to the governor calculates that state general fund spending will increase 3.8 percent, or about $204.5 million, to $5.6 billion in the fiscal year beginning July 1. That total is the second largest in recent record, topped only by $6.06 billion of state general funds spent in fiscal 2009. All-funds spending, which includes federal and special revenue funds as well as state general fund money, is projected to decrease in 2011 to $13.7 billion, a more than 5 percent reduction from the recent record $14.4 billion reached this year.”

Planned Parenthood Urges Governor To Veto Huelskamp’s Ban of Federal Funding For Services

(State of the State KS) “Planed Parenthood supporters came to the capital Wednesday to deliver petitions to Governor Parkinson, urging him to veto part of the state budget that would make Planed Parenthood ineligible for federal funding.”

Governor Parkinson Says Budget Puts Kansas On The Right Path For Next Four Years

(State of the State KS) “Governor Mark Parkinson (D) held a press conference Wednesday where he reflected on the 2010 legislative session. In his State of the State address in January, Parkinson called on the legislature to protect education, social services and public safety, to pass a comprehensive transportation plan and to bring improvements to nursing homes across the state. Parkinson said legislators stepped up, protecting 150 years of progress in Kansas an bringing jobs to the state.”

Tiahrt and Moran Trade Shots on Earmarks and A New Poll Shows Increasing Support In Senate Race

(State of the State KS) “The Tiahrt and Moran campaign sparred over earmarks last week with both agreeing that the original intent of bringing federal dollars for local needs was good, but Washington now needs earmark and spending reform.”

Former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane Speaks Out On Support for Mike Pompeo

(State of the State KS) “Former White House National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane came out swinging for Mike Pompeo (R) this weekend, responding to a story in the Wichita Eagle. McFarlane is a leader on national security issues, working in the Ford and Reagan administrations. The Eagle article highlighted a Pompeo fundraiser hosted by McFarlane, calling him a ‘D.C. big name’ and cited fellow Congressional campaigners saying McFarlane’s support made Pompeo a Washington insider.”

Kansas House passes ‘Lexie’s Law’

(Kansas Watchdog) “After passing the 1% increase in sales tax very early Tuesday, the Kansas House at 2:15 AM addressed HB 2356, otherwise known as Lexie’s Law. The purpose of the bill was to improve inspections of child care facilities in Kansas after preventable deaths had occurred.”

Watchdogs talk about Investigative Journalism

(Kansas Watchdog) “On Saturday at the American Majority Post-Party Summit held in Kansas City, Missouri two of the sessions were about investigative journalism. These sessions were to encourage citizen journalists to get more involved in keeping government at all levels — federal, state, county, local — more accountable.”

Senator Brownlee’s official protest of budget bill

(Kansas Watchdog) “The true energizing power in an economy is the productivity and ingenuity of its people when they are freed from excessive government taxation and regulation to provide for their families. We have lost sight of the fact that there is not a public or government sector without a healthy private sector. Too many times this session we have heard a legislator postulate that government spending in some manner helps save our economy. If this were actually true, our economy should be overheating with all of the overspending by states and the federal government.”

New report outlines Kansas consequences of health reform

(Kansas Health Institute News Service) “TOPEKA – The likely consequences of federal health reform for Kansas are detailed in a new report scheduled for public release Tuesday during a meeting of the Kansas Health Policy Authority board.”

Budget and taxes decided, Legislature leaves

(Kansas Health Institute News Service) “TOPEKA — After four months of struggling with the issues of budgets and taxes, the Legislature finished its work today and concluded all but the ceremonial end of the 2010 session.”

Wichita winter tea party: it’s inside this Saturday

Kansans For Liberty is hosting a tea party this Saturday February 20 at Century II Exhibition Hall. It starts at 1:00 pm.

Lynda Tyler, the organizer for this event, says that there are two levels to this event: A stage with organizations, candidates, a forum, ending with keynote speaker Apostle Claver.

The other level is the decorated tables around the outside of the room representing organizations and campaigns from all over Kansas.

The event is free to the public. There will be raffles for flags, baskets, dinners to Mike’s Steakhouse, and two tickets to see Sarah Palin at the Intrust Bank Arena in May. Raffle tickets are $1.00 each or 3 for $2.00. The door prize drawing is for two tickets to the VIP Round Table breakfast with Mike Huckabee on February 24th at 8:15 that morning.

There is an after rally VIP Fundraising Dinner with Apostle Claver at Whiskey Creek Steakhouse. Tickets for this event are $50.00.

Radio personality Paul Ibbetson, host of “The Conscious of Kansas” on Wildcat 91.1 in Manhattan, will emcee the event.

Candidates for the United State Senate Todd Tiahrt and Jerry Moran will address the crowd early in the event.

Insurance Commissioner candidate David Powell will speak, followed by Dr. George Watson speaking on health care issues facing America Today.

The Independence Caucus group will explain their vetting process that will help voters understand the various positions and views of the candidates who have gone through the process. They will also introduce the congressional candidates who have gone through this process and where you can find the results online.

The Fair Tax KC group will be here with a plan to eliminate the IRS.

There are two state sovereignty organizations coming that have been instrumental in the push for Kansas to send a resolution to Washington DC so that we will no longer tolerate the federal government stepping on the constitutional rights of the states and their citizens.

Kansas Libertarian Party chairman Andrew P. Gray will speak on the party’s 2010 plans and activities.

The Great American Forum will take about an hour to showcase the U.S. Congressional Candidates for the 4th District.

The keynote speaker is “Apostle Claver” T. Kamau-Imani, founder and chairman of www.ragingelephants.org He is a dynamic speaker whose mission includes getting people to “Vote their values — not a party.”

KansansforLiberty.com has details and more information, including a list of the organizations confirmed to be at the Winter Rally.

Moran to address Wichita Pachyderms

Today, United States Representative from the first district of Kansas Jerry Moran will address the members and guests of the Wichita Pachyderm Club. Moran is running against Todd Tiahrt for the Republican nomination for the United States Senate from Kansas. Tiahrt spoke at the same event one week earlier.

All are welcome to attend Pachyderm club meetings. The program costs $10, which includes a delicious buffet lunch including salad, soup, two main dishes, and ice tea and coffee. The meeting starts at noon, although it’s recommended to arrive fifteen minutes early to get your lunch before the program starts.

The Wichita Petroleum Club is on the ninth floor of the Bank of America Building at 100 N. Broadway (north side of Douglas between Topeka and Broadway) in Wichita, Kansas (click for a map and directions). Park in the garage just across Broadway and use the sky walk to enter the Bank of America building. Bring your parking garage ticket to be stamped and your parking fee will be only $1.00. There is usually some metered and free street parking nearby.

Kansas Senator Dick Kelsey Announces for Congress

On Friday Kansas Senator Dick Kelsey announced that he is a candidate for the United States Congress. Kelsey seeks the seat presently held by Todd Tiahrt, who is running for United States Senate. The Wichita Eagle covered the announcement in the story State Sen. Dick Kelsey to run for Tiahrt’s congressional seat.

A question I asked Kelsey afterwards is if Tiahrt will endorse a successor. Kelsey said that he doesn’t believe Tiahrt will make an endorsement, and he doesn’t think he should. Tiahrt, he said, needs every friend he can get in his run for the Senate.

What about the primary between Tiahrt and Jerry Moran? Many Republicans want to avoid this primary. Kelsey said that a positive primary will not hurt, and in response to my suggestion, said that a spending limit would be great.

Todd Tiahrt on the Kansas Senate Primary

At Friday’s meeting of the Wichita Pachyderm Club, United States Congressman for the fourth district of Kansas Todd Tiahrt was the speaker. Dion Lefler of the Wichita Eagle covered Tiaht’s speech in the news story Tiahrt offers thoughts on Obama, stimulus to Wichita Pachyderm Club. After the meeting I spoke to the congressman and asked a few questions.

One topic that seems to be on the minds of many Republicans is the desire to avoid a prolonged primary battle for the United States Senate seat between Tiahrt and Kansas first district congressman Jerry Moran. I asked Tiahrt if it’s important to avoid this conflict.

“Everybody that’s concerned about that ought to get on my team right away. That would be the most significant thing that would eliminate a primary.” Tiahrt added that people are looking for someone who gets the job done. He said that I’m the one who gets the job done, and that our senators come to my office, not Moran’s, when things need to get done in the House.

I asked if he and Rep. Moran could come to some agreement to avoid a messy primary, perhaps expenditure limits. Tiahrt would not make a commitment to such an agreement unilaterally and said “I’m going to do what it takes to win.” Voters in Kansas have a right to know the records of both candidates, he said, and limiting resources might limit his ability to get out the message.

Many local Republicans are expressing interest in replacing Tiahrt in Congress. So does he have a favorite? “We have a lot of quality candidates” was his diplomatic response.