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Voice for Liberty Radio: Mike Pompeo

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In this episode of WichitaLiberty Radio: U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas spoke at a meeting of the Wichita Pachyderm Club. Some of the topics and questions Pompeo answered included:

The size of the defense budget, the threats to our nation, and the importance of the National Security Agency in keeping the country safe. He addressed privacy concerns.

What about tension between the Speaker of the House and tea party and conservatives?

What’s wrong the the just-passed farm bill, and how did it pass?

Attitudes towards and respect for Congress and the President.

The arrest of a suspect in an attack on the Wichita Airport.

The presentation started with a video of Rep. Pompeo questioning Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

This recording contains Pompeo’s prepared remarks in full and selected responses to questions at the Wichita Pachyderm Club on February 7, 2014.


Mike Pompeo Congressional office.
Campaign website: pompeoforcongress.com
Twitter at @RepMikePompeo
Wichita Pachyderm Club

Pompeo votes against debt ceiling increase

From the office of U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, a Republican who represents the Kansas fourth district.

Pompeo Votes Against Unlimited Government Spending
“We can’t keep raising the debt ceiling without addressing the drivers of our debt.”

Washington — Congressman Mike Pompeo released the following statement following his vote on the debt ceiling:

Washington has once more kicked the can down the road by raising the limit on the government credit card without dealing with the drivers our national debt. This means fewer jobs, higher taxes, and ordinary Kansans suffering under the ever-increasing, costly burden of Obamacare that will achieve few, if any, of its goals. We cannot afford this new entitlement and the President is now on track to double the national debt. Every American family has to live within its means, and Washington should do the same. Today’s legislation may well have averted the “crisis of the moment,” but it did nothing to avert the much greater crisis that is inevitable with our current rate of spending that we must fix immediately.

Pompeo addresses ObamaCare, debt ceiling, government accountability

Today U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, a Republican who represents the Kansas fourth district addressed the Wichita Rotary Club.

He told the audience that despite is not just about what we’ll do next week or even in 2014. The challenge, he said, is changing the nation’s long-term financial trajectory.

On the rollout of ObamaCare, he said that he tried to enroll but failed. He said he was sympathetic with the challenges in rolling out the information technology that implements ObamaCare, but it’s a challenge that should never have been undertaken.

Mike Pompeo, October 7, 2013.

He said he recognizes the risks to the economy that the debt ceiling issue poses. He said we have to take on the obligations of the next 10 to 15 years and we have to do it now.

Pompeo also spoke about government accountability. “It is so easy to spend your money,” he said. “You can be a hero, you can go to ribbon cuttings, … but I have to tell you that when politicians do that in today’s financial situation, they are doing nothing short of lying to you. I use that term intentionally, and with malice aforethought. Because to say they’re misleading you would imply there’s some chance they don’t know that. And they do. This is not politics. This is math.”

On Syria, Pompeo said he’s heard Republicans say we should stay out of the Middle East. But Pompeo said there are from 10,000 to 30,000 soldiers there today. When politicians imply that if we don’t launch some missiles into Syria we’ll be “out” of the Middle East, that is untrue, he said, and “perpetrated with malice aforethought.”

Pompeo on Syria intervention

This morning U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo appeared on Fox News Network to talk about Syria. Video follows.

Also, KFDI reported this today:

Kansas Fourth District Representative Mike Pompeo has just returned from a week in the Middle East in which he met with national security figures from the United States and its allies.

Pompeo said there is a broad concensus that American foreign policy in the Middle East has been weak and feckless.

The congressman called for a strong response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, who Pompeo called a war criminal.

“We’ve got to make sure that those who control Syria and big pockets of the Middle East are not beholden to the Ayatollahs in Iran and to Hezbollah and to Russia,” he said.

Pompeo said if the U.S. does nothing in response to Syrian actions, we will ultimately have risk to the American homeland.

“We don’t need 20,000 soldiers on the ground,” Pompeo said. “But we need an enormous effort to make sure that, in a post-Assad world, we do not have Iran in control.”

Pompeo said he hopes the president will do more than he has outlined so far, adding that a “shot across the bow” is not enough.

Ending the Economic Development Administration


If you think a proper function of the federal government is spending your tax dollars to build replicas of the Great Pyramids in Indiana or a gift shop in a winery, you’re not going to like legislation introduced by U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, a Republican who represents the Kansas fourth district, including the Wichita metropolitan area.

Others, however, will appreciate H.R. 887: To terminate the Economic Development Administration, and for other purposes. In the following article from last year, Pompeo explains the harm of the Economic Development Administration, which he describes as a “politically motivated federal wealth redistribution agency.” Pompeo had introduced similar legislation last year, and this bill keeps the effort alive in the new Congress.

In his article from last year Pompeo mentions the trip by Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez to Wichita. Since then, Fernandex has moved on to the private sector, working for a law firm in a role that seems something like lobbying.

For more background on this agency, see Economic Development Administration at Downsizing the Federal Government.

End the Economic Development Administration — Now

By U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, January, 2012

As part of my efforts to reduce the size of government, I have proposed to eliminate the Economic Development Administration (EDA), a politically motivated federal wealth redistribution agency. Unsurprisingly, the current leader of that agency, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez, has taken acute personal interest in my bill to shutter his agency.

Last week, Secretary Fernandez invited himself to Wichita at taxpayer expense and met with the Wichita Eagle’s editorial board. Afterwards, the paper accurately noted I am advocating eliminating the EDA even though that agency occasionally awards grant money to projects in South Central Kansas. They just don’t get it. Thanks to decades of this flawed “You take yours, I’ll take mine” Washington logic, our nation now faces a crippling $16 trillion national debt.

I first learned about the EDA when Secretary Fernandez testified in front of my subcommittee that the benefits of EDA projects exceed the costs and cited the absurd example of a $1.4 million award for “infrastructure” that allegedly helped a Minnesota town secure a new $1.6 billion steel mill. As a former CEO, I knew there is no way that a taxpayer subsidy equal to less than one-tenth of one percent (0.1%) of the total capital needed made a difference in launching the project. That mill was getting built whether EDA’s grant came through or not. So, I decided to dig further.

I discovered that the EDA is a federal agency we can do without. Similar to earmarks that gave us the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” or the Department of Energy loan guarantee scandal that produced Solyndra, the EDA advances local projects that narrowly benefit a particular company or community. To be sure, the EDA occasionally supports a local project here in Kansas. But it takes our tax money every year for projects in 400-plus other congressional districts, many if not most of which are boondoggles. For example: EDA gave $2 million to help construct UNLV’s Harry Reid Research and Technology Park; $2 million for a “culinary amphitheater,” tasting room, and gift shop at a Washington state winery; and $500,000 to construct (never-completed) replicas of the Great Pyramids in rural Indiana.

Several times in recent decades, the Government Accountability Office has questioned the value and efficacy of the EDA. Good-government groups like Citizens Against Government Waste have called for dismantling the agency. In addition, eliminating the EDA was listed among the recommendations of President Obama’s own bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Commission.

So why hasn’t it been shut down already? Politics. The EDA spreads taxpayer-funded project money far and wide and attacks congressmen who fail to support EDA grants. Soon after that initial hearing, Secretary Fernandez flew in his regional director — again at taxpayer expense — to show me “all the great things we are doing in your home district” and handed me a list of recent and pending local grants. Hint, hint. You can’t say I wasn’t warned to back off. Indeed, Eagle editors missed the real story here: Secretary Fernandez flew to Wichita because he is a bureaucrat trying to save his high-paying gig. The bureaucracy strikes back when conservatives take on bloated, out-of-control, public spending, so I guess I’m making progress.

Please don’t misunderstand. I am not faulting cities, universities, or companies for having sought “free” federal money from the EDA. The fault lies squarely with a Washington culture that insists every program is sacred and there is no spending left to cut.

A federal agency run at the Assistant Secretary level has not been eliminated in decades. Now is the time. My bill to eliminate the EDA (HR 3090) would take one small step toward restoring fiscal sanity and constitutional government.

Nation can no longer afford wind tax credit

From The Hill:

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) on Wednesday said the nation’s fiscal situation has become so dire that the government can no longer afford to maintain a wind power production credit that has been in place since in 1992.

“I think there is certainly the largest realization that we’ve ever had that it’s time for it to end,” Alexander said at a Wednesday event hosted by The Hill and sponsored by the American Energy Alliance.

In a longer story, The Hill reports on the efforts of U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, a Republican representing the Kansas fourth district (Wichita metropolitan area and surrounding counties) to end the wind production tax credit:

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) said he hopes that conversation leads to the elimination of all energy subsidies.

Pompeo has led the House charge against the credit. He got 46 other House GOP members to sign a September letter urging Boehner to nix the provision.

Pompeo said the wind credit’s history is instructive when debating the benefits of tax carve-outs for specific industries.

He pointed to a steep decline in wind turbine installations when the credit last lapsed in 2004 as proof that subsidies distort markets and investment. And planned projects and investments already are down for next year as a result of the credit’s cloudy future.

“I think that’s further evidence that it’s non-economic,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo has been at the forefront of efforts to end subsidies that distort energy markets. He and Alexander recently contributed an op-ed to the Wall Street Journal, which may be read at Puff, the Magic Drag on the Economy: Time to let the pernicious production tax credit for wind power blow away. Pompeo also develops the argument in Governor Romney is right: End the wind production tax credit and Mike Pompeo: We need capitalism, not cronyism. The special interests that benefit from cronyism have struck back, but unsuccessfully: Kerr’s attacks on Pompeo’s energy policies fall short.

Kerr’s attacks on Pompeo’s energy policies fall short

We often see criticism of politicians for sensing “which way the wind blows,” that is, shifting their policies to pander to the prevailing interests of important special interest groups. The associated negative connotation is that politicians do this without regard to whether these policies are wise and beneficial for everyone.

So when a Member of Congress takes a position that is literally going against the wind in the home district and state, we ought to take notice. Someone has some strong convictions.

This is the case with U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, a Republican representing the Kansas fourth district (Wichita metropolitan area and surrounding counties.)

The issue is the production tax credit (PTC) paid to wind power companies. For each kilowatt-hour of electricity produced, the United States government pays 2.2 cents. Wind power advocates contend the PTC is necessary for wind to compete with other forms of electricity generation. Without the PTC, it is said that no new wind farms would be built.

The PTC is an important issue in Kansas not only because of the many wind farms located there, but also because of wind power equipment manufacturers that have located in Kansas. An example is Siemens. That company, lured by millions in local incentives, built a plant in Hutchinson. Employment was around 400. But now the PTC is set to expire on December 31, and it’s uncertain whether Congress will extend the program. As a result, Siemens has laid off employees. Soon only 152 will be at work in Hutchinson, and similar reductions in employment have happened at other Siemens wind power equipment plants.

Rep. Pompeo is opposed to all tax credits for energy production, and has authored legislation to eliminate them. As the wind PTC is the largest energy tax credit program, Pompeo and others have written extensively of the market distortions and resultant economic harm caused by the PTC. A recent example is Puff, the Magic Drag on the Economy: Time to let the pernicious production tax credit for wind power blow away, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

The special interests that benefit from the PTC are striking back. An example comes from Dave Kerr, who as former president of the Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber of Commerce played a role in luring Siemens to Hutchinson. Kerr’s recent op-ed in the Hutchinson News is notable not only for its several attempts to deflect attention away from the true nature of the PTC, but for its personal attacks on Pompeo.

There’s no doubt that the Hutchinson economy was dealt a setback with the announcement of layoffs at the Siemens plant that manufactures wind power equipment. Considered in a vacuum, these jobs were good for Hutchinson. But we shouldn’t make our nation’s policy in a vacuum, that is, bowing to the needs of special interest groups — sensing “which way the wind blows.” When considering everything and everyone, the PTC paid to producers of power generated from wind is a bad policy. We ought to respect Pompeo for taking a principled stand on this issue, instead of pandering to the folks back home.

Kerr is right about one claim made in his op-ed: The PTC for wind power is not quite like the Solyndra debacle. Solyndra received a loan from the Federal Financing Bank, part of the Treasury Department. Had Solyndra been successful as a company, it would likely have paid back the government loan. This is not to say that these loans are a good thing, but there was the possibility that the money would have been repaid.

But with the PTC, taxpayers spend with nothing to show in return except for expensive electricity. And spend taxpayers do.

Kerr, in an attempt to distinguish the PTC from wasteful government spending programs, writes the PTC is “actually an income tax credit.” The use of the adverb “actually” is supposed to alert readers that they’re about to be told the truth. But truth is not forthcoming from Kerr — there’s no difference. Tax credits are government spending. They have the same economic effect as “regular” government spending. To the company that receives them, they can be used — just like cash — to pay their tax bill. Or, the company can sell them to others for cash, although usually at a discounted value.

From government’s perspective, tax credits reduce revenue by the amount of credits issued. Instead of receiving tax payments in cash, government receives payments in the form of tax credits — which are slips of paper it created at no cost and which have no value to government. Created, by the way, outside the usual appropriations process. That’s the beauty of tax credits for big-government spenders: Once the program is created, money is spent without the burden of passing legislation.

If we needed any more evidence that PTC payments are just like cash grants: As part of Obama’s ARRA stimulus bill, for tax years 2009 and 2010, there was in effect a temporary option to take the federal PTC as a cash grant. The paper PTC, ITC, or Cash Grant? An Analysis of the Choice Facing Renewable Power Projects in the United States explains.

Astonishingly, the wind PTC is so valuable that wind power companies actually pay customers to take their electricity. It’s called “negative pricing,” as explained in Negative Electricity Prices and the Production Tax Credit:

As a matter of both economics and public policy, no government production tax subsidy should ever be so large that it creates an incentive for a business to actually pay customers to take its product. Yet, the federal Production Tax Credit (“PTC”) for wind generation is doing just that with increasing frequency in electricity markets across the United States. In some “wind-rich” regions of the country, wind producers are paying grid operators to take their generation during periods of surplus supply. But wind producers more than make up the cost of the “negative price” payment, because they receive a $22/MWH federal production tax credit for every MWH generated.

In western Texas since 2008, wind power generators paid the electrical grid to take their electricity ten percent of the hours of each day.

Once we recognize that tax credits are the same as government spending, we can see the error in Kerr’s argument that if the PTC is ended, it is the same as “a tax increase on utilities, which, because they are regulated, will pass on to consumers.” Well, government passes along the cost of the PTC to taxpayers, illustrating that there really is no free lunch.

Kerr attacks Pompeo for failing to “crusade” against two subsidies that some oil companies receive: Intangible Drilling Costs and the Percentage Depletion Allowance. These programs are deductions, not credits. They do provide an economic benefit to the oil companies that can use them (“big oil” can’t use percentage depletion at all), but not to the extent that tax credits do.

Regarding these deductions, last year Pompeo introduced H. Res 267, titled “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the United States should end all subsidies aimed at specific energy technologies or fuels.”

In the resolution, Pompeo recognized the difference between deductions and credits, the latter, as we’ve seen, being direct subsidies: “Whereas deductions and cost-recovery mechanisms available to all energy sectors are different than credits, loans and grants, and are therefore not taxpayer subsidies; [and] Whereas a deduction of costs and cost recovery with respect to timing is not a subsidy.”

Part of what the resolution calls for is to “begin tax simplification and reform by eliminating energy tax credits and deductions and reducing income tax rates.”

Kerr wants to deflect attention away from the cost and harm of the PTC. Haranguing Pompeo for failing to attack percentage depletion and IDC with the same fervor as tax credits is only an attempt to muddy the waters so we can’t see what’s happening right in front of us. It’s not, as Kerr alleges, “playing Clintonesque games of semantics with us.” As we’ve seen, Pompeo has called for the end of these two tax deductions.

If we want to criticize anyone for inconsistency, try this: Kerr criticizes Pompeo for ignoring the oil and gas deductions, “which creates a glut in natural gas that drives down the price to the lowest levels in a decade.” These low energy prices should be a blessing to our economy. Kerr, however, demands taxpayers pay to subsidize expensive wind power so that it can compete with inexpensive gas. In the end, the benefit of inexpensive gas is canceled. Who benefits from that, except for the wind power industry? The oil and gas targeted deductions also create market distortions, and therefore should be eliminated. But at least they work to reduce prices, not increase them.

By the way, Pompeo has been busy with legislation targeted at ending other harmful subsidies: H.R. 3090: EDA Elimination Act of 2011, H.R. 3994: Grant Return for Deficit Reduction Act, H.R. 3308: Energy Freedom and Economic Prosperity Act, and the above-mentioned resolution.

I did notice, however, that Pompeo hasn’t called for the end to the mohair subsidy. Will Kerr attack him for this oversight?

Finally, Kerr invokes the usual argument of government spenders: Cut the budget somewhere else. That’s what everyone says.

Creating entire industries that exist only by being propped up by government subsidy means that we all pay more to support special interest groups. A prosperous future is best built by relying on free enterprise and free markets in energy, not on programs motivated by the wants of politicians and special interests. Kerr’s attacks on Pompeo illustrate how difficult it is to replace cronyism with economic freedom.

Pompeo: Wind production tax credit should expire

U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, a Republican who represents the Kansas fourth district, and U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander contribute the following article on the harm of the wind power production tax credit (PTC). The NorthBridge Group report referenced in the article is available at Negative electricity prices and the production tax credit.

Puff, the Magic Drag on the Economy
Time to let the pernicious production tax credit for wind power blow away

By Lamar Alexander And Mike Pompeo

As Congress works to reduce spending and avert a debt crisis, lawmakers will have to decide which government projects are truly national priorities, and which are wasteful. A prime example of the latter is the production tax credit for wind power. It is set to expire on Dec. 31 — but may be extended yet again, for the seventh time.

This special provision in the tax code was first enacted in 1992 as a temporary subsidy to enable a struggling industry to become competitive. Today the provision provides a credit against taxes of $22 per megawatt hour of wind energy generated.

From 2009 to 2013, federal revenues lost to wind-power developers are estimated to be $14 billion — $6 billion from the production tax credit, plus $8 billion courtesy of an alternative-energy subsidy in the stimulus package — according to the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Treasury Department. If Congress were to extend the production tax credit, it would mean an additional $12 billion cost to taxpayers over the next 10 years.

There are many reasons to let this giveaway expire, including wind energy’s inherent unreliability and its inability to stand on its own two feet after 20 years. But one of the most compelling reasons is provided in a study released Sept. 14 by the NorthBridge Group, an energy consultancy. The study discusses a government-created economic distortion called “negative pricing.”

This is how it works. Coal- and nuclear-fired plants provide a reliable supply of electricity when the demand is high, as on a hot summer day. They generate at lower levels when the demand is low, such as at night.

But wind producers collect a tax credit for every kilowatt hour they generate, whether utilities need the electricity or not. If the wind is blowing, they keep cranking the windmills.

Why? The NorthBridge Group’s report (“Negative Electricity Prices and the Production Tax Credit”) finds that government largess is so great that wind producers can actually pay the electrical grid to take their power when demand is low and still turn a profit by collecting the credit — and they are increasingly doing so. The wind pretax subsidy is actually higher than the average price for electricity in many of the wholesale markets tracked by the Energy Information Administration.

This practice drives the price of electricity down in the short run. Wind-energy supporters say that’s a good thing. But it is hazardous to the economy’s health in the long run.

Temporarily lower energy prices driven by wind-power’s negative pricing will cripple clean-coal and nuclear-power companies. But running coal and nuclear out of business is not good for the U.S. economy. There is no way a country like this one — which uses 20% to 25% of all the electricity in the world — can operate with generators that turn only when the wind blows.

The Obama administration and other advocates of wind power argue that the subsidy provided by the tax credit allows the wind industry to sustain American jobs. But they are jobs that exist only because of the subsidy. Keeping a weak technology alive that can’t make it on its own won’t create nearly as many jobs as the private sector could create if it had the kind of low-cost, reliable, clean electricity that wind power simply can’t generate.

While the cost of renewable energy has declined over the years, it is still far more expensive than conventional sources. And even the administration’s secretary of energy, Steven Chu, calls wind “a mature technology,” which should mean it is sufficiently advanced to compete in a free market without government subsidies. If wind power cannot compete on its own after 20 years without costly special privileges, it never will.

Governor Romney is right: End the wind production tax credit

U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, a Republican who represents the Kansas fourth district, contributes the following article on the harm of government involvement in energy markets, wind power specifically. Pompeo has written extensively on energy; see Pompeo on energy tax simplification, Era of energy subsidies is over, and Free market energy solutions don’t jeopardize national security. He has also introduced legislation to end all tax credits for energy, H.R. 3308: Energy Freedom and Economic Prosperity Act.

There’s been a steady drumbeat from those seeking an extension of the wind production tax credit. For many reasons, including some that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has carefully highlighted in his opposition, this is a bad idea.

First, an extension continues this unsettling policy trend in which citizens are asked to bear all the risks and gain none of the rewards. This socialization of risks and privatization of profits guarantees disasters, for corporate boards and even their federal overseers can become careless and, in some instances, reckless. This fact was clearly demonstrated by the Solyndra debacle — when a company with close ties to the Obama administration lost more than a half billion dollars of taxpayers’ money. At the heart of that fiasco was both the company and the administration’s indifference to the taxpayers.

Solyndra also revealed something else damaging about federal involvement in markets: the potential for political corruption. It’s clear that the Obama administration became emotionally, and inappropriately, invested in the fortunes of one company and one sector. When that happens, the system is compromised, cronyism flourishes and corruption is inevitable.

President Barack Obama talks about the need to “invest” in alternative energy sources. But the reality is that he is not investing his money — he’s spending yours. I’m not sure that too many Americans would choose the president to manage their retirement accounts. His record — a jobless and exceedingly shallow recovery — is not good.

With this production tax credit extension, the wisdom of the investment is especially dubious. Wind companies and their lobbyists have, for the last year, been telling all who would listen that the expiration of the tax credit could spell doom for their industry. Obama repeats this claim regularly on the campaign trail.

But what does that say about the industry? If you need a tax credit to compete, you are probably not that competitive.

Moreover, the tax credit is not de minimis for either taxpayers or companies that are lobbying for it. It will cost the taxpayers more than 12 billion dollars inside the budget window. Worse, the credit is set at 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour. Just to compare, the national average for produced power is around 6 cents per kilowatt hour. That means that the wind industry gets an almost 40 percent subsidy for each unit it produces. How many companies would like that?

You also have to remember that wind power enjoys a mandate in more than 30 states. That is, regardless of cost — or price to ratepayers — utilities must use wind or other renewables for specific amounts of power generation. So, the wind companies enjoy not only a tax credit, but a must-use mandate as well — regardless of cost.

It would be one thing if we were running out of natural gas and confronted a real national requirement to use alternative energy. But it’s the reverse. The United States has more traditional energy resources than anywhere else on Earth, according to the Congressional Research Service. With the surge in production from the shale formations, a new Barclays report just concluded, natural gas will likely dominate wind in the marketplace for the foreseeable future.

Even now, in places like Williston, N.D., companies are hiring everyone who can get there to work on rigs or in ancillary jobs. If the president is genuinely worried about jobs, maybe he should visit the Bakken in North Dakota, or the Marcellus in Pennsylvania or the Eagle Ford in Texas.

Using wind power to generate electricity is not a new idea. The first windmills used to generate electricity went up in the 19th Century. The production tax credit is also not a new idea. It is now about 20 years old.

Romney’s opposition to continuing the wind subsidy is absolutely correct. At some point, an industry has to either succeed or fail on its own merits.

For wind companies, we are at that point now.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Friday March 23, 2012

Pompeo meeting tomorrow. From the congressman’s office: “Kansas Fourth District Congressman Mike Pompeo will host a town hall meeting at the WSU Hughes Metroplex in Wichita on Saturday, March 24 at 11:30 am. Congressman Pompeo will take questions from constituents and discuss issues related to Congress and the federal government. The public and members of the media are welcome and encouraged to attend.” The WSU Hughes Metroplex is located at 5015 East 29th Street North.

Obamacare anniversary. Listening to President Barack Obama you wouldn’t know it, but it’s the second anniversary of his signature legislative achievement. The problem? It’s very unpopular. A recent poll found “Two-thirds of Americans say the U.S. Supreme Court should throw out either the ‘individual mandate’ in the federal health care law or the law in its entirety — signaling the depth of public disagreement with that controversial element of health care reform.” Locally, two Congressmen are not happy with the law, either. In a statement Last week U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp, who is in his first term representing the Kansas first district, wrote “Two years ago, President Obama began a terrible experiment in government-run health care. Even though we are still two years away from the full implementation of the law, the devastating harm is already coming to light. There is no shortage of new ‘unintended consequences,’ usually with taxpayers and patients paying the price — literally or figuratively. The universal rule of medicine is ‘Do No Harm,’ yet the only thing ObamaCare seems to do is damage. … Americans were assured we could keep our health insurance if we like it, but the Congressional Budget Office now estimates as many as 20 million Americans could lose their employer-based coverage because of ObamaCare.” … U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita wrote “My conservative colleagues and I warned during the debate over Obamacare that having the government take over 1/6th of the U.S. economy would not reduce health care costs or improve access to health care, but Democrats rammed the bill down the throats of the American people anyway. At the time, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi infamously declared that the Democrats needed to pass it in order to know what was in it. Now we know. Obamacare’s price tag has doubled and the newest projections show that up to 88 million Americans will not be able to ‘keep their plan if they like it,’ as President Obama so often promised in his sales pitch.”

Ambassador Hotel. The free-market organization Heartland Institute contributes coverage in the special election in Wichita regarding the Ambassador Hotel. Of special note is how some people just don’t get it. Writes the reporter: “Reflecting on the defeat of the rebate, [Wichita Downtown Development Corporation chair Tom] Docking said, ‘The anti-development, anti-tax populace out there are numerous and they’re well organized.’ Weeks objected to this characterization. ‘We’re not anti-development. I am a capitalist. . . Anti-tax, yes, we’re very much that. But ‘organized’ I don’t think applies to us at all. We beat it back this one little time.’” … Docking was also quoted as saying the election “was portrayed in a lot of circles in a way that was not accurate.” I should mention that WDDC and Docking were extended several invitations to appear at forums where the issues could be discussed. No one would agree, with Docking and others preferring to level their charges in forums where they knew they would not be challenged or held accountable.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday March 19, 2012

Eisenhower expert to present. This Friday (March 23rd) the Wichita Pachyderm Club features David Nichols, Ph.D. Dr. Nichols is a recognized expert on the Eisenhower presidency and is currently working on his third book on Ike, this one dealing with Senator Joe McCarthy with a focus on Ike’s management techniques. On Friday, Nichols’ topic will be “The Eisenhower Leadership Model: What business people (and even politicians) can learn from Ike.” … 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 March 30th: Tom DeWeese, President, American Policy Center, speaking on U.N. Agenda 21: Sustainable Development. … On April 6th: Jordan A. Poland, who will discuss his Master of Arts thesis in Public History at Wichita State University, titled “A case study of Populism in Kansas. The election of Populist Governor Lorenzo Lewelling from Wichita, and the Legislative War of 1893.” … On April 13th: Alvin Sarachek, Ph.D., Geneticist, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Natural Sciences at Wichita State University, speaking on “Human Genetic Individuality and Confused Public Policy Making.” … On April 20th: Senator Steve Morris, President of the Kansas Senate, speaking on “Legislative update.” … On April 27th: Dr. Malcolm C. Harris, Sr., Professor of Finance, Friends University, speaking on “The Open Minded Roots of American Exceptionalism, and the Decline of America’s Greatness.”

Pompeo town hall meeting. From the congressman’s office: “Kansas Fourth District Congressman Mike Pompeo will host a town hall meeting at the WSU Hughes Metroplex in Wichita on Saturday, March 24 at 11:30 am. Congressman Pompeo will take questions from constituents and discuss issues related to Congress and the federal government. The public and members of the media are welcome and encouraged to attend.” The WSU Hughes Metroplex is located at 5015 East 29th Street North.

Crises of Governments. A new short book from Institute of Economic Affairs is Crises of Governments: The Ongoing Global Financial Crisis and Recession. Barro is Robert Barro is the Paul M. Warburg Professor of Economics at Harvard University; a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution of Stanford University; and a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. The complete book is available online at no cost. Some highlights from the executive summary include these: “The ‘Great Recession’ has been particularly deep. In the USA, the loss of GDP relative to trend growth has been 9 per cent. The recovery from recession has also been much slower than the recovery from the recessions of the early 1980s and early 1990s. After those recessions, the USA achieved economic growth of 4.3 per cent and 3.6 per cent respectively.” … “One of the major causes of the crash was the boom in securitisation whereby inherently risky loans were packaged together and sold as very low-risk securities. This was strongly encouraged by the government; Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government agencies responsible, should be privatised.” … “In general a fiscal stimulus package might raise output in the very short run but the long-term fiscal multiplier is negative. This leads growth to stall after an initial increase, as is happening at the moment.” … “Spending and welfare programme entitlements grew rapidly under President George W. Bush and that growth has continued under President Obama. In many respects, as far as economic policy is concerned, Bush and Obama are ‘twins’, just as Reagan and Clinton were ‘twins.’” … “The next crisis will be a crisis of government debt. This debt consists of both explicit borrowing and also of entitlements through social security programmes that have been dramatically expanded under Presidents Bush and Obama. This crisis of government debt is not just a US problem.” … “The coming crisis can be addressed in the USA only by reforming entitlement programmes and also by tax reform to reduce ‘tax expenditures’ or special exemptions from taxes for certain types of economic activity. In the EU, fiscal and monetary policy need to be decoupled so that member states do not become responsible for each other’s borrowing.”

What are the limits of democracy? “Imagine if everything in society was determined through a majority vote.” Politics — elections, in particular — is an especially bad way to make decisions. Free markets allow people to get just what they want from an incredibly broad array of choices. In elections, we are usually left to choose between the lesser of two evils on the basis of their campaign promises. And once in office, we learn the worthlessness of promises made on the campaign trail. It is best that we remove decision-making from the public sphere, as much as we can. “Therefore it is important to remember that individual choice, limited government, and free markets are the necessary condition for a free and truly democratic society,” concludes narrator Professor Pavel Yakovlev in this video from LearnLiberty.org, a project of Institute for Humane Studies.

The Democrats continue unjustified attacks on taxpayers and job creators

The following article by U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, a Republican who represents the Kansas fourth district, including the Wichita metropolitan area, explains — yet again — how ridiculous it is for President Barack Obama and others to attack Wichita-based Koch Industries on the Keystone XL pipeline issue. Pompeo explains that Koch has no financial interest in the pipeline, what “intervenor” status means, and who really stands to benefit if the pipeline is not built. Pompeo hints at who it is, but I’ll be more direct: Warren Buffet. A news article that explains how Warren will personally benefit from blocking the Keystone XL pipeline is Buffett’s Burlington Northern Among Pipeline Winners.

The Democrats continue unjustified attacks on taxpayers and job creators

By U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo

The President and his allies, including those in Congress, have shown what a nasty, personal, and abusive re-election campaign we are about to experience. A recent sideshow in my committee in Congress provides yet another clear and shocking example.

A recent letter from Representatives Henry Waxman and Bobby Rush, both Democrats, demanded a live witness and testimony from “a representative of Koch Industries” at a hearing on the Keystone XL pipeline, scheduled to be held just two days later. The frivolous nature of the request is proven by that plainly unreasonable deadline. But the partisan tactics go far beyond that.

Even if Koch Industries had a financial interest in the Keystone XL pipeline, what possibly could be wrong with that? Perhaps more importantly, under what circumstances would such an interest be worthy of a congressional inquisition? Charles Koch and David Koch, co-owners of Koch Industries, are citizens, taxpayers, entrepreneurs, and employers. Their companies employ nearly 50,000 people in the U.S. alone. The company maintains its headquarters in the district I represent, employing 2,600 great Kansans. The company and its employees are among the most hard-working and generous in our community. The company has never been bailed out by the American taxpayers. And given that Americans are desperate for jobs, we should be begging entrepreneurs to look for new opportunities, not attacking them simply because their companies might make a profit.

The facts are clear: Koch Industries does not have a financial stake in the pipeline — why, therefore, should its officials become part of the all-too-familiar congressional committee circus? The facts are straightforward and a matter of public record. Koch Industries has repeatedly stated that it does not have a financial stake in the pipeline: It does not own the pipeline, it has no role in the pipeline’s design, it is not one of the shippers who have signed contracts to use the pipeline, and it will not build the pipeline.

Democrats dug deep for some excuse to attempt to haul Koch officials in for a public flogging. What did they find? A 2009 attempt by a Koch subsidiary to obtain “intervenor” status in a Canadian legal proceeding, in order to track the approval process for the pipeline. Wishing to know the fate of the pipeline, and having an interest in whether or not the pipeline is built — as thousands of frustrated American workers and consumers do — obviously does not amount to a financial interest in the pipeline’s construction. Indeed, the Sierra Club of Canada applied to “intervene” in the same proceeding. Notably, no one has alleged that Congress should investigate the Sierra Club’s interest in the pipeline project. So the “intervenor” ploy is a patent sham, and provides no basis for harassing Koch Industries.

It is also difficult to believe that Members of Congress really think that a particular company’s asserted financial interest in a project is, or should be, relevant to the merits of that project. It becomes still harder to believe, given the decision to target only Koch Industries and the Kochs — and no other company or individual. Doubtless many companies and individuals stand to benefit, or to be harmed, depending on whether President Obama’s decision to delay the pipeline is allowed to stand. News accounts have mentioned a number of those who might reap financial windfalls from the pipeline’s demise, including at least one of President Obama’s most prominent supporters and donors. (Hint: His secretary was the President’s highly visible prop at the State of the Union address.) But two congressmen directed their attention exclusively toward the Kochs, who — as successful businessmen and outspoken critics of the President’s job-killing, statist programs — have been targets for the Administration and its allies for many months.

Indeed, the very first line of President Obama’s very first campaign advertisement for the 2012 election attacks the Koch brothers. And liberal blogs and publications have published countless slanted pieces on Koch Industries, heavy on innuendo and light on facts. The Obama Administration has long been criticized for maintaining a de facto “enemies list” of its perceived political opponents, whether they are respected Supreme Court Justices, disfavored reporters, or private citizens who just want to keep their own doctors. The Democrats’ obsession with the Kochs as a political target is, indeed, additional evidence of a truly Nixonian approach to politics. That the Obama Administration and its allies use private citizens as symbols to be attacked and vilified is both unfair and deeply threatening to our civic life and the rule of law.

America deserves better from its elected officials. To be sure, the serious challenges facing the country often generate heated discussion and disagreement. But there is no justification for Democrats who want to haul American citizens before Congress for the exclusive purpose of political abuse. Congressional hearings should not be hijacked by naked political opportunism; legitimate business creators should not be vilified; and Congress should focus on the many policy questions before it, rather than wasting time in an illegitimate pursuit of the Administration’s perceived “enemies.”

Mr. Pompeo represents the Fourth Congressional District of Kansas. He serves on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, as well as the Subcommittee on Energy and Power. A version of this article appeared at Politico.

End the Economic Development Administration — Now

Following in an article from U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, a Republican who represents the Kansas fourth district, including the Wichita metropolitan area. It provides an example of how hard it is to reduce the size of government. The legislation that is mentioned in the article is H.R. 3090: EDA Elimination Act of 2011, which would shut down the Economic Development Administration.

End the Economic Development Administration — Now

By U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo
As part of my efforts to reduce the size of government, I have proposed to eliminate the Economic Development Administration (EDA), a politically motivated federal wealth redistribution agency. Unsurprisingly, the current leader of that agency, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez, has taken acute personal interest in my bill to shutter his agency.

Last week, Secretary Fernandez invited himself to Wichita at taxpayer expense and met with the Wichita Eagle’s editorial board. Afterwards, the paper accurately noted I am advocating eliminating the EDA even though that agency occasionally awards grant money to projects in South Central Kansas. They just don’t get it. Thanks to decades of this flawed “You take yours, I’ll take mine” Washington logic, our nation now faces a crippling $16 trillion national debt.

I first learned about the EDA when Secretary Fernandez testified in front of my subcommittee that the benefits of EDA projects exceed the costs and cited the absurd example of a $1.4 million award for “infrastructure” that allegedly helped a Minnesota town secure a new $1.6 billion steel mill. As a former CEO, I knew there is no way that a taxpayer subsidy equal to less than one-tenth of one percent (0.1%) of the total capital needed made a difference in launching the project. That mill was getting built whether EDA’s grant came through or not. So, I decided to dig further.

I discovered that the EDA is a federal agency we can do without. Similar to earmarks that gave us the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” or the Department of Energy loan guarantee scandal that produced Solyndra, the EDA advances local projects that narrowly benefit a particular company or community. To be sure, the EDA occasionally supports a local project here in Kansas. But it takes our tax money every year for projects in 400-plus other congressional districts, many if not most of which are boondoggles. For example: EDA gave $2 million to help construct UNLV’s Harry Reid Research and Technology Park; $2 million for a “culinary amphitheater,” tasting room, and gift shop at a Washington state winery; and $500,000 to construct (never-completed) replicas of the Great Pyramids in rural Indiana.

Several times in recent decades, the Government Accountability Office has questioned the value and efficacy of the EDA. Good-government groups like Citizens Against Government Waste have called for dismantling the agency. In addition, eliminating the EDA was listed among the recommendations of President Obama’s own bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Commission.

So why hasn’t it been shut down already? Politics. The EDA spreads taxpayer-funded project money far and wide and attacks congressmen who fail to support EDA grants. Soon after that initial hearing, Secretary Fernandez flew in his regional director — again at taxpayer expense — to show me “all the great things we are doing in your home district” and handed me a list of recent and pending local grants. Hint, hint. You can’t say I wasn’t warned to back off. Indeed, Eagle editors missed the real story here: Secretary Fernandez flew to Wichita because he is a bureaucrat trying to save his high-paying gig. The bureaucracy strikes back when conservatives take on bloated, out-of-control, public spending, so I guess I’m making progress.

Please don’t misunderstand. I am not faulting cities, universities, or companies for having sought “free” federal money from the EDA. The fault lies squarely with a Washington culture that insists every program is sacred and there is no spending left to cut.

A federal agency run at the Assistant Secretary level has not been eliminated in decades. Now is the time. My bill to eliminate the EDA (HR 3090) would take one small step toward restoring fiscal sanity and constitutional government.

Pompeo: Obama, EPA not to be trusted on regulation

U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, a Republican who represents the Kansas fourth district, wrote this op-ed to warn us of the many ways in which President Barack Obama seeks to implement his radical agenda through regulation, this time through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The remedy in this case is in the form of legislation, H.R. 1633, the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act. The bill was voted on today in the House of Representatives and passed 268 to 150.

While Pompeo focuses primarily on the direct impact of this regulation on farmers and ranchers, anything that makes these activities more difficult and expensive will drive up food costs for everyone, and many complain that these costs have been rising rapidly. Part of that rise, we might note, is due to regulations that require the use of ethanol in fuel, which diverts corn production away from food.

A version of this appeared in the Washington Examiner.

EPA must stop playing in the dust

By U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would like to regulate farm dust all across the nation. I know it sounds ridiculous, but given the Obama Administration’s demonstrated hostility toward rural America, it should not come as a huge surprise. Although EPA has verbally reversed course in recent weeks and said it has “no intention” of regulating farm dust, my 11 months in Washington have taught me quickly that we must pay attention to what politicians do and not what they say. EPA’s actions continue to show that radical environmentalists desire to regulate dust. To stop the EPA in its tracks, I have worked to advance H.R. 1633, the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act, through the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. I look forward to final passage on the House Floor later this week.

In Kansas and across the country, businesses are struggling to stay afloat. At best, EPA is oblivious to this fact. At worst, it deliberately presses forward in spite of the damaging consequences of new regulations. Rather than helping farmers, ranchers, business owners and other entrepreneurs, EPA continually bombards these job creators with undue and costly new regulations. The agriculture sector is now holding its collective breath as EPA considers new air quality standards, which it revises every five years. Under the Clean Air Act, the Agency asserts the authority to regulate farm dust as “coarse particulate matter.” This dust is known very well to rural Kansans. It is merely the dust created from driving down unpaved roads, moving livestock, and working the fields.

As it is, the current standard already imposes costs and restrictions on farmers, ranchers, agribusiness entities, and small businesses, particularly in arid parts of the West where dust is easily kicked up. Earlier this year, EPA staff suggested tightening standards to levels that would push most of the West — including Kansas — out of compliance.

In a recent House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing, we heard from individuals who live in these areas, including Arizona farmer Kevin Rogers, who is already threatened by strict dust regulations. Because parts of Arizona already struggle to meet the current dust standards, he and other farmers may be required to halt tillage, drive at a snail’s pace on unpaved roads, stop work entirely on windy days, or take other expensive measures to reduce dust. If the dust standards are actually tightened to the levels suggested by EPA staff, other parts of the country would have to implement similar policies that will destroy the efficiency and productivity our farmers and ranchers are known for.

Opponents of our efforts call the desire to regulate farm dust a ‘myth’ and liken these concerns to worrying about regulation of fairy dust. While these theatrics garnered some snickers, I was not amused — and neither were the 500 plus Kansas Farm Bureau members I met with just before Thanksgiving who agree that this is a real problem. We need the bipartisan Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act. The American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and over 180 other organizations also agree that this valid concern with what EPA might do is more than fairy dust, and they know that this bill is vitally important to the survival of their industry.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has announced that the agency has “no intention” of further regulating dust. But that announcement sounds more like political rhetoric designed to appease opponents as the 2012 election cycle nears, rather than a genuine promise rural Americans can count on. Given what I know, I would be letting farmers and ranchers down if I simply trusted the Obama Administration on their stated farm dust intentions. Besides, there is also a threat that an environmental group could sue and persuade a pliant EPA to regulate farm dust as a settlement condition. We need smart and clear laws set by Congress — not unelected bureaucrats. The Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act is one. We must ensure that the federal government creates a positive atmosphere for businesses to prosper — including farming and livestock operations. It’s time to forget about regulating farm dust and give rural America some breathing room from the crushing regulations of which this Administration is so fond.

Regulatory Accountability Act of 2011

Last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3010: Regulatory Accountability Act of 2011. This law would, if passed by the Senate and signed by the president, would require regulatory agencies to “base all preliminary and final determinations on evidence,” among other reforms. It might surprise citizens to realize that regulations may be made for other reasons.

The act would also requires agencies to address “specific nature and significance of the problem,” the “significance of the problem the agency may address with a rule,” and also to recognize “the legal authority under which the rule may be proposed.”

In commentary on this legislation, James L. Gattuso of the Heritage Foundation wrote: “On the whole, the Regulatory Accountability Act represents a positive step toward regulatory reform, imposing clear obligations on agencies with review by the courts. It should, however, be considered by Congress as a supplement — not an alternative — to other needed reforms.”

All Kansas representatives voted for the bill, which passed 253 to 167. Votes were split primarily along party lines, although 19 Democrats voted in favor. Two Kansas members provided comments on the bill, and shared Gattuso’s opinion that this bill is just the start of controlling harmful and unneeded regulation.

Representative Tim Huelskamp of the Kansas first district commented on the bill and the potential of it passing the Senate: “HR 3010 — like several other bills that would require economic impact to be taken into account when regulation is being written — has the potential to control the costs of federal regulations. But, it’s just potential. I am about as optimistic as the Senate taking up this bill as I am about the Senate taking up any one of the nearly two dozen other ‘jobs’ bills or passing a budget. Majority Leader Reid is doing America a great disservice by allowing these jobs bills to go untouched in the Senate; the American people don’t send their Senators to Washington to loiter for six years.”

Representative Mike Pompeo of the Kansas fourth district was also cautious about relying on this bill to provide needed regulatory reform: “The Regulatory Accountability Act of 2011 (HR 3010) is a great piece of legislation, but it is not the silver bullet for reining in the Obama Administration’s rampant regulatory overreach, which is severely hindering job creation across the country and here in Wichita. While the Administration is ‘strongly opposed’ to the bill, they have not issued a veto threat, yet. Even still, I doubt this bill will pass the Senate. Tomorrow the House will consider a stronger piece of legislation — The REINS Act (HR 10), of which I am a co-sponsor. HR 10 would require Congressional approval of every major new regulation proposed by this Administration. Ultimately, if passed into law, it will radically slow the expansion of government which is something that I have been working to do in every way since I got here in January.”

The House is expected to vote on the REINS Act today.

Pompeo to introduce ‘Energy Freedom and Economic Prosperity Act’

This week U. S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita plans to introduce the “Energy Freedom and Economic Prosperity Act,” a bill that would eliminate all tax credits related to energy.

Tax credits, sometimes called tax expenditures, are spending accomplished through the tax code rather than by legislative appropriations. Two prominent tax credits related to energy production are the tax credit for producing and blending ethanol with gasoline, and the production tax credit for wind and solar power production. These industries have claimed that the tax credits are necessary for these forms of energy to be economically viable.

Pompeo’s office estimates that the bill could save up to $90 billion in tax expenditures over the next ten years. The legislation proposes that these savings be used to reduce the corporate income tax rate.

The subsidies that would be repealed include, according to Pompeo’s office: Plug-In electric and fuel cell vehicles, Alternative fuel and alternative fuel mixtures, Cellulosic Biofuel Producer Credit, Alternative fuel infrastructure, Production Tax Credit for electricity produced from renewable sources, including wind, biomass, and hydropower, Investment Tax Credit for equipment powered by solar, fuel cells, geothermal or other specified renewable sources, Enhanced oil recovery credit, and credit for producing oil and gas from marginal wells, Advanced Nuclear Power Generation Credit, and Clean coal investment credits.

This bill targets tax credits only. Loans and loan guarantees are not a subject. This bill would not affect the programs that funded Solyndra, a high-profile example of failure. This bill would not affect the $132.4 million loan guarantee recently given to a cellulosic ethanol plant in southwest Kansas, either.

Pompeo’s office stresses that this is not a bill targeted at renewable forms of energy like ethanol and wind. It affects all tax credits, including those that are directed at the nuclear, coal, and oil and gas. The goal is to get government out of the energy sector and let markets direct energy investment.

This bill represents a continued effort by Pompeo to reduce government intervention and to give more freedom to markets. Politically, it puts him at odds with many in this state who favor expansion of wind energy in Kansas. In particular, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is a proponent of wind power and ethanol. Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer is also promoting Wichita as a place for wind power companies to locate.

Pompeo at Pachyderm on economy, budget

Last week U. S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita addressed members and guests of the Wichita Pachyderm Club. As might be expected, major topics that members were interested in were the economy and budget issues.

As an introduction, club vice-president John Todd played a video of a recent meeting of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight where Pompeo interrogated a Department of Energy official concerning the loan guarantee made on behalf of Solyndra, a company that has ceased operations and filed for bankruptcy. That video may be viewed here.

In his brief opening remarks, Pompeo described the Solyndra matter as just one example of the problems inherent when government — of either party, he added — tries to allocate capital. He described this problem as pervasive, existing throughout all areas of government.

Pompeo said that President Obama’s policies are simply wrong and have been a disaster. He said the current Congress has made progress in stopping the worst of what the president wants to do.

In response to a question, Pompeo said that while the House has been busy passing legislation, the Senate has not. The Senate has not passed a budget for three years.

I asked a question about federal grants: If local governments refuse federal grants, could legislation already introduced by Pompeo be expanded so that all returned grant funds would be used for deficit reduction, rather than being spent by someone else? This is an important issue, as many officeholders rationalize the acceptance of grants by arguing that someone else will spend the money, and it’s our tax money.

Pompeo said that anytime money from Kansas is returned to Washington, he will move to make sure it is used for deficit reduction, and not to go someplace else. He said these decisions are difficult ones for local officials.

Pompeo said that citizens would “fall off their chair” to learn of the huge magnitude of grant monies that flow from Washington. Each grant comes with restrictions on the use of the funds. He mentioned the Economic Development Administration, an agency which has a budget of over $400 million per year in earmarks.

On federal spending, Pompeo said that we think we’ve done good when we reduce the rate of growth of spending by an agency from eight percent to three percent. While it is possible to gain support for cutting grants and spending on projects in other Congressional districts, Congressmen soon find out that their constituents have benefited from federal spending programs. Support for cutting programs then fades.

But he said that the idea of giving back grant funds for deficit reduction is an idea that might catch on. It’s an idea that is discussed everywhere, he said. The problem lies in Washington, in that the programs exist.

On the need for tax reform, Pompeo said there is broad consensus that it is necessary. But it may not happen very quickly, especially under the current president. Tax reform under Obama, he said, would likely result in higher taxes. But when we tackle tax reform, he said everything will be impacted.

On energy policy, he reiterated his position that government should not be trying to select which form of energy will succeed. He also repeated his opposition to the NAT GAS Act, formally known as H.R. 1380: New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act of 2011, which would provide subsidies to use natural gas as a transportation fuel. If natural gas is destined to be a transportation fuel, the industry will be able to figure out how to make it work, he added.

He declined to name who he favors among the Republican presidential candidates, but he implored the audience to work hard for the eventual nominee, saying we can’t tolerate four more years of the current president.

On foreign trade, Pompeo said we need more trade, not less. On jobs lost to foreign producers, he said it is the federal government that has created policies that make investment more effective in foreign countries, and we should not fault companies for responding these policies and the realities of the global marketplace. He said that the Kansas fourth congressional district is the third most trade-dependent district in the country, with airplanes and agricultural products being the reason. “We are enormous beneficiaries of foreign trade,” he said.

Pompeo explained his vote for raising the debt ceiling as realizing the necessity to pay the bills for money we had already spent. Once that was realized, the goal was to get the best deal possible. The two best things that emerged, he said, was the fact that there was no tax increase, and that there will be a vote on a balanced budget amendment in both the House and Senate before the end of the year.

He mentioned that the budget plan developed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan will take 20 years to balance the budget, and will require raising the debt ceiling seven times by then. Ryan also voted to raise the debt ceiling.

The votes this summer affected discretionary spending, when it is entitlements that are the “true elephant in the room.” Pompeo said we must tackle the problems of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Pompeo announces reelection bid

In what he described as an informal setting before a small group of supporters on Tuesday, U. S. Representative Mike Pompeo announced his bid for reelection to represent the fourth district of Kansas. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback appeared beside Pompeo and offered his endorsement.

In his endorsement, Brownback praised Pompeo’s work on sensible federal regulations and controlling federal spending. Brownback said the upcoming election is very important, with the budget and the economy being the most important issues.

In his remarks, Pompeo said that top-down direction of the economy from Washington hasn’t worked, citing high unemployment numbers specifically. He said that the good ideas he’s seen have come from governors. The requirements of states to have balanced budgets — a constraint not in effect at the federal level — is a factor, he said.

Pompeo said he’s been doing the things that he promised to do when he campaigned for office — working for small government and controlling regulation, mentioning the Environmental Protection Agency specifically.

Pompeo has been critical of President Barack Obama for his criticism of corporate jet owners not paying their fair share of taxes. Asked if Obama is getting the message, Pompeo said no, the president’s not getting the message. “I don’t think this president understands that just his rhetoric alone is doing tremendous damage to the aviation industry and its suppliers.”

On the tone in Washington, Pompeo said the dialogue in Washington has changed. In the past, he said the thought was: “Can we take this agency, and instead of growing it by eight percent, grow it by three. That talk is gone. It is now about does this agency have any usefulness? Is there a functionality that remains? Should we keep it, keep it at a smaller level, can we make it more efficient, or is it something that we ought to get rid of? We have truly changed the discourse. We are now talking, for the first time in a very long time, about the proper role of our federal government, and what Americans can afford.”

He said this change in attitude was not just his own, but that the large incoming class of new conservative representatives elected last year has shifted the conversation in this way.

Pompeo said it it is important for voters to elect people who are willing to be specific in their plans for shrinking government. Too often candidates run on a platform of smaller government, but won’t specify the methods they will use to cut government, he said, adding that changes in the role of the federal government will affect us all.

On Governor Brownback returning the grant for the formation of a Kansas health insurance exchange, Pompeo said that he voted to overturn Obamacare in its entirety, so he’s not in favor of spending money to implement it. He also said he’d like to see the returned money used for deficit reduction, and that he has introduced legislation that would require this.

Pompeo’s announcement was not unexpected — photos of organizational meetings for 2012 campaign volunteers have been spotted on Facebook and he’s been successful in fundraising — so the real news will be the announcement (or rumors) of opponents. The filing deadline is in June, with the primary election in August followed by the general election in November.

Free market energy solutions don’t jeopardize national security

By Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Republican Members of Congress.

This is not the first time Rep. Pompeo has spoken in favor of free markets for energy. As reported in the Wichita Eagle in May: “Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, wants Congress to just say ‘no’ to all energy subsidies.” He has also introduced H. Res. 267, which is subtitled “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the United States should end all subsidies aimed at specific energy technologies or fuels.” Following is an article by Pompeo and Rep. Flake, a version of which appeared in the Washington Examiner.

Details of the Solyndra scandal continue to unfold, but what we know so far should teach a valuable lesson: The government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers in the energy industry. With half a billion taxpayer dollars now likely gone forever, you would think the Obama Administration would learn. Unfortunately, it has not. The Department of Energy said in a recent blog posting, “We have always recognized that not every one of the innovative companies supported by our loans and loan guarantees would succeed, but we can’t stop investing in game-changing technologies that are key to America’s leadership in the global economy.” Translation: We’re not that good at manipulating the energy industry, but we’re not going to stop anytime soon.

By spurring development of the politically-favored alternative fuel of the moment, devotees of federal energy subsidies say that we can stop sending dollars overseas. Interests ranging from wind to solar, from propane to biodiesel, from natural gas to algae purport to provide the key to America’s energy and national security needs. Unfortunately, even some conservatives appear to have fallen for this ruse.

We can agree that having less oil imported from the Middle East would improve America’s national security interests. However admirable that goal, having Congress and the President pick winners and losers in the energy sector is neither practical nor principled.

Let’s begin with what we know: national security interests compel us first and foremost to get our financial house in order. We agree with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, when he said, “Our national debt is our biggest national security threat.” With the federal debt estimated to hit $25 trillion by 2021, the United States cannot continue throwing billions of taxpayer dollars away on federal energy subsidies. In 2009 alone, the government gave over $18 billion in handouts to a wide variety of energy sources, including wind, hydrogen, natural gas, oil, and ethanol. We simply cannot keep wasting money on federal energy subsidies.

Not only are federal energy subsidies that try to artificially inspire a market for a given product unaffordable, they simply aren’t effective. Subsidy policy toward the renewable and alternative fuels industry has been tried for more than three decades (from President Carter’s Synfuels Corporation in the early 1980s to President Obama’s Solyndra just this year) — and it has failed.

Alternative energy producers often say that consumers have just not yet caught on to how wonderful the subsidized product is. All we need, they say, are just five years of handouts and everything will be okay. And when those five years are up? These same folks come back for more because customer demand alone will not support the industry as it becomes accustomed to relying on government handouts. It’s precisely this kind of phenomenon that led President Reagan to observe that “nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.”

The constant pursuit of federal tax subsidies also keeps some private capital on the sidelines that would otherwise be invested in alternative energy. What private company wants to compete with the federal government? This failed history makes the continued push for energy subsidies by some supposed-conservatives all the more puzzling.

With gas prices continuing to skyrocket and the federal subsidy policy continuing to fail, how can we make U.S. energy policy reflect our national security interests? First, we must lift the de facto moratorium on domestic energy exploration — off the Gulf Coast, on the Outer Continental Shelf, and elsewhere. Second, we must remove other regulatory burdens, such as the threat that EPA will halt hydraulic fracturing. And finally, we have to stop using taxpayer dollars to pick winners and losers in the energy sector. With these commonsense steps, we can achieve successful energy reform.

Phasing out market-distorting energy subsidies, preventing the expansion of existing subsidies, and stopping the creation of new ones (for the “latest, greatest” technology) must be part of the overall strategy. Many subsidies, such as fuel tax credits for ethanol, hydrogen, and natural gas, are set to expire soon. There is no reason to pile on our debt while simultaneously distorting the energy market for fuel products that can stand on their own. It is far better for government to keep its thumb off the scale and allow market competition to determine which alternative energy source or sources will succeed.

Forking over taxpayer handouts in the name of national security does not change that simple truth. Although subsidy seekers argue that OPEC’s dominant position in the world oil market means that government intervention in the energy marketplace is warranted, there is a major flaw in that logic. If collusion by the OPEC cartel really boosts the price of oil artificially high, then alternative fuels should have an easier time competing against it without a subsidy.

A real conservative solution to energy security requires less government, not more. Looking at our energy policy through a national security lens only strengthens the argument for relying on free-market solutions. When it comes to national security, we cannot afford to abandon free-market principles. As the Solyndra example demonstrates, the stakes are simply too high to cast aside the single best arbiter of capital allocation in human history — the free market — in favor of misguided central planning via government mandate.

Pompeo: No debt ceiling hike without structural changes

In a press conference held yesterday, U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, a Wichita Republican, said the country can’t risk continuing to spend at the present rate. There should be no agreement to raise the debt ceiling absent structural changes, he added.

He called for “real short term savings” in 2012 and spending limitations. He also said he supported an amendment to the Constitution requiring a balanced budget.

On federal spending, Pompeo said “I’ve been here six months now. If there’s one thing that’s become very clear, this town is a place that is addicted to spending.” He described the direction of spending as a “one-way ratchet,” saying the trend has accelerated in the last 24 months. The federal government should do what every state must do, which is to live on a balanced budget. The balanced budget amendment, Pompeo said, would require this.

He criticized President Barack Obama for his “class warfare argument” against the corporate jet industry. Pompeo said the airplanes built in Wichita are business tools used by businesses all over the world. Two-thirds are sold outside of North America, he added.

Pompeo characterized the president’s criticisms as a political statement. The tax provisions Obama criticizes have a cost of two to three billion dollars over ten years. Pompeo compared this to the current deficit for this year and for future years according to the president’s budget, which he said is $1.5 trillion each year.

Pompeo said he sent the president a letter (text of the letter is here) inviting him to Kansas to see our aircraft manufacturing industry, noting that many of the workers are union workers. He added that if the president continues to talk down the industry, “making it politically incorrect to fly in a Kansas-built airplane, we’ll sell fewer all over the world, and we’ll build fewer in America.”

On the possibility of Social Security checks not being sent if the debt ceiling is not raised, Pompeo said that there is money to pay the benefits, and the president has authority to pay. Obama is trying to scare seniors and Americans as a tactic to get the debt ceiling raised, he said.

On the failure of H.R. 2417: Better Use of Light Bulbs Act to pass, Pompeo said he hopes this measure will come back in a form that requires only a simple majority to pass. This bill, which would overturn legislation that essentially outlaws ordinary incandescent light bulbs, was brought to the floor under suspension of the rules, and therefore required a two-thirds majority to pass. The bill received a simple majority, but failed to reach the two-thirds level.

Pompeo updates constituents on spending, debt, government interventionism

This week provided an opportunity to catch up with U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo as he conducted a public forum in Andover Monday evening, and on Wednesday at a meeting in his east Wichita office. Pompeo, a Wichita Republican, is in his first term representing the Kansas fourth congressional district, which includes the Wichita metropolitan area and surrounding counties.

As has been the case with his other forums or town hall meetings I’ve observed, it’s standing room only, and popular topics are federal spending and debt. At the forum in Andover, Pompeo presented charts showing the course of federal spending and debt under President Barack Obama’s plans, and under alternatives proposed by Republicans, specifically Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin representative who is chair of the House Budget Committee and architect of the budget that recently passed the House of Representatives, but not the Senate.

Historically, the U.S. government has spent about 18 to 19 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). But the Obama budget calls for that percentage to rise, and that’s what causes the projected increase in debt, he said. Republicans have proposed a budget that gets the country back to historical levels of spending.

On raising the federal debt limit, Pompeo said he voted against it once, and “I will vote no absent radical change in our spending behavior.” A questioner pressed him to vote no under any circumstance. Pompeo said that there is money that has been obligated but not yet been actually spent, so the only option is default if the debt limit is not raised at some time. “We have to acknowledge that the Congresses before us and the folks who voted them in have put us in this place.” To get us off our spending addiction, Pompeo said we need significant and real short-term spending cuts, real spending caps (he recommended 18 percent of GDP), and a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

In telling the audience how the country got to this position, Pompeo said there has been a culture of “yes” in Washington. When someone walked into a Congressman’s office over the last 70 years and said I’ve got a good program, the answer was yes.

On Medicare, Pompeo said that the president’s plan for fixing health care costs is to have a board of “really smart people” (the Independent Payment Advisory Board) be in charge of prices. But “price control isn’t cost control,” he said. Costs can’t be forced down by law, and if we try this, we’ll have worse access to care and lower quality care, he said.

On Social Security, a questioner asked if Pompeo would support removing or increasing the limit on income which is subject to the FICA payroll tax. Currently that limit is $106,000, and income earned beyond that is not taxed under FICA. Pompeo would not agree to that, telling the audience that Social Security, as a program, has grown far beyond the original intent. It was originally designed as an anti-poverty insurance program, but now has grown to become a much larger portion of people’s retirement income. He said that this is because people have already been taxed too much, leaving them with less resources of their own for their retirement.

Although the Republicans have not yet presented a plan for Social Security, Pompeo said he thought the plan would include no change to the present system for those 55 and over, a rise in the age at which benefits start for those presently under 55, and a change in the way cost of living adjustments are calculated. He said he would support such a plan.

Pompeo told the audience that the practice of earmarking — allocating money to be spent on specific projects and the source of much “pork barrel” spending — is over. But he warned of a “clever creature” back in Washington, which he said is using the tax code to spend money: “Instead of earmarking money for someone, you give them a tax credit. Same effect, but different mechanism.” Pompeo said he has been at the forefront of pushing back on this practice. Engaging in social policy through taxes is disastrous, he said, because the people who will win are those with the best lobbyists, and that success in business should not depend on a benefit gained through government tax policy. He said that something like the FairTax (a tax on consumption spending rather than income) or lower marginal income tax rates with far fewer exceptions would boost the economy. Pompeo has introduced a resolution declaring that it is the “sense of the House” that no new energy subsidies or credits should be created, and that all existing should be repealed.

In an interview in his office on Wednesday, he said that he twice voted against tax credits for ethanol production, even though ethanol is fairly important to his district. Also, he said he would vote against the tax credits for wind energy production. (Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer is courting wind power equipment manufacturers to locate in Wichita. Without the wind power production credit, industry representatives have said its future would be much smaller.)

On natural gas, a product for which energy investor T. Boone Pickens is seeking to obtain federal subsidies to boost its use as a transportation fuel, Pompeo said that government should not pick that — or any other fuel — as a winner with taxpayer dollars. Consumers, he said, will be able to decide on which fuels are best.

In his office, he said that what he found most disturbing about the scandal involving Representative Anthony Weiner is he did not tell the truth to the American public. Had Weiner admitted his behavior early on, events might have taken a different course, he said.

I asked about the level of knowledge of civics among citizens today, and Pompeo said he thought that people are paying a lot of attention to what elected officials are doing, with a significant number of citizens are very well informed. Today, he said that the Internet has greatly reduced the cost of obtaining information about government, which he said is an important change in our political process.

On the legislative process, Pompeo said that over the last 25 or 30 years Congress has been unwilling to create “substantive markers” in legislation. Instead, it creates vague laws and funds administrative agencies to implement them. These agencies are less accountable than elected officials, and Congress has handed over much authority to them.

I asked about the deficit, which is a topic of much current interest, but also about the existing federal debt: Are we talking about paying off that debt as a goal, or is getting to a balanced budget a tough enough goal for now? Pompeo said that the debt-to-GDP ratio is the most important debt measure, and we must work to bring that down to sustainable levels.

(According to a recent U.S. Treasury report, the debt-to-GDP ratio is now expected to rise to 1.02 this year, meaning that in order to pay off the debt, it would require all the income earned by Americans working for one year and seven days.)

The only way to pay down the debt is to run surpluses — “and we’re not there,” Pompeo said, noting that the deficit this year is $1.5 trillion. The Ryan budget plan, which he said he voted for, still has deficits in the hundreds of billions. Growing the economy — the other part of the equation — will help get the debt-to-GDP ratio under control, and he said we need to work on both spending reduction and economic growth.

Talking about a budget surplus brings back memories of the last time there was a budget surplus, which was the final years of the Clinton administration. Since Clinton raised income taxes during his term, liberals often argue that we should do the same now as a way to cut the deficit. But Pompeo said the foundation for the prosperity of the Clinton years — which lead to the surplus — was built during the Reagan and the first Bush presidencies. Also, Clinton faced a Republican Congress, which applied some restraint on the growth of spending. We also forget that some of the Clinton-area prosperity was due to the Internet dot-com bubble, which, like the housing bubble later on, proved to a false and unsustainable prosperity.

On the current housing crisis, Pompeo laid its blame on many years of bad federal government policy, including the government’s goal of increased home ownership as an “article of faith,” without recognition of the economics of home ownership. He said he believes that the federal government is still propping up home prices in certain markets, so the problems with the housing market are not behind us, as markets have not been able to discover the correct prices for homes.

Pompeo on energy tax simplification

In an email alert sent to members, Americans for Prosperity–Kansas calls for support for a Kansas Congressman who is fighting for free markets in energy. AFP–Kansas State Director Derrick Sontag wrote: “U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) is getting attacked for standing up for the free market principles that Kansas voters sent him to Washington to defend. You may have seen that T. Boone Pickens is trying to use out-of-state pressure from Oklahoma to lean on Pompeo. Pickens wants Pompeo to end his opposition to Pickens’ effort to get special tax treatment for natural gas vehicles. But Pompeo has it exactly right; Washington shouldn’t be picking winners and losers in the energy industry.”

The bill in question is H.R. 1380: New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act of 2011, or NAT GAS act. The bill provides a variety of subsidies, implemented through tax credits, to producers and users of natural gas. Last week the Wichita Eagle printed an op-ed from T. Boone Pickens which unsuccessfully attempted to make the case that these credits are not the same as subsidies.

Pickens also criticized Pompeo for failure to come out against all subsides, a criticism which is false and uninformed. On May 12th Pompeo introduced H. Res. 267, which is subtitled “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the United States should end all subsidies aimed at specific energy technologies or fuels.”

The summary of the bill as provided by the Congressional Research Service is: “Declares that the House of Representatives should: (1) provide by refusing any legislative proposal that includes new energy subsidy programs of any kind; (2) prohibit the expansion or extension of existing energy subsidies; (3) eliminate existing energy subsidies; and (4) begin tax simplification and reform by eliminating energy tax credits and deductions and reducing income tax rates.”

That sounds clear and unequivocal to me: refusing … new energy subsidy programs — prohibit the expansion or extension — eliminating existing energy subsidies — eliminating energy tax credits and deductions.

(The full text of the Pompeo resolution is below.)

In yesterday’s Wichita Eagle, oilman Wink Hartman, who ran against Pompeo in last year’s primary election, argued against removal of tax credits currently in place for oil companies: “First, removal of tax credits for energy companies will not only hurt the intended political scapegoats — large oil companies — but will also hit small energy companies, too, including the dozens of Kansas oil producers fighting hard to find much-needed additional oil reserves and compete with the larger oil companies for their survival.”

But as argued recently in Forbes Magazine, these oil industry subsidies, like all subsidies, “make the economy less — not more — efficient.”

Authors Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren also argue that “Many conservatives argue that the elimination of these energy tax provisions and others like them for other sectors are tax increases. They are correct in a narrow sense. But in a larger sense they are incorrect because the elimination of such tax provisions makes the tax code more neutral and a more neutral tax code is a more conservative tax code.”

They also write that these tax favors “direct private investment to the favored businesses and away from the unfavored” and that “such favors are as much a part of big government as explicit appropriated spending. Tax breaks like this constitute big government on the sly.”

To the extent that the oil business — and any other industry — has incorporated special tax treatment into their business plan, we can support a phase-out of all tax favors instead of overnight elimination. This will give the companies time to plan for the transition. But aside from this consideration, we must end all such preferential treatment if we are to have a truly sound and robust economy.

Those wishing to express support for Pompeo can do so at AFP’s Action Center.

The resolution by Mike Pompeo and co-sponsors Raúl Labrador and Tom McClintock:

Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the United States should end all subsidies aimed at specific energy technologies or fuels.

Whereas companies continue to innovate and adapt to a growing and volatile energy market;

Whereas the primary role of the Government in the energy markets is to create an economic climate where companies can continue to innovate and compete, and thereby provide value and affordability to families and businesses;

Whereas it is not the role of the Government to favor one fuel source or energy sector over another;

Whereas taxpayers have subsidized the energy industry with grants, direct loans and loan guarantees, and tax credits aimed at specific industries for decades;

Whereas deductions and cost-recovery mechanisms available to all energy sectors are different than credits, loans and grants, and are therefore not taxpayer subsidies;

Whereas a deduction of costs and cost recovery with respect to timing is not a subsidy;

Whereas the current system of energy subsidies is opaque and unduly complex;

Whereas energy subsidies have consistently failed to bring down the price of gasoline for consumers, and electricity and natural gas for industrial users; and

Whereas eliminating energy subsidies from the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 will allow us to lower the overall rate of corporate income tax without increasing deficits: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives should –

(1) provide no new energy subsidies by refusing any legislative proposal that includes new energy subsidy programs of any kind;

(2) prohibit the expansion or extension of existing energy subsidies;

(3) eliminate existing energy subsidies; and

(4) begin tax simplification and reform by eliminating energy tax credits and deductions and reducing income tax rates.

In Wichita, start of a solution to federal spending

At the Sedgwick County Commission, newly-elected commissioner Richard Ranzau voted three times against the county applying for grants of federal funds, showing a possible way that federal spending might be brought under control.

During the meeting, Ranzau asked staff questions about where the funding for the grant programs was coming from, which, of course, is the federal government, sometimes routed through the Kansas Department of Commerce. Sometimes local spending is required by these grants.

In opposing the programs, Ranzau said that federal government spending is too high. Also, our level of debt is too high, and that the cost of these spending programs is passed on to future generations. He also didn’t see where the U.S. Constitution authorizes activity like the commission — in partnership with the federal government — is considering undertaking.

Ranzau offered an alternative: if the commission believes these projects are important to us as a community, we could pay for them ourselves and pay for them now.

Commissioner Jim Skelton argued that if we don’t apply for and receive this money, the federal government will spend it anyway, and someone else will receive it. “I think we can end up screwing our constituency by opposing this on the philosophy that our government is too big.”

He said he doesn’t agree with the “rampant spending of stimulus money” and would like to see it end, but he didn’t see how refusing this money would make a difference.

Constitutional basis questioned

During discussion, Skelton asked county counselor Richard Euson a question: “Can you tell me about the constitutionality of this issue? How on earth can this happen if it’s not constitutional?”

Euson was flummoxed by the question, and admitted that he was not prepared to answer the question. This is not to be held against the county’s attorney, as questions like this are rarely asked — an indication of the novelty of Ranzau’s position and how infrequently elected officials and staff consider questions such as the fundamental role of government and its level of involvement.

The job of a commissioner, according to Norton

In discussion about one grant program, Commissioner Tim Norton asked a question designed to make sure that Ranzau knew that the project was located in his district. On a grant for a transportation plan, Norton again asked a question designed to make sure that Ranzau knew whose district this plan would serve, referring to former commissioner Kelly Parks’ support of the program.

These questions by Norton highlight the problem with district-based representation, where representatives of districts are expected to bring as much government largess as possible back to their districts. At the federal level this problem is illustrated by the earmarking process. Locally, we see that Sedgwick County Commissioners are assumed to be in favor of any project that benefits their districts, regardless of the overall worth of the project or its cost.

A bottom-up solution to federal spending?

At a town hall meeting on Saturday, I asked Kansas fourth district Congressman Mike Pompeo, who represents all of Sedgwick County, about his opinion of ground-up opposition to federal spending and debt, rather than waiting for Congress and the President to solve the problem from the top down.

Pompeo didn’t answer the question directly, but said that from now on, each law passed by Congress will have a section that states the constitutional authority for the legislation. He also said that the federal government is involved in many areas that it should not be involved in, adding “So many times the question is ‘should we reduce this agency’s budget by three percent,’ and the proper question is ‘why does this agency exist?’”

While the new U.S. House of Representatives is full of enthusiasm for cutting spending, here we see an example of just how difficult cutting spending will be. Local governments are addicted to grants like the three discussed above. A congressman who voted to cut programs like these will hear from the affected constituents, and would also likely hear from the Sedgwick County staff who are advocates for these projects and spending. If more elected officials would vote against these programs, that would make it easier for Congress to cut off the flow of spending.

We should also remember that Ranzau offered an alternative: fund the programs ourselves. The problem is that we are funding them ourselves, through the roundabout trip of tax dollars going to Washington, which then sends them back, in this case in the form of grants with many conditions and restrictions on the way the money can be spent. So Skelton is correct: the federal government will spend the money anyway. But to go along means that the hole is dug deeper. More crudely, the federal government says: implement this program in our way, because you’ve already paid for it, and you don’t want to piss away your taxes somewhere else.

Perhaps a coalition of forward-thinking local government officeholders like Ranzau and U.S. Congressmen like Pompeo can join together to bring the spending under control. It will take courage, especially from the local officeholders.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Thursday January 20, 2011

Pompeo to host first district event. This Saturday (January 22nd) newly-elected Kansas fourth district Congressman Mike Pompeo will hold an event billed as “Mike Pompeo’s Conversation with the Congressman.” It well be held Saturday, January 22, 2011 at 10:00 am, at the WSU Hughes Metropolitan Complex Sudermann Commons, 5015 E. 29th Street (at Oliver).

Prognosticator Journey to address Pachyderms. Friday’s (January 21st) meeting of the Wichita Pachyderm Club features District Court Judge and former Kansas Senator Phil Journey speaking on the topic “Musings and Prognostications on State and Federal Government.” The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club.

Feeling too good about our schools. Eric Hanushek looks at the results of U.S. students on the recent international tests and the attempts to explain away our generally poor performance. Is education important to our country’s economy? Absolutely, Hanushek explains: “Research has shown that international performance on these tests is very closely related to the economic growth of nations. Does the difference between 550 points (roughly Finland) and 500 points (roughly the U.S.) make a difference? By the historical record of growth, such a difference is consistent with one percent per year in the growth of per capita income. If we project this out over the lifetimes of children born today, the present value of economic gains from the U.S. reaching the level of Finland would be $100 trillion! These potential economic gains from improved schools should be compared to the huge political fights in the U.S. over a stimulus package of one trillion dollars, or one hundredth of the magnitude of the gains we are leaving on the table from ignoring the achievement in our schools.” Hanushek explains that the relatively free enterprise economy of the U.S. has attracted the “brightest from abroad” and has created an economy that spurs innovation. But our advantage is fading, he says, and the brightest often stay at home. We need to fix this now, or in a decade or two it may be impossible to recover.

Obama order on regulation seen as ineffectual. The Competitive Enterprise Institute is a watchdog on federal regulation, having published Ten Thousand Commandments: An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State since 1996. On President Obama’s recent order to review the effect of regulations, CEI is not impressed. In a press release, the organization said: “The number of rules in the pipeline at agencies has surged in the past year, from 4,041 at the end of 2009 to 4,225 now, as will be detailed in CEI’s upcoming Ten Thousand Commandments report. ‘Major’ rules, those expected to cost over $100 million annually, have experienced an even greater surge. Indeed, just to get where we were a year ago, many rules would have to be cut. Yet Obama’s Wall Street Journal op-ed today announcing the Executive Order utterly glossed over the EPA CO2 rules, the FCC’s unauthorized net neutrality push, and the torrent of rules yet to come from the health care and financial reform bills.” … CEI notes that an executive order issued by President Bill Clinton, still in effect, already orders what Obama’s order does. CEI asks: “Actually confronting regulation, the crippling extent of which remains unappreciated by both parties, requires going far beyond the words of an executive order.” … Phil Kerpen of Americans for Prosperity is interviewed on this topic and notes the problem of “back door” legislation through regulation. … It should be noted that Obama inherited many regulations, as despite the claims of liberals, President George Bush greatly expanded the scope of the federal regulatory state.

Massachusetts health care presages Obamacare. Sally Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute, writing in Investor’s Business Daily, notes the promises and the reality of health care reform in Massachusetts. The plan was implemented by Mitt Romney, a Republican, who promised, according to Pipes, “Every uninsured citizen in Massachusetts will soon have affordable health insurance, and the cost of health care will be reduced. And we need no new taxes, no employer mandate and no government takeover to make this happen.” But here’s the reality of what’s happened, again according to Pipes: “The only measure by which Massachusetts can be judged a success is the number of people enrolled in Medicaid and other government-subsidized insurance plans. Of the 410,000 newly insured in Massachusetts, three in four are either paying nothing or very little for their insurance. … Despite the near-universal insurance, the state still spends $414 million on uncompensated care, an expense that Romney and his architects promised would disappear. Emergency-room use has not dropped as predicted. From 2006 to 2008, emergency room use under Mass Care increased by 9%. And private employer insurance costs, far from dropping, have continued to increase.” … Prior to this plan, health insurance premiums in Massachusetts increased at a rate slower than the national average. Now they increase faster than average.

Sowell on fixing America’s economic problems. Thomas Sowell has published the fourth edition of his now-classic work Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy. Now eighty years young, Sowell appears in an interview on the topics in his book.

Pompeo, back from Washington, gives update

Yesterday Congressman-elect for the fourth district of Kansas Mike Pompeo met in his campaign office with news media for a question-and-answer session. Newly-elected members of the next Congress were in Washington last week for orientation, office selection, and leadership elections.

The current Congress resumes its session on December 6th, and the plan is to be in session for two weeks — another so-called “lame duck” session. Pompeo says that a good thing Congress could do is to extend the current tax rates — the Bush tax cuts — so that the new Congress doesn’t have to deal with this issue in January. “It makes no sense to be talking about raising taxes in today’s economic environment, so I hope they’ll do that,” he said.

There are risks that the lame duck session will pass legislation like card check and other legislation favored by liberals and Democrats. But Pompeo said that voters spoke on November 2nd, that there is a set of things that voters don’t want done, and he hopes that the current Congress will honor those wishes and not pass card check or other matters that may be brought up.

Committee membership is important to incoming members of Congress. Describing the process of committee assignment, Pompeo said there is a steering committee that includes three of the incoming freshman class, and this committee decides committee assignments. It is to this body that members make their requests for committee assignments. Pompeo mentioned three committees in particular that he is interested in joining: Energy and Commerce, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Armed Services. Energy and Commerce handles issues related to the oil and gas industry, which Pompeo has experience in. Transportation and Infrastructure covers general aviation issues, another industry in which Pompeo has experience, and one very important to Wichita.

He added that no other Kansans are on any of these committees.

On the Air Force tanker procurement, Pompeo said the decision has been delayed until spring, perhaps March. He said it is time to make a decision, and that the tanker needs to be built. But the recent disclosure of proprietary bidding information being wrongly sent to each party, even though accidental, will likely mean the decision will be protested.

Asked whether he would join the Congressional Tea Party Caucus founded by Michele Bachmann, Pompeo said he “hadn’t given much consideration” to which caucuses he would join.

Between now and January 5th Pompeo said he has two offices to open and staff, one in Wichita, and his congressional office in Washington.

Asked about the one thing he’s most eager to get working on, Pompeo said that federal government spending must be brought under control. “What we know at the end of the day is that you only can take so much money out of the private sector before you begin to destroy the entrepreneurial engine that’s made America great. And today we’re there. So we have to move it back.”

It will not be easy, he said. But he believes the other freshmen Republicans that were elected along with him are serious people, with many campaigning on the same issues that he did — a “smaller, humbler federal government that was more efficient and did the right things, and didn’t do everything.”

I mentioned several polls since the election that show that Americans are skeptical about the new Congress and its ability to change things. Pompeo said that voters are right to be skeptical, based on history. But he is optimistic. Voters were boisterous, he said, adding that “Americans have found their voice.” So if the new members of Congress don’t fulfill the promises they made, or at least begin the process, Pompeo said voters will reject this group, “and properly so,” he added.

He added that voters did not elect a Republican senate, and the president still has a deep liberal agenda: “There is still a lot of resistance to smaller government, certainly in the Senate, and absolutely in the White House.” If the House of Representatives is true to what voters asked it to do, that will set up an important election in 2012 where voters can elect a senate and president. He framed the choice: “Do we want to be more statist, or do we prefer individual responsibility and free enterprise,” adding that he is confident Americans will choose free enterprise and individual responsibility.

I asked about tension between tea party activists and establishment Republicans. Pompeo said he doesn’t see the tension between the two groups. Of people who participate in tea parties, Pompeo said these are “Americans in the deepest tradition of standing up and saying ‘No, we’re not going to let our country go away. We’re going to work our tails off to reclaim it.’”

He said that many of his incoming colleagues in the new Congress are deeply committed to the ideals of the tea party, adding that he is too. There is a “new idea” now, he said, which is really the idea that the Founders had. This idea had been lost, moved away from the forefront for thirty years, even within the Republican party: “This conservative notion of states’ rights, smaller federal government, and individual responsibility is moving back to the forefront.” People who have participated in tea party events are an important part of this, he said, and he implored them to keep up their efforts.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Thursday November 18, 2010

But did he vote for him? The press release doesn’t say if he voted for the House Speaker Designee, but Congressman-in-waiting Mike Pompeo of the Kansas fourth district is pleased that John Boehner will be the next Speaker of the House of Representatives: “Congressman Boehner and I share the same vision for moving our nation in a new direction. Voters have made it clear they want smaller government, less spending and more individual freedom. The American people have directed us to put our country back on a course toward opportunity and economic prosperity. I look forward to working with Speaker Boehner and my colleagues in the 112th Congress as we work to meet the challenge before us.”

Last call for Irish coffee? I’ve always thought that Irish coffee was the perfect food, providing four essential nutrients in one tasty beverage: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and fat. But this beverage may soon be banned. A U.S. Food and Drug Administration news release states: “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today warned four companies that the caffeine added to their malt alcoholic beverages is an ‘unsafe food additive’ and said that further action, including seizure of their products, is possible under federal law.” Coffee isn’t a “malt beverage,” I don’t believe, but what’s to stop the FDA from extending this prohibition?

At least one will still earmark. Now that Lisa Murkowski has won reelection to the U.S. Senate, she “is in debt to nobody,” according to the Washington Examiner. And the seeming consensus on banning earmarks? “Murkowski has repeatedly said this week she will continue to request earmarks, justifying them because Alaska is a ‘young’ state (a ‘young state’ that takes five dollars in spending for every dollar in taxes it sends to Washington, according to the Cato Institute). Murkowksi points out that the Republican Senate Conference rule banning earmarks has no real enforcement mechanism, and says she’ll chose Alaska over the party. But Murkowski’s earmarking shows us that pork isn’t about helping out the home state as much as it’s about rewarding political donors and greasing the gears of the political patronage machine.”

Sedgwick County Republicans elect leadership

Last night the Sedgwick County Republican Party met in an organizational meeting to elect its leadership for the next two years. The primary news made was in the contest for chairman and vice-chairman. The secretary and treasurer positions were not contested.

Some observers, including myself, saw the contest as being between “establishment” Republicans and a group associated with the tea party. Others cast the election as more between experienced and veteran party members versus relative newcomers, while still others saw the differences as based more on personalities than anything substantive. Whatever the terminology, the newcomers did not do well in the election.

The people attending the organizational meeting and voting on leadership are those elected or appointed as precinct committeemen or committeewomen. That election was held in August in conjunction with the statewide primary election.

In the past, there have been contentious election contests at the organizational meeting, with the dividing line being between conservatives and moderates, with the abortion issue prominent. The last organizational meeting in November 2008 was calm, with one slate of candidates offered for the leadership and delegate positions, with party leaders urging that no nominations be brought up from the floor.

This year’s meeting had two slates of candidates. One — clearly the establishment or veteran slate — was headed by Bob Dool, a Wichita businessman who has been serving as treasurer of the fourth congressional district party committee. Julie Sipe was the slate’s nominee for vice-chair. Dool was endorsed by Mike Pompeo, the recently-elected U.S. congressman from the Kansas fourth district, which includes all of Sedgwick County.

The other slate was headed by Jim Anderson, who recently ran for U.S. Congress, with Judy Park of Republican Women United as vice-chair.

There’s a backstory here that deserves mention. The 2008 organizational meeting, where there was one slate of candidates and any talk of offering nominations from the floor was strongly discouraged by party insiders, made a bad impression on many activists. Some were particularly disturbed that the slate of delegates to the fourth district committee — the next level up in the party hierarchy — included many people who were not elected precinct committeemen or committeewomen. To newcomers, the 2008 meeting smacked of “good ol’ boy” cronyism, with no consideration given to the newcomers who had ran for election to — and had to campaign in order to win — precinct committee positions.

Since then, the tea party movement started in the winter months of early 2009. This movement, operating largely outside the established Republican party, grew to become a significant force nationally. Locally, a tea party activist group led by Craig Gabel and Lynda Tyler played a significant role in the November elections by working for Republican candidates, although the group did support one Democrat, Gwen Welshimer. The group played a crucial role in electing Benny Boman and Les Osterman to the Kansas House of Representatives by defeating incumbent Democrats. The group helped in the reelection of Phil Hermanson to the House, and helped elect Joseph Scapa and Jim Howell to open House seats. John Stevens and James Clendenin came surprisingly close to gaining election over their Democratic Party incumbents.

At the county level, the group was active in helping Richard Ranzau in his election to the county commission. Gabel estimates his group distributed 4,000 blended packets of literature, placed 600 signs, and made 40,000 robo-calls plus several thousand live calls.

Having played a role in local politics — successful by their own account, but perhaps not appreciated by everyone — the group wanted inclusion in the local Republican Party process. Neither Gabel or Tyler sought leadership positions. (Tyler is running for Wichita city council in the spring.) Instead, both wanted an open and honest process that was inclusive and gave everyone an opportunity to seek office, either as leadership or a delegate to the higher committee.

Both leaders seem genuinely concerned that the Republican Party be open and seek to grow. I asked Gabel what he would like to see in a chairman. He said: “A chair that would reach out to all portions of the Republican Party, that would keep the momentum flowing that was started in the election — someone interested in filling the precincts, raising funds, and educating people.” Reaching out to young people and minorities is also important, Gabel said.

As Dool made his candidacy for chair known, Gabel, Tyler, and others invited him to a meeting. Initially Dool did not want to meet and declined the invitation. A meeting with Dool took place earlier this week, said Gabel. He described the meeting as unproductive.

Back to last night’s organizational meeting: While social issues weren’t the primary issue on voters’ minds in the recent national election, abortion politics played a role last night. In his nominating speech for Dool, Mark Kahrs said that Dool “strongly supports the sanctity of life, which is the concern of this local party, and must remain the cornerstone of our party’s platform.” That drew applause from the audience.

Before that, in her speech Park, the nominee for vice-chair, said that someone in the audience was spreading rumors that she is not conservative and not pro-life. Park said these allegations were not true.

In nominating Jim Anderson, John Stevens praised Anderson for his experience in campaigning and technology. Explicitly referring to the tea party, Stevens said that we need as chair “a person who is inclusive of all Republicans, as well as tea party active people. These folks helped make it work this time. Don’t deny them.”

Speaking for himself, Dool said he wanted to increase the Republican Party base by increasing communication, hosting events for elected officials to meet with the public, increasing opportunities for all to participate in the political process, creating a business-friendly environment with lower taxes and less regulation, and raising enough money locally for a full-time employee. He said he supports the tea party movement, saying such populist movements have helped us stay true to the Founding Fathers’ principles.

In his speech, Anderson referred to his run for U.S. Congress. He also addressed an issue that many said would prevent them from voting for Anderson — his failure to endorse Mike Pompeo after Anderson lost to him and others in the Republican primary election in August. Anderson said he pledged his support to Pompeo — privately, though. Anderson said we need to grow the party by reaching out to all people, including independents.

The results of the election for vice-chair were Park 43 votes (21 percent), and Sipe 164 votes (79 percent).

For chair, the result was Anderson 59 votes (28 percent), and Dool 149 votes (72 percent).

In the selection of delegates to the fourth congressional district committee, voters had to select 98 delegates and 100 alternate delegates. A group called “Republicans for Conservative Leadership” provided a slate. The group headed by Gabel and Tyler had a slate, but the slate did not have enough names. The RCL slates won. (Disclaimer: my mother was on the RCL slate as an alternate delegate.)


After the meeting, reaction was mixed as to whether the group of tea party or new activists felt welcomed into the process. Some felt the process was improved over 2008, as there were two candidates for each of the top leadership positions. Others felt that the outcome was nonetheless predetermined. But like in most elections, the winning candidates had the message most voters agreed with, and simply did a better job of campaigning for their positions.

Going forward, the local party has the same challenge as does the national party: how to integrate or channel the energy of the tea party. If the vote for the challengers — about one-fourth of the party members present — is a measure of the numbers in the tea party, it’s a significant force that Republicans should welcome. But an initial challenge for Dool and party leaders is that many tea party activists will resent anything they perceive as channeling of their energy or integration of their politics.

Also, some had asked that the slates of delegates should have been made available before the meeting. Voters had to vote for 98 delegates and 100 alternates. But party officials refused to release the names before the meeting, which seems to be the type of needless secret-keeping that breeds distrust and conspiracy theories.

Political attacks not all bad

Dr. Mel Kahn, a political science professor at Wichita State University, gave a lecture Friday on why he believes negative campaigning is essential to democracy. Kahn said that a recent study shows that there are sometimes more lies in positive ads than in negative commercials, and as long as ads are based on evidence, they help people know what’s going on in a world full of political spin.” The lecture was at the Wichita Pachyderm Club as covered by State of the State KS.

Kahn also said that since accountability is important to democracy, he was pleased to see the activation of those who disagreed with the policies of the current administration, saying this is the essence of democracy. He quoted John Stuart Mill: “Attacks and criticism make a real contribution. In other words, if the attack has validity to it, and it brings about a feeling on the part of the populace that things could be much better than what turns out to be a flawed policy, then we benefit. Because what we’ve really done is we’ve exchanged something closer to the truth for the error that we held sacrosanct before. … Any kind of policy ought to be able to withstand the nature of sharp criticism.” Also, if policies withstand attacks, we can have more confidence in them.

Kahn also took news media to task for not really doing its job, saying media mostly covers the “horse race” aspects of campaigns — who leads in polls, etc. — rather than covering “the substance of the real policies. I think a net loss,” he said. I would add that it’s not only news media, it’s the candidates themselves that don’t want to talk about substantive issues. In the campaign for the Kansas fourth Congressional district, the two major candidates — Democrat Raj Goyle and Republican Mike Pompeo — didn’t really have a lot of substantive discussion of issues. Goyle, in particular, made charges about Pompeo outsourcing work to China. But we never had a discussion about the merits of outsourcing, except for here: Outsourcing Kansas jobs. Other issues I covered in the campaign included social security in Goyle on Social Security protection, business incentives in Business can oppose incentives and use them, and Goyle’s purported tax-cutting votes in Raj Goyle tax cut votes not exactly as advertised. My articles were mostly critical of Goyle — as an advocate of limited government and economic freedom, it just works out that way — but I believe the articles examined the issues in way that other media did not.

In responding to a question, Kahn said that those who make criticisms may do so even though they may not have a better plan that would be better. Criticism of the critic for that reason, therefore, is not valid.

On local politics, Kahn said that Sedgwick County Commissioner Gwen Welshimer told him before the election that she had tea party support, but she didn’t want her liberal friends to know about it. Kahn said that was a mistake, that many people — Democrats and Republicans both — appreciate officeholders who will object to big-spending projects. Welshimer had earned tea party support because of her positions on taxation and spending, particularly her opposition to subsidy for developers. Kahn noted that the Wichita Eagle had been unfavorable to Welshimer.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Tuesday November 2, 2010

Only conservative and Tea Party candidates cast as extreme. “Congressional Democrats and President Obama are facing voters’ wrath because of their extreme agenda over the past two years: government-run health care; massive unsupportable spending; a proposed ‘cap-and-trade’ tax on energy, higher income taxes, etc. But MRC analysts found 35 evening news stories which conveyed the Democratic spin point that conservative and Tea Party candidates are ‘extreme,’ ‘fringe,’ or ‘out of the mainstream,’ vs. ZERO stories conveying the charge that left-wing Democrats are ‘out of the mainstream.’” Also, the label “liberal” is not used as often as is “conservative,” and “ultra-liberal” was not used at all during the study period. More from the Media Research Center findings at MRC Study: “News” Media Aid Democrats’ Tea Party Trashing.

Divisive Obama undercuts the presidency. This is the view of two Democrats, Patrick H. Caddell and Douglas E. Schoen, writing in the Washington Post: “Instead, since taking office, he has pitted group against group for short-term political gain that is exacerbating the divisions in our country and weakening our national identity. The culture of attack politics and demonization risks compromising our ability to address our most important issues — and the stature of our nation’s highest office. Indeed, Obama is conducting himself in a way alarmingly reminiscent of Nixon’s role in the disastrous 1970 midterm campaign. No president has been so persistently personal in his attacks as Obama throughout the fall.” On campaign finance, the authors say they favor complete disclosure and a reversal of Citizens United, but note that there is little evidence that there have been “improper or even unusual” activities. The authors also say that Obama’s attacks on individuals such as David H. Koch for his role in founding Americans for Prosperity are harmful and reminiscent of Richard M. Nixon’s enemies list, on which author Caddell was listed.

Why Obama is no Roosevelt. “Whatever the outcome of today’s election, this much is clear: It will be a long time before Americans ever again decide that the leadership of the nation should go to a legislator of negligible experience — with a voting record, as state and U.S. senator, consisting largely of ‘present,’ and an election platform based on glowing promises of transcendence. A platform vowing, unforgettably, to restore us — a country lost to arrogance and crimes against humanity — to a place of respect in the world.” Continuing, the Wall Street Journal’s Dorothy Rabinowitz describes FDR’s famous “map speech” — in which he asked Americans to have a map ready while he explained developments in the world war. “No radio address then or since has ever imparted a presidential message so remarkable in its detail, complexity and faith in its audience.” write Rabinowitz. What if Obama had done the same with the health care bill?

Left-wing echo chamber at work. A billboard message displayed by a Mike Pompeo supporter generated an instant flurry of echo messages in the left-wing blogosphere. Posts appeared on Democratic Underground, Huffington Post, Think Progress, Newsvine, Pitch Weekly, 1whp.com, and Ski Dawg’s Pound. Locally the left-wing Forward Kansas and Kansas Free Press chipped in, and the Wichita Eagle Editorial Blog threw some red meat to its band of regulars. This issue made it onto left-wing television, where MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow commented on it using her thick-as-pine sap snarkiness — not that many people take Maddow seriously. Even the Goyle campaign, in its fundraising email based on Maddow’s show, used scare quotes when describing her program as “analysis.” (Scare quotes, according to Wikipedia, “are quotation marks placed around a single word or phrase to indicate that the word or phrase does not signify its literal or conventional meaning.” When used as Goyle’s email used them — to indicate scorn, sarcasm, irony, disagreement, or disdain — they might be called “sneer quotes.”)

Kansas advance ballots analyzed. Earl Glynn of Kansas Watchdog contributes analysis of advance ballots cast in Kansas. The table breaks down the numbers by county and party. Voters registered as Republican returned about twice as many ballots as Democratic voters. Getting Republicans to vote early was a major initiative of the Brownback Clean Sweep program.

Criminal Justice Coordinating Council a Pachyderm topic. This Friday (November 5) the Wichita Pachyderm Club features Bob Lamkey, who is director of the Sedgwick County Division of Public Safety. His topic will be “An Overview of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC). The public is welcome at Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club.

Topeka TIF district behind on taxes. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports in College Hill taxes go unpaid: But developer says project is gaining new momentum. Locally, Wichita has a TIF district in our own College Hill neighborhood which is also behind on paying its property taxes.

Wednesdays in Wiedemann. Tomorrow Wichita State University’s Lynne Davis presents an organ recital as part of the “Wednesdays in Wiedemann” series. These recitals, which have no admission charge, start at 5:30 pm and last about 30 minutes. The location is Wiedemann Recital Hall (map) on the campus of Wichita State University. For more about Davis and WSU’s Great Marcussen Organ, see my story from earlier this year.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday November 1, 2010

Pompeo supporter’s sign causes stir. As reported by the Wichita Eagle’s Dion Lefler, a billboard sign urging votes for Republican Mike Pompeo has Democrat Raj Goyle and his campaign crying foul and raising charges of racism. The Goyle campaign says it will file a complaint alleging violations of campaign finance laws.

Meanwhile, Democrats don’t care much for scrutiny. Not by me in a public place, anyway. See Democrats block me in Wichita.

Kansas legislative candidates surveyed. Kansas Campaign for Liberty has surveyed candidates for the Kansas legislature and has made the results available at Kansas State Candidate Survey Results. The questions are useful in identifying candidates who support individual liberty and oppose intrusive government.

Wichita Eagle voter guide. Click here. You can get a list of the candidates, along with their responses to questions, customized for your address.

Republicans look for a big day. Wall Street Journal: “‘The Democrats are about to feel the full force of a tidal wave, tsunami or a 7.0 earthquake,’ said Democratic pollster Peter Hart.” Gallup predicts 45 percent voter turnout, with Republicans leading Democrats on the generic Congressional ballot 55 percent to 40 percent. Larry Sabato predicts Republican gains of 55 seats in the House, eight in the Senate, and eight or nine governorships. Conservative Richard Viguerie boldly predicts Republican gains of 88 House seats and nine senate seats. He also predicts a net gain of 650 seats by Republican state legislators.

Obama no longer lofty, hopeful. The reality of his failed and failing policies sinks in: “President Barack Obama closed out his 2010 campaign season here with a mocking rebuke of Republicans, in stark contrast to the lofty, hopeful rhetoric that marked his 2008 campaign.” See Obama Less Lofty as Rhetoric Shifts.

GOP rhetoric shifts from social issues to the economy. The influence of the tea party is recognized as economic issues become more important than social issues for many: “The tea party’s financial fervor contributed largely to the declining emphasis on social issues, said Dale Neuman, University of Missouri-Kansas City political science professor emeritus.” More from the Kansas City Star at GOP rhetoric shifts from social issues to the economy.

What if Cannabis Cured Cancer? WSU Students for Liberty, in association with the Kansas Medical Cannabis Network, will be presenting the movie What if Cannabis Cured Cancer? on Friday, November 19, 2010 at 6:00 pm in the Sunflower Room of the Rhatigan Student Center (lower level of the Rhatigan Student Center). More information on this movie, including a trailer, may be found at What If Cannabis Cured Cancer.

Waiting for Superman. The Kansas Policy Institute will host a free screening of Waiting for Superman on Thursday November 4th. Of the film, the Wall Street Journal wrote: “The new film ‘Waiting for ‘Superman’” is getting good reviews for its portrayal of children seeking alternatives to dreadful public schools, and to judge by the film’s opponents it is having an impact. Witness the scene on a recent Friday night in front of a Loews multiplex in New York City, where some 50 protestors blasted the film as propaganda for charter schools.” In Kansas, the Wichita Eagle printed an op-ed penned by the education bureaucracy status quoSharon Hartin Iorio, dean of the Wichita State University College of Education in this case — to inoculate Wichitans against the effects of what I am told is a powerful film. Let’s hope this film gets Kansans to thinking about public schools in our state, as Kansas is way behind the curve on innovation, compared to other states. The film will be shown at 7:00pm at the Warren Theatre East (11611 E. 13th St.). KPI asks that you RSVP by Tuesday, November 2 to James Franko at james.franko@kansaspolicy.org. Space is limited.

Last-minute Kansas fourth district campaign finance

Analysis of late campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission finds Republican Mike Pompeo raising more money than rival Democrat Raj Goyle in the campaign for United States Congress from the fourth district of Kansas.

The candidates filed reports covering the period October 1, 2010 through October 13, 2010. These reports showed Pompeo raising $153,535 and Goyle $92,491 during that time frame. Ending cash balances on this report were Pompeo with $500,939 and Goyle with $133,095.

Since then, the candidates have filed several “48 hour notice” reports. The total of these reports through October 31 have Pompeo raising $141,250 and Goyle $84,101.

Pompeo also leads Goyle in polls. See Pompeo increases lead over Goyle in Kansas fourth.

Democrats block me in Wichita

This afternoon I attended a Democratic party rally at Old Town Square in Wichita. The featured speaker was candidate for United States Congress from the fourth district of Kansas Raj Goyle. I hadn’t expected to be blocked, but that’s what happened.

Democrats blocking in WichitaDemocrats blocking me in Wichita. “It’s freedom, dude” was his explanation as to why he blocked me.

Blocking is when someone who is considered an intruder or spy is prevented from taking photographs or video. Typically the people who might be blocked are “trackers,” people that follow a candidate and record every word they can, hoping to record something they can use against the candidate.

I’m not a tracker. I’ve been to only one other Raj Goyle event. But this afternoon it was made clear that I was not welcome at the Democratic Party event that featured candidate Goyle.

I don’t know if any meaning should be given to the fact that it was a Brandon Whipple sign that was used as the blocking tool. (Sorry for the illegibility of the sign. I’m not quite familiar with the limitations of the HDR processing on my new Apple iPhone 4.) I don’t know if Goyle himself would have approved of the blocking. I’ve been critical of his policies and generally approving of those of his major party opponent, Mike Pompeo. But I don’t think he would have approved of the blocking. We shook hands and said hello before the event started.

For what it’s worth, the Goyle campaign employs a tracker. I’ve not seen him be blocked at any Pompeo events that I’ve attended, although it may have happened. But I’ve seen the tracker allowed to take his video unmolested even at events that took place on private property, where the Pompeo campaign would have been entirely within its rights to remove the tracker from the premises. Today I was blocked on public property.

I’ve asked the Pompeo campaign if they’ve used trackers, and they declined to answer.

When I asked the young man who blocked me if he was, in fact, blocking me, he said “It’s freedom, dude!” Which, I think, tells us a lot about some young people, Democrats, and their warped concept of freedom and liberty.

Update: Someone has told me that the blocker probably committed a crime by attempting — and partially succeeding — to prevent me from enjoying a public event held in a public space.

Pompeo increases lead over Goyle in Kansas fourth

Today KWCH Television and SurveyUSA released a poll surveying the candidates for United States Congress from the fourth district of Kansas. The results show Republican Mike Pompeo increasing his lead over challenger Raj Goyle, the Democratic Party nominee.

Today’s poll — likely to be the last before Election Day — shows Pompeo increasing his share of the vote from 53 percent to 54 percent, compared to the previous poll released by the same organization 21 days earlier. Goyle’s share dropped from 40 percent to 38 percent. In this poll, the sampling error is 4.3 percent.

Only two percent of the voters are undecided.

Other results from the poll include Reform party candidate Susan Ducey with three percent, and Libertarian Shawn Smith checking in with two percent.

As of October 27, the FiveThirtyEight analysis of this race puts Pompeo ahead of Goyle 61.2 percent to 36.2 percent. The probability of a Pompeo win is given as 99.5 percent. FiveThirtyEight uses KWCH/SurveyUSA polls as part of its input, but considers many other factors too. This forecast does not include today’s KWCH/SurveyUSA results.

Kansas fourth district Congressional pollKansas fourth district Congressional poll

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Thursday October 28, 2010

Final fourth district forum. Last night’s debate or forum between all four candidates running for the Kansas fourth Congressional district was the last such event before Election Day. Hosted by KSN Television and moderated by John Snyder, all four candidates appeared: Reform Party candidate Susan Ducey, Democrat Raj Goyle, Republican Mike Pompeo, and Libertarian Shawn Smith. Goyle used almost every question as an opportunity to launch an attack on Pompeo, particularly on the issue of outsourcing of jobs. No dummy — he did go to Harvard law school, after all (so did Pompeo) — Goyle used some clever and creative license to morph nearly every question into these attacks. Pompeo largely ignored Goyle’s attacks but still got in a few digs at him. … Ducey and Smith kept to their principled arguments of limited government and free markets and avoided attacks on each other and the two major party candidates. Ducey, particularly, referred to the constitutionality of programs several times and her belief in states’ rights. Smith’s belief in the superiority of free markets was crystal clear. In his final statement, he referred to the “road to serfdom.” … For those who have been following the campaigns of the two major party candidates, not a lot of new information was presented in the forum. The real news, I think, is the competent and credible performances of the two minor party candidates, Ducey and Smith. They did well in terms of their presentation. Most importantly, if you believe in individual liberty, limited government, and free markets, these two candidates deserve your serious consideration.

Kansas Republicans in control. KWCH Television and SurveyUSA released new polling showing Republicans firmly in the lead for Governor, Secretary of State, and Treasurer. The only race that is close is for Attorney General, where challenger Derek Schmidt leads incumbent Stephen Six 50 percent to 42 percent. Of this race, the pollster commented: “Incumbent Attorney General Steve Six remains the Kansas Democrat with the best chance of keeping his job, but even he trails his rival Republican Derek Schmidt by 8 points, unchanged from the previous poll. Schmidt led by 20 points when polling began in August, but has led in single-digits since. 20% of Republicans cross-over to vote for Six. Independents in this contest break for the Democrat. There continues to be volatility in this race; among seniors, typically the most stable and reliable voters, the lead has changed 4 times in 4 polls.” Interestingly, all three Democratic incumbents — Six, McKinney, and Biggs — have large advantages in fundraising over their Republican challengers.

Tweet of the day. @bob_weeks: Government cake was pretty good at Wichita’s National Center for Aviation Training ribbon cutting ceremony.

Smoking ban now fiscal issue. Today’s Wichita Eagle editorial by Rhonda Holman laments the fact that there’s a possibility the Kansas statewide smoking ban might be overturned. Holman has never respected the property rights-based argument against smoking bans, nor the individual responsibility argument. Now she raises the financial argument for the ban: “Yet in Kansas, the momentum among leaders risks going the wrong way — against public health and the recognition that government has a fiscal responsibility to ban public smoking.” The fiscal responsibility Holman cites comes from the fact that the state pays a lot of the costs of health care, and if fewer people smoke, the state could save money. Perhaps. Next year, I expect Holman to use the same arguments in favor of a ban on alcoholic beverages, salty foods, sugary soda pop, cheeseburgers, and anything else that will increase health care costs. Seriously. By the way, this government regulation of behavior often does not work and produces unintended consequences, as in the recent findings that bans on texting while driving have increased accident rates in some states. Holman supported the Kansas texting ban for safety reasons.

Many more have voted. As of yesterday in Sedgwick County, 39,000 mail ballots have been returned, and 6,300 people had voted in person. Since there are about 260,000 registered voters in the county, 18 percent of all possible voters have already voted. But looking at likely voters — in the 2006 midterm election 118,258 ballots were cast — perhaps 40 percent of likely voters have already voted. In the 2008 general election — a presidential election year — 194,688 ballots were cast, so using that denominator, 24 percent of likely voters have voted.

A reason to vote early. Yesterday this column discussed reasons why voters may want to wait until close to Election Day to vote. But there is one reason for voting as early as possible. If you don’t want voter contact — telephone calls, mailings, people knocking on your door — voting early might reduce the number of contact attempts. This is because campaigns, if they want, can receive a list of voters who have returned their ballots each day. Savvy campaigns will then cross these voters off their lists so they don’t waste effort contacting those who have already voted. To make this work well, you’d want to get everyone in your household to vote early.

Vote machine “malfunctions” reported. There have been several reports that at advance voting locations in Wichita, when the machine flipped to display the page for U.S. Congress, one candidate’s name was already checked, just as if the voter had touched it already. The voters were able to un-check that vote and vote for their intended candidate. I suggested to the tipster that she have people take still photographs, perhaps using a smartphone, of each screen as the voting machine presented it. But an even better solution that would eliminate all source of doubt is this: As you vote, use your smartphone to take video of the entire process. This, I believe, would produce strong evidence of voting machine irregularities, if it is happening.

Wichita Eagle voter guide. Click here. You can get a list of the candidates, along with their responses to questions, customized for your address.

Outside spending cuts both ways. Debra J. Saunders of the San Francisco Chronicle: “White House adviser David Axelrod went after the Chamber of Commerce earlier this month, calling its $75 million campaign ‘a threat to our democracy.’ But as the Wall Street Journal reported last week, the public employees union AFSCME is spending $87.5 million on 2010 campaigns.”

Kansas House could shift. It’s often mentioned that Republicans have large margins in both the Kansas House of Representatives and Senate. In the House, however, there’s a working body of about 55 reliably conservative members. The other Republicans — moderates, they’re called — will vote with Democrats for things like sales tax increases. This could change, however. It’s thought by some that conservatives picked up four seats in the August primary election, getting the House up to 59 reliable conservative votes. 63 votes are needed to have a majority and pass a bill. Can conservatives pick up more seats next Tuesday? Might the prospect of a conservative majority and a conservative governor flip a few moderate Republicans? We may know on Wednesday — or maybe not.

Ballotpedia to have election night coverage. The website Ballotpedia will have election night coverage focusing on ballot issues, state legislative contests, and state attorney general races. Did you know that voters will be electing 6,125 state legislators next week? See What to expect from Ballotpedia election coverage on November 2 for details on the coverage.

Report voter fraud, by phone. American Majority Action has developed and released a voter fraud app for smartphones. Describing it, AMA says “This free, cutting edge system will enable voters to take action to help defend their right to vote. Whether you’re a campaign junkie, or just want a better America, Voter Fraud will help you report violations at the election booth and serve to uphold the democratic process.” I downloaded it for my iPhone.

Waiting for Superman. The Kansas Policy Institute will host a free screening of Waiting for Superman on Thursday November 4th. Of the film, the Wall Street Journal wrote: “The new film ‘Waiting for ‘Superman’” is getting good reviews for its portrayal of children seeking alternatives to dreadful public schools, and to judge by the film’s opponents it is having an impact. Witness the scene on a recent Friday night in front of a Loews multiplex in New York City, where some 50 protestors blasted the film as propaganda for charter schools.” In Kansas, the Wichita Eagle printed an op-ed penned by the education bureaucracy status quoSharon Hartin Iorio, dean of the Wichita State University College of Education in this case — to inoculate Wichitans against the effects of what I am told is a powerful film. Let’s hope this film gets Kansans to thinking about public schools in our state, as Kansas is way behind the curve on innovation, compared to other states. The film will be shown at 7:00pm at the Warren Theatre East (11611 E. 13th St.). KPI asks that you RSVP by Tuesday, November 2 to James Franko at james.franko@kansaspolicy.org. Space is limited.

Business can oppose incentives and use them

In the campaign for United States Congress from the fourth district of Kansas, Democrat Raj Goyle criticizes leading opponent Republican Mike Pompeo for accepting economic development incentives while opposing their existence.

A Goyle press release reads: “Already a known outsourcer, Pompeo, in an act of hypocrisy, took government incentivized aid for three of his companies, including Sunflower, Thayer and Sentry. He did this despite repeatedly denouncing government assistance in the private sector.”

This criticism — that those who oppose government programs nonetheless hypocritically take advantage of them — is an important topic to examine, not only as a campaign issue, but because the conflict that leads to this form of criticism arises often. It’s something that libertarians struggle with daily — and I don’t think Mike Pompeo would describe himself as libertarian.

In an article examining whether presidential candidate Ron Paul should accept federal matching campaign funds, the libertarian scholar Walter Block described the pervasiveness of government and the impossibility of escaping it:

For the modern state is so involved in the lives of its citizens that it is the rare individual who does not accept some form of government largesse, whether in the form of money payments, services, or goods of one type or another.

For example, while not everyone goes to a public school or teaches there, it is the rare individual who does not: walk on statist sidewalks, drive on public roads, carry currency in his pocket, avail himself of the services of governmental libraries, museums, parks, stadiums, etc. Which of us has not entered the premises of the motor vehicle bureau, sued someone in court, posted a letter, attempted to attain a passport, or interacted with government in any of the thousand and one other ways it touches upon our lives?

This hints at part of the conflict — angst even — that libertarians digest internally as we go about our business in a world dominated by government. I, for example, firmly believe that we would be better off with private ownership of the streets and highways. Each time I drive my car from my driveway onto the government street in front of my house, I think of this. I get it. I understand the conflict that government thrusts on me. It bothers me daily.

But there’s no other way for me to get to where I want to go. I’m consoled somewhat by the fact that the motor fuel taxes I paid go to building and maintaining the roads. This doesn’t mean, however, that I agree that our system of primarily government ownership of streets and highways is the best system. But it’s the system I am forced to live with, and I try to change it.

Business firms are generally aware, although not always, of government incentives available for economic development. These incentives are part of the economic and political landscape that business firms face. They have to be recognized and dealt with, just like any other factor such as regulation. If business firm “A” decides not to accept incentives and subsidies when firm “B” does, is this wise, even if accepting subsidy is against the principles of firm “A”?

I would recommend firm “A” to apply for and accept the subsidy. For one thing, if firm “A” is a public corporation and doesn’t pursue these incentives when they are available, the company is likely to be sued by its shareholders.

Second, these subsidies are part of the competitive landscape. Even though from a libertarian and conservative view they are wrong and harmful, they still exist. It does no good for a firm to pretend they don’t exist and thereby create a competitive disadvantage for itself. This is especially the case if firms “A” and “B” are direct competitors in the same industry. But even if they are not, these two firms still compete in the same markets for land, labor, capital, and other generic factors.

Third, firm “A,” like all of us, is paying for these incentives and subsidies. While this may seem like conceding to the power of the state, firm “A” might as well get some back of what it paid for.

So yes, business firms need to use government incentives and subsidies. At the same time, we need to work for the elimination of these programs. This is difficult, as the more government becomes involved in management and direction of the economy, it becomes harder to get government to stop. We see this in play at Wichita city hall, as more and more firms ask the city council for various forms of assistance or corporate welfare.

The fight is important, too. The factors that made our country and its economy great are at peril. Gary North wrote in The Snare of Government Subsidies: “… those within the government possess an extremely potent device for expanding political power. By a comprehensive program of direct political intervention into the market, government officials can steadily reduce the opposition of businessmen to the transformation of the market into a bureaucratic, regulated, and even centrally-directed organization. Bureaucracy replaces entrepreneurship as the principal form of economic planning.”

Returning to the politics of the day: Isn’t is a little strange to hear Goyle, who favors expansion of public-private partnerships, criticize those who use them, even if they are opposed to the idea in principle? Doesn’t Goyle want everyone to be in “the snare” that North describes?

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Tuesday October 26, 2010

Karl Rove. “Former George W. Bush aide Matt Latimer was there to observe the dealings of Karl Rove during the previous administration, and he writes that there’s no secret why most conservatives have now come to view Rove as a fraud. Latimer says that Rove has become symbolic of a GOP establishment that’s known for its utter betrayal and ruin of the Party that Reagan had left so strong. Now that his secret is out, Rove’s influence will only continue to diminish as time goes on and the Tea Parties take over.” A fascinating look at the legacy of Rove, and illustrates the tension between the tea party and the Republican establishment. From Karl Rove’s Flameout.

Waiting for Superman. The Kansas Policy Institute will host a free screening of Waiting for Superman on Thursday November 4th. Of the film, the Wall Street Journal wrote: “The new film ‘Waiting for ‘Superman’” is getting good reviews for its portrayal of children seeking alternatives to dreadful public schools, and to judge by the film’s opponents it is having an impact. Witness the scene on a recent Friday night in front of a Loews multiplex in New York City, where some 50 protestors blasted the film as propaganda for charter schools.” In Kansas, the Wichita Eagle printed an op-ed penned by the education bureaucracy status quoSharon Hartin Iorio, dean of the Wichita State University College of Education in this case — to inoculate Wichitans against the effects of what I am told is a powerful film. Let’s hope this film gets Kansans to thinking about public schools in our state, as Kansas is way behind the curve on innovation, compared to other states. The film will be shown at 7:00pm at the Warren Theatre East (11611 E. 13th St.). KPI asks that you RSVP by Tuesday, November 2 to James Franko at james.franko@kansaspolicy.org. Space is limited.

Brownback at Wichita Pachyderm. Friday’s meeting of the Wichita Pachyderm club will feature United States Senator and candidate for Kansas governor Sam Brownback. The public is welcome at Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club.

Right to work = economic growth. In The Daily Caller, Emporia State University’s Greg Schneider looks at the history of unions in America and right-to-work laws. The number of union jobs has declined as unionized companies became less competitive, not because of right-to-work laws.

Kansas private sector loses jobs, government grows. “Roughly 7,600 private sector jobs in Kansas disappeared from August to September, while government jobs grew by 21,000 over the same time period.” Most of the government jobs were in schools, writes Rachel Whitten in the Kansas Reporter.

Tea Party plans to exert influence. As newly-elected members of Congress arrive in Washington to assume their seats, a tea party group plans to lay down expectations. “The meeting of newly elected officials, the date of which hasn’t been set, is designed to keep new representatives connected to ‘what we expect from them,’ according to the memo. Incumbent Republican members of Congress and the party’s national leadership won’t be invited, said Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, in an interview. ‘The incumbents have allowed us to get into the problems we are in now,’ he said. ‘We hope to get to the freshmen before the incumbents get to them, and start twisting their arms.”” The full story in the Wall Street Journal is Group Plans to Keep Pressure on Newly Elected Conservatives. There is definitely conflict between the Tea Party and the Republican Establishment.

Goyle numbers explained by rats and cats. Candidate for U.S. Congress from the Kansas fourth district Raj Goyle says he has voted with Republicans in the Kansas House of Representatives 80 percent of the time. While a detailed analysis of the votes would be difficult and time-consuming, the majority of measures voted on by legislatures pass nearly unanimously — the so-called “rats and cats” bills. The important cases this year where Goyle voted against his party — the big-spending budget and the statewide sales tax increase — represent either a genuine change in Goyle’s political philosophy, or election-year window dressing. Voters have to make the call.

Holland claim doubted. In an interview with the Dodge City Daily Globe, Kansas governor hopeful Democrat Tom Holland said “Now I have a proven track record in the Kansas Legislature of reaching across the aisle and working with Republicans.” Evidence, however, points the other way. In the Kansas Economic Freedom Index for this year, Holland is the only Kansas Senator that earned a score of 0 percent. KEFI is not designed to group legislators into Republican or Democratic camps, but Holland ranks alone at the extreme end of the spectrum — voting against economic freedom in all cases.

Arts in Wichita promoted. Today John D’Angelo, manager of Wichita’s Division of Arts and Cultural Services, contributes a piece to the Wichita Eagle titled How can Wichita sustain, grow arts sector? The answer to this question is: reduce government involvement in the arts, first by abolishing Mr. D’Angelo’s department and city taxation for spending on the arts. This will force arts organizations to meet the demands of consumers as expressed in free markets. Currently, a board of cronies dishes out tax money to arts organizations using political rather than market criteria. This process lets these organizations exists by appealing to Wichita’s cultural elites, rather than the broad market. See Government Art in Wichita. Economic fallacy supports arts in Wichita provides background to D’Angelo’s claim of the economic benefit of the arts, at least government spending on arts.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Sunday October 24, 2010

Surprise endorsement from Wichita Eagle. Today the Wichita Eagle endorsed Republican Mike Pompeo over Democrat Raj Goyle in the race for the Kansas fourth Congressional district. Surprising. Still, the Eagle editorial board can’t help reveal its preference for big, expansive government by taking a few digs at Pompeo, describing his free-market, limited government views as “overly idealistic at times.” Continuing, the Eagle wrote “For example, he believes that there wouldn’t be a need for farm subsidies or economic development incentives if there were lower tax rates and a friendlier and more stable regulatory environment. That’s not the real world.” The Eagle editorial board said that Pompeo is “too ideological and wouldn’t seek practical political solutions.” Well, are the “practical” solutions imposed on us by the current federal regime working? I would say not. Other evidence of the Eagle’s unbelief in the power of freedom, free people, and free markets was noticed in its failure to endorse Richard Ranzau for Sedgwick county commission, in which the Eagle mentioned his “inflexible anti-tax, free-market views.” The Eagle prefers “nuanced” politicians.

Who is Raj Goyle? On today’s episode of KAKE Television’s This Week in Kansas hosted by Tim Brown, guests Randy Brown and Ed Flentje discussed the fourth district Congressional race race, and Goyle in particular. The reliably liberal [Randy] Brown said that Goyle made a mistake in not voting for the statewide sales tax increase, which Brown characterized as a “responsible thing to do.” This, he said, caused people — including Democrats — to view Goyle as a political opportunist, and Goyle lost a chance to distinguish himself from his opponent. Flentje said “he does appear to be quite flexible,” which elicited hearty laughter from the panel. He continued: “It’s hard to figure out exactly where he is … he’s trying to address overwhelming Republican advantage in registration. He’s been for the most part a good legislator, campaigns aggressively, but he’s going uphill … I kind of feel for him.”

Who is Sam Brownback? “Most agree that Sam Brownback will be elected governor on November 2, but what kind of governor he will be is less than clear. Even after nearly a quarter century in Kansas politics and government, his divergent political lives prompt voters to ask: Will the real Sam Brownback please stand up?” H. Edward Flentje, political science professor at Wichita State University, through State of the State Kansas. Flentje appeared on today’s episode of KAKE Television’s This Week in Kansas to discuss this column. Fellow guest Randy Brown said “In terms of being a political opportunist, he strikes me as the classic person who tells whatever group of people he’s in front of what they want to hear.” Flentje disagreed with this. The column traces Brownback’s evolution in both the personal and political spheres, and does ask the question “So, will the real Sam Brownback as Kansas governor please stand up?”

Kansas candidates score free TV. “Democratic incumbents Chris Biggs and Dennis McKinney are riding a $100,000-plus wave of television advertising their Republican opponents denounce as thinly veiled self-promotion and an abuse of office that should be stamped out by the Legislature.” More by Tim Carpenter at Topeka Capital-Journal. We shouldn’t be surprised at this, as a look at the Kansas agency websites headed by elected officials shows them using these sites as campaign billboards year round.

Jim Powell political advertisement on Facebook

Politicians advertise on Facebook. Here’s an example of a politician running for office that uses Facebook for advertising. With Facebook ads, you can target who your advertisement is displayed to in great detail.

Putting a price on professors. The Wall Street Journal covers an effort in Texas to evaluate the worth of state university faculty members from a financial viewpoint: “A 265-page spreadsheet, released last month by the chancellor of the Texas A&M University system, amounted to a profit-and-loss statement for each faculty member, weighing annual salary against students taught, tuition generated, and research grants obtained. … The balance sheet sparked an immediate uproar from faculty, who called it misleading, simplistic and crass — not to mention, riddled with errors. But the move here comes amid a national drive, backed by some on both the left and the right, to assess more rigorously what, exactly, public universities are doing with their students — and their tax dollars.” The article notes some dismal statistics of the type we’re used to hearing about K through 12 education: “Just over half of all freshmen entering four-year public colleges will earn a degree from that institution within six years, according to the U.S. Department of Education. And among those with diplomas, just 31% could pass the most recent national prose literacy test, given in 2003; that’s down from 40% a decade earlier, the department says.” Credit goes to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a state-based think tank that is often at the forefront of the fight for fiscal responsibility.

Pretending the union money doesn’t exist. From RedState: “Desperate Democrats have been hyperventilating for the past month over money being spent by corporate and other groups, notably the Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity, to run campaign commercials. To conservatives, running commercials to attempt to persuade voters in advance of an election is known as ‘free speech,’ and turnabout is fair play after corporate money went heavily for Obama in 2008, but let’s play along here; how much of an advantage does the GOP have here? … That’s right, three of the five largest campaign spenders this year are not business or pro-business groups but unions affiliated with the Democrats and dominated by public employees.”

iPhone screen

We forget the blessings of technology. As I write this I am plugged into my iPhone. I carry it with me wherever I go. I would rather leave home forgetting my wallet than my iPhone. As it is more than just a telephone, it also holds my music, as seen in the accompanying depiction of its screen. The ability to carry with me — wherever I travel — examples of the great works of music, in this case Beethoven violin and piano sonatas, is something that is truly remarkable. More than that, it’s a miracle. Now when I check in to a hotel, it’s not uncommon to find a clock radio where I can dock or plug in my iPhone and listen to my music as I unpack and prepare for the day’s events. The back of my iPhone reads “Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China.” If not for this international cooperation, would the miracle of the iPhone — and other similar technology — be affordable, or even possible?

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Friday October 22, 2010

My best tweet yesterday. I just uninstalled the NPR News app from my iPhone. #NPR #Juan

Many have already voted. Wednesday Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Bill Gale told commissioners that his office had sent 63,000 mail ballots to voters in the county, and 20,000 had been returned. In the 2006 general election, a midterm election comparable to this year, 118,258 ballots were cast in Sedgwick County. Gale’s numbers tell us that around half of voters will use the advance voting system, and perhaps 17 percent have already voted as far as two weeks in advance of election day.

Goyle on defense pork barrel spending. Yesterday Kansas fourth Congressional district candidate Democrat Raj Goyle criticized Republican Mike Pompeo for not supporting a second engine for the F-35 fighter jet program. Goyle says we need to protect 800 jobs in Cowley county by approving this project. The problem is this federal spending program is not needed and wasteful. According to Forbes: “The problem General Electric and teammate Rolls Royce face is that both the Bush and the Obama administrations concluded the single-engine F-35 would do just fine with only one engine supplier. … Defense Secretary Robert Gates has decided to make termination of the second engine a test case of whether Congress is committed to eliminating waste.” Spending money on this jet engine that is not needed is the very definition of government waste. A question: If these jobs were not in the Congressional district Goyle is running in, would he support this project? If the answer is yes, he fails the Defense Secretary’s test for whether Congress is really ready to eliminate waste. If the answer is no, he’s already engaging in the type of pork-grabbing — getting anything and everything for the home district, no matter what the cost — that he purportedly disdains.

They do this too? Here’s another example of left-wing bloggers and writers claiming to have “uncovered” something that sits in plain sight. This time it comes from Think Progress, a project of the hard left — but innocently-named — Center for American Progress Action Fund, which in turn is a project of George Soros. Jonathan Adler explains at National Review Online: “Think Progress has a breathless post up today alleging they have uncovered the Koch brothers sinister plot to coordinate corporate, libertarian, and conservative donors to outside groups and think tanks. What they’ve actually uncovered is (horrors) an invitation-only conference of generally like-minded philanthropic and other organizations that likes to discuss issues and strategies and hear from prominent thinkers and commentators (including, on at least one occasion, NRO’s Ramesh Ponnuru and frequent contributor Veronique de Rugy). Think Progress acts as if this is some sort of revelation, but this sort of thing has been common for some time, particularly on the left. The Environmental Grantmakers Association is one example of an organizational umbrella for like-minded philanthropists that has sponsored closed-door conferences for strategy discussions, but there are others. The Kendall Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts, and other specific funders have, at times, also taken very aggressive steps to ensure coordination by funders and grant recipients. I wrote about this fifteen years ago in my book on the environmentalist movement. Next thing Think Progress will tell us there’s gambling in Atlantic City.” By the way, the Wichita Eagle will rely on Think Progress as a source.

Does business favor free markets? Many people naively assume that business automatically supports free markets and less regulation. The Washington Examiner’s Timothy P. Carney tells us that this is not so. Writing about his speaking experiences at an event sponsored by Charles Koch, Carney writes: “I’ve often said — and I said it at the dinner — that privately held businesses tend to favor free markets, even when they get big; while publicly held businesses (like those on the Fortune 500), tend to want bigger government as often or more often than they want free markets, depending on the industry and who’s in power.” Carney lists a number of companies — BP, Conoco, Shell, and Wal-Mart that are in favor of more government regulation. Wal-Mart, for example, favored higher minimum wage legislation because it already paid higher wages than its competitors, and the new minimum wage would hurt them, giving Wal-Mart a competitive advantage obtained through regulation. Carney also makes the case that liberals don’t often realize that they’re being played: “This may be the most important point that folks like [left-wing bloggers] Zernike, Yglesias, and Fang miss: many of these businessmen could profit even more under the policies the Left favors than they do under the free market.” As it applies to Koch Industries specifically, Carney notes that strict regulation of refineries makes entry by competitors difficult to impossible, relying on the Los Angeles Times for evidence: “California refiners are simply cashing in on a system that allows a handful of players to keep prices high by carefully controlling supplies. The result is a kind of miracle market in which profits abound, outsiders can’t compete and a dwindling cadre of gas station operators has little choice but go along. Indeed, the recent history of California’s fuel industry is a textbook case of how a once-competitive business can become skewed to the advantage of a few, all with the federal government’s blessing.” I would add that in competitive markets, business firms must seek to please a diverse array of customers, and that’s harder to do than pleasing politicians and regulators.

Kansas politics in New York Times. Particularly the governor’s race. The article contains an accurate assessment on how things really work in Kansas, and should be noted by those who blame all of our state’s problems in Republicans: “But while Republicans dominate the State Legislature and the governor was once chairman of the state party, the reality about those who currently control Kansas is far subtler — the effective majority in the Legislature is a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats, while the governor defected to the Democratic Party.” See Kansas Governor’s Race Seen Redefining G.O.P.

Sedgwick County website still dark. Not exactly dark, but the county didn’t renew its domain name registration, and it expired. Usually these things can be cleared up pretty quickly, but for me it’s still out of order after about 24 hours. It works on my iPhone, though, but the county’s website is not friendly to use on mobile devices.

Energy to be topic at Wichita Pachyderm. Today’s meeting of the Wichita Pachyderm club will feature John A. McKinsey speaking on the topic “Cap and Trade: What is the economic and regulatory impact of Congressional legislation?” The public is welcome at Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club.

Goyle on Social Security protection

Raj Goyle, candidate for U.S. Congress from Kansas, pledges to protect Social Security from changes, including partial privatization and increases in the retirement age. On his campaign website, he says we must work in a “bipartisan, responsible way to adjust Social Security to ensure its long-term stability.” Goyle’s website doesn’t say this, but the only way to make these adjustments is to increases taxes or the deficit — which pushes taxation off to the future.

Goyle’s opponents in the campaign for United States Congress from the fourth district of Kansas are Reform party candidate Susan Ducey, Republican Mike Pompeo, and Libertarian Shawn Smith.

In his pledge, Goyle promises to “work for real solutions that strengthen Social Security for the long term.” Specifically, he pledges to oppose all efforts at privatization and raising the retirement age to 70.

The problem is that after ruling out reforms like these, there’s not much left to do except to raise taxes or borrow more. Evidence of this can be found in an editorial from the Los Angeles Times recently printed by the Wichita Eagle. Titled Ignore fearmongering on Social Security, it mostly looks back at opposition to the formation of the Social Security system 75 years ago.

But the article recognizes that the system needs “minor adjustments” to remain solvent. The authors write: “Economists say that raising the income ceiling on the payroll tax, applying the Social Security tax to nonwage income or adding a modest increase to the payroll tax could add decades to the health of the Social Security trust fund.”

Each of these policy changes is a tax increase. The article lists no other solutions than these.

These recommendations are not Goyle’s. He hasn’t said what he would do to place the system on a sound financial footing, although he uses the same term — “adjustments” — as does the Times editorial.

But the reality is there’s not much that we can do except raise taxes or increase the deficit if we want to keep the current system.

We need to do something quickly. Social Security will pay out more in benefits this year than it receives in contributions from payroll taxes. It had been thought that this milestone would not be reached until 2017 or later.

There are those who cite the Social Security trust fund and its large balance of over $2 trillion as evidence that the system is doing well. Goyle himself recently mentioned that Social Security would be solvent for the next 30 years. Goyle didn’t mention the trust fund, but that is the source of the system’s purported solvency.

The problem is, as Thomas Sowell explains, the trust fund is merely an illusion. The money in the fund has already been spent by government agencies. The only way they can pay back the fund is through tax revenues or additional borrowing, which increases the deficit and pushes taxes to future generations.

It’s not as though most Republicans are confronting the problem head-on. One of the few officeholders willing to do so is Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, who is ranking member of the House Budget Committee. His Roadmap for America’s future is a plan that recognizes the seriousness of the current situation, not only with Social Security, but in other areas of the federal budget.

His recommendations, specific as they are, cause consternation among some Republicans who would rather talk about problems in general terms rather than specifics. A recent Washington Post profile of Ryan referred to “… many Republican colleagues, who, even as they praise Ryan for his doggedness, privately consider the Roadmap a path to electoral disaster. Unlike most politicians of either party, he doesn’t speak generically about reducing spending, but he does acknowledge the very real cuts in popular programs that will be required to bring down the debt.”

That frank talk about the budget and government spending might be an electoral disaster is a bad sign for America. We need Raj Goyle to be specific about his plans for Social Security adjustments, too.

Goyle continues to raise majority of funds from outside Kansas

In the campaign for United States Congress from the fourth district of Kansas, Democrat Raj Goyle continues to gather most of his campaign funds from outside Kansas, although the margin of out-of-state funds is less than before.

Goyle and and Republican Mike Pompeo recently filed campaign finance reports with the Federal Election Commission. (Reform party candidate Susan Ducey and Libertarian Shawn Smith have not filed reports.) While anyone may download and analyze the FEC data, OpenSecrets.org is a helpful resource in understanding campaign finance data.

Here are the third quarter and overall campaign finance numbers for the Goyle and Pompeo campaigns. The figures below for the “Election cycle” columns are from OpenSecrets.org, and are slightly different from what I reported Saturday:

                  Third quarter        Election cycle
                  Goyle   Pompeo      Goyle     Pompeo
Opening balance 749,493  286,032          0          0
Contributions   368,902  921,943  1,624,304  1,857,027
Expenditures    776,772  692,669  1,282,683  1,321,722
Cash balance    341,623  535,306    341,622    535,306

According to OpenSecrets.org analysis, both candidates received 11 percent of their contributions from political action committees (PACs), with the remaining being individual contributions.

Funds from outside Kansas

When I took a look at the sources of campaign funds in August, OpenSecrets.org calculated that 70 percent of Goyle’s contributions came from outside Kansas. The corresponding figure for Pompeo was 21 percent. OpenSecrets.org’s analysis has not been updated to include the most recent figures. My rough analysis indicates that for funds raised in the most recent reporting period, 60 percent of Goyle’s contributions came from outside Kansas. For Pompeo, the corresponding figure is 25 percent.