In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: The controversy surrounding the residence of a long-time senator from Kansas raises issues of term limits and the ability of citizens to exercise the power of initiative and referendum. Then, the seen and the unseen applied to economic development in Wichita, and why do we rely on certain experts. Episode 31, broadcast February 16, 2014. View below, or click here to view at YouTube.
In this episode of WichitaLiberty Radio: Dr. Milton Wolf is a candidate for United States Senate from Kansas and will face incumbent Pat Roberts in the August Republican primary election. We spoke by telephone on January 23, 2014. As Wolf is a physician, it should be no surprise that health care was a major topic. Also, he answers the question that’s on everyone’s mind: Jayhawks, Wildcats, or Shockers? This is podcast episode number 6, released on January 23, 2014.
It’s been rumored that he’s been thinking about it, and it now looks like Dr. Milton Wolf will join the race for the Republican Party nomination for United States Senate. The other declared candidate is the incumbent, Pat Roberts. At least I don’t think Wolf would have an event like you’re invited to (see below) just to say no, he’s not running.
One of the small news items emerging from the Kansas Republican Party Convention last weekend is that Pat Roberts will run for reelection to the U.S. Senate next year.
Look, I like Sen. Roberts. He’s a nice enough guy, but he will not make any waves. He will not rock any boats. I do not understand it. Most 76 year olds are willing to wear purple suits and red hats in public as some sort of matter of pride. It’s their way of saying, I’ve lived long enough I’ll do as I damn well please.
But not Sen. Roberts.
Where every member of the Kansas delegation in the House voted against the plan to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff — there was Roberts being a “statesman” by raising your taxes without the agreement of any cuts.
This is a regularly repeated occurrence for those in the U.S. Senate. They are absolutely willing to sell the people down the river in return for being called “statesman” and getting re-elected.
The truly disgusting part is that we’re all going to vote for Sen. Roberts again.
If he draws a primary opponent, it will be a miracle. And even if he does draw a primary opponent, everyone will tip toe around for fear of upsetting Roberts and the many people who owe him their careers.
The Wall Street Journal noticed a vote made by Senator Roberts in committee that lead to the fiscal cliff bill. The newspaper explained the harm of this bill in its editorial:
The great joke here is that Washington pretends to want to pass “comprehensive tax reform,” even as each year it adds more tax giveaways that distort the tax code and keep tax rates higher than they have to be. Even as he praised the bill full of this stuff, Mr. Obama called Tuesday night for “further reforms to our tax code so that the wealthiest corporations and individuals can’t take advantage of loopholes and deductions that aren’t available to most Americans.”
One of Mr. Obama’s political gifts is that he can sound so plausible describing the opposite of his real intentions.
The costs of all this are far greater than the estimates conjured by the Joint Tax Committee. They include slower economic growth from misallocated capital, lower revenues for the Treasury and thus more pressure to raise rates on everyone, and greater public cynicism that government mainly serves the powerful.
Republicans who are looking for a new populist message have one waiting here, and they could start by repudiating the corporate welfare in this New Year disgrace.
The Journal took the rare measure of calling out the senators who voted for this bill in committee, as shown in its nearby graphic. There it is: Pat Roberts voting in concert with the likes of John Kerry, Chuck Schumer, and Debbie Stabenow.
If Tom Coburn of Oklahoma could vote against this bill in committee, then so could have Pat Roberts. But he didn’t.
Watchdog reporter at Pachyderm. This Friday (May 18th) the Wichita Pachyderm Club features Paul Soutar, Reporter for Kansas Watchdog, speaking on “The evolution of journalism and how the new media empowers citizens.” The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club. … The club has an exceptional lineup of future speakers as follows: On May 25th: Ron Estes, State Treasurer of Kansas, speaking on “A report from the Kansas Treasurer.” … On June 1st: Gary Oborny, Chairman/CEO Occidental Management and Real Estate Development, CCIM Designated member of the Storm Water Advisory Board to the City of Wichita, speaking on “What is the economic impact of EPA mandates on storm water quality in Wichita?”
Kansas senators vote for cronyism. Veronique de Rugy explains the harm of the Export-Import Bank of the United States in Why Would Anyone be Against the Export-Import Bank? “First, the Ex-Im Bank is nothing more than corporate welfare. This is an agency that is in the business of subsidizing private companies with taxpayer dollars. … An excellent paper by Cato Institute’s trade analyst Sallie James exposes just how unseemly, inefficient, and irrelevant the Export-Import Bank is. As James explains, the Bank not only picks winners and losers by guaranteeing the loans of private companies, but it also introduces unfair competition for all the U.S. firms that do not benefit from such special treatment.” The bill is H.R. 2072: Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Act of 2012. Both Kansas senators Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts voted for this bill. So did U.S. Representative Kevin Yoder of the Kansas third district. But Representatives Tim Huelskamp, Lynn Jenkins, and Mike Pompeo voted against it.
Koch = big oil? Politico: “The Koch brothers have an unlikely ally in the war of words with their liberal adversaries: the nation’s journalistic fact-checkers. Both The Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog and the nonpartisan site FactCheck.org have dinged critics of David and Charles Koch in recent weeks for referring to the billionaire brothers as Big Oil. Why? Because Koch Industries’ business interests extend well beyond the company’s involvement in petroleum refining and other oil-based operations. And while no corporate midget, the company isn’t anywhere near as big as true oil giants like ExxonMobil. ‘So even if all of Koch Industries’ revenues came from its refining business — which they do not — they would still be a fraction of the revenues of the companies that actually represent ‘Big Oil,” the FactCheck.org critique read.” More at Fact-checkers and Kochs’ ‘Big Oil’. Another example of how facts don’t get in the way of Koch critics. Or try For New York Times, facts about Kochs don’t matter.
Economic freedom. Why does the political left criticize Charles and David Koch? In the following video from last year, Koch Industries CEO and board chairman Charles G. Koch explains the principles of economic freedom, something that he and David Koch have worked to advance for many years. These principles, according to Koch, include private property rights, impartial rule of law, free trade, sound money which reduces boom and bust cycles, and a small and limited government. These principles are good for everyone, I should add, including those currently at the bottom of the economic ladder.
We aren’t Greece … yet. “Once again, Greece finds the international community questioning its ability to pay its debts. Default and an exit from the Euro Zone (or countries which share the Euro as a common currency) threatens on the horizon. Here in the U.S., we face high debts and have a lowered credit rating due to Washington’s inability to agree on deficit reduction. Just how alike are our two nations?” An infographic from Bankrupting America explains.
Due to a jurisdictional issue, underground natural gas storage facilities in Kansas have not been inspected for 19 months — at least not inspected by government regulators. Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran have introduced legislation that would allow Kansas to resume inspections.
The safety of underground natural gas storage is important, especially in Kansas, where in 2001 gas leaked under Hutchinson and caused fires and explosions that killed two people and caused much property damage. So should Kansans be relieved that government regulation and inspection may be resumed soon?
Reading news stories from after the January 2001 Hutchinson disaster should teach us to be wary of relying on government regulation and inspection for ensuring safety. For example, a February 2001 in the Wichita Eagle contained this: “State officials in Kansas knew that the 20-year-old regulations governing underground gas storage were inadequate, years before a gas leak in Hutchinson claimed two lives. Officials with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment met with industry representatives in 1996 and told them new regulations were needed to ensure safe operation of 630 gas storage wells in the state. The new regulations were never written. The update was delayed because the KDHE was short staffed, said Don Carlson, chief of the industrial programs section. The department has two people assigned to permit, inspect, oversee and write regulations for the 6,000 underground injection wells in Kansas that are used to store natural gas and propane, dispose of hazardous waste or mine salt, he said.” (emphasis added)
So for 20 years Kansas operated with inadequate regulations. Was this know by the general public? It doesn’t appear that it was. Instead, people assumed that government was watching out for their safety.
The Hutchinson News concluded in 2004: “True, some of the company’s reports misled the regulator. But the state official also did little, if anything, to check the company’s information or to inspect the site. A local diner serving two dozen cheeseburgers a day received more attention than an underground facility storing billions of cubic feet of natural gas and other volatile hydrocarbons.”
So how well were Kansans served by its regulators? Not well at all, we must conclude.
Eventually the operators of the gas storage facility were held accountable for their errors. But it wasn’t direct government action that did that, although the operators were fined $180,000. But government operates courts where the victims received compensation for their losses — if it is possible to compensate for loss of life with mere money.
What about the other party to this disaster — the State of Kansas: Was it held accountable? Not at all. Examples of regulatory failure rarely result in punishment of government or those who work for it.
A recent example is the Washington Post story Eight SEC employees disciplined over failures in Madoff fraud case; none are fired. Bernie Madoff stole tens of billions from clients over a long period of time in a highly-regulated industry. The Securities and Exchange Commission chief was advised to fire one person, but declined to do even that. Instead, eight employees received punishments such as “suspensions, pay cuts and demotions.”
Not only did the state not perform adequate inspections, and not only did the SEC fail to detect Madoff’s ongoing theft, the presence of government regulation makes people think things are safe.
Sadly, it is only after disasters like Hutchinson or sensational cases like Madoff’s that we become aware of the weak protections that government regulation provides.
At this moment, we can’t say that Kansas has its own version of Solyndra, the subsidized and politically-connected solar energy firm that recently shut down its operations and declared bankruptcy. But as far as absorbing the important lessons from Solyndra, we may have another chance to learn them in Kansas.
Solyndra is a failure in several ways. Much money was lost. It may be that corrupt or criminal activity was involved; we don’t know that yet. It appears that Solyndra will be a useful political scandal for Republicans to exploit, especially in the upcoming election campaign against the president. We can be sure that Republicans will keep us informed on this.
But the largest and most important lesson from Solyndra is one that many politicians — Democrats and Republicans both — don’t want to recognize: Government intervention in the economy is wrong for the health of the country.
The problem is that when government intervenes in the economy, it almost always gets it wrong. It’s not that Obama and other politicians aren’t smart. It’s the problems inherent in government interventionism: There will be both routine and spectacular examples of waste, as people — politicians and bureaucrats, especially — are not spending their own money. Decisions will be made to benefit the well-connected and for political, not market-based reasons. Cronyism and corruption flourish, as many will find it easier to compete in the marketplace for politicians rather than in the free market where fickle consumers rule with their fleeting tastes and preferences.
But politicians and bureaucrats love to intervene. For bureaucrats, intervention — government programs, that is — provides jobs, and well-paid jobs, too. Since much government intervention in the economy is in the form of subsidies, it allows politicians to dispense other peoples’ money and take credit for having “created” jobs or having built a bridge, probably to be named for them later on.
Other government intervention is in the form of creating unneeded regulations or tax loopholes that favor politicians’ friends or harm their competition.
All of this means that economic activity is directed according to political, not economic, considerations. It’s wasteful. It’s harmful. It diminishes market-based investment, that is, investment made according to what people really want and need. It reduces the freedom, liberty, and prosperity of everyone.
Back to Kansas: Last week the Department of Energy announced the award of a $132.4 million loan guarantee to Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Kansas, LLC. This is the same federal agency and the same loan guarantee program involved in the Solyndra matter. The difference is that it’s an even newer so-called green energy technology involved: cellulosic ethanol production.
The plant in Kansas is to be at Hugoton, in southwest Kansas. The press release from DOE promotes the number of jobs that will be created.
Cellulosic ethanol is produced from plant material that is usually considered waste, such as corn stalks or wheat straw. That’s different from the usual input to ethanol production in America, which is corn that would otherwise be used as animal or human food. Because of this, cellulosic ethanol is thought of by many as the “silver bullet” that will dramatically improve the path of America’s energy future. That may be the case, or it may not be. Because of the reasons listed above, government is particularly unsuited to make that decision and to participate in the scientific and entrepreneurial experimentation that will produce the answer.
At one time President George W. Bush praised the potential of this fuel. A Reuters analysis from July opens with: “The great promise of a car fuel made from cheap, clean-burning prairie grass or wood chips — and not from expensive corn that feeds the world — is more mirage than reality. Despite years of research, testing and some hype, the next-generation ethanol industry is far from the commercial success envisioned by President George W. Bush in 2006, when he pledged so-called cellulosic biofuels would be ‘practical and competitive’ by 2012.”
That hints at the problem: despite much effort, scientists haven’t been able to demonstrate cellulosic ethanol production on a commercially-successful scale. According to the Wall Street Journal, as of this summer, no commercial cellulosic ethanol has been produced.
The loan guarantee is not the only form of government subsidy and boost ethanol producers received. There is a tax credit for each gallon produced and a tariff that protects producers from cheaper imported ethanol.
Despite these very large measures of government intervention, cellulosic ethanol backers blame the government for lack of progress in the industry, citing the government’s failure to mandate production levels and provide assurances that the industry would receive subsidies. And the loan guarantees are not made fast enough, they add to the list of complaints. An analysis by ClimateWire that appeared in the New York Times in January had industry boosters blaming the federal Department of Energy for its slow pace in issuing loan guarantees.
We won’t know the success or failure of the Abengoa plant in Kansas for some time, and now we taxpayers are placed in the position of hoping that it succeeds. But it has the pedigree of a government plan to correct a perceived market failure, and that’s a danger sign.
Both Kansas Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran have spoken approvingly of this plant despite the government intervention involved; Moran in a statement after the announcement, and Roberts in previous years as plans were being made. U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp, who represents the district where the plant is located, has not commented on this plant, and offered no comment for this story.
Elections tomorrow. On Tuesday voters across Kansas will vote in city and school board primary elections. Well, at least a few will vote, as it is thought that only nine percent of eligible voters will actually vote. Many of those may have already voted by now, as advance voting is popular. For those who haven’t yet decided, here’s the Wichita Eagle voter guide.
Kansas schools can transfer funds? A recent legislative update by Kansas Representative Bob Brookens, a Republican from Marion, tells readers this about Kansas school finance: “Most school districts in our area braced for this possibility by taking advantage of a law passed last year by the legislature; the new provision allowed schools this one time to transfer funds from certain other areas to their contingency reserve fund, just in case the state had a budget hole in fiscal year 2011; and most of the school districts around here moved all they were allowed to.” Thing is, no one can seem to remember the law Brookens refers to. There were several such laws proposed, but none made their way through the legislature to become law.
Ranzau stand on federal funds profiled. New Sedgwick County Commission member Richard Ranzau has taken a consistent stand against accepting federal grant funds, as explained in a Wichita Eagle story. While his efforts won’t presently reduce federal spending or debt, as explained in the article by H. Edward Flentje, Professor at the Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs at Wichita State University (“Those funds are authorized, they’re budgeted, they’re appropriated, and (a) federal agency will commit the funds elsewhere.”), someone, somewhere, has to take a stand. While we usually think about the federal — and state — spending problem requiring a solution from the top, spending can also be controlled from the bottom up. Those federal elected officials who represent Sedgwick County and are concerned about federal spending — that would be Representative Mike Pompeo and Senators Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts — need to take notice and support Ranzau. Those serving in the Kansas legislature should take notice, too.
Kansas legislative chambers don’t agree. Kansas Reporter details the problems conferees from the House of Representatives and Senate face coming to agreement on the rescission bill. Funding for special education seems the problem. The rescission bill makes cuts to spending so that the current year’s budget balances. More at House, Senate can’t agree how to fund special ed.
Citizens, not taxpayers. A column in the McPherson Sentinel argues that we should think of ourselves as “citizens,” not merely “taxpayers.” The difference, as I read the article, is that a citizen is involved in government and public policy: “It takes work, hard work, to make this system work.” Taxpayers, on the other hand, just pay and expect something back: “‘Look at how much I paid,’ these people cry. ‘Give me my money’s worth!’” The writer makes the case that government “is not a simplistic fiscal transaction” and that citizens must participate to make sure that government does good things with taxes. … The writer gets one thing right. Meeting the needs of the country is complex. Where I don’t agree with the writer is that government is the best way — or even a feasible way — to meet the needs of the country. A method already exists: people trading voluntarily in free markets, guided by profit and loss, with information conveyed by an unfettered price system. Government, with its central planning, its lack of ability to calculate profit and loss, and inevitable tendency to become captured by special interests, is not equipped for this task.
Kansas Economic Freedom Index. This week I produced the first version of the Kansas Economic Freedom Index: Who votes for and against economic freedom in Kansas? for the 2011 legislative session. Currently I have a version only for the House of Representatives, as the Senate hasn’t made many votes that affect economic freedom. The index now has its own site, kansaseconomicfreedom.com.
Increasing taxes not seen as solution. “Leaving aside the moral objection to tax increases, raising taxes won’t in fact solve the problem. For one thing, our public servants always seem to find something new on which to spend the additional money, and it isn’t deficit reduction. But more to the point, tax policy can go only so far, given the natural brick wall it has run into for the past fifty years. Economist Jeffrey Rogers Hummel points out that federal tax revenue ‘has bumped up against 20 percent of GDP for well over half a century. That is quite an astonishing statistic when you think about all the changes in the tax code over the intervening years. Tax rates go up, tax rates go down, and the total bite out of the economy remains relatively constant. This suggests that 20 percent is some kind of structural-political limit for federal taxes in the United States.’” From Rollback: Repealing Big Government Before the Coming Fiscal Collapse by Thomas E. Woods, Jr. Hummel’s article may be read at Why Default on U.S. Treasuries is Likely.
Future of California. George Gilder, writing in the Wall Street Journal, lays out a grim future for California based on voters’ refusal to overturn AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act. Of the requirement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state, Gilder writes: “That’s a 30% drop followed by a mandated 80% overall drop by 2050. Together with a $500 billion public-pension overhang, the new energy cap dooms the state to bankruptcy.” He says that AB 32 may not be necessary at all: “The irony is that a century-long trend of advance in conventional ‘non-renewable’ energy — from wood to oil to natural gas and nuclear — has already wrought a roughly 60% drop in carbon emissions per watt. Thus the long-term California targets might well be achieved globally in the normal course of technological advance. The obvious next step is aggressive exploitation of the trillions of cubic feet of low-carbon natural gas discovered over the last two years, essentially ending the U.S. energy crisis.” … Referring to green energy radicals, Gilder writes: “Their economic model sees new wealth emerge from jobs dismantling the existing energy economy and replacing it with a medieval system of windmills and solar collectors. By this logic we could all get rich by razing the existing housing plant and replacing it with new-fangled tents.” Which reminds me of when I criticized those who promote wind power for its job creation: “After all, if we view our energy policy as a jobs creation program, why not build wind turbines and haul them to western Kansas without the use of machinery? Think of the jobs that would create.” An economic boom to those along the Santa Fe Trail, no doubt.
All the billionaires. An amusing commentary — amusing until you realize what it really means — by Scott Burns in the Austin American-Statesman takes a look at how long the wealth of America’s billionaires could fund the federal government deficit. The upshot is that there are about 400 billionaires, and their combined wealth could fund the deficit for about nine months. What’s sobering about this? All this wealth would go to fund only the deficit — that portion of federal spending above revenue for the year. There’s still all the base spending to pay for. And the wealth of these people, which in many cases is in the substance of the companies they founded or own — Microsoft, Oracle, Koch Industries, Wal-Mart, Google, etc. — would be gone.
Kansas has sold assets before. In this year’s session of the Kansas Legislature, there was a proposal to sell state-owned assets in order to raise funds and reduce costs. Kansas Reporter’s Rachel Whitten reports it’s been done before, with success.
Where are the airlines? James Fallows of The Atlantic regarding the new “groping” TSA screenings at airports. Echoing Wichitan John Todd from last week, one reader writes: “And again, where are the airlines? When TSA begins to drive away customers, they’ll react, is the stock answer. I would argue that it already does drive away customers (certainly if the emails I receive are any indication), but what of those it ‘merely’ makes angry? There’s something wrong with a business model that accepts angry and harassed customers as an acceptable option to no customers at all.” Wichitan Mike Smith writes in: “Tomorrow, the U.S. Senate is having a hearing regarding the TSA’s new procedures that I hope results in the procedures being rescinded. If your readers want to make last minute contact with Kansas Senators Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback (who is on the committee with TSA oversight), I urge them to do so.”
Next for the tea party. Patrick Ruffini in National Review looks at the future of the tea party. Ruffini notes the difficulty in maintaining the momentum of grassroots efforts. Both Bush and Obama have faced this. He cautions: “The experience should provide a cautionary tale to the Tea Partiers, with their more humble origins: Hitch yourself to established power institutions at your own peril.” But other, newer organizations have sprung up to help tea party activisits: “Ned Ryun, executive director of American Majority — one of the more promising new institutions that have risen up around the Tea Party movement — wants to ignore Washington and go local. ‘What the movement is really about, quite frankly, is the local leaders, and I’ve made a point with American Majority of going directly to them, and ignoring the so-called national leaders of the movement,’ he told me. ‘I think the national leaders are beside the point; if they go away, the movement still exists. If the local leaders go away, the movement dies.’” Kansas is one of the states that American Majority has been active in since its inception. American Majority plans to be involved at the local government level in the 2012 elections.
The new naysayers. President Obama and others have criticized Republicans for being the party of “No.” Now that some of the president’s deficit reduction commission recommendations are starting to be known, there’s a new party of “No.” Writes Ross Douthat in the New York Times: “But Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson performed a valuable public service nonetheless: the reaction to their proposals demonstrated that when it comes to addressing the long-term challenges facing this country, the Democrats, too, can play the Party of No.”
Community Improvement Districts spread to Overland Park. As reported in Kansas Reporter, Overland Park is considering whether to create its first Community Improvement District. In this case, the district — which allows merchants within to charge extra sales tax for their own benefit — would benefit a proposed residential and retail complex. More about these tax districts may be found here.
This morning United States Senator Pat Roberts stopped by the Mike Pompeo campaign headquarters in east Wichita to endorse Pompeo in his campaign for United States Congress from the fourth district of Kansas.
In his endorsement, Roberts said that Pompeo knows the airplane manufacturing business and how to meet a payroll. Roberts said that the general aviation industry is in a fight almost every session of Congress, and that Pompeo’s knowledge of this industry will be a plus in Washington.
Roberts described Pompeo’s leading opponent — Democrat Raj Goyle — as having a “very liberal background.” Roberts described how some of his colleagues in the Senate on the other side of the aisle — meaning they are Democrats — would make conservative speeches in their home states, but vote the Democratic party line in Washington. He told the audience “We cannot afford to send anybody, no matter what they say in this campaign, to Washington when the first vote they will cast will be for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.”
Roberts also said that Pompeo’s military background and experience means he understands the value of national security, which Roberts said is the first obligation of the federal government. He added that Pompeo would be a good match for the armed services committee.
Roberts characterized this election as a “crossroads,” although he recognized this word is overused. Bureaucratic agencies in Washington are planning to further the Obama agenda without Congress, creating what he called a “fourth branch of government.”
Their ultimate goal is to implement cap-and-trade energy regulation and taxation without the consent of Congress, Roberts told the audience. “Either we’re going to make decisions with the consent of the governed and send a message to Congress, or they’re going to make the decisions for us, and we’re going to have to live with it.”
In his remarks, Pompeo said this is a unique election, as “we stand as a nation in a place we have not been in my lifetime,” citing the recent large federal deficit spending. This, he said, was his primary reason for deciding to run for Congress. He said that Goyle, his opponent, thinks about the world “in a way that’s very different from most Kansans” and has an East Coast philosophy and experiences that represent the Obama/Pelosi agenda. That agenda is not right for Kansas, he added.
I asked about the upcoming lame duck session of Congress — the period after the November election and before newly-elected members take office: If there is a big win by Republicans, is there a danger that many just-defeated members will be voting on potentially important legislation?
Roberts answered that there should not be a lame duck session. Specific areas of concern during the session include card check, immigration, raising taxes in a recession, and other things that would further the Obama agenda.
He said that there are 125,000 more federal employees now than when Obama assumed office, and that their average salary is $125,000. These people are the fourth branch of government, he said, and they’re trying to get the Obama agenda passed despite — or around — Congress.
A lame duck session with partisan political goals is not in the best interest of America, and there is a danger of that, he said.
A Wall Street Journal editorial from March 18, 2008 (Patriot Tanker Games) argued that calls on Capitol Hill for “patriotism” in defense procurement are misguided. Leaders of this call include Kansas’s very own Todd Tiahrt and Pat Roberts.
These politicians say that allowing an important American defense system to be built in partnership with a European firm is dangerous for America. In testimony to the defense appropriations subcommittee Rep. Tiahrt stated “I am outraged by this decision to outsource our national security … We are stacking the deck against American manufacturers, at the expense of our national and economic security.”
But the Journal editorial sees clearly through the haze: “What’s really going on is a familiar scrum for federal cash, with politicians from Washington and Kansas using nationalism as cover for their pork-barreling … The modern aerospace biz is an increasingly global affair, and more than half of the Northrop/EADS tanker (by value) will be made in America. Much of Boeing’s tanker would also have been built outside the U.S.”
If the tankers are built by Boeing that means more jobs for Wichita, which Tiahrt represents. Bringing home jobs and pork, it seems, are one of a United States Congressman’s most important jobs. But as the Journal editorial points out, the Defense Department has broader responsibilities: to American taxpayers across the country, and to American soldiers. If the Pentagon believes the Northrop/EADS tanker proposal is best for American security and taxpayers, on what basis can Todd Tiahrt, Pat Roberts and the rest of the Kansas congressional delegation object?
Every congressman and senator wants to do for their district or state what Tiahrt and Roberts are doing for Wichita and Kansas. This desire leads to never-ending battles for a share of federal spending. Spending is often allocated based on political considerations instead of reason.
The Journal editorial is absolutely correct when it concludes that “Protectionists in Congress want to make America’s soldiers wait even longer for this new equipment, all to score political points at home. There’s a word for that, but it’s not patriotism.”
In a letter printed in the February 22, 2008 Wichita Eagle, Sedgwick County Commission Chairman Tom Winters, along with Wichita State University President Don Beggs, praised some Kansas congressmen for being “very effective Washington advocates for south-central Kansas.” What the congressmen — Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, and Kansas Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts — did was to “roll up their sleeves and work on many issues that help improve our quality of life in the Wichita area.” Sounds like a noble cause, doesn’t it?
What the three congressmen did was to secure federal funding for several projects deemed important to Chairman Winters and President Beggs. In other words, they brought home the pork to Wichita in the form of earmarks. This is why efforts to reform earmarks and pork barrel spending have failed and are likely to continue to fail. Evidence of this is Tom Winters, as I believe that he would describe himself as fiscally conservative, yet he praises his congressmen when they bring home the pork.
Rep. Todd Tiahrt recently sent me a newsletter by email titled “It’s Time to End Wasteful Spending.” It told me of his goal “to find and create solutions that will benefit Kansas taxpayers.” He’s done just that, according to the letter from Winters and Beggs, and in the past too.
In 2004 the Wichita Business Journal reported on two projects where Rep. Tiahrt brought home funding to his district. One was a computer-aided dispatch system for Sedgwick County’s 911 system. The other was a grant to the Wichita Art Museum. Neither recipient of the earmarks, the director of Sedgwick County’s Emergency Communications Department and the director of the Wichita Art Museum, thought the spending qualified as pork. Most pork recipients feel the same.
Then there’s Tiahrt’s earmark for the BTK investigation. As reported in Human Events: “Tiahrt, according to ‘The Almanac of American Politics,’ has bragged that one of the ‘top 10 most gratifying things I’ve done’ is securing $1 million in an omnibus appropriations bill for the Wichita Police Department to investigate the ‘BTK’ killer.”
That’s the way it usually is. The recipients of the earmarked pork barrel spending believe the need is urgent, the cause worthy, and a federal earmark is justified. It seems that everyone across the country believes this about their own pet projects.
To Rep. Tiahrt’s credit, he has voted for earmark reform measures. But his behavior and that of our two senators, Roberts and Brownback, is to continue to bring home earmarks and pork for the good of the folks back home.
And who can blame them, really? After all, we pay taxes to the federal government. Shouldn’t we get something back? Even Ron Paul gets earmarks for his congressional district. Should Rep. Tiahrt turn down earmarks, his political opponents would have his hide for failing to look out for the needs of his district.
But with these attitudes, earmark reform will never succeed, and pork barrel politics will never end.