Tag Archives: Tim Huelskamp

Huelskamp, Pompeo at top of Club for Growth scorecard

Kansans Tim Huelskamp and Mike Pompeo are among the eight U.S. House Members who scored 100 percent for 2014 on Club for Growth’s scorecard.

Slider_ScorecardLegislative2013Update[1]Club for Growth describes itself as “a national network of over 100,000 pro-growth, limited government Americans who share in the belief that prosperity and opportunity come from economic freedom.”

On the scorecard for 2014, released today, Kansas Representatives Tim Huelskamp and Mike Pompeo voted with the Club for Growth’s preferred position one hundred percent of the time. So did six other members of the House of Representatives.

Kansans Lynn Jenkins and Kevin Yoder were tied at rank 73, with scores of 77.

On the club’s Senate scorecard for 2014, Pat Roberts was ranked at number 11 with a score of 90, far above his lifetime score of 76. Jerry Moran was ranked at spot 25, with a score of 69 (lifetime score 73).

Elections in Kansas: Federal offices

Kansas Republican primary voters made two good decisions this week.

Kansas held primary elections this week. The primary election, of course, does not determine who wins the office; it only selects one Democratic and one Republican candidate to move forward to the November general election. But in many cases, the primary is the election, at least the one that really makes a difference. That’s because in Kansas, often there may be no Democratic Party candidate. Or if there is a Democrat, that candidate may have little money available to campaign in a district with a large Republican voter registration advantage.

It’s important to note that some candidates who will appear on the general election ballot in November did not appear on any primary election ballot. That’s because parties other than Democratic and Republican select their candidates in a convention. In particular, there are two prominent candidates in this category. One is Keen Umbehr, the Libertarian Party candidate for governor. The other is independent candidate Greg Orman, who is running for United States senator. Both are serious candidates that deserve consideration from voters.

Let’s take a look at a few results from the primary election.

United States Senate

United States Senate Primary, 2014
In the contest for the Republican Party nomination for United States Senate, Pat Roberts won, receiving 48 percent of the vote. He moves on to face not only the Democratic nominee, but also an independent candidate who is already advertising on television. The problem Roberts faces going forward is the fallout from his scorched-earth campaign. He went negative against Milton Wolf from the start, focusing on issues that are worth considering, but quite trivial considering the big picture.

Pat Roberts millions on negative ads
Roberts ran an advertisement near the end of the campaign that took Wolf’s words grossly out of context, and Roberts should be ashamed for stooping to that level. Another thing Roberts can be ashamed of is his refusal to debate opponents. He said he would debate. He should debate. It’s a civic obligation. He also largely avoided news media.

Pat Roberts StarKistDuring the campaign, I was critical of Roberts. I looked at votes he had taken while in the Senate. I looked at the way he ran his campaign. I was critical. I hope that I kept my criticism based on — and focused on — facts and issues. But another problem Roberts has is the behavior of his supporters, both official and unofficial. They too ran a scorched-earth campaign.

Tweet about Milton Wolf I’d like to show you some of the posts made on Facebook and Twitter about Wolf and his supporters, but this is a family-oriented blog. Roberts will need the support of all Kansas Republicans in the general election. He needs to hope that they don’t peel off to the Democrat or Independent candidates. Roberts needs all Kansas Republicans to vote, and vote for him. But the behavior of his campaign and its supporters has harmed Republican party unity. What’s curious to me is that I don’t think they realize the harm they have caused.

United States House of Representatives, district 4

United States House, District 4For United States House, fourth district, which is Wichita and the surrounding area, incumbent Mike Pompeo won over Todd Tiahrt, 63 percent to 37 percent. This contest was curious for a number of reasons, such as the former holder of the office seeking it again, and running against a man he endorsed twice. It attracted national attention for that reason, but also for something more important: Tiahrt was advocating for a return to the practice of earmarking federal spending. Tiahrt concentrated a few issues in a campaign that was negative from the start.

Tiahrt claimed that Pompeo voted to support Obamacare seven times. But everyone who examined that claim, including several political science professors, said it was unfounded, going as far as saying it broke the truth entirely. The Tiahrt campaign also took a speech Pompeo had made on the floor of the House of Representatives and used just one sentence of it in a deceptive manner. The campaign also took a bill that Pompeo introduced — having to do with GMOs — and twisted its meaning in order to claim that Pompeo doesn’t want you to know the ingredients used in food. Tiahrt criticized Pompeo for missing some votes during the campaign, even though Tiahrt had missed many votes during his own campaign four years ago.

In the face of these negative ads, Pompeo remained largely positive. He released one television ad that rebutted the claims that Tiahrt had made. Is it negative campaigning to rebut the false accusations of your opponent? Pompeo had one ad that mentioned “goofy accusations” made by his opponent, which hardly qualifies as negative. Other than that, the Pompeo campaign remained largely positive. That is quite an accomplishment in today’s political environment.

This campaign was also marred by vitriol among supporters. In my opinion, based on my observations, the Tiahrt supporters that engaged in this behavior have some apologies to make. Pompeo goes on to face a relatively unknown Democrat in the heavily Republican fourth district.

United States House of Representatives, district 1

United States House, District 1For United States House, first district, which is western Kansas, although the district extends east enough to include Emporia and Manhattan, incumbent Tim Huelskamp was challenged by Alan LaPolice. Huelskamp won with 55 percent of the vote. Huelskamp had faced criticism for not being supportive of various subsidy programs that benefit farmers, most notably for ethanol. Outside groups joined the race, running ads critical of Huelskamp for that reason. Some ads were critical of Huelskamp for being removed from the House Agriculture committee, that move seen as retaliation for not supporting Speaker of the House John Boehner. Huelskamp now moves on to face a Kansas State University history professor who was also the mayor of Manhattan.

The meaning of these results

What do these results mean? These three elections — Senate and two House contests — attracted national attention. The Friday before the election, Kimberly Strassel wrote in the Wall Street Journal of the importance of the fourth district contest. She wrote:

A big decision comes Tuesday in the Kansas GOP primary. The Sunflower State is in the throes of political upheaval, with most of the attention on the fortunes of Gov. Sam Brownback and Sen. Pat Roberts. But the race that may say far more about the direction of the GOP is taking place in Wichita, the state’s Fourth District, in the standoff between Rep. Mike Pompeo and challenger Todd Tiahrt.

Pompeo was elected in the 2010 tea party surge, with a particular focus on liberating private enterprise. He’s made a name for himself as a leader in the fight to end corporate welfare and pork, and to cut back on strangling regulations.

A Crony Capitalist Showdown

After detailing some legislative activity and accomplishment, Strassel noted the difficulty that fighters for economic freedom encounter: She wrote “Such principles are precisely what conservative voters claim to demand from their representatives. Yet the antisubsidy line has hardly been an easy one, even in conservative Kansas — which collects its share of federal largess. And Mr. Tiahrt knows it.”

Continuing, she wrote: “The choice voters fundamentally face on Tuesday is whether they want a congressman who works to get government smaller for everyone and to end corporate welfare, or a congressman who grabs what he can of big government to funnel to his district, and embraces crony capitalism. The latter is a return to the unreformed GOP, a groove plenty of Republicans would happily slide back into — if only voters gave the nod. We’ll see if Kansas conservatives do.”

There’s something there that bears repeating: “Such principles are precisely what conservative voters claim to demand from their representatives.” In the case of Huelskamp and Pompeo, voters supported two candidates who have these principals, and who follow them. In the United States Senate contest, that almost happened.

Voice for Liberty Radio: Tim Huelskamp

Voice for Liberty logo with microphone 150

In this episode of WichitaLiberty Radio: United States Representative Tim Huelskamp recently spoke to the Wichita Pachyderm Club.

Congressman Huelskamp was born near and raised on the family farm in Fowler, Kansas. He earned a Ph.D. in Political Science with a specialization in agriculture policy from The American University in Washington, D.C. He was first elected to the Kansas Senate in 1996, and then re-elected three times. In 2010 when Jerry Moran stepped down to run for the United States Senate, Huelskamp ran for the United States House of Representatives for the first district. That’s commonly called the “Big First” district, not because of its population, but because of its large land area. Some of the principle cities in the first district are Liberal, Garden City, Dodge City, Hays, Salina, Hutchinson, Emporia, and Manhattan. Congressman Huelskamp appears frequently on national news media as an advocate for conservative causes, and he recently appeared on WichitaLiberty.TV, which you can find here. He and his wife Angela are the parents of four children.

This is podcast episode number 7, released on January 26, 2014. Here is a portion of United States Representative Tim Huelskamp at the Wichita Pachyderm Club on January 24, 2014.


Congressman Tim Huelskamp
Tim Huelskamp for Congress campaign site
Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets

WichitaLiberty.TV December 22, 2013

WichitaLiberty.TV.34In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: United States Representative Tim Huelskamp of Kansas appears to explain the recent budget bill, Obamacare, the government shutdown, the debt ceiling, government spending, and whether he is optimistic or pessimistic about the country’s future. Episode 25, broadcast December 22, 2013. View below, or click here to view at YouTube.

Rep. Huelskamp’s Congressional website is huelskamp.house.gov.

Kansans vote for and against Ryan-Murray budget

U.S. Representatives from Kansas split on voting for the budget bill produced by Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray. Lynn Jenkins and Kevin Yoder voted in favor, while Mike Pompeo and Tim Huelskamp voted against the bill. It passed 332 to 94.

In a statement from his office, Pompeo said:

Washington — Congressman Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas, voted today against adopting a budget that would increase spending in 2014 and 2015 over the hard-fought Budget Control Act’s (BCA) limit.

“Despite opposition at the time, I supported the Budget Control Act because it was a compromise that represented the first real cut in discretionary spending in over a generation. While I agree Congress should replace cuts to national security with reforms of mandatory spending, we cannot abandon the progress we’ve already made in cutting spending. I greatly respect Chairman Ryan’s efforts to reach a bipartisan agreement to fix our spending problems, and agree with many of its provisions, including protecting doctors’ payments against needless reductions, ensuring hospitals are paid fairly in Medicare, and requiring federal employees to contribute more to their pension plans. But this new budget would stymie the progress we’ve made in reducing spending through sequestration. Kansans understand the need to budget fairly and live within our means. Washington must be held to the same standard.”

(@RepMikePompeo, pompeo.house.gov)

Huelskamp issued this statement:

“Just two years ago, Congress and the President made a promise to cut spending through the sequester. With this bill, they are abandoning this promise with a massive $63 billion in new deficit spending. So much for ‘if you like your spending cut, you can keep your spending cut.’ But no worries, after the 2022 election, a future Congress and President are certain to do what Washington refuses to do today. Sure.

In addition to this bipartisan agreement to raise spending for all sides and violating their own sequester, it would also assist Senator Harry Reid in passing tax increases through the Senate. It further also divides the House Republican Conference by abandoning our agreement reached in Williamsburg last January, rejects nearly all of the provisions passed by the House in three successive Ryan budgets, and does nothing to oppose ObamaCare.

Washington insiders are fond about saying, ‘this must be a good deal if I didn’t get everything I wanted.’ The real solution would be — the American people getting what they want.”

(@CongHuelskamp, huelskamp.house.gov)

Huelskamp not deterred

At a time that conservatives are concerned with the direction Speaker John Boehner is taking in negotiations over the fiscal cliff, he gives conservatives another reason to worry.

Heritage Foundation writes that Boehner’s counteroffer to President Obama is “little more than categorical, pre-emptive capitulation.”

The Washington Times reports: “Republican leaders struggled Tuesday to contain the backlash from conservatives over the GOP’s offer of $800 billion in tax increases to head off the ‘fiscal cliff’ — a move that didn’t impress the White House, even as it spawned a rebellion on the right. Conservative lawmakers and interest groups said House Speaker John A. Boehner’s offer abandoned core Republican principles and earned no credit from a White House that has insisted on even bigger tax increases and balked at major spending cuts.”

So perhaps it’s not surprising that Boehner has taken steps to discipline a handful of members, including Tim Huelskamp, who was just re-elected to a second term representing the Kansas first district. Three of the four are notable for their votes on fiscal issues, voting for limited government rather than expansion.

In a press release, the watchdog group Club for Growth reported: “The Club for Growth today praised the conservative voting records of Congressmen David Schweikert (R-AZ), Justin Amash (R-MI) and Tim Huelskamp (R-KS). All three members of Congress were removed from their committee assignments as a consequence of their principled stands on behalf of pro-growth policies, often bringing them in conflict with the leadership of their own party. … Congressmen Schweikert, Huelskamp, and Amash are now free of the last remnants of establishment leverage against them. We expect that these three defenders of economic freedom will become even bolder in their efforts to defend the taxpayers against the big spenders in both parties. The dirty little secret in Congress is that while refusing to kowtow to the wishes of party leaders can sometimes cost you some perks in Washington, the taxpayers back home are grateful.”

Huelskamp said “No good deed goes unpunished. We were not notified about what might occur but it confirms in my mind the deepest suspicions that most Americans have about Washington D.C: it’s petty, it’s vindictive, and if you have conservative principles you will be punished.”

In a statement on his Congressional website, Huelskamp explained “It is little wonder why Congress has a 16 percent approval rating: Americans send principled representatives to change Washington and get punished in return. The GOP leadership might think they have silenced conservatives, but removing me and others from key committees only confirms our conservative convictions. This is clearly a vindictive move, and a sure sign that the GOP Establishment cannot handle disagreement. I am not at all ashamed of any of the principled, conservative stances I took in the past two years.”

Huelskamp: Kansas needs Health Care Freedom Amendment

An open letter from Congressman Tim Huelskamp of the Kansas first district to Republican Kansas State Senators Pete Brungardt, Jay Emler, Terrie Huntington, Jeff Longbine, Carolyn McGinn, Steve Morris, Tim Owens, Roger Reitz, Vicki Schmidt, Jean Schodorf, Ruth Teichman, Dwayne Umbarger, and John Vratil. These are the “traditional,” “reasonable,” “moderate” Kansan Republicans.

July 31, 2012

Dear Senator:

While all Republicans in Washington are working hard to fulfill Kansans’ wishes to stop ObamaCare from destroying our liberties, I am disappointed that you and many other Topeka politicians are actually hindering our efforts.

The reasons to undo ObamaCare are countless. It carries a trillion-dollar price tag over the next decade. It increases family premiums, burdens our small businesses, invades our privacy, and stomps on our religious freedom. States like Kansas will continue to bear the costs of expensive federal mandates. And, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has refused to offer waivers she was more than willing to grant to unions and businesses connected to the Obama Administration.

As you may know, before being elected to Congress, I strongly supported adding the Health Care Freedom Amendment to our state Constitution. If passed, it would allow Kansans to have a say on a law they fundamentally oppose: ObamaCare. The citizens of Ohio were given this opportunity — so should the people of Kansas.

However, when this Amendment came to you during the 2012 Session, I was extremely disappointed that you refused to allow a vote of the people if the law was upheld by the Supreme Court. What a mistake. Kansans deserve to have a say on ObamaCare — whether you like it or not — and whether a narrow Supreme Court majority refuses to defend the Constitution.

As you know, ObamaCare is a significant threat to the wallets, the liberties, and health care access of Kansans. It was rammed through Congress behind closed doors, without public input, and many are still reading it “to see what was in it.” And for you to hide behind the Supreme Court and with Obama, Pelosi and Reid instead of the people of Kansas — that is very disappointing.

In closing, please reconsider your opposition to putting the Health Care Freedom Amendment to a vote of the Kansas people.


Tim Huelskamp

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Thursday May 17, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

Bankrupting America

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.

Obama vs. the American Dream

By U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp, who represents the Kansas first district.

Do politics reflect culture, or does culture reflect politics?

In a representative form of government, what happens in Washington should be a reflection of what happens in each of the communities and among the people of our country. Those elected to serve are to carry to Washington the views, ideas, and priorities of their constituents. Not the other way around.

But increasingly, President Obama is attempting to transform the culture of our nation using manipulative political means.

President Obama seeks to replace America’s culture of self-reliance with a culture of dependence, religious liberty with intolerance and compulsion, and the American Dream with more American debt. He relies on the politics of envy and the punishment of success to manipulate the American people into believing that without government they are missing something to which everyone is entitled regardless of effort or merit. He argues “fairness” means everyone has the same outcome, not the same opportunity.

By standing in the way of economic recovery, the Obama Administration has forced a record number of people on to food stamps. But, the President is just fine with that. It means more Americans depend on political elites like him who merely take resources rather than produce them.

By forcing Catholic employers to pay for or provide contraception and abortion drugs, demanding health care providers and medical students to take part in activities that violate their consciences, or censoring military chaplains to preach sermons or perform ceremonies contrary to the tenets of their faiths, the Obama Administration has signaled its willingness to trample on religious liberty. It means bureaucrats have a greater grip on the American people than churches, synagogues, and mosques. It turns an “appeal to a higher power” from a prayer to God to a call to a Washington theocracy.

By refusing to deal with $16 trillion in debt — an I.O.U. larger than the size of the entire American economy — the Obama Administration is comfortable with indebting our children and grandchildren for spending they neither made nor consented to. All the while, Obama has displayed its contempt for those who are already shouldering a disproportionate burden of current taxes. When one percent pays 37 percent of all income taxes, the Obama Administration has the nerve to argue that it is not enough. Never mind that close to half of all Americans pay nothing in federal income taxes.

Making acceptable a culture of dependence, intolerance for faith, and demonization and punishment of hard work and success will have profound negative consequences for our culture. But, perhaps this is why the Obama Administration is doing so.

While those with the bully pulpit should seek to inspire greatness in the American people, all President Obama seems to do is espouse resentment. He wants Americans to envy straw men. He wants them to believe that they are but mere victims of a grand conspiracy to rid them of any and all any recognition and reward for their hard work. Simultaneously, he wants them to believe that hard work should not be recognized and rewarded; that the fruits of their labor are to be handed over to the elite government for its “wise and prudent” redistribution.

Contrary to President Obama’s interpretation of American history and culture, America’s success story is and will continue to be the result of limited government answering the views, ideas, and priorities of its people, not the result of government telling the American people what they need. It is the result of individuals being allowed to thrive, success being rewarded, and the spirit of charity and community responding to the immediate needs of those around us. And, it is the result of generation after generation leaving things better than they found them for the next not because government says to do so, but because God so instructs.

Congressman Tim Huelskamp represents the First District of Kansas. He serves on the House Budget, Agriculture, and Veterans’ Affairs Committees. He can be found at huelskamp.house.gov.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday January 30, 2012

Kansas school forum. Tomorrow (January 31st) Dave Trabert of Kansas Policy Institute and Mark Tallman of Kansas Association of School Boards will participate in a town hall meeting with the subject being Kansas schools. The meeting is at 7:00 pm at the Central Branch Wichita Public Library at 223 S. Main.

Ambassador Hotel to be subject of discussion. This Friday (February 3rd) the Wichita Pachyderm Club will host a forum or discussion on the February 28th election, which lets voters decide whether the Ambassador Hotel gets to keep 75 percent of its guest tax collections. I (Bob Weeks) will present for the “Vote No” side. Many invitations have been extended, but so far no one is willing to represent the “Vote Yes” side. If you know of anyone who would participate for the “Vote Yes” side, please contact John Todd at john@johntodd.net. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club. Upcoming speakers: On February 10th: Debra Ary, P.E., Superintendent Production and Pumping, Wichita Water Utilities, speaking on “An overview of Wichita’s water plan for the future.” Then from 2:30 pm to 3:30 pm interested Pachyderm Club members and guests are invited to take a guided tour of the City of Wichita ASR (Aquifer Storage and Recovery) site. The address of the ASR plant is 11511 N. 119th St. W., Sedgwick, KS. Click here for a Google map. … On February 17th: Richard Ranzau, Sedgwick County Commissioner, 4th District, speaking on “The $1.5 million Regional Economic Area Partnership (REAP) HUD Sustainable Development Planning Grant. Economic Development or Economic Destruction?” … On February 24th: A Face-to-Face Forum with Kansas Congressional delegation staff members: Melvin “Mel” Thompson, State Agriculture Representative, Senator Pat Roberts; Mike Zamrzla, Deputy State Director, Senator Jerry Moran; Lea Stueve, District Director, Congressman Mike Pompeo. Topic: “Learn what is happening and likely to happen in the nation’s capitol.”

Capital gains tax rate. e21 has written an excellent explanation as to why the 15 percent tax on capital gains does not tell the entire story. Considering that capital gains are taxed twice, the true rate of taxation is 44.75 percent, which is much higher than the top income tax rate, and higher than the corporate tax rate. The full explanation is at Capital Gains Tax Rates Are Higher Than You Think, and Getting Higher.

Kan-ed audit. Kan-ed is a state-run network designed “to provide broadband Internet access and distance learning capabilities for schools, hospitals, and libraries.” Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit has just released an audit of this program. Among the audit’s findings: “Although the Kan-ed network is connected to the Internet, it is a very slow and expensive way of providing Internet access. … Most connected members need commercial Internet access or no Internet connection at all. … Kan-ed could save up to $2 million a year by switching slightly more than half of members to commercial Internet and disconnecting others.” And finally, a conclusion that reminds us of why government spending is almost always wasteful: “Kan-ed has done a poor job of monitoring network connections to ensure members actually need them and has rarely disconnected unneeded connections.” The audit highlights are at Kansas Board of Regents: Evaluating the Effects of Eliminating the Kan-ed Program, and the full audit report is here.

Huelskamp and Sharpton. Last week U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp, who is in his first term representing the Kansas first district, appeared on the MSNBC television program PoliticsNation. Huelskamp’s office writes: “Congressman Huelskamp engaged the Rev. Al Sharpton over the issue of current tax rates and whether or not it’s ‘fair’ that millionaires and billionaires are allegedly taxed at a lower rate than others. The Congressman argued that the top 1% pay the plurality of all taxes in America, and that the real issue is promoting opportunity and not class envy, citing that his constituents tend to care more about having the ability to find a job and make it on their own rather than what their neighbors’ incomes may or may not be.” I would say that Sharpton has a peculiar — and harmful — idea of what constitutes fairness. Video is at Promoting Opportunity, Not Class Envy.

Education reform blog started. The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice has started a blog focusing on education reform, a subject the foundation has great experience in. A pres release announces: “As efforts to reform education and improve learning spring up across the nation, the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice announced a new on-line information hub for advocates, parents and concerned citizens: the Friedman Flyer. The Friedman Flyer, FriedmanFlyer.com, will advance Milton and Rose Friedman’s vision of school choice for all with daily updates on news and lively discussion centering on education reform and school choice.”

Super PACs. Are the new Super PACs a problem? No, write Nick Gillespie and Meredith Bragg of Reason. Here’s why: “Billionaires don’t need them to influence elections, Super PACS go negative — and that’s a good thing!, and Super PACS take power away from the parties.” More at 3 Reasons Not To Get Worked Up Over Super PACs.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday December 26, 2011

Kansas computer security. This month the Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit released an audit looking at how well five Kansas state government agencies kept their computers up-to-date. The audit found: “Three of the five agencies had significant vulnerabilities because of inadequate workstation patching processes, and all five could make some minor improvements to their patching process.” Patching refers to the process of keeping software updated. The most important updates, or patches, concern security vulnerabilities that have been discovered and fixed. Some of these vulnerabilities are serious and can lead to computers and networks being compromised. The report is at State Agency Information Systems: Reviewing Selected Systems Operation Controls in State Agencies.

KPERS. Wichita financial planner Richard Stumpf contributes a piece to the Wichita Eagle on the problems with Kansas Public Employee Retirement System (KPERS). He paints a bleak picture of the plan’s finances and proposes a tax increase, writing: “I am recommending that Brownback propose a 25 percent tax increase to fund employees’ retirement plans. The commission wouldn’t cut spending. I refuse to recommend taking more money from classrooms to pay this bill. The only remaining option is a tax increase.” … As bleak as is this picture, it’s not as dark as it should be: Stumpf says the debt in KPERS is “nearly $9 billion.” More realistic analysis puts the figure much higher. Adjusting for unreported investment losses and using a realistic assumed rate of return of six percent, Kansas Policy Institute says the shortfall would be $14.1 billion. More shocking is an evaluation of state pension funds conducted by the American Enterprise Institute which uses market valuation methods. This evaluation puts the shortfall for Kansas at $21.8 billion. … Stumpf notes this: “So far this year, the stock market is up about 1.3 percent. Since KPERS is based upon an 8 percent assumed rate of return, earning 1.3 percent this year is equivalent to losing 6.7 percent.” The full editorial is at Richard Stumpf: Unions, Legislature lack guts to fix KPERS.

Kansas Treasurer makes grand circuit. One of the jobs of Kansas Treasurer Ron Estes is to safeguard unclaimed property and seek to return it to its owners. Estes and his staff have now visited all 105 Kansas counties, holding unclaimed property return events in each. The office says that in 2011, 65,913 claims totaling $14,433,929 have been returned to Kansans. The office is holding $230 million in unclaimed property.

Huelskamp considered objecting. The payroll tax measure passed last week in the U.S. House of Representatives was passed using “unanimous consent.” This means that there was no voice or roll call vote taken, and members did not need to be present. But if even one member had been present and had voiced an objection, the measure would have failed. Appearing on CNN, U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp, who is in his first term representing the Kansas first district, said he considered making such an objection, but could not get to Washington from Kansas in time: “Actually, I did. Problem was by the time we were notified that the unanimous consent agreement would be offered, where I come from in Kansas, I can’t get to Washington quick enough on this short notice. So that was an option, we did think about that, but there’s no way to fly in on time to make that happen. Back on the pledge to America, we talked about 72 hours where big things like this would give us an opportunity to reel read the deal, actually read the bill. And in this case they decided to not follow that rule as well.” … Huelskamp said he was disappointed with the House leadership team, noting Congress has not cut spending, did not stand up to the president on the budget ceiling debate, and did not pass a balanced budget amendment. Noting the lack of delivery after the election of a conservative majority to the House, Huelskamp wondered “what difference did it make?” He described the payroll tax measure as one of numerous losses this year.

Obama’s regulation. Wall Street Journal Review & Outlook: “To answer the most basic question — has regulation increased? — we’ll focus on what the government defines as ‘economically significant’ regulations. Those are rules that impose more than $100 million in annual costs on the economy, though there are hundreds if not thousands of new rules every year that fall well short of that. According to an analysis of the Federal Register by George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, the Cabinet departments and agencies finalized 84 such regulations annually on average in President Obama’s first two years. The annual average under President Bush was 62 and under President Clinton 56.” The Journal notes the deception used by the Obama Administration as it tries to portray itself as not regulation-hungry: “Cass Sunstein, the director of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, has been shopping around lower numbers that selectively compare Mr. Obama’s first two years favorably with Mr. Bush’s last two. Administrations are typically most active on the way out, and in any case the Bush regulatory record is nothing to crow about. But Mr. Sunstein’s numbers are even more misleading because they only include the rules that his office reviews while excluding the prolific ‘independent’ agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission. This means that if Congress tells, say, the Securities and Exchange Commission to write a new rule, it doesn’t enter Mr. Sunstein’s tally. So it omits, for example, some 259 rules mandated by the Dodd-Frank financial reregulation law along with its 188 other rule suggestions. It also presumes that Mr. Obama is a bystander with no influence over his own appointees who now dominate the likes of the National Labor Relations Board.” … After presenting more evidence of the growth of costly regulation under Obama, the Journal concludes: “The evidence is overwhelming that the Obama regulatory surge is one reason the current economic recovery has been so lackluster by historical standards. Rather than nurture an economy trying to rebuild confidence after a financial heart attack, the Administration pushed through its now-famous blitz of liberal policies on health care, financial services, energy, housing, education and student loans, telecom, labor relations, transportation and probably some other industries we’ve forgotten. Anyone who thinks this has only minimal impact on business has never been in business. … Mr. Obama can claim he is the progressive second coming of Teddy Roosevelt as he did in Kansas last week, or he can claim to be a regulatory minimalist, but not both. The facts show he’s the former.” The full article is Regulation for Dummies: The White House says its rule-making isn’t costly or unusual. The evidence shows otherwise.

The failure of American schools. The Atlantac: “Who better to lead an educational revolution than Joel Klein, the prosecutor who took on the software giant Microsoft? But in his eight years as chancellor of New York City’s school system, the nation’s largest, Klein learned a few painful lessons of his own — about feckless politicians, recalcitrant unions, mediocre teachers, and other enduring obstacles to school reform.” Key takeway idea: “As a result, even when making a lifetime tenure commitment, under New York law you could not consider a teacher’s impact on student learning. That Kafkaesque outcome demonstrates precisely the way the system is run: for the adults. The school system doesn’t want to change, because it serves the needs of the adult stakeholders quite well, both politically and financially.” … Also: “Accountability, in most industries or professions, usually takes two forms. First and foremost, markets impose accountability: if people don’t choose the goods or services you’re offering, you go out of business. Second, high-performing companies develop internal accountability requirements keyed to market-based demands. Public education lacks both kinds of accountability. It is essentially a government-run monopoly. Whether a school does well or poorly, it will get the students it needs to stay in business, because most kids have no other choice. And that, in turn, creates no incentive for better performance, greater efficiency, or more innovation — all things as necessary in public education as they are in any other field.” … Overall, an eye-opening indictment of American public schools.

Markets: exploitation or empowerment? Do markets lead to a centralization of political and economic power, or do markets decentralize and disseminate wealth? In an eight-minute video from LearnLiberty.org, a project of Institute for Humane Studies, Antony Davies presents evidence and concludes that markets and free trade empower individuals rather than exploit them.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Friday December 16, 2011

Kansas school finance. Reactions to Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s school finance plan are coming in. Dave Trabert, president of Kansas Policy Institute gives it a grade of “incomplete.” “It’s good to give districts more flexibility in deciding how to spend aid dollars and the formula may be easier to understand, but there is nothing in this plan to substantively address his laudable goals of raising student achievement. Excellence in Education requires laser-like focus on outcomes and those elements are missing from this plan. … Funding is important but that’s not what drives achievement. Total aid to Kansas schools increased from $3.1 billion in 1998 to $5.6 billion in 2011. Yet reading proficiency levels according to the U.S. Department of Education remain relatively unchanged at about 35%.” … Kansas National Education Association (KNEA), the teachers union, notes the good points: It anticipates no further cuts to K-12 Education funding. It allows maximum flexibility in addressing student needs by removing restrictions on spending on at-risk or bilingual students. It counts kindergartners as full time students. But, the bad, according to the union: It has a TABOR-like effect that permanently locks in school funding at the current inadequate level. TABOR refers to taxpayer bill of rights, plans that some states have to limit the rate of growth of government. … While the Brownback administration believes the plan should settle lawsuits aimed at forcing more spending on education, lawyers suing the state say “Without addressing the costs of what schools need to spend in order to get the kind of performance the 21st Century demands, it is a system doomed to failure. It doesn’t do what the Kansas Supreme Court and the Kansas Constitution requires and that is fund education based on its costs.”

No school choice for Kansas. The Brownback plan contains no mention of school choice programs of any kind, not even charter schools. The latter are possible in Kansas, but the law is stacked against their formation. School choice programs are increasing in popularity in many states, because they hold the strong possibility of better results for students and parents. Plus, as the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice has found in its study Education by the Numbers: The Fiscal Effect of School Choice Programs, 1990-2006, school choice programs save money: “Every existing school choice program is at least fiscally neutral, and most produce a substantial savings.” Governor Brownback could have integrated a small school choice program into the school financing plan as a way to save money and provide greater freedom for students and parents. … In what the Wall Street Journal dubbed the The Year of School Choice, Republican governors across the nation have founded or expanded school choice programs. Wrote the Journal: “But choice is essential to driving reform because it erodes the union-dominated monopoly that assigns children to schools based on where they live. Unions defend the monopoly to protect jobs for their members, but education should above all serve students and the larger goal of a society in which everyone has an opportunity to prosper. This year’s choice gains are a major step forward, and they are due in large part to Republican gains in last fall’s elections combined with growing recognition by many Democrats that the unions are a reactionary force that is denying opportunity to millions. The ultimate goal should be to let the money follow the children to whatever school their parents want them to attend.” … But under governor Brownback’s leadership, this is not happening in Kansas.

Federal budget transparency. U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp, who is in his first term representing the Kansas first district, this week expressed frustration with transparency involving the federal budget. “I appreciate the Congressman from Utah talking about transparency. The idea that just because we’re only shining some light on a particular aspect — on not on the whole process — to me that’s an argument we need more transparency on the whole process. I totally agree with that. The experience in my office in the last three days has been to make an attempt to find out what is in this Conference Committee report. It’s been three days, and at 12:37 am this morning that was posted online — 1,219 pages, not quite 11 hours ago. I’m a Member of Congress and I’m going to be expected to vote on that very quickly. There was an interesting quote in The Hill this morning. I don’t know who said it, but it quoted: ‘… [A]ppropriators are worried that the tactic could leave the omnibus text out in the public for too long, giving time for K Street lobbyists to attack it before it gets approved.’ I don’t care about the lobbyists. It’s my job. It’s a responsibility to my constituents. We need more transparency not less. We need more discussions of the tyranny of debt, not less. This type of legislation gives us that opportunity. It gives the American people more appropriately the opportunity to see what we are doing.” There is video of Huelskamp’s remarks.

Open records in Wichita. “A popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to A Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.” That’s James Madison, framer of the First Amendment, 1822. Six of seven Wichita City Council members seem not to agree with Madison, and we have a city attorney who goes out of his way to block access to information that the public has a right to know. The City of Wichita’s attitude towards open records and government transparency will be a topic of discussion on this week’s edition of the KAKE Television public affairs program This Week in Kansas. That program airs in Wichita and western Kansas at 9:00 am Sundays on KAKE channel 10, and at 5:00 am Saturdays on WIBW channel 13 in Topeka.

Cell phone ban while driving. Sometimes regulating a behavior, even though it is dangerous, makes things even worse. “A news release from the Highway Loss Data Institute summarizes the finding of a new study: “It’s illegal to text while driving in most US states. Yet a new study by researchers at the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) finds no reductions in crashes after laws take effect that ban texting by all drivers. In fact, such bans are associated with a slight increase in the frequency of insurance claims filed under collision coverage for damage to vehicles in crashes. This finding is based on comparisons of claims in 4 states before and after texting ban, compared with patterns of claims in nearby states.” More at Texting bans haven’t worked.

Myths of the Great Depression. “Historian Stephen Davies names three persistent myths about the Great Depression. Myth #1: Herbert Hoover was a laissez-faire president, and it was his lack of action that lead to an economic collapse. Davies argues that in fact, Hoover was a very interventionist president, and it was his intervening in the economy that made matters worse. Myth #2: The New Deal ended the Great Depression. Davies argues that the New Deal actually made matters worse. In other countries, the Great Depression ended much sooner and more quickly than it did in the United States. Myth #3: World War II ended the Great Depression. Davies explains that military production is not real wealth; wars destroy wealth, they do not create wealth. In fact, examination of the historical data reveals that the U.S. economy did not really start to recover until after WWII was over.” This video is from LearnLiberty.org, a project of Institute for Humane Studies, and many other informative videos are available.

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.

Huelskamp on spending, health information database, and Buffett

Addressing members and guests of the Wichita Pachyderm Club last Friday, U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp of the Kansas first district updated the audience on national spending and debt, a health information database that poses privacy risks, and Warren Buffett’s taxes.

On being a new member of Congress, Huelskamp said people ask me “is Washington everything you thought it would be?” And I answer yes — and much worse.

He told the audience that the Washington Post newspaper has identified him as a member of the “Apocalypse Caucus,” a group of twenty lawmakers that have voted no for almost everything, including raising the debt ceiling. The Post says these lawmakers would be willing to shut down the government simply to make a point. Huelskamp told the audience “The point we need to remember is there is an apocalypse ahead unless we rein in spending, unless we rein in this president, unless we rein in the regulations.”

Huelskamp said that for every dollar spent in Washington, 41 cents is borrowed money. And while some in Washington say that there is a plan to get things under control, he said this is not happening yet.

He described a budget committee hearing in which four economists testified. He asked how long do we have until we reach the point of no return such as Greece is at presently, where they can’t pay back their debt? The first economist, a conservative, said “act as if you have no time left.” The other three economists — moderates and liberals — said they agreed with the first economist’s assessment.

During a series of budget negotiations in the spring, Huelskamp said that initially House leadership had started with the idea of cutting $100 billion. But that number was thought to be too much, and eventually Congress and the president settled on cuts of $25 billion. But the actual spending that was cut was only $350 million, or just about one-third of a billion dollars.

Huelskamp described the debt ceiling negotiations in the summer as a situation where the president had to have Congress’s permission to raise the debt ceiling. But he said Congress agreed to no cuts at all, despite having this power. He didn’t want to vote to just “kick the can down the road,” and that’s why he voted against raising the debt ceiling in August.

He also told of hearing from a high-ranking Chinese official at a budget committee hearing. The official — Huelskamp reminded the audience that China is a communist country — told the committee members the things they would have to do with the budget. While Huelskamp agreed with the official’s assessment of what the U.S. needed to do with its budget, he wondered how do we get in this position, where we turn over, often, our sovereignty to foreign nations.

Huelskamp cited a national poll that found that 48 percent believe the American dream is dead. In his town hall meetings — he’s held about 70 so far — he estimates 90 percent believe the American dream is gone, or soon to be gone. “Most Americans, including Kansans, as optimistic as we are, are worried about what’s going on in Washington. And they don’t know who to blame, and they’re going to start blaming everybody. I’m one of the few who believe the American dream is still alive and well.”

Switching topics, Huelskamp described former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, now Secretary of Health and Human Services, as the third-most powerful person in Washington, due to her position implementing national health care.

Regarding health care, Huelskamp is troubled by a database HHS is proposing that will be used to regulate insurance companies. If insurance companies sign up healthy people, they will be taxed, and they will receive subsidies for insuring sick people. Huelskamp said the only way to determine this behavior by insurance companies — are they insuring the healthy or sick? — is by looking at the health insurance histories of the individual people each company insures. He views this as a threat to patient privacy.

According to Wichita Eagle reporting, HHS will collect only information that is not personally identifiable.

But in a Washington Examiner op-ed on this topic, Huelskamp wrote: “The federal government does not exactly have a stellar track record when it comes to managing private information about its citizens.” He provided several examples of data being lost.

As ObamaCare is evolving in the rule-making process overseen by Sebelius, we can’t be sure what requirements, regulations, or uses might be found for this patient health history data.

On Warren Buffett, Huelskamp said that Buffett sheltered $24 million from taxation on his most recent tax return. “Mr. Buffett doesn’t want Mr. Obama to have his money, either. It’s called hypocrisy. He doesn’t trust him with his money. Which is why — you’ve got to give him credit — he’s planning to give every single last dime to charity.”

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday October 24, 2011

Wichita City Council. This week is the fourth Tuesday of the month, so the Wichita City Council meeting is largely confined to consent agenda items plus workshops. An item on the Council agenda is titled “Approval of travel expenses for Mayor Carl Brewer and Vice Mayor Lavonta Williams to attend, by invitation, the African Global Sister Cities Foundation Governmental, Business, Education, Cultural Arts and Sister City exploration in Ghana, West Africa, November 14-23, 2011, for possible international trade and twinning city relations. Airfare expenses will be paid by Mayor Brewer and Vice Mayor Williams.” Although the agenda report doesn’t state so, for these trips generally the lodging and meals are paid for by the host city or some other organization, not by the City of Wichita. But if these trips are truly good for the city, the city should pay expenses for those who go, just as companies pay legitimate travel expenses for their employees. But the city has no products of its own to sell, and the city isn’t authorized to negotiate international trade agreements. According to the Economic Freedom of the World report, Ghana ranks 70th of the 141 rated countries, so I hope we’re not planning to import ideas on governance from this country. It seems these trips are just junkets and not truly productive, so maybe it’s best the city doesn’t pay for airfare. … The workshop topic is concealed carry in Wichita city buildings. … As always, the agenda packet is available at Wichita city council agendas.

‘Federalists’ author to appear in Wichita this week. On Tuesday October 25th Kansas Family Policy Council is hosting an event in Wichita featuring Joshua Charles, a recent KU graduate who has teamed up with Glenn Beck to write the book The Original Argument: The Federalists Case for the Constitution Adapted for the 21st Century. The book debuted at the top of the New York Times Bestseller List in July. … KFPC says “The event will be at Central Christian Church (2900 North Rock Road in Wichita) on Tuesday October 25th at 7:00 pm. Doors will open at 6:30 pm. This is a free event and dessert will be provided for attendees.” RSVP is requested to 316-993-3900 or contact@kansasfpc.com.

Rep. Huelskamp to speak in Wichita. This week’s meeting (October 28th) of the Wichita Pachyderm Club features U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp, who is in his first term representing the Kansas first district, speaking on “Spending battles in Washington, D.C.” The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club … Upcoming speakers: On November 4th: Chris Spencer, Vice President, Regional Sales Manager Oppenheimer Funds, speaking on “Goliath vs Goliath — The global battle of economic superpowers.” … On November 11th: Sedgwick County Commission Members Richard Ranzau and Jim Skelton, speaking on “What its like to be a new member of the Sedgwick County Board of County commissioners?” … On November 18th: Delores Craig-Moreland, Ph.D., Wichita State University, speaking on “Systemic reasons why our country has one of the highest jail and prison incarceration rates in the world? Are all criminals created equal?” … On November 25th there will be no meeting.

Kansas tax reform. Citizens for Tax Justice has warned Kansas about possibly bad effects of tax reform in Kansas. In particular, the organization warns that eliminating the Kansas income tax (the article doesn’t specify individual, corporate, or both) and replacing it with a sales tax would result in a sales tax rate of 13.5 percent. Calculations like this are usually made in a vacuum and ignore the dynamic effects of people making adjustments. For example, the state might — wisely — decide to spend less, and therefore less revenue would be needed. Plus, the reason for reducing income taxes is to generate a more favorable business climate so that Kansas stops losing people and instead attracts people and business. This would lead to increased tax revenues. … The article also warns that Kansas doesn’t want to be more like Texas, citing statistics such as Texas being last in the country in the percent of adults with a high school diploma. The organization that collected these statistics, the Brookings Institution, explains that Texas’ low ranking is due to its large immigrant population, which arrived as adults with no diploma. CTJ didn’t mention that.

The debt of the states. Most states, Kansas included, have a balanced budget requirement. So it comes as somewhat of a surprise that collectively, the states hold about $4 trillion in debt. This figure comes from a new report by State Budget Solutions (Report reveals aggregate state debt exceeds $4 trillion). By way of comparison, the federal government holds about $14.8 trillion in debt. Bob Williams, President of State Budget Solutions, said: “These deficit numbers are staggering and should be frightening to the American public. Due to budget gimmicks, many states fail to give an adequate picture of how much trouble they are really in. This report makes it clear that if legislators don’t act immediately and decisively, our country will be facing a budget crisis that we have never seen before.” … According to figures gathered by SBS, the per capita debt in Kansas is $2,009, which ranks Kansas at 34th in the nation. Figures for some of our neighboring states include Colorado at $1,068, Iowa at $1,026, Missouri at $813, Nebraska at $21 (!), Oklahoma at $595, and Texas at $1,568. … Ominously for Kansas, the report includes separate figures that place our unfunded pension liability at $21.8 billion, well over twice as high as the numbers used by most official sources. The difference: “The AEI figures estimate how large public pension liabilities would be if states used private sector market-valuation methods.” In other words, the real world.

Freedom of the press. One of the assertions in the statement made by the Occupy Wall Street movement is “They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.” Really? I wasn’t aware this was going on. I would think that with the internet, that freedom of the press is thriving in the U.S. Perhaps OWS was thinking of China.

Student loans. One of the ideas tossed about by the Occupy Wall Street group is forgiveness of student loans. This debt is a problem, no doubt, especially when graduates can’t find work. Some fear that student loans will be the next great bubble — a government-caused problem that requires a government solution. In reality, easy government loans and grants have fueled the rapid rise in college costs, another government-caused problem that requires a government solution. Kansas Watchdog has more at Student Loan Racket Enables Higher Education Bubble .

Obama makes a great appointment. Malcolm Harris lets us know that it seems that President Barack Obama has made a wise appointment. This example is Tom Hoenig to serve at the FDIC. See Tom Hoenig Nominated to Be the Vice Chair of the FDIC.

Libertarianism works both ways. Dr. Jeffrey Miron explains the two “flavors” of libertarian thought and explains that they’re really not different at all. In his recent book Libertarianism, from A to Z, described as an “encyclopedic exposition of libertarian thought”, Miron explains: “Libertarianism comes in two flavors: consequential and philosophical (also known as rights-based). The two variants offer similar policy conclusions but utilize seemingly different arguments to arrive at these conclusions. Consequentialism — the path followed in this book — argues that most government interventions are undesirable because they fail to achieve their stated goals or because they generate costs that are worse than the problems they purport to fix. Consequentialism emphasizes that many policies have unintended consequences the consequentialist approach is thus just a cost-benefit calculation, albeit one with a broad view of costs and benefits. In particular, the consequentialist approach recognizes that policies have intangible and non-monetary effects, not just tangible or monetary effects. Philosophical libertarians hold that government should never infringe individual rights or freedoms.” … Miron goes on to explain that the two different versions of libertarianism are not really different, and that the explicitly consequentialist approach is the “better language” for explaining libertarianism. His video A Cost-Benefit Approach to Public Policy explains. Another interview with Miron by Reason.tv’s Nick Gillespie is at Libertarianism From A to Z With Jeffrey Miron.

Kansas and its own Solyndra

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday October 3, 2011

Wichita City Council. Tomorrow the Wichita City Council considers these items: First, the council will have a do-over of a public hearing it held on September 21st. The need for this arises from a mistake regarding proper notification. Mistakes like this are not uncommon at Wichita city hall. … Then the council considers revising the development agreement for the Ken-Mar TIF district. More about that at Ken-Mar TIF district, the bailouts. … The council will be asked to approve an agreement with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 513 providing for pay raises of 2.5 percent per year for the next two years. … As always, the agenda packet is available at Wichita city council agendas.

What if the NFL Played by Teachers’ Rules? Writing in the Wall Street Journal, former NFL quarterback Fran Tarkenton explains the harm of teachers unions (What if the NFL Played by Teachers’ Rules? Imagine a league where players who make it through three seasons could never be cut from the roster.): “Teachers’ salaries have no relation to whether teachers are actually good at their job — excellence isn’t rewarded, and neither is extra effort. Pay is almost solely determined by how many years they’ve been teaching. That’s it. After a teacher earns tenure, which is often essentially automatic, firing him or her becomes almost impossible, no matter how bad the performance might be. And if you criticize the system, you’re demonized for hating teachers and not believing in our nation’s children. … Perhaps no other sector of American society so demonstrates the failure of government spending and interference. We’ve destroyed individual initiative, individual innovation and personal achievement, and marginalized anyone willing to point it out.”

Do-nothing Hoover? A new briefing paper from the Cato Institute (Herbert Hoover: Father of the New Deal) challenges the commonly-held view of President Herbert Hoover as doing nothing to prevent or fix the Great Depression. “Politicians and pundits portray Herbert Hoover as a defender of laissez faire governance whose dogmatic commitment to small government led him to stand by and do nothing while the economy collapsed in the wake of the stock market crash in 1929. In fact, Hoover had long been a critic of laissez faire. As president, he doubled federal spending in real terms in four years. He also used government to prop up wages, restricted immigration, signed the Smoot-Hawley tariff, raised taxes, and created the Reconstruction Finance Corporation — all interventionist measures and not laissez faire. Unlike many Democrats today, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s advisers knew that Hoover had started the New Deal. One of them wrote, ‘When we all burst into Washington … we found every essential idea [of the New Deal] enacted in the 100-day Congress in the Hoover administration itself.’ Hoover’s big-spending, interventionist policies prolonged the Great Depression, and similar policies today could do similar damage. Dismantling the mythical presentation of Hoover as a ‘do-nothing’ president is crucial if we wish to have a proper understanding of what did and did not work in the Great Depression so that we do not repeat Hoover’s mistakes today.” … Well worth reading.

Kansas school cash. “A new report this month shows that cash reserves in Kansas’ 286 school districts grew 9 percent during the year ending June 30, even as schools statewide made plans to trim staff and cut programs because of reductions in basic state aid to education. The cash reserve increase is the sixth in as many years.” See Kansas Reporter, “Lawmakers question Kansas schools’ stashes of cash.”

John Locke to appear in Wichita. This week’s meeting (October 7th) of the Wichita Pachyderm Club presents John Locke — reincarnated through the miracle of modern technology — speaking on “Life, Liberty, and Property.” This promises to be informative and entertaining. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club … Upcoming speakers: On October 14th, Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer, M.D. Speaking on “An update on the Brownback Administration’s ‘Roadmap for Kansas’ — Medicaid Reform” … On October 21st, N. Trip Shawver, Attorney/Mediator, on “The magic of mediation, its uses and benefits.” … On October 28th, U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp, who is in his first term representing the Kansas first district, speaking on “Spending battles in Washington, D.C.”

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Wednesday August 10, 2011

Kansas House Appropriations Chair to speak. This Friday’s meeting (August 12th) of the Wichita Pachyderm Club Kansas Representative Marc Rhoades, Chair of the Kansas House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, speaking on the topic “The impact of the freshman legislators on the 2011 House budgetary process.” The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club … Upcoming speakers: On August 19, Jay M. Price, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Director of the public history program at Wichita State University, speaking on “Clashes of Values in Kansas History.” His recent Wichita Eagle op-ed was Kansas a stage for “values showdowns.” … On August 26, Kansas State Representatives Jim Howell and Joseph Scapa speaking on “Our freshmen year in the Kansas Legislature.” … On September 2 the Petroleum Club is closed for the holiday, so there will be no meeting. … On September 9, Mark Masterson, Director, Sedgwick County Department of Corrections, on the topic “Juvenile Justice System in Sedgwick County.” Following, from 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm, Pachyderm Club members and guests are invited to tour the Sedgwick County Juvenile Detention Center located at 700 South Hydraulic, Wichita, Kansas. … On September 16, Merrill Eisenhower Atwater, great grandson of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, will present a program with the topic to be determined. … On September 23, Dave Trabert, President of Kansas Policy Institute, speaking on the topic Why Not Kansas,” an initiative to provide information about school choice. … On September 30, U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita on “An update from Washington.”

Sebelius responds to waivers inquiry. In June U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp, who is in his first term representing the Kansas first district, along with others asked Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius for information about the Obamacare waivers HHS has been granting. He got a response — except it’s not a response. In a statement, Huelskamp said “No details and no additional information about the Annual Limit Waivers were provided, so again we remain in the dark about this secretive process. Candidate Obama promised to be the most ‘open and transparent’ in history — a far cry from President Obama. The American people have a right to know why this new health care law is unfairly applied and what they can do to be exempted from ObamaCare. If one person, labor union, state, or business can get a waiver, then everybody should be able to get waivers.” … Huelskamp is not alone in noting the lack of transparency in the Obama administration.

Brownback to Sebelius: No thanks. Speaking of Secretary Sebelius, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has decided to return a grant the state received for being an “early innovator” in implementing portions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), better known as Obamacare. A statement from the governor’s office reads: “There is much uncertainty surrounding the ability of the federal government to meet it’s already budgeted future spending obligations. Every state should be preparing for fewer federal resources, not more. To deal with that reality Kansas needs to maintain maximum flexibility. That requires freeing Kansas from the strings attached to the Early Innovator Grant. … “Federal Medicaid mandates have cost Kansans over 400 million in the past 2 years alone. Full implementation of the mandates in the President’s health care law would cost billions more,” said {Lieutenant Governor] Dr. [Jeff] Colyer. “We will work to find innovative Kansas based solutions to Kansas challenges and be very selective in the federal funds the state applies for and receives. We look forward to working with legislative leaders and Insurance Commissioner Praeger as we develop Kansas solutions.”

‘Nullify Now’ tour in Kansas City. The idea that states can nullify unconstitutional laws passed by Congress is gaining traction as a way to reign in the federal government. Next week an event in Kansas City will help citizens learn more about this possibility. Writes the event’s organizers: “Crushing debt, health care mandates, ‘super’ congress, and more. The list of constitutional violations from DC never seems to end. The good news is that we don’t have to wait for DC to fix itself. As Thomas Jefferson told us, state nullification is “THE RIGHTFUL REMEDY” to unconstitutional actions by the federal government. … At Nullify Now! Kansas City, you’ll hear nationally-renowned speaker Thomas Woods (and nine others) present the constitutional case for nullification. You’ll learn: the constitutional basis for nullification, how nullification has been used in history, how nullification is being called upon right now vs Obamacare, to protect gun rights, against the TSA, and more, and what YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW to get your state to put a stop to the Feds.” The event is Saturday August 20, and tickets, ranging in cost from free to $75, are required. For more information click on Nullify Now! Kansas City.

‘Birth of Freedom’ screening. On Monday (August 15th) the film The Birth of Freedom will be shown for free in Wichita. The film is a product of the Acton Institute, whose mission statement describes the institute as “[promoting] a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles.” This free event is Monday from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm at the Lionel D. Alford Library located at 3447 S. Meridian in Wichita. The library is just north of the I-235 exit on Meridian. The event’s sponsor is Americans for Prosperity, Kansas. For more information on this event contact John Todd at john@johntodd.net or 316-312-7335, or Susan Estes, AFP Field Director at sestes@afphq.org or 316-681-4415. … I’ve been told by those who have viewed the film that it is a very moving presentation. A trailer or preview may be viewed below.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Wednesday August 3, 2011

Debt ceiling. What is the real value of the debt ceiling? Has it ever constrained the growth of government debt, until now? Thomas Sowell in Debt-Ceiling Chicken: “Some people may have been shocked when the credit-rating firm Moody’s recently suggested that the debt-ceiling law be repealed, in order to avoid fiscal crises which can throw world financial markets into turmoil that can injure countries around the world. Anyone who wants to show that Moody’s is wrong should be prepared to show the actual benefits of the debt-ceiling, not its goals or hopes. That will not be easy, if possible at all. … The national debt-ceiling law should be judged by what it actually does, not by how good an idea it seems to be. The one thing that the national debt-ceiling has never done is to put a ceiling on the rising national debt. Time and time again, for years on end, the national debt-ceiling has been raised whenever the national debt gets near whatever the current ceiling might be. Regardless of what it is supposed to do, what the national debt-ceiling actually does is enable any administration to get all the political benefits of runaway spending for the benefit of their favorite constituencies — and then invite the opposition party to share the blame, by either raising the national debt ceiling, or by voting for unpopular cutbacks in spending or increases in taxes.”

Was August 2nd a deadline? All through the debate over raising the federal debt ceiling it was taken as granted that the deadline — the day the U.S. Treasury would run out of money — was August second. U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp, who is in his first term representing the Kansas first district, has released data that shows otherwise. A chart on his website shows a declining balance in the treasury, but projections show a positive balance far past August second.

Despite drag of government health care, Canada thrives. The unemployment rate in Canada has fallen, GDP growth is healthy, and there were no bank bailouts. It has been able to reduce the size of its government relative to its economy, writes Jason Clemens in Why Canada Is Beating America: It shrank government, and now unemployment and debt are declining: “Total government spending as a share of the economy peaked at a little over 53% in 1993. Through a combination of spending cuts in the 1990s and spending restraint during the 2000s, it declined to a little under 40% of GDP by 2008.” … For 2010, government spending at all levels in the U.S. amounted to 36.22 percent of GDP, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. While that compares favorably with Canada’s level, the trend in the U.S. is for spending to increase, having risen from 30.82 percent in 2004. … According to Clemens, the success of Canada’s economy is in spite of its government health care, not because of it: “The unavoidable challenge is the country’s health-care system. … Canada devotes a relatively high share of its economy to health care without enjoying commensurate outcomes. Of the 28 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that have universal access, Canada has the sixth-highest rate of health spending as a share of its economy.” It would be one matter if Canadians enjoyed good results from all this health care spending. “But Canadians’ access to care is poor, despite high spending. The country ranks 20th of 22 OECD countries for access to physicians. … Waiting times for treatment continue to worsen.” … Liberals in the U.S. point to Canada as a model for government health care, but the actual situation is not one that we should aspire to.

Kansas government website revamped. Kansas has remodeled its main website, kansas.gov. Besides a new look, I think a useful feature will be the use of a Google site-specific search feature. These generally work very well, applying the power of the popular and effective search engine to a specific website. Time will tell as to whether the design is useful. The state does not have a good record in recent times of website redesigns, as the effort to replace the legislature’s website right as the session started was a disaster. The press release with other details is at New State Web Portal Provides Better Experience, Mobility.

Demand is not the problem. A recent letter to the Wichita Eagle started with “The only thing that creates jobs is demand for product.” This idea of economic wealth deriving from consumer demand is a Keynesian concept, and we’ve seen over and over the wreckage that Keynesian economics leaves on countries — starting with our own efforts to cure the Great Depression to the failing economic policies of President Barack Obama. It’s also curious to blame economic stagnation on the absence of desire of people for more stuff. People want more stuff — that’s human nature. It is by producing more that we create the wealth necessary to satisfy our demands. Production benefits from capital formation, and the policies of the United States are not favorable for this. … The author also promotes increasing exports while at the same time urging Americans to buy only U.S.-made products. This ignores the fact that trade — no matter who the trading partner — is a source of wealth. Both parties are made better-off through trade; otherwise the transaction would not take place.

Debt ceiling bill. A budget cut only by Washington standards. “Throwing in the towel.” All the angst over the past month seems to have produced very little in the way of meaningful reform. Here several Cato Institute policy experts comment on this week’s lawmaking. “This week’s bipartisan deal to raise the debt limit and achieve some spending reductions will do little in the way of actual spending cuts, defers all the tough decisions on spending and debt to a “SuperCongress” committee and will do little to protect the United States credit rating. Cato Institute Senior Fellows Dan Mitchell and Jagadeesh Gokhale and Director of Tax Policy Studies Chris Edwards comment on the debt deal.”

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Friday July 1, 2011

This Week in Kansas. On this week’s edition of the KAKE Television public affairs program This Week in Kansas, Ken Ciboski (Associate Professor of Political Science at Wichita State University), John D’Angelo (Arts & Cultural Services Manager for the City of Wichita), and myself join host Tim Brown for a discussion of arts and government funding in Kansas. This Week in Kansas airs in Wichita and western Kansas at 9:00 am Sundays on KAKE channel 10.

Kansas taxes. A short report produced by Americans for Prosperity, Kansas shows some of the reasons why economic growth in Kansas has been sluggish: “Kansas’ state and local tax burden continues to be amongst the highest in the region.” Kansas has fewer private sector jobs than it did ten years ago. And in what should be a grave cause for alarm, Kansas was the only state to have a net loss of private sector jobs over the last year. … A table of figures illustrates that although Oklahoma kept its sales tax rate low and constant while Kansas increased its rate, tax revenue increased much more in Oklahoma. Download the report at AFP-Kansas Income Tax Policy Primer.

Wichita sales tax. Speaking of sales tax and its harmful effect, Wichita seems to want to raise its rate. Proposals have been floated for a sales tax for economic development in general, for increased transit (bus) service, for drainage projects, and for downtown projects. Boosters cite the Intrust Bank Arena as an example of a successful project paid for by a sales tax that disappeared as promised. That’s despite the dreams of Sedgwick County Commissioner Tim Norton: “Then, as that tax was nearing its end, Norton ‘wondered … whether a 1 percent sales tax could help the county raise revenue.’ (‘Norton floats idea of 1 percent county sales tax,’ Wichita Eagle, April 4, 2007)” … Boosters of the arena promote it as a financial success, and there was the presentation to the county of a check for $1,116,442 as its share of the arena’s earnings. This figure, however, does not represent any sort of “profit” or “earnings” in the usual sense. In fact, the introductory letter that accompanies these calculations warns readers that these are “special-purpose financial statements” and “are not intended to be a presentation in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.” In particular, Commissioner Karl Peterjohn has warned that these figures — and the monthly “profit” figures presented to commissioners — do not include depreciation expense. That expense is a method of recognizing and accounting for the large capital cost of the arena. In April the County released that number, and I believe it has not been reported by any news media. That may be because the number is pretty big — $4.4 million, some four times the purported “earnings” of the arena. … Without honest discussion of numbers like these, we make decisions based on incomplete and false information. Don’t look for many local government leaders and officials to talk about this number, and certainly not the Wichita Eagle editorial page.

Koch criticism backfires — again. For those who follow the issue, it’s no surprise that Lee Fang, a reporter for the liberal think tank Canter for American Progress has come out with another attack on Charles and David Koch. Mark Hemingway of the Weekly Standard reports on this effort: “Think Progress reporter Lee Fang has a long history of being spectacularly wrong. However, there’s a seemingly unending thirst for his breathless demonization of the Koch brothers and other rants about corporate greed among the low IQ end of the liberal spectrum.” Fang disagrees with a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, and he lambasts the litigators who brought the suit as “heavily financed by right-wing corporate money, particularly from Koch Industries and Walmart.” He also criticizes organizations for not dislosing their donors. Hemingway notes this: “In the case of the Koch brothers, they have been outspoken philosophical libertarians for decades. Their support of free speech over onerous campaign laws is entirely consistent and should not be surprising. However, in the case of Wal-Mart Fang is also astoundingly hypocritical. Because you know who else is a ‘Walton-Funded Group’? Lee Fang’s employer.” And the secret donations that Fang rails against so passionately? Hemingway again: “You know who else accepts ‘secret donations from individuals and corporations’? That’s right — the Center for American Progress.” … For another example of Fang’s reporting, see ThinkProgress and Lee Fang: wrong again.

Tension on debt ceiling issue. In The Wall Street Journal Kimberly Strassel writes that the current debt and spending crisis may lead to an end to farm subsidies, something she described as a “sacred federal spending cow:” “For decades, the House and Senate agriculture committees have been the last redoubts of congressional bipartisanship, liberals and conservatives united in beating back any outside attempts to cut off tens of billions annually for price supports, crop insurance, weather assistance, conservation handouts and nutrition programs. The last real stab at reform was the mid-1990s Freedom to Farm bill. Most of the changes were obliterated by subsequent bailouts and new spending.” … She describes how Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake got a limit of farm subsidies through the Appropriations Committee, but House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas used a maneuver to block Flake’s proposal. So much for that effort at reform, blocked by a Republican. Lucas’ website promotes a conservative message, with one post criticizing bailouts. But not for farmers, it seems. … Wichita’s Mike Pompeo is mentioned: “Mr. Pompeo is waiting to see what debt package emerges and says his vote will depend on whether it contains real ‘structural’ reform. But he also tells me he doesn’t intend to let parochial interests cloud his decision. ‘I came here to be a small-government guy every day, and not just when it is spending cuts in somebody else’s district,’ he says.” … Although not mentioned in this article, Tim Huelskamp, who represents the Kansas first district, has been upfront in discussing the need to reduce or eliminate farm subsides, and so far, many farmers seem to be accepting of that. Huelskamp’s district, which covers all of western Kansas (and more), is usually second on the list of congressional districts in terms of total farm subsidies received. For 2009, that figure was $369 million.

Stossel: The Money Hole. A recent episode of John Stossel’s television program is now available on the free hulu service by clicking on The Money Hole. Writes Stossel in his introduction to the show: “We will soon spend ourselves into oblivion. But finally … movement! Budget slashing proposals from Paul Ryan, the Republican Study Committee, Ron Paul, Rand Paul and even Tim Pawlenty! But politicians and real people across the spectrum still resist change. What should government do? What’s its role? What have other countries done? The Money Hole tackles that.”

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday June 27, 2011

Wichita city council. This week the Wichita City Council considers consent agenda items only, and then has a workshop. Among the consent agenda items are a resolution declaring the city’s intent to use debt financing in the amount of $40 million for the new parking facility at the airport. A companion resolution declares intent to use $160 million in debt financing for the new terminal. Interestingly, these resolutions contain this language: “That a public necessity exists for, and that the public safety, service and welfare will be advanced by …” followed by a description of each project. Really, the city should not lie in this way. … Consent agendas are handy for hiding items like this item: “Authorize payment of $13,025 as a full settlement for all claims arising out of an automobile accident. … This claim arose from a May 31, 2011 automobile accident involving an OCI inspector employed by the City.” … Of interest in the workshop session is an item titled “WSU Economic Development Fiscal Impact Analysis Model.” Here, undoubtedly, analysts from Wichita State University Center for Economic Development and Business Research will tell the council how government spending has a magical power not found in private sector spending.

Huelskamp on spending as driving economic growth. Speaking of the magical power of government spending, in his questioning (video below) of Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Director Douglas Elmendorf last week, U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp, who represents the Kansas first district asked if reducing spending is not the best way to grow the economy. Elmendorf replied that there are trade-offs; that higher marginal tax rates do reduce economic activity to some extent. But, he added, that certain forms of government spending are important for economic growth. Huelskamp pressed the director, noting that in his recent report, higher marginal tax rates and more government borrowing are negative factors on growth, asking “So explain to me why reducing spending is not the only alternative?” Director Elmendorf explained cutting spending “that was not itself an investment in economic growth, that would be better for the economy than if one raised [marginal tax rates].” … Huelskamp asked if Medicare and Social Security spending were economic growth drivers. The answers were no, they are not important economic growth drivers in the long term. Some pieces of the defense budget have been, he said. Huelskamp noted we’ve just eliminated a huge chunk of the federal budget as being important to economic growth. … Elmendorf said he did not have a list of the types of federal spending that have been important to economic growth, and he admitted that “we are not good at modeling those effects.” … Huelskamp asked Elmendorf if he could, as follow-up, provide examples of federal government spending that are drivers of economic growth, saying that Ben Bernanke, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve System refuses to identify those. … We’ll have to wait and see how the CBO responds. The report Huelskamp referred to is CBO’s 2011 Long-Term Budget Outlook.

No Wichita Pachyderm this week. Because of the holiday, the Wichita Pachyderm Club will not meet this week. Upcoming speakers: On July 8, Dave Trabert, President, Kansas Policy Institute, on “Stabilizing the Kansas Budget.” On July 15, Jon Hauxwell, MD, speaking on “Medicinal Cannabis.” On July 22, U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita on “An update from Washington.” On July 29, Dennis Taylor, Secretary, Kansas Department of Administration and “The Repealer” on “An Overview of the Office of the Repealer.”

Government spending secrets. Erick Erickson, RedState: “How bad is Washington spending? Well, there is a new website that’s up called Dirty Spending Secrets with a Q&A format to uncover some of Washington’s dirtiest spending secrets. Several friends of mine have emailed it to me. It’s actually pretty easy to figure out, but also horribly shocking — in the Q&A multiple choice, just go for the worst answer and you’ll probably be right. With the debt ceiling vote coming up, it’s just another reminder of how unserious Washington is when it comes to spending.”

Wichita city budget input. It’s budget time in Wichita, and the city will take questions and public input this Wednesday (June 29) in a 6:00 pm session in the city council chambers. The event will be broadcast live on the city’s network on Cox cable television channel 7, and questions may be emailed to budgetquestions@wichita.gov

Fracking facts. The Wall Street Journal has a run-down of the facts about the risks involved in fracking. This is a new technology that has greatly increased the amount of natural gas available in the U.S. and has caused the price (per million British thermal units) to decline from $15 to $4. For example, opponents of fracking claim that the process, in which water and chemicals are injected underground to free gas from confinement in shale formations, contaminates groundwater. Counters the Journal: “The problem with this argument is that the average shale formation is thousands of feet underground, while the average drinking well or aquifer is a few hundred feet deep. Separating the two is solid rock. This geological reality explains why EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, a determined enemy of fossil fuels, recently told Congress that there have been no ‘proven cases where the fracking process itself has affected water.'” … There are risks, of course, to any undertaking like this, and in conclusion the Journal recommends: “Amid this political scrutiny, the industry will have to take great drilling care while better making its public case. In this age of saturation media, a single serious example of water contamination could lead to a political panic that would jeopardize tens of billions of dollars of investment. The industry needs to establish best practices and blow the whistle on drillers that dodge the rules. The question for the rest of us is whether we are serious about domestic energy production. All forms of energy have risks and environmental costs, not least wind (noise and dead birds and bats) and solar (vast expanses of land). Yet renewables are nowhere close to supplying enough energy, even with large subsidies, to maintain America’s standard of living. The shale gas and oil boom is the result of U.S. business innovation and risk-taking. If we let the fear of undocumented pollution kill this boom, we will deserve our fate as a second-class industrial power.”

Even quicker. Gallup: Americans Regain Some Confidence in Newspapers, TV News: “Americans’ confidence in newspapers and television news rebounded slightly in the past year, having been stuck at record lows since 2007. The 28% of Americans who express a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in newspapers and the 27% who say the same about television news still lag significantly behind the levels of trust seen through much of the 1990s and into 2003.” … Rasmussen on health care: 55% favor health care repeal, just 17 percent say new law will improve quality of care. … Politico: 2012 contenders shun Hill support: “Across Capitol Hill, Republican lawmakers report scant interaction with presidential hopefuls. The chase for congressional backing has been moving at a snail’s pace this year compared with the previous election cycle, a reflection of the slowly forming presidential field, concern in Congress about the strength of the candidates and a desire by White House hopefuls to keep their distance from an unpopular Washington.” … Picket: Bozells look to grow conservative ‘social media army’: “Mr. [Brent Bozell, president of Media Research Center] explained, ‘We looked across the landscape and then across conservatism and we thought that was one thing that was lacking. We weren’t taking advantage of the tools that the Left was taking advantage of with good success and what we found was that there was hunger out there.'” He should have been at AFP’s RightOnline conference in Minneapolis last week. MRC was represented, though. … Investor’s Business Daily Editorial: How Big Government Strangles The Job Creators: “The secretary of the Treasury says taxes must be raised on small business so the federal government can stay big. With that breathtaking statement, he helpfully mapped out the key difference between the parties. … ‘If you don’t touch revenues,’ Geithner said, ‘you have to shrink the overall size of government programs, things like education, to levels that we could not accept as a country.'”

Huelskamp at RightOnline: Debt is the problem

At the RightOnline conference in Minneapolis, U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp of the Kansas first district told the general session audience that federal spending and debt is a threat to the future of America, and that we must use the opportunity of the upcoming debt ceiling vote to force spending cuts.

Introduced by Alan Cobb of Americans for Prosperity as someone who — in his first race for the Kansas Senate — beat the best kind of Republican to beat: “one of those squishy ones.” Huelskamp served 14 years in the Kansas Senate, and was elected to the House of Representatives last November.

A leader in technology, he was the first Kansas legislator to have a laptop computer in the chamber, and was instrumental in passing Kansas’ online transparency bill. And, Cobb said, he was the first member of Congress to bring an Ipad to the speaker’s podium.

In his remarks to the audience, Huelskamp said he was one of those new “testy freshmen.” He said he spent the first few months wondering around Washington wondering how he got here, then he started to wonder how those other guys got here.

He described listening to budget debate on the House floor. In response to what a leftist Member said, he turned to a senior Republican and said “Do they really believe what they just said, or are they lying?” The response: They really believe what they’re saying. They really believe that government can do better with your money than you can, and that the stimulus didn’t work because it was too small, he said.

Washington is about hypocrisy, he told the audience. They have a plan for themselves, and another plan for the rest of us. ObamaCare and the health care waiver process is an example of this. Dozens of labor unions spent hundreds of millions to elect President Obama and to push his health care plan through, only later to receive an exemption from its provisions.

Huelskamp said he had held done 58 town halls this year so far. One thing people ask him, he said, is if he’s living under the rules they set for everyone else. He also asks the question “Do you think the next generation of Americans will be better off than your generation?” The American Dream is in jeopardy, he said. We are sitting at the precipice of our nation’s history. “Are we going to go the direction of our Founders — freedom and liberty — or are we going to go the direction of slavery and socialism? That’s the choice we have today.”

In Washington, Huelskamp said that Ben Bernanke, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve System, says we can “use the debt ceiling as a lever to change America.” Huelskamp said that despite the risk of being accused a contrarian, that’s exactly what we need to do. Calling the debt ceiling an “opportunity of a lifetime,” he said that we must keep on the pressure to extract spending cuts. The votes are very close, he said.

Huelskamp said we must “act as if we have no time left.” We must face our debt crisis now. We can’t put off decisions. It is a spending problem, he said, a power problem. It is Washington telling us what to do with our own money.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Wednesday June 1, 2011

Transportation planning. It’s been the assumption in America over the last half-century that transportation needs — roads, bridges, buses, subways, etc. — must be planned by government in a top-down fashion. But the Cato Institute’s Randal O’Toole disagrees: “Should transportation be funded and planned from the top down or bottom up? Top-down advocates, such as the Brookings Institution’s Robert Puentes (writing in the May 23, 2011 Wall Street Journal) argue that only central planners can have a ‘clear-cut vision for transportation’ that will allow them to target spending ‘to make sure all those billions of dollars help achieve our economic and environmental goals.’ Advocates of bottom-up funding, such as the Cato Institute, Reason Foundation and Heritage Foundation, respond that public and private transportation providers better serve our needs when they are responsive to the fees people pay for various forms of transportation. In fact, most of the problems with transportation today, from an antiquated air-traffic control system to deteriorating bridges to empty transit buses, are due to top-down planning.” O’Toole goes on to explain the problems with federal funding of local transportation projects, concluding “No matter how well intentioned, top-down transportation planning quickly turns into a combination of social engineering and pork barrel. It is time to return to a bottom-up funding system that rewards transport agencies and companies for reducing costs and increasing mobility.” … In Wichita, the bus transit system is running a deficit, and the city manager has warned that cuts to service may be made. Most people would be surprised that in 2009, the fares paid by passengers covered just 22.5 percent of the bus system’s total cost, according to Michael Vinson, Director of Transit for the City of Wichita. The Wichita Eagle recently reported the figure as just 20 percent. The rest of the cost is covered by a variety of local, state, and federal grants. … Is it a coincidence that Wichita’s bus service is a top-down government-planned service? And what does this foretell for the future of other government-planned and provided transit, which is said by government planners like the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation to be necessary for the revitalization of downtown Wichita

Pompeo, Huelskamp ‘no’ on debt limit. U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, a Wichita Republican serving his first term, voted “no” to increasing the U.S. federal debt limit, which currently is about $14.3 trillion dollars. In a statement, Pompeo said; “I voted no on raising the debt ceiling. No to more debt without a change in behavior. No to increasing the credit card limit when the Obama Administration has zero commitment to reducing the unsustainable rate of spending. No to business as usual in Washington, D.C. … With this debt ceiling vote, my colleagues and I are putting down a marker on behalf of the American people. Americans have rejected the status quo and sent me along with 86 other Republican Freshmen to Congress to reverse course. Earlier this year, the President presented a spending plan to Congress for 2012. Unfortunately, that plan proposed 10 straight years of deficits in excess of $1 trillion. That is a recipe for disaster and one which we cannot accept on behalf of the Americans who sent us here to rein in out-of-control government spending.” … In explaining his intent to vote against the bill, Tim Huelskamp, who represents the Kansas first district, said: “The President’s request to increase the debt limit without cutting spending is irresponsible and fiscally reckless, therefore I plan to vote against it. The acquisition of more debt while failing to deal with Washington’s addiction to spending only sustains Washington’s unhealthy behaviors. It puts the country on the path of Greece. We owe it to the American people and to future generations to deal with overspending once and for all.” Lynn Jenkins and Kevin Yoder, the other representatives from Kansas, also voted against raising the debt limit. … Proponents of federal spending insist that we must increase our debt limit or financial markets will tank and economic activity will come to a halt. The Concord Coalition writes: “Approval of a debt limit increase is necessary to maintain the full faith and credit of the United States government. Failure to approve an increase would not be an act of fiscal responsibility, unless it can be said that deadbeats are fiscally responsible because they refuse to pay their bills. It would result in the United States defaulting on the commitments it has already made, including Social Security, Medicare and veterans benefits, vendor payments, tax refunds, student loans and interest payments on outstanding debt.” The Cato Institute counters: “A temporarily frozen debt limit could instead signal U.S. lawmakers’ resolve to get our fiscal house in order. It may even reassure investors about long-term U.S. economic prospects. … For too long, analysts and politicians have balked at the massive political impediments to reforming the federal budget — especially entitlement programs. Many now concede, actually, that no prudential reforms are likely unless there is an imminent ‘crisis.’ On the other hand, political liberals argue that there is no real ‘crisis’ — and so no need for real reforms. … Indeed, investors should be fearful of the opposite: an increase in the debt limit without a serious challenge from reform-minded lawmakers. This only signals business as usual for U.S. fiscal affairs.”

This Week in Kansas. Recently the KAKE Television public affairs program This Week in Kansas started placing episodes on its website. On the most recent episode, Malcolm Harris and I join host Tim Brown for a discussion of the Kansas Legislature and economic development topics. Also, Meteorologist Jay Prater contributes a segment on storm preparation.

Kingman is the first. The office of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has announced that Kingman County, just to the west of Wichita, is the first county to participate in the new Rural Opportunity Zone student loan repayment program. This program allows residents who move into counties with declining population to escape paying state income taxes for five years. In deciding to participate in the student loan repayment program, the county and the state will participate equally in repaying student loans of up to $15,000 for college graduates who move to Kingman County. … In a statement, the governor said “I am pleased Kingman County commissioners recognize the direct benefit of partnering with the state to attract college graduates to their community. This aggressive policy move is targeted to grow our shrinking rural counties. Like the Homestead Act, ROZ offers opportunity instead of handpicking winners and losers.” While almost all welcome the ROZ program — the legislation passed 102 to 18 in the House and 34 to 5 in the Senate — the nostalgia for the glory days of small-town Kansas may not be in our best interests. In his paper Embracing Dynamism: The Next Phase in Kansas Economic Development Policy, which has influenced Governor Brownback’s economic policy, Dr. Art Hall wrote that productivity — which should be our ultimate goal — is related to population density: “Productivity growth is the ultimate goal of economic development. Productivity growth — the volume and value of output per worker — drives the growth of wages and wealth. Productivity growth results from a risky trial and error process on the front lines of individual businesses, which is why Kansas economic development strategy should focus on embracing dynamism — a focus virtually indistinguishable from widespread business investment and risk-taking. Productivity growth tends to happen in geographic areas characterized by density. This pattern shows up in Kansas. The dense population centers demonstrate superior productivity growth.”

Legislature is through for season. Today both the Kansas House of Representatives and Senate met for sine die, a fancy Latin term for its ceremonial last day, although action may be taken. The House made an attempt to override the governor’s line-item veto of funding for the Kansas Arts Commission, but the effort failed by a vote of 50 to 44. Two-thirds, or 84 votes, would be needed to override the veto. The Senate didn’t make an attempt. The next meeting of both chambers of the Kansas Legislature will be on January 9, 2012, although there are many committee meetings during the summer and fall months.

Stossel looks at energy. In a recent episode of his weekly television show available to view using the free hulu service, John Stossel looks at various forms of energy and asks: Who will keep the lights on? … Early in the show, Stossel argues with Bill O’Reilly over the role of speculators in the run-up of oil prices. O’Reilly favors strict regulation of speculators, believing that the market is rigged. In a discussion with two guests, wild speculation was promoted as the cause of rapidly rising prices, with some trades by traders said to be stoned at the time. But it was mentioned that speculation carries huge risks, and if the speculators are wrong, they lose — and big. For more on speculators, see Speculators selfishly provide a public service.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Wednesday May 25, 2011

The failure of American schools. The Atlantic: “Who better to lead an educational revolution than Joel Klein, the prosecutor who took on the software giant Microsoft? But in his eight years as chancellor of New York City’s school system, the nation’s largest, Klein learned a few painful lessons of his own — about feckless politicians, recalcitrant unions, mediocre teachers, and other enduring obstacles to school reform.” Key takeway idea: “As a result, even when making a lifetime tenure commitment, under New York law you could not consider a teacher’s impact on student learning. That Kafkaesque outcome demonstrates precisely the way the system is run: for the adults. The school system doesn’t want to change, because it serves the needs of the adult stakeholders quite well, both politically and financially.” … Also: “Accountability, in most industries or professions, usually takes two forms. First and foremost, markets impose accountability: if people don’t choose the goods or services you’re offering, you go out of business. Second, high-performing companies develop internal accountability requirements keyed to market-based demands. Public education lacks both kinds of accountability. It is essentially a government-run monopoly. Whether a school does well or poorly, it will get the students it needs to stay in business, because most kids have no other choice. And that, in turn, creates no incentive for better performance, greater efficiency, or more innovation — all things as necessary in public education as they are in any other field.” … Overall, an eye-opening indictment of American public schools.

Professors to Koch Brothers: Take your green back. In The Wall Street Journal Donald Luskin takes a look at what should be a non-controversy: A gift by the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation to Florida State University to endow a program to study the foundations of prosperity, social progress, and human well-being — at the Stavros Center for the Advancement of Free Enterprise and Economic Education. (Sounds like a good match.) Writes Luskin: “Then there’s the donors. One of the donors, according to the two professors, is known for his ‘efforts to influence public policy, elections, taxes, environmental issues, unions, regulations, etc.’ Whom might they be referring to? Certainly not George Soros — there’s never an objection to that billionaire’s donations, which always tend toward the political left. No, it’s Charles and David Koch, owners of Koch Industries.” … Critics say the gift is an assault on academic freedom. Luskin counters: “The issue at FSU isn’t that the university has bargained away its academic freedom. The problem is that FSU has exercised its academic freedom in a way that the political left disapproves of. As [FSU College of Social Sciences] Mr. Rasmussen put it to the St. Petersburg Times: ‘If somebody says, ‘We’re willing to help support your students and faculty by giving you money, but we’d like you to read this book,’ that doesn’t strike me as a big sin. What is a big sin is saying that certain ideas cannot be discussed.”

History and legacy of Kansas populism. Recently Friends University Associate Professor of Political Science Russell Arben Fox delivered a lecture to the Wichita Pachyderm Club that was well-received by members. Now Fox has made his presentation available on his blog In Media Res. It’s titled The History and Legacy of Kansas Populism. Thank you to Professor Fox for this effort, and also to Pachyderm Club Vice President John Todd, who arranges the many excellent programs like this that are characteristic of the club.

Federal grants seen to raise future local spending. “Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.” — Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman (The Yale Book of Quotations, 2006) Is this true? Do federal grants cause state and/or local tax increases in the future after the government grant ends? Economists Russell S. Sobel and George R. Crowley examine the evidence and find the answer is yes. The conclusion to their research paper Do Intergovernmental Grants Create Ratchets in State and Local Taxes? Testing the Friedman-Sanford Hypothesis states: “Our results clearly demonstrate that grant funding to state and local governments results in higher own source revenue and taxes in the future to support the programs initiated with the federal grant monies. Our results are consistent with Friedman’s quote regarding the permanence of temporary government programs started through grant funding, as well as South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s reasoning for trying to deny some federal stimulus monies for his state due to the future tax implications. Most importantly, our results suggest that the recent large increase in federal grants to state and local governments that has occurred as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) will have significant future tax implications at the state and local level as these governments raise revenue to continue these newly funded programs into the future. Federal grants to state and local governments have risen from $461 billion in 2008 to $654 billion in 2010. Based on our estimates, future state taxes will rise by between 33 and 42 cents for every dollar in federal grants states received today, while local revenues will rise by between 23 and 46 cents for every dollar in federal (or state) grants received today. Using our estimates, this increase of $200 billion in federal grants will eventually result in roughly $80 billion in future state and local tax and own source revenue increases. This suggests the true cost of fiscal stimulus is underestimated when the costs of future state and local tax increases are overlooked.” … An introduction to the paper is here.

Debt observed as sold. New U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp, who represents the Kansas first district, recently observed the Bureau of Public Debt electronically sell debt obligations of the United States of America. In a press release, the Congressman said: “In a matter of minutes, I observed the United States sell $30.4 billion more in debt. The ease with which this transaction was done reminded me that it is just too simple for Washington to acquire, buy, sell and trade debt.” As to the upcoming decision as to whether to raise the ability of the U.S. to borrow: “As Congress considers yet another increase in the debt limit, the only responsible option that exists is to put America on a path to fiscal responsibility with clear limits on spending. Democrats say they want a debt limit increase that is ‘clean’ without any of the budget cuts we have proposed. Yet, they have offered no plan to eliminate annual trillion-dollar deficits. There is nothing ‘clean’ about increasing the limit without tackling the massive deficits and ever-increasing debt. … With nearly one-half of the nation’s debt held by foreign countries, including more than $1.1 trillion by China, our national security is threatened as well. Too many of our freedoms and liberties are threatened when Americans owe trillions of dollars to nations who put their interests before ours.”

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday April 25, 2011

American exceptionalism. This Friday (April 29) the Wichita Pachyderm Club features Kenneth N. Ciboski, Ph.D, Associate Professor of Political Science at Wichita State University. He will speak on the topic “American Exceptionalism: How and Why Are We Different From Europe?” The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club. … Upcoming speakers: On May 6, Dr. Malcolm C. Harris, Sr., Professor of Finance, Friends University on the topic “Shale gas: Our energy future?” On May 13, Craig Burns and Glenn Edwards of Security 1st Title Co. on the topic “Real Estate Transactions, Ownership, Title, and Tales From the Trenches.” On May 20, Rob Siedleckie, Secretary, Kansas Social Rehabilitation Services (SRS) on the topic “The SRS and Initiatives.” On May 27, Todd Tiahrt, Former 4th District Congressman on the topic “Outsourcing our National Security — How the Pentagon is Working Against Us”.

Wichita City Council this week. As this week is the fourth Tuesday of the month, the Wichita City Council considers only consent agenda items. This agenda has two acquisition of property by eminent domain, one for improvements to East 13th Street, and another for land involved in the aquifer recharge project in Harvey County. … There will also be council member appointments, and with three new council members on board, there could be a number of these. … A workshop will follow to present updates to the downtown Wichita public incentive policy. A Wichita Eagle story reported on this, but raised more confusion than answers. For example, the story reports the proposal will include “A private-to-public capital investment ration [sic] of 2-to-1.” This differs from the Goody Clancy plan for downtown Wichita, which calls for a five to one ratio.

The Great American Bailout. Tim Huelskamp, a new member of the United States Congress from the Kansas first district, warns of the seriousness of the problem the country faces with the budget and debt: “This past Monday, Standard & Poor’s (S&P) announced that it was cutting its outlook on the U.S. from “stable” to “negative,” increasing the likelihood of a potential downgrade of America’s credit rating. This should be a dire wake-up call to Washington that the time is now to address federal red ink. For all of America’s greatness, it is embarrassing that the United States may become a credit risk.” He details the rising amount of national debt, and also the increasing percentage that is held by foreign countries. … Soon we will be faced with the decision to raise our national debt limit. Huelskamp says the only way he could support increasing the ceiling is there is also a “serious and meaningful compromise that makes substantial and real cuts to the deficit and debt.” He also supports a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

“Not yours to give rally” in Topeka. Next Thursday (April 28) a coalition of groups is holding a rally at the Kansas Capitol building. The event starts at 10:00 am and lasts until 2:00 pm. The lineup of speakers and topics includes Rep. Charlotte O’Hara: “Federal control of the state through the state budget,” Larry Halloran (Wichita South Central 9-12 Group): “Government Charity, the Constitution and the Rule of Law,” Dave Trabert (Kansas Policy Institute): “Kansas Budget Policy and Spending Habits,” Rep. Kasha Kelley: “House Budget,” Richard D. Fry (Patriots Coalition ): “Govt. Lawlessness and Implementing Obama Care,”Angelo Mino (Born in Ecuador – MADE in America): “Reason to Become a New Born American,” Derrick Sontag (Americans for Prosperity): “History of a Growing Kansas Budget,” and Rep. Lance Kinzer: “Court of Appeals Legislation.” … AFP is sponsoring a free bus trip from Wichita for this event. The bus will leave Wichita at 7:00 am, and should be back by 6:00 pm. The bus trip is free but reservations are required. For more information on the bus trip contact John Todd at john@johntodd.net or 316-312-7335, or Susan Estes, AFP Field Director at sestes@afphq.org or 316-681-4415.

Kansas Bioscience Authority benefits from exemptions. The Kansas Bioscience Authority has benefited from exceptions to the Kansas Open Records Act written for its own benefit. Kansas Watchdog reports.

The presidency in liberal society. Eighteen months before the election, presidential politics consumes a lot of energy. Conservatives complain that President Obama is already in full campaign mode. Liberals poke fun at Republicans for, well, for a lot of reasons. But with a properly limited government, we should care very little who is our president. Lew Rockwell explains in this excerpt from a speech titled “An American Classical Liberalism”: Every four years, as the November presidential election draws near, I have the same daydream: that I don’t know or care who the president of the United States is. More importantly, I don’t need to know or care. I don’t have to vote or even pay attention to debates. I can ignore all campaign commercials. There are no high stakes for my family or my country. My liberty and property are so secure that, frankly, it doesn’t matter who wins. I don’t even need to know his name. In my daydream, the president is mostly a figurehead and a symbol, almost invisible to myself and my community. He has no public wealth at his disposal. He administers no regulatory departments. He cannot tax us, send our children into foreign wars, pass out welfare to the rich or the poor, appoint judges to take away our rights of self-government, control a central bank that inflates the money supply and brings on the business cycle, or change the laws willy-nilly according to the special interests he likes or seeks to punish. His job is simply to oversee a tiny government with virtually no power except to arbitrate disputes among the states, which are the primary governmental units. He is head of state, though never head of government. His position, in fact, is one of constant subordination to the office holders around him and the thousands of statesmen on the state and local level. He adheres to a strict rule of law and is always aware that anytime he transgresses by trying to expand his power, he will be impeached as a criminal.

Kansas’ Huelskamp leads in the House

By Russ Vought. From RedState.com.

Yesterday, Heritage Action for America (my employer), Club for Growth, and Family Research Council released a joint statement announcing their opposition to the three-week continuing resolution on floor of the House of Representatives next week, and their decision to “key vote” the extension on their respective scorecards. In doing so, they joined Mark Levin, Erick Erickson, and others, who are calling for conservatives to step up and lead by blocking this legislation.

Freshman Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas just answered that call. In a bold statement late last night, Huelskamp announced his opposition to the short-term resolution:

We were elected to make bold changes to federal spending and to reverse our unsustainable deficits. … By allowing President Obama and Senator Reid to stall a budget they should have completed 6 months ago, we are being distracted from even bigger tasks: tackling the $1.1 trillion deficit in the President’s reckless 2012 budget and negotiating real budget reform, such as a balanced budget amendment, within a debt ceiling debate.

Additionally, this CR omits many of the priorities the American people demanded we pass in H.R. 1: stopping job-killing EPA regulations, defunding Obamacare, and denying taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood and abortion. By allowing continued funding of these liberal priorities, we are ignoring the mandate of the American people.

Quite frankly, this is a stunning display of leadership by any member, let alone a freshman. Declaring your opposition publicly this quickly both plants a flag and ensures that you have less of a chance of being picked off in the days ahead. It reminds me of when Pat Toomey got out early to rally his colleagues against the Medicare prescription drug bill, and when Mike Pence sent out an early release to do the same against TARP.

This is how you lead in the House of Representatives, and Huelskamp deserves a ton of credit for showing how it’s done in his first few months. Let’s see who joins him.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Wednesday March 2, 2011

Duplication in federal programs found. Washington Examiner Editorial: “Nobody with even minimal knowledge of how public bureaucracies work should be surprised by the Government Accountability Office’s conclusion that there is a ‘staggering level of duplication’ in the federal government. Duplication is inevitable when professional politicians in both major parties go for decades using tax dollars to buy votes among favored constituencies, and reward friends, former staffers, family members and campaign contributors with heaping helpings from the pork barrel. With the inevitable program duplication also comes an endless supply of official duplicity as presidents, senators and representatives rationalize spending billions of tax dollars on programs they know either don’t work as promised, or that perform the same or similar functions as existing efforts and are therefore redundant.” … And they say it’s tough to cut spending.

Public school town hall meetings. Walt Chappell, Kansas State Board of Education member, is holding two public meetings in Wichita this week. Chappell writes: “You are cordially invited to share your top 4 priorities for what Kansas K-12 students should learn at a Town Hall meeting this week. Your Kansas State Board of Education is deciding how to improve our schools at a Board retreat on March 7th. As your elected representative on the KSBOE, I look forward to hearing your suggestions before we vote.” The first meeting is Thursday March 3rd from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm at Lionel D. Alford Library located at 3447 S. Meridian (just north of I-235). A second meeting will be on Saturday March 5th from 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm at Westlink Public Library, 8515 W. Bekemeyer, just North of Central and Tyler.

Wichita school board candidates. This Friday (March 4th) the Wichita Pachyderm Club features candidates for the board of USD 259, the Wichita public school district. For the at-large seat, the candidates are Sheril Logan, Carly Miller, and Phil Neff. For district 4, the candidates are Michael Ackerman, Jr., Jeff Davis, and Clayton Houston. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club.

Bureaucrats can’t change the way we drive … but they keep trying. More from the Washington Examiner, this time by Fred Barnes. “For most Americans — make that most of mankind — the car is an instrument of mobility, flexibility and speed. Yet officials in Washington, transportation experts, state and local functionaries, planners and transit officials are puzzled why their efforts to lure people from their cars continue to fail.” While Barnes writes mostly about automobiles vs. transit from a nationwide perspective, the issue is important here in Wichita. The revitalization of downtown Wichita contains a large dose of public transit as a way for people to get around downtown. It’s also likely that various streets will be restructured to make them less friendly to automobiles. .. More broadly, a major reason for some to support public funding of downtown is their hatred of “sprawl” and its reliance on the automobile, despite that being the lifestyle that large numbers of Wichitans prefer. They see this as something that government needs to correct.

Wednesdays in Wiedemann tonight. Today (March 2) 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. … Today is an all-Bach program, and Davis writes: “This is music for the soul, music for when the weather isn’t quite what it needs to be, music to heal our coughs and colds, music to meditate by — however this grand yet simple composer speaks to you.” … 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.

Americans for Prosperity website attacked. The website of Americans for Prosperity has been attacked by a group that disagrees with AFP’s position on issues. AFP President Tim Phillips issued a statement: “Americans for Prosperity has established itself as a leading voice in one of the great political debates underway in this country over government spending and how best to restore the fiscal solvency of governments at both the state and federal level. Yesterday, a group claimed credit for an attempt to silence our voice and to stifle that debate through an illegal attack on our website. While the political debate over government spending can be heated, we hope that even our opponents will join us in condemning this illegal attack on our free speech rights as unacceptable and irredeemable. Our country cannot meet the great challenges before us if we cannot have a free and open discussion about the threats that we face. Americans for Prosperity will not be intimidated and will not be deterred from our effort to support responsible economic policies, including the efforts of Governor Walker and other democratically elected leaders in that state to balance the budget through common-sense reforms.” … While I agree with Phillips that free and open discussion is necessary to resolve the issues we face, the disruption of AFP’s website is really more a property rights issue than a speech issue.

Kansas presidential primary pitched as economic development. Washburn University political science professor Bob Beatty: “Why the dash by states to be early on the [presidential primary] calendar? The first is political power and ego. Early primary and caucus states merit attention from the presidential candidates to party big-wigs and power brokers within these early states. But a second reason has rapidly risen in prominence: The economic impact that candidate visits and media coverage of same brings a state. One economist has argued that the economic impact of the Iowa caucuses on the Iowa economy in 2004 was in the neighborhood of $50-$60 million. Other states want a piece of that action.” The complete editorial is Insight Kansas Editorial: Creative Thinking About 2012 GOP Presidential Caucus Can Benefit State.

Huelskamp joins Tea Party Caucus. Tim Huelskamp, a new member of the United States Congress from the Kansas first district, has joined the Congressional Tea Party Caucus headed by Michele Bachmann. The two other new members of the House of Representatives from Kansas have not joined.

How government works. The myth of George W. Bush as a small-government conservative, hiding information from the press and public, and the revolving door between government and lobbying. From Rollback: Repealing Big Government Before the Coming Fiscal Collapse by Thomas E. Woods, Jr. “Of the $96.5 trillion in unfunded Medicare liabilities, $19.4 trillion was added by the ‘small government’ George W. Bush administration’s prescription drug benefit, known as Medicare Part D. The story of that bill’s passage is the story of America in the twenty-first century. The White House did not want to risk the bill’s passage by letting accurate estimates of its cost leak out. Richard Foster, Medicare’s chief actuary, reported that its administrator, Bush appointee Thomas Scully, threatened him with his job if he revealed cost estimates to Congress — a claim that email correspondence from a Scully subordinate appeared to corroborate. The pharmaceutical industry was thrilled with the bill, which would yield perhaps an additional $100 billion in industry profits over the next eight years. Ten days after the bill’s passage, Scully left to join a lobbying firm and represented several large pharmaceutical companies. The bill’s principal author, Billy Tauzin, went on to head the drug companies’ main lobbying organization, a position that paid $2.5 million per year.”

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Sunday November 7, 2010

Wichita City Council this week. Spirit AeroSystems asks for $7.5 million in Industrial Revenue Bonds (IRB). IRBs are not loans made by the city. In fact, in this case the bonds will be purchased by Spirit itself, says the agenda report: “Spirit AeroSystems, Inc. intends to purchase the bonds itself, through direct placement, and the bonds will not be reoffered for sale to the public.” The reason for the bonds is the property tax exemption on property purchased with the bond proceeds. Additionally, Spirit may not have to pay sales tax on the purchases. This is a public hearing designed to solicit citizen input on this matter. … Then POET Ethanol, Inc. asks for an additional five years of property tax exemption. Five years ago POET — then known as Ethanol Products, LLC — received a “five-plus-five-year” exemption, meaning that exemptions were granted for five years, with a review to take place to see if the company met the goals it agreed to as a condition of receiving the exemption. At this five year review, city staff says POET has met the goals and recommends that the property tax exemptions be granted for another five years. … The Finance Department will also present a quarterly financial report. The agenda and accompanying material is at Wichita City Council Meeting, November 9, 2010.

The election means something. “Elections have consequences,” writes Burdett Loomis, professor of Political Science at the University of Kansas in an Insight Kansas editorial available at State of the State KS. He writes: “The broad and deep GOP set of victories means that conservatives have the opportunity to put forward an agenda of social, fiscal, and tax issues that have been built up over the past two decades. Unquestionably, many of those items will quickly find their way into law.” But Loomis thinks things are pretty good already in Kansas: “In general, things may need some tinkering, but there’s very little that’s broken in Kansas. Governor Brownback should understand his power, and the need to act responsibly as he works on behalf of all Kansans to better their health, education, and quality of life.”

Wichita Eagle publisher at Pachyderm. This week’s meeting (November 12) meeting of the Wichita Pachyderm Club features as the presenter William “Skip” Hidlay, President and Publisher of The Wichita Eagle. His topic will be “The Eagle’s transformation in the digital age.” Hidlay is new to Wichita, having started at the Eagle in March after working at newspapers in New Jersey. The public is welcome at Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club.

Property rights experiment to be conducted. This Monday Americans for Prosperity, Wichita Chapter, presents “I, City: An Exercise.” Presenters will be John Todd and Susan Estes. Todd says: “You are invited to participate in an experimental exercise involving private property rights, and experience the impact of taxes, regulations, and economic incentive programs mandated by government on those property rights.” Todd says that suggested reading prior to the meeting is “I, Pencil” an essay by Leonard E. Read of the Foundation For Economic Education. You may click here to read this short essay. This event is on Monday November 8, from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm, at the Lionel D. Alford Library located at 3447 S. Meridian in Wichita. The library is just north of the I-235 exit on Meridian. For more information on this event contact John Todd at john@johntodd.net or 316-312-7335, or Susan Estes, AFP Field Director at sestes@afphq.org or 316-681-4415.

Kansas taxes in perspective. Governor elect Sam Brownback wants to take a look at the tax structure in Kansas. Possible actions could include eliminating the corporate income tax. Context: The one cent per dollar increase in the statewide sales tax is expected to bring in an additional $300 million per year. According to the Kansas Legislature Briefing Book, in fiscal year 2009 the corporate income tax brought in $294.2 million, just about the same as the increase in the sales tax. Personal income taxes brought in $2,755.3 million. Excise taxes — sales and compensating use taxes, alcohol and cigarette taxes, and severance taxes — brought in $2,286.7 million.

Huelskamp to Washington. Mark Reagan of the Dodge City Daily Globe interviews Tim Huelskamp, the new congressman for the first district of Kansas. Some of the matters Huelskamp has to deal with include orientation, hiring a staff in Washington and in the home district, his hope to serve on the agriculture committee, and voting for leadership. He notes that the federal government has been borrowing 37 cents of each dollar it spends. … Tim and his wife Angela have four young children, all adopted, some from Haiti. I would imagine a big decision he has to make is whether to travel home each weekend — as did predecessor Jerry Moran — or move his family to Washington. It’s not a quick and simple matter to travel from Washington to his home in Fowler. It usually takes about six hours to fly from Washington to Wichita, and then another three hours to drive to Fowler. That’s a lot of time spent traveling, and most of it is idle, wasted time. … I’ve observed Huelskamp in several debates on the floor of the Kansas Senate. Whoever is selected to fill his remaining term has some big shoes to fill.

Election was about the economy. Cato Institute executive vice president David Boaz contributes an excellent analysis of the election and a cautionary warning. In GOP Won on Economy, So Focus on It he writes: “The usual pattern is that after the election, voters and the activists go back to their normal lives, but organized interests redouble their efforts to influence policymakers. The people who want something from government hire lobbyists, make political contributions and otherwise do all they can to get their hands on taxpayers’ money. Meanwhile, the average taxpayer cannot be expected to exert influence on each particular spending bill. Tea partiers must change that pattern. They must keep up the pressure on Congress and state legislators. They must demand actual performance, not just promises. To keep momentum going, tea partiers should also insist that Republicans stay focused on the economic agenda that created their winning coalition, and not get bogged down in divisive social issues, which will split the movement and alienate independents.” In Kansas, this may be a problem. While incoming governor Sam Brownback is already exploring ways to cut taxes in Kansas, there are also proposals for various social legislative agendas, such as restrictions on abortion and requiring photo ID for voting. While these measures are important, I believe our state’s fiscal status is very important and must be dealt with.

Organ recital this Tuesday. This Tuesday German organist Ludger Lohmann visits Wichita to present a recital as part of the Rie Bloomfield Organ Series. The event is at 7:30 pm Tuesday, November 9, at Wiedemann Recital Hall (map) on the campus of Wichita State University. Tickets are $10 with discounts available. For more information call the fine arts box office at 316-978-3233. I’ve not heard Mr. Lohmann live, but I own several of his recordings, and this is a recital that music lovers should not miss.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Thursday November 4, 2010

The future of politics is here, now. After noting how California reached way back to the past to elect a governor, Denis Boyles writes in National Review Online about the future, and how it’s being made right here: “If you want to see the bright and shining politics of the future, you have to go to the country’s heartland, and specifically to Kansas, a place most Democrats only know from Thomas Frank’s liberal folklore. There, the election has yielded two new congressmen — Mike Pompeo and the remarkable Tim Huelskamp — who were not created by the Tea Party movement because their politics were already ahead of that helpful wave. Here‘s a local paper’s coverage. Pompeo is a natural leader, while Huelskamp is something even more — an inspiration, maybe. (He’s briefly sketched in Superior, Nebraska). Mark these guys. Politically, they’re how it’s going to be.”

Schools hope we won’t notice. Kansas Reporter tells of the new Kansas school funding lawsuit, filed on Election Day. Schools must have hoped that news of the filing would get swamped by election day news, which is what happened. The remedy asked for is more money, which has been shown not to work very well in terms of improving student performance … but it makes the education bureaucracy happy. I would suggest that students sue the Kansas State Department of Education for the inadequate education many have received. For a remedy, ask for things that have been shown to work: charter schools and widespread school choice.

Kansas House Republicans. Yesterday I reported that Republicans gained 15 seats in the Kansas House of Representatives. Double-checking revealed that I had made a data entry error. The actual number of Republican gains is 16, for a composition of 92 Republicans and 33 Democrats.

Kansas House Conservatives. In the same article it was noted that since some Kansas House Republicans — the so-called moderates or left-wing Republicans — vote with Democrats more often than not, there was a working caucus of about 55 conservatives. It is thought that conservatives picked up four seats in the August primary, bringing the number to 59. With most of the Republicans who defeated Democrats expected to join the conservative cause, it appears that conservatives now fill over 70 seats, constituting a working majority in the 125-member Kansas House of Representatives. Conservatives do not enjoy a majority of votes in the Kansas Senate, however.

Local smoking bans still wrong. As noted in today’s Wichita Eagle, there might be a revisiting of the relatively new Kansas statewide smoking ban. Incoming Governor Sam Brownback believes that such decisions should be left to local governments, presumably counties or cities in this case. For those who believe that the proper foundation for making such decisions is unfoundering respect for property rights — plus the belief that free people can make their own decisions — it doesn’t matter much who violates these property rights.

GOP: Unlock the American Economy Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal on spending and what Congress really needs to do: “It is conventional wisdom that what voters, tea partiers and talkers want the Republican Party to do is cut the spending. … Getting the spending under control matters a lot.” But Henninger says controlling spending is not enough: “The new GOP has to find an identity beyond the Beltway power game, a way to make the nation’s most important activity not what is going on in Washington, as now, but what is done out in the country, among the nation’s daily producers and workers. The simplest way for the Republican Party to free itself and the economy from this unending Beltway hell is by reviving a core belief of one of the country’s most successful presidents: If the government will get out of the way, Ronald Reagan argued, there’s no limit to what the American people can achieve.” Government getting out of the way was one of freshly-minted Congressman Mike Pompeo’s campaign themes. National figures are warning Republicans that they have one chance to get things right in Washington or risk losing the support they won in this election. And Pompeo urged his supporters, more than once, to hold him accountable in Washington. Maybe Raj Goyle might want to linger in Wichita for a few years to see how things work out.

Political site FiveThirtyEight looks at polls, statistics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FiveThirtyEight forecasts for Kansas

In Kansas, here are the results FiveThirtyEight forecasts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kansas first Congressional district poll released

Although the primary is barely over and the general election is nearly three months away, a poll covering the race for United States Congress from the Kansas first district has already been released.

The candidates for this position include Republican Tim Huelskamp, who is a Kansas Senator and farmer from the southwest Kansas town of Fowler. He won the Republican primary election on August 3rd.

The Democratic Party nominee is Alan Jilka. He did not have an opponent in the primary election. Jilka is a Salina businessman and has served three terms as that north-central Kansas city’s mayor.

The Libertarian Party nominated Jack Warner of Wright, just east of Dodge City.

In the poll, Huelskamp leads with 65 percent of the respondents indicating they would vote for the Republican. Jilka received 23 percent, and Warner received seven percent. Five percent said they were undecided.

Important dates for voters to remember are these:

October 13: Election offices begin mailing advance voting ballots

October 18: Last day to register to vote or change party affiliation for the general election

October 27: Last day for election office to mail advance voting applications

October 29: Last day for election office to mail advance voting ballots

November 2: Election day

Kansas first Congressional district pollKansas first Congressional district poll, August 9, 2010

Kansas polls and election results

In the hotly contested Kansas Republican primary elections this year, polls generated a lot of interest. In two Kansas Congressional districts, independent polls did a good job of predicting the vote for all candidates except the two winners, and a candidate’s own poll may have been undermined by large voter turnout.

In a KWCH/SurveyUSA poll of the Kansas first Congressional district, the poll accurately (within the margin of sampling error) predicted the outcomes for all candidates except for victor Tim Huelskamp. The survey predicted 24 percent of the vote for him, and the actual vote was 35 percent. This poll had three candidates tied, so it didn’t predict a winner.

The same group also polled the fourth Congressional district. For three candidates — Jim Anderson, Wink Hartman, and Jean Schodorf, the poll predicted the exact percentage that the candidates actually received. The exception was winner Mike Pompeo. The poll predicted he would win and receive 31 percent of the vote. He did win, and his actual vote total was 39 percent.

An election eve poll by political consulting firm Singularis had mixed results in the fourth district, but is notable in that it predicted eventual winner Pompeo’s vote total closely. The poll indicated 37 percent of the vote, and the actual was 39 percent.

In the fourth district, Schodorf released four polls that her campaign commissioned. Each poll showed her support increasing, until in the third poll, she took the lead. In the fourth poll her lead increased.

When comparing this poll to actual election results, we find that Schodorf’s poll overstated her actual performance by six percentage points. The performance of Anderson and Hartman were understated by six and seven points. For winner Pompeo, the final Schodorf poll understated his performance by 13 percentage points. (These polls did not include candidate Paij Rutschman.)

In a conversation before the election with Schodorf’s pollster, he indicated several reasons why the numbers in her surveys were different than the KWCH/SurveyUSA poll numbers.

One difference between the polls was the source of the voters called by the pollsters. The KWCH/SurveyUSA polls started with a list of households. To determine likely voters, the pollster would ask respondents if they were going to vote. Schodorf’s polls used voter lists as a source, calling only on voters who had a history of voting in August primary elections.

Because many people look at voting as a positive civic duty, it is thought that people will overstate their actual tendency to vote, and this is a reason why polls might decide to use voter history as a selection device, especially in primary elections where turnout is generally low. It is standard practice of campaigns to use voter lists in their voter contact efforts.

But this year voter turnout was high. The Wichita Eagle reported voter turnout in Sedgwick County — home to about 71 percent of the population in the fourth district — was 25 percent. That’s higher than the 19 percent turnout predicted statewide, and higher than in most primary elections.

Considering Republican voters, the Sedgwick County election office reports there are 104,558 registered Republicans, and 49,967 Republican ballots were cast. That indicates a turnout of almost 48 percent, considering Sedgwick County only.

By calling only those with a history of primary voting, many people who voted in this election would not have been sampled by polls based on voter history.

The Schodorf polls were conducted by live operators, while the KWCH/SurveyUSA polls were automated response. This can lead to a difference in the types of people that respond to the poll.

In the Republican Senate primary between Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt, the final KWCH/SurveyUSA poll had Moran ahead by 49 to 39 percent, with eight percent undecided. The actual totals were Moran winning with 50 percent to Tiahrt’s 45 percent, so that poll understated Tiahrt’s total by six percentage points while correctly choosing the winner.

Kansas primary election analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kansas first Congressional district poll shows little change

KWCH Television in Wichita and SurveyUSA have released a poll of voter opinion of candidates for the Republican party nomination for United States Congress from the first district of Kansas. As was the case in the most recent poll, three candidates have broken away from the pack. The difference between the candidates is within the poll’s margin of sampling error, and as such, should be considered a statistical tie.

The poll, conducted July 10th through 12th, shows physician and Kansas Senator Jim Barnett of Emporia with 25 percent of the vote, if the election were held today. Salina businessman Tracey Mann ties Barnett with 25 percent, and farmer and Kansas Senator Tim Huelskamp of Fowler has 22 percent of the vote.

Each of these candidates has increased their percentage of the vote from the last poll.

Other candidates in this race are Rob Wasinger with 10 percent; Sue Boldra with five percent, and Marck Cobb with two percent. 12 percent are undecided.

The Republican candidates for this nomination and their campaign websites are physician and Kansas Senator Jim Barnett of Emporia, educator Sue Boldra of Hays, attorney and mediator Marck Cobb of Galva, farmer and Kansas Senator Tim Huelskamp of Fowler, Salina commercial real estate executive Tracey Mann, and Senator Brownback chief of staff Rob Wasinger of Cottonwood Falls. The primary election is August 3rd.

Kansas Senate voting records for Barnett and Huelskamp

Of the candidates seeking the Republican party nomination for United States Congress from the first district of Kansas, two have extensive voting records based on their service in the Kansas Senate. Both candidates — farmer and Kansas Senator Tim Huelskamp of Fowler and physician and Kansas Senator Jim Barnett of Emporia — promote themselves as conservatives.

The Kansas Taxpayers Network, and now the Kansas Chapter of Americans for Prosperity, produce legislative scorecards that track legislators’ votes and produce ratings. Legislators who vote for fiscally conservative positions will produce high scores on these tabulations. The accompanying chart shows these two senators’ ratings since they started service, in 1997 for Huelskamp and 2001 for Barnett.

Kansas Senate vote ratings for Jim Barnett and Tim HuelskampKansas Senate vote ratings for Jim Barnett and Tim Huelskamp

In another legislative scorecard, the Kansas Economic Freedom Index for this year, Barnett scored 69%, tying for 13th place among the 40 senators. Huelskamp scored 87%, in a tie for second place. This is the first year for the Kansas Economic Freedom Index.

The other Republican candidates seeking this nomination are educator Sue Boldra of Hays, attorney and mediator Marck Cobb of Galva, Salina commercial real estate executive Tracey Mann, and Senator Brownback chief of staff Rob Wasinger of Cottonwood Falls.

In Kansas, Club for Growth PAC taps Pompeo, Huelskamp

The Club for Growth is a national organization that advances prosperity and economic growth by promoting economic freedom and limited government. Each year it ranks federal lawmakers on how well they follow these principles on its scorecards. (For a look at how current Kansas Congressman and Senate hopefuls Todd Tiahrt and Jerry Moran ranked on the scorecard, see Club for Growth gives slight nod to Tiahrt over Moran.)

The Club for Growth Political Action Committee (PAC) endorses candidates for the United States House of Representatives and Senate. According to communications director Mike Connolly, the PAC usually endorses from 12 to 20 candidates each election cycle, he said. This year the PAC has endorsed 13 candidates so far, including two in Kansas.

Connolly said the PAC endorses candidates who share a belief in principles of limited government, economic freedom, and individual responsibility. It does not consider social issues when deciding which candidates to endorse.

The Club for Growth PAC does not make endorsements in all contests, Connolly said. It looks for candidates who it believes will be solid fiscal conservative leaders when they get to Congress. It also looks for contests where the PAC can have an impact. In districts where no candidates are in step with the Club for Growth’s principles, it makes no endorsement. With 55,000 members across the country, limited government conservatives view a Club for Growth PAC endorsement as a reliable stamp of approval, Connolly added.

In Kansas, with three open House seats and one open Senate seat, the Club for Growth PAC has made two endorsements. It is possible that the PAC could make other endorsements in Kansas — both the third House district in northeast Kansas and the United States Senate campaigns are vigorously contested — but as the August primary nears, that becomes less likely.

In the race for Republican Party nomination for United States Congress from the first district of Kansas, the Club for Growth PAC endorsed farmer and Kansas Senator Tim Huelskamp of Fowler.

David Ray, the Huelskamp campaign manager, said that Huelskamp’s record on fiscal issues like spending and taxes that are important to the Club for Growth PAC is “absolutely stellar.” He also said that a reason the PAC endorsed Huelskamp is that one of his opponents, physician and Kansas Senator Jim Barnett of Emporia, has not upheld principles of fiscal responsibility. It is not known whether Barnett sought the PAC’s endorsement.

In the fourth district of Kansas, centered around the Wichita metropolitan area, the Club for Growth PAC endorsed Wichita businessman Mike Pompeo.

Pompeo said that he viewed the Club for Growth PAC’s endorsement as a “good housekeeping seal of approval” for candidates who are committed to limited government, less regulation, and growing economies by getting government out of the way.

Pompeo said he participated in an interview and that the PAC investigates the backgrounds of candidates thoroughly. He also said that he’s one of the few candidates endorsed by the PAC without a voting record, the usual benchmark for making endorsements. He said that his experience and commitment to the principles of the Club for Growth PAC earned the endorsement.

He also said that Wichita businessman Wink Hartman, the leading contender besides Pompeo, sought the Club for Growth PAC endorsement.

At the Club for Growth PAC website, you may read its endorsements of Tim Huelskamp and Mike Pompeo. The Barnett and Hartman campaign offices did not return telephone calls requesting comment for this story.

Update: Scott Paradise, the Hartman campaign manager, said that Hartman met with the Club for Growth PAC, but did not seek its endorsement. Paradise characterized the Club for Growth PAC as a special interest group, saying the Hartman campaign decided not to seek contributions from such groups. The Club for Growth believes it works to advance prosperity and opportunity for everyone equally through economic freedom and personal liberty.

Kansas senate debate centers on free speech, transparency

This afternoon the Kansas Senate debated for about 90 minutes on an amendment that would require more disclosure for “issue ads” or communications in favor of candidates by third parties.

Senator Terrie Huntington, a Republican from Fairway, introduced the amendment to Senate Substitute for HB 2079. Its language, apparently identical to Senate Bill 418, states: “Any person who spends or contracts to spend an amount of $500 or more per calendar year for any electioneering communication” must file reports that disclose the identity of the donor and the amount of the contribution.

At one point in the debate, Senator Terry Bruce, a Hutchinson Republican, asked Huntington why it is the government’s business who makes a contribution? Huntington replied the she didn’t know why the government has campaign finance laws, except that she has to file reports of her contributors.

Bruce also objected to what he called “loose language” in the bill. Several times he asked about the use of the word “specifically,” saying that the bill was vague in who would be required to disclose contributions. He suggested that churches might have to disclose their donors if this amendment becomes law.

Senator Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat who is the long-time minority leader of the Senate, said that this amendment applies only to those who contribute over $500 for the purpose of electioneering communication. He added that this type of communication does not include communications made by membership organizations solely to their members. That would not be covered by this amendment, he said.

Senator Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, made a case for anonymous free speech based on the Constitution. People should be allowed to state an opinion, she said. She referred to a series of “Snoop dog” ads used in recent elections that were, she said, traced back to abortion doctor Dr. George Tiller of Wichita. Noting that Tiller was murdered last year, she said “somebody got upset, and he was murdered. And that’s why we protect free speech, and that’s why we allow for anonymous free speech.”

Senator Tim Huelskamp, a Republican from Fowler in southwest Kansas, raised the issue of how this amendment would affect unions and their communications. Huntington said that unions are not formed for the express purpose of campaign electioneering.

Hensley said that unions typically form political action committees, which must disclose their contributors. If they don’t do that, they are treated the same as corporations.

Huelskamp raised the question what if an organization sends out a communication to their members, but someone else — not a member — inadvertently receives the communication? This is important, as the language of the amendment says that communication solely to members is not covered. Huntington did not seem to have a satisfactory answer to this.

What about editorials, Huelskamp asked? Huntington said that editorials printed in newspapers not controlled by the candidate are not covered by the proposed amendment. Huntington said that newspaper editorials are not written for the purposes of electioneering, which Huelskamp disputed, noting that editorialists “write all the time trying to influence elections.” He recognized the concern that some have for the wealthy influencing elections, and that some own newspapers and other outlets. Why do they get to editorialize and send out their opinions?

Huntington noted that newspapers are covered under the freedom of the press guaranteed in the Constitution, and that we all know who owns the newspaper. Huelskamp said that ownership is not necessarily known in all cases. He asked about the distinction between an individual buying an ad in the newspaper versus an editorial writer saying the same thing. Would the ad buyer be subject to disclosure, but not the editorial writer? What is the reason for the distinction, he asked?

Huntington replied that editorials are not included in the definition of electioneering communications in this amendment. Huelskamp pressed for the reason why this is so. Huntington replied that these do not expressly advocate for or against a particular candidate, so they were not included in the definition of electioneering communication.

Huelskamp noted that express advocacy is the whole purpose of this amendment, so why are these exemptions in the amendment? Huntington was not able to give a specific answer.

Huelskamp said that this amendment would create a situation where a newspaper editorial writer could write something, and then a private citizen could pay for an ad with the exact same language, and the citizen — not the editorial writer — would be subject to election reporting requirements. Why, he asked, should those who own a newspaper have more free speech than others?

During the debate there seemed to be confusion on spending $500 or more on a communications piece versus contributing $500 or more to an organization.

Huelskamp mentioned a case in 1958 Alabama, where that state tried to determine who were members of the NAACP. The Supreme Court ruled that there is a right to anonymous groups to get together and influence the political process, he said. Legislation like the proposed amendment, he told the Senate, would have prevented the NAACP from reporting on the action of the Alabama legislature.

In closing, Huelskamp said that even ads that let citizens know what elected officials are doing are affected by laws like these. The purpose of this amendment, he said, is to limit and chill speech of those who might disagree.

Hensley said this amendment is about the peoples’ right to know. He mentioned the organization Americans for Prosperity, saying he thinks it doesn’t want people to have the right to know about their contributions and expenditures. He said that AFP is, in fact, electioneering.

Hensley contended again that all the amendment says is that if you contribute more than $500, you’re going to have to disclose. He said we know who writes newspaper editorials and letters to the editor.

Hensley mentioned an award he received from Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government, and that Huelskamp was also honored as a “friend of the public’s right to know. That’s what this is all about.”

Joining the debate again, Bruce addressed the issue of whose information will be made public. He said that this amendment would require disclosure of anyone who has contributed $500 or more to an organization.

Senator Jeff Colyer delivered a short lesson on American history, telling how founding fathers such as Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and Thomas Jefferson wrote anonymously — electioneering, Colyer contended.

In a roll call vote, the amendment failed with 18 votes in favor, and 21 against.


Hensley’s accusation of Americans for Prosperity reveals the true target of this amendment. It, along with a few other organizations, are being singled out in this proposed law. These organizations are largely conservative, although those on the political left have tried to hide large political contributions, as a Kansas Meadowlark investigation revealed.

I believe that Hensley confuses government action with private action. Open records, which is an issue Huelskamp has been closely involved with, is concerned with citizens’ right to know what government is doing. This amendment addresses actions that private individuals may take. There’s a huge distinction between the two, and that’s one of the largest issues in this amendment.

In making his remarks about knowing who writes newspaper editorials and letters to the editor, Hensley may have forgotten about unsigned editorials and features like the anonymous and popular Opinion Line in the Wichita Eagle. Most newspapers also allow comments to be left to articles on their online editions, and these are almost always an anonymous form of communication and commonly used for blatant electioneering.

A problem with this amendment is that individuals may make contributions to organizations for general use, not earmarking the dollars for any specific use such as a political mailing. How would organizations decide whose contributions to disclose?

In the end, the best solution is a government so small, so limited and powerless, that it doesn’t much matter who is in charge. Then campaign finance won’t be very important.

This vote is part of the Kansas Economic Freedom Index.

Kansas texting, seat belt law passes

Today the Kansas Senate debated and passed Senate Substitute for House Bill 2437.

This bill creates a “primary” seat belt law, meaning that a law enforcement officer can stop a car when the officer believes someone in the car may not be wearing a seat belt. Currently, the car must have been stopped for other reasons before the officer could cite occupants for not wearing seat belts. The bill would send about $11 million federal dollars to Kansas; $1 million earmarked for transportation safety, but the rest could be shifted into the state general fund. Governor Mark Parkinson has identified this money as being used to close the state’s general fund budget gap.

Senator Tim Huelskamp, a Republican from Fowler, objected to the bill because it’s a federal mandate that interferes with our local state control. The federal government has taken our tax money, he said, and is using it to coax our state into passing the primary seat belt law. Huelskamp’s actual language was stronger, using the term “outright bribery,” and noting with displeasure that the governor was acceding to this action.

Senator Davie Haley, a Democrat from Kansas City, along with Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau, Democrat from Wichita, expressed concerns that the seat belt law and the texting laws could be used as pretexts for stopping cars when the real aim of the officer is to perform a stop or search that couldn’t have been performed otherwise. “Driving while black” is the term both senators used, perhaps alluding to studies that have shown that minority drivers are stopped more often for minor traffic violations than non-minority drivers.

The bill also bans text messaging or electronic mail while driving. During the debate Senator Chris Steineger, a Democrat from Kansas City, gave Kansans a defense if they’re ticketed for texting while driving: The bill doesn’t prohibit using a phone for making telephone calls while driving. In fact, the bill contains language providing an exception “if the person reads, selects or enters a telephone number or name in a handheld wireless communication device for the purpose of making or receiving a phone call.”

Steineger wondered how a law enforcement officer could tell, just by looking, if a person is dialing a telephone number or entering a text message. He couldn’t get a specific answer from Senator Dwayne Umbarger, who was carrying the bill.

Pompeo, Huelskamp given nod by Club For Growth

Kansas Republican congressional hopefuls Mike Pompeo (fourth district) and Tim Huelskamp (first district) have been endorsed by the Club For Growth PAC.

Club For Growth is a conservative organization that advocates for a pro-growth tax policy: “The goal of tax policy should be to raise the amount of money needed to fund legitimate functions of government while doing the least amount of damage to the economy and respecting the principle of treating taxpayers equally.”

It also argues for cutting federal spending, expanding trade freedom, personal retirement accounts to replace social security, and choice in education through expanded charter school and voucher programs.