Tag Archives: Tim Huelskamp

Roger Marshall campaign setting new standards

Attacks on Tim Huelskamp reveal the worst in political campaigning.

When the campaign of Roger Marshall accuses Tim Huelskamp of being in favor of abortion, you know his campaign is spiraling out of control. Either that, or the Marshall campaign is deliberately lying about a politician’s record.

Beyond this issue, the Marshall campaign and its surrogates are making arguments that simply have no basis in reality. An example is one radio ad, placed by an independent spending group, that uses the term “Washing-Tim.” The ad tries to persuade voters that Huelskamp has sold out to the Washington establishment. That is a true whopper, as Huelskamp has been anything but an establishment crony.

As an example, Huelskamp opposed the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank last year. This is an issue that draws a bright line, with progressive Democrats and left-wing Republicans on one side, and free-market, limited government conservatives on the other. The issue truly and precisely sorts politicians into two groups, and Huelskamp is on the right side of this issue. Which is to say, the non-establishment side. Yet, we get “Washing-Tim” from Marshall supporters.

Part of the problem is that officeholders in legislatures, both state and federal, must often vote on bills that contain hundreds of provisions. This bundling of so many often disparate issues into one vote allows unscrupulous campaigns to label someone as a supporter of an issue. That’s what the Marshall campaign and its surrogates are doing.

Mark Holden, a top leader of groups that support free-market causes including Americans for Prosperity, told The Hill this:

I don’t know who is behind [the ESAFund], I’ve heard different rumors about it, but Mr. Singer and the Ricketts family have been good partners of ours in the past and in the present as well. I totally am mystified by Ending Spending and their point of view. I just wonder who could be better [than Huelskamp] on the issues that a group like Ending Spending, I mean their whole name … who could be better on these issues than Tim Huelskamp? If you believe in fiscal responsibility, fiscal conservatism, the proper role of government, particularly on these economic issues that I’m talking about and that our network is focused on; we don’t know of anyone who’s better than Tim Huelskamp.

Huelskamp’s free-market bona fides are buttressed by his lifetime ratings with groups that focus on fiscal conservatism. Club for Growth rates Huelskamp at 100 percent lifetime. Americans for Prosperity scores him at 98 percent.

During election season, especially in close campaigns, we’re accustomed to seeing campaigns paint opponents in unflattering light. The Roger Marshall campaign and its surrogates, however, may be establishing a new standard for deceptive behavior and outright lies.

Does Kansas have its own Solyndra?

Does Kansas have its own version of Solyndra, the politically-connected firm that failed and cost taxpayers some $535 million? We don’t know. But the Abengoa cellulosic ethanol plant near Hugoton received a $132.4 million loan guarantee under the same program that benefited Solyndra.

In January I requested documents regarding the Abengoa loan guarantee and risk assessment from the United States Department of Energy. I had several conversations and emails with a records clerk. We came to agreement as to what I would receive, or at least what I am requesting to receive. But I’ve received nothing so far. I don’t know if the document will be made available to me at no charge, or will I have to pay thousands of dollars. The Department of Energy is working on my request, they say. But after nine months: nothing. Following, from October 2011, more information about this plant.

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.

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.

Shownotes

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.

Sincerely,

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 [email protected]. 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 [email protected].

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.”