Tag Archives: Wichita Pachyderm Club

Zoltán Kész of Free Market Foundation of Hungary.

In Hungary, the rise of nationalism and racism

Zoltán Kész of Free Market Foundation of Hungary.

Zoltán Kész of Free Market Foundation of Hungary.

Zoltán Kész will speak at the Wichita Pachyderm Club on Friday February 21. The public is welcome to attend. For more information on this event, see Hungarian activist to address Pachyderms and guests.

In Hungary, nationalism and racism are rising problems. The Free Market Foundation of Hungary, co-founded by Zoltán Kész fights against these problems. Last November Kesz was in Wichita and I visited with him and a small group.

I asked about economic freedom in Hungary, noting that according to the economic freedom of the world report, Hungary was about in the middle of the European countries, although it is moving in the wrong direction. Kesz said that is right. Hungary had a very good economy in the 1990s, but in the past 13 or 14 years the country has been going in the wrong direction. The government in Hungary has a two-thirds majority he said, which means it can pass any law. The government passed a flat tax, but there are so many other taxes added on that he said it’s not really a flat tax. The flat, or value-added, tax is 27 percent.

Kesz said that while the government in Hungary says it is a conservative government, there have been recent developments that are contrary to free-market principles. For example, private pensions were nationalized in 2010. The government heavily regulates utility prices, and soon all utility companies will be nonprofit.

A serious and growing problem in Hungary is racism. In 2006, the Jobbik party, a group that is openly anti-Jew and anti-Roma (Gypsy) became popular. In 2010 it had 15 percent of the vote in the Hungarian parliament and is the third largest party. The country is very homogeneous, Kesz said, surrounded by Hungarians in other countries. An estimate is that about eight percent are Roma. There are about 100,000 Jews in Hungary, which has a total population of ten million.

The Jobbik party in Hungary — which Kesz described as far-right — is nationalistic and criticizes the loss of territory after World War I. It stirs up emotions for a larger Hungary and for getting the old empire back. Economically, Jobbik rejects globalism and foreign investment, and supports more government redistribution of income and wealth.

Very troubling is the radical, neo-Nazi aspect of Jobbik. The party blames Jews and Gypsies for the problems in Hungary. Kesz told of demands by one Jobbik member of parliament who demanded a list of Jews in the legislature. Leaders of Jobbik have said that Jews should be put in cattle wagons and shipped away to labor camps.

Recent surveys have reported that Jobbik attracts 33 percent of university students, and 52 percent of those say that in some cases they would prefer dictatorship rather than democracy.

It’s hard to overstate how serious is the problem of the rise of racism and nationalism in Hungary. In his recommendation of the free market foundation of Hungary, Tom G. Palmer said “The backsliding towards authoritarian statism and even primitive collectivism in the heart of Europe is extremely disturbing and so it is truly inspiring to see the work that the Free Market Foundation is doing. I was very active in the region as communism was crumbling and remember vividly the struggle of Hungarians to free themselves from the horrors of Communism.”

Last year Zoltan Kesz was named “Liberty Entrepreneur of the Year” by Atlas Economic Research Foundation. You can view his short speech nearby, or click here to view at YouTube.

Voice for Liberty Radio: State of the Republican Party

Voice for Liberty logo with microphone 150

In this episode of WichitaLiberty Radio: Last fall Bud Norman spoke to a meeting of the Wichita Pachyderm Club. Norman’s blog is The Central Standard Times. His novel is “The Things That Are Caesars: A Comic Tale of Politics, Religion, and Other Impolite Topics.” His topic was “Ruminations on the State of the Republican Party,” and it’s very entertaining. I provided the introduction.

This is podcast episode number 10, released on February 7, 2014. There is much other material at Voice for Liberty on the internet at wichitaliberty.org. Here’s Bud Norman at the Wichita Pachyderm Club, October 4, 2013.

Shownotes

Norman’s blog is The Central Standard Times.
His novel is The Things That Are Caesars: A Comic Tale of Politics, Religion, and Other Impolite Topics.
His prepared remarks are available to read here.

WichitaLiberty.TV February 2, 2014

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: A Kansas college professor claims that college costs are rising only a tad faster than inflation. We’ll take a look at the actual numbers. Then, this week Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer delivered the annual State of the City address. A few things deserve comment. Episode 30, broadcast February 2, 2014. View below, or click here to view at YouTube.

The state of Wichita, 2014

Wichita city hall

Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer delivered the annual State of the City address. He said a few things that deserve discussion.

This week Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer delivered his annual State of the City address. We expect a certain amount of bragging and over-the-top community pride, things like “Wichita is the BEST place to work and raise a family!” That’s good, to a point. Because if we take these boasts seriously, and if they are not based on factual information, then we have a problem. We may believe that everything is fine in Wichita. But if the actual state of the city is otherwise, we may take unwise action that ultimately is harmful.

(While the city took prominent measures to promote the mayor’s speech, so far the text has not been made available on the city’s website. But you may click here to read it.)

Here’s an example, and perhaps the most important. The mayor said “Our community partnerships have helped us overcome the challenges of the great recession — which brought layoffs to many sectors of our economy.” But the problem is that we haven’t overcome the recession.

wichita-peer-job-growth-1990-2014-01

If we take a look at job growth in Wichita over the last two decades, we see Wichita performing very poorly. That’s not only on an absolute basis, but relative to our self-chosen peer cities. The relative part is important, because the recession was nation-wide. All cities suffered. Note that there are a few cities over which Wichita ranked higher: Springfield, Illinois, and Wichita Falls, Texas. These cities are relevant because we recently hired people from these cities to lead our economic development efforts.

wichita-chamber-job-growth-2013-12

I’ve shown data like this to the city council. I don’t think they believed me. I can understand their reluctance, as it’s not easy to admit things like this. Few like to admit failure. But that doesn’t excuse a reluctance to face facts. I also believe that some council members think that city hall critics take joy in presenting these figures. At least for me, that’s not true. I realize that these statistics tell a story of human hardship. So for those who don’t believe or trust my research, here’s a chart prepared by the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce for a presentation to its leadership committee. It uses a different time frame and a slightly different set of peers for comparison, but the results are the same: Wichita lags behind in terms of job growth.

Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition

Despite this evidence, the mayor thinks we’re doing well, and he is proud of our economic development efforts. In his address, he told the audience this: “For the past five years — the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition has helped generate nearly 10,000 jobs and more than 400 million in capital investment.”

That sounds like a lot of jobs. But we have to temper that number. We know that we don’t update our job statistics to reflect jobs that didn’t last for very long. We also must realize that some of these jobs would have been created without the involvement of our economic development agencies. We also must realize that these economic development efforts have a cost, and that cost is harmful to our economy and job creation.

But even if we give our economic development agencies sole credit for these 10,000 jobs, let’s apply a little arithmetic to provide some context. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that the labor force in the Wichita Metropolitan area is about 302,000 people. that number, by the way, has been declining since 2009. If we take the 10,000 jobs — recognizing that was for five years — that averages to 2,000 jobs per year. That’s in the neighborhood of six percent of the labor force.

Does that represent a significant factor in the Wichita area economy? Remember, that calculation gives government more credit that it deserves. When we combine this with Wichita’s lackluster performance in creating jobs compared to our peers, I really don’t think we should be proud of our government’s economic development efforts.

In his State of the City Address, Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer also said we need to “continue to diversify our economy.” But we’re not doing that. Our economic development programs heavily favor the aviation industry, which makes it more difficult for aspiring companies in other diverse industries to start and thrive.

wichita-airport-dashboard-2013-07-29

The mayor told the audience that “We will also continue to support our successful affordable airfares program.” This is the program whereby Wichita and the state of Kansas pay a discount airline to provide service in Wichita. It was AirTran, but is now Southwest. It is thought that if one airline has low fares, others will reduce their fares to match. That’s probably the case. But I’ve done the research, and there is another effect. As can be seen in the nearby chart, the number of flights and the number of available seats is declining in Wichita. These measures are also declining on a national level, but they are declining faster in Wichita than for the nation.

The mayor also asked for cooperation in using Southwest Airlines, advising the audience: “So when you make your corporate travel plans, please remember our community’s commitment to supporting low-cost carriers.” Well. How would you feel if you worked for one of our air carriers that don’t receive a subsidy, such as American, United, and Delta? How would you feel if you owned stock in one of these airlines, as does nearly everyone who holds broad-based index funds in their retirement or investment accounts?

In the past, the subsidized discount carrier has carried around ten percent of Wichita’s passengers. So we are vitally dependent on the legacy, or major, airlines, and we don’t need to insult them, as I believe the mayor did.

(To help you explore Wichita airport data, I’ve created an interactive visualization. Click here to open the visualization in a new window. You may add or remove any number of airports. Or, if you’d like to watch a video, click on Wichita Airport statistics: The video.)

Water was another topic that the mayor touched on. He told the audience: “The city has also invested in the second phase of the aquifer storage and recovery project known as ASR. New construction was completed in time to help with the drought. More than 100 million gallons were diverted from the little Arkansas River directly to customers.” 100 million gallons sounds like a lot of water. But what is the context? Well, 100 million gallons is about how much water we use on a single hot summer day.

And what about the ASR, or aquifer storage and recovery program? Its cost, so far for Phases I and II, is $247 million. Two more phases are contemplated. Despite this investment, and despite the plan’s boasts, Wichitans were threatened with huge fines for excessive water usage. The Wichita City Council also started a rebate program so that citizens were forced to pay for other people to buy low-water usage appliances. Expensive city decorative fountains were dry for a time.

Why were these measures necessary? A document created in March 2013 — that’s just as Wichita realized the city was running out of water — is titled “Wichita Area Future Water Supply: A Model Program for Other Municipalities.” It states: “In 1993 the Wichita City Council adopted an Integrated Local Water Supply Plan that identified cost effective water resources that would be adequate to meet Wichita’s water supply needs through the year 2050.” This squares with what former mayor Bob Knight recently told the Wichita Pachyderm Club, that when he was in office, Wichita had sufficient water for the next 50 years. He was told that about 10 years ago.

Just to give you an idea of how seriously we should take the claims made in speeches like this, here’s what the mayor told us in his 2009 State of the City Address: “We will continue work on the state-of-the art water supply system, known as the ASR project. It will provide the Wichita area with sufficient water for the next 50 years. Economic Development is not possible without an adequate water supply.” The mayor’s right. We need an adequate water supply. But it appears that despite huge expense and the boasts of city officials — including the mayor — we don’t have a secure water supply.

The mayor also addressed transit. He asked the community to answer a few questions, such as:

Should we have more stops to drop off and pick up riders?
Should we run later hours during the week and on the weekends?
Should we find new partners to extend our service area and help with costs?

The problem with questions like these are that citizens don’t have all the information needed to make an informed answer. Would we like to have more bus service? Who could answer no to such a question?

But if the mayor had told us that the cost per passenger mile for Wichita transit buses is 95 cents, or that only 30 percent of the operating costs are paid by fares, people might answer these questions differently. (That 30 percent would be lower if we included the cost of capital, that is, the cost of the buses.) And when the mayor asked citizens to weigh in at the Activate Wichita website: I looked, and there’s no topic for transit.

But even if citizens were informed of these costs, their answers are still not fully reliable. That’s because of the disconnect between the payment for the service and the actual bus service. Because so much of the cost of providing bus service is paid for someone else, we don’t really see the total cost of a bus trip. That’s often a problem with services provided by the government. Since someone else is paying, there’s not the same concern for receiving value as there is when people spend their own money.

activate-wichita-rate-this-idea

The Activate Wichita website, by the way. When citizens are asked to rate ideas, to express their approval or — well, that’s the problem. Your choices for voting on an idea are: “I Love It!” … “I Like It!” … “It’s OK.” … “Neutral.” That’s it. There’s no voting option for expressing disagreement or disapproval with an idea. “Neutral” is as much dissent as Wichitans are allowed to express in this system. On this system that city leaders say they rely on for gathering citizen input, there needs to be a voting selection that expresses disagreement or disapproval with an idea. Otherwise when votes are tallied, the worst that any idea can be is “neutral.” City planners may get a false impression that all these ideas a fine and dandy.

wichita-citizen-involvement-2012

On the topic of citizen involvement: The mayor also told us this: “A few weeks ago – the city launched the Office of Community Engagement.” That’s something that the city needs, based on data the city has gathered. The Wichita Performance Measures Report holds some data from a survey called the National Research Center National Citizen Survey. Survey respondents were asked to rate “the job Wichita does at welcoming citizen involvement.” The results are shown in the nearby chart I created from data in the most recent version of the Wichita Performance Measure Report. The numbers are the percent of respondents giving “excellent” or “good” as their response to the question. The values for the last three administrations of the survey are between 35 percent and 39 percent. The report says this performance is “much below” a benchmark set by the National Research Center. The report tells us that the city expects to re-survey citizens in 2014. For that year, the city has given itself the lofty target of 40 percent of citizens rating the job Wichita does at welcoming citizen involvement as excellent or good. Maybe an Office of Community Engagement will help.

Last year the city conducted an extensive survey of residents. Of this survey, the mayor said: “We learned that more than 70% of our residents are willing to rise above their personal interests to do what’s best for the community.”

The problem with this is that it relies on the false concept of a conflict between personal interests and what is good for the community. In the marketplace, which is the opposite of government, people advance their self-interest in one legitimate way: By finding out the goods and services that others want, and then providing them. If you can do this well and efficiently, you can earn profits. It’s the quest for profits — that’s self interest — that drives people to figure out what others want, and then to work hard to provide that. Everyone benefits.

This quest for profits could, and should, apply to areas that are under the control of government. But people are so afraid that someone will earn a profit by serving their fellow man. Recently John Stossel spotlighted a park in New York City that is run by a private corporation with the aim of earning a profit. People are happy with the new park. They feel safe, even though the park doesn’t discriminate and still lets homeless people stay there. There’s commerce going on, selling food, for example. People like that, and evidence of that is the profit being earned. But Stossel’s guest was critical and unhappy because someone was earning a profit, even though park patrons were happy with the park and most were unaware of its private sector operation.

So when the park was operated by the city — for the common good, that is — not many people used it. It was dirty and trashy, and people didn’t feel safe. Under the profit motive, people like the park and they use it. So where is the conflict between personal interest and what is good for the community?

Now, not everything government does is bad. But when government dabbles in areas that the private sector can do very well, we see problems. As an example, the city wants to help real estate developers, but the city handled a recent situation so badly that the mayor apologized in his address, saying “We are also taking steps to ensure we have integrity and openness when we solicit proposals for development in the core area.”

Citizens that pay attention at city hall also note there are several small groups that contribute heavily to campaigns. Then the mayor and council members vote to give financial benefits to these people. These are not isolated incidents. This behavior is repeated over and over. Some cities have laws against this type of behavior. But in Wichita, while we’re being encouraged to put “what is good for the community” above our personal self-interest, we see city hall run over by cronyism. That is, by people using city government for their own interests. In the name of the “common good,” of course.

At the end of his speech, the mayor asked citizens to “get into the game,” saying: “We need you to be a player — not a spectator — to win a better and brighter tomorrow.”

But we’ve seen what happens when people want to be involved, but not in the way the mayor and council want. Do you remember the chart of airport data? Last year I presented that information to the city council. It so happened that Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn had appointed me to the Airport Advisory Board, and later in that same meeting the city council voted on my appointment. I was rejected. Only one council member voted in my favor. The Wichita Eagle reported: “Mayor Carl Brewer was clear after the meeting: The city wants a positive voice on the airport advisory board, which provides advice to the council on airport-related issues.” A positive voice is more valued than a critical voice, it seems.

Council members shall refrain 01

You may also remember how Susan Estes of Americans for Prosperity testified at a meeting of the Wichita City Council. She cited a section of the Wichita City Code that says council members shall refrain from making decisions involving, among other things, friends and business associates. She asked the mayor to observe that part of the city code. But the mayor lashed out at Estes and others and threatened a lawsuit.

At least this year the mayor didn’t mention the importance of open and transparent government, as he usually does. Because based on Activate Wichita — where there is no disagreement allowed, to rejecting board appointments simply because someone might be critical of the city’s programs, to threatening those who ask the mayor and council members to follow the laws that they passed, to the city’s hostile attitude towards the citizen’s right to know: The message we get is this: The city welcomes your involvement, but only up to a point. Question the authority, and you’re not welcome.

That’s the state of Wichita government, that government to be distinguished from the many wonderful people who live here. We can be thankful for the difference.

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

The death penalty in Kansas, a conservative view

What should the attitude of conservatives be regarding the death penalty? Ben Jones of Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty spoke on the topic “Capital Punishment in Kansas from a conservative perspective: Is it a failed policy?” This was recorded at the Wichita Pachyderm Club on December 6, 2013. Jennifer Baysinger provided the introduction. Click here to listen.

Voice for Liberty Radio: Mike O’Neal, Kansas Chamber of Commerce

Voice for Liberty logo with microphone 150

In this episode of WichitaLiberty Podcasts: Mike O’Neal, who is president and CEO of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, spoke yesterday to the Wichita Pachyderm Club. A large part of his talk was on the topic of Kansas school finance and other education topics. This podcast contains that portion of his speech.

O’Neal graduated from Kansas University and also its law school. He served in the Kansas House of Representatives for 28 years, with his final four years as Speaker of the House. He joined the Kansas Chamber as President and CEO in 2012 as he retired from the legislature.

This is podcast episode number 4, released on January 18, 2014.

Shownotes

Kansas Chamber of Commerce
Mike O’Neal at Wikipedia
Mike O’Neal at LinkedIn
Mike O’Neal biography at Kansas Chamber
The Gannon opinion
Kansas school topics from Voice for Liberty
Kansas State Department of Education
Kansas Policy Institute

Bud Norman: “Ruminations on the State of the Republican Party”

bud-norman-wichita-pachyderm-club-2013-10-06

Today writer Bud Norman delivered a fascinating address to members and guests of the Wichita Pachyderm Club. Norman’s blog is The Central Standard Times. His novel is The Things That Are Caesars: A Comic Tale of Politics, Religion, and Other Impolite Topics. I (Bob Weeks) introduced Bud.

His prepared remarks are available to read here, or below.

An audio recording of this event is available at Bud Norman, Wichita Pachyderm Club, October 4, 3012. Or, listen below.

Anderson, former Kansas budget director, speaks

Last Friday former Kansas budget director Steve Anderson spoke to members and guests of the Wichita Pachyderm Club. Two videos are available, a highlights version and full version. View below, or to view on YouTube, click here for highlights or here for full version.

Also, it was announced on Friday that Anderson would be joining Kansas Policy Institute in the role of senior adjunct fiscal policy fellow. For more on this from KPI, see Former state budget director Steve Anderson joins Kansas Policy Institute.

Highlights video

Full speech

Wichita water supply good through 2050, they said

Wichita ASR schematic

A document created in March 2013 — at the time the city warned that its major water source might soon go dry — touts an expensive investment that is part of a “plan to ensure that Wichita has the water it needs through the year 2050 and beyond.”

The project boasted of is the City of Wichita Aquifer Storage and Recovery Program. Its cost, so far for Phases I and II, is $247 million. Two more phases are contemplated.

Despite this investment, and despite the plan’s boasts, Wichitans have been threatened with huge fines for excessive water usage. The Wichita City Council is forcing citizens to spend up to $1 million so that other people may install low-water usage appliances, and city decorative fountains were dry until this week in an effort to save water.

Overall, the city’s strategy is to force austerity and huge expense on those who live here.

We can’t plan rainfall and drought year-by-year. We do know, however, that over long periods of time there will be both dry and wet years, and we need to have plans in place for both. Reading the document Wichita Area Future Water Supply: A Model Program for Other Municipalities, published this spring, one might be led to believe that everything is fine, water-wise: “In 1993 the Wichita City Council adopted an Integrated Local Water Supply Plan that identified cost effective water resources that would be adequate to meet Wichita’s water supply needs through the year 2050.”

This squares with what former mayor Bob Knight recently told the Wichita Pachyderm Club, that when he was in office, Wichita had sufficient water for the next 50 years.

What went wrong with this plan? Let’s try to get an answer to this question.

Wichita Pachyderm Club speaker lineup

Here is the current lineup of speakers for the Wichita Pachyderm Club.

Wichita is blessed with an active and dynamic Pachyderm Club that presents, nearly every Friday, an educational program than enriches civic life. I am thankful for John Stevens, the club president; John Todd, club vice-president in charge of programs; Clifford Koehn, treasurer; and Shirley Koehn, membership chair.

Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm Club meetings. Meetings are held almost every Friday in the Wichita Petroleum Club on the top floor of the Bank of America Building at 100 N. Broadway. The program starts at noon, and it is suggested that guests arrive by 11:45 am in order to get their lunch before the program starts. The meeting costs $10, which includes a delicious buffet lunch and beverage. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club.

June 7, 2013
Chris Addington, Senior Commodity Manager, Supply Management, Cessna Aircraft Company
(Mr. Addington spent 3 years in China in technical and business support for the start up of China’s Shenyang Aircraft Corporation as Manufacturing Partner for the Cessna Model 162 SkyCather.)
“Life and Work in China — An Observation of the Cultural Differences and Ways of Doing Business in China as Compared to the United States.”

June 14, 2013
The Honorable Phil Journey, 18th Judicial District State Court Judge
“A Report from the National Rifle and Kansas State Rifle Association’s Annual Meetings; plus Political Prognostications”

June 21, 2013
Martin Hawver, Publisher, Hawver’s Capitol Report
“A political assessment of the 2013 Kansas legislative session”

June 28, 2013
David Barfield, P.E. Chief Engineer, Kansas Department of Agriculture, Division of Water Resources
“Adapting Kansas Water Law to Meet Current & Future Needs”

July 5, 2013
No meeting, as the Petroleum Club closed for the Independence Day holiday.

July 12, 2013
Russell S. Sobel, Ph.D., Visiting Scholar in Entrepreneurship, School of Business Administration, The Citadel
“Topic to be determined”

July 19, 2013
Ray Roberts, Secretary of Corrections, Kansas Department of Corrections
“An Overview of the Kansas Department of Corrections”

July 26, 2013
Marc Bennett, District Attorney, Eighteenth Judicial District of Kansas (Sedgwick County)
“There is a new DA in town”

August 2, 2013
Col. Robert “Bob” Hester, Director JROTC Program, Wichita Public Schools
“An Overview of the JROTC Program”

August 9, 2013
Carrie Rengers, Business Reporter, The Wichita Eagle
“Have you heard?”

August 16, 2013
Tim Brown, host of “This Week in Kansas” on KAKE TV
Topic to be determined.

August 23, 2013
Pat George, Secretary, Kansas Department of Commerce
“Growing the Kansas Economy”

August 30, 2013
Jeff Easter, Sedgwick County Sheriff
Topic to be determined.

Wichita mayor said to be ‘under lockdown’

When Wichita ABC affiliate KAKE Television ran a news story critical of Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, reporter Jared Cerullo wasn’t able to interview Brewer to get his reaction to his critics. The mayor refused to talk to Cerullo.

Jeff Herndon, KAKE Television news anchor, speaking at Wichita Pachyderm Club, May 17, 2013. Herndon is speaking for himself, and not on behalf of KAKE.

Speaking last week at the Wichita Pachyderm Club, KAKE news anchor Jeff Herndon said that KAKE has “repeatedly” tried to get an on-camera interview with Brewer. But the mayor is always busy, Herndon said: “They’ve got him on lockdown. He’s not going to answer that.”

Herndon was speaking for himself, and not for his employer. In his talk to the Pachyderms, he was critical of Wichita news media — both television and print — for not covering city government rigorously, telling the audience: “We need more reporters on that city government beat, and not just on decisions they make. We need to hold them accountable for the decision. We don’t do that.”

Brewer is sometimes mentioned as a candidate for higher office, perhaps challenging Kansas Governor Sam Brownback next year. Brewer’s term as mayor ends in April 2015. He is not eligible for election to another term as mayor because of Wichita’s term limits law.

KAKE Television news story: Controversy over hotel sales tax vote

Notes:

  • The KAKE news story referred to is Wichita Mayor Scrutinized For Controversial Vote. Both text and video are available.
  • On his radio program, Joseph Ashby had an interesting take on Herndon’s remarks and Wichita new media.
  • Video of the city council meeting that was the subject of the KAKE news story is here.
  • Explanation of the public policy angle that drove citizens to testify at the April 16 city council meeting is here.
  • The original article that identified the problem and to solutions is Pay-to-play laws are needed in Wichita and Kansas. In that article I wrote: “When one looks at the candidates these people contribute to, you notice that often there’s no commonality to the political goals and ideals of the candidates. Some people contribute equally to liberal and conservative council members. Then, when these people appear in the news after having received money from the Wichita City Council, it snaps into place: These campaign donors are not donating to those whose ideals they agree with. They’re donating so they can line their own pockets.”

Joseph Ashby on local news media, anti-conservative bias

Wichita city hall logoLast week KAKE Television news anchor Jeff Herndon addressed the Wichita Pachyderm Club. Today, on the Joseph Ashby Show, the host commented on Herndon’s views on Wichita news media, and drew some conclusions about anti-conservative bias in Wichita news media.

Joseph Ashby Show, May 23, 2013 (excerpt).

The KAKE Television news story referred to is Wichita mayor comes under scrutiny for controversial vote.

Joseph and Titus went to New York, so I substituted

Thursday I was guest host on the Joseph Ashby Show. If you haven’t been aware of this, Joseph’s son Titus — just two years old — has the amazing ability to shoot a basketball. Recently Joseph put together a video of Titus and his accomplishments and posted it to YouTube. As of this writing the video has been viewed 4,914,950 times, and that’s just since it was premiered on Sunday. (Click here to view the video.)

As a result, Titus has been receiving quite a bit of media attention. Thursday the entire Ashby family appeared on the NBC Today Show (video here). On Friday Joseph and Titus appeared on Fox and Friends (video here). There have been countless other media mentions.

So I was quite happy to substitute as a guest host on the Joseph Ashby Show Thursday. Callers included Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn, Jennifer Baysinger speaking about the death penalty and Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty, John Todd speaking about the Wichita Pachyderm Club, Terence Grado of Generation Opportunity talking about youth unemployment, and Drew, a frequent caller to the show who is very perceptive. You can listen to the show below.

Role of government in Kansas schools deflects attention from solutions

Focus on two Kansas school efficiency panels, school spending, and the surrounding politics is deflecting attention away from what Kansas schoolchildren and parents really need: Choice.

As part of an effort to increase the efficiency of Kansas public schools, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback announced an online portal for reporting inefficiencies. People may remain anonymous if the want. To view the form or report an inefficiency, click on Kansas school efficiency task force inefficiency form.

Here’s an example to get started: I have received several letters from the Wichita School District using priority mail — an expensive service — to me one sheet of paper. Other government agencies are content to deliver similar correspondence by email.

This effort, like the Kansas school efficiency task force itself has been harshly criticized by those in the school system. An example from Twitter yesterday is this: “Another Brownback salvo against public education. An insult to all KS schools. Red meat for the uneducated.”

In response to the governor’s task force, another has been created by KASB, the Kansas Association of School Boards. Its purpose, as described in Topeka Capital-Journal reporting, is to “to analyze options available to local district officials to maximize educational return on investments in K-12 public schools.”

One might think that the prime mission of a school board advocacy group would already be to “maximize educational return on investments.” What could be more important when considering the lives of Kansas schoolchildren and the plight of taxpayers?

But I guess schools have to be prodded a bit. Does anyone notice the irony: Those already in charge of Kansas public schools have had the power to implement efficiency measures. They don’t need permission or a task force.

There’s an incongruity here. On one hand, the public schools are (almost) entirely dependent on tax revenue for their funding. But public school officials object to the term “government schools.” In an email from Wichita School District Interim Superintendent Martin Libhart to Wichita school employees during the 2008 bond issue campaign, he took issue with those who, using his words, “openly refer to public education as ‘government schools.’” To him, this is something that shouldn’t be mentioned.

I don’t blame them. Last year ABC News reported on the low opinion Americans have of government: “Only 26 percent of Americans in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll say they’re optimistic about ‘our system of government and how well it works,’ down 7 points since October to the fewest in surveys dating to 1974. Almost as many, 23 percent, are pessimistic, the closest these measures ever have come. The rest, a record high, are ‘uncertain’ about the system.”

Schools want (what they consider) the good things about government — people being forced to pay taxes to support them — while at the same time they try to avoid the justifiably low esteem in which people hold government programs.

Governmental decisions are made through our political system — that is, unless we want to cede total control to bureaucrats. So we can’t keep politics out of school decisions as long as they are government schools. In today’s Wichita Eagle editorial writer Phillip Brownlee expressed concern for the role of politics in schools, especially surrounding the governor’s efficiency task force, concluding: “Though politics are swirling around the task force, it still may be able to come up with some good suggestions for reducing overhead without harming educational outcomes. If it does, great.” (Eagle editorial: School task force has rocky start)

I don’t think Brownlee meant to perform this public service, but his editorial is an example of why we need less government involvement in education. Our government — excuse me, public — schools are one of the most powerful ways through which civil society is destroyed. In the process, we replace the innovation and creativity of free markets and economic freedom with moribund governmental programs for our children.

As an example, take the controversy over what percent of school spending should go into the classroom. This is one of the motivating factors behind the school efficiency task force.

But consider this: Do we worry about how much the grocery store spends on administration versus other expenses? Do we quarrel over the number of assembly workers vs. managers at a manufacturing company?

Of course we don’t, at least we who don’t own these organizations. Instead, we recognize that these business firms operate in a competitive environment. That competition is a powerful force that motivates them to find the right mix of management and other expenses, or at least a good mix.

We also recognize that there are different types of grocery stores. Some offer more customer service than others. People are free to choose which type of store they like best, even on different days.

Schools in Kansas, however, face few competitive forces. There is little incentive for the public schools to find the right mix of spending, or to increase efficiency, or to offer the wide variety of choice that we have come to expect in the private sector. (It also seems that we’re failing to consider that different types of schools might work best with different mixes of classroom and other spending.)

This is what we are missing in Kansas. With greater choices available to students and parents, there will be less need for government oversight of schools and all the bickering that accompanies decisions made through the political process.

Unfortunately, we’re not moving in that direction in Kansas. Last week in Wichita, Governor Brownback had two opportunities to promote school choice in Kansas. On the Joseph Ashby radio program he was asked about school choice, but wouldn’t commit to it as a priority.

Later that day at the Wichita Pachyderm Club a similar question was asked, and again Brownback wouldn’t commit to school choice. The focus right now is efficiency and to get fourth grade reading levels up, Brownback said. He added that about 28 percent of fourth graders can’t read at basic level, which he described as a “real problem. If you can’t read, the world starts really shrinking around you.”

It’s a mystery why Governor Brownback hasn’t made school choice a priority in Kansas. Many governors are doing that and instituting other wide-reaching reforms.

Pachyderm speaker lineup announced

The Wichita Pachyderm Club has announced its speaker lineup for the next four weeks.

October 12, 2012: Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, speaking on “Economic Growth and Tax Policy”

October 19, 2012: A panel discussion of the fluoridation issue, which will appear on the November 6 ballot for Wichita residents. Speakers will include Dr. Stephen C. L’Hommedieu and Don Landis, spokespersons for Wichitans Opposed to Fluoridation. The club is still seeking someone to appear for the pro-fluoridation side.

October 26, 2012: Republican General Election Candidates Leslie D. “Les” Donovan (Kansas Senate District 27), Mike Peterson (tentative, Kansas Senate District 28), Susan Wagle (Kansas Senate District 30), and Emanuel Banks (Kansas House District 89).

November 2, 2012: Ken Ciboski, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Political Science at Wichita State University, speaking on “The Electoral College: Is it relevant for today’s presidential elections?”

The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm Club meetings. Meetings are held almost every Friday at noon in the Wichita Petroleum Club on the top floor of the Bank of America Building at 100 N. Broadway. The meeting costs $10, which includes a delicious buffet lunch and beverage. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Thursday September 6, 2012

Debbie Wasserman Schultz lies about lying

During these convention weeks, advocates on both sides have been fact-checking the other side, and charges are being made about which side is the biggest, boldest liar. But when people lie about lying … that’s a whole new level. Human Events reports on DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and sums up this way: “It was already common knowledge that Wasserman Schultz is a serial liar — on one memorable recent occasion, when CNN host Wolf Blitzer called her out for lying about Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform proposals, she essentially insisted that the urgency of her political agenda gives her the right to lie as necessary.” See Debbie Wasserman Schultz Caught Lying about Lying.

Speaking of facts and Politifact

What happens when the fact checker of record isn’t reliable? That’s the situation Politifact finds itself in, according to reporting by Jon Cassidy in Human Events: “Once widely regarded as a unique, rigorous and reasonably independent investigator of political claims, PolitiFact now declares conservatives wrong three times more often than liberals. More pointedly, the journalism organization concludes that conservatives have flat out lied nine times more often than liberals.” More at PolitiFact bias: Does the GOP tell nine times more lies than left? Really?

Your share of the debt

Now that the U.S. national debt has passed $16 trillion (or $16,000,000 million as I like to say) you might be interested in learning the magnitude of your personal liability. The Economic Freedom Project has a calculator to tell you. Click on What’s Your Lifetime Share of the National Debt?

Pachyderms to host House candidates

This week the Wichita Pachyderm Club features Republican candidates for the Kansas House of Representatives. Scheduled to appear are: Jim Howell (District 81), John Stevens (86), George F. “Joe” Edwards II (93), Benny Boman (95), and Phil Hermanson (98). The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. Meetings are Fridays at noon, in the Wichita Petroleum Club on the top floor of the Bank of America Building at 100 N. Broadway. The meeting costs $10, which includes a delicious buffet lunch and beverage. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club.

Even garage sales can’t escape the regulatory regime

Kansas Policy Institute comments on garage sale regulations in Wichita.

Apply for Wichita’s civilian sign corps

Related to garage sale signs, Wichitans can now apply to be part of the civilian sign enforcement patrol. The city has made these documents available on its website: Overview of the Volunteer Sign Removal Program and Sign Removal Volunteer Application. If you want to participate in this program, you’ll need to complete a volunteer sign removal application, complete the required training course, sign a liability release, sign an oath or statement agreeing to abide by city codes and the program rules, submit to and successfully pass a background check, have valid Kansas drivers license, have a currently registered vehicle in good operating condition, have current vehicle insurance, commit to a geographic area and time, commit to safety first; appropriately use provided vests and tools, commit to provide required reports, commit to dispose of signs as directed, commit to wear the provided identification badge, and commit to allowing only authorized (city trained and approved) persons to remove signs. The city also advises applicants to check with their insurance agents for coverage relative to the use of vehicles in this program. I can’t imagine most auto insurance companies will be happy that their customers are using their cars in a quasi-law enforcement application. … For more on why this law is a bad idea, see Proposed Wichita sign ordinance problematic.

Activists organize!

As a result of an excellent day-long training session recently produced in Wichita by Campaign for Liberty, activists that support limited government and free markets are meeting regularly. For information about the Wichita meetings, contact John Axtell.

The seven rules of bureaucracy

In this article, authors Loyd S. Pettegrew and Carol A. Vance quote Thomas Sowell: “When the government creates some new program, nothing is easier than to show whatever benefits that program produces. … But it is virtually impossible to trace the taxes that paid for the program back to their sources and to show the alternative uses of that same money that could have been far more beneficial.” In order to understand the foundation of America’s morass, we must examine bureaucracy. At the root of this growing evil is the very nature of bureaucracy, especially political bureaucracy. French economist Frédéric Bastiat offered an early warning in 1850 that laws, institutions, and acts — the stuff of political bureaucracy — produce economic effects that can be seen immediately, but that other, unforeseen effects happen much later. He claimed that bad economists look only at the immediate, seeable effects and ignore effects that come later, while good economists are able to look at the immediate effects and foresee effects, both good and bad, that come later. … Both the seen and the unseen have become a necessary condition of modern bureaucracy. (Bastiat: That Which Is Seen, and That Which Is Not Seen.) The first rule? “Maintain the problem at all costs!”

Democracy, or majority rule?

A new video from LearnLiberty.org, a project of Institute for Humane Studies is titled Should Majorities Decide Everything? To me, the most important part is near the end, when the speaker says that without a properly limited government, rule by majority “substitute[s] the tyranny of a king with the tyranny of a larger group.” LearnLiberty also explains: “According to Professor Munger, democratic constitutions consist of two parts: one defining the limits within which decisions can be made democratically, and the other establishing the process by which decisions will be made. In the United States Constitution, the individual is protected from majority decisions. Professor Munger warns, however, that these protections are slowly being stripped away as American courts of law fail to recognize the limits of what can be decided by majority rule.”

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: Thursday May 10, 2012

Kansas tax reform. A message from Americans for Prosperity, Kansas: “‘Today’s vote on a much-needed tax reform bill will provide an immediate boost to Kansas families and businesses,’ said AFP-Kansas state director Derrick Sontag. ‘The approved tax bill cuts the income tax for Kansas families and small businesses, which is certainly good news for taxpayers. The current leadership of the state Senate helped lead Kansas down a path of economic destruction as indicated by the past decade being one of lost private sector jobs, stagnant population growth, and taxpayers fleeing to other states. Yet in spite of all the evidence pointing to the failure of the tax and spend approach, the actions of Senate leadership today indicated that they wanted more of the same. Today’s action by a majority of the House led by leadership was a step in the right direction to reverse the failed economic policies of the past. We applaud the leaders of the Kansas House for this bold move toward tax relief.’”

School funding. Two Wichita legislators on Kansas school funding. First, Representative Jim Ward: “The question is do we spend money on tax cuts for rich people and out-of-state corporations or do we spend money restoring the cuts to education.” … Then Senator Jean Schodorf: “Schodorf said business as usual is not funding schools. ‘That has become kind of the status quo in the legislature, and this year we desperately need to get a funding increase for schools.’” I wonder if either of these two legislators, both of whom hold leadership positions on education committees, know that this will likely be a record-setting year for school spending in Kansas, when all sources are considered? Fighting for school funding is a distraction from the reforms that Kansas schools really need.

Separation of art and state. David Boaz, writing at “Room for Debate” at the New York Times: “What do art, music, and religion have in common? They all have the power to touch us in the depths of our souls. As one theater director said, ‘Art has power. It has the power to sustain, to heal, to humanize … to change something in you. It’s a frightening power, and also a beautiful power. … And it’s essential to a civilized society.’ Which is precisely why art, music, and religion should be kept separate from the state. Government involves the organization of coercion. In a free society coercion should be reserved only for such essential functions of government as protecting rights and punishing criminals. People should not be forced to contribute money to artistic endeavors that they may not approve, nor should artists be forced to trim their sails to meet government standards.” Read more at Separation of Art and State. We failed this important test in Kansas, as funding for arts is now a concern for the state.

Stimulus spending. Robert J. Barro in the Wall Street Journal, available at the Hoover Institution: “The weak economic recovery in the U.S. and the even weaker performance in much of Europe have renewed calls for ending budget austerity and returning to larger fiscal deficits. … This viewpoint is dangerously unstable. Every time heightened fiscal deficits fail to produce desirable outcomes, the policy advice is to choose still larger deficits. If, as I believe to be true, fiscal deficits have only a short-run expansionary impact on growth and then become negative, the results from following this policy advice are persistently low economic growth and an exploding ratio of public debt to GDP. The last conclusion is not just academic, because it fits with the behavior of Japan over the past two decades.” On the idea of Keynesian solutions to economic problems: “Despite the lack of evidence, it is remarkable how much allegiance the Keynesian approach receives from policy makers and economists. I think it’s because the Keynesian model addresses important macroeconomic policy issues and is pedagogically beautiful, no doubt reflecting the genius of Keynes. The basic model — government steps in to spend when others won’t — can be presented readily to one’s mother, who is then likely to buy the conclusions. … Keynes worshipers’ faith in this model has actually been strengthened by the Great Recession and the associated financial crisis. Yet the empirical support for all this is astonishingly thin. The Keynesian model asks one to turn economic common sense on its head in many ways. For instance, more saving is bad because of the resultant drop in consumer demand, and higher productivity is bad because the increased supply of goods tends to lower the price level, thereby raising the real value of debt. Meanwhile, transfer payments that subsidize unemployment are supposed to lower unemployment, and more government spending is good even if it goes to wasteful projects.” See Stimulus Spending Keeps Failing.

Drug court to be Pachyderm topic. This Friday (May 11th) the Wichita Pachyderm Club Judge Joe Kisner of the Sedgwick County Drug Court speaking on “A new approach to an old problem.” 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 18th: Paul Soutar, Reporter for Kansas Watchdog, speaking on “The evolution of journalism and how the new media empowers citizens.” … On May 25th: Ron Estes, State Treasurer of Kansas, speaking on “A report from the Kansas Treasurer.” … 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?”

Elizabeth Warren. Writes Ann Coulter: “For liberals, it should be a mortal sin: Elizabeth Warren cheated on affirmative action.” A funny — and sad, because it tells us a lot about our country — column on how Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Senatorial Candidate, apparently lied about being a member of a minority group (being 1/32 Cherokee) and how universities lapped it up.

Failure of socialism to be shown. The Wichita Chapter Meeting of Americans for Prosperity Foundation continues its video presentation of Milton Friedman’s “Free to Choose” series. The next episode to be shown is “The Failure of Socialism,” followed by a group discussion on Monday, May 14, 2012 at the Alford Branch Wichita Public Library, from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm. There is no admission charge. RSVP not required. 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.

Yes we can! No they can’t! “It’s a fatal conceit. The politicians in there think they can run our economy, run our lives. But no — they can’t.” That’s John Stossel standing in front of the U.S. Capitol at the start of a television program featuring his new book No, They Can’t: Why Government Fails-But Individuals Succeed. The complete show is available on the free hulu service at Stossel – Thursday, Apr 12, 2012.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Wednesday May 2, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday April 2, 2012

Action on sustainability. This Wednesday (April 4th) the Sedgwick County Commission takes up the issue of whether to participate in a HUD Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant. Coverage of the last discussion the commission had on this matter is at Sedgwick County considers a planning grant. So that citizens may be informed on this issue, Americans for Prosperity, Kansas is holding an informational event tonight (April 2nd), from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm at Spangles Restaurant, corner of Kellogg and Broadway. (Even though the Kansas Jayhawks are playing tonight in the NCAA men’s basketball title game, the television broadcast doesn’t start until 8:00 pm, with tip off at 8:23 pm.) The meeting is described as follows: “On April 4, 2012 at 9:00 am on the 3rd floor of the Sedgwick County Courthouse, the Sedgwick County Commission will be holding a public hearing to consider approval of Sedgwick County’s participation as the fiscal agent on behalf of the Regional Economic Area Partnership (REAP) Consortium with an ‘in-kind’ commitment of $120,707 to implement a Regional Plan for Sustainable Communities Grant for South Central Kansas. Public comment will be invited. Learn about the Sustainable Communities Plan for South Central Kansas. Find out how you can get involved in this issue as a citizen. Consider testifying before the County Commission. Consider attending the Commission meeting as an interested citizen.” … 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.

Economic development through competitiveness. Next week (Wednesday, April 11th) Kansas Policy Institute will host an educational event focusing on local economic development. This event is vitally important as it is becoming apparent that Wichita’s traditional process of economic development is not working very well. Also, we’ve recently learned that in both Kansas and Wichita, business tax costs are very high, with only a handful of states ranking worse. The full agenda for this event, which is open to the public and which KPI is generously hosting at no charge to attendees, is A true path to economic growth and prosperity. A link to registration is there, or call 316-634-0218.

Those populist Pachyderms. This Friday (April 6th) the Wichita Pachyderm Club features Jordan A. Poland, who will discuss his Master of Arts thesis in Public History at Wichita State University, titled “A case study of Populism in Kansas. The election of Populist Governor Lorenzo Lewelling from Wichita, and the Legislative War of 1893.” Lewelling — wasn’t he the last governor from Wichita? … 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 April 13th: Alvin Sarachek, Ph.D., Geneticist, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Natural Sciences at Wichita State University, speaking on “Human Genetic Individuality and Confused Public Policy Making.” … On April 20th: Senator Steve Morris, President of the Kansas Senate, speaking on “Legislative update.” … On April 27th: Dr. Malcolm C. Harris, Sr., Professor of Finance, Friends University, speaking on “The Open Minded Roots of American Exceptionalism, and the Decline of America’s Greatness.”

We just don’t understand, they say. “Reeling from the possibility the Supreme Court might undermine ObamaCare, two members in good standing of the liberal media elite, both with the New York Times, took to the Sunday shows to lament the lack of public recognition for the great benefits of the law. ‘On health care,’ columnist Tom Friedman rationalized on NBC’s Meet the Press, ‘that’s partly a failure of communication.’ A befuddled Friedman advanced the liberal narrative that blames communication, not facts, as he wondered: ‘How do you go a year and a half where so many Americans don’t even understand the benefits of this legislation when they apply to them? And that gets to this administration, which I think has been abysmal at communicating some of its most important agenda items.’ That framework would make a lot more sense if applied to a conservative President facing a media hostile to his policies. That’s certainly not the case with this administration where the media have been consistently promoting Obamacare.” (Brent Baker, writing at Media Research Center in Sunday Guests Fret Public Naivete on ObamaCare Benefits as Friedman Blames Poor Communication. … I would say the problem is that people are starting to understand the impact of PPACA, or Obamacare. We find that the more people learn, the less they like it.

Colleges indoctrinate students. The report studied only the California university system, but it applies nationwide, writes Peter Berkowitz in the Wall Street Journal (available at the Hoover Institution at How California’s Colleges Indoctrinate Students.) He quotes the study A Crisis of Competence: The Corrupting Effect of Political Activism in the University of California: “The politicization of higher education by activist professors and compliant university administrators deprives students of the opportunity to acquire knowledge and refine their minds. It also erodes the nation’s civic cohesion and its ability to preserve the institutions that undergird democracy in America.” … He goes on to explain: “The analysis begins from a nonpolitical fact: Numerous studies of both the UC system and of higher education nationwide demonstrate that students who graduate from college are increasingly ignorant of history and literature. They are unfamiliar with the principles of American constitutional government. And they are bereft of the skills necessary to comprehend serious books and effectively marshal evidence and argument in written work. … This decline in the quality of education coincides with a profound transformation of the college curriculum. None of the nine general campuses in the UC system requires students to study the history and institutions of the United States. None requires students to study Western civilization, and on seven of the nine UC campuses, including Berkeley, a survey course in Western civilization is not even offered.” … We should note that at the same time this has happened, the cost of college has exploded, and students are laden with debt.

Job creation. Governments often fall prey to the job creation trap — that the goal of economic development is to create jobs. We see this in Wichita where the campaign for subsidy to hotel developers was presented as a jobs program. To most of our political and bureaucratic leaders, the more jobs created, the better — without regard to the underlying economics and how much these jobs actually cost. These costs destroy other jobs. Many of our business leaders don’t do any better understanding the difference between capitalism and business. In his introduction to the recently-published book The Morality of Capitalism, Tom G. Palmer writes: “Capitalism is not just about building stuff, in the way that socialist dictators used to exhort their slaves to ‘Build the Future!’ Capitalism is about creating value, not merely working hard or making sacrifices or being busy. Those who fail to understand capitalism are quick to support ‘job creation’ programs to create work. They have misunderstood the point of work, much less the point of capitalism. In a much-quoted story, the economist Milton Friedman was shown the construction on a massive new canal in Asia. When he noted that it was odd that the workers were moving huge amounts of earth and rock with small shovels, rather than earth moving equipment, he was told ‘You don’t understand; this is a jobs program.’ His response: ‘Oh, I thought you were trying to build a canal. If you’re seeking to create jobs, why didn’t you issue them spoons, rather than shovels?” … After describing crony capitalism — the type practiced in Wichita, Sedgwick County, and Kansas, with deals like the Ambassador Hotel — Palmer explains: “Such corrupt cronyism shouldn’t be confused with ‘free-market capitalism,’ which refers to a system of production and exchange that is based on the rule of law, on equality of rights for all, on the freedom to choose, on the freedom to trade, on the freedom to innovate, on the guiding discipline of profits and losses, and on the right to enjoy the fruits of one’s labors, of one’s savings, of one’s investments, without fearing confiscation or restriction from those who have invested, not in production of wealth, but in political power.”

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.

Sustainable development presented in Wichita

Next week the Sedgwick County Commission takes up the issue of whether to participate in a HUD Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant. This is part of an initiative to replace personal freedom with government planning.

Today Tom DeWeese, President, American Policy Center, addressed members and guests of the Wichita Pachyderm Club on the topic “U.N. Agenda 21: Sustainable Development.” An audio presentation of his address is below.

An op-ed in this topic written by Randal O’Toole, Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute is “Sustainable planning” not so sustainable.

An informational sheet from the Americans for Prosperity Foundation “Need to Know” series is available at Agenda 21, ICLEI, and “Sustainable Development.”

A paper on this topic written by Sedgwick County Commissioner Richard Ranzau is available at Sustainable Development and U.N. Agenda 21: Economic Development or Economic Destruction?

Also, so that citizens may be informed on this issue, Americans for Prosperity, Kansas is holding an informational event on Monday April 2, from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm at Spangles Restaurant, corner of Kellogg and Broadway. (If the Kansas Jayhawks make it to the NCAA basketball title game, the television broadcast doesn’t start until 8:00 pm, with tip off sometime later.) The meeting is described as follows: “On April 4, 2012 at 9:00 am on the 3rd floor of the Sedgwick County Courthouse, the Sedgwick County Commission will be holding a public hearing to consider approval of Sedgwick County’s participation as the fiscal agent on behalf of the Regional Economic Area Partnership (REAP) Consortium with an ‘in-kind’ commitment of $120,707 to implement a Regional Plan for Sustainable Communities Grant for South Central Kansas. Public comment will be invited. Learn about the Sustainable Communities Plan for South Central Kansas. Find out how you can get involved in this issue as a citizen. Consider testifying before the County Commission. Consider attending the Commission meeting as an interested citizen.” … 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 and Wichita quick takes: Thursday March 29, 2012

Sustainable development. Sedgwick County Commissioner Richard Ranzau writes that next week the commission will vote on the issue of sustainable development, and whether Sedgwick County should participate in a planning process. Writes Ranzau: “Sedgwick County will be voting on this issue next Wednesday, April 4th, 2012. Those of you that have concerns about this need to speak up now. Please email and call the commissioners and encourage them to vote NO on this. If you are a property owner, business owner, home owner, builder, developer, farmer, or taxpayer you should strongly oppose this agenda. Now is the time to stop this. This is President Obama’s plan to use HUD, DOT, and EPA to implement Sustainable Development/Smart Growth/UN Agenda 21.” Ranzau has written on this issue. His paper is at Sustainable Development and U.N. Agenda 21: Economic Development or Economic Destruction? Contact information for commissioners may be found at Board of County Commissioners. As of this writing the agenda and explanatory material for the April 4th meeting is not available. When it is, it can be found at the same page.

Pachyderms to feature talk on sustainable development. On a related matter, this Friday (March 30rd) the Wichita Pachyderm Club features Tom DeWeese, President, American Policy Center, speaking on the topic “U.N. Agenda 21: Sustainable Development.” DeWeese is one of the nation’s leading advocates of individual liberty, free enterprise, private property rights, personal privacy, back-to-basics education and American sovereignty and independence. … The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club.

Climate models. William Happer, professor of physics at Princeton, calls attention to the problems of modern climate science in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. He asks: “What is happening to global temperatures in reality? The answer is: almost nothing for more than 10 years. … The lack of any statistically significant warming for over a decade has made it more difficult for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its supporters to demonize the atmospheric gas CO2 which is released when fossil fuels are burned.” While there has been warming over the past two centuries, Happer warns of linking this to the activity of mankind: “There has indeed been some warming, perhaps about 0.8 degrees Celsius, since the end of the so-called Little Ice Age in the early 1800s. Some of that warming has probably come from increased amounts of CO2, but the timing of the warming — much of it before CO2 levels had increased appreciably — suggests that a substantial fraction of the warming is from natural causes that have nothing to do with mankind.” While we need high-quality science regarding the earth’s climate, the current climate models are not providing that: “It is easy to be confused about climate, because we are constantly being warned about the horrible things that will happen or are already happening as a result of mankind’s use of fossil fuels. But these ominous predictions are based on computer models. It is important to distinguish between what the climate is actually doing and what computer models predict. The observed response of the climate to more CO2 is not in good agreement with model predictions.” … The complete article in the Wall Street Journal (no subscription required) is Global Warming Models Are Wrong Again: The observed response of the climate to more CO2 is not in good agreement with predictions. … Some will discount this article because Happer’s specialty is modern optics, optical and radiofrequency spectroscopy of atoms and molecules, and spin-polarized atoms and nuclei — not climate science. But, we see the problems with modern climate science and its predictive abilities.

Shy regulators. The Obama administration is so out of touch with the public that it appears shy about publicity over its actions. The Hill reports: “The Obama administration announced landmark carbon emissions standards for new power plants Tuesday, but hardly shouted from the rooftops about them. The administration rolled out the proposal with relatively little fanfare, and President Obama — who was in South Korea at nuclear security summit — did not issue a statement about the regulation. In contrast, when the Environmental Protection Agency issued final rules to control power plant mercury emissions in December, Obama praised them as major public health protections while touting White House efforts to ensure they don’t affect power grid reliability.” … More at White House, rather quietly, advances climate change agenda.

Just say no to taxes. Those who reject tax increases under all conditions are often described unflatteringly. The New York Times house conservative David Brooks has called them “fanatics” with “no sense of moral decency.” William Voegeli, writing in City Journal explains why we should not consider higher taxes as a solution to problems. “In rejecting tax hikes, Republicans aren’t trading in fanaticism. Rather, they’re confronting a governing failure — an abiding lack of candor about what our welfare state costs — that voters grasp but Democrats refuse to admit.” … The problem is soaring spending, growing faster than the economy: “What we can say is that over the last 40 years, government revenues have kept pace with economic growth while government spending has run steadily ahead of it. … Gross Domestic Product and federal revenues, both expressed in per-capita terms and adjusted for inflation, were about two and a half times as large at the end of the period as at the beginning. Federal expenditures were three times as large.” It is welfare-state expenditures that have grown the fastest, and by far. … Voegeli lays the problem at the feet of the Democrats: “For years, the Democratic Party’s raison d’être has been to establish, defend, and expand the welfare state. The Democrats could have told us all along — forthrightly, scrupulously, and unambiguously — that their project would cost a lot of money and that, should economic growth be insufficient to pay for it, big tax increases would be necessary. Had they done so, they would be in a strong position to argue that the terms of the deal they struck with yesterday’s voters oblige today’s Americans to pay higher taxes. But that’s not what they did.” … Much more to read at Not a Penny More: The case for antitax absolutism.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday March 26, 2012

Pachyderms to feature talk on sustainable development. This Friday (March 30rd) the Wichita Pachyderm Club features Tom DeWeese, President, American Policy Center, speaking on U.N. Agenda 21: Sustainable Development. Tom DeWeese is one of the nation’s leading advocates of individual liberty, free enterprise, private property rights, personal privacy, back-to-basics education and American sovereignty and independence. … 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 April 6th: Jordan A. Poland, who will discuss his Master of Arts thesis in Public History at Wichita State University, titled “A case study of Populism in Kansas. The election of Populist Governor Lorenzo Lewelling from Wichita, and the Legislative War of 1893.” … On April 13th: Alvin Sarachek, Ph.D., Geneticist, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Natural Sciences at Wichita State University, speaking on “Human Genetic Individuality and Confused Public Policy Making.” … On April 20th: Senator Steve Morris, President of the Kansas Senate, speaking on “Legislative update.” … On April 27th: Dr. Malcolm C. Harris, Sr., Professor of Finance, Friends University, speaking on “The Open Minded Roots of American Exceptionalism, and the Decline of America’s Greatness.”

PPACAction. That is, where should you go to keep up with action surrounding PPACA, commonly known as Obamacare, as the legislation is argued before the U.S. Supreme Court this week? Try PPACAction, a project of Texas Public Policy Foundation. Also featured on the site is Experts’ Guide to the Issues.

The seven rules of bureaucracy. In this article, authors Loyd S. Pettegrew and Carol A. Vance quote Thomas Sowell: “When the government creates some new program, nothing is easier than to show whatever benefits that program produces. … But it is virtually impossible to trace the taxes that paid for the program back to their sources and to show the alternative uses of that same money that could have been far more beneficial.” In order to understand the foundation of America’s morass, we must examine bureaucracy. At the root of this growing evil is the very nature of bureaucracy, especially political bureaucracy. French economist Frédéric Bastiat offered an early warning in 1850 that laws, institutions, and acts — the stuff of political bureaucracy — produce economic effects that can be seen immediately, but that other, unforeseen effects happen much later. He claimed that bad economists look only at the immediate, seeable effects and ignore effects that come later, while good economists are able to look at the immediate effects and foresee effects, both good and bad, that come later. … Both the seen and the unseen have become a necessary condition of modern bureaucracy. (Bastiat: That Which Is Seen, and That Which Is Not Seen.) The first rule? “Maintain the problem at all costs!”

Civil society. Edward H. Crane, speaking nearly twenty years ago. I think things have become worse since then: “In a civil society you make the choices about your life. In a political society someone else makes those choices. And because it is not the natural order of things for someone other than you to make those decisions about your life, the political society is of necessity based on coercion. … Civil society, on the other hand, is based on voluntarism and predicated on giving the widest possible latitude to the individual so that he has sovereignty over his own life, so long as he respects the equal rights of others in society. It’s a simple concept, really, but a radical one nevertheless. It’s the concept on which this great nation of ours was founded and which was so revolutionary that it motivated tens of millions of people from around the globe to come here, often giving up everything, just to live in the ‘land of the free.’ … It does seem ironic that so many politicians in this country hold this curiously benign view of government as some kind of giant nanny, that will make everything okay if we just give it more money. Because as we enter the 21st century, government activities beyond its legitimate function of the protection of life, liberty, and property have pretty much been exposed as one of the great failures of civilization. Coercive, political society simply doesn’t work very well. Most people, whether they’re willing to admit it or not, know that now. There is a reason why East Germany produced the smoke- belching bucket-of-bolts Trabant, and West Germany produced the Mercedes, the BMW, the Porsche, the Audi, and the Volkswagen. Same people, same culture, different political system. Civil society worked; political society didn’t. Yet politicians in America continue to give credence to the idea that the political society can address our problems better than the institutions of the civil society. As Milton Friedman has observed, we seem to be saying that we know that socialism is a failure and that capitalism is a success, therefore we need more socialism.”

One down, 48 to go. “‘Building better communities’ was the slogan of the California Redevelopment Association. But the critics charged that redevelopment agencies ‘deprived tens of thousands of working and lower-income residents of their homes and livelihoods while granting vast subsidies to billionaires.’ In the end, the social justice questions didn’t matter, but the subsidies did, so to save the state billions of dollars a year, California redevelopment agencies shut down for good last week. … California invented TIF in 1952. Since then, 48 other states have passed similar laws. Now a pioneer in ending such crony capitalism, the Antiplanner hopes the other 48 states will soon follow California’s example. Good riddance to a waste of money that benefited few people other than a few politicians and developers.” More from Randal O’Toole at One Down, 48 to Go. O’Toole also authored the Cato Institute Policy Analysis Crony Capitalism and Social Engineering: The Case against Tax-Increment Financing.”

Economic freedom in America: The decline, and what it means. “The U.S.’s gains in economic freedom made over 20 years have been completely erased in just nine.” Furthermore, our economic freedom is still dropping, to the point where we now rank below Canada. The result is slow growth in the private sector economy and persistent high unemployment. This is perhaps the most important takeaway from a short new video from Economic Freedom Project, which is a project of the Charles Koch Institute. The video explains that faster growth in government spending causes slower growth in the private economy. This in turn has lead to the persistent high unemployment that we are experiencing today. … To view the video at the Economic Freedom Project site, click on Episode Two: Economic Freedom in America Today. Or, click on the YouTube video below.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday March 19, 2012

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

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

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

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

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Thursday March 15, 2012

Wichita school board members to meet public. This Friday (March 16th) the Wichita Pachyderm Club features members of the board of USD 259, the Wichita public school district, on the topic “A conversation with Wichita School Board members regarding current issues.” Scheduled to attend are members Lynn Rogers, Lenora Nolan, and Sheril Logan. Other members may attend. … 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 upcoming speakers as follows: On March 23rd: David Nichols, Ph.D. Dr. Nichols is a recognized expert on the Eisenhower presidency and is currently working on his third book on Ike, this one dealing with Senator Joe McCarthy with a focus on Ike’s management techniques. “The Eisenhower Leadership Model: What business people (and even politicians) can learn from Ike.” … On March 30th: Tom DeWeese, President, American Policy Center, speaking on U.N. Agenda 21: Sustainable Development. … On April 6th: Jordan A. Poland, who will discuss his Master of Arts thesis in Public History at Wichita State University, titled “A case study of Populism in Kansas. The election of Populist Governor Lorenzo Lewelling from Wichita, and the Legislative War of 1893.” … On April 13th: Alvin Sarachek, Ph.D., Geneticist, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Natural Sciences at Wichita State University, speaking on “Human Genetic Individuality and Confused Public Policy Making.” … On April 20th: Senator Steve Morris, President of the Kansas Senate, speaking on “Legislative update.” … On April 27th: Dr. Malcolm C. Harris, Sr., Professor of Finance, Friends University, speaking on “The Open Minded Roots of American Exceptionalism, and the Decline of America’s Greatness.”

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Thursday March 8, 2012

Candidate representatives at Pachyderm. This Friday’s meeting (March 9th) of the Wichita Pachyderm Club features Republican presidential candidate spokespersons. In addition, Lora Cox, Executive Director of the Sedgwick County Republican Party will be on hand to answer questions regarding the mechanics of Saturday’s Republican Party Caucus. … The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club.

Sedgwick County pre-caucus rally. Friday afternoon (March 9th) Kansans for Liberty is producing a pre-caucus rally at Century II. Ron Paul is scheduled to appear. There will be other speakers and live entertainment, say event organizers. Tickets are $25. For more information, see Kansans for Liberty.

Libertarian ideals. The Winfield Courier criticizes U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo for his bill that would eliminate all tax credits for energy, writing “This is a case of putting libertarian ideals ahead — far ahead — of the interests of our region and our state.” But the libertarian ideals of personal liberty, economic freedom, and free markets ought to be all that government concerns itself with. … This is not the only way this op-ed is misinformed on facts. The anonymous author writes: “New, life-changing technologies, from the railroads to the Internet, have long had the active support of our national government.” But: Consider the railroads. The government-subsidized railroads involved in the transcontinental project went bankrupt. Only The Great Northern Railroad, which was built without government subsidy, was profitable and not a burden on the national treasury. (See Interfacing with Obama’s Intercontinental Railroad). Shame on the Winfield Courier so being so misinformed on U.S. history and the proper role of a limited government.

High Kansas taxes. Kansas Reporter covers more of the Tax Foundation’s report on the high cost of Kansas business taxes: “A new national study says Kansas business owners pay some of the highest taxes in the country. … Kansas businesses that are 3 or fewer years old pay the third-highest total taxes in the nation among all 50 states and Washington, D.C., the study found. Older businesses, such as Midway Wholesale, pay the fourth-highest totals. The findings contrast sharply with previous surveys, including some by the Tax Foundation, that put Kansas closer to the midpoint in regard to tax burden. As recently as January, for example, the foundation released its latest compilation of its Business Tax Climate Index, which put Kansas almost dead center — in 25th place — among lightest- to heaviest-taxed states. ‘Those surveys focus on tax policies, such as what types of taxes do states have or what are their tax rates,’ said Scott Hodge, the foundation’s president. ‘This new study looks at the issue from a business’ viewpoint and what they actually pay.’” … More at New study finds KS tax loads worse than reported.

Harm of individual mandate explained. In the following short video, Elizabeth Price Foley of the Institute for Justice explains the harm of the individual mandate that is the centerpiece of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). She explains that if the U.S. Supreme Court fails to strike down the individual mandate, there will be nothing to stop Congress from forcing people into other contracts against their will — employment contracts or union membership, for example. If we still have a constitutional republic in which the federal government’s powers are limited, then the Court should strike down this law. More information on IJ’s brief is contained in this press release.

Sedgwick County Commissioner to present on sustainable development

This Friday (February 17th) Sedgwick County Commissioner Richard Ranzau will make a presentation regarding sustainable development, particularly the Regional Economic Area Partnership (REAP) and its participation in an agreement with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Sustainable Housing And Communities.

Sustainable development, sometimes called “smart growth,” is an effort to increase government’s ability to plan many areas of the economy and the personal lives of citizens. In a letter to commissioners, Sedgwick County Manager Bill Buchanan wrote that the grant will “consist of multi-jurisdictional planning efforts that integrate housing, land use, economic and workforce development, transportation, and infrastructure investments in a manner that empowers jurisdictions to consider the interdependent challenges of economic prosperity, social equity, energy use and climate change, and public health and environmental impact.”

In his paper, Ranzau wrote: “Proponents of these grants often speak in general terms that make it difficult to disagree. But as they say, the devil is in the details. It is very important for you to know what they are not telling you. We all need to look beyond the fancy talk and find out what the agenda is really about. … The intent of this paper is to share information and insight about ‘sustainable development’ so that citizens and elected officials can have a more complete understanding of what the planning grants will entail and what possible consequences our communities may face if these policies are implemented.”

Ranzau’s written presentation on this topic may be found at Sustainable planning: The agenda and details.

Ranzau will present as part of the Wichita Pachyderm Club’s regular Friday luncheon meeting. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm Club meetings. The meeting starts at noon in the Wichita Petroleum Club on the top floor of the Bank of America Building at 100 N. Broadway (north side of Douglas between Topeka and Broadway). The cost of the meeting is $10, which includes a buffet lunch. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club.

Discussion on Ambassador Hotel tax issue to be this Friday

This Friday (February 3, 2012) the Wichita Pachyderm Club, as part of its regular Friday luncheon series of educational meetings, will conduct a public forum on the February 28th Wichita city election. The subject of the election is a Wichita city charter ordinance that rebates 75 percent of the Ambassador Hotel’s guest tax collection back to the hotel.

John Todd, Vice-President of the Pachyderm Club and in charge of programs, issued invitations to representatives of both sides of the issue. The group Tax Fairness for All Wichitans, of which Todd is part of the leadership team, accepted and is sending Bob Weeks to represent the group.

Todd contacted Paul Coury, one of the developers of the Ambassador Hotel, but he would not appear. David Burk, who is also part of the development group and who has represented the project before the Wichita City Council, also declined.

The Wichita Downtown Development Corporation and the Wichita Chamber of Commerce, while supporting the “Vote Yes” side of the issue, also declined to send someone to speak for the “Vote Yes” campaign. Sheila Tigert, who appears to be managing the “Vote Yes” campaign, also declined to attend or send a representative.

Separate appeals have been made to city council members, Mayor Brewer, and the city manager to send someone to represent the “Vote Yes” side of the issue.

Todd says that democracy is best served when representatives from both sides of an issue participate. He says the invitation to the “Vote Yes” side of the issue is still open. He may be contacted at john@johntodd.net or at 316-312-7335.

The Pachyderm Club is a Republican club. The Wichita branch is notable for the diversity of speakers and educational programs it presents.

The Wichita Pachyderm Club meets at noon Fridays in the Wichita Petroleum Club, on the ninth floor of the Bank of America Center at Douglas and Broadway. The public and news media are invited and encouraged to attend. Video and audio recording are permitted. The program costs $10, which includes lunch and beverage.

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 January 16, 2012

Tax cuts = extra income? Commenting on Kansas tax reform, Wichita Business Journal editor Bill Roy said “Certainly for business people, it’s the elimination of the income tax on business income. … They’ll appreciate having that extra income that they can use on other things in their business.” I don’t know how much thought Roy gave to these remarks, but his easy likening of lower taxes to extra income is symptomatic of the problem: We have become accustomed to government having a claim on our income. In the rare instances where government gives up part of that claim, we taxpayers are supposed to view it as a gift, as something extra. Roy’s remarks were broadcast on the KPTS television program Impact while discussing Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s tax reform plan. … Similar lines of thinking are revealed whenever it is said that tax cuts “cost” the government. The proper way of thinking is that government is a cost to the people, and whenever the cost of government is reduced, we experience a benefit. That is, we the people, as contrasted to the political class. If the government cuts taxes, the government gives us nothing. It simply takes less of what is ours in the first place. … I’m also reminded of former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who when commenting on a reduction of the Kansas business machinery tax, said “We’re not giving away money for the sake of giving it away.”

Revenue-neutral tax reform. If Kansas tax reform is to be revenue-neutral, that — by definition — means that if one person pays less, someone else has to make up the difference. Peter Hancock of Kansas Education Policy Report has such an example in his post Winners and Losers in Brownback’s Tax Plan. A low-income family would experience a tax increase of $442 (mostly through loss of the Earned Income Tax Credit), while a middle class family with business income would save about $300. These examples were released by Kansas Democrats. … Hancock also reports that the Brownback administration’s projections assume 5.9 percent annual growth, instead of the standard 4 percent used by the Consensus Estimating Group. A common criticism of President Barack Obama’s administration is that its projections are based on an overly-optimistic rate of future economic growth. We shouldn’t do the same in Kansas.

Peterjohn to speak. This Friday (January 20th) the Wichita Pachyderm Club features Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn. He says he will speak on “critical national problems we are facing with a historical perspective.” The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club. Upcoming speakers: On January 27, 2012: The Honorable Jennifer Jones, Administrative Judge, Wichita Municipal Court, speaking on “An overview of the Wichita Municipal Court.”

Southwest to fly to Wichita. Since it gobbled up AirTran, the question has been: Will Southwest Airlines provide service in Wichita? Now we know the answer is yes. While the airline has recently started service in some markets without the large, ongoing subsidies that Wichita and the state provide, that won’t be the case in Wichita, according to news reports. … Last year I reported on Southwest starting service in Charleston, South Carolina, whose metropolitan area population is similar to that of Wichita: “In the Charleston situation, there evidently won’t be the massive state-supplied subsidy as we have in Kansas. But Southwest will still get a leg up: A USA Today story quotes a Charleston airport official saying ‘Southwest didn’t want a state subsidy, but was interested in the airport’s incentives a temporary waiver of landing fees, up to $10,000 to market new flights, and up to $150,000 for other start-up costs.’” That’s a lot less than what Wichita and Kansas offer. .. Will the need for subsidies last? About this time last year, Wichita City Manager Robert Layton said “The Southwest business model doesn’t require subsidies over a long period of time.” Of course, we were told that the subsidy for AirTran would be required for only a short period, but the program grew and grew until it is now considered part of our state’s transportation infrastructure.

Kansas economic development incentives. In an Insight Kansas column, Professor Chapman Rackaway of Fort Hays State University concludes: “No state will abandon the tax-incentive recruitment strategy for fear of being the only business suitor with nothing to offer. But the tax-incentive strategy remains a risky one, and perhaps it is time for Kansas and other governments to re-evaluate the practice.” … Earlier in the article he cites the lack of oversight among the states: “States and localities are regularly in competition with one another for scarce jobs. However, a 2001 article in Economic Development Quarterly reported that, despite the billions distributed annually as incentives, states were doing little evaluation of incentives’ effectiveness or their return on investment.” (Kansas has done a little of this; see here. A quote from the Kansas audit: “Most studies of economic development incentives suggest these incentives don’t have a significant impact on economic growth. The literature we reviewed concluded that, thus far, negative and inconclusive findings are far more numerous than positive findings. Most reviews of economic development assistance find few results are achieved — a theme that audits in Kansas and other states commonly find, as well. Findings of ineffectiveness include promised jobs weren’t created, return on investment is low or negative, and incentives offered weren’t a determining factor.” But also: “The literature also suggests that economic development incentives must be offered to remain competitive with other states.”) … But I think there is a way out. In his paper Embracing Dynamism: The Next Phase in Kansas Economic Development Policy, Professor Art Hall of the Center for Applied Economics at the Kansas University School of Business wrote this regarding “benchmarking” — the bidding wars for large employers that are the subject of Rackaway’s article: “Kansas can break out of the benchmarking race by developing a strategy built on embracing dynamism. Such a strategy, far from losing opportunity, can distinguish itself by building unique capabilities that create a different mix of value that can enhance the probability of long-term economic success through enhanced opportunity. Embracing dynamism can change how Kansas plays the game.”

Story is broken. “Prof. Art Carden responds to ‘The Story of Broke,’ a recent video by the creators of ‘The Story of Stuff.’ In ‘The Story of Broke,’ Annie Leonard claims that the government isn’t actually broke. Rather, the government just wastes resources on the wrong things like subsidies to the dinosaur economy and war. She claims that the government should change its ways, and instead, subsidize firms that will bring us the future we really want. Art Carden agrees with Leonard that war and subsidies are wasteful, but is skeptical of notion that there is one unified vision for the future. To Carden, everyone has a different vision for the future. Our path to the future, he argues, is determined by the interactions of billions of unique individuals pursuing their own objectives. … Carden concludes that government spending won’t buy a brighter future. A brighter future will emerge when people are allowed to spend money on things they care about. Put another way, positive change will come from billions of people cooperating freely and voluntarily with one another, not from pushing trillions of dollars through a broken political process.” This video is from LearnLiberty.org, a project of Institute for Humane Studies, and many other informative videos are available.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday January 9, 2012

Wichita City Council. This week the Wichita City Council will consider the formation of a STAR bond district in northeast Wichita. While this is a complex issue that will take some study to fully understand, the action the council will consider this week is only to set a public hearing for February 14th. A concern is that the developers for the proposed Wichita project are also responsible for the Village West project in Kansas City, Kansas. On November 22, I reported this regarding that project: “The Legends at Village West, a huge shopping development in Kansas City near the Kansas Speedway, has defaulted on its loan. According to reporting in Commercial Real Estate Direct, the property never met its cash flow projections, topping out at $10.3 million per year in 2008. The loan assumed it would generate $11.1 million. Since 2008 cash flow has fallen. The public policy interest is that this facility, along with the nearby racetrack, received millions in sales tax (STAR) bond financing, to be repaid by taxpayers through sales tax collections.”

Kansas House Speaker speaking in Wichita. This Friday (January 13th) the Wichita Pachyderm Club features Speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives Mike O’Neal, speaking on “The untold school finance story.” The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club. Upcoming speakers: On January 20th: Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn. … On January 27, 2012: The Honorable Jennifer Jones, Administrative Judge, Wichita Municipal Court, speaking on “An overview of the Wichita Municipal Court.”

Legislature starts. Today is the first day of the 2012 session of the Kansas Legislature.

State of the State address. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback will deliver the “State of the State” address this Wednesday at 6:30 pm. It appears that public television and radio are the only way to experience this address. A much-anticipated portion of the address is the governor’s plan for tax reform. The plan has been in the works for several months, and requests for information about the process have been refused.

Kansas State Sovereignty Rally. This Friday (January 13th) afternoon is the 4th Annual State Sovereignty Rally, held at the Kansas State Capitol. Topics include constitutional issues, health care reform, and the Kansas budget. A printable flier with details is here. There are transportation opportunities from Wichita; contact Larry Halloran at 316-777-9352 or LarryHalloran@aol.com.

Making Economics Come Alive. Tonight the Americans for Prosperity monthly meeting will feature the topic “Making Economics Come Alive” with a video presentation by John Stossel. Topics include Government Spending, Deficits, and Debt, Are We Heading Toward a Debt Crisis?, Can Government Spending Be Cut?, Growth of Government, Spending, Taxes and the role of Government, International Trade and Trade Barriers, International Trade: Criticisms and Responses, Economics of Trade Deficits, Why Some Nations Prosper and Others Stagnate, Why Do Nations Prosper?, and Economic Freedom and Quality of Life. This meeting is at a different location: Central Branch Wichita Public Library, 223 S. Main (3rd Floor Meeting Room). The meeting starts at 7:00 pm. 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.

Good news coming for Wichita, says Brownback top aide

Speaking at the Wichita Pachyderm Club luncheon today, David Kensinger, Chief of Staff for Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, said that Brownback will be in Wichita Tuesday “with a very specific announcement as relates to jobs in the aviation industry.”

He said that Wichita, as of a week ago, had the best facilities, workforce, and best supply chain for aviation manufacturing. That is still true today, he said. If Boeing doesn’t want to utilize this asset, there are others in the marketplace who will.

“Kansas will grow, Wichita will grow, Wichita aviation will grow,” he told an appreciative audience.

Later he told the audience that based on Tuesday’s announcements, and subsequent announcements, “you will see Kansas, and Wichita, and Wichita aviation employment grow.”

He also said that two companies are preparing to invest $5 billion in Kansas over the next five years to use hydraulic fracturing to produce natural gas and oil. He cited a study that shows that each $1 million spent on energy production produces 1.2 direct jobs and a total of 4.9 jobs when indirect jobs are included. This, he said would result in 25,000 new high-wage jobs.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Tuesday January 3, 2012

Legislators to hear from citizens. The South-Central Kansas Legislative Delegation will be taking public comments tonight (Tuesday January 3rd) at 7:00 pm in the Jury Room of the Sedgwick County Courthouse, 525 N. Main in Wichita. (Use the north entrance to the courthouse). This is your opportunity to let local legislators know your wishes on issues that will be considered during the 2012 legislative session. In the past, each person wishing to talk has been limited to between three and five minutes depending on the number of people wishing to speak. There is usually the requirement to sign up as you enter if you want to speak.

Romney seen as ‘good enough.’ Kimberley A. Strassel, in today’s Wall Street Journal, makes the case that many Republicans are starting to realize, some very reluctantly: “Voters aren’t convinced by Mitt Romney. They’re not certain of his convictions; they wonder if he is the leader for these times; they’re not sold on his policies or his personality. Yet voters may be about to make the former Massachusetts governor the Republican nominee for the presidency. Mark this down as the triumph of strategy over inspiration.” … After analyzing the rise and fall of the other Republican candidates, Strassel concludes: “So while Mr. Romney may not excite them, while he may not be ideal, in light of the other candidate’s problems, and given the election stakes, voters are buying his argument that he is, well … good enough. Which is why, barring a surprise, or a late entrant, Mr. Good Enough — through good fortune, dogged determination, and the skillful elimination of his rivals — may end up grabbing the conservative ring in this all-important election year.” … Can Romney defeat Obama? “It will not be enough for Mr. Romney to argue against Mr. Obama; he will have to inspire Republicans and independents to vote for his own vision. Mr. Romney offers decent policies, and he’s proven himself a hard worker, with growing campaign skills. The question is whether a victory in the primary will give him the confidence to break out, to take some risks, and to excite a nation that wants real change. In a presidential election, good enough might not be enough to win.” More at Mr. Good Enough: Mitt Romney lost the nomination in 2008 because of his lack of focus and a reputation for shifting his message. He’s learned something this time around.

Brownback Chief of Staff in Wichita. This Friday (January 6th) the Wichita Pachyderm Club features David Kensinger, Chief of Staff to Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. Of Kensinger, the Kansas City Star wrote “Even David Kensinger’s friends call him a pit bull. … Few Kansans would recognize his name, though his job automatically makes Kensinger an important figure in Kansas politics. But Republicans and Democrats say he’s much more than the top member of the governor’s staff. David Kensinger, they say, is a brilliant political strategist and a tireless, fiercely loyal Brownback lieutenant — and has made himself into the most powerful second-in-command in the state’s modern history.” The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club. Upcoming speakers: On January 13th: Speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives Mike O’Neal, speaking on “The untold school finance story.” … On January 20th: Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn. … On January 27, 2012: The Honorable Jennifer Jones, Administrative Judge, Wichita Municipal Court, speaking on “An overview of the Wichita Municipal Court.”

Arrogance of Trump. Appearing yesterday on Fox News On the Record, Donald Trump says he may run for president if the Republicans pick the wrong candidate. But he won’t name who, in his mind, are the “wrong” candidates. He won’t even endorse a candidate.

Ethanol. With the new year, the subsidy for blending corn ethanol into gasoline has ended. So has the tariff on imported ethanol. The mandate to use a certain number of gallons each year remains. Of that, the Wall Street Journal comments: “The fight for economic rationality goes on.” See Ethanol in Winter: Wonder of wonders, the tax subsidy and tariff expire..

180 miles in an electric car. A family’s 180 mile trip from Knoxville to Nashville took a while, requiring four stops of 30 minutes each at “fast” recharging stations. The car was a Nissan Leaf. In his commentary, Paul Chesser noted: ‘The Smiths’ experience echoed that of a Consumer Reports reviewer and Los Angeles columnist Rob Eshman, who called his Leaf his ’2011 Nissan Solyndra.’ Eshman, editor-in-chief of The Jewish Journal, experienced the same gauge inaccuracies and range anxiety that came from traversing hills and mountains and the use of his air conditioning in hot, smoggy L.A. ‘My life now revolves around a near-constant calculation of how far I can drive before I’ll have to walk,’ Eshman wrote. ‘The Nissan Leaf, I can report, is perfect if you don’t have enough anxiety in your life.’” … Smith said he was proud that the trip across Tennessee didn’t require a drop of oil. But according to Institute for Energy Research, 52.7 percent of electricity in Tennessee is generated using coal as the fuel. Across the Tennessee Valley region, two-thirds of the electricity comes from buring coal. … More at Family’s electric car trip to Nashville hits a glitch: arrived anyway.

Kansas Policy Institute research. In its newsletter, Kansas Policy Institute writes “As 2012 begins we can be sure of one thing — the upcoming legislative session will be anything but boring.” KPI also reminds Kansans of the many policy studies it produced last year that will help legislators and citizens understand the issues Kansas faces. Following is the list KPI provided: The Effect of Federal Health Care ‘Reform’ on Kansas General Fund Medicaid ExpendituresA Comprehensive Reform of KPERSKansas Legislature’s Legal Authority to Modify KPERSA Budget Stablization Plan For KansasTax Reform is About Job Creation and Economic GrowthMajor Structural Deficits Looming in Kansas Budget…a.k.a. Thelma and Louise!A Reinventing the Kansas K-12 School System to Engage More Children in Production Learning.

Morality of capitalism. Tom G. Palmer, Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, speaks about capitalism and a new bookThe Morality of Capitalism — that he edited. “One of the things that’s quite striking is when you look at criticisms of the market, in many cases what they’re complaining about is interventionism and cronyism, not really capitalism. That’s a very important distinction to make. … The financial crisis in particular is just quite evidently a failure of interventionism — trying to steer the market, and it ended up going off the rails. Now markets are trying to correct themselves and governments are struggling to not allow that to happen, with more stimulus and trying to pump up property prices, and so on.” … Palmer said now it’s time to go on the offensive for free market capitalism. That has not been responsible for the failed policies of government. … On the morality of capitalism, Palmer said that capitalism has been identified exclusively with self-interest, as though that was its defining feature. But people in other economic systems pursue self-interest, too. Capitalism is distinguished, he said, by a legal and moral relationship among persons: “People have the right to pursue their dream, they have the right to do what they want, with what is legitimately theirs under a system of the rule of law and equality before the law — for everybody. Not privileges for some with special powers as planners and dictators and so one, but all of meet in society as moral and legal equals. And we trade and we exchange. The outcome of that is morally just.” … It’s not just the greater productivity of market exchange, Palmer said. People have a right to exchange and transact freely, and the state and planners don’t have the right to tell them otherwise. … The podcast also addresses the nature of economic competition in capitalism, which Palmer described as “constructive, peaceful cooperation.” … On the rich, who are often criticized for exploiting others under capitalism, Palmer said that in the past and in legally under-developed countries today, rich people almost always became rich by taking or through cronyism. But under capitalism, people become rich by creating and producing, satisfying the needs and desires of others. … Click below to listen to Palmer in this 11 minute podcast.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday December 19, 2011

Boeing tanker and Wichita. News reports from this morning’s press conference held by U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita indicate that Boeing will not use Wichita as the finishing plant for work on the new air refueling tanker project. It was thought that this work would require 7,500 jobs in Wichita. Political and union leaders speak of holding Boeing accountable to what they believe was a promise Boeing made to Wichita, but I don’t know how they can do that. … Pompeo’s press release states: “… the work will be done in Washington state. Until very recently, it had been my expectation based on representations made to all Kansans, personally to me and my office, and to the United States Air Force, that Boeing would create 7,500 aviation jobs in our great state should Boeing prevail in the tanker bid. We now know that Boeing intends to walk away from that promise, which severely jeopardizes the future of the over 2000 aviation jobs currently held by Boeing employees in Kansas. … Boeing fought a long and fierce battle to build the KC-46A Tanker and secured the largest defense contract in the history of the world. Over a decade Boeing won, then lost and then once again emerged victorious over its competitor EADS. Kansas aviation workers were at the very core of Boeing’s effort that entire time. During that competition, Boeing stressed — both publicly and in its formal final bid proposal submitted to the United States Air Force — that its Wichita, Kansas facility would be critical to building the next generation tanker. For years, Kansas’ elected political leadership worked diligently to secure a contract award for Boeing. In short, Kansas workers and Kansas political leaders were central to the Air Force’s decision to select Boeing over EADS. To remove Kansas from the tanker project not only violates a public trust, but it creates risk to taxpayers and to our fighting forces. … I urge the company’s leaders to do all that they can to honor the Boeing name and to take all steps available to do right by the hard-working, talented people who build the world’s greatest airplanes here in Kansas.”

Wichita school dress code. The Wichita Eagle reports on a new dress code for teachers at USD 259, the Wichita public school district: “Mark Jolliffe, principal at Wilbur Middle School and president of the local administrators group, said the guidelines are intended to ‘enhance our professional position, and model for our students, staff and community’ the importance of professional dress.” Teachers continually complain that they are, in fact, professionals, but are not treated as such. I wonder: What does it say when you have to be told how to dress at work? What the community ought to be worried about is a school district that spends time on issues like this while students continue to receive a substandard education. … Furthermore, the mode of dress of schoolteachers ought to be something that parents decide through a market-based selection process. Those parents who believe that their children are best served by schools where the teachers dress nicely (and perhaps the students are in uniform) could choose schools like this, if we had school choice. Also, parents who believe their children would thrive in a more casual environment could select schools with this characteristic, but again, only if we had school choice.

Kansas legislator briefing book. A very useful publication produced by Kansas Legislative Research Department is now available in a 2012 edition. Its target is legislators, but anyone who is interested in understanding state government will find the 2012 Legislator Briefing Book useful. The section on education, for example, has an explanation of the Kansas school funding formula, complete with descriptions and values for the weightings that determine how much state funding districts receive.

Velvet Revolution voice has died. “Vaclav Havel, the playwright who led the Velvet Revolution that ended communism in Czechoslovakia, has died at 75. … Vaclav Havel helped Czechoslovakia make the transition from one of the most repressive Communist regimes to one of the most successful post-Communist countries.” More from David Boaz at Vaclav Havel, RIP.

Open records in Wichita. “The Wichita City Council approved a $2 million payment to the city’s convention and visitors’ bureau, GO Wichita, despite objections to the lack of transparency in how GO Wichita handles taxpayer money. The Kansas Open Records Act requires that entities receiving public money be subject to the law’s transparency provisions, but one of these provisions states that if such an organization files an annual financial statement, it has complied with the law. At issue is whether a one- or two-page financial report listing total revenues and expenditures can substitute for public access to more detailed records regarding specific expenditures of public funds.” More from Paul Sourtar of Kansas Watchdog at City of Wichita Spends $2 million, Rebuffs Citizen’s Transparency Request.

Cellulosic ethanol. The Wall Street Journal notes the debacle of cellulosic ethanol production and government involvement. This is ethanol produced from “wood chips and stalks or switch grass,” said President George W. Bush in 2006, also stating that “Our goal is to make this new kind of ethanol practical and competitive within six years.” So what has happened? “When these mandates were established, no companies produced commercially viable cellulosic fuel. But the dream was: If you mandate and subsidize it, someone will build it. Guess what? Nobody has. Despite the taxpayer enticements, this year cellulosic fuel production won’t be 250 million or even 25 million gallons. Last year the Environmental Protection Agency, which has the authority to revise the mandates, quietly reduced the 2011 requirement by 243.4 million gallons to a mere 6.6 million. Some critics suggest that even much of that 6.6 million isn’t true cellulosic fuel.” … the Journal cites a recent report by National Academy of Sciences that states “currently, no commercially viable biorefineries exist for converting cellulosic biomass to fuel.” The $132.4 million loan guarantee for a cellulosic plant near Hugoton in southwest Kansas is noted. (More about that at Kansas and its own Solyndra.) … Concluding, the Journal writes: “To recap: Congress subsidized a product that didn’t exist, mandated its purchase though it still didn’t exist, is punishing oil companies for not buying the product that doesn’t exist, and is now doubling down on the subsidies in the hope that someday it might exist. We’d call this the march of folly, but that’s unfair to fools.” See The Cellulosic Ethanol Debacle.

Overcriminilization. A new paper from Paul Larkin of of Heritage Foundation reports on the difficulties facing legislative solutions to the problem of overcriminilization. The abstract of the paper Overcriminalization: The Legislative Side of the Problem reads: “The past 75 years in America have witnessed an avalanche of new criminal laws, the result of which is a problem known as “overcriminalization.” This phenomenon is likely to lead to a variety of problems for a public trying to comply with the law in good faith. While many of these issues have already been discussed, one problem created by the overcriminalization of American life has not been given the same prominence as others: the fact that overcriminalization is a cause for (and a symptom of) some of the collective action problems that beset Congress today. Indeed, Congress, for a variety of reasons discussed in this paper, is unlikely to serve as a brake on new, unwarranted criminal laws, let alone to jettison broad readings of those laws by the courts. Therefore, the key to curbing overcriminalization is the American public: It is the people who, if made aware of the legislative issues that enable overcriminalization, could begin to head off such laws before the momentum for their passage becomes overwhelming.” … The conclusion to the report emphasizes the role of the people: “The legislative dynamic is not likely to serve as a brake on new, unwarranted criminal laws, let alone to jettison broad readings of those laws by the courts. The public needs to head off such laws before the momentum for their passage becomes overwhelming. And that can happen only if the public is aware of the legislative side of this problem.”

No Wichita Pachyderm. This week and next week (December 23rd and 30th) the Wichita Pachyderm club will not meet due to the holidays. Upcoming speakers: On January 6th: David Kensinger, Chief of Staff to Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. … On January 13th: Speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives Mike O’Neal, speaking on “The untold school finance story.” … On January 20th: Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn.

Stevens, Pachyderm President, honored. At last week’s meeting of the Wichita Pachyderm Club, President John Stevens received the “Tough Tusk Award.” In presenting the award, club Vice President John Todd remarked: “Once in awhile a local leader comes along who deserves recognition. From time to time The Wichita Pachyderm Club recognizes these special people. Today it is my pleasure to recognize one of our own who deserves special recognition. The Wichita Pachyderm Club awards committee would like to recognize our club President John Stevens as the recipient of our club’s ‘Tough Tusk Award’ as sponsored by the National Federation of Pachyderm Clubs. … He is a retired business owner who now spends his time volunteering with SCORE counseling small business owners and entrepreneurs. John also works as a community activist through his participation in city and neighborhood organizations. He is a past Wichita Park Board Commissioner and serves on boards and committees for Wichita Independent Neighborhoods. … In 2008 John was elected the precinct committeeman for the 101st precinct in Wichita. He has worked as a volunteer in local campaigns and has run as the Republican candidate for the 86th Kansas House of Representatives seat, concerned that Republican values, attitudes, and principles are not being represented in the 86th District. He continues to work toward having a Republican in the 86th House seat. … John has served as President of the Wichita Pachyderm Club for the past three years. Through the Pachyderm Club he is able to facilitate educating citizens about our government, our leaders and the Republican Party. … John says he is addicted to progress, and I can tell you that he works tirelessly for the betterment of The Wichita Pachyderm Club.” … I will add: Thank you, John Stevens, for a job well done.

Occupiers and crony capitalism. “They’re rightfully angry at what’s happening in the United States today. But unfortunately they have confused capitalism and crony capitalism, and they’ve misdiagnosed the cause of their frustration.” That’s Chris Coyne of George Mason University speaking of the Occupy Wall Street protesters. He explains in more detail in the following short video. This video is from LearnLiberty.org, a project of Institute for Humane Studies, and many other informative videos are available.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday December 12, 2011

Kansas budget. The Kansas Policy Institute has produced a study looking at the future of the Kansas state budget. A press release states: “It’s no secret that KPERS and Medicaid costs have been growing, but many Kansans may be shocked to learn that those two items could soon consume nearly half of all Kansas State General Fund (SGF) revenue. In 1998, Medicaid and employee pension costs consumed 5.9% of SGF revenue and are budgeted at 24.2% of 2012 revenue. But, even if SGF revenue grows at a slightly-above-average annual rate of 3.5%, KPERS and Medicaid will account for somewhere between 34% and 45.1% of SGF revenue by 2023. … A new study from Kansas Policy Institute, “Major Structural Deficits Looming In Kansas,” projects General Fund spending under four spending scenarios and three revenue growth assumptions. Spending scenarios are based on alternate funding levels for KPERS, whether the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as ObamaCare) is implemented; the scenarios also assume that all other SGF spending continues at historic averages. Depending upon which variables occur (KPERS is funded at a 6% assumed rate of return, ObamaCare is implemented, or both), average annual revenue growth of 3.5% would produce SGF deficits totaling $275 million, $1.7 billion or nearly $5 billion over the next eleven years. … KPI President Dave Trabert summed up the analysis by saying, ‘Even sustained, record revenue growth would not prevent deficits unless ObamaCare is repealed and KPERS’ rosy 8% investment return assumption holds up.’” … The press release is at KPERS and Medicaid Poised to Drive Kansas Budget Off a Cliff, and the full study document at Major Structural Deficits Looming In Kansas.

Trade protectionism makes us poorer. The president of a large labor union is urging President Obama to not implement pending free trade agreements. Should we have free trade with other countries, or not? Richard W. Rahn explains, starting with the complexity of even the most humble and simple of consumer goods — the pencil — as highlighted in yesterday’s article: “As simple as a pencil is, it contains materials from all over the world (special woods, paint, graphite, metal for the band and rubber for the eraser) and requires specialized machinery. How much would it cost you to make your own pencils or even grow your own food? Trade means lower costs and better products, and the more of it the better. Adam Smith explained that trade, by increasing the size of the market for any good or service, allows the efficiencies of mass production, thus lowering the cost and the ultimate price to consumers. … It is easy to see the loss of 200 jobs in a U.S. textile mill that produces men’s T-shirts, but it is not as obvious to see the benefit from the fact that everyone can buy T-shirts for $2 less when they come from China, even though the cotton in the shirts was most likely grown in the United States. Real U.S. disposable income is increased when we spend less to buy foreign-made products because we are spending less to get more — and that increase in real income means that U.S. consumers can spend much more on U.S.-made computer equipment, air travel or whatever. … The benefits of trade are not always easy to see or quickly understand, and so it is no surprise that so many commentators, politicians, labor leaders and others get it wrong.”

A new day in politics? John Stossel writes about the new book The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong with America by Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, both of Reason, the libertarian magazine of “Free Minds and Free Markets.” Ssays Stossel: “‘Independence in politics means that you can actually dictate some of the terms to our overlords,’ Welch and Gillespie write, adding that we need independence not just in politics but from politics. Welch said, ‘When we look at the places where government either directly controls or heavily regulates things, like K-12 education, health care, retirement, things are going poorly.’ … It’s very different outside of government where — from culture to retail stores to the Internet — there’s been an explosion of choice. ‘(Y)ou were lucky … 20 years ago (if) you would see one eggplant in an exotic store,’ Welch continued. ‘Now in the crappiest supermarket in America you’ll see four or five or six varieties of eggplant, plus all types of different things. … (W)hen you get independent from politics, things are going great because people can experiment, they can innovate. … We should squeeze down the (number of) places where we need a consensus to the smallest area possible, because all the interesting stuff happens outside of that.’” … Stossel’s television show dedicated to this topic and the book authors is available on the free hulu service.

Harm of expanding government explained. Introducing his new book Back on the Road to Serfdom: The Resurgence of Statism, Thomas E. Woods, Jr. writes: “The economic consequences of an expanded government presence in American life are of course not the only outcomes to be feared, and this volume considers a variety of them. For one thing, as the state expands, it fosters the most antisocial aspects of man’s nature, particularly his urge to attain his goals with the least possible exertion. And it is much easier to acquire wealth by means of forcible redistribution by the state than by exerting oneself in the service of one’s fellow man. The character of the people thus begins to change; they expect as a matter of entitlement what they once hesitated to ask for as charity. That is the fallacy in the usual statement that ‘it would cost only $X billion to give every American who needs it’ this or that benefit. Once people realize the government is giving out a benefit for ‘free,’ more and more people will place themselves in the condition that entitles them to the benefit, thereby making the program ever more expensive. A smaller and smaller productive base will have to strain to provide for an ever-larger supply of recipients, until the system begins to buckle and collapse.” … Phrases like “smaller and smaller productive base” apply in Wichita, where our economic development policies like tax increment financing, community improvement districts, and tax abatement through industrial revenue bonds excuse groups of taxpayers from their burdens, leaving a smaller group of people to pay the costs of government.

Youthful senator to speak. This Friday (December 16th) the Wichita Pachyderm Club presents Kansas Senator Garrett Love. The youthful legislator, just completing his first year in office, will be speaking on “Young people in politics.” The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club. … Upcoming speakers: … On December 23rd there will be no meeting. On December 30th there will be no meeting. … On January 6th: David Kensinger, Chief of Staff to Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. … On January 13th: Speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives Mike O’Neal, speaking on “The untold school finance story.” … On January 20th: Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn.

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: Wednesday December 7, 2011

Wichita petitions. At yesterday’s meeting of the Wichita City Council, the invocation featured a Bible verse that contained the phrase “Petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be offered for those in authority.” I don’t think the speaker was aware of the irony, since petitions were delivered to city hall just the day before. These petitions seek to overturn an action of the city council, and city leaders are not pleased that citizens took to the streets to gather signatures in opposition to the council’s action.

Petitions being contested. Speaking of petitions, the developers of the Ambassador Hotel are calling those who signed the petition and asking them to rescind their signature. The signers are being read a script that claims a study by Wichita State University indicates that 978 jobs will be created by the project. At the time the hotel developers persuaded the Wichita City Council and other governmental units to grant them over $15 million in taxpayer subsidy, they claimed the project would create 100 to 120 jobs. More reporting by Bill Wilson of the Wichita Eagle at Clash over hotel incentives heating up. … Work started and continues on the hotel even though the subsidy targeted by the petition is in doubt, so it appears the hotel will open — and jobs be created — no matter what happens to the petition.

AFP statement on peitition. “Activists with Americans for Prosperity and many other local organizations are firmly engaged in the public process, acting on our right to ask for a public vote on how our city doles out tax dollars to private interests,” said Susan Estes, AFP-Kansas grassroots coordinator and Wichita resident. “Certainly the opposition in this matter is acting on its right to fight our efforts. “However, from what we have heard from some of the recipients of recent phone calls, the actions of our opposition seem desperate, insulting and even intimidating to some. We find it interesting that an entity so concerned about receiving public incentives is so against allowing the public to vote on one portion of the approved incentive package. Great lengths are being taken — and at great expense — to prevent Wichitans from voting, even going so far as to have individuals from Colorado calling petition signers to sway their opinion about a Wichita issue.” … “The signature gathering process has simply been about one thing: providing the people of Wichita an opportunity to express support or opposition to this type of public tax policy. A campaign would allow both proponents and opponents to share their message with the people of Wichita. We believe his would be a healthy debate for our community. One that is needed, one that we hoped would be embraced by all. We are not afraid of this public debate, but apparently some are.”

Smart Taxpayers Exposing Waste. An initiative of the American Beverage Association is exposing ways in which government is spending money to run attack ads on the beverage industry. The claim is that $230 million of federal stimulus money has been spent in this way. The Facebook page, located at Smart Taxpayers Exposing Waste (STEW), holds many examples.

Planning grant to be topic of meeting. On Monday December 12th Americans for Prosperity Foundation will feature Sedgwick County Commission Member Richard Ranzau speaking on the topic “The $1.5 million dollar Regional Economic Area Partnership (REAP) HUD Sustainable Development Planning Grant: Economic Development or Economic Destruction?” Some background on this item may be found at Sedgwick County considers a planning grant. This free event is 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 history writer to speak. This Friday (December 9th) the Wichita Pachyderm Club features Beccy Tanner, Kansas history writer and reporter for The Wichita Eagle, speaking on “The Kansas Sesquicentennial (150th) Anniversary.” The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club. … Upcoming speakers: On December 16: Kansas Senator Garrett Love. The youthful legislator, just completing his first year in office, will be speaking on “Young people in politics.” … On December 23 there will be no meeting. The status of the December 30th meeting is undetermined at this time. … On January 6: David Kensinger, Chief of Staff to Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. … On January 13: Speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives Mike O’Neal, speaking on “The untold school finance story.” … On January 20: Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn.

Wichita City Council. Some video from this week’s meeting of the Wichita City Council. First, my discussion of tax increment financing (TIF) districts. Then, click here for Clinton Coen and Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer’s discussion. Under the mayor’s leadership, things disintegrate. Finally, former council member Jim Skelton returns to Wichita city council chambers.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday November 28, 2011

FHA risk. Today a Wall Street Journal Review & Outlook piece notes a government housing agency that has deteriorating finances. From What Housing Risk? The FHA says there’s nothing for taxpayers to worry about. Oh-oh. “Mr. Gyourko notes that while the FHA’s loan exposure has grown to more than $1 trillion this fiscal year from $305 billion at the end of 2007, the agency hasn’t “increased its capital reserves commensurately.” Sure enough, the Department of Housing and Urban Development recently reported that the FHA’s capital reserves are 0.24%, a far cry from the 2% statutory minimum.” The FHA itself disagrees, saying its books are “sound.” … FHA wants to expand into offering prime loans, the mortgages made to people with good credit, and it has been doing that. But this is an area that is served by traditional, private sector lenders, and now a government agency wants to compete. … Concluding, the Journal writes: “Far from making ‘spurious’ claims, Mr. Gyourko is doing a public service by chronicling the FHA’s reckless expansion at a time when the housing market needs less government intervention, not more of it. The fury of the FHA’s response shows that he’s onto something.”

Boeing in Wichita. The Wichita Eagle runs down the details on the possible exit of Boeing from Wichita in Analysts: Loss of Boeing would hurt city, region. A few points of discussion: Is Boeing raising the possibility of departure as a ploy for economic incentives? … “With looming defense budget cuts, the threat of plant closures makes politicians more aware of what’s at stake, he [aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia] said. It will help Boeing win allies in Congress working against the cuts.” He also mentioned the “threats of defense cuts.” But we ought to be welcoming cuts in defense spending. It means that resources will be freed for other things that people really want. … I also wonder: Are aerial refueling tankers a relic of a different era of warfare, the Cold War? And is defense spending a good economic development policy for Wichita, or any city?

Wichita City Council. Wichita City Council will not meet this week, as it is the fifth Tuesday of a month. … Next week’s meeting will take up a proposal by Southfork Investment LLC, a group headed by Jay Maxwell, asking for the formation of a new tax increment financing (TIF) district. … According to city documents, the project is near 47th Street South and I-135. It is planned for 50 acres and one million square feet of retail, hotel, restaurants and office space. For comparison, Towne East Square has slightly less than 1.2 million square feet of space. There will be a medical park on an additional 22 acres. … It appears that all the TIF financing will be pay-as-you go, which is a recent revision to the Kansas TIF law. No bonds would be sold. Instead, the increment in property tax would be refunded to the developer as it is paid. There’s also a joining of TIF and special assessments, where TIF revenue will be used to pay special assessment taxes. … Only a simply majority vote is needed to form the TIF district after the December 6 public hearing. There will have to be redevelopment plans approved after that, and those require a two-thirds majority.

Harm of public-sector unions. “Mr. Siegel observes that public-sector unions have ‘become a vanguard movement within liberalism. And the reason for that is it’s the public sector that comes closest to the statist ideals of McGovern and post-McGovern liberals. And that is, there’s no connection between effort and reward. You’re guaranteed your job. You’re guaranteed your salary increase. There’s a kind of bureaucratic equality.’ In turn, he continues, ‘this vanguard becomes in the eyes of many liberals the model for the middle class. Public-sector unions are what all workers should be like. Their benefits are the kind of benefits everyone should get.’” … Much more in the Wall Street Journal at The New Tammany Hall: The historian of the American city on what Wall Street and the ‘Occupy’ movement have in common, and how government unions came to dominate state and local politics.

Rep. Hedke, author of new book, to speak. This Friday (December 2nd) the Wichita Pachyderm Club features Kansas Representative Dennis Hedke speaking on “Energy and environmental policy.” Hedke is the author of the just-published book The Audacity of Freedom, described as an “unequivocal challenge to the Socialist-Marxist-Communist principles being pushed upon freedom loving Americans by entities and individuals both within and outside the United States.” In his forward to the book, Speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives Mike O’Neal writes: “Dennis Hedke’s The Audacity of Freedom is a timely and welcome “from the heart” wake-up call for those who value freedom and America. Unapologetically, Hedke does not mince words in describing the combination of crises that threaten our country. His irrefutable and precise recitation of compelling facts and refreshingly candid faith and patriotism are infectious. He exhorts us not to stand by and suffer any longer the fools who have been insulting our collective intelligence and bringing us dangerously close to a socialistic irrelevance in the world. His book, in short, is important.” The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club. … Upcoming speakers: On December 9: Beccy Tanner, Kansas history writer and reporter for The Wichita Eagle, speaking on “The Kansas Sesquicentennial (150th) Anniversary.” … On December 16: David Kensinger, Chief of Staff to Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. … On December 23 there will be no meeting. The status of the December 30th meeting is undetermined at this time. … On January 6: Kansas Senator Garrett Love. … On January 13: Speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives Mike O’Neal, speaking on “The untold school finance story.” … on January 20: Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn.

Even quicker. Brownback prepares K-12 funding overhaul … Brownback tweet tattling a national story. Example from CNN: The girl who dared to tweet about Gov. Brownback. … The Chevy Volt: Detroit’s Hottest Car: “Industry watchers are preparing for the Volt to undergo a recall to fix whatever problem the car’s lithium-ion battery pack has that seems to be causing the vehicles to spontaneously burst into flames.” … The Bipartisan War on Liberty: “Liberal and conservative elites agree on one thing: Americans are too free for their own good.” … FDA Considers Mandatory Salt Reductions: “As I noted last month in a Cato podcast with interviewer Caleb Brown, the FDA’s new initiative plunges it deeper into social engineering than it has gone in the past. It’s one thing to limit adulteration or contamination of foods, or the use of mysterious chemical additives; it is another to order the reformulation of recipes to reduce intake of a substance that 1) occurs naturally in virtually all foods; 2) is beneficial to health in many circumstances; and 3) has been sought out and purposely added to the human diet through recorded history.” … Camera experiments to start soon in federal courts in Kansas.

Myth of spending cuts. Nick Gillespie of Reason says that only by “obscuring and obfuscating basic math” can we be told there will be spending cuts.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Thursday November 10, 2011

Occupy Wall Street. One of the most troubling things about OWS is the anti-semitism. FreedomWorks has a video which explains. Also from FreedomWorks, president Matt Kibbe contributes a piece for the Wall Street Journal (Occupying vs. Tea Partying: Freedom and the foundations of moral behavior.). In it, he concludes: “Progressives’ burning desire to create a tea party of the left may be clouding their judgment. Even Mr. Jones has grudgingly conceded that tea partiers have out-crowd-sourced, out-organized, and out-performed the most sophisticated community organizers on the left. ‘Here’s the irony,’ he said back in July. ‘They talk rugged individualist, but they act collectively.’ He and his colleagues don’t seem to understand that communities can’t exist without respect for individual freedom. They can’t imagine how it is that millions of people located in disparate places with unique knowledge of their communities and circumstances can voluntarily cooperate and coordinate, creating something far greater and more valuable than any one individual could have done alone. In the world of the contemporary Western left, someone needs to be in charge — a benevolent bureaucrat who knows better than you do. They can’t help but build hierarchical structures — a General Assembly perhaps — because they don’t understand how freedom works.”

Johnson Controls. Rhonda Holman’s recent Wichita Eagle editorial criticized those who spoke against the award of a forgivable loan to Johnson Controls, specifically mentioning the claim by Sedgwick County Commissioner Richard Ranzau that Johnson was going to move these jobs to Wichita “no matter what.” No one has disputed Ranzau. I specifically asked at the commission meeting that someone from Johnson address this assessment. The Johnson people in the audience chose not to answer. It would be helpful if someone at the newspaper or county at least pretended as through they cared about the truth of these matters. … At one time newspapers might have objected to Commission member Jim Skelton voting on this matter due to a family member working at Johnson. True, Kansas law says he was eligible to vote on the matter. Sedgwick County has no code of ethics that prohibited it, either. But Skelton could have acted as though the county had a code of ethics, and a model code of ethics says Skelton should not have voted on this matter.

Save-A-Lot store opens. Yesterday a Save-A-Lot grocery store opened in Wichita’s Planeview neighborhood. This is a store that was said to be impossible to build without subsidy in the form of tax increment financing (TIF) and an extra community improvement district (CID) sales tax of two cents per dollar. The Sedgwick County Commission exercised its veto power over the TIF district, and developer developer Rob Snyder canceled his plans for the store. But someone else found a way. Said Snyder at the time to the Wichita City Council: “We have researched every possible way, how do we make this project work with the existing funding that’s available to us. … We might as well say if for some reason we can’t figure out how to get this funding to go through, there won’t be a shopping center over there.” As part of his presentation to the council Allen Bell, Wichita’s Director of Urban Development explained that to be eligible for TIF, developers must demonstrate a “gap,” that is, an analytical finding that conventional financing is not sufficient for the project, and public assistance is required: “We’ve done that. We know, for example, from the developer’s perspective in terms of how much they will make in lease payments from the Save-A-Lot operator, how much that is, and how much debt that will support, and how much funds the developer can raise personally for this project. That has, in fact, left a gap, and these numbers that you’ve seen today reflect what that gap is.” … This episode has severely harmed the credibility of those who plead for incentives and subsidies, and also of the city hall bureaucrats who plead their cases for them. For more see For Wichita, Save-A-Lot teaches a lesson.

Teacher pay. A look at public school teacher pay by American Enterprise Institute finds that — opposite of the myth spread by school spending advocates — teachers are paid much more than they could earn in the private sector. While teachers are paid less than private sector workers with similar college degree attainment, the course of study for teachers is less demanding than most other fields. Fringe benefits for teachers are much higher than for private sector workers. Job security, even in the face of recent layoffs, is much greater for teachers and has a value: “Consider that one-fifth of the highest-performing public school teachers in Washington, D.C., recently declined to give up even part of their job security in exchange for base salary increases of up to $20,000.” … The authors note the study is based on averages: “Our research is in terms of averages. The best public school teachers — especially those teaching difficult subjects such as math and science — may well be underpaid compared to counterparts in the private sector.” But teachers have formed unions that ensure that all teachers are paid the same without regard to ability. See Public School Teachers Aren’t Underpaid: Our research suggests that on average — counting salaries, benefits and job security — teachers receive about 52% more than they could in private business. … Naturally, the best way to set teacher salaries is through voluntary exchange in markets. That doesn’t happen with public school teachers.

Ranzau, Skelton to speak. This week’s meeting (November 11th) of the Wichita Pachyderm Club features 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?” The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club. … Upcoming speakers: 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.

Making economics come alive. On Monday November 14th Americans for Prosperity Foundation will show the video “Making Economics Come Alive” with John Stossel. Topics included in this presentation are Economics of Property Rights, Private Ownership and Conservation, Property Rights and the Status of Native Americans, Atlas Shrugged: Selfishness and the Economics of Exchange, Economics and the Military Draft, Regulation and Unintended Consequences, Regulation: Louisiana Florist, The Unintended Consequences of the Ethanol Subsidies, The Unintended Consequences of Minimum Wage Laws, Public Choice Economics and Crony Capitalism, Trade Restrictions and Crony Capitalism, Stimulus Spending and Crony Capitalism, and Political Versus Market Choices. This free event is 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.

Economics in two minutes. In two minutes, Art Carden explains the important ideas of economics in Economics on One Foot: “Individuals strive to achieve their goals in the best ways possible, every action has a cost, incentives matter, value is determined on the margin, profits and losses help gauge value creation and destruction, and government interventions often have unintended and undesirable consequences.” … This video is from LearnLiberty.org, a project of Institute for Humane Studies, and many other informative videos are available.