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Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday June 27, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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