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Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday October 24, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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