Tag Archives: Republican Party

Elections in Kansas: Federal offices

Kansas Republican primary voters made two good decisions this week.

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

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

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

United States Senate

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

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

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

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

United States House of Representatives, district 4

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

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

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

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

United States House of Representatives, district 1

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

The meaning of these results

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

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

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

A Crony Capitalist Showdown

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

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

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

In Kansas fourth district, fundamental issues of governance arise

The contest in the Kansas fourth district is a choice between principle and political expediency, and between economic freedom and cronyism.

While some news articles and political columns have described the contest for Republican Party nomination for United States House of Representatives between Todd Tiahrt and Mike Pompeo as a yawner, as between two candidates with few and only minor distinguishing positions — there are important differences. The press is starting to notice.

A Crony Capitalist Showdown

In the Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberly Strassel made the case for this contest’s importance as a bellwether of Republican sentiment:

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

The 50-year-old Mr. Pompeo — an Army veteran, Harvard Law grad and businessman — was elected in the 2010 tea party surge, with a particular focus on liberating private enterprise. He’s made a name for himself as a leader in the fight to end corporate welfare and pork, and to cut back on strangling regulations. (Potomac Watch: A Crony Capitalism Showdown, August 1, 2014)

(If the above link does not work for you because you don’t have a subscription to the Wall Street Journal, click here.)

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

Concluding her column, Strassel outlines the choice that so many writers have failed to realize:

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

Another example of the difference between the two candidates is the Export-Import Bank. Conservative groups are urging that Congress not reauthorize the bank, a vote that will happen soon. The most common argument is that it harms American jobs, and there are allegations of corruption in its operations.

While in Congress, Pompeo voted against the reauthorization of the bank. He has said he would vote against its reauthorization again unless there is significant reform. Tiahrt, on the other hand, voted in favor of the Export-Import Bank. It’s representative of the type of cronyism he has supported while in office, and would likely support again, especially as his positions tack to the political left.

Finally, Tiahrt has recently criticized Charles Koch and Americans for Prosperity, leading us to wonder if Tiahrt understands or embraces the principles of economic freedom and free markets.

Voice for Liberty Radio: Kansas Secretary of State Candidates

Voice for Liberty Radio 150x150In this episode of Voice for Liberty Radio: Candidates for Republican party nomination for Kansas Secretary of State spoke at the Wichita Pachyderm Club on July 18, 2014. The candidates are incumbent Kris Kobach and challenger Scott Morgan. The issue of voting, particularly the requirement for proof of citizenship when registering to vote, is an issue that separates the two candidates.

The format of the meeting was an opening statement by each candidate followed by questions from the audience and a brief closing statement.

I asked a question about whether the state’s chief election officer should have a political action committee that engages in electioneering. Kobach replied that this practice is legal, which it is. As to its propriety, Kobach said that statewide officials frequently endorse candidates. Morgan said it is not ethical or appropriate for the secretary of state to have a political action committee. As to Kobach’s argument that since other statewide officials are able to endorse candidates, that means the secretary of state should also, there is a distinguishing factor: Those other officials aren’t in charge of administering Kansas elections.

Shownotes

Kris Kobach campaign website
Scott Morgan campaign website
Wichita Pachyderm Club

In Kansas fourth district, national security a dividing issue

A letter composed by 14 national security experts clarifies the debate over the role of the National Security Agency, its surveillance programs, and the safety of Americans. This is an issue in the campaign for the Republican Party nomination for United States Congress from the fourth district of Kansas. Challenger Todd Tiahrt has criticized Mike Pompeo for supporting the NSA data-gathering programs, saying that the programs spy on Americans. Pompeo has maintained that the programs are necessary to protect Americans from terrorism and other threats, and that there is sufficient oversight to protect privacy.

I think the most important part of the letter is the final two paragraphs:

Supporting the NSA collection programs illegally compromised by Edward Snowden is politically difficult given the media frenzy that has inaccurately portrayed these programs as domestic spying. We regret that too many politicians are taking a politically expedient position on this issue by siding with the news media on NSA programs in an effort to scare voters and win their support.

Leadership often means taking politically difficult stands on controversial issues. The current debate over NSA surveillance concerns crucial national security programs designed to protect our nation. In our view, supporting these programs and working to reassure the American people about why they are needed is the only responsible position on this issue.

What’s curious — incongruous is more accurate — is how Tiahrt and his supporters have morphed into rabid civil libertarians on this issue. This letter is signed by what we can describe as a neoconservative hall of fame, John Bolton and William Kristol in particular. This group advocates a muscular American foreign policy, which also describes Tiahrt while he was in Congress. He earned the moniker “Tanker Todd,” after all, for his support of building the next generation of air refueling tankers in the United States, and Wichita in particular. Or, maybe he supported building the tankers solely on its potential as a jobs program for Wichita, which if so, is bad policy.

Either way, it’s bizarre to see Tiahrt and his supporters opposing a policy designed to protect the American homeland. The people they’re lining up with: Usually they’d insult them with terms like isolationists and peaceniks. Or worse, libertarians.

I guess it is true, that politics makes strange bedfellows.

Following is the letter and its signatories.

We are a group of foreign policy professionals who are writing to express our concern over statements about NSA surveillance made during the Republican primary for the U.S House of Representatives seat for the 4th district of Kansas.

The illegal leaks of information about NSA programs by former NSA technician Edward Snowden kicked off a divisive debate in this country on whether or not NSA surveillance programs have violated the privacy rights of American citizens.

Many of the NSA programs compromised by Snowden have been portrayed by the news media and many politicians as “spying on Americans.”

While we appreciate the concerns voiced by many Americans over NSA surveillance programs in response to the Snowden leaks, we believe it is highly inaccurate to claim that these programs violate the privacy rights of American citizens. We believe the NSA program that has been most criticized, the NSA metadata program, has been subjected to careful oversight by the courts and the congressional intelligence oversight committees. This intelligence collection program has been upheld in 36 out of 39 decisions before 19 different judges.

We regret that critics of the metadata program and other NSA collection efforts ignore how these programs have helped protect our nation against terrorist attacks. For example, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein stated during a January 14, 2014 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that the metadata program helped stop terrorist plots to bomb the New York City subway, the New York stock exchange, and a Danish newspaper.

Supporting the NSA collection programs illegally compromised by Edward Snowden is politically difficult given the media frenzy that has inaccurately portrayed these programs as domestic spying. We regret that too many politicians are taking a politically expedient position on this issue by siding with the news media on NSA programs in an effort to scare voters and win their support.

Leadership often means taking politically difficult stands on controversial issues. The current debate over NSA surveillance concerns crucial national security programs designed to protect our nation. In our view, supporting these programs and working to reassure the American people about why they are needed is the only responsible position on this issue.

Sincerely,

Hon. Michael B. Mukasey
81st Attorney General of the United States, former U.S. District Judge, Southern District of New York

Hon. Pete Hoekstra
Former Chairman, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

Lieutenant General William G. Boykin U.S. Army (Ret.)
Former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence

Admiral James A. Lyons, US Navy (Ret.) Former Commander-in-Chief,
Pacific Fleet

Andrew C. McCarthy
Former Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney, Southern District of New York

Hon. Michelle Van Cleave
Former National Counterintelligence Executive

Clare M. Lopez Former CIA Officer

Hon. John R. Bolton
Former U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security

Hon. R. James Woolsey
Former Director of Central Intelligence

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.
Former Assistant Secretary of Defense (Acting)

William Kristol
Editor, The Weekly Standard and Board Member, Foreign Policy Initiative

Joseph diGenova
diGenova & Toensing Former U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia

Victoria Toensing
diGenova & Toensing
Former Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Chief Counsel, Senate Intelligence Committee

Frederick Fleitz
Former CIA Officer and former Professional Staff Member, House Intelligence Committee

Quasi-lobbyist runs as earmarker in Kansas GOP primary

Washington Examiner writer Tim Carney notices the curious stance of a Republican candidate in the Kansas fourth district primary: He likes earmarks.

Washington Examiner senior political columnist Timothy P. Carney knows how Washington works. Of his 2006 book The Big Ripoff: How Big Business and Big Government Steal Your Money, Paul A. Gigot, who is Editorial Page Editor of the Wall Street Journal wrote “Politicians like to say that government is on the side of the little guy. But with impressive documentation and persuasive examples, Tim Carney shows how government power and regulation are typically used to assist the powerful.”

On the contest in the Kansas fourth district between Mike Pompeo and Todd Tiahrt, Carney observed “Kansas’s 4th District features one of the oddest fights yet of the counter-Tea Party effort: a quasi-lobbyist running running on a pro-earmark platform.”

Quasi-lobbyist runs as earmarker in Kansas GOP primaryCarney isn’t the first to notice the pro-earmark stance of Tiahrt. It’s not a secret, as the candidate himself speaks in favor of earmarks. His voting record reflects his support. In 2007 Club for Growth, whose motto is “Prosperity and Opportunity through Economic Freedom,” compiled a list of 50 votes that canceled what it called wasteful earmarks, explaining as follows:

The Club for Growth has compiled a RePORK Card of all members’ votes on all 50 anti-pork amendments. “Taxpayers have a right to know which congressmen stand up for them and which stand up for the special interests,” said Club for Growth President Pat Toomey. “Unfortunately, the Club for Growth RePORK Card shows that most congressmen care more about lining their buddies’ pockets than they care about protecting American taxpayers.”

Analyzing the results, Club for Growth noted that 16 members voted for all these amendments. These members were all Republicans. The average Republican score was 43%. The average Democratic score was 2%. The average score for appropriators — these are members of the Committee on Appropriations like Tiahrt — was 4%.

Where was Todd Tiahrt on this list? Tied for last place at 0%. He voted for none of these amendments that would have blocked earmark spending. Of the group that Tiahrt voted with, Club for Growth noted “105 congressmen scored an embarrassing 0%, voting against every single amendment. The Pork Hall of Shame includes 81 Democrats and 24 Republicans.”

Club for Growth created a similar tally in 2009, selecting 68 votes. That year, Tiahrt did better, voting for 20 of the 68 measures.

Quasi-lobbyist runs as earmarker in Kansas GOP primary

By Timothy P. Carney, Washington Examiner

Former Rep. Todd Tiahrt is a man on a mission — to reclaim the Republican Party for earmarkers.

Tiahrt represented Kansas’ 4th district for 16 years, and for 14 of those years he sat on the House Appropriations Committee. From that perch, Tiahrt was a prolific porker, dealing out earmarks as if they were playing cards.

Continue reading at Quasi-lobbyist runs as earmarker in Kansas GOP primary.

Club for Growth PAC Endorses Mike Pompeo For Congress

From Club for Growth, whose motto is “Prosperity and Opportunity through Economic Freedom.”

Club for Growth PAC Endorses Mike Pompeo For Congress

Club for Growth President Chris Chocola: “Mike stands on principle to do what’s right for Kansas and America.”

May 29, 2014
Washington, DC — The Club for Growth PAC announced today that it is endorsing Republican Congressman Mike Pompeo for re-election. Congressman Pompeo represents Kansas’s Fourth Congressional District. Former Congressman Todd Tiahrt has announced that he is challenging Congressman Pompeo in the Republican primary.

“Congressman Mike Pompeo is a taxpayer hero with a 90% on the Club for Growth’s congressional scorecard and we hope he is re-nominated by Kansas Republicans,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola. “Mike stands on principle to do what’s right for Kansas and America. He’ll never stop fighting the Obama agenda in Washington.”

“Former Congressman Todd Tiahrt, on the other hand, has a liberal voting record that pales in comparison to Mike Pompeo. Congressman Tiahrt was one of the biggest spenders in the Republican Party when he served in Congress,” continued Chocola. “He voted to spend millions on an Exploratorium in San Francisco, a Lobster Institute in Maine, and even to spend millions on a building named after liberal New York Congressman Charlie Rangel. If that wasn’t bad enough, he voted for Obama’s wasteful ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program and to raise his own pay five times. Now that he’s decided to run for Congress, the Club’s PAC will do everything it can to make sure voters in Kansas learn the truth about Todd Tiahrt and his liberal record.”

For Kansas Senator Roberts, earmark reform not worthy of his vote

Kansas Senator Pat Roberts promotes his fiscal conservatism, but failed to vote in favor of earmark reform in a recent close vote.

In 2012 an amendment to a Senate bill was offered that would have dramatically reformed the earmark process.

United States Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas.
United States Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas.
The vote was On the Amendment S.Amdt. 1472 to S.Amdt. 1470 to S. 2038 (Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012).

The purpose of the amendment, according to Congress.gov, is “to prohibit earmarks.” Although offered in 2012, the short title of the amendment was “Earmark Elimination Act of 2011”

United States Senator from Kansas Pat Roberts voting with Democrats and against Republicans on earmark reform. 2012.
United States Senator from Kansas Pat Roberts voting with Democrats and against Republicans on earmark reform. 2012.
The nub of the amendment was “It shall not be in order in the Senate to consider a bill or resolution introduced in the Senate or the House of Representatives, amendment, amendment between the Houses, or conference report that includes an earmark.”

The amendment was rejected by a vote of 59 to 40. Among Democratic Party members, the vote was 44 to 7 against the amendment. For Republican Party members, the vote was 33 to 13 in favor of the amendment.

One of the 13 Republicans who voted against this reform-minded amendment was Pat Roberts of Kansas.

In Kansas fourth district, charges of alignment with Speaker

Charges made on the campaign trail by Todd Tiahrt that his opponent is “Boehner’s boy” aren’t supported by Mike Pompeo’s voting record.

At a recent event in Wichita candidate for the Republican Party nomination for U.S. Congress for the Kansas fourth district Todd Tiahrt spoke about his opponent, incumbent Mike Pompeo. Tiahrt told the audience: “Now, Mr. Pompeo was also tied very closely to John Boehner. In fact he’s the only congressman in Washington D.C. that’s been appointed to two select committees. No other Member of Congress has been. But Boehner’s boy has.”

This criticism is meant to appeal to conservatives, many who believe Speaker of the House John Boehner is not conservative, at least on some issues. By linking Pompeo to the Speaker, Tiahrt suggests that Pompeo is not conservative.

There could be a variety of ways to judge how closely linked two politicians may be. One way would be through their voting record, and someone has done that.

Mike Pompeo illustration from The Fix’s complete guide to understanding House RepublicansLast July writers for the Washington Post looked at what they called “fault lines within the House Republican conference.” The group selected six votes that they thought illustrated where the fault lines cut. They concluded there are five “relatively well-defined factions among House Republicans” based on how regularly members vote in concert with leadership — namely, Speaker John Boehner. (See The Fix’s complete guide to understanding House Republicans.)

You might think that someone who is “Boehner’s boy” — that’s the charge leveled against Pompeo by Tiahrt — would be in the group the Post writers called “the Boehner base.” Or maybe the group next to that.

But Mike Pompeo’s votes placed him in a group far away from the Boehner base. Not the group farthest away, but the group next to farthest away.

Voice for Liberty Radio: Sedgwick County Commission Candidates

In this episode of Voice for Liberty Radio: Candidates for Republican party nominations in two districts for Sedgwick County Commission spoke at the Wichita Pachyderm Club on June 20, 2014.

In district 4, which is parts of northeast, north and northwest Wichita and the towns of Park City, Valley Center, and Maize, Kansas Senator Carolyn McGinn is challenging the incumbent Richard Ranzau. In district 5, which is parts of south and southeast Wichita and the town of Derby and surrounding area, Derby Mayor Dion Avello is facing Kansas Representative Jim Howell. The format of the meeting was an opening statement by each candidate followed by questions from the audience and a brief closing statement.

Here are candidates for Republican party nominations for Sedgwick County Commission at the Wichita Pachyderm Club on June 20, 2014.

Shownotes

Candidates in district 4:
Carolyn McGinn | Working For Kansas
Vote Richard Ranzau for County Commission

Candidates in district 5:
Dion Avello
State Representative Jim Howell for Sedgwick County Commissioner

Voice for Liberty Radio: U.S. Senator Pat Roberts

Voice for Liberty radio logo for featured posts 01In this episode of Voice for Liberty Radio: United States Senator Pat Roberts spoke to the Wichita Pachyderm Club on Friday May 30. He addressed a number of current topics in Washington such as the problems at the Veterans Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, and regulations regarding the lesser prairie chicken. He also spoke about his current campaign for re-election and took questions from the audience. Roberts was introduced to the Pachyderm Club members and guests by Sedgwick County Republican Party Chairman Bob Dool.

Shownotes

Pat Roberts Congressional office page
Pat Roberts campaign page

Pyle, Kansas Senator, considering Roberts challenge

runpylerun-2014-05-23Kansas Senator Dennis Pyle (@Dennis_Pyle) is considering challenging Pat Roberts (@SenPatRoberts) and Milton Wolf (@miltonwolfmd) for the Republican Party nomination for United States Senator from Kansas.

As suspicious as I am regarding the motivations of politicians, I didn’t think of this until a few political observers suggested it: Could this be an effort by the Roberts campaign to muddy the waters and diminish Wolf’s prospects? Or was this an organic decision made by Pyle — after “months of prayer,” of course? Or did Roberts campaign operatives butter up the northeast Kansas Senator and seduce him with the possibility of a U.S. senate seat — or, at least keeping it in the hands of Roberts?

The latter seems about right. But I don’t really know.

Voice for Liberty Radio: Milton Wolf

Voice for Liberty logo with microphone 150

In this episode of WichitaLiberty Radio: Dr. Milton Wolf is a candidate for United States Senate from Kansas and will face incumbent Pat Roberts in the August Republican primary election. We spoke by telephone on January 23, 2014. As Wolf is a physician, it should be no surprise that health care was a major topic. Also, he answers the question that’s on everyone’s mind: Jayhawks, Wildcats, or Shockers? This is podcast episode number 6, released on January 23, 2014.

[powerpress]

Shownotes

Milton Wolf campaign website
Pat Roberts campaign website
Columns by Milton Wolf at Washington Times
Kansas Republican Party and convention information

Questioning Pat Roberts

One of the small news items emerging from the Kansas Republican Party Convention last weekend is that Pat Roberts will run for reelection to the U.S. Senate next year.

So is this a good thing, or not? Gidget of Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe) offers one opinion in her post on the topic:

Look, I like Sen. Roberts. He’s a nice enough guy, but he will not make any waves. He will not rock any boats. I do not understand it. Most 76 year olds are willing to wear purple suits and red hats in public as some sort of matter of pride. It’s their way of saying, I’ve lived long enough I’ll do as I damn well please.

But not Sen. Roberts.

Where every member of the Kansas delegation in the House voted against the plan to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff — there was Roberts being a “statesman” by raising your taxes without the agreement of any cuts.

This is a regularly repeated occurrence for those in the U.S. Senate. They are absolutely willing to sell the people down the river in return for being called “statesman” and getting re-elected.

The truly disgusting part is that we’re all going to vote for Sen. Roberts again.

If he draws a primary opponent, it will be a miracle. And even if he does draw a primary opponent, everyone will tip toe around for fear of upsetting Roberts and the many people who owe him their careers.

The Wall Street Journal noticed a vote made by Senator Roberts in committee that lead to the fiscal cliff bill. The newspaper explained the harm of this bill in its editorial:

The great joke here is that Washington pretends to want to pass “comprehensive tax reform,” even as each year it adds more tax giveaways that distort the tax code and keep tax rates higher than they have to be. Even as he praised the bill full of this stuff, Mr. Obama called Tuesday night for “further reforms to our tax code so that the wealthiest corporations and individuals can’t take advantage of loopholes and deductions that aren’t available to most Americans.”

One of Mr. Obama’s political gifts is that he can sound so plausible describing the opposite of his real intentions.

The costs of all this are far greater than the estimates conjured by the Joint Tax Committee. They include slower economic growth from misallocated capital, lower revenues for the Treasury and thus more pressure to raise rates on everyone, and greater public cynicism that government mainly serves the powerful.

Republicans who are looking for a new populist message have one waiting here, and they could start by repudiating the corporate welfare in this New Year disgrace.

The Journal took the rare measure of calling out the senators who voted for this bill in committee, as shown in its nearby graphic. There it is: Pat Roberts voting in concert with the likes of John Kerry, Chuck Schumer, and Debbie Stabenow.

If Tom Coburn of Oklahoma could vote against this bill in committee, then so could have Pat Roberts. But he didn’t.

Wichita STAR bonds project not good for capitalism

Tomorrow the Wichita City Council considers approval of the project plan for a STAR bonds project in Wichita.

The formation of the district has already been approved. This action by the council will consider the development plan and the actual authorization to spend money.

If approved, the city will proceed under the State of Kansas STAR bonds program. The city will sell bonds and turn over the proceeds to the developer. As bond payments become due, sales tax revenue will make the payments.

It’s only the increment in sales tax that is eligible to be diverted to bond payments. This increment is calculated by first determining a base level of sales for the district. Then, as new development comes online — or as sales rise at existing merchants — the increased sales tax over the base is diverted to pay the STAR bonds. Estimates are that annual revenue available for the bonds will be over $5,000,000.

For this district, the time period used to determine the base level of sales tax is February 2011 through January 2012. A new Cabela’s store opened in March 2012, and it’s located in the STAR bonds district. Since Cabela’s sales during the period used to calculate the base period was $0, the store’s entire sales tax collections will be used to benefit the STAR bonds developer.

(There are a few minor exceptions, such as the special CID tax Cabela’s collects for its own benefit.)

Which begs the question: Why is the Cabela’s store included in the boundaries of the STAR bonds district?

With sales estimated at $35 million per year, the state has been receiving around $2 million per year in sales tax from this store. But after the STAR bonds are sold, that money won’t be flowing to the state. Instead, it will be used to pay off bonds that benefit the project’s developer.

Some questions

Curiously, the city doesn’t provide a cost-benefit study for this project. This is the usual mechanism the city relies on as justification for investments in economic development projects.

Often developers ask government for incentives because they claim the project is not economically feasible without assistance. Is that the case with this development? If not, why the need for subsidies?

And if taxpayer subsidy is required for this development, we need to ask what it is about Kansas that discourages this type of business investment.

STAR bonds should be opposed as they turn over tax policy to the private sector. We should look at taxation as a way for government to raise funds to pay for services that all people benefit from. An example is police and fire protection. Even people who are opposed to taxation rationalize paying taxes that way.

But STAR bonds turn tax policy over to the private sector for personal benefit. The money is collected under the pretense of government authority, but it is collected for the exclusive benefit of the owners of property in the STAR bonds district.

Citizens should be asking this: Why do we need taxation, if we can simply excuse some from participating in the system?

Another question: In the words of the Kansas Department of Commerce, the STAR bonds program offers “municipalities the opportunity to issue bonds to finance the development of major commercial, entertainment and tourism areas and use the sales tax revenue generated by the development to pay off the bonds.” This description, while generally true, is not accurate. This STAR bonds district includes much area beyond the borders of the proposed development, including a Super Target store, a new Cabela’s store, and much vacant ground that will probably be developed as retail. The increment in sales taxes from these stores — present and future — goes to the STAR bond developer. As we’ve seen, since the Cabela’s store did not exist during the time the base level of sales was determined, all of its sales count towards the increment.

STAR bonds, or capitalism?

In economic impact and effect, the STAR bonds program is a government spending program. Except: Like many spending programs implemented through the tax system, legislative appropriations are not required. No one has to vote to spend on a specific project. Can you imagine the legislature voting to grant $5 million per year to a proposed development in northeast Wichita? That doesn’t seem likely. Few members would want to withstand the scrutiny of having voted in favor of such blatant cronyism.

But under tax expenditure programs like STAR bonds, that’s exactly what happens — except for the legislative voting part, and the accountability that sometimes follow.

Government spending programs like STAR bonds are sold to legislators as jobs programs. Development, it is said, will not happen unless project developers receive incentives through these spending programs. Since no legislator wants to be seen voting against jobs, many are susceptible to the seductive promise of jobs.

But often these same legislators are in favor of tax cuts to create jobs. This is the case in the Kansas House, where many Republican members are in favor of reducing the state’s income tax as a way of creating economic growth and jobs. On this issue, these members are correct.

But many of the same members voted in favor of tax expenditure programs like the STAR bonds program. These two positions cannot be reconciled. If government taxing and spending is bad, it is especially bad when part of tax expenditure programs like STAR bonds. And there’s plenty of evidence that government spending and taxation is a drag on the economy.

It’s not just legislators that are holding these incongruous views. Secretary of Commerce Pat George promoted the STAR bonds program to legislators. Governor Sam Brownback supported the program.

When Brownback and a new, purportedly more conservative Kansas House took office, I wondered whether Kansas would pursue a business-friendly or capitalism-friendly path: “Plans for the Kansas Republican Party to make Kansas government more friendly to business run the risk of creating false, or crony capitalism instead of an environment of genuine growth opportunity for all business.” I quoted John Stossel:

The word “capitalism” is used in two contradictory ways. Sometimes it’s used to mean the free market, or laissez faire. Other times it’s used to mean today’s government-guided economy. Logically, “capitalism” can’t be both things. Either markets are free or government controls them. We can’t have it both ways.

The truth is that we don’t have a free market — government regulation and management are pervasive — so it’s misleading to say that “capitalism” caused today’s problems. The free market is innocent.

But it’s fair to say that crony capitalism created the economic mess.

But wait, you may say: Isn’t business and free-market capitalism the same thing? Not at all. Here’s what Milton Friedman had to say: “There’s a widespread belief and common conception that somehow or other business and economics are the same, that those people who are in favor of a free market are also in favor of everything that big business does. And those of us who have defended a free market have, over a long period of time, become accustomed to being called apologists for big business. But nothing could be farther from the truth. There’s a real distinction between being in favor of free markets and being in favor of whatever business does.” (emphasis added.)

Friedman also knew very well of the discipline of free markets and how business will try to avoid it: “The great virtue of free enterprise is that it forces existing businesses to meet the test of the market continuously, to produce products that meet consumer demands at lowest cost, or else be driven from the market. It is a profit-and-loss system. Naturally, existing businesses generally prefer to keep out competitors in other ways. That is why the business community, despite its rhetoric, has so often been a major enemy of truly free enterprise.”

The danger of Kansas government having a friendly relationship with Kansas business is that the state will circumvent free markets and promote crony, or false, capitalism in Kansas. It’s something that we need to be on the watch for. The existence of the STAR bonds program lets us know that a majority of Kansas legislators — including many purported fiscal conservatives — prefer crony capitalism over free enterprise and genuine capitalism.

The problem

Government bureaucrats and politicians promote programs like STAR bonds as targeted investment in our economic future. They believe that they have the ability to select which companies are worthy of public investment, and which are not. It’s a form of centralized planning by the state that shapes the future direction of the Kansas economy.

Arnold King has written about the ability of government experts to decide what investments should be made with public funds. There’s a problem with knowledge and power:

As Hayek pointed out, knowledge that is important in the economy is dispersed. Consumers understand their own wants and business managers understand their technological opportunities and constraints to a greater degree than they can articulate and to a far greater degree than experts can understand and absorb.

When knowledge is dispersed but power is concentrated, I call this the knowledge-power discrepancy. Such discrepancies can arise in large firms, where CEOs can fail to appreciate the significance of what is known by some of their subordinates. … With government experts, the knowledge-power discrepancy is particularly acute.

Despite this knowledge problem, Kansas legislators are willing to give power to bureaucrats in the Department of Commerce who feel they have the necessary knowledge to direct the investment of public funds. One thing is for sure: the state and its bureaucrats have the power to make these investments. They just don’t have — they can’t have — the knowledge as to whether these are wise.

What to do

The STAR bonds program is an “active investor” approach to economic development. Its government spending on business leads to taxes that others have to pay. That has a harmful effect on other business, both existing and those that wish to form.

Professor Art Hall of the Center for Applied Economics at the Kansas University School of Business is critical of this approach to economic development. In his paper Embracing Dynamism: The Next Phase in Kansas Economic Development Policy, Hall quotes Alan Peters and Peter Fisher: “The most fundamental problem is that many public officials appear to believe that they can influence the course of their state and local economies through incentives and subsidies to a degree far beyond anything supported by even the most optimistic evidence. We need to begin by lowering expectations about their ability to micro-manage economic growth and making the case for a more sensible view of the role of government — providing foundations for growth through sound fiscal practices, quality public infrastructure, and good education systems — and then letting the economy take care of itself.”

In the same paper, Hall writes this regarding “benchmarking” — the bidding wars for large employers that Kansas and many of its cities employ: “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.”

In making his argument, Hall cites research on the futility of chasing large employers as an economic development strategy: “Large-employer businesses have no measurable net economic effect on local economies when properly measured. To quote from the most comprehensive study: ‘The primary finding is that the location of a large firm has no measurable net economic effect on local economies when the entire dynamic of location effects is taken into account. Thus, the siting of large firms that are the target of aggressive recruitment efforts fails to create positive private sector gains and likely does not generate significant public revenue gains either.'”

There is also substantial research that is it young firms — distinguished from small business in general — that are the engine of economic growth for the future. We can’t detect which of the young firms will blossom into major success — or even small-scale successes. The only way to nurture them is through economic policies that all companies can benefit from. Reducing tax rates is an example of such a policy. Government spending on specific companies through programs like STAR bonds is an example of precisely the wrong policy.

We need to move away from economic development based on this active investor approach. We need to advocate for policies at all levels of government that lead to sustainable economic development. We need political leaders who have the wisdom to realize this, and the courage to act appropriately. Which is to say, to not act in most circumstances.

Public Hearing Considering the Adoption of a STAR Bond Project Plan for the K-96 Greenwich Star Bond Projec… by

Schodorf legacy should be evaluated on policy, not politics

News that Kansas Senator Jean Schodorf is leaving the Republican Party after her primary election loss has been treated as mostly a political story, which it certainly is. More important, however, is the potential for new policies and laws regarding Kansas schools that hold the promise of helping Kansas schoolchildren and families.

Senator Schodorf’s most notable cause has been education. As chair of the senate education committee, she has been in a position of tremendous influence over education policy in Kansas. We should examine, then, the results of Kansas education policy.

This summer Kansas received a waiver from the main provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. As part of the waiver, Kansas agreed to create a teacher evaluation system that includes student achievement as a significant factor in the evaluation. Many people would probably be surprised to learn that student achievement isn’t already the major factor, perhaps even the only factor, in teacher evaluations. But under Schodorf’s chairmanship of the senate education committee, this isn’t the case.

Related to this is that Kansas ranks low in policies on teacher quality. Plentiful research shows that among the factors that schools have under their control, teacher effectiveness is by far most important. But under Schodorf’s chairmanship of the senate education committee, these important and broad-reaching reforms were not considered. Instead, her committee devoted enormous time and effort to tinkering with minor issues such as teacher tenure policy, itself a harmful policy.

It’s true that performance on the assessments that are under the control of Kansas are rising. But scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for Kansas students don’t reflect the same trend. Scores on this test, which is given every two years, aren’t rising like the Kansas-controlled test scores. These scores are largely unchanged over the past years.

Senator Schodorf, in her position of chair of the senate education committee, could have asked for an investigation as to why there exists this discrepancy. But she didn’t.

Speaking of test scores: Kansas often proudly claims that its schools rank very well when compared with other states. Compare Kansas with Texas, a state that Kansas school spending boosters like to deride as a state with low-performing schools. But you don’t have to look very hard to realize that these scores are a statistical artifact. It’s an unfortunate fact that minority students do not perform as well on these tests as white students. When you combine this with the fact that Kansas has a relatively small minority population, we can see why Kansas ranks well. In Kansas 69 percent of students are white, while in Texas that number is 33 percent. So it’s not surprising that overall, Kansas outperforms Texas (with one tie) when considering all students in four important areas: fourth and eighth grade reading, and fourth and eighth grade math.

But looking at Hispanic students only, Texas beats or ties Kansas in these four areas. For black students, Texas bests Kansas in all four. Texas does this with much less spending per pupil than Kansas.

Kansas also likes to brag of its high standards for schools. But when compared to other states, Kansas has low standards. The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has analyzed state standards, and we can see that Kansas has standards that are below most states. The table of figures is available at Estimated NAEP scale equivalent scores for state proficiency standards, for reading and mathematics in 2009, by grade and state. An analysis of these tables by the Kansas Policy Institute shows that few states have standards below the Kansas standards.

This table is from KPI’s report earlier this year titled Removing Barriers to Better Public Education: Analyzing the facts about student achievement and school spending.

The conclusion by NCES is “… most states’ proficiency standards are at or below NAEP’s definition of Basic performance.” KPI, based on simple analysis of the NCES data, concluded: “Kansas is one of those states, with its Reading Proficiency standard set lower than what the U.S. Department of Education considers Basic performance. Math Proficiency levels are above what NAEP considers to be Basic but still well below the U.S. standard for Proficient.” Did Senator Schodorf, in her role as education committee chair, push for increasing Kansas standards? If she did, we didn’t hear of it, and it certainly didn’t become policy or law.

Across the country, charter schools and school choice programs are offering choice and improved educational outcomes to families. While Kansas has charter schools, the charter school law in Kansas is one of the weakest in the nation, and virtually guarantees that public schools won’t face much meaningful competition from charters. School choice in the form of vouchers or tax credits doesn’t exist at all in Kansas. As a result, Kansas public schools face very little of the competitive forces that have been found to spur public schools to improvement across the country. As chair of the senate education committee, Senator Schodorf worked to make sure that charter schools and school choice are not available to Kansas families.

The departure of Senator Schodorf and other moderate senators is a political story. But it presents a chance for Kansas to make some important changes to its schools that are greatly needed. For this important policy reason, we shouldn’t mourn the loss of Schodorf and the other moderates.

Sedgwick County voter registration changes: Impact on senate races

During the Kansas primary election season, there have been efforts to recruit Democratic party voters to change their voter registration to Republican in order to participate in Republican party primary races. Kansas National Education Association (KNEA) has asked teachers union members to switch their voter registration in order to vote in Republican primaries. KNEA has asked this on its website and in an email that has received widespread attention.

Former Wichita Mayor Elma Broadfoot has recorded telephone calls urging Democrats to switch party registration so they may vote for moderate Republicans, reports the Wichita Eagle.

Whether this effort will be successful is unknown. But we now know, for Sedgwick County, how many people have changed their voter registration to Republican in recent months.

I took a Sedgwick County voter file obtained in May and compared it to one current as of Friday, which is after the deadline for changing voter registration. In the accompanying table, I counted voters who switched to Republican registration from some other party. I grouped the data by Kansas Senate district, as this is where much of the focus has been. I also present totals for Sedgwick County, as some county-wide races may also be impacted.

Voter registration party changes in Sedgwick County

It’s important to remember that some of these senate districts are not totally within Sedgwick County, and this table includes only Sedgwick County voters. Districts 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, and 30 are entirely within the county, and all voters in these districts are represented in the table.

Numbers in context

Now that we know the number of voters who switched to Republican registration, are these numbers large enough to affect any races? The answer is we simply don’t know. We don’t know why these voters switched to Republican registration. Their motive may be to vote for the moderate candidate, but there could be other reasons, too.

To place these numbers in context, consider the race for senate district 25, which pits incumbent Jean Schodorf against Wichita City Council Member Michael O’Donnell. In this district, 230 voters switched to Republican registration.

In the 2008 primary, 2,435 people voted for Schodorf, but there was no opponent. About 4,000 voted for Les Donovan in his primary, and about the same for Susan Wagle in her district, but again these races were uncontested. In the 2008 general election, 16,016 voted for Schodorf over 9,530 cast for her opponent, for a total of 25,546 votes cast, plus a few write-ins. But general elections, by their nature, have a much higher turnout than primaries.

A better election to compare is the 2004 Republican primary for senate district 30 in east Wichita, when former Wichita Mayor Bob Knight challenged incumbent Susan Wagle in a race that received much attention. Knight received 3,140 votes to Wagle’s 5,624, for a total of 8,764 votes cast.

230 voters switching registration out of a potential vote total of 8,764 is 2.6 percent. Many races are decided by less than that margin. But again, we don’t know the intent of these 230 voters, and while these voters are probably more motivated than most, some may not vote.

We should also note that district 27 had 223 voters switch to Republican affiliation during the same period. Incumbent Les Donovan has no primary opponent. He will face a Democrat in the general election, but party registration doesn’t matter at that time. In district 30, 160 voters switched to Republican registration. Incumbent Susan Wagle has no primary opponent.

It’s also noteworthy that switching to Republican registration is not the only action I observed. For example, in District 25, while 230 voters switched to Republican, 51 Democratic voters switched to Unaffiliated registration, 42 Republicans switched to Unaffiliated, and seven voters became Libertarian party voters. On election day Unaffiliated voters can switch their registration to Republican and vote in the primary.

Finally, there are new voters of all parties, including Republican. The analysis above counts only voters who changed party registration to Republican.

Overall, 2,001 voters in Sedgwick County switched party registration during this two-month period, with 1,126 switching to Republican.

Skelton, Sedgwick County Commissioner, censured by party

Yesterday evening the Sedgwick County Republican Party censured a Sedgwick County Commissioner for supporting a Democrat in an upcoming election.

Treatha Brown-Foster, who is chair of Kansas Black Republican Council, offered a resolution critical of Jim Skelton.

The resolution read: “Whereas, Jim Skelton, an elected Republican official in Sedgwick County, who has benefited from the support of the Sedgwick County Republican Party, has publicly supported a Democratic candidate over a Republican candidate for election to the Sedgwick County Commission. Be it resolved that Jim Skelton be censured for this action.”

The resolution was met with applause. The motion was seconded and the vote to approve it was unanimous.

In June Skelton expressed his support in a Wichita Eagle article for incumbent Tim Norton over challenger Ben Sauceda. Norton is a Democrat; Sauceda is a Republican. The two face no primary challenges, and will meet in the November 6th general election.

In January Skelton joined with fellow Republican Commissioner Dave Unruh to elect Norton as commission chair. Despite Republicans holding a four to one majority, the commission is chaired by a Democrat.

Kansas teachers union email: who is reasonable?

Kansas progressives in both major political parties who want larger state government are promoting themselves as “reasonable.” Another email from an official of Kansas National Education Association (KNEA) asking union members to switch their voter registration in order to vote in Republican primaries provides additional insight into the true motivations of the union, and a look at who is reasonable.

The email, printed in its entirety below, is from Tony White, Director of UniServ Southeast. UniServs are regional offices that provide services to teachers union members.

In this email, White mentions students, writing “Stand up for yourself, for your profession, and Yes, for your students.” Mention of students was absent from a previous email White sent.

White also uses words that we see progressives — including progressive Republicans — commonly use: “reasonable people” and “ideologues.” The mantra these days is that the Kansas Senate is the last bastion of a reasonable approach to government, and that hard-right ideologues have occupied the House of Representatives and the governor’s mansion.

Kansans, however, ought to take a look at what “reasonable” has meant for Kansas schools, since that is purportedly the concern of White and the teachers union.

While the Kansas school establishment touts rising test scores, this improved performance is only on tests managed by that very same establishment. On the national NAEP tests that Kansas school officials don’t control, Kansas scores are unchanged or falling. Despite this, Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker says scores on Kansas tests are rising — “jumping,” in her own words. See Kansas school test scores.

Compare Kansas with Texas, a state that Kansas school spending boosters like to deride as a state with low-performing schools. In Kansas 69 percent of students are white, while in Texas that number is 33 percent. So it’s not surprising that overall, Kansas outperforms Texas (with one tie) when considering all students in four important areas: fourth and eighth grade reading, and fourth and eighth grade math.

But looking at Hispanic students only, Texas beats or ties Kansas in these four areas. For black students, Texas bests Kansas in all four. Texas does this with much less spending per pupil than Kansas.

We also know that when compared to other states, Kansas has low standards. The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has analyzed state standards, and we can see that Kansas has standards that are below most states. The table of figures is available at Estimated NAEP scale equivalent scores for state proficiency standards, for reading and mathematics in 2009, by grade and state. An analysis of these tables by the Kansas Policy Institute shows that few states have standards below the Kansas standards. See Despite superintendents’ claim, Kansas schools have low standards.

White and his education spending establishment allies want more spending on schools, and they claim that school spending has been dramatically cut in recent years. Their focus on base state aid contains a grain of truth about school spending. But despite that figure having been cut, total spending on schools in Kansas this year is likely to set a record high. See Base state aid is wrong focus for Kansas school spending and Wichita school spending: The grain of truth.

The teachers union and school establishment are opposed to, and generally successful in opposing other reforms that would help Kansas schools, such as improving teacher quality and implementing school choice. See In Kansas, school reform not on the plate.

Kansas is falling behind other states in implementing meaningful reforms. That’s the way the teachers union likes it. Kansas students and taxpayers suffer for their benefit.

This ought to cause us to reconsider who is reasonable.

Following is the email from White:

One last time, just for the procrastinators out there (which I will admit includes Member #1 – I think she’s resisting just to mess with me). Just like you, she’ll come through.

So I’m sending this to all KNEA members in UniServ Southeast, even though many of you have told me you have your registration all squared away. You can feel quietly superior and totally prepared while I go on.

Here’s the online link to register/switch to the important Republican party: https://www.kdor.org/voterregistration/Default.aspx

THIS MUST BE DONE BY NEXT TUESDAY, JULY 17TH IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY REGISTERED AS A DEMOCRAT.

If you have a valid driver’s license, you can do it online. However, make sure it “went through” (sorry for the tech talk J).

You should get a wallet size voting card back from your county clerk, or at least that’s how it worked for me in Crawford County. It took about 10 calendar days and it shows my updated registration, including the polling place. Now I’m ready if there are any hiccups at the polls when I go to vote.

If you do not receive a confirmation, you should check with your county clerk’s office to see if the change was received. There have been some instances where the clerk had no record of the update. You don’t want that when you go to vote.

Finally, it seems my emails to you all have created a bit of a stir among the radical conservatives. They have been forwarded some of them, I guess. In turn, I have received several offensive emails lambasting me for encouraging you all to register and to vote, to have a say in the type of state in which we live and the quality of school system in which we work.

They have blathered about it and me on the internet as well and in some news articles. They are greatly outraged, I tell you.

Called me lots of names. Demanded I stop asking you to register and to vote, and that I apologize for doing so.

Ain’t a gonna happen.

Their reaction does demonstrate they are worried, worried that reasonable people are exerting their own right to vote.

Maybe they know that less than 20% of the registered voters in SEK voted in the primary 2 years ago. That’s typical.

Maybe they understand how every vote counts, and that goes double for a primary with low turnout.

Maybe they want only the ideologues like them to make these decisions that will affect all of us so profoundly.

Well, we also know those numbers, and we know the ideologues will turn out to vote 100%.

The rest is up to you. Stand up for yourself, for your profession, and Yes, for your students. There are more of us than them, if we’ll do it.

Get registered, and influence any like-minded person to do likewise. And then vote on August 7.

Want to do more? For the primary:

· Yards signs – and even highway signs if you have a good location. Let me know.

· Walking as teacher/KNEA members to leaflet. We will just go to the doors of registered Republicans and hand out campaign pieces. It’s easy and fun, and the candidates love local teachers helping out. Nothing gives them more credibility than teachers helping in their own town. Help as little or as much as you can. Let me know – we’re quickly organizing things.

· We have helped walk Erie and have Independence, Baxter Springs, and Columbus set for this Saturday. Parsons, Chanute, and the rest will soon follow.

· In Cherokee, Crawford, and Bourbon counties, Bob Marshall needs you.

· In Montgomery, Labette, and Neosho counties, it’s Dwayne Umbarger. (and Rich Proehl and Ed Bideau, too.)

Thanks for reading this far. I really wouldn’t be such a pest if it wasn’t this important. We are fighting for the future of our state and the quality of life we enjoy. So I’ll risk being annoying.

Thanks for everything you do for your students and for your colleagues. See you at the polls.

KNEA email a window into teachers union

An email from an official of Kansas National Education Association (KNEA) asks union members to switch their voter registration party in order to vote in Republican party primaries.

The fear of the teachers union is that control of the Kansas Senate may fall into hands of conservative members instead of the coalition of Democrats and liberal Republicans that forms the working majority in that chamber. If that happens, it would not be good for union members’ “professional interests,” says the email.

The email, printed in its entirety below, is from Tony White, Director of UniServ Southeast. UniServs are regional offices that provide services to teachers union members.

In the email, White tells union members that state revenues will be reduced by 40 to 50 percent as a result of the recent Kansas tax reform legislation. This is a great exaggeration. Projections by Kansas Legislative Research indicate a decline of revenue of about 12 percent from 2013 to 2014. After that year revenue rises each year, and by 2018 revenue is projected to rise to nearly the level of 2012.

White also writes that due process — tenure, in other words — and bargaining for salaries may be lost. While both of these reforms would be good for Kansas schoolchildren and taxpayers, they don’t seem likely very soon in Kansas.

Surprisingly, the email never mentions what the Kansas school establishment and the teachers union fears most: accountability through market-based competition. This could happen through charter schools, vouchers, or tax credit scholarships. It is this accountability that teachers unions fear most. So far Governor Sam Brownback has not forcefully advocated for these reforms that would greatly help Kansas children.

The tone of the email, overall, is that it is teachers that are important. Never once are schoolchildren mentioned. This email is another example of how the Kansas school spending establishment, of which KNEA is a prime member and political force, exists for the benefit of adults, not children and parents.

Subject: KNEA Email
[email protected] 6/16/2012 6:13 PM
Although this might seem like a rather personal request, I’d like you to register to vote, and more specifically, to register to vote as a Republican.

That way you can vote for a supporter of public schools in the August 7 primary in either Senate 13 (Marshall v LaTurner) or new Senate 15 (Umbarger v King). The winner of those primaries will undoubtedly be the winner in November, and if you’re not a registered Republican, you don’t get to help make that decision.

Here’s the email I sent to our members, and the links to change one’s registration.

AND TELL ANYONE ELSE YOU KNOW THAT CAN HELP OUT. It’s no time for being shy. We’ll regret losing this next election for a long, long time.

Subject: Registration and Voting

I am sending this information (and a few opinions, too) to you as a KNEA member in SEK.

I realize about every election we tell you how important this one is. Those elections sure did seem important at the time. But this summer in the Republican primary Senate races and then this fall in some of the House races, the stakes simply could not be higher for teachers and for schools.

And right out of the gate, when I talk elections and politics, I means our Kansas races for Kansas House and especially the Kansas Senate.

With the electoral college system and our current Congresswoman, there’s no point spending any time or energy on the national level. It’s a lost cause. But when it comes to teachers and schools, it matters more what happens in Topeka anyway, and we can affect those!

If we don’t retain the moderate majority in the State Senate, we will be in a world of hurt. The tax cuts signed this spring by Governor Brownback – if unchecked — will reduce state revenue by 40-50%, and the deep cuts to schools and every other state service or function — will inevitably follow. Teacher protections like due process and the right to bargain salaries will probably be lost. Our current public school system will be unrecognizable.

That’s if we lose this election. So, let’s win it.

How can you help?

Vote in the Republican primary on Tuesday August 7. Vote for our moderate Republican incumbent friends, for 4-term Senator Dwayne Umbarger and for Senator Bob Marshall. They have supported us, and it’s time to step up and help them.

1. If you’re already a registered Republican, you’re ready to go. Make sure you vote.

2. If you’re registered to vote, but not registered as a Republican, you need to switch. Otherwise, you can’t vote in the primary, and frankly, these two critical races will be settled in the primary in
August. The primary winner will cruise in November.

3. If you’re now a Democrat, you need to switch to a Republican. I know, I know, but otherwise you can’t vote in the election that counts, and that’s the Republican primary. I did it today, just like we have over the years to vote for Jana Shaver or Val DeFever for State Board. You can switch right back after the election, and we promise not to tease you about it.

How does one register in the first place? Or change registration to a Republican? It’s the same form, and you can even do it online. Here’s the online link: https://www.kdor.org/voterregistration/Default.aspx

You use your driver’s license. I just tried the link and it worked fine. It’s submitted to the Clerk in Crawford County and they’ll mail me a confirmation. I’m a Republican!

But if the site gives you trouble, there is also the old-fashioned paper form: http://www.kssos.org/forms/elections/voterregistration.pdf

One prints it, fills it out and takes it in to the county clerk or mails it in. The addresses for all 105 counties are right there on the back of the form.

Registration has to be done by July 17 – or you’re locked out of the primary. So get your paperwork right so you can vote to protect our profession and our schools.

And print off extra copies of the form for spouses, adult kids, neighbors, friends, or kindred spirits. If they will vote to support public schools, we want them and need them on August 7. It’s the same form all across Kansas – it just goes to the appropriate clerk of the county where the person lives. Or use the online link.

And if you want to get involved in either the Umbarger or Marshall campaign, from planting yard signs to letters to the editor to walking with the candidates – just let me know. They both are clearly better for our professional interests than their primary opponent.

Kansas STAR bonds vote tests beliefs in capitalism, economic freedom

An upcoming vote in the Kansas Legislature, possibly today, will let Kansans know who is truly in favor of economic freedom, limited government, and free market capitalism — and who favors crony capitalism instead.

The bill is Senate Substitute for HB2382: AN ACT concerning economic development; concerning the STAR bonds financing act; relating to the provisions regarding STAR bond projects; extending the sunset date. Under current law, the Kansas STAR bonds program will expire on July 1, 2012. This bill extends the program’s life for five years.

The STAR bonds program allows increases in sales tax revenue to be directed to private interests rather than feeding the state treasury. The mechanism is that local governments like cities can sell bonds and give the proceeds to developers. Then, increments in sales tax revenues are used to make bond payments.

In economic impact and effect, the STAR bonds program is a government spending program. Except: Like many spending programs implemented through the tax system, legislative appropriations are not required. No one has to vote to spend on a specific project. Can you imagine the legislature voting to grant $50 million over a period of years to a proposed development in northeast Wichita? That doesn’t seem likely. Few members would want to withstand the scrutiny of having voted in favor of such blatant cronyism.

But under stealth-like tax expenditure programs like STAR bonds, that’s exactly what happens — except for the legislative voting part.

Government spending programs like STAR bonds are sold to legislators as jobs programs. Development, it is said, will not happen unless project developers receive incentives through these spending programs. Since no legislator wants to be seen voting against jobs, many are susceptible to the seductive promise of jobs.

But often these same legislators are in favor of tax cuts to create jobs. This is the case in the Kansas House, where many Republican members are in favor of reducing the state’s income tax as a way of creating economic growth and jobs. On this issue, these members are correct.

But many of the same members voted earlier this year for a previous version of the STAR bonds extension bill. (See In Kansas, STAR bonds vote uplifted cronyism over capitalism.) These members voted in favor of a tax expenditure program. These two positions — voting for tax cuts, but voting for targeted spending through the tax system — cannot be reconciled. If government taxing and spending is bad, it is especially bad when part of tax expenditure programs like STAR bonds. And there’s plenty of evidence that government spending and taxation is a drag on the economy.

It’s not just legislators that are holding these incongruous views. Secretary of Commerce Pat George promoted the STAR bonds program to legislators. This seems to be contrary to the spirit of tax reform plans Kansas Governor Sam Brownback promoted earlier in the session. At that time, he proposed ending spending programs implemented through the tax system. Historic preservation tax credits was a particular program that he wanted to end.

The danger of false, or “crony” capitalism

Last year at the time Brownback and a new, purportedly more conservative Kansas House took office, I wondered whether Kansas would pursue a business-friendly or capitalism-friendly path: “Plans for the Kansas Republican Party to make Kansas government more friendly to business run the risk of creating false, or crony capitalism instead of an environment of genuine growth opportunity for all business.” I quoted John Stossel:

The word “capitalism” is used in two contradictory ways. Sometimes it’s used to mean the free market, or laissez faire. Other times it’s used to mean today’s government-guided economy. Logically, “capitalism” can’t be both things. Either markets are free or government controls them. We can’t have it both ways.

The truth is that we don’t have a free market — government regulation and management are pervasive — so it’s misleading to say that “capitalism” caused today’s problems. The free market is innocent.

But it’s fair to say that crony capitalism created the economic mess.

But wait, you may say: Isn’t business and free-market capitalism the same thing? Not at all. Here’s what Milton Friedman had to say: “There’s a widespread belief and common conception that somehow or other business and economics are the same, that those people who are in favor of a free market are also in favor of everything that big business does. And those of us who have defended a free market have, over a long period of time, become accustomed to being called apologists for big business. But nothing could be farther from the truth. There’s a real distinction between being in favor of free markets and being in favor of whatever business does.” (emphasis added.)

Friedman also knew very well of the discipline of free markets and how business will try to avoid it: “The great virtue of free enterprise is that it forces existing businesses to meet the test of the market continuously, to produce products that meet consumer demands at lowest cost, or else be driven from the market. It is a profit-and-loss system. Naturally, existing businesses generally prefer to keep out competitors in other ways. That is why the business community, despite its rhetoric, has so often been a major enemy of truly free enterprise.”

The danger of Kansas government having a friendly relationship with Kansas business is that the state will circumvent free markets and promote crony, or false, capitalism in Kansas. It’s something that we need to be on the watch for. The vote on the STAR bonds project will let us know how our state is proceeding. If the upcoming vote goes as did the earlier votes on this matter, the verdict is clear: Kansas legislators — including many purported fiscal conservatives — prefer crony capitalism over free enterprise and genuine capitalism.

The problem

Government bureaucrats and politicians promote programs like STAR bonds as targeted investment in our economic future. They believe that they have the ability to select which companies are worthy of public investment, and which are not. It’s a form of centralized planning by the state that shapes the future direction of the Kansas economy.

Arnold Kling has written about the ability of government experts to decide what investments should be made with public funds. There’s a problem with knowledge and power:

As Hayek pointed out, knowledge that is important in the economy is dispersed. Consumers understand their own wants and business managers understand their technological opportunities and constraints to a greater degree than they can articulate and to a far greater degree than experts can understand and absorb.

When knowledge is dispersed but power is concentrated, I call this the knowledge-power discrepancy. Such discrepancies can arise in large firms, where CEOs can fail to appreciate the significance of what is known by some of their subordinates. … With government experts, the knowledge-power discrepancy is particularly acute.

Despite this knowledge problem, Kansas legislators are willing to give power to bureaucrats in the Department of Commerce (along with local government officials and bureaucrats) who feel they have the necessary knowledge to direct the investment of public funds. One thing is for sure: the state and its bureaucrats have the power to make these investments. They just don’t have — they can’t have — the knowledge as to whether these are wise.

What to do

The STAR bonds program is an “active investor” approach to economic development. Its government spending on business leads to taxes that others have to pay. That has a harmful effect on other business, both existing and those that wish to form.

Professor Art Hall of the Center for Applied Economics at the Kansas University School of Business is critical of this approach to economic development. In his paper Embracing Dynamism: The Next Phase in Kansas Economic Development Policy, Hall quotes Alan Peters and Peter Fisher: “The most fundamental problem is that many public officials appear to believe that they can influence the course of their state and local economies through incentives and subsidies to a degree far beyond anything supported by even the most optimistic evidence. We need to begin by lowering expectations about their ability to micro-manage economic growth and making the case for a more sensible view of the role of government — providing foundations for growth through sound fiscal practices, quality public infrastructure, and good education systems — and then letting the economy take care of itself.”

In the same paper, Hall writes this regarding “benchmarking” — the bidding wars for large employers that Kansas and many of its cities employ: “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.”

In making his argument, Hall cites research on the futility of chasing large employers as an economic development strategy: “Large-employer businesses have no measurable net economic effect on local economies when properly measured. To quote from the most comprehensive study: ‘The primary finding is that the location of a large firm has no measurable net economic effect on local economies when the entire dynamic of location effects is taken into account. Thus, the siting of large firms that are the target of aggressive recruitment efforts fails to create positive private sector gains and likely does not generate significant public revenue gains either.'”

There is also substantial research that is it young firms — distinguished from small business in general — that are the engine of economic growth for the future. We can’t detect which of the young firms will blossom into major success — or even small-scale successes. The only way to nurture them is through economic policies that all companies can benefit from. Reducing tax rates is an example of such a policy. Government spending on specific companies through programs like STAR bonds is an example of precisely the wrong policy.

We need to move away from economic development based on this active investor approach. We need to advocate for policies at all levels of government that lead to sustainable economic development. We need political leaders who have the wisdom to realize this, and the courage to act appropriately. Which is to not act in most circumstances. But politicians have an irresistible urge to be seen doing something, even though most of what is done is harmful.