Government planning, itself, is dangerous

The very existence of a government plan is dangerous, as its construction creates powerful constituencies that have shaped it to fit their needs and are highly motivated to see it implemented. From April 2013.

In Sunday’s Wichita Eagle, Sedgwick County Commissioner Tim Norton defended the regional community planning initiative underway in south-central Kansas. (Tim Norton: Planning effort helps shape region’s future)

Plan A or Plan B Sign 749613_1280Much of the Commissioner’s article simply described the program and the need for it in vague generalities that are neither correct or incorrect, and which do little to advance understanding of what is really likely to happen.

But Norton did write something useful when he attempted to deflect the fact that this is a government plan, backed by the ability of government to compel compliance (or make it very expensive to avoid). He wrote: “This is not about any one governing body or level of government imposing or mandating what we should do. It is about what we decide collectively is best for our region and then choosing to make it happen.”

When the Sedgwick County Commission voted to participate in this HUD Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant, some commissioners justified their votes in favor of the plan because “it’s only a plan.” If we develop a plan, and then we find we don’t like it, we can shelve it. Problem solved.

This meme of “it’s only a plan” that can be shelved is likely to be repeated. Watch for it.

Except: By shelving time, millions will have been invested in the plan. Reputations like Norton’s will depend on adopting the plan. Bureaucratic jobs will be at stake (See Sedgwick County considers a planning grant for an explanation of how planning helps make work for bureaucrats and academics.)

Besides boosting the interests of politicians and bureaucrats, the government planning process started in south-central Kansas will likely be captured by special interest groups that see ways to benefit from the plan. The public choice school of economics and political science has taught us how special interest groups seek favors from government at enormous costs to society, and we will see this at play again over the next years.

Once the planning process begins, special interests plot to benefit themselves at the expense of the general public. We saw this at work in the first project to emerge after the Wichita downtown planning process (Project Downtown), where public policy was shaped on the fly to meet the needs of politically-connected special interests, at detriment to the public.

Most importantly: The very existence of a government plan is dangerous, as the plan itself becomes a reason to proceed, contrary to reason and harm to liberty and economic freedom.

An example of how much reverence is given to government plans comes right from the U.S. Supreme Court in the decision Kelo v. New London, in which the Court decided that government could use the power of eminent domain to take one person’s property and transfer it to someone else for the purposes of economic development. In his opinion for the Court, Justice Stevens cited the plan: “The City has carefully formulated an economic development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community.” Here we see the importance of the plan and due reverence given to it.

Stevens followed up, giving even more weight to the plan: “To effectuate this plan, the City has invoked a state statute that specifically authorizes the use of eminent domain to promote economic development. Given the comprehensive character of the plan, the thorough deliberation that preceded its adoption, and the limited scope of our review, it is appropriate for us, as it was in Berman, to resolve the challenges of the individual owners, not on a piecemeal basis, but rather in light of the entire plan. Because that plan unquestionably serves a public purpose, the takings challenged here satisfy the public use requirement of the Fifth Amendment.”

To Stevens, the fact that the plan was comprehensive was a factor in favor of its upholding. The sustainable communities plan, likewise, is nothing but comprehensive, as described by county manager Bill Buchanan in a letter to commissioners: “[the plan will] consist of multi-jurisdictional planning efforts that integrate housing, land use, economic and workforce development, transportation, and infrastructure investments in a manner that empowers jurisdictions to consider the interdependent challenges of economic prosperity, social equity, energy use and climate change, and public health and environmental impact.”

That pretty much covers it all. When you’re charged with promoting economic prosperity, defending earth against climate change, and promoting public health, there is no limit to the types of laws you might consider. This likely to be the argument to follow whatever emerges from Commissioner Norton’s planning process.

VETOED: Eminent domain without restraint

From the office of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. For more information on the subject bill, see Power of Kansas cities to take property may be expanded.

Fellow Kansans,

Expanding eminent domain, inviting cronyism, and weakening individual liberties are notions Kansans stand unequivocally against. And that’s precisely why Governor Brownback vetoed Senate Bill 338 earlier this week.

Commonly known as the Blight Bill, this legislation enabled local governments to take land and homes from Kansans and then give it to private organizations. The legislation gave local authorities unmitigated power in determining which properties should be seized, allowing localities to write their own rules. It also ceded to municipalities the power to select which private organizations receive control of the property.

Fundamentally, this bill is an assault to the basic American principles of individual liberty and private property rights. It expands the size and scope of government with the intent purpose of stripping individuals of their private property. It also establishes an all too cozy system between municipalities and private organizations that is rife with the potential for cronyism and government abuse.

Perhaps most egregiously, SB 338 would disparately impact low income and minority communities. By neglecting definitions of blight and abandoned property, this bill gives localities expansive power as they determine zoning laws and city codes that could deprive Kansans of their property rights. Limiting these protections particularly exposes disadvantaged neighborhoods, leaving them vulnerable to abuse and unjust seizures.

Governor Brownback wants to empower the people, but this legislation empowers government. You can read his op-ed explaining his veto here, and why this sort of eminent domain without restraint is wrong. As he writes, “Government should defend and protect the property rights of all citizens, ensuring that the less advantaged are not denied the liberty to which every citizen is entitled.”

Best,

Melika Willoughby
Deputy Communications Director
Office of Governor Sam Brownback

Did Jeff Longwell dodge a tough city council vote?

On election day, then-Wichita city council member and mayoral candidate Jeff Longwell appears to have ducked an inconvenient vote and would not say why. From April 2015.

At his Wichita mayoral campaign announcement last November, then-council member Jeff Longwell called for a moratorium on the use of forgivable loans until a new policy is implemented. 1

Jeff Longwell, now Wichita mayor
Jeff Longwell, now Wichita mayor

At other times he called for the end to traditional cash incentives, telling the Wichita Eagle “I think that we have to get away from the traditional cash incentives that we’ve been using and look for better ways to grow jobs in this community.” 2

In the Wichita Eagle voter guide, for the question “What is your philosophy or practice regarding public incentives for companies and developers?” Longwell started his response with this: “I believe there is a better way to promote economic growth.” 3

Wichita voters can be excused for believing Jeff Longwell wants to pursue economic development in a different way. It was a good strategy for the candidate to employ, as the rejection of the sales tax last year by Wichita voters is widely thought to be grounded in voter distrust of the economic development package.

Summary of benefits for Figeac AeroOn election day this April, an economic development incentive package was under consideration by the Wichita city council. The deal contained a common mix of incentives from city, county and state. Details on the amounts of the incentives were sketchy, so I estimated the benefit to the company at $2,315,000 up front cash and credits equivalent to cash, and $605,000 in ongoing annual benefits for at least five years. 4

This was an example of the traditional way Wichita and other cities do economic development, that is, targeted incentives for specific companies. It’s something that Longwell said we need to get away from, especially the forgivable loans part, having called for a moratorium on their use.

This matter provided a perfect opportunity for Longwell to cast a vote aligned with his new perspectives on economic development. So when this matter came before the city council, how did Longwell vote?

The answer is: We don’t know. Longwell didn’t vote. At about 10:27 am, shortly before the council took up this economic development incentives agenda item, Longwell left the council chambers. He did not return before the meeting ended. When asked why he left the meeting, Longwell would not provide an answer. He provided several contradictory explanations. He said he would explain at his campaign watch party on election night the reason for leaving, but would not say that afternoon why he left the meeting. (See Twitter and Facebook dialogs following.)

In a profile during the campaign, Longwell told the Wichita Eagle “I certainly can appreciate and understand the need to not vote on items, but sometimes you just simply, as tough as it is, you have to take a position,” he said. “I don’t know any better way to explain it. It’s part of the responsibility of being elected to do a job. 5

Here was a tough vote for Longwell. It was an opportunity for citizens to see him cast a vote in alignment with his campaign rhetoric. But he didn’t vote. He didn’t take a position, and he wouldn’t say why.

This isn’t the first time Longwell has dodged questions he doesn’t want to answer. He canceled an appearance on The Joseph Ashby Show and would not reschedule. Ashby, for those who haven’t listened, asks tough questions.

Twitter and Facebook transcripts, April 7, 2015

Bob Weeks @bob_weeks Apr 7
Does anyone know why Jeff Longwell left the city council meeting early? @jefflongwellict #ictcouncil @CityofWichita

Jeff Longwell @jefflongwellict Apr 7
@bob_weeks I had a prior appointment. I had to see a man about a horse. I know you miss me when I’m not there. @CityofWichita

Bob Weeks @bob_weeks Apr 7
@jefflongwellict @CityofWichita May I ask why you made an appointment during city council hours?

Jeff Longwell @jefflongwellict Apr 7
@bob_weeks Bob, I’m touched. Thank you for being concerned that my voice is being heard on the council and I’m there to help guide our city.

Jeff Longwell @jefflongwellict Apr 7
@bob_weeks Also, this was unplanned and was of a personal nature. But thank you for your concern. It means a lot, Bob.

Bob Weeks @bob_weeks Apr 7
@jefflongwellict @CityofWichita Would you please answer why you made an appointment during city council hours?

Bob Weeks @bob_weeks Apr 7
@jefflongwellict @CityofWichita Which was it? A prior appointment or unplanned?

Jeff Longwell @jefflongwellict Apr 7
@bob_weeks An appointment I had to schedule this morning. Priorly unplanned to making it. Don’t worry, I’m fine. @CityofWichita

Bob Weeks @bob_weeks Apr 7
@jefflongwellict @CityofWichita Could you please tell us some details? Why did it have to be done during a city council meeting?

Bob Weeks @bob_weeks Apr 7
@jefflongwellict @CityofWichita When a council member and mayoral candidate misses an important vote, the public has a right to know why.

Jeff Longwell @jefflongwellict Apr 7
@bob_weeks City council members leave meetings periodically. It’s a personal matter, not a conspiracy, Bob. @CityofWichita

Jeff Longwell @jefflongwellict Apr 7
@bob_weeks if you’d like to stop by my watch party tonight we can chat about it all you want. @CityofWichita

Bob Weeks @bob_weeks Apr 7
@jefflongwellict @CityofWichita You will not tell voters why you scheduled this appointment, is that your response?

Bob Weeks @bob_weeks Apr 7
@jefflongwellict @CityofWichita It’s not me who deserves to know. It’s the people of Wichita who need to know why a council member left.

Jeff Longwell @jefflongwellict Apr 7
@bob_weeks Nothing would have changed with my vote today, Bob. Council members miss on occasion. @CityofWichita

Bob Weeks @bob_weeks Apr 7
@jefflongwellict @CityofWichita If you had a legitimate reason for missing a vote, I would think you’d be willing to tell voters details.

Later, on Facebook:

Mayor Jeff Longwell: As I said, while I appreciate your concern and the fact that you feel my presence is crucial to city council meetings, I had to leave for a personal matter. Council members leave meetings on occasion, and nothing would have changed with the addition of my vote. But it really means a lot to me that you feel I’m a vital part of the council and miss me when I’m gone, Bob.
April 7 at 3:02pm

Bob Weeks: Dodging the question again. You said that you would tell me tonight why you left the meeting, so why won’t you say now?
April 7 at 3:05pm


Notes

  1. Wichita Eagle, 2015. Economic Development Among Mayoral Candidate Jeff Longwell’s Priorities For Wichita. Accessed April 16 2015. Available at www.kansas.com/news/local/article393829.
  2. Wichita Eagle, 2015. Jeff Longwell, Sam Williams Advance In Race For Wichita Mayor. Accessed April 16 2015. Available at www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/election/article12332810.html.
  3. C3.thevoterguide.org, 2015. Wichita Mayor — The Wichita Eagle Voter Guide. Accessed April 16 2015. Available at c3.thevoterguide.org/v/wichita15/race-detail.do?id=14013125.
  4. Weeks, Bob. 2015. Figeac Aero Economic Development Incentives. Voice For Liberty In Wichita. Accessed April 16 2015. Available at wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/figeac-aero-economic-development-incentives/.
  5. Wichita Eagle, 2015. Council Member Jeff Longwell Touts Experience In Mayoral Race. Accessed April 16 2015. Available at www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/election/article15627836.html.

Wichita has examples of initiative and referendum

Citizens in Wichita have been busy exercising their rights of initiative and referendum at the municipal level. The Kansas Legislature should grant the same rights to citizens at the state level. From April 2015.

What recourse do citizens have when elected officials are not responsive? Initiative and referendum are two possibilities. Citizens in Wichita have exercised these rights, but Kansans are not able to do this at the state level.

Initiative is when citizens propose a new law, and then gather signatures on petitions. If a successful petition is filed, the matter is (generally) placed on a ballot for the electorate to decide whether the proposed law will become actual law. Examples are the initiative to add fluoride to Wichita water (which voters rejected) and reduce the penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana (which passed, but has not taken effect pending legal action by the Kansas Supreme Court.)

Referendum is when citizens petition to overturn an act passed by a governing body. An example is the 2012 repeal of a charter ordinance passed by the Wichita city council.

So at the municipal level in Kansas, citizens have the right of initiative, although in practice the right is limited. The right of referendum is more narrowly limited. But at the state level, there is no possibility for citizens to exercise initiative or referendum. The law simply does not allow for this.

Policies, not politicians

Initiative and referendum allow citizens to vote on specific laws or policies. This is contrasted with elections for office, where voters must choose candidate A or candidate B. Voters have to take the entire package of positions associated with a candidate. It isn’t possible to select some positions from candidate A, and others from candidate B. So when a candidate wins an election, can we say why? Which of the candidate’s positions did voters like, and which did voters not like? Results of regular elections rarely provide a clear answer.

Initiative and referendum, however, let citizens vote on a specific law or proposal. There is little doubt as to the will of the voters.

There’s a difference between voting for politicians and voting for policies. When given a chance, Wichitans have often voted different from what the council wanted. An example is the 2012 overturn of a charter ordinance the council passed. Another is the failure of the sales tax in November 2014. That was on the ballot not because of citizen initiative, but it is an example of voting directly for an issue rather than a candidate. Citizens rejected the sales tax by a wide margin, contrary to the wishes of the city council, city hall bureaucrats, and the rest of Wichita’s political class.

It’s different voting for policies than politicians. For one thing, the laws passed by initiative don’t change, at least for some period of time. But politicians and their campaign promises have a short shelf life, and are easily discarded or modified to fit the current situation.

Politicians don’t want it, which is its best argument

Generally, politicians and bureaucrats don’t want citizens to be empowered with initiative and referendum. When the city council was forced to set an election due to the successful petition regarding the Ambassador Hotel issue, reactions by council members showed just how much politicians hate initiative and referendum. Council Member Pete Meitzner (district 2, east Wichita) wanted to move the election to an earlier date so as to “avoid community discourse and debate.”

Council Member Janet Miller (district 6, north central Wichita) expressed concern over “dragging this out,” and said she wants to “get it over with as soon as we can so that we can move on.”

In his remarks, Mayor Carl Brewer advocated having the election as soon as possible. He told the city “By doing that, it eliminates a lot of turmoil inside the community, unrest.”

As you can see by these remarks, politicians don’t like citizens second-guessing their actions. Initiative and referendum gives citizens this power. John Fund said it best: “Without initiatives and referendums, elites would barely bother at all to take note of public opinion on issues they disdained — from supermajority requirements to raise taxes to term limits. They serve as a reminder that the experts sometimes have to pay attention to good old common sense.”

Petitioning is not easy

A criticism often leveled against initiative and referendum is that ballots will be crowded with questions submitted by citizens. But as anyone who has been involved in a petitioning effort knows, filing a successful petition is not a simple matter. The first petition effort to relax Wichita marijuana laws failed, with the election commissioner ruling that an insufficient number of valid signatures were submitted. (Generally, petition signers must meet certain requirements such as being a registered voter and living within a certain jurisdiction.) Now the Kansas Attorney General contends that the second petition by the same group is defective because it lacks the proper legal language. It is common for the validity of petitions to be contested, either by government or by special interest groups that believe they will be adversely affected.

How to get it

It will take an amendment to the constitution for the people of Kansas to have initiative and referendum rights at the state level. That requires passage in both chambers of the legislature by a two-thirds margin, and then passage by a majority of voters.

Although the governor does not play a direct role in constitutional amendments — as they do not require the governor’s signature — a governor can still have a role. In 1991 Joan Finney supported initiative and referendum. An amendment passed the Kansas Senate, but did not advance through the House of Representatives.

Today it seems unlikely that the present Kansas Legislature would support an amendment implementing initiative and referendum. Politicians just don’t want to give up the power. (The laws giving some initiative and referendum rights at the municipal level is a state law. State legislators were imposing a hardship on other elected officials, not themselves.)

But initiative and referendum are popular with voters. In 2013 Gallup polled voters regarding petitioning at the national level. 68 percent favored this, while 23 percent opposed. One of the few issues that poll higher than this is term limits for office holders.

By the way, do you know what citizens in states often do after gaining the right of initiative? Impose term limits on their legislatures. Lawmakers don’t want you to do that.

Recent history in Wichita

In 2011, Wichitans petitioned to overturn a charter ordinance passed by the city council. In February 2012 the ordinance was overturned by a vote of 16,454 to 10,268 (62 percent to 38 percent). This was a special election with only question on the ballot.

In 2012 a group petitioned to add fluoride to Wichita water. The measure appeared on the November 2012 general election ballot, and voters said no by a vote of 76,906 to 52,293, or 60 percent to 40 percent.

On the November 2014 general election ballot, Wichita voters were asked about a one cent per dollar sales tax. This was not the result of a petition, but it provides an example of a vote for a policy rather than a person. Voters said no to the sales tax, 64,487 to 38,803 (62 percent to 38 percent.)

In 2015 a group petitioned to reduce the penalties for possession of small amount of marijuana. The measure appeared on the April 2015 city general election ballot, where Wichita voters approved the proposed law 20,327 to 17,183 (54 percent to 46 percent).

The Kansas revenue problem in perspective

If we take the budgetary advice of a former Kansas state budget official, we need to be ready to accept the economic stagnation that accompanied his boss’s tenure.

Writing in his blog, former Kansas budget director Duane Goossen offers his advice for fixing the Kansas budget: “The state has a revenue problem that will not fix itself. Lawmakers have to face up to the fact that they must make revenue match expenditures. Unaffordable income tax cuts caused the problem. That’s the place to look for a correction.” (Lawmakers Make It Clear: Kansas Has A Revenue Problem)

Goossen has one thing correct: revenue and expenditures must be equal, over any long period of time. The preference for Goossen, as we see, is to raise revenue to support more spending. We can’t afford tax cuts, he writes.

But this is a backwards way of looking at the relationship between government and its subjects. When someone says we can’t afford tax cuts, that presumes a few things. First, it presumes that the previous level of taxation was better than the current level.

Second, it presumes that tax cuts have a cost that can’t be afforded. The only way this is true is if we believe that the state has first claim on our incomes. The state takes what it believes it needs, and we get to keep the rest. Then if, somehow, the government is persuaded to give any of that claim back to us, this “gift” has to be paid for.

But for those who believe in self-ownership, this is nonsense. It’s the people who “give” tax money to the government, not the government who “gives” it back in the form of tax cuts. If the government cuts taxes, the government gives us nothing. It simply takes less of what is ours in the first place.

Growth of jobs in Kansas and nearby states. Click for larger version.
Growth of jobs in Kansas and nearby states. Click for larger version.
But the attitude of many government officials is the opposite. In 2006 Kansas cut taxes on business equipment and machinery. At the time, the Wichita Eagle reported: “Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, who first proposed the business machinery tax cut, agreed. ‘We’re not giving away money for the sake of giving it away,’ she said. ‘I’m hoping that the economic growth will actually help fund the school plan that we just passed.'” (emphasis added) (Lawmakers hope for growth)

Growth of gross domestic product in Kansas and nearby states. Click for larger version.
Growth of gross domestic product in Kansas and nearby states. Click for larger version.
For the former governor of Kansas, letting business firms keep a little more of the money they earn means the state is “giving it away.” By the way, Duane Goossen — who now believes the only solution for the Kansas budget is to raise taxes — was the state’s budget director when Sebelius said the state is going to “give away money” in the form of tax cuts.

If take Goossen’s advice and return to the tax rates of the Sebelius and Graves eras, let’s make sure we understand the economic growth Kansas experienced during those years. Nearby is a snapshot of Kansas job growth starting when Bill Graves became governor, along with growth in some nearby states. A chart of GDP growth starts in 1997, two years into the Graves administration. We don’t want to return to these levels of growth.

If you’d like to use the interactive visualizations of this employment and GDP data, click here for employment, and click here for GDP.

More government spending is not a source of prosperity

Kansas needs to trim state government spending so that its economy may grow by harnessing the benefits of the private sector over government.

In the debate over how to balance the Kansas budget, those who oppose low state taxes say the burden of taxation is simply transferred to other sources, usually in the form of sales and property taxes. Cutting spending is the other possibility, but it is argued that state spending is a good thing, a source of prosperity that Kansas should exploit.

The idea that government spending is a generator of wealth and prosperity is true for only a certain minimal level of spending. We benefit from government provision of things like national defense, public safety, and a court system. But once government grows beyond these minimal core functions, it is markets — that is, free people trading in the private sector — that can produce a wider variety of better goods and services at lower cost.

Those who call for more government spending seem to fail to realize spending has a cost, and someone has to pay. They see the salary paid to a government worker and say that money gets spent, thereby producing economic activity and jobs. But what is the source of the government worker’s salary? It is money taken from someone through taxation. By necessity, money spent on government reduces the private sector economic activity of those who paid the taxes. (At the federal level, government also spends by borrowing or creating inflation. Kansas can’t do this.)

If this loss was economically equivalent to the gain, we might be less concerned. But there is a huge cost in taxation and government inefficiency that makes government spending a negative-sum proposition.

Another fundamental problem with government taxation and spending is that it is not voluntary. In markets, people voluntarily trade with each other because they feel it will make them better off. That’s not the case with government. I do not pay my taxes because I feel doing so makes me better off, other than for that small part that goes to the basic core functions. Instead, I pay my taxes so that I can stay out of jail. This fundamentally coercive method of generating revenue for government gets things off to a bad start.

Then, ask how that money is spent. Who decides, and how? Jeffrey A. Miron explains: “The political process, alas, does not lend itself to objective balancing of costs and benefits. Most programs benefit well-defined interest groups (the elderly, teachers unions, environmentalists, defense contractors) while imposing relatively small costs per person on everyone else. Thus the winners from excess spending fight harder than the losers, and spending far exceeds the level suggested by cost-benefit considerations.” 1

An example in Kansas is the special interest group that benefits from highway construction. They formed a group called Economic Lifelines. It says it was formed to “provide the grassroots support for Comprehensive Transportation Programs in Kansas.” Its motto is “Stimulating economic vitality through leadership in infrastructure development.”

A look at the membership role, however, lets us know whose economic roots are being stimulated. Membership is stocked with names like AFL-CIO, Foley Equipment Company, Heavy Constructors Association of Greater Kansas City, Kansas Aggregate & Concrete Associations, Kansas Asphalt Pavement Association, Kansas Contractors Association, Kansas Society of Professional Engineers, and PCA South Central Cement Promotion Association. Groups and companies like these have an economic interest in building more roads and highways, whether or not the state actually needs them.

As Miron explained, groups like this will spend almost limitlessly in order to receive appropriations from the government. It’s easier than competing in markets for customers and business. It’s perhaps the largest problem with government spending: Decisions are made by a few centralized actors who are subject to intense lobbying by special interests. It is the well-known problem of concentrated benefits and diffuse costs. 2

Some argue that without government spending, certain types of goods and services will not be provided. A commonly cited example is education, which accounts for about half of Kansas general fund spending. Would there be schools if not for government? Of course there would be. There are many non-government schools now, even though those who patronize them must first pay for the government schools before paying for their own schools. And there were many schools and educated, literate Americans before government decided it need to monopolize education.

Still, it is argued that government spending on education is needed because everyone benefits from an educated citizenry. Tom G. Palmer explains: “Thus, widespread education generates public benefits beyond the benefits to the persons who are educated, allegedly justifying state provision and financing through general tax revenues. But despite the benefits to others, which may be great or small, the benefits to the persons educated are so great for them that they induce sufficient investment in education. Public benefits don’t always generate the defection of free-riders.”

Those who still argue that government spending in education is for the good of everyone will also need to defend the sagging and declining performance of public schools. They need to persuade us that government schools are producing an educated citizenry. They need to defend the capture of Kansas spending on schools by special interest groups that benefit from this spending. They actually do a pretty good job of this, which illustrates the lengths to which special interest groups will go. In Kansas, they throw children under the bus.

Back to the basics: Government spending as economic booster is the theory of the Keynesians, including the administration of Barack Obama. Miron, from the same article cited above, explains the problems with this:

That brings us to the second argument for higher spending: the Keynesian claim that spending stimulates the economy. If this is accurate, it might seem the U.S. should continue its high-spending ways until the recession is over.

But the Keynesian argument for spending is also problematic. To begin with, the Keynesian view implies that any spending — whether for vital infrastructure or bridges to nowhere — is equally good at stimulating the economy. This might be true in the short term (emphasis on might), but it cannot be true over the long haul, and many “temporary” programs last for decades. So stimulus spending should be for good projects, not “digging ditches,” yet the number of good projects is small given how much is already being spent.

More broadly, the Keynesian model of the economy relies on strong assumptions, so we should not embrace it without empirical confirmation. In fact, economists find weak or contradictory evidence that higher government spending spurs the economy.

Substantial research, however, does find that tax cuts stimulate the economy and that fiscal adjustments — attempts to reduce deficits by raising taxes or lowering expenditure — work better when they focus on tax cuts. This does not fit the Keynesian view, but it makes perfect sense given that high taxes and ill-justified spending make the economy less productive.

The implication is that the U.S. may not face a tradeoff between shrinking the deficit and fighting the recession: it can do both by cutting wasteful spending (Medicare, Social Security, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for starters) and by cutting taxes.

The reduced spending will make the economy more productive by scaling government back to appropriate levels. Lower tax rates will stimulate in the short run by improving consumer and firm liquidity, and they will enhance economic growth in the long run by improving the incentives to work, save, and invest.

Deficits will therefore shrink and the economy will boom. The rest of the world will gladly hold our debt. The U.S. will re-emerge as a beacon of small government and robust capitalism, so foreign investment (and talented people, if immigration policy allows) will come flooding in.

In Kansas, we need to scale back government to appropriate levels, as Miron recommends. That means cutting spending. That will allow us to maintain low tax rates, starting with the income tax. Then we in Kansas can start to correct the long record of sub-par economic performance compared to other states and bring prosperity and jobs here.


Notes

  1. Cato Institute, 2010. ‘Slash Expenditure To Balance The Budget’. Accessed April 28 2015. http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/slash-expenditure-balance-budget.
  2. David Boaz: “Economists call this the problem of concentrated benefits and diffuse costs. The benefits of any government program — Medicare, teachers’ pensions, a new highway, a tariff — are concentrated on a relatively small number of people. But the costs are diffused over millions of consumers or taxpayers. So the beneficiaries, who stand to gain a great deal from a new program or lose a great deal from the elimination of a program, have a strong incentive to monitor the news, write their legislator, make political contributions, attend town halls, and otherwise work to protect the program. But each taxpayer, who pays little for each program, has much less incentive to get involved in the political process or even to vote.”

What’s the matter with Jerry Moran?

What’s the matter with Jerry Moran?

When the Supreme Court hangs in the balance, Republicans cannot count on a coward.

By Dr. Milton Wolf

The cowardice of Senator Jerry Moran is legendary in Kansas. Former state legislature colleagues tell stories of Moran avoiding tough votes by literally hiding in the state capitol building little boys’ room. Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert singled out Moran in his book describing how Jerry “ran and hid” when he got scared. His former campaign manager says Moran “represents a weathervane in the US Senate, not the good people of Kansas.” It’s no wonder that Jerry is the butt of jokes even among his closest allies.

Jerry Moran is a coward.

Last week, under the enormous, unbearable pressure of a handful of Western Kansas Democrats, Jerry Moran caved and became the third Republican to join Democrats in support of advancing President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee: “I think the process ought to go forward.”

Liberals salivate at the prospect of replacing the late Antonin Scalia with someone in the image of Barack Obama. The president’s nominee, Merrick Garland, is pro-abortion and anti-Second Amendment. The New York Times drools: “A Supreme Court with Merrick Garland would be the most liberal in decades.”

And Jerry Moran says the nomination ought to go forward!

Americans came to know Jerry Moran in 2014 when he, as head of the NRSC, diverted Republicans’ donations in efforts to defeat conservative Republicans in Kansas and Mississippi, even allying with liberals promoting a Democrat get-out-the-vote effort. And now Jerry Moran is joining the Democrats on a matter no less critical than the swing vote on the United States Supreme Court.

It’s not by accident that Kansans For Life has said Jerry Moran “stood with Planned Parenthood” and “has a very disturbing record” and that the former Kansas State Rifle Association president called Jerry Moran a “traitor.”

What’s the matter with Jerry Moran?!

Kansas is a red-redder-reddest state, yet Jerry Moran is willing to risk the United States Supreme Court rather than stand up to the few remaining Democrats. It’s alarming that Moran, a lawyer who’s been in Washington now for decades, so profoundly misunderstands his job to believe it is — and I quote — his “duty” to advance Barack Obama’s nominee.

The Senate Republicans overall deserve credit — so far anyway — for vowing to stop Obama from remaking the Court, but they’ve launched a horribly misguided execution. Under the auspices that Obama is a lame-duck and voters should have their say, the nomination process should be delayed until a new president is sworn in. Let’s count the ways this is misguided and will surely backfire:

  1. There’s no constitutional basis for claiming that a president lacks the authority to be president in his last year.

  2. Like it or not, the voters already did have their say in 2012 when they chose Obama, just as they had their say in 2014 when they gave Republicans the Senate in order to stop him.

  3. Some Republicans are just as hypocritical as Democrats, just trading places of who’s for and who’s against lame-duck appointments. And in the future, they’ll surely flip-flop right back again. (This is why Americans hate politicians.)

  4. If the next president, Republican or Democrat, nominates someone just as liberal as Merrick Garland, the Senate Republicans will have, in effect, already endorsed him and they will be politically powerless to stop any nominee, no matter how horrible.

There was — and still is — a much better approach: Make the Constitution, not politics, the center of this conversation.

Article II Section II establishes the “Advice and Consent” power of the Senate. As I suggested on day one, Senate Republicans should advise the president to nominate someone who has demonstrated strict fidelity to the Constitution and warn the president that failing to do so will result in a tireless fight against the nomination at every step in the process. This, in fact, is the sworn duty of each Senator.

In the current case, Obama’s nominee rejects the Second Amendment and therefore senators are duty-bound to deny their consent. There is no constitutional, legal or moral obligation for senators to waste time with hearings if, as in the case of Garland, it’s already established that the nominee is not faithful to the Constitution.

The Obama’s lame-duck status is inconsequential. To paraphrase: It’s the Constitution, stupid. This same principled approach should apply to every nominee whether the president is a Democrat or a Republican. No need for political hypocrisy. No need for ridiculous Washington politics. Instead simply demonstrate an unwavering commitment to our Constitution.

When the protesters scream “Do your job!”, the response is then obvious: I did do my job. I advised the president to nominate a constitutionalist and he refused so this nominee will not receive my consent. Period. I will not waste the Senate’s or America’s time on hearings to discover what we already know. End of story.

As for Jerry Moran, the backlash from betrayed Republicans has sent him into a tizzy. Poor Jerry can’t decide whom he fears more, the #NoHearingsNoVotes crowd or the #DoYourJob crowd.

After two decades in Washington, Jerry Moran is still scared of his own shadow. How else can you explain this Clintonesque DC double talk: “I am opposed to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee,” and so, “I think the [nomination] process ought to go forward.”

When the United States Supreme Court hangs in the balance, Republicans cannot count on Jerry Moran.

Pompeo: State Confirms Obama Administration Paid Iran $1.7 Billion

After nearly two months of stalling, the State Department confirmed what I feared was true: the Obama administration is negotiating behind closed doors with the Islamic Republic of Iran and using taxpayer dollars to pay the regime, writes Congressman Mike Pompeo of Wichita.

Pompeo: State Confirms Obama Administration Paid Iran $1.7 Billion

$1.3 billion of the payment to Iran came from American taxpayer dollars; State says more payments to come

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) today released the following statement on the State Department’s response to a letter he sent on January 21, outlining his concerns and requesting information about whether the Obama administration made a ransom payment to Iran in exchange for the release of four American hostages. In the letter, Pompeo asks Secretary of State John Kerry to provide details regarding the timing of and relationship between the release of the Americans and President Obama’s announcement of a $1.7 billion payment to Iran, of which $1.3 billion was taxpayer-funded.

“After nearly two months of stalling, the State Department confirmed what I feared was true: the Obama administration is negotiating behind closed doors with the Islamic Republic of Iran and using taxpayer dollars to pay the regime. Worse yet, more of these payments are likely coming,” said Pompeo, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. “Secretary Kerry still refuses to answer whether the $1.7 billion U.S. payment to Iran was related to the release of American hostages held by Iran. While we celebrate the return of these hostages, this administration could be setting a dangerous precedent, as innocent Americans continue to be held in Iran and around the world. I will not stop until we have all of the answers and will do all in my power to stop the Obama administration’s dangerous Iran policy.”

The full text of the State Department’s letter to Pompeo may be found here.

There Is A Reason No U.S. President Has Visited Cuba For 88 years

Just in December, President Obama said he would travel to Cuba only if the liberty and freedom of ordinary Cubans had improved. With more than 2,500 political arrests in Cuba already this year, it seems that the president has quickly discarded his earlier requirement, writes Congressman Mike Pompeo of Wichita.

Mr. President, There Is A Reason No U.S. President Has Visited Cuba For 88 years
By Congressman Mike Pompeo

As many Americans vacation for Spring Break, President Obama is traveling to a Caribbean island for what he calls “fun.” Yesterday, he headed down to 80-degree weather to tour a historic Old Town and attend a formal dinner. He and his family will also watch a baseball game and maybe even cross paths with the Rolling Stones.

Where did he go? The Republic of Cuba, which headed by the Castro dictatorship, where communism reigns, human rights are disregarded and freedom is marginalized. Obama’s trip is misguided for the flawed Cuba policy it represents, and also due to his dangerous desire to close Guantanamo Bay and bring its dozens of terrorists to U.S. soil, or worse, give back our entire military base to the Cubans.

The Obama administration has a penchant for giving unilateral concessions to dictators, receiving little in return — and then declaring a diplomatic victory. His presidency has indeed meant victory — but for the Cuban and Iranian regimes, not for the people in these countries, nor for the American people. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton similarly supports this misguided Cuba policy, which is why it is critical she is not our next Commander in Chief. This hallmark of the Obama-Clinton foreign policy has resulted in some of the most dangerous foreign policy decisions America has ever made.

This Obama-Clinton foreign policy that favors dictators will be on full display this week. By visiting Havana, President Obama is giving Fidel Castro a huge public relations coup—the state newspaper declared that his trip signifies the Castro regime’s stellar human rights record. Just in December, President Obama said he would travel to Cuba only if the liberty and freedom of ordinary Cubans had improved. With more than 2,500 political arrests in Cuba already this year, it seems that the president has quickly discarded his earlier requirement.

The Obama administration has already dropped Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, loosened sanctions, and opened a U.S. Embassy in Havana while there has been zero needed political reform, no increase in freedom, and inadequate loosening of Castro’s grip on power.

Though unlikely, I hope that President Obama meets with pro-democracy activists and members of Cuba’s persecuted religious community, not “dissidents” hand selected by the Castro regime. President Obama must also push for the return of U.S. fugitives hiding out in Cuba and seek compensation for the Cuban government’s illegal expropriation of American property and assets. Secretary Kerry made the right choice to cancel his trip to Cuba earlier this month, and I wish President Obama would have done the same.

Another concession President Obama is looking to make includes closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, where the U.S. military holds dozens of dangerous terrorists. Guantanamo detainees include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the architect of the USS Cole bombing that killed 17 American sailors. The president would like to close the facility at Guantanamo and bring jihadists to locations in the United States, including my home state, Kansas. The site he is considering there, Ft. Leavenworth, is a military learning center, featuring the Army University’s Command and General Staff College. He has also looked at bringing these terrorists to the Consolidated Naval Brig in Charleston, South Carolina, which is within a mile of an elementary school. Also under consideration is the Florence Federal Prison in Colorado, located close to the heavily populated city of Colorado Springs. Disappointingly, President Obama is not visiting our men and women in uniform at the Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay. If he did, he would see a legal, safe, and secure facility that is critical in our fight against radical Islamic terrorism.

Beyond the detention of terrorists outside the U.S., I am deeply concerned that Obama may also give the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay to the Cubans in order to placate them. This would be a strategic blunder that would haunt us for decades and leave the American homeland exposed. A former Commander of U.S. Southern Command described the base as a “strategic and highly useful” asset. The base plays an important role in counter-narcotics operations, intelligence, and humanitarian emergency responses. Its important location in the Caribbean means the Russians or Chinese would be eager to get their hands on it if we gave it up.

Mr. President, there is a reason no U.S. president has visited Cuba for 88 years.

Pompeo on Iran’s Ballistic Missile Tests

From the office of Congressman Mike Pompeo of Wichita.

Washington, Mar 8
Pompeo on Iran’s Ballistic Missile Tests

WICHITA — Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) today released the following statement on news that Iran tested several ballistic missiles in violation of UN Resolution 2231, which disallows Iran from developing or testing ballistic missiles:

“Less than two months after President Obama’s meaningless sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile program, Iran today fired those exact same missiles. Iran continues to defy the international community — laughing in the face of UN Security Council Resolutions and international sanctions.

“Aimed at Iran’s ‘main enemies,’ Israel and the U.S., these tests occurred shortly after Iran’s national elections in which ‘moderates’ supposedly triumphed. Perhaps these missile tests are what Iran was hiding and why it missed its deadline for responding to my visa application to observe Iran’s elections.

“While the White House continues to stand by its nuclear deal, there is no denying the inflammatory and dangerous nature of Iran’s latest missile tests. I hope the next American president will discard Obama’s bad deal and stand up to Iran’s aggressive actions.”