2011: The Year in Review

Following is a selection of stories that appeared on Voice for Liberty in 2011. Was it a good or bad year for the causes of economic freedom, individual liberty, limited government, free markets, and civil society?

January

Kansas: business-friendly or capitalism-friendly? While Kansas Republicans want to create a business-friendly environment, we have to be watchful for harmful crony, or false, capitalism.

In Wichita, start of a solution to federal spending. A stand taken by a Sedgwick County Commissioner could pave the way to control of federal spending and debt.

Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer: State of the City 2011. This week Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer delivered his annual “State of the City” address. While the Wichita Eagle editorial commenting on the mayor’s speech is titled “Cause to boast, hope,” a look at some of the important topics the mayor addressed will lead some to conclude otherwise.

Charles and David Koch v. George Soros: Free markets or not. The protests surrounding a conference of free-market advocates reveal the political left’s misunderstanding of the relationship between business and government, and between freedom and coercion.

February

Regulation helps big business, not free enterprise. Both Democrats and Republicans love creating regulations, and big business loves these regulations.

Kansas auto dealers have anti-competitive law on their side. Kansas automobile dealers benefit from a law that limits the ability of competitors to form new dealerships.

Affordable Airfares audit embarrassing to Wichita. An audit of Affordable Airfares produced by the Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit is an embarrassment to City of Wichita elected officials and staff, the Kansas Regional Area Economic Partnership, and the Wichita State University Center for Economic Development and Business Research.

Wichita should reform its economic development strategy. Wichita can start moving towards an environment that promotes diverse economic growth by voting against targeted economic development incentives on today’s agenda. But if the council decides to approve each item, I would ask that the council identify specific spending somewhere else to cut, so that the cost of these programs are not spread among all the residents and businesses in the city.

KNEA, the Kansas teachers union, open to reform? Do the teachers unions in Kansas, particularly Kansas National Education Association (KNEA), have the best interests of schoolchildren as their primary goal?

March

Charles G. Koch: Why Koch Industries is speaking out. In today’s Wall Street Journal, Charles G. Koch, who is chairman of the board and CEO of Koch Industries, writes that economic freedom — not government spending and intervention — leads to prosperity and economic well-being for all, even for our poorest citizens.

Speculators selfishly provide a public service. Speculators are selfish people, acting only to make as much profit as possible for themselves without concern for the welfare of others. By doing so, they provide a valuable public service.

Because arts are important, government funding should be avoided. The more important to our culture we believe the arts to be, the stronger the case for getting government out of its funding.

KPERS problems must be confronted. This week the Kansas Legislature may work on the problems facing the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System, or KPERS. Past legislatures have failed to enact reforms necessary to put this system on a sound financial footing, and the legislature has shown itself incapable of managing a system where it’s easy to pass on the problem to future generations. Now Kansas faces an unfunded liability of some $9.3 billion in KPERS. The most important thing the state can do is to stop enrolling new employees in this failing system.

Weekly Standard: The left’s obsession with the Koch brothers. Matthew Continetti of the Weekly Standard has written a profile of Charles and David Koch and Koch Industries, focusing on politics and the attacks by the political Left. A key passage in the story explains what those who believe in economic freedom have known all along: If Charles and David Koch really wanted to make a lot of money for themselves, they would act like most corporations: seek fortune through government intervention, not through competition in free markets.

Sedgwick County Commission to consider corporate welfare as economic development. The Sedgwick County Commission will consider embracing corporate welfare as its economic development strategy.

April

Wichita elections a blow for economic freedom. The victory by Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and other city council members means a win for crony capitalism and a loss for economic freedom in Wichita.

Reisman: Social Security, Medicare must end. The institutions of Social Security and Medicare have replaced individualism with reliance on a collective fraud.

Liberals and economic knowledge. Who might you guess is better informed on issues of economics: liberals who promote government intervention in the economy, or conservatives and libertarians who oppose it?

Hazlitt’s ‘Economics in One Lesson’ relevant today. Economics In One Lesson, first published in 1946 and recently reissued by the Ludwig von Mises Institute, explains fallacies (false or mistaken ideas) that are particularly common in the field of economics and public policy.

Kansas Chamber finds voters favor cuts, not tax increases to balance budget. A survey of Kansas voters conducted on behalf of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce found widespread support for cutting spending rather than raising taxes as the way to balance the Kansas budget. Support was also found for cutting state worker salaries, or reducing the number of state employees.

May

Forgivable loan a test for new Wichita City Council members. This week three new members of the Wichita City Council have a chance to live up to — or not — their campaign rhetoric.

In Kansas, school choice programs could help the most needy students achieve. School choice programs in Kansas could help close the gap between low-performing students and the rest, according to the Kansas Policy Institute.

In Kansas Legislature this year, opportunities for saving were lost. This year the Kansas Legislature lost three opportunities to improve the operations and reduce the cost of state government. Three bills, each with this goal, were passed by the House of Representatives, but each failed to make through the Senate, or had its contents stripped and replaced with different legislation.

Pickens criticism illustrates divide between free markets and intervention. Criticism by energy investor T. Boone Pickens of U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo and Koch Industries continues to illustrate the difference between those who believe in economic freedom and free markets, and those — like Pickens — who invest in politicians, bureaucrats, and the hope of a government subsidy.

Kansas needs truth about schools. Kansas needs an honest assessment of the performance of its schools from education commissioner Diane M. DeBacker.

June

For Wichita, Save-A-Lot teaches a lesson. The announcement that a Save-A-Lot grocery store will proceed — contrary to the claims of developers and city staff who rely on their information — should provide a lesson that yes, economic development in Wichita can and will happen without public assistance.

Wichita and its political class. Discussion at a Wichita City Council meeting provided an opportunity for citizens to discover the difference in the thinking of the political class and those who value limited government and capitalism.

Huelskamp at RightOnline: Debt is the problem. At the RightOnline conference in Minneapolis, U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp of the Kansas first district told the general session audience that federal spending and debt is a threat to the future of America, and that we must use the opportunity of the upcoming debt ceiling vote to force spending cuts.

Economist: Kansas must improve its competitive position. Kansas needs to implement pro-growth economic policies or face mediocrity and stagnation, says economist Jonathan Williams of the Rich States, Poor States report.

Economic freedom leads to better lives for all, says video. Economic freedom, in countries where it is allowed to thrive, leads to better lives for people as measured in a variety of ways. This is true for everyone, especially for poor people.

Corporate jet incentive, or tax dodge, or kids’ safety?. Although President Obama’s demagoguery is mistargeted, it would be a good idea to get rid of preferential tax treatment in all cases.

July

Wichita school board: critics not welcome. A recent meeting of the board of USD 259, the Wichita public school district, provided insight as to the insularity of the board members and district staff, and as to how little meaningful discussion or debate takes place at board meetings.

Kansas jobs creation numbers in perspective. The administration of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback announced job creation figures that, on the surface, sound like good news. But before we celebrate too much, we need to place the job numbers in context and look at the larger picture, specifically whether these economic development wins are good for the Kansas economy.

Federal grants seen to raise future local spending. Not only are we taxed to pay for the cost of funding federal and state grants, the units of government that receive grants are very likely to raise their own levels of taxation in response to the receipt of the grants. This is a cycle of ever-expanding government that needs to end, and right now.

Sedgwick County considers a federal grant. While most people think the problem of government over-spending requires a top-down solution starting in Washington, we have to do better than waiting for Washington to act.

Despite subsidy program, Wichita flights are declining. Supporters of the Kansas Affordable Airfares Program are proud of the program’s success. But looking at the statistics uncovers a troubling trend that is obscured by the facts used to promote the program.

Pickens: It’s all about me, and MSNBC doesn’t notice. Appearing on the MSNBC morning program Morning Joe, energy investor T. Boone Pickens let us know that despite his no-nonsense business-like approach to supporting what he believes to be in America’s best interests, it’s really all about him and what profits him.

Wichita school district able to maintain employment ratios. Despite the claims that schools have made drastic cuts, evidence shows that USD 259, the Wichita public school district, has been able to maintain student-employee ratios.

Clusters as economic development in Kansas. Is the promotion by Kansas government of industry clusters as economic development good for the future of Kansas?

Tax expenditures, or loopholes. Tax expenditures, commonly called loopholes, are in the news as part of the debt ceiling negotiations. What is the true nature of these? Spending, or not?

August

Job creation at young firms declines. A new report by the Kauffman Foundation holds unsettling information for the future of job growth in the United States.

U.S. receipts and expenditures. A look at the recent history of U.S. receipts and expenditures holds useful lessons on taxes and spending.

Wichita City Council bows to special interests. Yesterday’s meeting of the Wichita City Council revealed a council — except for one member — totally captured by special interests, to the point where the council, aided by city staff, used a narrow legal interpretation in order to circumvent a statutorily required public hearing process.

Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer to critics: stop grandstanding. A meeting of the Wichita City Council provided a window into the attitude of Wichita elected officials, particularly Mayor Carl Brewer. Through their actions, and by their words, we see a government that cares little for the rule of law and good government, and one that is disrespectful to citizens who call attention to this.

Pay-to-play laws are needed in Wichita and Kansas. In the wake of scandals, some states and cities have passed “pay-to-play” laws. These laws often prohibit political campaign contributions by those who seek government contracts, or the laws may impose special disclosure requirements. But Wichita and Kansas have no such laws.

Intrust Bank Arena depreciation expense ignored. Reports that income earned by the Intrust Bank Arena is down sharply has brought the arena’s finances back into the news. The arena, located in downtown Wichita and owned by Sedgwick County, is deemed to be a success by the county and arena boosters based on “profit” figures generated during its first year of operations. But these numbers are not an honest assessment of the arena’s financial performance.

‘Honest services’ law expansion sought. While the U.S. Supreme Court has attempted to limit the application of vague “honest services” statutes, the Obama Administration is working to restore what the Wall Street Journal describes as “essentially unlimited prosecutorial discretion to bring white-collar cases.”

In Wichita, historic preservation tax credits an inefficient form of developer welfare. As part of the subsidy plan for Douglas Place, a downtown Wichita hotel being proposed, developers plan to make extensive use of historic preservation tax credits to fund their project. This form of developer welfare, besides being inefficient, is largely hidden from public view.

For Wichita’s Project Downtown, goal keeps slipping. In selling a plan for the revitalization of downtown Wichita, promoters started with a promise of much private investment for just a little public investment. But as the plan proceeded, the goal kept slipping, and the first project to be approved under the final plan will probably not come close to meeting even the modest goals set by the Wichita City Council.

September

Walter Williams: Government must stick to its limited and legitimate role. Economist Walter E. Williams spoke on the legitimate role of government in a free society, touching on the role of government as defined in the Constitution, the benefits of capitalism and private property, and the recent attacks on individual freedom and limited government.

In Wichita, private tax policy on the rise. In a free society with a limited government, taxation should be restricted to being a way for government to raise funds to pay for services that all people benefit from. But in the city of Wichita, private tax policy is overtaking our city.

Free market energy solutions don’t jeopardize national security. Free market energy solutions don’t jeopardize national security, write U.S. Representatives Mike Pompeo and Jeff Flake.

The resolve of the Wichita City Council. Despite her assessment of the will of the people of Wichita, The Wichita Eagle’s Rhonda Holman encourages the Wichita City Council to stick to its guns and do the opposite.

At Wichita City Council, facts are in dispute. Some Wichita City Council members, including Mayor Carl Brewer, criticize citizens for their use of inaccurate and misleading information. So how do the statements made by council members fare when subjected to scrutiny?

Kansas needs pro-growth policies. A theme of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback when he spoke in Wichita this week was jobs and opportunities, and how Kansas needs pro-growth policies to break out of a slump.

Kansas school spending: the deception. Kansas school spending advocates like Mark Desetti of the Kansas National Education Association (KNEA) use only a small portion of school spending when making presentations, letting them be accurate and deceptive at the same time.

Sedgwick County considers a planning grant. Sedgwick County’s consideration of a federal planning grant raised a host of issues, including buying in to the Obama Administration agenda and the roles and relationships of federal and local governments.

October

Ken-Mar TIF district, the bailouts. Circumstances surrounding the Ken-Mar shopping center in northeast Wichita illustrate how inappropriate it is for the city to serve as either entrepreneur or partner with entrepreneurs, and is another lesson in how Wichita needs pay-to-play laws.

Pompeo at Pachyderm on economy, budget. U. S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita addressed members and guests of the Wichita Pachyderm Club, with members interested in the economy and budget issues.

Wichita city council: substance and process. The Wichita City Council and city hall bureaucrats have shown that they are willing to follow the letter of the law, but following the spirit and substance of the law, especially regarding public hearings and citizen involvement, remains a challenge for the city.

Kansas and its own Solyndra. At this moment, we can’t say that Kansas has its own version of Solyndra, the subsidized and politically-connected solar energy firm that recently shut down its operations and declared bankruptcy. But as far as absorbing the important lessons from Solyndra, we may have another chance to learn them in Kansas.

The politically-motivated attack on Koch Industries. The more scrutiny the Bloomberg article attacking Koch Industries receives, the worse it looks.

Intellectuals against the people and their freedoms. Why are so many opposed to private property and free exchange — capitalism, in other words — in favor of large-scale government interventionism? Lack of knowledge, or ignorance, is one answer, but there is another.

Economic freedom in America: The decline, and what it means. The decline in economic freedom in the U.S. leads to slow growth in the private sector economy and persistently high unemployment.

Wichita economic development: And then what will happen? Critics of the economic development policies in use by the City of Wichita are often portrayed as not being able to see and appreciate the good things these policies are producing, even though they are unfolding right before our very eyes. The difference is that some look beyond the immediate — what is seen — and ask “And then what will happen?” — looking for the unseen.

Kerpen on Obama’s regulatory extremism. A new book details the ways that President Obama is bypassing Congress and the will of the people in order to implement his extreme radical agenda.

Kansas schools need diversity and dynamism to engage students. Kansas schools need to be much more dynamic and diverse in order to meet students’ needs and effectively engage them in learning. But the lack of school choice and charter schools in Kansas means that Kansas children are missing opportunities for learning that are present in some states. Until Kansas changes its educational policies, it is unlikely that schools will see any significant improvement.

‘Sustainable planning’ not so sustainable. The vast majority of Americans, surveys say, aspire to live in a single-family home with a yard. The vast majority of American trave — around 85 percent — is by automobile. Yet the Obama administration thinks more Americans should live in apartments and travel on foot, bicycle, or mass transit.

November

School choice savings not being considered in Kansas. According to the reporting surrounding the revision of the Kansas school finance formula, Kansas is overlooking a sure way to save money and improve Kansas schools: widespread school choice.

Huelskamp on spending, health information database, and Buffett. Addressing members and guests of the Wichita Pachyderm Club last Friday, U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp of the Kansas first district updated the audience on national spending and debt, a health information database that poses privacy risks, and Warren Buffett’s taxes.

Focus on Kansas school funding formula is a distraction. As Kansas struggles with a formula for financing schools, we’re losing an opportunity to examine our schools and see if they’re performing as well as they should, both financially and academically

Supercommittee fails at tiny goal. The failure of the Congressional Supercommittee to meet such a small and modest goal is not good news, as the real problems are much larger.

Wichita property taxes are high, leading to other problems. High business property taxes in Wichita cause officials to take an “active investor” role in economic development, despite evidence that this approach does not work.

TIF and other subsidies harm Wichita. Everyone who cares about Wichita — the entire city, not just special interests — ought to be opposed to the continued use of tax increment financing (TIF) districts and other forms of subsidy that direct benefits to a small group at the expense of everyone else.

Kansas PEAK program: corporate welfare wrapped in obfuscation. Many economic development programs, such as the Kansas Promoting Employment Across Kansas (PEAK) program, are surrounded by confusion that hides the economic reality of the transactions.

December

Kansas gas storage regulation might not improve safety. Should Kansans be relieved that government regulation and inspection of underground natural gas storage may be resumed soon?

Wichita should reject tax increment financing. Wichita should reject tax increment financing for the good of the entire city.

Wichita City Council sets hotel tax election date. Discussion of setting an election date provided another example reinforcing the realization that Wichita has a city council — with the exception of one member — that is entirely captured by special interests.

In Wichita, disdain for open records and government transparency. Despite receiving nearly all its funding from taxpayers, Go Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau refuses to admit it is a “public agency” as defined in the Kansas Open Records Act. The city backs this agency and its interpretation of this law, which is in favor of government secrecy and in opposition to the letter and spirit of the Open Records Act.

Wichita falls in economic performance ranking. The City of Wichita has fallen in a ranking of the performance of its economy, according to the Milkin Institute.

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