In this article, Wendy Aylworth of Wichita takes a look at candidates for the Republican Party nomination for United States Congress from the fourth district of Kansas and their responses to questions at several candidate forums. In particular, she examines the candidates and their attitudes towards free trade.
The well-known candidates for this nomination (and their campaign websites) are Wichita businessman Jim Anderson, Wichita businessman Wink Hartman, Wichita businessman Mike Pompeo, and Kansas Senator Jean Schodorf. Election filing records maintained by the Kansas Secretary of State indicate that Paij Rutschman of Latham has filed for the Republican Party nomination, but little is known about this candidate at this time, and no website is available.
Aylworth supports the campaign of candidate Mike Pompeo.
Part one: Flip-flops, free markets, and NAFTA
Are you getting a good chuckle yet when listening to the forums featuring the candidates vying for the Republican nomination for the 4th Congressional District seat? If you haven’t yet, you’ll find a few here for your enjoyment.
We’ll look at the changes in the candidates over the various forums and appearances.
The positions of three of the candidates appear similar on the surface, but their explanations and tone of voice often reveal whether the candidate has a real grasp of the topic. Three of the four candidates claim to be in favor of limiting the scope of government and shrinking it down to only the powers granted it in the Constitution, yet the answers given by these same candidates reveal a conflicting ideology.
Have there been flip-flops by the candidates? Yes.
How long does it take for a candidate to flip-flop? Consider three different responses within 12 days by Jean Schodorf regarding raising taxes.
At the South-Central Kansas Legislative Forum on April 24th, Sen. Jean Schodorf remarked to a fellow legislator that she’d be willing to vote to raise the state sales tax. Then, five days later, at the candidate forum held by the Wichita Independent Business Association, she took the opposite position, stating: “Part of the problem is, government tends to think that to raise revenue you have to raise taxes … and I said, ‘No. … We have to let businesses try to get through the recession without having undue cost brought to them by adding taxes.’”
Seven days later, contradicting her April 29th statement, Schodorf voted to raise the state sales tax by more than 18%.
Does Jean Schodorf not know that the phrase “part of the problem with government” might refer to her? Clearly Sen. Schodorf has not yet internalized conservative economic principles. She does not yet realize that one generates more revenue for government by decreasing taxes. She may be able to lip-sink it at a forum, but her heart is far from it.
Across numerous fourth district candidate forums the responses of candidate Schodorf were far separated from the consensus of Republican response. Where the other three candidates’ responses might plot in the same general area on a graph, Jean’s responses were so far afield as to earn her boos from crowds.
Consider her position on whether or not she would co-sponsor a bill in Congress to repeal the Obama health care bill. In the January 15th candidate forum she said she did not know if she would or would not, because, she said “people are hurting.” The constituents at the forum showed her through their unhappy response that they want this bill repealed, but she didn’t approach an understanding of their reasons, and instead moved to a more solid position in favor of the bill by the time of the April 29th forum. When her tablemates dining with her preceding the forum expressed their dislike of the bill, she referred to their views during the forum, characterizing them as “fearful” and needing help to “understand” the bill. She was sincere enough to recommend during the forum that the members of Wichita Independent Business Association go to a website she had found and read it, to “help” them “understand” the bill.
One wonders who it is Jean Schodorf really trusts, when clearly she’s not listening to this large number of constituents who are deeply concerned about the current path of their government — so deeply concerned that their attendance overflowed the first forum facility six months before the primary election, even with a last minute location change. Does Jean think her constituents are merely ignorant? Does she believe it’s her job as a Representative to enlighten them? Is her view of the role of government more of a gulf between her and her constituents than she realizes? Does Schodorf believe government is benevolent and its role is to cure people from hurts?
Her answers across several forums certainly show her belief system to be one of trust in the wholesomeness and the loving role of government, and a belief that government can create jobs, end recessions, and even end suffering. Schodorf plans to go to Congress to end the recession, and she will keep the misnamed health care bill because, as she said, “people are hurting.” Yes, Jean, people are hurting. And you’re not listening.
In the forums Schodorf, judging by the response of the audiences, appeared to have little support among engaged Republicans. Even so, she officially filed as a candidate for the Congressional seat April 20th. Citizens in this district should not just wonder why. They should delve into her strategy, as clearly she believes she has a good chance of winning.
Editor’s note: As Schodorf stands out from the other candidates by virtue of being the only woman and moderate in the race, her hope is that the conservative candidates split that vote evenly, letting Schodorf win the election with perhaps as little as 30 percent of the vote. This outcome became less likely when conservative candidate Dick Kelsey withdrew due to family health issues.
Free trade and another flip-flop
Sometimes candidates don’t know enough about a topic to answer a question, so they ramble, pasting together parts of the answers given by other candidates at previous forums. As long as the audience isn’t recording the forums and comparing the answers, they’ll never notice, right?
At the January 22nd Belle Plaine forum the question was asked “Do you support the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade GATT?” Overall the candidates didn’t name GATT specifically in their answers, instead focusing on NAFTA.
All the candidates in this forum appeared to be saying they are strong supporters of NAFTA. Three of the candidates said they are supporters of NAFTA, as you can see from their responses below, whereas the response of candidate Anderson is unclear. (Wink Hartman had a previous commitment with the Andover Chamber of Commerce and could not be present at this event.)
The businesses that I’ve been in, the aviation industry and the energy industry, both competed globally. The last five years that I ran Thayer Aerospace nearly every time we competed for work we were competing against a company in Europe or Asia or someplace internationally. And so the drive has to be to create a competitive environment here. Lower taxes, less regulation; we’ll compete with anyone. But it’s absolutely critical that the products I was making, and that we all make here in Kansas, our agricultural products, our aircraft products, have markets, and access to those markets on an even playing field. And so I think our ability to enter into agreements with other countries both bilaterally and unilaterally is very important to our economy here in south-central Kansas so I would support those agreements.
Sen. Jean Schodorf:
South-central Kansas is a manufacturing hub and also an agricultural hub and being able to export wheat and aviation and other manufactured goods here so I support increasing trade throughout the world and I do support NAFTA. One of the things Farm Bureau has been trying to do is to push us to increase the trade from Kansas agriculture with Korea and then South America and that’s critical for us to do is try to increase as much trade as we can for our products to go overseas.
Free trade. Without question I’m a free trader. Free trade starts with the implementation of the Fair Tax and you’ll see the transformation of wealth and power from the government to the citizens literally overnight, something like that, when it’s implemented. What is the obstacle to free trade right now? Our governments. Rules, regulations, putting borders up everywhere. You can trade this, but you can’t trade that. Mexico can trade this, Canada gets to trade that. Open up the borders. Open up the free markets, get the governments off our back, reduce the size of that government, implement the fair tax, and ladies and gentlemen, I’m for states’ rights so the states can run their states the way they see fit, which will lead to better and freer trade.
Anderson’s response appears to reveal a weakness. Does anyone see a problem with the claim that “free trade starts with the Fair Tax”? Or the claim that upon implementation of the Fair Tax you’ll see “the transformation of wealth and power to citizens literally overnight”? And, what of the suggestion that states’ rights will lead to better and freer trade? The U.S. Constitution says, “No state shall enter into any treaty…” and “no state shall, without the consent of Congress..enter into any agreement or compact with another state, or with a foreign power…”
Anderson’s response at this Jan 22nd forum is a collection of conservative platitudes.
Contrast the above answer by Anderson with the answer he gives to the same question in the debate broadcast on KNSS radio April 29, 2010:
Well I am not a fan folks, of, break it down here again, of NAFTA. I think it costs us jobs. I believe it leans more towards the Mexican government, the Canadian government.
I am all for free trade, open borders. That is what we need. But in my opinion NAFTA hasn’t helped us at all. It has just helped the other countries and hurt us, and we have more and more and more jobs leaving the country because of it …
Are there any reader comments on this conflict in Anderson’s position? In the Jan 22nd forum he appears to be for NAFTA just as the other candidates are. He does not make any statement of opposition to it, yet in the April 29th candidate forum he is very clearly against it.
Perhaps in January he simply didn’t know much about NAFTA, and therefore made a statement supporting the Fair Tax instead of an answer? As Anderson is relatively new to public policy, it’s likely this is the case.
What of the other claims Anderson makes regarding NAFTA? Anderson asserted that “NAFTA hasn’t helped us at all.” Research by the Cato Institute and others shows that NAFTA has been a success for all the North American economies. See The Success of NAFTA and By Every Reasonable Measure, NAFTA Has Been a Success.
Free trade improves the economies of all countries involved and decreases conflicts including wars. Certainly NAFTA contains too much regulation for those seeking purity, and each administration (Clinton, Bush, and now Obama) has interfered with the freed trade allowed in NAFTA, but lack of pure adherence to the treaty was not the criticism made by Anderson. His criticism is protectionist, based on his claim of lost jobs. An article every reader should examine is one by Robert P. Murphy, author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism. Titled Is Free Trade Really Wrecking the Union it delves into the populist deception that free trade costs jobs.
Researchers at the American Institute for Economic Research provide a concise article on this protectionist claim combined with two revealing charts, concluding
That globalization and the increased reach of foreign trade have contributed relatively little to the loss of American manufacturing jobs seems to have done nothing to mollify protectionist sentiment. As we pointed out in an earlier commentary, roughly 300,000 jobs are lost each year due to globalization and the relocation of American manufacturing to international locations. But over 2.4 million jobs are destroyed each month due to factors other than globalization. Thus, the short-term economic costs of globalization due to job loss amount to little more than one percent of the overall job losses in America each year.
The qualified support of NAFTA espoused by two of the other three candidates at the WIBA candidate forum on April 29th was due to a concern about losing jobs due to NAFTA, showing that these two candidates are also not firm believers in free trade, and do not have an internalized belief in the inherent goodness of free trade. These two candidates, Wink Hartman and Jean Schodorf, are clearly easily swayed by an emotional argument claiming NAFTA causes U.S. jobs to be exported to Mexico, contrary to the empirical evidence.
Consider Hartman’s response:
I am for free trade. That said we must be very guarded against free trade being the detriment to the jobs. And I’d like to think that it’s not one and the same, that we can do both. We can enjoy free trade, but we can protect our jobs.
You need to remember that the trillions of dollars worth of debt that forty some percent of that is owned by China. So unless we wanna get Rosetta Stone to learn how to speak Chinese we better be well aware of where the dollars are going out of this country. When we print ’em, China’s buying.
So we need to [have] free trade and we need to take and do create the free trade and to keep the jobs. The next thing you look at is the tax structure. We need a much more friendly tax base, tax structure for small businesses so once again they can create those jobs and they can begin to compete more strongly with all of the other countries in the world. It is a global economy. We are going to have to work under that. We’re gonna to have to thrive under that and I think we can if we restructure our tax code and are aware of where the jobs are and how we are going to obtain and keep those jobs. (emphasis added)
Hartman is thinking like a big government man here. Does he not understand the strength of the “Invisible Hand?” He reveals underlying political belief system when he says if we “are aware of where the jobs are and how we are going to obtain and keep those jobs.” Such a statement requires the existence of a central planner to keep track of where the jobs “are” and “how” we (the government, presumably) are going to “obtain” and “keep” those jobs. He also refers to the need to “be very guarded against free trade being the detriment to the jobs.” And, he says, “I’d like to think that it’s not one and the same, that we can do both. We can enjoy free trade, but we can protect our jobs.” This protectionist sentiment doesn’t match up to a true belief in free trade. One can only keep track of jobs and protect jobs by having a strong central government interfering with free trade. Clearly Wink Hartman is not a man who understands this principle of limited government, and not understanding it, he certainly cannot believe in it.
Jean Schodorf’s view of NAFTA from the April 29th forum:
I support it and especially in our manufacturing and agricultural industries here. Free trade has helped us especially with agriculture. But we have to be careful that we try to keep our jobs here in Kansas and not export the jobs down to Mexico. And we have a very, very strong aviation community here and what I want to try to do is keep jobs here. Form a business-labor summit to try and to try to work together between business and labor to keep the jobs here. And then we can make plenty of products to be sent overseas and for free trade in Mexico or worldwide. This is a global market, we know that. And we need to be able to provide those products, especially agricultural products for Kansas.” (emphasis added)
Evaluating what Jean believes regarding the free market is as simple as saying she’s a “ditto” to what Hartman believes, only she has more experience with spending lots of government (read taxpayer) money to try and create a problem with the “free” market so she can solve it. This is what “Business-Labor summits” are for, you see.
Here are Pompeo’s remarks of NAFTA from the April 29th forum:
I am very supportive of free trade and very supportive of NAFTA. The businesses here in the fourth district of Kansas depend in large measure on having access to global marketplaces. Our aircraft manufacturing companies and our Agriculture depend on having access to international marketplaces and customers all over the world.
We must make sure that we pass treaties, both bilateral and otherwise with providers who are very cost effective very efficient at providing these goods the opportunity to reach into these marketplaces. We will create jobs if we’re prepared to trade.
This administration has three free trade agreements sitting on its desk that they won’t pass and won’t ratify — in Colombia and elsewhere. These are customers begging for American products at the right price. And our businesses need to have the opportunity to sell into those marketplaces in sophisticated ways and compete effectively all over the world and when we do good things’ll happen for jobs here in south central Kansas. I’m quite confident we can we can compete any place.”
There does not appear to be a conflict between Pompeo’s answers regarding NAFTA and free trade, and no conflict between these answers and free market principles.
When looking for which candidate to support I can only urge each citizen to look for an internalized belief in the principles of the free market and limited government, and not simply a candidate who claims such by repeating slogans currently in vogue with the populist “in” crowd, or by carrying a copy of the constitution everywhere as if it were a guide to daily life. “I can’t go to the john without it” would not appear to be a healthy relationship with the U.S. Constitution.
The Constitution is a written format for how a limited government might be organized with checks and balances. It’s not a panacea. It is also not the basis of freedom as is the free market, and it cannot create the free market. If government is truly small and limited, as it should be, the free market can exist. It does not need to be created; it is self-existent. You will not experience it, however, nor enjoy its wealth and comforts, if your government takes it into its hands. It exists only where there is no touching. This is why we must keep government small and limited — to keep it away from the free markets and away from us.