Monthly Archives: October 2010

Does Wichita have the most fast food joints in the country? Not even close

WICHITA — Maybe you’ve heard the local wisdom that Wichita has the most fast food joints per person in the country. It’s the reason there’s so much obesity here, the wisdom goes. There are a bunch of fast food places, but it’s not even close to the top (or bottom, depending on how you look at it).

Using the US Department of Agriculture’s new Food Environment Atlas, I looked only at the markets with more than 100 fast food restaurants (Sedgwick County has 424) to screen out small counties with large rest-stops .  Sedgwick County was 53rd in the country with one fast food place per 1,124 people. That equals out to $485 per person per year spent on fast food.

Now, it does have the most per person among big counties in Kansas, ahead of Shawnee (1 per 1,162 people) and Johnson (1 per 1,282), although Trego County has the most when all counties are included. But the winners of the most fast food places per person among big markets were – no surprise – tourist places, such as Atlantic City, NJ (no. 1), Washington DC (no. 2), Manhattan (NY, no. 3) and Myrtle Beach (no. 4).

What is a “more favorable tax environment?”

We hear this phrase used all the time at the Worldwide Businessplex, but never defined or explained beyond the requisite “fewer taxes for me” canard in this self-absorbed economic era.

Curious about your thoughts. What exactly is a “more favorable tax environment?”

Orthopedic surgeons really the tops

I wrote an article a couple weeks ago that pediatricians were the highest paid profession in the Wichita area, according to a state wage survey, with one caveat: some occupations, including surgeons aren’t listed in the survey.

Well, I got an angry email from one pediatric practice saying pediatricians are among the lowest paid doctors and they objected that they were being cast in a negative light. They sent me a list of doctor pay, as proof.

The story was accurate as far as it goes, but it was incomplete. According to this list of 2010 national median wages in Group Practice Journal, pediatricians are, indeed, among the lowest paid (although still well compensated). Here is the list:

1. Orthopedic surgeon, $500,672

2. Radiologist, $478,000

3. Urologist, $413,941

4. Gastroenterologist, $405,000

5. Cardiologist, $402,000

6. Dermatologist, $375,176

7. Anesthesiologist, $370,500

8. Otolaryngologist, $368,777

9. General surgeon, $357,091

10. Opthamologist, $343,945

11. Emergency medicine, $268,787

12. Neurologist, $236,500

13. Rheumatologic Disease, $224,000

14. Endocrinologist, $218,855

15. Hospitalist, $215,716

16. Internal Medicine, $214,307

17. Pediatrician, $209,873

18. Family Medicine, $208,851

Kansas company involved in Chilean mine rescue

Workers from Johnson County-based Layne Christiensen were manning the drill that reached 33 trapped miners in Chile over the weekend.

From the Kansas City Star:

Their work helped shave two months off the original rescue timeframe, said officials from Layne Christensen Co., a water-well drilling and mining exploration company based in Mission Woods.

About two weeks after the Aug. 5 collapse, Layne Christensen’s Latin-American affiliate, Geotec Boyles Bros., supplied the drill and Layne Christensen sent two drillers from its western region and two Spanish-speaking helpers.

The group, dubbed Plan B, was one of three groups working constantly to reach the miners. The team worked 33 days.

“Had Layne and Geotec not been there, it probably would have taken until Christmas for Plan A or Plan C to break through,” said Dave Singleton, Layne Christensen water resource division president.

Is Krugman ‘Air Cap?’

This comment by “AirCap” was made on the Eagle’s Kansas.com site in response to Hawker Beechcraft’s announcement Tuesday night. Your thoughts?

This is what’s wrong with America. Companies that make millions (sometimes billions) in profits quarter after quarter still can’t get enough, so they extort tax money from the locals with the threat of leaving the area. Remember how we gave Boeing a HALF BILLION DOLLARS just a few years ago (thanks to the worthless Todd Tiahrt), then the company turned around and left town as soon as the check cleared?

Corporate propaganda and right-wing dittoheads blame this constant loss of solid American jobs on unions, but the culprit is just pure, plain corporate greed. Stockholders simply got tired of sharing the wealth with the workers who created it and so figured out ways to take it back by moving those jobs to places where people don’t enjoy the labor protections of our great nation. We’re back to the 19th century again and the middle class that was created by unions is now almost extinct. The rich get richer, and through the brainwash of Fox News, the poor do nothing but sympathize with them.

America is the only place in the world where working people stand in line to have super-rich jerks kick them in the butt, then thank them for it.

He’ll be paying that fine unto the millionth generation

A French judge convicted futures trader Jerome Kerviel of losing $6.7 billion of his bank’s money in unauthorized trades and ordered him to repay it. At his present salary,  it will take him 177,536 years to repay it.

And a probable dissent…

My friend Malcolm Harris, who is a real economist and a professor at Friends, would probably differ with me on that last blog post. We had a chat the other day about this, and he maintains that the two downturns are different. This one is really just a typical recession and we have to work out the economic overhang — in this case, work off the bad consumer debt — and that Keynesian spending isn’t the solution. As long as world trade isn’t cut off, we just have to work out way through it.

Great Depression redux

It’s uncanny how some voters and politicians during the Great Recession have reacted the same as during the Great Depression — and just may make things worse.

Just like Roosevelt in ’36, Obama and Congress are being forced into budget cutting before the private sector is ready to start spending again. It pushed the country back into recession in ’37 and ’38. One of the obstacles to recovery today is the tens of thousands of state and local government employees who were cut in ’09 and will be cut this year and next (not so much in Kansas,  more so on the coasts).

And the same seems to be happening with trade. Congress and Hoover in the infamous Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930 (both Smoot and Hawley were Republican) wanted to keep other countries from undercutting American business in tough economic times — and caused a huge contraction in world trade and greatly deepened the Depression. And now, we’re seeing a popular revival of the same feeling. Trade relations aren’t ideal, by any stretch of the imagination, and they certainly have contributed to the depletion of the nation’s manufacturing sector, but seriously cutting the level of trade would be hugely disruptive.

The difference, today, is that I’m guessing the pro-trade business lobby is far more powerful than it was during the 30s.

Cash customers may now get a discount at checkout

Stores will now be able to offer discounts to cash payers following a settlement between the government and credit card companies,  according to this release from the National Retail Federation:

“Allowing merchants to offer a discount for lower-cost forms of payment will begin to inject competition into the credit card market, a step that the card companies have resisted for far too long,” said NRF Senior Vice President Mallory Duncan. “Credit cards are still going to be welcome in retail stores, but consumers are going to flock to the cards that give them the biggest discount.”

“Credit card ‘swipe’ fees have literally swiped billions of dollars out of the pockets of unknowing consumers for years,” she said.  “Consumers are fed up with credit card fees and this is a landmark step in beginning to bring these hidden fees under control. This is tremendously important in the effort to bring real competition and lower prices to this market.”

Federal law allows retailers to give customers a discount for cash or credit, but card industry rules have made it difficult to do so in practice. Card companies have also blocked merchants from giving a discount to customers who use debit cards or who use lower-fee credit cards.

That’s nice, but my guess is NRF doesn’t care much about the consumer and their pocketbook. They want their members to be able to encourage customers to use cash instead of credit cards, which cost the merchant a few percent of the purchase price. By giving customers a cash discount, store and customer cut out the credit card company and split the savings. Nice, but doesn’t it sound like we’re going backward in time.