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What a relief to learn last week that the Environmental Protection Agency finally has approved the relocation of the remaining 100 or so residents of Treece. It took too long to get Treece to the same point as nearby Picher, Okla. But in a time when politics are as poisonous as Treece’s lead- and zinc-contaminated soil and water, officials of both parties and all levels of government came together to do right by the people of this southeast Kansas town. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., particularly deserves praise for being these Kansans’ dogged advocate.
Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, and Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts, R-Kan., received the 2010 “Plane Waste Award” from Citizens Against Government Waste, a taxpayer watchdog group. The award was for the $3.5 million the trio obtained for the National Institute for Aviation Research at Wichita State University. CAGW contends that aircraft companies should have supplied this money, not taxpayers.
CAGW’s 2010 “Congressional Pig Book” included 114 appropriations going to Kansas totaling more than $129 million, placing the state 19th per capita for federal pork. Brownback was involved in the most appropriations (and was specifically recognized for his agriculture-related pork), followed by Tiahrt.
Pork is in the eye of the beholder, and our delegation members will no doubt defend their funded projects as deserving — as most of them are. Still, it’s unlikely that when they rail about government spending at area tea parties, they will mention all the federal earmarks they obtained.
President Obama’s approval rating in Kansas continues to slide, coming in at 34 percent in SurveyUSA polling last weekend, down 3 percentage points from March. In the latest poll, sponsored by KWCH, Channel 12, the president only had majority support among African-Americans (73 percent), Hispanics (52 percent), Democrats (77 percent) and liberals (75 percent). In national polls, Obama’s approval rating stands at 48.4 percent. And in December 2008, Kansans gave then-President Bush 38 percent approval.
The dreaded April revenue estimates, released Friday, weren’t great but weren’t as awful as they could have been — a new $70 million gap for the fiscal year that ends June 30 and a $450 million gap in fiscal 2011. At least the experts are talking about “flickers of hope” for the state’s economic recovery, though employment continues to lag. Even with no big, bad surprise out of the estimates, state legislators still have a chore on their hands for the wrap-up session that starts April 28. They have to find more revenue, cuts or both, and quickly. Because both sides in and around the GOP-led Legislature are so dug in, Gov. Mark Parkinson should try to play compromiser in chief.
“I’ll make another pledge: If I’m elected governor, I promise to only serve two terms as governor of Kansas.” — Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., who set his own term limit in the Senate, joking in Hutchinson about the legally term-limited job he now wants
“They are now putting spies in hospitals to mess with your inside during surgery.” — Kansas gubernatorial candidate Joan Heffington of Derby, peddling her government conspiracy theories in Olathe
The phrase “open carry” refers to the act of law-abiding citizens carrying a properly holstered handgun in plain sight, wherever it is legal to do so, as they go about their daily lives. Those who choose open carry are just going about their business while armed, as are the 6 million-plus Americans who hold concealed-carry permits. The only difference — open carriers have taken their jackets off. In the majority of states, any law-abiding citizen who is not otherwise prohibited by law from possessing a firearm may openly carry a loaded handgun with no license or permit required. In the majority of these 29 states, this right is based upon state constitutional provisions. In an additional 14 states, citizens who hold a state-issued carry permit may carry openly or concealed as they see fit. So is open carry right for America? The answer is an unequivocal “yes.” Already present in the vast majority of states, the increasing popularity of the open-carry movement is a visible symbol that the right to bear arms remains a vital, core right of American citizens. — John Pierce of OpenCarry.org, in U.S. News & World Report
There are only three states — Florida, Texas and Illinois — and the District of Columbia that outright prohibit the open carrying of handguns. In this session of Congress, laws were passed to allow guns on Amtrak trains and in our national parks. Where does it end? When will people realize that we are moving backward in reducing gun violence? When open carry has occurred in retail stores, other customers generally become alarmed and the police are called to the scene. This creates a volatile and potentially dangerous situation. People should be able to sit in a coffee shop or a local diner with their families without being confronted with the threatening presence of openly displayed handguns. We can respect the rights of gun owners while at the same time doing more to keep illegal guns off the streets and reducing gun violence in our nation, such as by closing the gun show loophole, enforcing the laws on the books, and preventing terrorists from being able to buy guns, instead of allowing guns in our cherished parks and on our trains. — Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., in U.S. News & World Report
President Obama “didn’t owe a lot in taxes. He has a lot of dependents. He’s got his wife, two daughters, AIG, General Motors, Goldman Sachs.” — Jay Leno
“There’s a rumor going around that Hillary Clinton could be Obama’s choice for the next Supreme Court justice. That’s a lifetime appointment that would take up all of her time, or as Bill Clinton calls it, ‘She’ll take it.’” — Jimmy Fallon
“Since leaving her job as the governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin has made more than $12 million. That is a lot of money for someone who can’t say words that end in ‘g.’” — Jimmy Kimmel
The Obamas’ 2009 income-tax return reported an adjusted gross income of $5.5 million, mostly from book sales — the highest annual income ever reported by a presidential couple. The Bidens’ adjusted gross income was $333,182. Want to know more, including the 10 charities to which the president donated his $1.4 million Nobel Peace Prize money? Click here.
Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, tied with President Obama in a hypothetical 2012 matchup, according in a new Rasmussen survey. Paul’s strength was among independents, who favored him over Obama 47 to 28 percent. However, only 42 percent of Republican voters had a favorable view of Paul, whose libertarian leanings are sometimes at odds with GOP policies, including the war in Iraq. Last weekend Paul came in second in the straw poll at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference meeting (narrowly edged by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney).
It’s sad that Metro-Midtown Alternative High School is on the budget chopping block, but desperate times likely necessitate it. If the Wichita district does close the school, it needs to provide good learning options for its students and for others who don’t do well in a traditional school setting. Don’t leave these students behind.
The first two months of operations at Intrust Bank Arena likely benefited from heightened public interest in the new facility. So it remains to be seen if the arena’s initial success will continue in the coming months and years — though it has yet to show any signs of slowing and continues to book top acts. Even naysayers have to be pleased that the arena’s net income for January and February, excluding depreciation, was $321,709. “I’m glad we’re taking in more money than we’re spending,” Sedgwick County Commission Chairman (and former arena opponent) Karl Peterjohn managed to say. And despite predictions by some that Wichita couldn’t support an arena, that’s not the case so far. Pollstar rated the arena 45th worldwide for ticket sales in the first quarter of the year, ahead of Denver and Oklahoma City.
The federal government spends about $31,406 per household per year. In honor of Tax Day, the Heritage Foundation of Washington, D.C., broke down where this money goes. Among the totals: Social Security/Medicare, $9,949; defense, $6,071; anti-poverty programs, $5,466; interest on the federal debt, $1,585; education, $914; highways/mass transit, $613.
“We’ve come through the dot.com bubble, the housing bubble, and I’m very concerned about us having a government bubble,” Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., told Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke during a meeting Wednesday of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress. Brownback also suggested that the United States use trade policies and possible sanctions to force China to change its exchange rate policy, which Brownback said contributed to the imbalance of trade. And Brownback recommended that the Fed allow interest rates to move up as a show of faith in the strength and resilience of the economy. Brownback later questioned Bernanke on the possible impact of the nation’s debt and deficits. Bernanke responded: “At some point, the markets will make a judgment, really not about our economic capacity but our political ability, our political will, to achieve longer-term sustainability. . . . We don’t know when that point would be reached.”
As President Obama was conducting his nuclear summit this week, he was showing leaders from around the world “how to circumvent a free press,” complained Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank. Everything between Obama’s eight-minute opening remarks and a final news conference was closed — a fact noticed by reporters from Saudi Arabia, India, Japan and Turkey. “Reporters, even those on the White House beat for two decades, said these were the most restricted such meetings they had ever seen,” Milbank wrote. So much for Obama’s Web site commitment “to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government.”
Nearly as many people wish President Bush were still in office as favor President Obama, according to a survey by Public Policy Polling. The results likely are more a reflection of a politically divided country and frustration with Obama than a rehabilitation of Bush’s image. Not surprisingly, the surveyed Republicans overwhelmingly now prefer Bush, while the Democrats overwhelmingly prefer Obama. Independents favor Obama over Bush by 12 points.
Former Kansas GOP Sens. Bob Dole (in photo) and Nancy Landon Kassebaum co-sponsored a bill in 1993 that was similar to the recently passed health care reform law. And in 2007, former GOP gubernatorial candidate and current 1st Congressional District candidate Sen. Jim Barnett, R-Emporia, asked that a similar plan developed by the conservative Heritage Foundation be introduced in the Legislature. But now, many Republicans are blasting as a “government takeover” the reforms that their party leaders once described as “market-based, consumer-driven” solutions, including the individual health insurance mandate. That puzzles Len Nichols, director of the George Mason University Center for Health Policy and Ethics. “I’ve now read the bill three times, and I can’t find the government takeover,” he told the Kansas Health Institute News Service. “If it is a government takeover, why is private insurance at the core of it? Why are rules designed to make markets work at the guts of it?” Rather than trying to get the attorney general to sue, Kansas lawmakers should make sure that Kansas exercises the flexibility that exists in the new law, Nichols said. “The lesson to me is clear: Work together and make this work and stop trying to claim it is something it is not.”
University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato (in photo) predicted Barack Obama’s 2008 victory within one Electoral College vote. Included in his political forecast during a Friday speech at Southwestern College in Winfield, according to the Winfield Daily Courier: Republicans will pick up 27 to 38 seats in the House in November, short of the 40 they need to take control. By 2050, “minorities will be 50 percent of the voting population, and Texas will actually be a Democratic state,” because of Hispanic population growth. And “retirement age will have to go up to 70” for even an eroded Social Security to function. Forced to name a GOP presidential nominee for 2012, Sabato said he wasn’t sure, then said Mitt Romney.
Speaking last week to the Arts Education Partnership in Washington, D.C., Education Secretary Arne Duncan related his experiences as a drummer in middle school and argued for a well-rounded education, even in lean times. “For decades, arts education has been treated as though it was a novice teacher at school, the last hired and first fired when times get tough,” Duncan said. “But President Obama, the first lady and I reject the notion that the arts, history, foreign languages, geography and civics are ornamental offerings that can or should be cut from schools during a fiscal crunch. The truth is that, in the information age, a well-rounded curriculum is not a luxury but a necessity.” According to Education Week, though, arts educators have concerns about whether Duncan’s policies reflect his words, especially a proposal to consolidate nine federal funding programs spanning arts, American history and foreign language education.
What’s most troubling about an effort in Oklahoma to create a volunteer militia to help defend against federal infringements on state sovereignty is that it has support among some state lawmakers. It’s one thing for some tea party members to believe that an armed militia is needed to keep citizens from getting health insurance, but lawmakers ought to be more sensible. Then again. . . .
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