Monthly Archives: September 2010

Bad idea to blame voters

votingPresident Obama told Rolling Stone that “people need to shake off this lethargy” and “buck up.” Vice President Joe Biden suggested disappointed Democrats “stop whining.” There is some truth in such comments, in that Democrats aren’t showing much gratitude for all the administration has delivered. But New York Post columnist John Podhoretz was reminded of when frustrated Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole similarly told a late-October 1996 campaign crowd: “I wonder sometimes what people are thinking about, or if people are thinking at all. Wake up, America!” (The former Kansas senator lost badly to President Clinton a few days later.) Podhoretz noted: “Obama is talking to voters as though he is their boss, or their principal, or their father. He is not any of those things. He is their employee. And employers don’t like it when their employees yell at them.” The Wall Street Journal editorial board hears something else in Democrats’ “blame-the-voters” approach, saying Democrats “are beginning to sound like the late comedian Chris Farley’s portrayal of a ‘motivational speaker’ on ‘Saturday Night Live.’ Farley’s character sought to inspire young people by announcing that they wouldn’t amount to ‘jack squat’ and would someday be ‘living in a van down by the river.’”

Kansas’ GOP split no more?

elephantlove“Those Democrats who do win in Kansas tend to be sure-footed enough to find the (sometimes mushy) middle ground, while quietly relying on the GOP to split into warring factions — religious conservatives vs. libertarian free enterprisers. But Republican Kevin Yoder seems determined not to let a civil war break out this time.” — Time magazine “Races to Watch” story on Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District and Stephene Moore’s uphill bid to succeed her husband, Rep. Dennis Moore, D-Lenexa

Open thread 9/30


Sebelius vs. Wall Street Journal continues

healthcaregovThe Wall Street Journal editorial board’s war of words with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius continues to escalate. A Wednesday editorial challenged the former Kansas governor’s account of how Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina decided to refund $155.8 million to policy holders to offset premium increases, saying that “if Ms. Sebelius is going to speak purported truth to power, she’s going to need more respect for the facts.” The editorial concluded: “Obamacare is laying waste to many reputations, and Ms. Sebelius won’t enhance hers by turning HHS into the Department of Disinformation.”

He’s back: Bill Clinton is most popular politician

clintonbill2The “Comeback Kid” has made another comeback. Former President Clinton is the most popular politician in America, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. Of those polled, 55 percent had a positive view of Clinton and 23 percent had a negative view, the best ratio of any politician or political party included in the survey. President Obama was next best, with 47 percent positive and 41 percent negative. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was the top Republican, with 26 percent positive and 25 percent negative. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin had the highest positive rating of Republicans at 30 percent, but also the highest negative rating at 48 percent. The Democratic Party was 37 percent positive and 42 percent negative, while the Republican Party was 31 percent positive and 43 percent negative. The tea party movement was 30 percent positive and 36 percent negative.

GOP math doesn’t add up

taxrevenueHow could Republicans extend all the Bush-era tax cuts and protect the various programs they  support and still balance the budget, as their Pledge to America promises? Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Center crunched the numbers and determined that they would have to abolish the rest of government. He wrote: “No more national parks, no more Small Business Administration loans, no more export subsidies, no more N.I.H. (National Institutes of Health). No more Medicaid. . . . No more child health or child nutrition programs. No more highway construction. No more homeland security. Oh, and no more Congress. No more nothin’.”

Open thread 9/29


Wichita hospitals should be part of cancer center effort

cancertrialsVia Christi Health and perhaps Wesley Medical Center need to find a way to be part of the University of Kansas Cancer Center’s effort to become a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center. The national designation would boost the Kansas economy and provide help for cancer patients throughout the state. Cancer research already is occurring in Wichita through the Wichita Community Clinical Oncology Program and trials sponsored by Mayo Clinic, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, the KU Cancer Center and others. National Cancer Institute status could result in even more research and help for local patients. But KU’s application is weakened if Wichita hospitals aren’t partners.

Sebelius shoots back at critics

sebeliusflagsHealth and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius shot back at conservative critics who accused her of “thuggery” and “Soviet tyranny” for warning insurance companies not to falsely blame large premium increases on health care reform. “What is really objectionable about these comments is not who they’re attacking, but what they’re defending,” Sebelius wrote in a Wall Street Journal commentary. “These critics seem to believe that any oversight of the insurance industry is too much, and that consumers would be better off in a system where they have few rights or protections.” When insurance companies have had free rein, Sebelius said, “the cost of health insurance has more than doubled, while millions of hardworking Americans lost their coverage or drained their savings to keep up with premiums.” She concluded: “If critics really want to go back to the days when insurance companies ran wild with no accountability, they should have the courage to say so openly instead of hiding behind distracting attacks.”

Parkinson against Park City casino

slotsGood for Gov. Mark Parkinson for laying out his opposition to a tribal casino in Park City. In a letter this month to Larry Echo Hawk, assistant secretary of Indian affairs for the Obama administration, Parkinson seconded Attorney General Steve Six’s position that, as the governor wrote, “if the Wyandotte Nation were permitted to build a gaming facility on the Park City land, the will of the people of Sedgwick County, Kan., would be frustrated.” Parkinson also argued that such a tribal casino would reduce tax revenue from the state-owned casino to be built in Sumner County. Earlier this month, Parkinson notified the tribe that the state will enter negotiations for a Class III Gaming facility in Wyandotte County. But the governor’s letter sends the welcome signal that the state doesn’t view a Wyandotte County deal as clearing the way for a Park City deal.

Open thread 9/28


Congress has enough jokers

APTOPIX Colbert CongressWhat was comedian Stephen Colbert doing testifying on immigrant farm labor before a House committee on Friday — especially “at a time when the country faces real problems,” as “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace put it to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.? Worse, Colbert wasn’t very funny. “I think his testimony was not appropriate,” Hoyer acknowledged, though he thought it was more embarrassing for Colbert than for the House.

Reasons for Brownback to debate

debateThe Kansas City Star’s Steve Kraske added his voice to those calling on Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., to schedule more debates with gubernatorial rival state Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, noting that Brownback “still has a little explaining to do on some key issues” such as school finance and tax policy. “A ‘fair tax’ or a flat tax, senator? No more corporate income tax?” Kraske asked. “He’s talked around the edges on this issue. Exactly where he’s headed remains a mystery. Come on. Leadership involves straight talk in tough times, and that’s exactly where we find ourselves.” As Fort Hays State University professor Chapman Rackaway argued in Sunday’s Opinion pages, “debates can turn leads into mandates,” and Brownback is making it seem as if the “campaign is scared of Holland — not a message it wants to send.”

GOP doubled down on filibustering

filibusterRepublicans were justifiably upset when they controlled the U.S. Senate and Democrats filibustered bills and judicial appointments. But now that they are in the minority, the GOP senators have doubled down on filibustering — literally. In the 108th and 109th sessions of Congress, 2003-06, Democrats filed cloture motions 68 and 62 times, respectively. After the GOP became the minority in the 110th session, 2007-08, it filed 139 cloture motions. And so far this current session of Congress, the GOP has filibustered at least 119 times, including blocking a Defense Department authorization bill last week. Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, complained: “Deliberation and debate have given way to complete obstruction, all at the expense of American voters.”

Open thread 9/27


Kochs vs. Soros

soros,georgeMany conservatives have raised a question in response to the national media’s current interest in the political activity of Wichita’s Koch brothers: What about all the money George Soros (in photo) gives to liberal causes? So the website tried to compare the political spending of the Kochs and fellow billionaire Soros. It found that political action committee spending and lobbying by Koch Industries dwarfed spending by Soros’ company, Soros Fund Management, and by a think tank he funds, the Open Society Policy Center. But individually, Soros has given significantly more money to political candidates and causes than the Kochs. The website concluded: “Given the difficulty in tracking donations to nonprofits and charitable organizations, it’s almost impossible to quantify whether the Koch brothers or Soros dominate this political realm. That said, both the Kochs and Soros have spent incredible riches (in) this area with no sign of stopping.”

Greenspan wants all tax cuts to expire

GERMANY GREENSPAN EUROThe debate on Capitol Hill is whether to extend all of the Bush-era tax cuts, as most Republicans want, or to extend all of the cuts except those for the wealthy, as President Obama and most Democrats want. But former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan contends that Congress should let all of the tax cuts expire at the end of this year. “We should not have tax cuts with borrowed money,” he said. Otherwise, there would be “very grave problems ahead.” Greenspan, who supported the tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, discounts concerns that letting tax cuts expire will have a major impact on the economy. He argues that the much bigger concern for the economy is the deficit and the national debt.

Open thread 9/26


Is tuition keeping students away?

tuition3Seeing the total fall enrollment at the six state universities decline for the first time in 14 years, one wonders whether this is the effect of the steady increases in tuition, coupled with the rest of the economic pressures that families are feeling. Regents chairman Gary Sherrer had the same thought: “Certainly the economy has not helped students and families meet the cost of higher education. For three years, I’ve said slowly but surely we’re going to price students out of the market. Every product can be priced to a point the consumer can’t afford it. I don’t see any reason that’s not started to happen.” At least the enrollment decreases were only 2 percent or less at the four affected universities, including Wichita State University (0.1 percent).

Sebelius was a reference

sebeliusparkinsonCome January, Kansas’ past two governors will have gone from Cedar Crest to take plum jobs related to health care in Washington, D.C. Coincidence? Well, for what it’s worth, Gov. Mark Parkinson recently told the Hutchinson News that he included former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, now secretary of health and human services, among his references in applying for his new job as president and chief executive officer of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living.

Honor, remember Walters at memorial service

walters.ronThe Kansas African American Museum, 601 N. Water, is hosting a memorial service at 6 p.m. today for Wichita native Ron Walters, who died Sept. 10 at age 72. Walters was a nationally known political scholar and strategist, news commentator, author and activist. As a Wichita University freshman in 1958, he made history by organizing the first student-led sit-in at a segregated lunch counter at the Dockum Drugs store in Wichita. That successful sit-in later became a model for other groups throughout the country. “Wichitans all should be very proud of Ron Walters and the change he brought to this city,” said Gretchen Cassel Eick, a history professor at Friends University and author of the book “Dissent in Wichita: The Civil Rights Movement in the Midwest, 1954-72.” “His death from cancer took from us a brilliant man with a big heart who marched to a drumbeat that calls us all to finish the job.”

UPDATE: The memorial service was postponed so that members of the Walters family could attend.

Pro-con on extending all Bush tax cuts

taxcutsThere is mixed evidence of how much individuals react to tax changes, but we do know that taxpayers (especially wealthy ones) do not like uncertainty. Given the fragile state of the economy, the uncertainty of tax rates may do more damage to a recovery than a limited increase in the federal deficit associated with extending the tax cuts for one or two years. If taxpayers are uncertain about the tax cuts, they may save a larger share of their income to enable them to deal with the “unknown” tax changes. Businesses are less likely to develop and act on investment plans in the face of tax uncertainty. The combined impacts could further sour the sentiment about the recovery and hinder economic growth even further. — Sally Wallace, Georgia State University

President Obama is proposing legislation that would keep tax rates essentially unchanged for 98 percent of Americans but allow rates on the richest 2 percent to rise. But Republicans are threatening to block that legislation, effectively raising taxes on the middle class, unless they get tax breaks for their wealthy friends. So should Democrats give in? On the economics, the answer is a clear “no.” The GOP plan would add hugely to the deficit — about $700 billion during the next decade — while doing little to help the economy. On any kind of cost-benefit analysis, this is an idea not worth considering. And, by the way, a compromise solution — temporary tax breaks for the rich — is no better; it would cost less, but it also would do even less for the economy. — Paul Krugman, New York Times

Open thread 9/25


The city that the economic recovery forgot

hawkerThe national recession may have officially ended, but there are few signs of it yet in Wichita, particularly in the aircraft industry. The latest blow was Hawker Beechcraft’s announcement today that it is laying off 350 salaried employees. Tuesday, Cessna Aircraft said it would lay off 700 hourly and salaried employees.

Staff departures, GOP takeover an opportunity for Obama

summers,lawrenceNot only will President Obama likely have to adjust next year to at least a GOP-controlled House, he will have to replace several top advisers. Lawrence Summers (in photo), Obama’s chief economic adviser, is returning to Harvard University. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is expected to run for mayor of Chicago. And senior adviser David Axelrod likely will leave in the spring to start working on Obama’s 2012 campaign. Departures aren’t that unusual after two years in office — though they look bad, given Obama’s slumping approval ratings. But they also are an opportunity for Obama to refocus and adjust priorities, which could make him more effective. President Clinton arguably became a more successful president after the GOP took control of Congress in 1994.