Monthly Archives: January 2012

Open thread on Florida primary

Dole really doesn’t like Gingrich

Former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole didn’t mince words in criticizing GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. “If Gingrich is the nominee, it will have an adverse impact on Republican candidates running for county, state and federal offices,” Dole wrote in a statement. “Hardly anyone who served with Newt in Congress has endorsed him, and that fact speaks for itself. He was a one-man-band who rarely took advice. It was his way or the highway.” Dole said that Republicans should nominate Mitt Romney if they want to avoid a sweeping victory by President Obama in November.

Do states need more school choice?

“More money is not the answer to improving education (federal money has more than doubled since the 1970s, in fact). Improvements will come from allowing families to control how their education dollars are spent,” wrote Lindsey M. Burke of the Heritage Foundation. She contends that state legislatures should implement policies that allow educational choice to flourish, such as lifting caps on charter schools. “Generations of children are being ill-served by a one-size-fits-all education system,” she wrote. “School choice has the potential to change that.”

Good example of working together to create jobs

Good for Gov. Sam Brownback for listening to Democratic lawmakers and accelerating work on road projects. Democrats proposed last month that the state fast-track at least $50 million worth of transportation projects that have been engineered but weren’t scheduled until late 2012 and 2013. Doing so could create jobs earlier and save money by taking advantage of low prices on materials, they argued. Brownback agreed. What’s more, he recognized the importance of working across party lines. “People of Kansas expect us to work together to move the state’s economy forward,” he said.

KBA doesn’t need wholesale changes

House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, is correct that there doesn’t appear to be a need for wholesale changes to the Kansas Bioscience Authority. Though a forensic audit released last week found significant problems related to former KBA president Tom Thornton (in photo), including that he destroyed personal information from his business computer, the audit raised no major issues related to the KBA’s investments. “The problems seem to be with the head guy, who’s now gone,” O’Neal said. “It didn’t really identify, in my view, a lot of structural or systemic problems that would affect the board.” KBA’s board of directors did a poor job of supervising Thornton and needs to make sure it has adequate oversight. But O’Neal noted that membership on the board has changed, and he thinks the process now in place for appointments will help to correct problems at the authority.

Brownback’s aggressive agenda in spotlight

An article on Stateline.org highlights Gov. Sam Brownback’s aggressive wish list on taxes, school finance, Medicaid, state employee pensions and more, suggesting it “may be the boldest agenda of any governor this year” and quoting Brownback as saying of the proposed reforms: “They all lean up against each other. I’m not sure which of those pieces you can pull out.” The article also observes that his success is likely to hinge on moderate Republicans in the Senate, at least nine of whom will face conservative primary challengers in August. “Brownback insists he will not get involved in the GOP primary process,” Stateline.org reported, but organizations that support him such as the Kansas Chamber of Commerce are expected to assist the challengers. “They want to purge the party of anyone that’s considered reasonable,” said Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, whose primary opponent is state Rep. Larry Powell, R-Garden City.

Obama addressed Americans as if they were eighth-graders

When put to the Flesch-Kincaid readability test gauging the number of words and syllables, President Obama’s State of the Union address came in at a grade level of 8.4, compared with 8.8 last year and the 10.7 average grade level of the 70 State of the Union addresses delivered orally since 1934. President Kennedy aimed highest in his State of the Union speeches: 12th grade. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ GOP response to Obama calculated at a 14th-grade level.

Brownback has lower approval rating than Obama

Is it possible more Kansans approve of President Obama’s job performance than Gov. Sam Brownback’s? That was the result of the latest SurveyUSA poll, conducted by KWCH, Channel 12, from a sample of 523 registered Kansas voters that was 46 percent Republican, 25 percent Democratic and 28 percent independent. The poll found that 38 and 36 percent of those surveyed approved of the job performance of Obama and Brownback, respectively. They were less neck and neck in disapproval ratings – 56 percent for Obama and 49 percent for Brownback. The governor’s approval had slipped 4 percentage points since November. Meanwhile, 41 and 40 percent of those polled approved of the job performance of Sens. Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts, respectively.

Poll shows strong support for slots at track

Wichita Greyhound Park owner Phil Ruffin wants a do-over of the 2007 Sedgwick County vote that narrowly rejected slot machines at the facility and led to its closing. If a bill to authorize another vote could get past the Legislature and anti-gaming Gov. Sam Brownback – a big “if” – and if proponents could round up 5,000 petition signatures and get it on a ballot, the issue would have better luck this time, judging from a new SurveyUSA poll sponsored by KWCH, Channel 12. In the survey, 71 percent of the 500 people polled in Sedgwick County said they supported allowing slots at the track. The strongest support, 80 percent, came from 18- through 34-year-olds.

Kansas tops in wind power construction

Kansas has more wind power under construction than any other state, according to the American Wind Energy Association. It has more than 1,188 megawatts of wind power scheduled to come on line in 2012. But Kansas still isn’t among the top 10 states in overall wind power (Texas is No. 1). So there is a lot of room for growth. A key to that continued development is Congress’ extension of the wind production tax credit, which is set to expire this year.

So they said

“When is it going to end?” – state Sen. John Vratil (in photo), R-Leawood, on the steady stream of troubling revelations about the governor’s tax-cut plan

“Barack Obama has about as much to do with the killing of Osama bin Laden as I did this with the Kansas City Chiefs’ victory this season over the Green Bay Packers.” – U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, in a post-State of the Union e-mail to supporters about the president’s “misdirections, misstatements, deceptions and outright lies”

“If people are saying those horrible things about me, I’m going to push even harder.” – Secretary of State Kris Kobach, in an NPR.org item headlined “Will Backing of Anti-Immigration Movement’s ‘Dark Lord’ Haunt Romney?”

Pro-con: Was Obama’s State of the Union address effective?

Barack Obama, delivering his third State of the Union address, effectively highlighted his administration’s successes, such as the resurgence of the U.S. auto companies and the bipartisan trade agreements. He presented the public and Congress with a grab bag of initiatives. Some, like a call for states to require students to stay in school until they earn a diploma or turn 18, were high-minded visions destined to go nowhere. But other ideas, like simplifying training programs to move “from an unemployment system to a re-employment system,” seemed fresh and promising. A State of the Union address can be a golden opportunity for a president to bring an administration’s strong points into focus. Obama seized that opportunity and made good use of it. – Kansas City Star

President Obama delivered a State of the Union address that by the account of his own advisers was more campaign document than a plan for governing. He’s running against Republicans in Congress, Reaganomics, wealthy bankers and inequality. Normally, a president at the start of his fourth year would be running on his record, accentuating the legislation he’s passed. Obama can’t do that with any specificity because the economic recovery has been so weak and the legislation he has passed is so unpopular. So he took credit for the shale-gas revolution he had nothing to do with and proposed new policies to “spread the wealth around,” as he famously told Joe the Plumber in 2008 before he took the words back. We thought he meant it then, and now he’s admitting it. – Wall Street Journal

Romney back on top in Florida, but will it last?

A new poll has Mitt Romney ahead again in Florida, leading Newt Gingrich 38 to 29 percent. Romney seems to have benefited from two strong debate performances in Florida, including Thursday’s debate in which Romney hammered Gingrich on topics such as his work as a lobbyist and desire to colonize the moon. But the GOP race seems to swing ever week. Nationally, Gingrich leads Romney 37 to 28 percent, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll.

Do Republicans deserve to lose?

Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal ripped the GOP and its final four presidential contenders, saying that “Republicans deserve to lose.” He likened the current GOP field to confronting a terminal diagnosis. “There may be an apparent range of treatments: conventional (Romney), experimental (Gingrich), homeopathic (Paul) or prayerful (Santorum). But none will avail you in the end.”

Dubious, bogus and utterly phony headlines

The following satirical headlines come from borowitzreport.com and theonion.com:

Obama Begins State of the Union by Asking Congress to Imagine Newt Gingrich Standing Before Them
Exit Polls Reveal Majority of South Carolina Voters Had Emotional Breakdown in Voting Booth
Romney Cements Status as Candidate Who Can Somehow Lose to Newt Gingrich
Stung by Defeat, Romney Considers Adultery
In Confident Sign, Gingrich Changes Facebook Status to ‘In an Open Relationship’
Obama Openly Asks Nation Why on Earth He Would Want to Serve for Another Term
Internet Blackout Forces Millions to Interact With Each Other
Romney Vows to Undo Everything Obama Has Done: ‘I Will Make Bin Laden Alive Again’
Scandalous Photos Reveal Grover Norquist Carried on Secret Affair With Taxes for Years
Critics Slam Obama for ‘Just Standing There’ During Photo Op

One endorsement was enough for Brownback

Now that Rick Perry (in photo) has dropped out of the GOP presidential race, Gov. Sam Brownback isn’t expecting to endorse another candidate during the primary, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. The reason he endorsed Perry early, Brownback said, was that he has had a long friendship with the Texas governor. Brownback is hopeful the tight GOP contest will mean that Kansas Republicans can play a role in deciding the nominee when they hold their caucuses March 10.

Would tax plan create jobs?

The liberal Center on Budget Policies and Priorities contends that Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan to eliminate state income taxes on certain businesses “is poorly targeted and will not create jobs.” Brownback wants to eliminate taxes on limited partnerships, subchapter S corporations and sole proprietorships as a way to grow the economy. “The provision would benefit many large corporations and investment vehicles, not just the small-business job creators the governor claims he is trying to help,” the center said. “At the same time, the proposal would cost the state, at a minimum, $266 million or more in annual tax revenue that the state otherwise could be using to strengthen its economy.”

Lawsuit naming Laffer withdrawn

Just days after filing a lawsuit in Texas over an alleged media company Ponzi scheme and naming Reagan economist Arthur Laffer among the defendants, 51 investors withdrew their suit last week without explanation, according to the Amarillo Globe-News. The plaintiffs had claimed that Laffer lent his name, for a fee, to Wallace Bajjali Development Partners to enhance their credibility with investors. Laffer advised Gov. Sam Brownback on his tax-cut plan and spoke at a legislative hearing in Topeka last week.

No surprise that delegation disliked Obama address

Kansas’ GOP congressional delegation was unimpressed with President Obama’s State of the Union address. Sen. Pat Roberts complained that it lacked a plan forward. “Tonight we heard a campaign speech,” he said. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, sniped that the president “is running from his record but there is nowhere to hide.” Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, agreed with Obama on one point, sort of. “An America that is ‘built to last’ does not ‘win the future’ with leadership that bloats the government, ratchets up unsustainable spending and worsens our national debt,” Pompeo said. Meanwhile, national Libertarian Party chairman Mark Hinkle was put off by both Obama’s address and the GOP response, likening them to TV infomercials. But “unlike Ginsu knives, hair spray for men, and ripped abs in 30 days,” he said, “the Republican and Democratic infomercials have no redeeming social value.”

Don’t split Sedgwick County between congressional districts

State Sen. Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, is correct in objecting to a redistricting plan released this week that would split Sedgwick County between the 1st and 4th congressional districts. Wagle called the plan “ugly.” It sure is. An alternative plan that would move Manhattan from the 2nd District to the 1st District makes more sense and is much simpler. Though Manhattan has objected to that plan, saying it wants to stay in the same district as Lawrence, a Hutchinson News editorial noted that Kansas State University could be a “better fit for the 1st District given the commonality of the land-grant university’s mission with the largely rural nature of the ‘Big First.’”

State of the Union open thread

Romney takes heat on taxes, firing people

It’s been puzzling to see Mitt Romney challenged in GOP primaries about his work in the private sector and his investment income. Does the GOP believe in free-market capitalism or not? Nonetheless, the attacks forced Romney to release some of his tax returns, which showed that he makes most of his income from investments and therefore pays about 15 percent in taxes. Romney also has been criticized for saying that he likes being able to fire people. Though Romney has complained about the comment being taken out of context, columnist Matt Miller argued that it was much worse in context. Romney was referring to firing health insurance companies, and he claimed that President Obama was eliminating people’s right to switch insurance companies. That, Miller wrote, was “a blatant falsehood.”

State tax cut could increase federal taxes

Another ramification of Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax plan: It could increase the federal income taxes of those who have itemized deductions. That’s because state income taxes are deductible on federal taxes. As a result, Kansans who itemize would see their federal income taxes increase by about $76 million overall, according to an analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. That increase wouldn’t outweigh the benefits of the state tax cut, but it’s significant. Federal rules allow taxpayers to deduct either their state income taxes or sales taxes paid. At some point, as tax rates are reduced, it would become advantageous for Kansas taxpayers to switch to deducting sales taxes.

Biggest challenge for Gingrich is likability

GOP voters in South Carolina (including a majority of evangelicals) set aside concerns about Newt Gingrich’s three marriages, his past ethics charges and the millions of dollars he has made as a Washington, D.C., insider, propelling him to a dominating win in Saturday’s primary. But a Wall Street Journal editorial noted that Gingrich’s biggest challenge going forward, particular in a general election, is that most voters don’t like him. A Fox News poll conducted two weeks ago found that 56 percent of registered voters had an unfavorable view of him, while only 27 percent had a favorable view. That’s a net unfavorable rating of minus-29 percent, compared with a plus-5 percent net rating for President Obama and a plus-7 percent for Mitt Romney.

Not everyone is impressed with Laffer

Celebrity economist Arthur Laffer (in photo), who was paid $75,000 to consult on Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax-reform plan, received fawning attention when he appeared at a legislative hearing in Topeka last week. “What an honor and privilege to have you here in Kansas,” said Sen. Julia Lynn, R-Olathe. And Sen. Les Donovan, R-Wichita, scolded committee Democrats for challenging some of Laffer’s claims. But Dave Serchuk of Forbes magazine is unimpressed by Laffer’s long career. “Unfortunately, one of the things that has distinguished it is that he has often been extremely wrong,” Serchuk wrote.