Yesterday, Charles Koch announced a $200,000 ad campaign in Wichita, Kansas. The campaign is intended to advance the ideas of economic freedom and government overreach. It is not clear why Mr. Koch feels it is necessary to spend this money to promote these ideas in his hometown, and the headquarters of his family company. Surely, Wichita is well aware of the Koch definitions of capitalism and democracy. Maybe he did not learn any lessons about the effectiveness of his political spending during the 2012 election.
What is clear is that Mr. Koch is at odds with Ayn Rand.
What is a Kansas resident supposed to make of this?
The immigration reform group Sunflower Community Action staged a protest this weekend at the home of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. The protesters chose the location after Secretary Kobach refused to meet with them earlier this year at the state capitol.
Although Secretary Kobach was not home, the protesters posted video of the event (posted below) and were greeted today with a response from Mr. Kobach himself:
The National Journal wrote a nice piece this week on Solar Energy's Sunny Future. I really did enjoy it. Push back against the Solyndra hyperbole, an argument in favor of increased investment in solar and an acknowledgment of solar's current limitations. Well done.
One passage that did catch my eye underscores the great challenge in the United States today in terms of jobs, energy, health care, education and national security.
Laura Clawson is spot on.
We basically have agreed that disasters like this are, as Kim puts it, "the presumed cost of living in a modern, industrialized economy." We should take disasters like this one as a reminder of the recklessness with human life that our political and economic systems tolerate and even encourage.
One step further: The reason for the focus on the Boston Marathon bombing vs. the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion is not just because the Boston Marathon is a world-class event. It is not just because the alleged perpetrators hail from a heavily Muslim area of the world and that this area of the world has previous experience with violent extremism (though this is no doubt is a contributing factor). It is not even because of the innate human need to assign blame and seek justice, as discussed in the Atlantic.
Rather, the primary reason lies in the way traditional media operates and the worldview it chooses to perpetuate. A worldview dominated by deference to the corporation, to the free market and more recently, to a desire to eliminate most or even all regulation of and accountability for private industry.
I think it is important to investigate whether or not the Republican attack on education - school funding, testing standards, collective bargaining - is just an attempt to subvert an education system that made the United States the global social, economic and military beacon on the hill because they themselves failed basic courses at an early age.
Republican attacks on science education are well-documented, particularly in Kansas (often starting in Kansas). Now that conservative Republicans comfortably control both houses of the Kansas legislature as well as the governor's mansion, the glory and brilliance of their agenda is on full display.
Right now, the legislature is busy working bills to allow local school districts the ability to determine whether or not to allow teachers and school staff to carry weapons on campus.
When our generation is the age of the current Republican base, will we be even less likely to cooperate? We're already well-versed in attacking each other online and we are much more entrenched in the capitalist, winner-takes-all, I-must-win-while-you-must-suffer-and-be-embarrassed mentality of the 21st century. Our beliefs are further hardened every day by even more partisan sources of information (combined with the conviction that opposing sources of news are not just wrong but evil). At least today's seniors enjoyed some semblance of balanced reporting and remember a time when compromise and civility in Congress were much more common.
I'm not arguing for a return to those days. As a whole, life and society is orders of magnitude better than the current generation of seniors ever dreamed it could be. But at some point we have to move forward. I don't understand why we must always make it more difficult than it can be.
The best part is that I don't think another 9/11 or market collapse is required to make great, positive, progressive change. We are having a hard enough time passing minimal gun policy reform after a kindergarten massacre. Quite the opposite. Recent evidence indicates that those fighting to maintain the status quo, or worse, a return to a time that can and will never again exist, efficiently and effectively manipulate public opinion to make war with and bail out those least in need and least worthy of public funding and support.
Instead, we need a great moment. We must find it. We must take advantage. We can create it or it can be spontaneous. Maybe both. But we need to prove, definitively, forever and for always, that the ideas, beliefs and values are unquestionably superior to the alternative promoted by people seeking to appeal to a base of voters that is dying faster than they realize.
Or, we must accept that our ideas for the future are not as compelling as sexism, racism and bigotry. I think we're better than that.
Governor Sam Brownback and his conservative brethren are on a mission. In his 2013 State of the State speech in early February, the Governor warned “watch out Texas, here comes Kansas,” in reference to his goal of eliminating the state income tax as a means of making Kansas the most business friendly state in the Union. Previous reporting on the “fight” between Texas and California over the more amenable business environment detailed the many critical non-tax-related attributes that make a state “business friendly.”
But what are the attributes that make Kansas “business friendly” or not? What may be the last best hope to make the state a vibrant place for new businesses to call home?
Why do Republicans and free market advocates scream breathlessly about government picking winners and losers when it comes to new technology they oppose (for reasons that remain unclear) but have no problem with, and in fact, encourage, government investment in mature technology they support?
Do they just support bad government policy and decision-making as a matter of principle? And if so, what is the basis for that principle?
I read two stories that got me thinking about subsidies. One, a New York Times piece about streaming music, discussed new business models for the music industry after Napster destroyed the old industry.
The second, an Associated Press piece about a new report outlining transaction fees collected by financial institutions in the processing of unemployment payments, outlined how Wall Street's new business model of taking a cut out of the meager subsistence afforded the unemployed in today's economy after Wall Street destroyed the old economy.
The legislature of the great state of Kansas, is preparing to consider a bill that would eliminate the renewable energy portfolio standard. The RPS requires investor-owned utilities in the state to procure 20% of energy capacity from renewable sources by 2020. It isn't the most aggressive RPS in the country, but it is significant for a state like Kansas, dominated by conservative leadership at all levels of state government.
A July 2012 Wichita Eagle article noted that Gray County, in southwestern Kansas, will collect $1.2 million in taxes each year from wind turbines. Landowners will collect more than $2 million per year over the life of the wind projects - typically 20 to 25 years. This is not-insignificant revenue for any municipal government and is particularly meaningful for western Kansas communities starved for economic development of any kind.
So why is the legislature considering repeal of the renewable portfolio standard?
Or, why shop at Whole Foods?
When the CEO and founder, John Mackey, goes from calling the Affordable Care Act "socialism" in the Wall Street Journal last year to "fascism" on NPR this week to "apologizing" for using the word "fascism" then conflating the problems with the US health care system with the Affordable Care Act, it is evident that Mr. Mackey is not a person with whom meaningful dialogue can produce productive results. He is an anarchist ideologue, duping many, if not most, of his customers.
I'm not calling for a boycott. I don't think that would be sensible, in a situation like this. The intent of a boycott is to instigate reform or otherwise change the behavior of the target so that interaction can then resume. A boycott of Whole Foods would be ineffective and possibly counter-productive.
A Shawnee County District Court three judge panel ruled Friday that the Kansas legislature continues to violate the Kansas constitution by underfunding public K-12 education. The decision follows a similar 2005 Kansas Supreme Court ruling. The Friday ruling found that current school funding levels are 16% below constitutional requirements.
Many have written about the emphasis on education in the locations with incredible entrepreneurial growth - Silicon Valley, the North Carolina Research Triangle, Austin, TX and elsewhere. For what can best be described as ideological reasons (supported by Arthur Laffer!), Kansas Governor Sam Brownback elected to pursue a strategy at odds with those places while simultaneously claiming to seek to create the same environment.