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Goyle Alone Recognizes Wichita's Historic Military Role

By Marty Keenan
Opinion | September 27, 2010

GREAT BEND, Kan. - In his twelve short years of living in Kansas, Mike Pompeo misses the obvious in so many ways.

One of the primary jobs of the 4th Congressional District Congressman is to make sure Wichita continues it's historic role as the arsenal for our fighting men and women around the globe.

Uncle Sam and Wichita have a long and successful partnership in building the best airplanes for our fighting men and women. But Pompeo doesn't think that, as a Congressman, he should do anything to nurture this relationship between Kansas and the United States of America's military. He's against "Big Government," and wants to slash spending. But what if "Big Government" is your friend?

Whether the 4th District Congressman is Garner Shriver, or Dan Glickman or Todd Tiahrt, it is the duty of the Wichita Congressman to "bring jobs back to Kansas" in the form of defense contracts to build airplanes.

But Pompeo says it's "not his job" to bring home jobs from Washington. Instead, he wants to help entrepreneurs come up with new businesses. Pompeo ignores the other half of the jobs coin: public sector jobs.


Mike Pompeo
Raj Goyle understands that our men and women in uniform need the best aircraft available, and Raj Goyle wants those airplanes to be built right here in Wichita. National security is number one, and Kansas has had a long and rewarding partnership with Uncle Sam. Raj Goyle will nurture this relationship, not ignore it. Jobs aren't strictly about the private sector. Wichita proves it.

One Boeing airplane is special to me, and to Kansas. The B-29. My hometown of Great Bend was home to a B-29 base, where our G.I.'s learned to fly these Wichita-made "Superfortresses." To those who say building military airplanes is "pork," ask anyone who lived through World War II if they thought the B-29 was "pork." We won the War in the Pacific in part due to Wichita's efforts.

The massive "Big Government" contract to produce the B-29 transformed Wichita. Boeing-Wichita produced over 1600 of these crafts during WWII, about 44 percent of the total B-29 production. Boeing had only 766 workers in Wichita in 1940, but close to 30,000 by the end of the war! Uncle Sam invested a ton of money in the right place at the right time. Wichita, Kansas.

And it wasn't just Boeing that grew due to WWII. Beech built the AT-10 and AT-11 bomber trainers, and Cessna built a version of it's T-50 Bobcat Twin in large numbers. Wichita produced 26,300 military aircraft during World War II. It was a massive change in the economy of Kansas. And it all happened because of something Pompeo despises: "Big Government."


Raj Goyle
By 1953, long after WWII, Wichita was building the B-52 jet bomber, and continued to help play a patriotic and crucial role in keeping us safe. Wichita's role as an arsenal of Democracy continued throughout the Cold War, the Korean War, Vietnam, and through both Gulf Wars, to the present day fight against Al Queda. Boeing even built the new Air Force One in Wichita --- the most unique aircraft in the world. Now that's the kind of government work we need in Kansas.

Because of WWII and the positive arrangement between Uncle Sam and Wichita, Wichita became the largest city in Kansas. Indeed, the process of building so many military planes so quickly, "The Battle of Kansas," was a staggering accomplishment. And it was great for business in Kansas.

Large government investment changed Kansas. The number of workers on industrial payrolls in Kansas rose from 137,811 in the first quarter of 1940 to a peak of 284,262 in the third quarter of 1943. In 1939, only 3% of Wichitans made a living from aviation. By 1943, it was 50%. Money from Uncle Sam!

Raj Goyle and Mike Pompeo are both boosters of private sector entrepreneurship.
But without freedom, there is no entrepreneurship. If we had lost WWII, does anyone seriously think the Carneys would have launched Pizza Hut? We would have become a province of Germany or Japan.

Last time I checked Maslow's hierarchy of human needs, safety is right up there. So we have to stay safe and free before we can have the freedom to create new businesses. The private sector is primary, but public enterprise --- in this case, winning wars --- is life or death. Everybody badmouths the government, but sometimes you need government really bad. And war is one such instance.

Mike Pompeo seems to turn up his nose at public sector workers: the teacher, the mailman, the policeman on the beat, the fireman and first responders. Pompeo's ads imply that public sector workers don't work in "the real world." But I suspect that the teacher, the policeman, the mailman, and the firefighter, probably know the "real world" much better than Pompeo.

The U.S. Budget is 24% defense spending. Raj Goyle will fight to direct as much of that 24% to Wichita as possible. With aircraft companies in deep trouble, we can't afford a congressman who doesn't understand the need to literally create defense jobs in Wichita from Washington, D.C.

About ten years ago, the pilot who dropped the bomb on Hiroshima visited Great Bend to commemorate the U.S. Army Air Field B-29 base here. My sons and I waited in line, and I introduced them to the man who ended the World War II --- in a B-29 bomber.

"General Tibbits, my youngest son wants to know how much the atomic bomb weighed?"
He laughed, pointed at my 7 year old son, and said, "It weighed a lot more than him." My sons were seeing history. And now Tibbets is gone.

Since World War II every single Wichita Congressman's primary task was to make sure Wichita got it's fair share of jobs in federal defense contracts. Obviously, Todd Tiahrt felt this was a big part of his job, as he fought furiously to save the Boeing Tanker deal for Wichitans.

Pompeo loves the idea of Kansans coming up with their own ideas for businesses and nurturing those ideas. Pizza Hut, Rent-a-Center, Spangles, and so many great business ideas were hatched in Wichita. Raj Goyle is equally excited about entrepreneurship.

That's important. But that's only half the equation. Because of Wichita's unique role since World War II, the next Congressman needs to do what Garner Shriver, and Dan Glickman and Todd Tiahrt have done. The next Congressman needs to be constantly looking to bring defense jobs to Kansas. And Pompeo seems to have no interest in that, instead waxing on and on about entrepreneurship. He has no interest in perhaps the most important role of the Wichita Congressman: maintaining Wichita's place as an arsenal of Democracy.

So whether you listen to the "short version" of Pompeo's "not my job" riff on the Goyle ad, or the long version on the Pompeo ad, it reveals a badly flawed philosophy for the 4th Congressional District:

Mr. Pompeo: "My role, as I see it in Congress, is not to bring jobs back to Kansas. That, fundamentally, is not my job. My job is to create an environment in wich ya'll can go create the next great company and create jobs."

Pompeo is a stark departure from Garner Shriver, Dan Glickman, and Todd Tiahrt. Pompeo loves his country, but hates his country's government.

Pompeo's seeming disrespect for public sector workers, his myopic focus on entrepreneurship, and his distaste for public enterprise makes him all wrong for the 4th Congressional District.

Sources: "Kansas: The History of the Sunflower State, 1854-2000," by Craig Miner, (2002), The University of Kansas Press.


3 Comments

I can agree with you to a point but don't forget, government spending on military planes can be very fickle and Wichita should not center it's economic base around government orders for new planes. For instance, those big numbers like 1600 B-29 bombers in WW2, wont be there anymore. At most they will order less than 100 of the new B2 Stealth bombers. Plus with the way government contracts are awarded, congress makes sure all states, not just Kansas, gets a piece of the pie. So they will make sure the work gets spread around.

Really what Wichita and Boeing needs to do is diversify in building other products besides aircraft and frankly if they have become too dependent on Washington they are less inclined to do so. So in a way, if Pompeo's actions force Wichita's aviation industry away from being just about military aircraft, that might not be such a bad thing.


I understand your point, but, "pork" is delivering contracts that shouldn't necessarily be there. Defense contracts shouldn't be political at all and congressmen shouldn't be fighting for them If Boeing or Lockheed Martin or Northup Grumman makes the best airplane should be the deciding factor. Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi reported a few years ago about an arms deal with Colombia. In that deal we sold them a few UH-1 Iroquois, commonly known as the "Huey," but we sold them more UH-60 Blackhawks, a much more expensive helicopter that would do the same job. The reason was aggressive lobbying by Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, where the helicopters were built. Bringing jobs to your district may not be the right action even if it is good politics.


But really what Kansas is doing is taking jobs from some other state and moving them here. No new net jobs are produced for the whole country. What really needs to happen is Kansas needs to create new industries and with them, new jobs. For example here in Johson County there has been a push for pharmaceuticals and animal medical research in the hopes new firms related to those would be created.

As for defense spending, we should not be building bombers, submarines or whatever just to keep jobs when in many cases, the military does not need those. And when I vote for someone it should be based on how good they will do for the whole country, not just if they promise to bring in federal contracts.

Wichita's economy nees to diversity so it is not dependent upon the aircraft industry period. This is something many coastal towns had to learn when the Navy stopped needing so many ships or Detroit is sadly learning about being dependent upon the auto industry. Here in Kansas City one reason our unemployment situation is not so bad is our economy is so diversified with combinations of service, tech, shipping, manufacturing, and other jobs (government, education, tourism, etc...).


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