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Manhattan, KS. Many have struggled during the past 6 years of the Brownback administration to find their voice as the radical conservatives in the Kansas Legislature set about to dismantle the State of Kansas we loved. Finally, in the 2016 election cycle, Kansans began taking back the state from the ALEC minions who had been elected under Brownback's watchful eye. But there is still much work to be done to reverse the unjust tax system and give back the financial support our public schools and universities need to educate our future generations. The Kansas People's Agenda hopes to give voice to those who are opposed to the direction the State of Kansas has taken under Brownback.

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Unfit, Unfair

Last week's online Kansas City Star led with this headline: Unfit by any standards, legislators run amok."

The story began, "The Kansas Legislature has made many jaw-dropping moves these last few months, but a Senate vote this week leaves us especially agog. By a 25-14 vote, senators agreed to eliminate property taxes for many of the state's private gyms and health clubs."

Forget your workout at the local gym. Let's exercise our minds here. The trail to truth is full of crooks and snags, but together we can get there.

This exhibition of favoritism is worthy of outrage on its own merits. But with full knowledge of the Governor's dramatic giveaway of income taxes, the consequent impoverishment of the state, and the ensuing blow of the property tax hammer on all of us, this bill exempting a private enterprise, thus enriching them at our expense, is especially egregious.

As for the Senate, why would, and how could, they? As is evident elsewhere in state politics, $$ are involved--45 thousand of them, to be specific. Even more specifically, the $45,000 donated by Rodney Steven, part owner of Genesis Health Clubs, to Senate Republicans. His $$ influence was also evidenced in his and Genesis' home base, Wichita. He sought tax-free financing from the city for an expansion of his clubs in 2004, only to have the city back out of the deal. Steven filed a lawsuit over the perceived broken promise, but the city won.

That didn't stop his dogged determination to buy politicians, local or state. Steven and Genesis each gave maximum donations to Wichita Republican Sen. Michael O'Donnell, bolstering his campaign with $4,000 as he successfully unseated incumbent Republican Sen. Jean Schodorf (who has since left the Republican party) and beat Democrat Timothy Snow in the general election. Not content to stay local, he also sent maximum donations to Senate President Susan Wagle and Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce.

His thirst for special privilege was evidently not quenched by his liberation from state income taxes. The Governor's special tax program had already eliminated taxes on profits for 191,000 businesses, including several of Steven's Genesis Health Clubs.

Since then, in a supposed attempt to 'level the playing field,' Steven has sought to force the YMCA to pay tax or some payment in lieu of taxes. (Even though the Y, and other non-profits, make genuine efforts to make exercise affordable across a wide range of income levels.)

"Continuing to shrink the tax base in the face of severe spending cuts," said Steven in 2011, "really makes no sense." His efforts two years later make us doubt his sincerity. If actions speak louder than words, his more likely 2013 quote would be, "To hell with the tax base, we need our special privileges."

The property tax break will cost the state treasury an estimated $4 million. And that's not the half of it--well, a bit more than the half of it. The original proposal, rejected by the Senate, was for an additional $3.4 million in sales tax exemptions. It's like used-car dickering: Start with a really high price tag and make an outrageous cost more palatable. Except used-car for-profit rehabilitators are much more honest than Steven's used-body rehabilitation program, at state expense, i.e., at ours.

North Central Area Senators voting for it were Sens. Arpke, Bowers, and Ostmeyer. Senator Emler voted against it. We can't account for the other Senators' votes, but perhaps Senator Arpke's can be explained by his attitude toward corporations expressed in the recent legislative forum, to the effect that he thinks "corporations can do whatever they want with their money." And he seems eager to help them get more of ours to accomplish it.

Despite the Senate vote, it's not too late. SB72 has been referred to the House Taxation Committee. Contact your local representative and tell them such special breaks have no place in state policy.

Perhaps it's time for an Exodus from Genesis?

And as importantly, from the dogma that all private business is hallowed, and by definition provides much more efficient and superior service than publicly-funded entities--like community fitness centers and schools.

As for the Senate, as the Star article put it, "The new conservative majority has lost any standing to lecture Kansans about the need for fiscal responsibility."

Poor? Who?

COLBY, Kan. - Mitt Romney says he's not concerned about the poor? Who would have thought that? What has he ever done to make you think he did care? He said he's also not worried about the wealthy. That's not surprising, either. This modern Republican's programs have always been more favorable to the perpetuation of wealth and its power.

Both major political parties receive a major portion of their campaign finances from the wealthy. But, statistical analysis show the Democrats have a higher percentage of contributions from grassroots supporters. Both parties have some very wealthy members. Both parties have some scoundrels and both parties have some very good leaders. Bottom line - you should vote for the individual. But, if you're not sure about individuals, my opinion is to take a chance on the Democrat. I'm a conservative liberal Democrat. Now you figure out what that means.

Relearning from Teddy Roosevelt

BOGUE, Kan. - In his speech last December at Osawatomie KS High School, President Obama cited Theodore Roosevelt's remarks there a century earlier.

Republican President Theodore Roosevelt served from 1901 to 1909. In 1912, representing the Bull Moose Party, he lost to Woodrow Wilson--the only time a 3rd Party candidate has finished as high as second. Every place I looked, Theodore Roosevelt ranks in the top 10 US Presidents, and in none lower than 6th.

In 2010, 238 participating presidential scholars at Siena College Research Institute concluded: "Teddy Roosevelt had, more than any other president, the 'right stuff,' and tops the collective ranking of a cluster of personal qualities including imagination, integrity, intelligence, luck, background and being willing to take risks." He is one of the four U.S. Presidents honored on Mt. Rushmore.

Roosevelt was an environmentalist. He led in establishing 5 national parks, 18 national monuments, and 150 National Forests. I have little doubt as President today he would work with climate scientists to deal with the reality of global warming. As governor of Kansas, he would demand something beyond pious rhetoric to end mining of the Ogallala. But...

WICHITA, Kan. - The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) is calling on The Boeing Company to meet all commitments to employees here who worked diligently to help secure the $35 billion U.S. Air Force KC-767 tanker program only to learn Wednesday morning the plant is being shuttered and their work is going elsewhere.

So, what'd you get for Christmas?

BOGUE, Kan. - Here's a three-part essay about gifts: wildly exaggerated, sadly expensive, and stupid.

Part Ikeystone-pipeline-map.jpg

You probably won't remember, but a couple of columns back I wrote that estimates of new jobs promised by the Keystone XL pipeline carrying tar sands oil varied wildly. Last week, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) claimed 20,000. So where'd he get that?
CNNMoney took a closer look. The 20,000 estimate comes from TransCanada, the corporation who would build the pipeline. They figured 13,000 construction jobs plus 7,000 manufacturing jobs making pipe, etc. But, whoa.

In 'TransCanada-speak' 20,000 means 10,000 jobs lasting for the two years of construction. Using the same formula, one job lasting 5 years would be 5 jobs.

At Christmas, Let Us Speak of Piles

uncle-sam-with-poor-woman-in-street-300px.jpgBOGUE, Kan. - Today, piles. No, not the physiological kind. Although the comparison will be useful.

What prompted this column was an unsolicited, anonymously authored email forwarded from an Ellis deep thinker. Well, maybe not so much. It goes like this --

A kindly (or smug, your choice) man accosts his neighbors' "little girl." Both parents, "liberal Democrats," stand by. He asks her what her goal in life is. Wants to be President, she says. Okay, the kindly-smug man asks her what she'd do. Give food and shelter to the homeless, she says. Her parents nod approvingly.

Kindly-smug man says, 'Wow. What a worthy goal. You don't have to wait until you're President to do that!" She can mow his lawn and pull weeds for $50 bucks. Then, he says he'll escort her to where the "homeless guy hangs out," so she can give him the $50 for "food and a new house."

Little girl thinks it over. "Well, why doesn't the homeless guy come over and do
the work, and you can just pay him the $50?"

Kindly-smug man says, "Welcome to the Republican Party."

Hoo boy, gotcha!

See, it's just that simple, right? Homeless and hungry people are all alike. Lazy bums won't work. Democrats (aka liberals, progressives, socialists, commies) don't get it. Right?

Picking On Tim

COLBY, Kan. - I just read a recent contribution of Rep. Tim Huelscamp (KS-1) in our local paper. He was right when he said we had a spending problem, but he certainly wasn't very coherent in his math accounting for taxes and individual taxes paid.

When he validated that Warren Buffet appeared to only pay 17% taxes on his actual income, he was probably close. But when he claimed that the bottom 50% of earners paid an average of less than 2% of their annual income in taxes, he was a bit lacking in honest assessment of reality.

Share Robert Reich's comments


Demagogues through history have known that big lies, repeated often enough, start being believed -- unless they're rebutted. These seven economic whoppers are just plain wrong. Make sure you know the truth - and spread it on. (The Seven Biggest Economic Lies, Robert Reich)

BOGUE, Kan. - The Occupy protesters are sometimes faulted for being "unfocused" -- meaning, I suppose that there are a variety of concerns -- thus far not sufficiently sewn together.

But I'd say the economic disparity between the rich and the rest of us -- now greater than at any time since the Great Depression and which has been widening since the "government is the problem" heyday of Grandpa Ronnie -- is the common denominator. If you agree with what Reich is saying, I hope you'll spread the word. Without a doubt, the banksters and corporate fat cats are nervous now, and will do all they can to discredit, disrupt, and dismantle any informed citizen activism threatening their power and greed. Part of that effort is to lie often and eagerly.

Reich will dismantle their propaganda ....

Occupy Wichita October 2

WICHITA, Kan. - The Occupy Wall Street movement sparked by demonstrations on Wall Street has spread across the country, even to Kansas.

Here is a video from Wichita's first occupy moment on Sunday, October 2.

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