By: Dave Trabert
Word Count: 490
April 5, 2013
Kansans so devoutly believed in the principles of personal freedom that lives were lost in bloody battles to prevent slavery and enter the Union as Free State. A recent editorial in the Hutchinson News accurately said that Kansans “…held firm to the belief of free men and free soil.”
It’s that deep-rooted belief in freedom that has prompted many Kansans to demand changes in state government. It’s not, “…the influences of outside political machines” creating “…an ambitious political experiment” but a return to our freedom-based roots.
Blaming the 2010 and 2012 elections for widespread poverty, low-wage jobs, high property taxes, poorly educated children, outmigration and rural depopulation, lobbyist-funded legislators and a maniacal hatred of government might make for a gripping made-for-TV movie but it would be fiction.
Outmigration, high property taxes and economic malaise didn’t begin with recent elections; they pre-dated 2010 and help explain the results. Kansas has lost population due to domestic migration every year since 1998, and property taxes increased 94% between 1997 and 2010.
Kansas lost 1.3% of its private sector jobs between 1998 and 2010; the country as a whole gained 1.2% and the ten states with the lowest state-and-local tax burden added 7.2% jobs. Kansas’ wage & salary disbursements and private sector GDP growth also trailed Plains states, the national average and low-tax-burden states.
It’s interesting to see media opportunistically talk about poorly-educated children when they most often defend district claims of high national rankings. The truth is that proficiency levels on the National Assessment of Educational Progress have barely changed since 1998. Less than half of Kansas’ 4th and 8th Grade students are Proficient in Math and only about a third are Proficient in Reading – a stagnation that pre-dates 2010.
Many Kansas children receive a very good public education but thousands are still left behind. Efforts to help those kids in the current legislative session have been vigorously opposed by lobbyists at the Kansas National Education Association and the legislators they support. Lobbyist-funded legislators might exist, but that surely is not a new phenomenon.
If anything, recent election results may have been prompted by media and others who consistently and unquestioningly defended the status quo. The current edition of “Freedom in the Fifty States” published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University shows that Kansas had a precipitous drop in the last decade, falling from the 7th freest state in 2001 to #26 in 2011 (using 2010 data that pre-dated the election).
Kansas Policy Institute and a growing number of Kansans yearn for the same things that brought homesteaders to settle on the Plains and build our state – individual freedom and the opportunity to capture the entrepreneurial spirit. We have a deep belief in the limited government envisioned by Thomas Jefferson, who said “The policy of the American government is to leave their citizens free, neither restraining nor aiding them in their pursuits.”
Like our forefathers, we’ll continue to fight for freedom.
Read a version of this commentary in the Hutchnews.com here.
Read a version of this commentary in the Wichita Eagle here.
Read a version of this commentary in the Kansas City Star here.