Voice For Liberty
Individual liberty, limited government, economic freedom, and free markets in Wichita and Kansas.
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The kind of rules we should have are the kind that we'd make if our worst enemy were in charge.
-- Walter E. Williams

Taking offense has become America’s national pastime; being theatrically offended supposedly signifies the exquisitely refined moral delicacy of people who feel entitled to pass through life without encountering ideas or practices that annoy them.
-- George F. Will

The President hears a hundred voices telling him that he is the greatest man in the world. He must listen carefully indeed to hear the one voice that tells him he is not.
-- Harry S Truman

Tariff policy beneficiaries are always visible, but its victims are mostly invisible. Politicians love this. The reason is simple: The beneficiaries know for whom to cast their ballots, and the victims don't know whom to blame for their calamity.
-- Walter E. Williams

No matter how cynical you get, it is just impossible to keep up.
-- Lily Tomlin
Kansas jobs, December 2020
In Kansas for December 2020, the labor force shrank while the number of people working rose, resulting in a drop in the unemployment rate. While the unemployment rate fell, the primary cause was the large drop in the labor force.
Kansas agency expenditures
Data regarding State of Kansas agency spending presented in an interactive visualization. 
Kansas agency revenue
Data regarding State of Kansas agency revenue presented in an interactive visualization, with data through fiscal year 2020.
Effects of pandemic on employment in states
The effects of the response to the pandemic vary widely among the states. This is an interactive visualization.
Kansas unemployment claims are high and rising
A visualization of unemployment insurance claims by state, adjusted for population, shows Kansas as an outlier among states. Because states vary widely in their population, I've cast the data as claims per thousand residents of each state.
Visualization: Kansas 2020 presidential election
An interactive visualization of the 2020 general election for president in Kansas, at the precinct level.
Wichita economic dashboard
Charts of economic indicators for Wichita, compared to Kansas and the United States.
Kansas economic dashboard
Charts of economic indicators for Kansas, compared to the nation and surrounding states.
Trump-supporting QAnon seen as public security threat
QAnon, a conspiracy theory group mentioned favorably by President Donald J. Trump and embraced by other Republican leaders, represents a public security threat, according to the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

Originally published August 23, 2020. In light of recent events, it seems the authors were prescient.
Wichita property tax rate: Up
The City of Wichita property tax mill levy rose slightly for 2020.
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Zip code populations
An interactive visualization of population by zip codes shows the parts of Wichita that are growing.
Zip code business patterns
Employment, establishment count, and annual payroll presented in an interactive visualization.
Wichita jobs and employment, November 2020
For the Wichita metropolitan area in November 2020, the number of unemployed persons is up, the unemployment rate is up, and the number of people working is down, all by large amounts, when compared to the same month one year ago. The recent trend, however, is mixed.
Kansas tax revenue, December 2020
For December 2020, total Kansas tax revenue was 1.8 percent greater than last December 2019. Over the six months of the current fiscal year, tax revenue is 16.6 percent higher than at the same point of the previous fiscal year.
National employment, December 2020
Jobs fell in December 2020, marking the first loss since the recovery from the pandemic began.
Downtown Wichita jobs rise
The reported number of jobs in Downtown Wichita rose in 2018, but there is an issue with the data.
Updated: Kansas hotel guest tax collections
Kansas hotel guest tax collections presented in an interactive visualization. Updated with data through November 2020.
Quarterly state government tax collections
State government tax revenue has generally recovered since the second quarter. Kansas state government taxes are relatively high when expressed on a per resident basis. This is an interactive visualization
Kansas GDP
In the third quarter of 2020, the Kansas economy grew at the annual rate of 34.3 percent, compared to contraction of 30.6 percent in the previous quarter. GDP grew in all states, with Kansas performing in the middle.
State population estimates for 2020
Compared to the nation and surrounding states, Kansas is growing slowly. This is an interactive visualization.
Real personal income in Wichita and other metropolitan areas
When adjusted for regional differences, per capita personal income in Wichita is relatively high. In recent years growth in per capita and total personal income has been slow, but better in 2019.
Downtown Wichita population is up
New Census Bureau data shows the population growing in downtown Wichita. But the Bureau says the population is far below that reported by the downtown Wichita development agency Downtown Wichita.
Small area income and poverty estimates
An interactive visualization of household income and poverty data for states and counties, now with data through 2019. The poverty rate for Sedgwick County and the nation trend closely, and both are higher than the statewide rate for Kansas.
Real gross domestic product by county
Real GDP values by county, presented in an interactive visualization.
Monthly state retail sales
Monthly retail sales by state and major retail sector, in an interactive visualization.
Pandemic’s influence on economy’s path
No matter who is president, a large challenge lies ahead, says the Federal Reserve.
Downtown Wichita attraction attendance
Attendance at downtown Wichita attractions presented in an interactive visualization.
Attendance at Sedgwick County attractions
Trends in attendance at Intrust Bank Arena, the Sedgwick County Zoo, and Sedgwick County Park.
Local government employment in Kansas
Kansas has nearly the highest number of local government employees per resident, compared to other states.
Intrust Bank Arena loss for 2019 nears $5 million
A truthful accounting of the finances of Intrust Bank Arena in downtown Wichita shows a large loss.
Trump and Russia sanctions
President Donald J. Trump presents himself as tough on Russia, but he opposed and complained about almost all sanctions.
Fake news: How it happened
When politicians condemn fake or phony news, it may be of their own making.
Metropolitan area employment, August 2020
Data released today shows the effects of the response to the pandemic in the metropolitan areas for August 2020. This is an interactive visualization.
Kansas government employment and payroll by function
Looking at the number of state government employees in proportion to population, Kansas has many compared to other states.
In Kansas, explanations for tax collections may vary
Kansas officials have explanations for low tax collections, but don't mention the same contributing factor when touting high collections.
Presidential approval
Explore and compare the approval ratings of presidents in this interactive visualization.
The Trump record on job creation
The United States economy has created many jobs since Donald J. Trump became president. How does the record compare with the previous administration and others?
During the Trump administration, the economy grew
The United States economy has grown since Donald J. Trump became president, until the pandemic. How does the growth compare with the previous administration?
Kansas school spending, through 2020
Charts of Kansas school spending presented in different forms.
Partisan Conflict Index
Have you suspected that the country has become more partisan? An index supports that.
Could drug price regulation produce good and not harm?
A sampling of criticism of drug price controls.
Rethinking the city and the community for a post-pandemic world
How has the pandemic affected cities in general and Wichita specifically, and what are implications for the future? This is a video lecture by sociologist Chase M. Billingham.
Kansas general fund spending and receipts
The Kansas budget is volatile, with rising spending and a large deficit.
Wichita officials may have won a battle, but the Century II war isn’t over
On Century II, Wichita City Hall won the first round, but the public issue remains, writes John Todd.
Kansas spending
Kansas governmental spending from several perspectives.
Wichita economic development examined
"What may look like economic growth on the surface ends up being, upon closer scrutiny, an expensive exercise in the rearrangement of existing business activity."
Updated: Presidential data explorer
Explore the economic record of presidents through the lens of data, with new updates for August.
STAR Bonds redirect jobs, not create them
As Kansas desperately searches for ways to pull itself out of the COVID-19 depression, policymakers will undoubtedly consider economic development tools as an answer. Kansas Sales Tax Anticipation Revenue Bonds, or STAR Bonds, are some of the most notable tools at the disposal of state and local governments. However, the latest research suggests that policymakers shouldn’t rely on STAR Bonds to grow jobs.

This story presents a report from Kansas Policy Institute.
Border wall procedures criticized
A government watchdog says the procedures for acquiring the southern border wall are inadequate, and the ability to maintain complete operational control is diminished.
Updated: Century II resource center
The Century II resource center has been updated with documents and news stories, including coverage of the recent court decision.
Updated: Economic indicators in the states
Economic indicators in the states, an interactive visualization. In the coincident index, the effects of the response to the pandemic are evident. Before the pandemic, the coincident index for Kansas was growing at about the same rate as the nation.
Economic development incentive to be canceled
The City of Wichita will consider canceling an economic development incentive for a firm that no longer meets policy requirements.
Wichita property tax on commercial property: High
An ongoing study reports that property taxes on commercial and industrial property in Wichita are high. In particular, taxes on commercial property in Wichita are among the highest in the nation.
Airport traffic statistics, 2019
Airport traffic data presented in an interactive visualization, updated through 2019.
Updated: Measuring household experiences during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
An updated interactive visualization of household data on the effects of the pandemic.
Presidential data explorer
To examine the record of presidents regarding economics, I gathered data from several sources and present it in an interactive visualization. Data includes:

  • Jobs
  • Labor force
  • Unemployment
  • Dow Jones stock market index
  • Gross Domestic Product
  • Inflation

For each president, data is presented by month, with the first month of each president’s term having number one.
Household income in the states
A visualization of household income by state, adjusted for inflation.
Wichita aerospace manufacturing concentration
Wichita leaders want to diversify the area economy. Has there been progress?
Unemployment in the world after the pandemic
The unemployment rate in the United States rose sharply as the response to the pandemic affected its economy. How have other countries fared?
COVID Survey: Small businesses fighting for survival in Kansas
A survey of Kansas businesses, conducted by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Kansas Policy Institute, and the Gwartney Institute of Ottawa University found several inconsistencies between what small business need and what state and local officials have done or will do.
Federal revenue and outlays
An interactive visualization of federal government revenue and spending from 1962 to the present.
Measuring household experiences during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
An interactive visualization of household data on the effects of the pandemic.
Relations with North Korea
The Congressional Research Service has produced a summary and timeline of recent events pertaining to the United States and North Korea relationship.
Stephen Ware: Debate on masks, freedom
This op-ed by Kansas University Law Professor and noted libertarian Stephen Ware shows how libertarians can tolerate, if not embrace, a government mandate to wear masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Tariffs, after all, are paid by Americans
Action taken in April by President Donald J. Trump confirms: The tariffs he imposed on China are paid by Americans.
Employment in the states
An interactive visualization of monthly employment in the states by major industry category.

One chart, titled “Single State Comparison,” lets you select one state. It then plots that state as one line, and all other states as another line. The nearby example shows this chart with Kansas as the selected state, with data starting in 2010 and ending this February, the last month before the response to the pandemic significantly affected jobs in the United States.
Wichita city population rises in 2019
Wichita city population rose in 2019, but is still below its recent peak. Includes an interactive visualization.
Quarterly Real GDP in Kansas
Examining changes in GDP and industry contribution in Kansas. An interactive visualization.
Wichita metro population for 2019
For 2019, the estimated population for the Wichita metropolitan area is up -- and also down.
Real personal income in states and metros
When adjusted for regional differences, personal income in Wichita and Kansas is higher than otherwise, but growth is slow.
Wichita presents industrial revenue bonds
A presentation by the City of Wichita regarding IRBs is good as far as it goes, which is not far enough.
State government tax collections for 2019
Kansas state government tax collections rose to $3,443 per person in 2019, an increase of 5.0 percent from 2018.
Wichita needs transparency from its agencies
When the Wichita city council delegates spending to outside agencies such as Visit Wichita, it should insist on the same transparency requirements the city itself faces.
Regulation reform could jump-start Kansas economy after COVID
The COVID-19 outbreak has not only posed a severe public health risk, but actions to combat it now risk a global economic collapse, writes Michael Austin.
Should Wichita have a deputy to the mayor?
A proposal to hire a deputy or chief of staff to the Wichita mayor is a good idea which will increase transparency and accountability of elected officials.
Wichita water plant financing on agenda
The Wichita city council will consider borrowing $280 million from the federal government, and also consider issuing bonds of up to $331 million to repay the loan.

Of note, while the summary documents provided by the city cite a loan amount of $280,860,714, it is important to realize that this is “capitalized interest excluded.” In an ordinance the council will consider Tuesday, there is this language: “… the City proposes to issue and deliver to the WIFIA Credit Provider a revenue bond in the principal amount not to exceed $331,000,000 (the ‘WIFIA Bond’).” The difference between the two amounts, about $50 million, is capitalized interest.
Small area income and poverty estimates
An interactive visualization of household income and poverty data for states and counties.
Kansas personal income
For 2019, the rate of personal income growth in Kansas was near the middle of the states.
At Naftzger Park: ‘Sunflower Exclusive’
"Sunflower Exclusive," a poem by Chinyere G. Okafor, is featured at Naftzger Park in downtown Wichita.
Intrust Bank Arena economic impact holds mistake
A report on the economic impact of the first ten years of operation of the Intrust Bank Arena in downtown Wichita incorrectly reported tax revenue.
Naftzger Park
If you want to keep up with news regarding Naftzger Park, join this Facebook group:

Kansas school employment
Kansas school employment rose for the current school year. An interactive visualization.
The Reality of Economic Development Incentives
Patrick Tuohey spoke to the Wichita Pachyderm Club February 21, 2020, on “The Reality of Economic Development Incentives: Lessons from Kansas City and Elsewhere.”
Performance levels in Wichita schools
There is some good news in the performance level reports for Wichita public schools.
Kansas school salaries
This is an interactive visualization of Kansas school salaries for superintendents, principals, and teachers, for each school district.
Missing from Wichita city documents: Sales tax
It would be simple for the City of Wichita to include additional relevant information regarding economic development incentive decisions.
KPI releases A-F Grading for Kansas schools
Kansas Policy Institute releases A-F Grading of Kansas schools for school year 2018-2019. A-F Grading places a letter grade on the existing Kansas State Department of Education definitions stemming from state assessment exams.

The A-F Grading for Kansas Schools uses state assessment data generated by the Kansas Assessment Program (KAP) under the operation of the KSDE and assigns an overall school letter grade much like a student report card.
Private investment declines
While government spending rises, private domestic investment declines.
Wichita to Ghana, again
News of a Sedgwick County Commissioner's trip to Africa has raised some controversy, and something like this has been tried before.
Wichita should post fulfilled records requests
When the City of Wichita fulfills records requests, it should make those records available to everyone.
Naftzger Park event management agreement ambiguous
The profit-sharing agreement for Naftzger Park event management contains ambiguity that could lead to disputes.
Wichita public schools, by the charts
Data from the annual report for the 2018-2019 school year for USD 259, the Wichita, Kansas public school district.
Century II resource center
Updated and refreshed: A resource of information about the Century II Performing arts and Convention Center in Wichita.
Wichita legal notices an easy start on the path to transparency
Kansas law requires publication of certain notices in newspapers, but cities like Wichita could also make them available in other ways that are easier to use.
City code on ethical conduct in Wichita
Wichita has a city code governing ethical conduct by council members, but it seems to have no teeth.
Financial state of the cities
Wichitans carry a "Taxpayer Burden" of $1,200 per taxpayer, which is not as bad as many cities.
Electoral College math
In the Electoral College, residents of different states have widely varying influence.
Wichita to consider tax forgiveness outside policy parameters
The Wichita city council will consider a tax giveaway for an economic development project that does not meet its stated policy.
Can Wichita learn from a setback?
What can Wichita learn from the news of layoffs at Spirit and Textron?
Wichita economy grows, and a revision
The Wichita economy grew in 2018, and revised statistics show growth in 2017.
GDP by metropolitan area and component
An interactive visualization of gross domestic product by metropolitan area and industry.
Net neutrality, regulation, and the internet
Dr. Theodore Bolema spoke at the Wichita Pachyderm Club on the topics of net neutrality and regulation of the internet. Vide
Wichita consent agenda reform proposed
The Wichita city council will consider reforms to the consent agenda. In the past, the city has placed major items on the consent agenda, such as authorizing a $2 million contract with the city’s convention and visitors’ bureau.
Sedgwick County talent attraction
In an index ranking counties in talent attraction, Sedgwick County has not performed well.
City comeback bingo
Wichita has amenities that are promoted as creating an uncommonly superior quality of life here, but many are commonplace across the country.
Kansas sees large drop in test scores
Using demographically-adjusted scores, Kansas falls in state rankings of National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Looking at change across all four tests, Kansas had the largest drop in state rankings except for New Hampshire.
State and local government employees and payroll
Looking at the number of government employees in proportion to population, Kansas has many compared to other states, and especially so in education.
Wichita, not that different
We have a lot of neat stuff in Wichita. Other cities do, too.
United States manufacturing jobs
During the first two years of the Trump administration, United States manufacturing jobs grew at a monthly rate of 15,833 in 2017 and 22,000 in 2018. For 2019, through September, the monthly rate is 4,556.
In NAEP mapping study, Kansas shines
In a new edition of a study that assesses the stringency of state school assessments, Kansas performs well. Click for more.
Wichita metro employment by industry
An interactive visualization of Wichita-area employment by industry. Click for more.
Wichita checkbook updated
Wichita spending data presented as a summary, and as a list.

Of note, the city does not make this data available on its website. Click for more.
In Wichita, here’s what tax decrement means
Wichita has a financing mechanism known as the Gilbert-Mosley tax decrement fund. I knew about tax increment financing, but I never really understood how tax decrement financing worked. I had thought that in this context, “decrement” had a sophisticated meaning that I wasn’t able to understand because I wasn’t smart enough, or I hadn’t tried hard enough, or I didn’t have the correct documents to read.

Now, Chase M. Billingham and Sean Sandefur have published detailed research that explains how the Gilbert-Mosley financing works. Click for more.
Wichita transit, by the numbers
Transit in Wichita isn’t working very well, and it is expensive. Click for more.
Wichita transit center application
Although plans have changed, an application by the City of Wichita holds interesting observations and claims. Click for more.
Wichita and other airports
How does the Wichita airport compare to others? Click for more
.
New metropolitan rankings regarding knowledge-based industries and entrepreneurship
New research provides insight into the Wichita metropolitan area economy and dynamism.

There have been some rankings showing Wichita doing well in jobs at young firms. That’s good, as young firms — which are different from small business — are vitally important to economic growth.

This study, however, shows Wichita lagging in young firm employment ratio. In these rankings, Wichita came in at position 247 of 379 metro areas. That is better than the overall ranking for Wichita, which is at number 319. Click for more.
Populations of the states
An interactive table and charts of populations in the states and regions, from 1929 through 2018. Click for more.
Wichita ballpark STAR bonds, 2018 issue
A bond disclosure document anticipated a development agreement for land surrounding the new Wichita ballpark. Click for more.
Wichita and national jobs
Overall, since 2011 — roughly the end of the Great Recession — Wichita has been gaining jobs, evidence being its trend line above zero in the nearby chart which shows the change in jobs over the same month one year ago. But the line has not always been above zero, indicating months where the Wichita metropolitan area had fewer jobs than the year before. Click for more.
In Wichita, respecting the people’s right to know
The City of Wichita says it values open and transparent government. But the city’s record in providing information and records to citizens is poor, and there hasn’t been much improvement. Click for more.
Sedgwick County tax exemptions
Unlike the City of Wichita, Sedgwick County has kept track of its tax exemptions. Click for more.
The use of sales tax proceeds in Wichita
Must the City of Wichita spend its share of Sedgwick County sales tax proceeds in a specific way? Click for more.
Sedgwick County income and poverty
Census data show Sedgwick County continuing to fall behind the nation in two key measures. Click for more.
Ranked-choice voting in Kansas
A look at ranked-choice voting and how it might have worked in the Kansas Republican gubernatorial primary election in August 2018. Click for more.
Kansas highway pavement conditions
Each year the Kansas Department of Transportation surveys the condition of highway pavement and issues a report called the Network Optimization System (NOS) Survey.

Of the condition of highways, the report notes: “Since the data was first collected in 1983, the percentage of pavement surface in good condition has appreciably increased while the percentage of poor pavement has significantly decreased.”. Click for more.
Kansas state and local taxes
Among nearby states, Kansas collects a lot of taxes, on a per-resident basis.

From the first quarter of 2011 to the first quarter of 2018, Kansas and its local governmental units collected an average of $681 per quarter per resident in taxes. Of nearby states and a few others, Arkansas and Iowa had higher values, and Iowa is higher by only one percent. Click for more.