April 11, 2014

Mark Your Calendars For Our April 25 Tax Credit Scholarship Event


When I speak about tax credit scholarships, I get a lot of questions: What is a tax credit scholarship? How would that work? What are the chances of that passing in Missouri?

If you want to find out the answer to these and other questions, join us on April 25 at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo. We are partnering with the Hammond Institute for Free Enterprise at Lindenwood University to present a dynamite event, “Expanded Opportunities: A Discussion About Tax Credit Scholarships.”

Jason Bedrick, of the Cato Institute, and Jonathan Butcher, of the Goldwater Institute, will present information about how these programs are working in other states. You can download their recent case studies for the Show-Me Institute about the New Hampshire and Arizona programs directly from our website.

Attendees also will be able to take part in a panel discussion with Missouri Sen. John Lamping (R-Dist. 24), Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal (D-Dist. 14), Missouri Speaker of the House Tim Jones (R-Dist. 110), and Rep. Michael Butler (D-Dist. 79).

RSVP online, mark your calendars, tell your friends, and join us on April 25.

March 19, 2014

A Victory For Government Accountability In Kansas City

When the Missouri Legislature considered creating a land bank for Kansas City, the Show-Me Institute was opposed. We argued in testimony before the legislature that the existing Jackson County Land Trust was as effective as any similar agency across the country. We testified that:

There does not appear to be any evidence that the Jackson County Land Trust is doing a poor job of getting vacant property back into private, productive use.

Considering the Saint Louis example, any effort in Kansas City was likely to fall prey to Kansas City politicians who might direct the city to hold onto property on behalf of favored constituents or special interests. We are glad to report that the Kansas City Land Bank has addressed these concerns. On March 3, the Board of Commissioners adopted the following resolution:

The Land Bank supplements the Code of Ethics with the additional requirement, that any Commissioner that receives a contact from an elected official or staff lobbying for or against particular application for a property held by the Land Bank shall disclose such contact to the Land Bank staff within a reasonable time thereafter, and shall disclose that contact to the other Commissioners prior to voting upon the particular application for which such contact was made.

The board also will start listing the reasons for any application rejection in the minutes so that applicants and others can understand the commissioners’ decision-making process. This is a great win for transparency in government, and we congratulate the land bank board for taking this important step.

February 21, 2014

Next Wednesday: A Public Discussion About Kansas City International Airport

As the Kansas City Business Journal reported, Kansas City’s City Council recently passed an ordinance that requires a public vote on any proposal that would demolish or replace the current terminal structure at Kansas City International Airport. The ordinance also bars the use of public dollars to campaign for or against any future proposal. That means that the Kansas City Aviation Department’s proposed new $1.2 billion single terminal plan cannot go forward without the approval of voters in Kansas City.

We at the Show-Me Institute have written about the new terminal plan many times. We have expressed skepticism at the lack of alternatives to the expensive new terminal plan. Our research has pointed out the danger of the airport assuming so much debt. We also have cast doubts on the Aviation Department’s alternative repair cost estimates.

Now that the law states that the public must approve any new terminal plan, it is more important than ever for residents to be informed regarding the costs and benefits of the new terminal plan.

With that goal in mind, the Show-Me Institute hosts a meeting about the future of Kansas City International Airport from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Wed., Feb. 26 at the Kansas City Public Library (Central location: 14 W. 10th Street in Kansas City). Show-Me Institute Western Missouri Field Manager Patrick Tuohey and I will present our research about the proposed new terminal plan and answer the public’s questions. This is a free event so sign up today to attend and receive valuable information about the airport plan that does not come straight from the Aviation Department.

February 17, 2014

Show-Me Institute Presents: Missouri Transition Costs And Public Pension Reform

The Show-Me Institute has talked about the need to reform public employee pension plans so they are financially secure and more attractive to potential hires. However, some public pension reform opponents believe that closing these plans would be risky and result in added transition costs.

In our new policy study, “Missouri Transition Costs and Public Pension Reform,” Andrew Biggs, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, addresses these concerns. Biggs argues that “claims of transition costs are at some times, overstated and, at other times, entirely mistaken.” After reading the study, you will find that fears about supposed transition costs are no reason to stop efforts to move public employees into an improved pension system. Please give it a look.

January 22, 2014

Video: What To Expect During The 2014 Missouri Legislative Session

Last week in Columbia, Columbia Tribune Columnist Bob Roper and I delivered a presentation at the Show-Me Institute’s Show-Me Forum. We talked about what we expect will be the big legislative issues of the new year. We discussed taxes, labor issues, health care, and whole lot more. If you’re interested, you can watch the event in the video below.

December 16, 2013

Springfield News-Leader Does A Nice Job Editing…NOT!


“Not” is such an important word. Consider the following sentence without the word “not”:

“Officer, I have [not] been drinking.”

We can all see the importance of “not.” That is why it is particularly unnerving that the Springfield News-Leader removed “not” in a key sentence in a recent op-ed that I penned.

Here is the passage:

Jonathan Shorman’s piece in the News-Leader reported that the Show-Me Institute requested funds to conduct research on these pension systems, “but has already determined the conclusions it plans to reach.” But that is [not] the case.

As you can see, the word “not” is integral in the meaning of my reply. With it, I’m denying Shorman’s claim; without it, I’m verifying the claim.

I hope the News-Leader’s error was poor editing, not malice. However, this is not the first time I have noticed, shall we say, inattention to detail. In the past year, the newspaper ran my photo with a byline that said I was running for Nixa School Board, which I did in 2006.

Whatever the reason for the mistake, I think it is important that Missourians have a chance to read my op-ed without the News-Leaders edits. You can do so by visiting the Show-Me Institute website.

For more information about problems with Missouri’s teacher pension systems, I suggest you also read “Robbing Peter to Pay Paul’s Defined Benefit Pension” and “Salary Spiking Boosts Pensions, But Cripples Taxpayers.”

December 6, 2013

The Sorry State Of The Professional Left In Missouri

Yesterday, the Springfield News-Leader published a supposed scoop about the Show-Me Institute and the blase art of grant applications, a story undoubtedly connected to a poorly produced smear campaign led by a credibility-challenged liberal group. I would expect rehashes of tired opposition research from liberal flacks, but it is pretty surprising that the News-Leader would so blithely do the Left’s tactical bidding, I guess without realizing it.

So there is no misunderstanding the dynamic at play here, the liberal groups promoting these stories are supported by special interests who, like their free-market counterparts, fund what they tend to believe in. In this case, what these liberal funders “believe in” generally works out to be cookie-cutter reports attacking state-based think tanks nationwide. To each her own. To be clear, that the progressive network has well-heeled supporters doesn’t bother me a bit. The Left has its patrons — check out this revealing chart from 2008 — and the free-market movement has its patrons. The Left has populist supporters; we have populist supporters.

What baffles me is why any reporter would think this “leaked” document about pension grant proposals is some sort of revelation about the Show-Me Institute, or even think tanks generally, because little if any of it is surprising even to a casual observer of the policy world. Probably the most chuckle-inducing example of the article’s shallowness is this section (emphasis mine):

Although Show-Me is open about its conservative viewpoint, the summary of the grant proposal provides a glimpse into how the non-profit charity organization works and is evidence of its ties to larger, national organizations such as the State Policy Network [SPN].

“Evidence of its ties”? The Show-Me Institute is and has been listed as a member of SPN on SPN’s own website for as long as I can remember. The way it’s being portrayed here, it’s as if the Show-Me Institute or SPN have tried to conceal the fact that we know each other and intermittently share resources. It’s like saying a letter from Kansas City Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is “evidence of the team’s ties to the NFL.” Uh, yeah. And? Even the document that’s cited in the main article reveals that the Show-Me Institute hasn’t received even a wooden nickel from this particular grantor since at least 2009. So, what’s the story again?

And I hate to have to spell this out, but the Show-Me Institute is composed of free marketeers, not intellectual nihilists. The market-based diagnosis of the pension problem is pretty straightforward when you just look at the basic facts: defined benefit pension programs tend to hurt both the state and, in the long run, many pensioners, by cutting out market forces that would diversify risk to both the pension provider and the beneficiary. Just ask Detroit; just ask Detroit’s pensioners. That analysis doesn’t require a complete intellectual build-out from nothing, and even a cursory dive into the subject of defined benefit pensions produces an incredible amount of data from which an institution or researcher could start a well-founded and intellectually honest project.

Which is, of course, all beside the point of this story. This wasn’t so much about informing people as it was about promoting a very caustic brand of bad-faith politics — an attempt by the Left to cast aspersions on free marketeers rather than fight these important policy fights on the field of ideas.

It’s pitiable that this is the best the Left has to offer to Missourians. Heck, just look at Progress Missouri’s silence on the cronyism of the Boeing deal, which we’ve roundly criticized in print and on the airwaves over the last week. What’s their excuse for hiding rather than fighting this latest case of corporate welfare? What do they really stand for? What do they really believe in? We’d all like to know.

What does the Show-Me Institute believe in? Free markets. Who do we believe in? You. People are the market. We believe in, seek, and promote free-market solutions because we trust our fellow Missourians and Americans to make their lives and our lives better. They’re people-powered solutions. They’re solutions that work. That premise is what under-girds this organization, and I suspect our opponents find this bottom-up philosophy to be a startling threat to their top-down sensibilities — a sensibility that can’t even drag itself out of its hole to engage even an obvious and bipartisan instance of cronyism.

November 28, 2013

We Are Thankful For Data

Debate over public policy is rife with stories about individuals who will benefit or suffer from proposed legislation. It can be a difficult thing with which to wrestle. And because much of what is offered is anecdotal, it could be true and yet not at all representative of the impact of the regulation at hand.

Debate in Missouri about Medicaid, education, and taxation is filled with anecdotes that give an either incomplete or misleading picture of policy proposals. That is why we here at the Show-Me Institute love data. Spreadsheets may not make for an impressive photo opportunity, but data analysis is necessary if we are going to improve the lives of Missourians.

To that end, our colleague Michael Rathbone has been shepherding our new website: ShowMeData.org. This new interactive tool allows you to generate all sorts of data on property taxes, population, Gross State Product, labor force, employment, unemployment, and more over the years. And not just in Missouri but the entire country. For example, is it true when Missouri politicians complain that Texas Gov. Rick Perry is poaching people and  jobs? This chart shows that Texas’ population has been growing for decades while Missouri’s remains stagnant. Want to research cigarette tax rates in Missouri and neighboring states? That’s here.

Should you be locked in a political discussion this holiday with that irascible brother-in-law, visit Show-Me Data for some valuable context. We’re all grateful for the stories of America’s greatness, now we have the data to back it up.

November 19, 2013

Spring Internships With The Show-Me Institute

The Show-Me Institute is now accepting applications for our spring 2014 internship program. All the information you need about the internship is available here. Please submit the required application by Dec. 6. The spring intern positions can be full- or part-time, and the jobs pay $10 per hour. You will note that is above the minimum wage, because we believe in the power of markets, not government mandates. Which basically sums up your entire internship program experience quite nicely.

November 16, 2013

Sharing Charts On Show-Me Data

Earlier this week, the Show-Me Institute unveiled Show-Me Data. Show-Me Data allows users to compare different states’ economic information.

For those of you who are not yet familiar with the site, this video can help you get up to speed. Those of you who have had a chance to explore the site and how it works might be wondering how to share what you have found on Show-Me Data with others. Show-Me Data has several tools to help you do just that.

November 15, 2013

Show-Me Data Filters

On Wednesday, the Show-Me Institute introduced Show-Me Data. Hopefully you have started exploring the site.

If you are having difficulty creating charts, please watch this video. If you have been able to create charts, that is fantastic. However, there is more to Show-Me Data than just creating charts from scratch.

Now, take a look at Show-Me Data’s filters and see what they can do to enhance your experience.

November 14, 2013

Welcome To Show-Me Data

Yesterday, the Show-Me Institute proudly launched Show-Me Data. Show-Me Data is an interactive web tool that allows users to compare states in a variety of economic measures.

Have you ever wondered whether gasoline is cheaper on this side of the border or right across the state line? Show-Me Data can help you find out.

Not only can you compare various state tax rates, you can also see whether a state is gaining or losing population. You can also see how a state’s economy is performing relative to other states in the country.

We have included an introductory video on the site to show how you to get started. Please take a look and find the information that interests you the most.

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