April 10, 2015

The Show-Me Institute on Television

In recent weeks, Show-Me Institute representatives have appeared on several public policy television shows in Missouri, most recently on KCPT’s April 9 episode of Ruckus in Kansas City.

Other recent television appearances include:

  • On March 19, CEO Brenda Talent appeared on Donnybrook in Saint Louis to discuss Missouri school district transfers, among other things.
  • On the same day in Kansas City, Institute Board Chairman Crosby Kemper III appeared on Ruckus. The explosive growth in Kansas City government spending was among the topics discussed.
  • Patrick Tuohey was on KCPT’s Kansas City Week in Review on March 13.

We are grateful to be part of the public policy debate in those cities and across Missouri in newspapers, blogs, and radio.

April 1, 2015

A Primer on Government Unions

201503 A Primer on Government Labor Relations in Missouri  - Wright.pdf-1From the 2011 Wisconsin Capitol protests to Illinois’ recent executive order banning agency fees for state workers, government labor relations are headline news in recent years. Missouri is no different: In 2007 the Missouri Supreme Court threw out 60 years of precedent with the landmark Independence case that gave government workers the ability to collectively bargain with the government.

To help the public better understand this complicated but increasingly important issue, we published a guide to government unions in the Show-Me State. Find it here: A Primer on Government Labor Relations in Missouri. The primer explains:

  • The basics of government collective bargaining;
  • The legal framework in which government unions collectively bargain with government entities, such as school districts, cities, and the state itself;
  • A survey of the types of government employees subject to union representation;
  • An overview of the common practices of Missouri’s government employee unions;
  • And much, much more.

For more information or if you have any questions about this primer, please contact me at the Show-Me Institute.

February 26, 2015

Constitutional Law Expert Joshua Hawley Weighs in on Obamacare at Policy Forum

Joshua Hawley, a professor of law at the University of Missouri, was gracious enough to join the Show-Me Institute in Columbia last month to talk about a wide array of health care and Obamacare issues, including King v. Burwell, a case before the Supreme Court the week of March 2.

Much could be said about Hawley. A graduate of Stanford University and Yale Law, Hawley went on to clerk for Chief Justice John Roberts. He was one of the attorneys for Hobby Lobby in last year’s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case, and he has been a highly sought-after speaker on a wide variety of legal and historical matters for a number of years. His book, Theodore Roosevelt: Preacher of Righteousness (2008), is available on Amazon. Hawley also happens to be a graduate of my alma mater, Rockhurst High School, in Kansas City.

His talk is definitely worth your time. A short version is embedded below, and the complete talk can be found here.

February 20, 2015

The Future of Education in Kansas City


On Monday, I’ll be participating in a panel discussion on the Future of Education in Kansas City. This event is co-sponsored by the Federalist Society and the Show-Me Institute. Check out the details below and then come check out the event on Monday night.

Should your ZIP code determine your educational choices? Do charter schools improve academic outcomes? What do local public schools need to succeed? Should tax credit scholarships be used to help students attend private schools? Should residents in struggling public schools get to transfer to neighboring districts?

These topics and more will be explored as our panelists debate the future of education in and around Kansas City, Mo.

The panel will feature the following influencers in the local education landscape:

  • James Shuls, Ph.D., distinguished fellow, Show-Me Institute, and Assistant Professor at University of Missouri–St. Louis
  • Dr. Amy Hartsfield, member-at-large, School Board, Kansas City Public Schools
  • Andrea Flinders, president, Kansas City Federation of Teachers, Local 691
  • Douglas Thaman, Ed.D., executive director, Missouri Charter Public School Association
  • John Murphy, public policy committee chair of the Missouri Catholic Conference

Admission is FREE, but please register so we can ensure there is enough seating. The event is scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 23, 2015, at the Kansas City Club, 918 Baltimore Ave., Kansas City, MO 64105.

December 16, 2014

Support This Blog and the Show-Me Institute

As you consider your charitable contributions for the end of 2014, we truly hope that you will renew your support of the Show-Me Institute by making a tax-deductible donation this year. We could not perform our mission of advancing free-market solutions for Missouri public policy without the support of people like you. Your prior financial support has allowed the Show-Me Institute to become the primary source for free-market research and policy solutions in Missouri.
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With your help, we will continue to fight for limited government, individual liberty, reduced regulations, and entrepreneurial freedom.

If you enjoy reading this blog and agree with the ideas it presents for free-market based policies in Missouri, I hope that you will renew your support of our mission by making your tax-deductible contribution today!

November 5, 2014

Spring Internships With the Show-Me Institute

Internship Banner Spring 2015

The Show-Me Institute is now accepting applications for our spring 2015 internship program. All the information you need about the internship is available here. Please submit the required application by Dec. 5. The spring intern positions can be full- or part-time.

July 22, 2014

This Illustration Of Missouri Pension Enhancements Says It All


Today, the Show-Me Institute released a new case study by Robert Costrell, professor of economics and education policy at the University of Arkansas. His paper, “Teacher Pension Enhancement In Missouri: 1975 to the Present,” illustrates how state lawmakers have consistently enhanced retirement benefits for teachers. These enhancements have helped create the system we have today, which has an incredible spike in benefits around a teacher’s 25th year and many other flaws.

For more information about pensions, I encourage you to check out our “Missouri Government Pension Fast Facts.”









July 18, 2014

Op-ed: Proposed Amendment 7 Is Bad Policy

Today, the St. Louis Business Journal printed my commentary on why the proposed Amendment 7, which would implement a 0.75-cent sales tax to pay for Missouri’s roads, is bad policy.

The op-ed corrects some of the misconceptions that exist about Missouri’s highway system, particularly the idea that the state’s roads and bridges are “crumbling.” While Missouri’s transportation infrastructure can improve in many areas, the fact is that the highway system is in good shape whether you compare it to other states or simply the condition of Missouri’s roads 10 years ago. There is no crisis that should scare Missouri voters into supporting a policy that is destructive and inequitable.

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) does have a funding problem, but paying for highways based on how much people shop, instead of how much they drive, is unfair and economically unsound. A better solution is to raise the gas tax or implement tolls on major highways.

If You Haven’t Registered For Our July 31 Friedman Legacy Day Events, What Are You Waiting For?



For a number of years now, we have partnered with the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice to celebrate the life and work of Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman. In his 1955 piece, “The Role of Government in Education,” he introduced the modern concept of the school voucher. He wrote:

Governments could require a minimum level of education which they could finance by giving parents vouchers redeemable for specified maximum sum per child per year if spent on “approved” educational services.

Parents would then be free to spend this sum and any additional sum on purchasing educational services from an “approved” institution of their own choice. The educational services could be rendered by private enterprises operated for profit, or by non-profit institutions of various kinds.

Later in his life, he became an even stronger advocate for empowering parents through school choice.

This year, in honor of his efforts to expand school choice, we are hosting two Friedman Legacy Day events.

The first is at 8:30 a.m. in Saint Louis at De La Salle Middle School. Mike McShane, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, joins us for an interesting discussion about private schools closing and re-opening as charter schools.

The second event is at 6:30 p.m. at the Kansas City Central Library. Economist Mark Skousen will share stories of his long friendship and debates with Milton Friedman.

We hope you will join us for at least one of these events. For more information, please visit the events tab on the Show-Me Institute website.


July 15, 2014

Breaking: Another Study Backs Up The Show-Me Institute

The Competitive Enterprise Institute grabbed our attention when it released a new report comparing the unfunded pension liabilities of all 50 states. Spoiler alert: Missouri ranks in the middle third (more on this later).

An interesting point raised in the report was that, “…the discount rate used in the valuation of liabilities should be a low-risk rate, ideally as low as the rate on Treasury bonds.” In a Show-Me Institute Policy Study, Andrew Biggs also urged state pensions to use a low-discount rate in valuing their liabilities (the discount rate is the interest rate that pension plans use to translate future liabilities into current dollars). It’s encouraging to know that other institutes are reaching similar conclusions.

However, it isn’t encouraging that this report found that after using a more appropriate discount rate, the amount of Missouri’s unfunded pension liabilities totaled more than 4 percent of Missouri’s entire economy. As of the end of last year, Missouri’s economy was $258 billion; 4.2 percent of that is $10.8 billion. If the state cannot make up that amount, then you, the taxpayer, are on the hook to make up the difference. Table7.1There are other states whose pensions are in much worse shape than Missouri’s, but our state still faces an economic ticking time bomb. Whether dealing with a grenade (Missouri) or a daisy cutter (Illinois), taxpayers will not be happy to be caught in the blast. The Show-Me Institute has written extensively about how Missouri can start to address its pension problems by shifting to more efficient plans such as defined contribution or cash balance plans. Hopefully, this new report can serve as a wake-up call to policymakers that change is needed.

June 6, 2014

Breaking: New Study Supports Old Show-Me Institute Study

I admit that I like to spend a good portion of my spare time at the casino. I gamble even though I know that the odds favor the house. At least I’m gambling with my own money. Public employee pension systems, on the other hand, make bets with other people’s money. Increasingly, they are taking riskier bets in the hope of hitting the jackpot. That’s what the Pew Charitable Trust found in their  new study. As the study’s authors show in the figure below, public pensions are shifting away from safer investments (e.g., U.S. Treasuries and Corporate Bonds) and toward riskier assets (such as equities and commodities) that are expected to deliver higher returns on investment.

Pension Asset Allocation

This behavior is taking place in Missouri. For example, in the late 1990s, the Missouri Department of Transportation and Highway Patrol Employees Retirement System (MPERS) had 42 percent of their assets in fixed income and cash. Equities and alternative investments such as real estate made up the rest. Now, MPERS has 22 percent of its assets in cash and fixed income.

The pensions are doing this “to deliver higher long-term returns in order to keep funding costs low . . .” In fact, in one of our previous policy studies, Andrew Biggs noted this phenomenon when examining how Missouri’s public pensions value their liabilities: “U.S. public sector plans, by contrast, have taken on greater investment risk, because doing so allows them to lower the accounting value of their liabilities and put off difficult decisions such as raising contributions or lowering benefits.”

I don’t have a problem with a pension plan seeking higher returns, but if these investments don’t deliver as hoped, then Missouri taxpayers will be on the hook to make up the shortfall. That is why I favor retirement plans such as defined contribution plans or cash balance plans that limit the exposure of the taxpayers to investments failing to generate expected returns. Hopefully, we can make a shift before one of these risky bets fails to pay off.

U.S. public
sector plans, by contrast, have taken on
greater investment risk, because doing so
allows them to lower the accounting value
of their liabilities and put off difficult
decisions such as raising contributions or
lowering benefits

June 3, 2014

Show-Me Institute Presents: Missouri’s Economic Record In The 21st Century

During good times and bad, Missouri is failing to keep up economically with its neighbors. In the Show-Me Institute’s new essay, “Missouri’s Economic Record In The 21st Century,” by Rik Hafer and me, see why we give Missouri’s economic performance during the current century a grade of “D” and how such a record could mean serious trouble for future Missouri residents. Please give it a look.

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