The Great Kansas Reaganomics Experiment Ends In Disaster


Yes, I’m responsible for that smell…Saul Loeb/AFP

❝ When a governor announces an economic theory as a solution to a state’s fiscal problems, while challenging all comers to observe the results, that’s something I want to pay attention to. And so for the past five years, I have been watching the public-policy experiment in Kansas with great fascination.

❝ With the state legislature now rejecting the governor’s experiment, we can move onto to the next phase: Not recrimination and blame, though there is lots of that going around. Instead, I want to look at how the experiment played out, and what lessons there are to be learned from it.

❝ A quick refresher: Kansas’s Republican Governor Sam Brownback pushed through a substantial change in the state tax code, centered around lowering rates. He promised it would lead to more growth, tax revenue and jobs. Instead, there have been persistent tax revenue shortfalls, huge spending cuts and disappointing job creation. As my Bloomberg View colleague Justin Fox wrote, Kansas is badly lagging its neighbors, all of which have similar economies. Even worse, people (especially young people) are fleeing the state. Kansas was one of the highest outbound migration states in 2014, 2015 and 2016. The vast majority of people who have moved out were either transferring when their companies left or were seeking employment elsewhere.

Before Brownback, this wasn’t the case. As recently as 2012 and 2011, Kansas didn’t make the lists of states with high migratory outflows.

❝ Incentives matter: There was a large behavioral incentive, but it was for financial engineering. Brownback eliminated taxes on limited liability companies and sole proprietorships. It isn’t surprising that lots of companies and individuals made these legal structural changes. But this was merely an alteration in form with no beneficial economic incentives.

Set reasonable benchmarks for success or failure: Brownback, despite making large promises, wasn’t specific in how success or failure should be measured…

❝ Have an exit strategy: Because Kansas didn’t focus on specific and measurable benchmarks, it had no way to know when to pull the plug. This is important, as the legislature was forced to wait until things were unequivocally bad and getting worse before taking steps to end the experiment. An exit strategy based on specific goals would have saved a lot of unnecessary austerity-induced pain for the people of Kansas.

❝ Share information freely: We knew the Kansas experiment was going badly when the executive branch decided to stop reporting economic news about it…

Win or lose, take responsibility: Broad proof of the failure of Brownback’s tax cuts led the legislature to begin unraveling them. Rather than admitting defeat, Brownback vetoed its actions. His refusal to accept a verdict reflects a failure to recognize and take responsibility for his own policies.

❝ By just about every measure, Kansas’ economic laboratory experiment is now over, and the results are in. Supply-side tax cuts as executed in Kansas don’t generate more economic growth or create more jobs. They reduce tax revenue and forced the government to cut spending on essential goods and services like roads and schools.

RTFA for more detail. Unless you’re a Republican True Believer the cause-and-effect relationships are clear. Evidence is a bear. That the mass of Kansas voters went along with Brownback’s incompetence for so long speaks only to their obedience, lack of independence, loyalty to ideology in the face of daily evidence of failure.

Barry Ritholtz is one of my favorite writers on matters financial in the United States. That he has a fey sense of humor, refers to himself as a Recovering Republican, allegiance to evidence and facts over ideology is icing on the fiscal cake.

Wyoming’s fossil fuel workforce can walk straight into growing wind industry jobs

❝ It’s no secret that Wyoming has recently faced a downturn in energy prices and that workers have lost jobs. The state is filled with people who have a specific skill set, such as facing potential hazards, working at great heights and handling electrical equipment. But when oil and gas production slows or coal mines cut back on production, the opportunity to utilize those skills goes down too.

Now, an international wind manufacturing company is hoping to convince the roughnecks, mechanics and coal miners of Wyoming to join its industry, betting on the growth of wind generation in the country and a number of wind projects slated to go up in the state.

❝ Goldwind Americas, in partnership with wind developer Viridis Eolia, will offer free training to Wyoming’s workforce starting with three introductory sessions in mid-July in Rawlins, Casper and Gillette. The company also plans an upcoming tour of its wind farm near Shamut, Montana.

“We believe that folks that come from certain industries, fossil fuels, oil and gas, coal, they have skills that are transferrable to the wind industry,” said David Halligan, CEO of Goldwind Americas. “That’s why we’re offering the training and specifically why we are offering it in Wyoming.”

They are training people who could maintain a wind farm, technicians who respond to mechanical problems, install replacement parts and run the day-to-day operations at a large wind site.

Wind technician is the fastest growing occupation in the U.S.

And the jobs ain’t going away just because today’s version of Republican is trying to claw their way back to the 19th Century.

Republican database on nearly 200 million US citizens exposed online

❝ Sensitive personal details relating to almost 200 million US citizens have been accidentally exposed by a marketing firm contracted by the Republican National Committee.

❝ The 1.1 terabytes of data includes birthdates, home addresses, telephone numbers and political views of nearly 62% of the entire US population.

The data was available on a publicly accessible Amazon cloud server…Anyone could access the data as long as they had a link to it.

❝ The huge cache of data was discovered last week by Chris Vickery, a cyber-risk analyst with security firm UpGuard. The information seems to have been collected from a wide range of sources – from posts on controversial banned threads on the social network Reddit, to committees that raised funds for the Republican Party.

The information was stored in spreadsheets uploaded to a server owned by Deep Root Analytics. It had last been updated in January when President Donald Trump was inaugurated and had been online for an unknown period of time.

❝ Apart from personal details, the data also contained citizens’ suspected religious affiliations, ethnicities and political biases, such as where they stood on controversial topics like gun control, the right to abortion and stem cell research.

The file names and directories indicated that the data was meant to be used by influential Republican political organisations. The idea was to try to create a profile on as many voters as possible using all available data, so some of the fields in the spreadsheets were left left empty if an answer could not be found…

❝ There are fears that leaked data can easily be used for nefarious purposes, from identity fraud to harassment of people under protection orders, or to intimidate people who hold an opposing political view.


None of these fears are new. None were unknown. The political party which burned through acres of dollar$ advertising their hypocritical concern over one candidate’s use of email – set up a database including a range of personal information on virtually every registered voter in the United States.

TV Talking Heads will no doubt give us the whole schoolboy lecture on the dangers of them furriners accessing this database to some evil end. I’d like to hear from someone who stands up for Americans’ privacy in the face of the ruling political party buying up every scrap of information our corrupt informatics gurus, from Facebook to Google, already collect and sell for profit.

Um, eating potatoes won’t actually kill you

❝ There are plenty of reasons not to eat potatoes, and only one reason to eat them: they’re freaking delicious. That’s the only reason you need. No one is eating fries because they think they’re healthy. But the next time you eat some delicious, oil-crisped taters and someone blurts out “hey, you know fries double your risk of mortality, right?” because they read a clicky headline, you can rest easy knowing that they are wrong. And superiority is the ultimate reward, right?

❝ You could pretty much sum up the whole problem with the recent study on taters in one sentence: correlation doesn’t imply causation. Let’s all say it together. Correlation doesn’t imply causation…At the end of the day, people who eat fries three-plus times a week are almost certainly going to have other habits that make them more likely to die.

❝ For starters, it’s likely that people who choose to eat that many taters are exercising less than the people who care enough about healthy dining to avoid that starchy temptation. And they probably consume more sugar generally as well. Or maybe they take in less fiber. You can’t eliminate the confounding effect of these other habits — that’s the real problem with nutritional studies like this. It appeared in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition recently and it’s showing up all over the web.

❝ Nearly every article based on the study claims that fries doubled the mortality risk of the subjects, and media outlets aren’t technically wrong about the results. But first things first: it wasn’t potato intake generally, it was only fried potato consumption that the authors linked to higher death rates. Non-fried potato consumption didn’t lead to any increased mortality risk. Here’s a nice quote from the actual study that summarizes their findings: “After adjustment for 14 potential baseline confounders, and taking those with the lowest consumption of potatoes as the reference group, participants with the highest consumption of potatoes did not show an increased risk of overall mortality.”…

❝ Listen: fried potatoes aren’t good for you…Fries are full of starch and fat, and you should probably limit your consumption of both of those things — especially the starch. Starch is a simple sugar, and those cause your blood sugar and insulin levels to rise and prompt your body to store fat…But in moderation — and in combination with a healthy diet and exercise — you’ll be just fine. Enjoy your fries.

Couldn’t agree more. I love good fries, Belgian preferred; though I’ve had great Brit food truck fare. Rare enough to find myself in one of the few local bistros where they reign that I probably have them like once every five years. But, then, even-handed moderation in what I consume covers all the do’s and don’t’s of my nutrition.

Six members of Trump’s advisory council on HIV/AIDS have resigned

❝ The Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS is a body responsible for providing recommendations and information to the president, as well as overseeing the nation’s strategy for combatting the illness. On Friday, six members of the council resigned, writing in an op-ed published in Newsweek that they can no longer be effective under a “president who simply does not care.”

❝ The letter was written by Scott Schoettes, who was joined by five other members: Lucy Bradley-Springer, Gina Brown, Ulysses Burley III, Michelle Ogle, and Grissel Granados. In the letter, he explains President Donald Trump’s administration hasn’t taken steps to formulate a strategy for combatting the illness, “and — most concerning — pushes legislation that will harm people living with HIV and halt or reverse important gains made in the fight against this disease…”

❝ Schoettes noted that while the commission met with Secretary Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders during the primaries, it didn’t have the opportunity to meet with then-candidate Trump. He also indicated that the website for the Office of National AIDS policy was one of many taken down when Trump took office (it has yet to be replaced), while the president also has yet to name a head to the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, which was formed in 2010 as part of President Barack Obama’s While House Domestic Policy Council.

❝ The letter particularly singled out the administration’s efforts to scale back the Affordable Care Act, saying that the law has resulted in “gains in the percentage of people with HIV who know their status, the percentage engaged in care, [and] the percentage receiving successful treatment.” The proposals to replace the ACA with the American Health Care Act “would be particularly devastating for people living with HIV.”

Why waste time attempting to work with a know-nothing politician who only dedicates his time and effort to doing nothing or, worse, reversing what good has been accomplished by others?

Florida city employee rang up $93K on city credit cards to get butt lift – among other frauds

❝ An investigative report…shows a former city of Gainesville employee, accused of stealing more than $93,000 from the city, spent some of it on a Brazilian butt lift.

The report found that former city staff specialist Natwaina Clark, 33, charged her city-issued credit card 136 times for roughly $61,000 in unauthorized charges, used her bosses’ cards at least 36 more times for an additional $31,000, and spent nearly $900 on a coworker’s card five times between November 2015 and March 2017.

The report also finds department heads acted negligently, allowing city funds to be misspent.

❝ Documents attached to the report show Clark, who was hired in August 2015, funneled roughly $41,000 to her personal PayPal account, linked to her bank account, and that $8,500 of it went toward a Brazilian butt lift. The cosmetic surgery procedure uses fat from one part of the body to augment one’s buttocks…

Clark, whose salary was $33,500, was fired from the city March 21, while on a cruise-ship vacation, the report said. She was arrested March 28 and charged with larceny and scheme to defraud, both felonies…

❝ The city report found the city’s human resources department failed to properly execute the city’s employee background screening and didn’t advise the hiring department about concerns in Clark’s history, allowing her to be hired.

Har. Turns out the HR Department didn’t really do their homework about Clark being busted for similar crimes in another county. Didn’t tell folks in the department where she was hired of any concerns.

The U.S. Air Force is Ready to Try Disposable Drones – $2 Million Each


Click to enlargeKratos

❝ The U.S. Air Force’s latest unmanned aerial vehicle is small, stealthy and cheap enough to be essentially disposable. The Low-Cost Attritable Aircraft, or LCAA, could radically change the way the world’s leading air arm wages war.

The U.S. Defense Department revealed the first LCAA prototype as part of the annual DoD Lab Day, an official even highlighting the work of various military research institutions. A photo accompanying a Lab Day handout depicts an angular, jet-powered drone with a silvery paint job that could have radar-absorbing qualities…

❝ The idea behind the LCAA is to build lots of inexpensive drones and send them into combat without worrying about losing them. Not coincidentally, the prototype builder, Kratos, made its reputation building expendable target drones…

❝ …To be “attritable,” the LCAA must be cheap. The Air Force’s contract with Kratos requires that the LCAA cost no more than $3 million apiece for 99 copies and $2 million or less for batches of 100 or more drones…

Cheaper than building schools, supporting growth industries that aren’t dependent on killing furriners. If you only look at the cost of onesies.

❝ The LCAA program is potentially revolutionary for the Air Force. Hundreds or even thousands of the new drones could augment dwindling numbers of expensive manned warplanes that take decades to develop and field.

Yup. And if you believe the Pentagon is going to stop billion$ war projects going to their buddies at Boeing or Lockheed – I have a deal for you in a bridge connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan.