An editorial in the Wichita Eagle reminded me that it’s been awhile since I wrote about fake news in Kansas, and there’s a lot. The Eagle editorial bemoaned a loss of 400 jobs in February but failed to disclose that private sector employment set a new record! The Bureau of Labor Statistics data comparing February 2016 to February 2017 shows Kansas added 1,300 private sector jobs and shed 1,700 government jobs.
Kansas needs to shed government jobs through retirement and turnover, so the February data is pretty good news for taxpayers. Kansas has 27% more state employees per 10,000 residents than the national average and 34% more local government employees on that measurement, earning the dubious honor of being the second-worst state in the nation for local government employees per 10,000 residents. Excessive government employment negatively impacts the economy due to unnecessary taxation.
So why would media not report that Kansas set a private sector employment record in Kansas? In a word, politics. As in, media so desperately wants low-tax, pro-growth policy to fail that they can’t allow taxpayers to have the facts.
All last year, media reported that Kansas was losing private sector jobs but two weeks ago, BLS revised their numbers and said Kansas added 9,100 private sector jobs in 2016. With the exception of The Sentinel, media refuses to report the positive news.
Private sector employment set an annual record in 2016 at 1.157 million jobs, despite challenges in oil & gas extraction and agriculture. Total private sector employment will likely be even higher when the Bureau of Economic Analysis publishes its 2016 data. BEA tracks all employment but BLS does not include proprietors or farm workers. Farm worker employment may be soft but Kansas has seen proprietor employment increase by about 8,000 jobs annually between 2012 and 2015.
Here are some more examples of fake news in Kansas.
- KCTV5 aired a story about school funding, in which Senator Barbara Bollier said the state’s budget cannot be balanced without a tax increase. We sent evidence to the station showing that the budget can indeed be balanced without a tax increase, but they would not respond.
- KAKE-TV reporter Bryan Ramsdale said Kansas is facing a $1.6 billion deficit, which isn’t even close to being true. Attempts to set the record straight were ignored.
- Print and electronic media is full of false claims that the State has borrowed money from the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS). Hearing this caused some retirees to wonder if their pensions are safe. Some payments were delayed but not a penny has been borrowed according to KPERS Executive Director Alan Conroy. Once money is deposited into KPERS, the State cannot remove it. But hey, who cares if some retirees get scared; media wants to paint the worst possible picture so the consequences be damned. (For the record, the Kansas Division of Budget confirms that scheduled KPERS payments will total $2.8 billion between 2012 and 2019; that’s an even $1 billion increase over the previous eight years – and more perspective hidden from citizens.)
And while many legislators and media are demanding the repeal of the exemption on pass-through income, most in media refuse to report the serious consequences of doing so. According to U.S. Census data, pass-through employers created 82 percent of the new jobs in Kansas in 2013 and 2014. Forcing those employers to pay hundreds of millions more in taxes will definitely harm job creation.
If Paul Simon wrote a song about fake news in Kansas, he might call it “50 ways to mislead your readers.”