Issues, Kansas

Flight of Fancy

Kansas was once again in the news for its recent introduction to the top ten list of states with outbound population according to the latest United Van Lines survey. Naturally, this is spun as bad news for the state’s administration, which is already facing income shortfalls, even after downward revisions of expectations. It’s also shown as proof that Brownback’s efforts are failing. Which might be true. This news shouldn’t, however, come as a surprise to anyone. The downward population trend was also reflected in recent census data which showed us at a net loss.

For the sake of responsibility, we should acknowledge that the UVL study does have some limitations. Obviously, it’s only datasource were people that chose to use one of their moving services, leaving out everyone that used a competitor or did it themselves. The hope is that their sample size was large enough that such limitations don’t outweigh the overall trend, which should show through the noise. All that said, I don’t find a lot of reason to otherwise doubt their results. UVL has been doing this survey since the 70s, if my memory recalls correctly. And there’s never been any significant criticism of their findings or methodology that I know of. (Do you know something I don’t? Be sure to mention it down below in the comments and link the source so I can take a look.)

Currently, about 59% of Kansas's population was born here.

Currently, about 59% of Kansas’s population was born here.

By itself, this news doesn’t mean much, and I wouldn’t see it worth too much commentary. The reason I stopped for it was because of a conversation I saw, where comments were coming down to (paraphrasing): “Good, the libtards are fleeing and finally gonna leave us alone to finally get stuff done.” Not the exact words, but absolutely close enough to bother me (the word “libtard” was indeed used).

Guys. Guys… Guys, listen. Here’s the thing – that’s not how it works. First off, Democrats and Republicans are not competitors who are meant to destroy each other or drive each other away. We’re colleagues, work associates, neighbors, friends, and family that just happen to have different viewpoints on how to get work done. Those differences are what makes a society strong, encourages critical thinking, and ensures we do our due diligence when problem solving. Remember, up until the last decade, Kansas was a state that prided itself on its ability for Democrats and Republicans to find solutions together and do good work that benefited the state. It is, in fact, the only reason our finances aren’t worse right now than they are. We planned well, and we worked for the benefit of all our citizens. (I know this comment is funny is lieu of the gridlock in Topeka over the $400 million budget gap. It could be so much worse than that, though.)

Then there’s the real problem, which is if all the liberals leave Kansas, that’s not good for anyone that stays. The state’s finances are already falling apart – more population flight does nothing at all but exacerbate all of the problems facing the state right now. It leaves the conservative majority in a position to rebuild a sand castle while the tide’s coming in. With no shovel, and no bucket to help out.

The policies coming out of Topeka do the exact opposite of what we need to accomplish. A perfect example is when they tried to pass the law banning public money from being used for “green” or sustainability-based initiatives (which, luckily, never made it to a vote). But, the mere discussion of the idea turns people off that would otherwise consider bringing jobs to the state. It makes us look like we’re backwards. It’s terrible marketing and PR for the state. And it’s a position reinforced by the lack of success that we were promised by Brownback when he pushed through the tax cuts. Being the state where where you’re so intolerable of opposition that liberals aren’t welcome is not a hook to hang your hat on. It’s something to be ashamed of, and it’s the exact kind of thing that will prevent the state from ever being successful.

One of the first rules of good leadership: if you’re so intolerable that people feel the need to leave your proximity, you are failing at being a leader. The second rule is if what you’re doing isn’t working, you don’t concentrate it and double-down. Remember, Kansas was “chosen” as the testbed for “The Grand Experiment” in conservative tax policy, and it is failing at that goal in spectacular fashion. And the thought that there are conservative citizens of the state that think the problem is that we just didn’t take that far enough (or that Kansas liberals are somehow at fault for preventing its success)… well, it goes to show how badly educated we are as a population. I don’t mean to be insulting by saying that, but we also can’t ignore the reality of how dangerously shortsighted that viewpoint is. So no, all the liberals leaving the state isn’t going to be the sudden panacea that the conservatives need to make the current path of the March to Zero be successful.

The coming months will be very telling for the overall health of our state, in an infrastructure sense. The thing to remember is that in the darkest times, there is opportunity. Where the state can’t provide, there’s an opportunity for business, if they’ll take the risk with us. There are reasonable people left in this state. And we care a lot about its future. We will help those that help themselves. But, we do have to remain realistic, and we have to stop looking at each other as competitors. There’s no room left for it. This is even more true when you’re a state that thrives on the backs of small business and Main Street communities. All these things are linked. When businesses start failing because people leave, it doesn’t matter what political affiliations they have, those closures will affect businesses across the spectrum in the community. We’re all in this together.

We need foils in life in order to thrive and grow. Period.