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November 2014 Brief: Volume 21, Number 32

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Nothing’s the Matter With Kansas


by Deborah D. Thornton



In 2004 the book What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, by Thomas Frank, was published to glowing reviews from the liberal media and Democrat activists. It purported to show that Kansans “vote against their economic and social interests” and asked where was the “outrage over all the recent corporate thievery?”[1] The book clearly insulted vast numbers of very hard-working, sensible, and responsible citizens by publically calling them foolish and stupid, urging them to change their philosophy and get with the liberal program.


Map of KansasWhat has happened since 2004 and did Kansans come to their senses?


We’ve had the Great Recession and two Presidential elections. Many states and many families are still suffering greatly, especially those in Illinois and Michigan. In contrast, Kansas weathered the recession pretty well and still voted for the Republican in both elections. In 2008 John McCain carried a solid 57-42 percent, and in 2012 Mitt Romney won by a huge 22 percent margin, 60-38 percent.[2] Sam Brownback (Republican) was elected Governor of Kansas in 2010 with 63 percent of the vote.[3]


So “What’s the matter with Kansas?” Nothing much! In fact it looks pretty good.


The employment situation is detailed in the chart below, which shows that while the total labor force has fallen from just over 1.5 million in 2009 – the high before the Great Recession – to just under 1.4 million today, the number of people in Kansas with jobs has increased by 45,000, and the number unemployed has fallen from a high of 113,614 to only 73,216. This translates to an unemployment rate of only 4.9 percent.[4]



In 2012 Governor Sam Brownback reduced the individual income tax rates by 25 percent, repealed the tax on sole proprietorships, and increased the standard deduction.[5] Then taxes were cut again in 2013 by Legislative initiative. Among other things, Brownback has proposed that college graduates who move to low-population counties have their student loans paid off by the state government. Following the two major tax cuts, and as of today, the personal income of Kansans has grown by almost 3 percent, more than all of the bordering states except Colorado.


Their average weekly earnings increased by almost 5 percent, four times that of the United States as a whole, seven times more than Nebraska, and four times more than Missouri and Oklahoma, according to an analysis by Creighton University professor and economist Dr. Ernie Goss.[6]


The current national unemployment rate is 6.1 percent, while in Missouri it is 6.3. Kansas’s rate has fallen to 4.9 percent. This is even with a 1.4 percent cut in state and local government jobs. The job growth has been from real economic development and private-sector innovators, not taxpayers’ money.


Dr. Goss headlined his recent article on this result, “Earnings Growth Soars Past U.S. and Neighbors Since Passage (of the tax cuts).” The only plains state with better economic results since the recession is South Dakota, pumping out a natural gas economic boom unrivaled in the nation.


So what’s wrong with the so-called “economic losers” in Kansas? Nothing. They certainly are winning currently. Further, based on the results of the November elections, more voters than ever do not appreciate the contemptuous attitude of the “elite media,” American Civil Liberties Union, ultra-radical feminists, college professors, and anti-Christians.


Apparently free trade, privatization, de-regulation, and de-unionization do end up creating positive economic situations! Hopefully more Governors and State Legislators, including those in Iowa, will follow Brownback’s lead. Hardworking taxpayers and families who are the members of Frank’s “Great Backlash” will thank them.


[1] “What’s The Matter With Kansas?,”, <>, accessed on October 16, 2014.
[2] “Kansas Presidential Results,” 270 To Win, <>, accessed on October 17, 2014.
[3] “Kansas Governor: Brownback vs Holland,” Real Clear Politics, <>, accessed on October 16, 2014.
[4] “Local Area Unemployment Statistics,” Kansas 2004-2014, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, <>, accessed on October 16, 2014.

[5] Dr. Ernie Goss, “Kansas Cuts Taxes and Expands the Economy: Earnings Growth Soars Past U.S. and Neighbors Since Passage,” Economic Trends, Creighton University, October 16, 2014,< ?utm_source=Economic+Trends_Creighton_Oct+2014&utm_campaign=Oct2014+Economic+Trends&utm_ medium=email> accessed on October 16, 2014.
[6] Ibid.


Deborah D. Thornton is a Research Analyst with Public Interest Institute, Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Contact her at


Permission to reprint or copy in whole or part is granted, provided a version of this credit line is used:"Reprinted by permission from INSTITUTE BRIEF, a publication of Public Interest Institute." The views expressed in this publication are those of the author and not necessarily those of Public Interest Institute. They are brought to you in the interest of a better-informed citizenry.




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