Recent Kansas editorials

The Kansas City Star, Jan. 13

On the same day that newly released internal messages showed Boeing employees not only knew all about problems with the 737 Max but also actively hid those problems from regulators, Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran visited a Boeing supplier in Wichita and said the urgent directive he’d take back to Washington with him is this: “The message is sooner rather than later, please get these planes flying.”

Wrong answer.

No one in the news business has to be told how scary layoffs are, or why elected officials should by all means try to protect jobs. But shortcuts and lax regulation led to the deaths of 346 people in the two Boeing 737 Max planes that fell out of the sky, in October of 2018 in Indonesia and March of 2019 in Ethiopia. Three days after that second crash, the FAA was last in line to finally admit it wasn’t safe. We were last to ground the aircraft, and hurrying to lift that hold would only prove we haven’t even learned from this deadly debacle.

Naturally, aircraft parts makers in Kansas have been hurt by the grounding of the plane, with Wichita-based Spirit AeroSystems announcing that it will be laying off 2,800 employees, effective Jan. 22.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly is considering — and should if at all possible — use the state’s fund for unemployment benefits to pay part of the salaries of those Spirit workers, so they can keep working.

But needless loss of life and loss of income are what happen when regulations are seen not as a protection but as pointless “red tape” — an obstacle to growth that should be done away with or gotten around whenever possible.

Emails and texts released Thursday by congressional investigators show Boeing employees doing that — putting profits firmly ahead of safety even as they mocked those who had designed the aircraft. One Boeing employee said he wouldn’t let a relative of his fly on a 737 Max. Another wrote, “This airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys.”

Before the planes are cleared for takeoff, we need to be confident that the “monkeys” have been replaced and the work of “clowns” made right.

Boeing said the messages “raise questions about Boeing’s interactions with the FAA” in approving flight-control software that is believed to have pushed down the planes’ noses.

Have those questions been fully answered?

Kansas Rep. Sharice Davids, who serves on the House Transportation Committee and is vice chair of its aviation subcommittee, suggested in a statement that the answer is no: “The newly released messages from Boeing employees are incredibly disturbing and show a coordinated effort inside the company to deceive the American public and federal regulators, who are in place to keep passengers safe. It’s further proof that Boeing put profit over safety in the development of the 737 MAX.”

“... In addition to the public safety concerns these messages raise, Boeing’s callousness has now cost thousands of Kansans their livelihood and endangered the economy of our state, which is dependent on aerospace,” her statement said. “Kansas will continue to be an aerospace and technology leader, despite the harmful impacts of Boeing leadership’s reckless decision making.”

We hope that’s the case. And while we appreciate why the president of the Wichita-based 737 Max subcontractor Cox Machine, which Moran visited on Thursday, would tell the senator how anxious the company is to see the 737 Max flying again, speed should not be the priority.

Moran said he recently met with FAA officials to get an update and “again to ask them to make certain if there’s anything I can do, if there’s anything missing, appropriation, dollars, anything to get this process completed.’’

Safely completed, that is. We need to know for sure that the 737 Max is a plane that Boeing employees would not hesitate to let their loved ones board.


The Lawrence Journal-World, Jan. 12

A proposed deal between Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and Republican Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning to expand Medicaid will be good for Kansas, perhaps adding coverage for 150,000 people.

It will be an even better deal for the country, if the idea behind the proposal takes hold: Democrats and Republicans can work together for a common good. Both sides have accepted some provisions that don’t thrill them. But that’s the way politics used to work.

Of course, this deal hasn’t worked quite yet. Legislative approval is still needed. That’s the most urgent question to get answered. Perhaps the most interesting question to be answered, though, is whether there is more compromise to be had across the country.

Health care would be a great place for it to continue. The pending Medicaid expansion in Kansas comes amid other Republican states becoming supportive of the idea. Now, will Republicans become more supportive of the truly needed change in health care — an individual mandate for health insurance?

It is not likely that Republicans will cross that bridge because the name upon it is Obamacare. But they should because the idea underlying the individual insurance mandate is very much rooted in conservative philosophy.

There are conservatives who no doubt disagree. The individual mandate smacks of liberalism, they say, because they believe it is government mandating that individuals must buy a particular product. But, in reality, Obamacare does not do that. It says people will be taxed if they don’t own a health insurance policy. (Technically, the individual mandate law still exists, but the Trump administration has gutted it by reducing the tax to zero for those who do not have insurance.)The distinction is important because there has long been a precedent for government to determine your tax based on what you own. People who own property pay property taxes. People who don’t own property don’t pay property taxes. While not loved, it is a system both liberals and conservatives have learned to live with. They would learn to do the same with Obamacare.

The reason Republicans ought to try is because without the individual mandate, a very liberal idea is allowed to flourish. That’s the idea that government gives people the permission to gamble with other people’s money. It happens all the time when somebody makes the decision to forgo health insurance.

Yes, when you forgo health insurance you are risking a lot of your own money if you get sick. But you also are risking the money of your friends, neighbors and lots of people you don’t know.

The reason: bankruptcy laws in America. If you get sick without health insurance, you may well declare bankruptcy. The laws allow bankruptcy to wipe away most medical bills. Good for you, but not good for the health care system, which incurred costs to provide treatment to you. Just like any business that needs to survive, the health care system will do its best to pass those costs you didn’t pay onto the rest of its customers.

It is common sense that bankruptcy places upward pressure on health care costs. Those of us who pay our bills pay more for services and insurance premiums as a result. Why should that be the case? Why should someone’s decision to gamble on not having health insurance cost any of the rest of us one red cent more?

Conservatives didn’t use to think that it should. That’s why the conservative Heritage Foundation once supported the idea of an individual mandate. At some point, liberals came around to the idea as well. With support from both ends of the spectrum, a person might think it is an idea that has a real chance.

Then we were reminded of a reality in today’s political world: There’s no insurance to protect us from partisanship. The two sides have to hate each other or the cable news networks would be too boring.

Maybe the cable got cut for a day in Topeka. Whatever the case, Kelly and Denning deserve congratulations on setting aside partisan differences and working together on a plan to make Kansas both a healthier and fairer place.


The Topeka Capital-Journal, Jan. 10

Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla’s run for Kansas’ 2nd District congressional seat should be praised, and not because we’re deciding to endorse early. No, her run should be praised because of the importance of giving voters a choice.

Kansas elects four representatives to the U.S. House. In all of those four districts, the public should be able to choose from a range of candidates with different approaches to the challenges of the day. That means Democrats and Republicans, and if possible, multiple candidates in open primaries.

In the 1st District, Rep. Roger Marshall has decided to run for the open U.S. Senate seat, which means Republicans Bill Clifford, Tracey Mann and Troy Waymaster are so far vying to replace him. On the Democratic side, Kali Barnett has declared. In the 2nd, the Democrat De La Isla is facing off against Republican Jake Laturner. In the 3rd, Republicans Amanda Adkins, Adrienne Vallejo Foster and Sara Hart Weir have lined up to contest Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids. And in the 4th, incumbent Republican Rep. Ron Estes so far has an uncontested race.

With a filing deadline of June 1, there is still ample time for interested parties to jump in the congressional races. We would strongly urge them to do so, especially in open primaries without declared candidates.

Our system of primaries, general elections and governance as a whole works best when multiple ideologies and approaches are allowed to vie in the marketplace of ideas. Republicans make better policy when challenged by (and occasionally integrating ideas) from their opponents. Likewise, Democrats improve and sharpen their proposals when challenged by those outside their party sphere.

Of course, this is easy to write. It’s much more difficult to step up and decide to subject oneself and one’s family to the rigor of a campaign. It’s much more difficult to commit to shaking hands, attending forums and asking potential donors for financial support.

And let’s face is: There can only be a single winner.

That means that giving voters this crucial choice means acceptance that you might lose. It means accepting that you might face unwarranted political brickbats. It takes a thick skin and dedication to the cause. It’s most definitely not for everyone.

For those of you who can take the heat, or who don’t even acknowledge it, your presence as a candidate would be most welcome.

And the rest of us should take a moment to thank those who run, acknowledging the sacrifice and effort it takes to step forward.