Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Recognizing Black Women’s Equal Pay Day

July 28 is recognized by a growing number of organizations as Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. The movement reminds us that while it can be helpful to talk about average wages and we need to raise the minimum wage, aggregate figures can hide as much as they reveal. We need to ask more questions and dig deeper into the data. My thanks to Sarah Marks for her post on bitchmedia for letting us know the following facts.

Race and gender matter. We have often heard that on average women earn 78 percent of what men earn. We do not hear as often that within specific racial ethnic groups the wage difference between women and men is often less. This means that among people of color within a specific racial/ethnic group women often earn almost as much as men. However, when we compare what women of color earn and what white men earn the gap is much greater.  In 2013 African American women earned 64% of a white man’s wages. Race and gender matter.

Women of color are more likely to work in a minimum wage job than white women. A person who works full-time, 52 weeks a year, for $7.25 an hour has a take home pay of less than $20,000. It is better for people who make $10.00, of course, but even $15 and hour is not enough to lift a family of four out of poverty. 

Women make up 2/3 of all tipped workers. 

Mothers are the sole breadwinner in 34% of black families.

Raising the minimum wage is important. But the rising tide does not lift all the boats. The measure of the economy is the well-being of the people in the community, especially the people who are often placed in the most vulnerable positions economically.

Rev. David Hansen
Interfaith Worker Justice Kansas

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Kansas Experiment is not an Experiment

Are You Better Off Today . . . ?

Has the Kansas Experiment benefited you? Are you better off today than you were before the experiment began in January 2013 when the tax changes went into effect? The answer to this question is, “It depends.”

Friends at the Kansas Center for Economic Growth ( report that data collected by the Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that between January 2010 and December 2012 personal income in Kansas ranked 13th among the 50 states. Since the experiment began in January 2013, Kansans’ personal income fell to 32nd place—a drop of 19 states. But that’s not the whole story.

Kelly Davis, the Midwest Regional Director of the Institute for Tax and Economic Policy (ITEP) writes in her July 14, 2015, TaxJusticeBlog that the experiment was really a “tax shift.” The experiment created winners and losers by design. I suggest that this tax shift was one of the purposes of the so-called Kansas Experiment.

ITEP analysis shows that the poorest Kansans, those with an average annual income of just over $13,000, will pay on average $197 more in taxes in 2015. At the other end of the scale, the richest one-percent of Kansans, people earning over $439,000 annually, will pay about $24,000 less in taxes in 2015.

Taking a closer look at these two ends of the spectrum. People with an annual income of less than $20,000 will pay 11.1% of their income in state and local taxes. The top one-percent, people with an annual income of $439,000 or more, will pay 3.6% of their income in state and local taxes.

Looking at the Kansas Experiment in another way. ITEP says that Kansans making less than $20,000 pay 3 times more state and local income taxes as a percentage of their income as the wealthiest one-percent.

The Kansas Experiment is not an experiment at all. It is a tax shift that shifts money away from the working poor and gives it to the most affluent members of our state. But that’s not the whole story.

The 2015 federal poverty guideline for a family of 2 is $15,930. For a family of three the figure is $20,090. For a family of four the federal poverty guideline is $24,250. But that is not the whole story.

The website “” helps us break down the income and unemployment figures in Wichita by zip code. Accordingly, the median income in the top four zip codes (67230, 67235, 67205, 67228) ranges from $118,000 to $93,000. The median income in the three poorest zip codes (67202, 67214, 67352) ranges from $26,726 to $20,994). The highest unemployment in Wichita is in zip codes 67214, 67203, and 67202. Localtrends reports that in these three zip codes the unemployment is 8.64 percent. More research needs to done and reported.

Based on the above sketch, we can see that the Kansas Experiment is being conducted at the expense of the most financially vulnerable, and at the expense of our neighbors living in what I will call “targeted zip codes.” The people living in these zip codes are paying the greatest price for the Kansas Economic Experiment (note: my report does not include rural communities).

Are you better off? I guess it depends on your zip code, which has become our “polite” and less personal way of talking about race, poverty and unemployment.

Rev. David Hansen

Friday, July 24, 2015

ALEC and the Kansas 14

The following article was posted by Working Kansas Alliance. My thanks to them and to Bryan Lowry for his recent article in The Wichita Eagle for this story. These friends help us understand what's going on in our Kansas legislature, the origin of many bills, and how our representatives spend our tax dollars.  
David Hansen
Interfaith Worker Justice Kansas

** The Corporate Bill Mill

This week many Kansas Legislators are attending the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) annual meeting in San Diego, California. Those in attendance are state legislators from all over the nation and big money corporate lobbyists. ALEC is a big money special interest group whose sole purpose is to pass legislation that will benefit its members. Their members consist of many large corporations and businesses that have an interest in passing legislation ALEC promotes. ALEC will claim they pass legislation that promotes “free market” ideals, but in reality it is a “pay to play” organization and only promotes legislation that will directly benefit their members, often times at the expense of businesses and corporations who are not members of ALEC (AKA not “free market”). It is also important to note that over 100 businesses and corporations have left ALEC because of their unethical practices.

ALEC does not just promote these policies that directly benefit their members; they literally draft legislation for many of the lobbyists and legislators that attend these conferences. These legislators and lobbyists then bring back these policies to their states. ALEC has accurately been described as a “corporate bill mill”. The policies introduced and promoted at these conferences often come at the expense of hard working families and individuals. In other words these policies only benefit a select few at the expense of everyone else. Legislation that has been promoted by ALEC includes “right to work”, the promotion of weakening both public sector and private sector unions, reducing corporate regulation, reducing environmental regulations, reducing workplace safety regulation, fighting healthcare reform, denying man made climate change and many more regressive policies.

ALEC conferences are all essentially closed conferences. Members of the public cannot attend the conference, and the press corps is tightly regulated and often times not allowed in a lot of the meetings and “workshops”, thus making the conferences as non-transparent as possible.

During the 2015 legislative session there were several ALEC modeled pieces of legislation introduced and several of those pieces of legislation actually passed. Those bills passed included: the unclassification of state employees, limiting the amount of unemployment insurance workers can collect while giving employers a tax break, limiting collective bargaining for our educators. There were several pieces of legislation that were introduced but did not pass, those bills included: eliminating payroll deductions for public sector employees who belong to a union, establishing a state run OSHA system, and attacks on the KS pension system.  To put it simply, ALEC writes legislation for our legislators to introduce that will benefit the richest of the rich at the expense of everyday hardworking citizens.

This year many Kansas Legislators are currently attending the conference in San Diego.  Senate President Susan Wagle and House Speaker Ray Merrick are both on the ALEC board of directors and are both in attendance at the San Diego Conference. In total at least 14 Legislators are attending the conference and are having their registration fee paid for by Kansas tax dollars. Yup, Kansans are footing the bill for 14 Legislators registration so they can attend this conference. In a recent article written by Bryan Lowry from the Wichita Eagle he states, “Fourteen Republican lawmakers are attending the annual ALEC conference in San Diego this week in part on the taxpayer’s dime… at a total cost of $7,300, according to Legislative Administrative Services.. The lawmakers who had their fee paid for by the state: Reps. Steve Brunk, Dan Hawkins, Dennis Hedke and Gene Suellentrop, all Republicans from Wichita; Rep. Marvin Kleeb, R-Overland Park, the House Tax chairman; Rep. Ron Highland,
R-Wamego, the House Education chairman; Rep. John Barker, R-Abilene, the House Judiciary chairman; Reps. James Todd and Jerry Lunn, both Republicans from Overland Park; Rep. Will Carpenter, R-El Dorado; Rep. Kevin Jones, R-Wellsville; Rep. Charles Macheers, R-Shawnee; Rep. Joe Seiwert, R-Pretty Prairie; and Sen. Larry Powell, R-Garden City.”(SOURCE ( ).

This is not how our government is supposed to function. Our elected officials are not supposed to answer to shady, dark money special interest groups. They are supposed to represent us the people, not big business and corporations. They are supposed to be talking to we the people in Kansas, not going to secret closed-door meetings. Elected officials are supposed to draft legislation that will benefit the majority of Kansans, not just a select few. Elected officials are supposed to draft legislation in cooperation with other officials at the consent of the people, they should not literally be handed legislation from a corporate lobbyist in a closed-door meeting.

Its time for Kansans to expose ALEC. ALEC is hijacking our state. Hold you officials accountable. Tell your officials they are supposed to represent their constituents, not corporate lobbyists whose only interest is to fill their pocketbooks. When ALEC legislators are exposed as members and are exposed for introducing ALEC legislation, they will often cower and deny their connections with ALEC. The time has come to hold their feet to the fire. Its time to let them know they represent us!

Enough is enough! Its time to take our democracy back!
Its time to end the ALEC sponsored attacks on working Kansans!

For more information on ALEC visit: