When Kansas Governor Laura Kelly tells her whopper about the recovery of the Kansas economy after she locked the entire state down in 2020 and tried to extend customers’ reticence with a paranoia-fostering mask mandate, her words echo around the now closed eateries of downtown Lawrence.
Ondori Noodle Shop, Wake the Dead Breakfast Bar, the Cosmic Cafe, Bayleaf Indian Restaurant, Aimee’s Cafe; others bit the dust too – not just in Lawrence but in towns large and small across the state. It may take decades – if it can ever be summed up at all – to analyze just how much economic damage was done to Kansas by Kelly’s lockdown and lockstep Leftist Covid policies.
What is known is that on many of the state’s downtown streets, businesses that were vibrant beforehand are now gone; their storefronts and their owners financially collapsed, in some cases the owners having left their localities altogether and moved on. Some of those storefronts are still empty or in some cases prospective new tenants used Covid relief funds to start new efforts only to be swamped again by a recession that was as avoidable as Kelly’s lockdown if not for economically ignorant policy.
Being in business is never easy, but Governor Kelly and Joe Biden have turned the American small business landscape into a minefield.
Nonetheless Kelly has anointed herself the David Copperfield of economic development these past months as her election nears, dropping her lingering lockdown job losses through a trap door in the campaign stage while dutiful Boy Wonder-turned- Lieutenant Governor David Toland runs the wind and fog machine behind her. But the sleight-of-hand is lacking; this dynamic duo have tried to take credit for every privately-funded venture from lemonade stands to battery plant expansions in Kansas ever since Republican legislators put an end to Kelly’s no-end-in sight, Judd’s Farewell Tour-esque phased reopening plan in 2020. Taking credit for someone else’s work is never too convincing.
Indeed – no matter how much sweat, toil and your-butt’s-on-the- line money you borrowed to start or revive your business the past two years, it was really Kelly/Toland responsible for your success – according to them. In the immortal words of the patron saint of Democrat cash registers and health insurance Barack Hussein Obama: “you didn’t build that.”
The rabbit fell through the bottom of Kelly’s hat recently at Sporting KC (soccer in Kansas – it’s completely an east-of-Highway 75 kind of thing) when she proclaimed in a TV interview and against all fact-checking reality that “I know that during the pandemic, that every place lost jobs, but we have restored those jobs and more.”
Que the rimshot. It’s almost like the way she went all Sharks and Jets in taunting the recession several weeks ago, proclaiming “bring it on” to the economic slowdown we’re now in, because she had enough of your tax money in her strong box to pay for state government even if you lost your job.
The fly in Kelly’s butter of course is that according to the latest estimates as of June, Kansas has recovered not quite 80 percent of the 157,000 some-odd jobs the governor sacrificed during the pandemic in order to keep her standing among the nation’s Democrat-led state shutdown champions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (where a bunch of people work who know how to count) Kansas ranks 44th out of 50 states in U.S. pandemic jobs recovery. In fact, total nonfarm jobs have actually gone down as of June by about 20,700 jobs since Kelly took office in January 2019.
Sure, if you’re reaping the benefits of the 2017 Kansas tax hike – the biggest in Kansas history – and still holding hostage all that money that was supposed to go back to Kansas residents and businesses after President Trump revised the federal tax code early in his administration – things look pretty flush.
If you’re a small business in Kansas still struggling under skyrocketing costs and an employment shortage, you’re probably just trying not to become one of those business address tombstones like the ones where folks used to have cucumber sandwiches and espresso in downtown Lawrence. And you’re probably having a real hard time seeing the magic the governor sees.
–Dane Hicks is the publisher of The Anderson County Review in Garnett, Kan.