Kansas snapping out of it?

Republicans don’t like taxes. Or government. But they could tolerate government if it had no money to do anything, i..e. if taxes were cut.

Every Republican running at the state or national level in recent memory has repeated basically the same idea: if you cut taxes and reduce regulations, you will unlock the creativity and potential of America’s entrepreneurs and thus unleash the greatest job-creation engine the world has ever known.

And, yes, a few hard-working and visionary people will become incredibly rich, fulfilling the “American dream”, but the rising tide will lift all boats and the benefits of this unrestricted free-enterprise will be better living for all our citizens as the newly-created wealth “trickles down”.

This has been repeated so often that it has become accepted as actually true, at least to the people repeating it.  To them, the tax-and-spend Democrats are crippling the economy, killing jobs, and ruining America. Cut taxes on the rich and all will be well.

The problem is that there is absolutely no evidence that it works that way and plenty of evidence that it doesn’t. The only part that ever actually works as expected is that a few people become incredibly rich. The trickling down part has never happened, but that doesn’t seem to impact the message or the messengers.

Kansas elected Sam Brownback as governor in 2010, and he took office in 2011. He had represented Kansas’ second congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1994 to 1996, part of Newt Gingrich’s Republican Revolution, and then was elected to fill the Senate seat vacated by Bob Dole.

Brownback pursued deep reductions in tax rates early in his administration, calling them a “real live experiment” in conservative governance.

His Wikipedia entry sums him up this way:

He opposes same-sex marriage and describes himself as pro-life. As Governor, Brownback signed into law the largest income tax cut in Kansas’ history, eliminating state income taxes for business profits realized as non-wage income, affecting mainly IRS “S filers.” Brownback turned down a $31.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to set up an insurance exchange as part of the federal health care reform law, signed a bill that blocked tax breaks for abortion providers, banned sex-selection abortions, and declared that life begins at fertilization.

The income tax cut generated a substantial budget deficit, affecting core government service, particularly in education, and led many former and current Republican officials to criticize his leadership in the run-up to the 2014 gubernatorial election and endorse his Democratic opponent, Paul Davis. Polls taken in September 2016 gave Brownback an approval rating of 23%, the lowest rating of all 50 governors in the United States. Brownback was reelected in a close race with a plurality, a margin of 3.7%.

But life got better, right? Tons of new jobs were created by that entrepreneurial job-creation engine, right? The benefits trickled down as promised, didn’t they? The “real live experiment” showed that Republicans have been right all along, right?

No. Of course not.

From this WaPo article:

kansas economyThe legislature began this year’s session with the government in a deficit of $350 million, leaving lawmakers mulling more budget cuts. They have drained the state’s reserves of cash, diverting money meant for roads, delaying payments to pension funds and, in essence, forcing local agencies to make loans to the state government.

Last year, the governor pushed back the schedule for 25 construction projects planned around the state, the climax of delays intended to keep more cash on hand. In March, Kansas’s Supreme Court ruled that the lack of funding for public schools violated the state’s constitution, forcing lawmakers to act.

But Republican legislators in Kansas seem to be waking up a little bit.

In a decisive repudiation of conservative tax-cutting philosophy, Kansas Republicans voted this week to reverse deep tax cuts enacted by Gov. Sam Brownback (R), a move that lays bare the challenges of one-party control and the risks for Republicans in Washington pursuing a similar policy at the national level.

Kansas’s legislature is overwhelmingly Republican, but moderate GOP lawmakers joined with Democrats after it became clear that support for Brownback’s policies had become a major political liability. In last year’s election, a number of Brownback’s allies lost key races to Democrats or moderate Republicans opposed to the tax cuts. On Tuesday, 18 of the state’s 31 GOP senators and 49 of the 85 Republican members of the House voted against the governor.

If Republicans in Kansas are finally snapping out of this destructive trance, maybe there’s some hope for the rest of the country as well. Fingers crossed.

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