Saturday, April 30, 2016

Speaking Of "Laboratories" Of Democracy ...

... one of them appears to be on the verge of blowing up.  "What's the matter with Kansas?" asked Thomas Frank in the title of perhaps his best-known books on politics.  Well, Mr. Frank, under former U.S. Senator and current Governor Sam Brownback, the answer can be reduced to a single word:


Massive budget deficits.  Massive cuts in public services.  Schools being closed.  And, on top of everything else, a shrinking economy.  All of which happened only after Brownback, with the aid and connivance of his Republican colleagues in the Kansas state legislature, attempted to show that so-called "supply-side" economics works at the state level as well as it did at the national level. They enacted sweeping tax cuts designed to supposedly unleash so much money into the local economy that jobs would sprout up like Kansas wheat.

Only jobs aren't sprouting.  And, as written by someone whose 400th birthday just recently passed, there's the rub.  Trickle-down economics are, in fact, working as well at the state level as they have at the federal level.  They are inflicting the kind of massive, unforgiving social Darwinism that only a philosophy based on narcissism can inflict.  Only with one tragic difference.  Ronald Reagan got away with "Reaganomics" because state governments did what they could to ease the pain.  And it worked, to a very small degree; the increase activity of state governments allowed conservatives to pretend that it was morning in America even though it looked more like twilight for any sense of the national common good.

To whom, however, does Kansas transfer its self-induced pain?  No one.  As is the case with state governments everywhere, with the exception of federal aid (and good luck getting that out of the current Congress), the state's only source of fiscal salvation is the government that served as the architect of its current misery.

And what is Kansas' government doing?  Engaging in a game of finger pointing.  Brownback, incredibly, is refusing to make any changes whatsoever.  In his view,  all of the Titanic's deck chairs are exactly where they should be.  And the legislators who helped him enact his Ponzi scheme are running away from him like droves.  You can read all about it here.

Incredibly, as the Daily Kos post notes, other states are advancing tax policies identical to the ones that have turned Kansas into an economic basket case.  And Arthur Laffer (what a deliciously ironic surname) has announce that the Kansas boat isn't really sinking, and will in fact soon benefit from the rising tide created by punching a hole in its hull.

Conservatives are great avoiders of the truth, by any means necessary.  The two leading theories among them explaining the Kansas fiasco are (a) the Laffer view, that the whole thing just needs more time to work, and (b) the theory that they cut the wrong taxes, by focusing on business taxes that businesses could easily avoid.

The problem with the Laffer view is that it puts conservatives on the same side as an old Bolshevik joke:  "Proof of the farsightedness of comrade Trotsky's predictions is that none of them have come true yet.''  One has to survive the short run to make it to the long run--and Kansas has no short-term options for survival other than to reverse course.  As for the "cutting the wrong taxes" argument, the truth of the matter is that everyone's behavior is shaped in some way by tax policy.  Increase sin taxes, and people will either pay up or sin less.  Increase gas taxes, and people will either cut back in other areas or drive less.  The wealthy, however, simply by virtue of being wealthy, will always have more options for dealing with any tax policy.

There is only two ways for Kansas' situation to get better:  for Brownback and his legislative allies to admit that they were wrong and change course, or for Kansas voters to vote them the hell out of office.  Conservatives, since the Reagan era, overlearned the lesson of Jimmy Carter's painful honesty and vowed to never, ever admit that they were wrong.

So it's in the hands of Kansas voters.  Either they vote the rascals out, or America will have 49 state laboratories and one that was blown up by bankrupt politics.  As always, Sunflower State voters, the choice is yours.  For your sakes, and because the rest of us don't want our tax dollars used to bail you out of your previous stupidity, PLEASE make the obvious (and right) one.

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