Even Toto Is Leaving Kansas

Not that it will make any difference to the ideologues for whom evidence is irrelevant, but Republicans in Kansas have now thrown in the towel on the nation’s most wholehearted effort to prove that lower taxes generate higher state revenues.

As the Washington Post headline put it, “Kansas Republicans Raise Taxes, Ending Their GOP Governor’s ‘Real Live Experiment’ in Conservative Policy.”

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is a supply-side “true believer,” who made draconian tax cuts after assuming office in 2010, and waited with anticipation for the state’s economy to grow in response. That growth failed to materialize during his first term, but he was re-elected, and he continued stubbornly waiting–still a true believer– as Kansas’ deficit grew to over a billion dollars and basic services were cut.  Education, mental health, healthcare–all took huge hits.

Members of his own party called for an end to the “experiment,” and joined Democrats in passing a bill to increase taxes. Brownback vetoed it. The legislature subsequently overrode that veto; in the end, eighteen of the state’s 31 GOP senators and 49 of the 85 Republican members of the House voted against the governor.

Under Brownback, as has been widely reported, the pace of economic expansion in Kansas has consistently lagged behind that of the rest of the country. What is particularly telling is the very different experience of Minnesota, where a Democratic Governor elected at the same time as Brownback raised taxes and substantially increased education spending, and where by 2015 there were multiple reports like this:

Since 2011, Minnesota has been doing quite well for itself. The state has created more than 170,000 jobs, according to the Huffington Post. Its unemployment rate stands at 3.6% — the fifth-lowest in the country, and far below the nationwide rate of 5.7% — and the state government boasts a budget surplus of $1 billion. Forbes considers Minnesota one of the top 10 in the country for business.

Despite the fact that Brownback’s experiment in Kansas has failed so spectacularly, its tax cuts remain the blueprint for the Trump Administration and for “true believers” like Paul Ryan. As the Post article puts it,

The principles Trump endorsed during the campaign and in the early stages of his presidency are broadly similar to those enacted in Kansas. As Brownback did, Trump has proposed bringing down marginal rates, getting rid of brackets and giving a new break to small businesses.

That is no coincidence, since Brownback is well connected to the Republican policymaking establishment in Washington. Trump and Brownback have shared economic advisers, and when Brownback was a U.S. senator, Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), now the speaker of the House, served as his legislative director.

There’s a pattern here.

Today’s Republicans–unlike the sober and prudential members of the party to which I once belonged–are simply impervious to evidence.

They continue to insist that raising the minimum wage will depress employment, ignoring the fact that cities that have raised the wage have seen job growth and increased economic activity.

They ignore rigorous studies by (genuine) conservatives showing that so-called “welfare reform”–far from being a great success, as they routinely proclaim –has diverted funds from programs to help struggling Americans (who are, if anything, worse off) and used the money to plug state budget holes and compensate for tax cuts for the wealthy.

They stubbornly insist that tax cuts will generate economic growth, and that their repeated, demonstrable failure to do so is because we just haven’t cut deeply enough, or waited long enough.

These are the same people who dismiss climate change as a hoax, but tell us that if it turns out to be real, God will take care of it. They’re the same folks who agree with Jeff Sessions that the drug war would work if we’d just increase the penalties for smoking weed.

With these people, ideology consistently trumps experience. (What are you going to believe? Conservative political doctrine or your lying eyes?)

I’m beginning to think these people would go to a doctor who told them what they wanted to hear even if that doctor’s patients all died…


  1. We are now well into the second generation of these people and their idiotic policies. Their history is one of further and further class division, incomes lessening for 95% of those who are employed, and deficits rising at astronomical rates with no thought of the credit worthiness of the nation. And they STILL keep winning elections while blaming the other party for all the problems they have created.
    This kind of thing can happen only for one of two reasons.
    First, a lying press and racial hatreds make the former middle class blind to actual facts,
    OR, secondly, those suffering from this economic malaise still believe, and believe very strongly, that the rich still don’t have enough money.
    Oh, wait — maybe these two reasons are actually related. Hmmmm.

  2. Its like what happens in Monopoly (the game). When one player has all the properties and all the $$ and the other players have nothing, then the game is done and the players begin again.

    As a game that works great…… in life, not so well.

    In Kansas they had a revolution.

  3. I did not know that Ryan had worked for Brownback. Ryan’s ideas for destroying anyone who isn’t wealthy have now become clear and they originate from the Koch brothers. Oh what tangled webs we weave.

  4. Wingnuts are still waiting for Ronnie Raygun’s trickle down to begin. If at first you don’t succeed, wait awhile and suck the seed later. Ought to bring about better results.-no?

  5. That mess was a brainchild of the Koch brothers. Charles K is from Wichita. He’s about 108 and still going . When he kicks the bucket, his son will take over and carry on. They said several years ago that if they can control the state legislatures it won’t matter who is president. I could go on awhile. The Kochs are responsible for our ruination in Texas. Good luck.

  6. We’ve been waiting 37 years to be trickled on, and all we have to show for it is a plutocratic dystopia.

  7. Verrrrry interesting….

    Republican Gov Brownbackʻs Kansas tax slashing “experiment” (with other peopleʻs lives) resulted in 1 BILLON dollar DEFICIT, while corresponding Democratic Governor Mark Dayton and Minnesota are enjoying a 1 BILLION dollar SURPLUS… itʻs like conservative “true believers” are covering their ears and saying “lalalalala I canʻt hear you” when shown any examples of reality. It would be comical if it wasnʻt such a tragic disaster for the ordinary folks the Republicans are “experimenting” on.

  8. When I first heard the term “trickle down” years ago my immediate thought was that its true meaning was “getting pissed on”. Time has proven me right.

  9. Theresa; applause, applause, applause! I, on the other hand, have always looked at it as a misnomer; either way we are at the bottom of the hill and we all know what rolls downhill.

  10. The “experiment” by Brownback in Kansas is NOT new. When the CIA perpetrated the overthrow of Allende in Chile, in rushed the Chicago “boys”, sponsored by the World Bank, to install the misguided and stupid Milton Friedman version of Hayak’s “Supply-side Economics”. It failed miserably – as it did in every other country it was tried.

    But this was a Reagan thing. His wizard of staff, Donald Regan, was all about “trickle-down” and cutting government spending. One of the biggest lies EVER in our country is the notion of government running on a balanced budget. Sounds great. Impossible to do.

    So, Brownback took this silly capitalism on steroids notion to the state of Kansas and we all watched as Kansas, almost instantly, became one of the poorest states in the country. Not to worry, though, because Kansas’ elites did very, very well.

    Brownback and his cronies deserve to go to jail for malfeasance in office.

  11. In a televised debate just two weeks ahead of the high-profile special election that will fill the vacant House seat in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District, Republican Karen Handel delivered her opponent (Jon Ossoff) what one commentator called a “gift-wrapped present” Tuesday night by declaring her opposition to a livable wage.

    “I do not support a livable wage,” she said, adding that this is “an example of the fundamental difference between a liberal and a conservative.” Handel concluded that she does support “making sure that we have an economy that is robust with low taxes and less regulation.”

    For the Republicans the other side is to cut any safety nets too.

  12. Did you see and hear Dan Coats yesterday? Dan and other witnesses during the Intel Committee “meeting” refused with impunity like dictators to answer yes or no to questions the answers to which might seem to connect the Trump White House with activities that arouse suspicion among the American People. Who are Dan Coats and the others kidding? Of course we need them and pay them to help us to deny or confirm our suspicions. Dan writhed with discomfort and fell back on the weak excuses of ‘classified’, open forum vs closed session’. Dan and others seemed to be terrorized by the questions. Would they have us believe that Americans have nothing to fear that our immeasurable military powers, entrusted to POTUS, SCOTUS, GOP CONGRESS may be preparing the JOINT CHIEFS for the likes of a THIRD WORLD COUP D’ETAT? Watch them strutting proudly like peacocks in the knowledge that they and the American people are being misled by a megalomaniacal narcissist following the model of Third World totalitarianism. We have a chance to save our country in November, 2018 or Trump’s loud mouth will trump us.

  13. OMG – as a few of the members of congress thatbwere asking questions yesterday stated multiple times “Your refusal to state a simple No to the question Speaks Volumes”.

  14. You refer to them as “true believers” that tax cuts stimulate growth. I don’t believe that’s what they are “true believers” of–I think they are true believers that they and their wealthy constituents don’t want to pay taxes, and that they can sell the trickle down philosophy to people they think are dumber than they are. I other words, I think they are lying about the grounds for their self-professed beliefs.

  15. I am preparing to publish a post early this afternoon which discusses “trickle up” economics in which the poor finance the rich with tax cuts and redefinitions of ordinary income with such sponsors as Ryan, who worships at the altar of Ayn Rand and tax cuts and minimal regulations for the rich and corporate class, all under the tutelage of Grover Norquist, who never met a tax he did not dislike and who wants to “drown government in the bath tub”). These people are not Democrats or Republicans; they are libertarian nihilists who do not even believe in government other than for armies to protect their properties and keep order.
    We now have a self-imposed no-tax example in poverty in the State of Kansas where the state is about to collapse, a no-tax experiment for all to see and one hatched in caveman policies so out of touch with reality and stench so bad that even Republicans have voted with Democrats to overturn Brownback’s utterly failed experiment in planned bankruptcy. Perhaps Republicans who have allowed libertarians to take over their party will expel such radicals from the Republican Party and revert to their conservative roots. Perhaps, but don’t bet the ranch on it.

  16. Except for the “real world” evidence/proof/facts that Friedman’s economic theories have not worked anywhere they have ever been applied — Brownback’s Kansas only being the latest and most dramatic example of their abject and total failure — the “brains” behind Reagan’s (I still believe Reagan was just a useful idiot for them — a likeable mouthpiece who as a former actor could mouth their words with conviction) “government is the problem,” cut taxes, and trickle down economics was, and apparently still is a brilliant construct. Have to give credit where credit is due.

    What does the Average Joe dislike more than paying taxes, and the government telling them what they can and can’t do? Not much. If something in their life isn’t going right, it must be the government’s fault for wasting all their money on welfare, food stamps, and the poor, especially if the recipients (so they believe) happen to be mostly African-American, Hispanic or dark skinned foreigners that ain’t Christians (Have to throw in at least a little racism thanks to Nixon’s successful “Southern Strategy).

    It’s always much easier to sell someone something they already are inclined to believe. That’s what the Republicans and now Trump have successfully done. The best part, whether they truly believe their cut taxes, cut taxes, cut taxes, government is the problem and must be destroyed mantras or not, doing so just so happens to result in transferring even greater wealth and power to the wealthiest.

    Unfortunately, I doubt Brownback’s and Kansas’ abject failure and economic bust will have any effect whatsoever on Ryan and those like him in D.C.

  17. David F; this Average Jo doesn’t dislike paying taxes, I do dislike what the taxes I pay are paying for. Such as three White Houses, two which are private property of the prez, the frequent golf outings – does anyone believe they are not continuing even though we haven’t read about them? The numerous salaries for his family members plus their secret service protection and travel costs for their various and sundry trips hither, thither and yon. The vast waste of money on firings and probably paying “golden parachute” contracts to rid the administration of a number of public pariahs.

    I could go on but you get my drift. Have the millions thus far spent on the private care, housing and feeding of the Trumps reached the billion dollar level yet? Where are the flying monkeys? It is past time to release them.

  18. “The operation was a success, but the patient died” is an old medical joke describing blinkered professionals whose idea of an appropriate end point is a little skewed.

    As an object lesson in how ideology is blinding, these Republicans resemble Communist Party members of the ’30s who insisted the Soviet Union was a success despite mass starvation & purges. La plus ca change indeed.

  19. Maybe I’m naïve but isn’t simple arithmetic involved in the poor man’s view of taxes? Isn’t it basic to screw around with the tax code so that the “many” are assessed tolerably slight, perhaps unnoticeable tax increases on their payroll check stubs (muddied by the several “subtractions”) while the “few”, even with gross subtractions and tax “havens” still have huge, eye-bulging IRS payments they must make? Then, doesn’t the system allow certain income to be immune from taxation, immunity the poor man cannot obtain? Isn’t all this contrived in an effort to “balance” the budget with the proviso “NO NEW TAXES”, the mantra that politically placates the rich and results in slashing the safety net for the poor? Isn’t “entitlements” a disgusting word? Why are so many Americans living like plantation cotton-pickers?
    What do we have to do to share the natural wealth? Don’t Arabians share the petroleum revenue even those who do nothing to produce it?
    What are The Orange Ogre’s plans for sharing, for example, all the revenue from the proposed new exploitation of coal, oil and other reserves or the sale of miles of national land? Is there any poverty in Sweden or Israel? How about single-payer medical care? Is the slashing of nutrition programs for schoolchildren still being proposed? Why?
    Why do we keep increasing the National Debt? Isn’t it simply due to insufficient revenue, the easy way? Will someone please explain it all?

  20. “I’m beginning to think these people would go to a doctor who told them what they wanted to hear even if that doctor’s patients all died…”
    Funny you should mention it.
    Anecdotal I know, but I happen to have a relative who is “one of those people”. Idiot right winger, crazy xtian., and in recent years has developed some sort of chronic ailment that’s causing a great deal of damage to him/her physically, not to mention constant discomfort. But for many years now has refused to see the doctor and has begun buying stuff from Dr. Oz, and essential oils and such from whoever sells them, hoping to cure what looks a bit like diabetes.
    That’s all.

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