Remember Sam Brownback? When he was elected Governor of Kansas, he vowed that the GOP’s economic theology–aka “trickle down”– would create an economic paradise, and he immediately set about implementing that theology.
In 2012, with the help of Kansas’ overwhelmingly Republican legislature, Brownback completely eliminated income taxes for more than 100,000 businesses and significantly reduced taxes on the wealthy.
For years, Republicans have been telling us that such steps would boost economic growth, and that they would more than pay for themselves, and Brownback was evidently a True Believer. Ardent belief notwithstanding, Brownback’s policies not only failed to deliver the promised prosperity, they devastated the state’s economy.
State revenues fell dramatically. School years and school days were shortened, public construction projects came to a screeching halt, Medicaid benefits were reduced, and job creation simply stopped.
As Harold Myerson has reported (link unavailable),
By 2016, Kansas voters—including Republicans who objected to seeing their children’s educations shortchanged—revolted. As the Prospect’s Justin Miller reported at the time, Republican primary voters, joined by Democrats, ousted legislators who refused to repeal the tax cuts, and in 2017, the new legislature overrode Brownback’s veto of a bill repealing the cuts. In 2018, voters elected Democrat Laura Kelly as their new governor, and today, with adequate funding restored, Kansas has resumed its support for education, infrastructure, and the basics of civilization.
This month, CNBC came out with its annual list of America’s Top States for Business, a ranking on which states don’t move up or down very much from one year to the next. Which is why attention must be paid, as Americans for Tax Fairness has pointed out, to one massive exception to this rule. On this year’s list, Kansas placed 19th—which is a full 16 places higher than it placed last year.
There’s a lesson there, but some people–and political ideologues–refuse to learn.
Trump and Mitch McConnell repeated what I’ve come to call the “Brownback Argument” to justify what Myerson dubs “the Great Federal Tax Giveaway to Corporations and the Rich Act of 2017–18.”
In consequence, share buybacks have soared to new heights while wages and infrastructure investment have barely risen, when they’ve risen at all. The federal government, of course, can run deficits, while states are constitutionally prohibited from doing so—which is why the Trumpistas have chiefly engaged in targeted rather than across-the-board cutbacks in federal spending. (The targets, of course, have been the poor and minorities.)
Brownback was politically run out of town on a rail—resigning early in 2018 to become the Trump administration’s Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. (Unlike Tsarist Russia, our government lacks a position like Procurator of the Holy Synod, a sort of directorship of pogroms, though Stephen Miller at times seems to have become that position’s functional equivalent.) Is it too much to hope that American voters relegate Trump to history’s dustbin as their Kansas compatriots did to Brownback?
We can hope–for reasons including but definitely not limited to idiotic economic policies.
If there is one thing that the cult that is today’s Republican Party has repeatedly demonstrated, it’s that both religion and political ideology rely on faith rather than evidence.