Putting blame where it belongs

By Rod Haxton, editor

We aren’t going to win any friends among our peers within the media, but we think it’s important to come clean.

Gov. Sam Brownback and the Kansas Legislature aren’t to blame because their massive tax cut policy has failed to live up to expectations. It’s our fault, and by “our” I mean the media because we haven’t given Brownback’s tax policies enough time to work.

“I think they so desperately want what’s happening in this state to fail that they’re shopping for a factual setting to back that up because it’s working,” Brownback said of his critics in a recent interview on CBN.

During his comments with CBN founder and televangelist Pat Robertson, the Kansas governor continued by claiming that “the left” wants his economic agenda to “fail so bad that they can’t wait for it to and they just want to get me electorally before we get on through this and prove that this is working.”

Guilty as charged. Nothing makes us feel better than to have kids kicked off nutrition programs just so we can score political points.

We’re surprised that former KU football coach Charlie Weis hasn’t been making the rounds on network news claiming that the media - not him - is to blame for his 6-22 record.

“If the media hadn’t been so focused on my losing record I’d have had a lot more success recruiting five-star recruits,” we can imagine him saying.

Brownback undoubtedly has supporters who believe in what he’s saying and that his real live experiment would be working wonders if the media would conveniently go away. Dramatic tax cuts and trickle-down economics will work if the media would just ignore the fact it never has.

It’s been more than 30 years since Reaganomics introduced the idea of trickle-down tax cuts. Congressional Republicans and Republican-controlled state legislatures have been keeping the idea alive in one form or another for more than three decades with the promise that it will work.

We’re still waiting.

If the media would simply disappear, as Governor Sam wishes, here’s what you wouldn’t know:

•In the latest fiscal year, tax cuts were responsible for state revenue nosediving $688 million from the previous year. It was only because of cash reserves that the state was able to spend $329 million more than it received.

•In the upcoming year, it’s projected that the state will spend more than $650 million than it will get in revenue. Only it can’t do that because we no longer have the reserves and state law requires that the state can’t spend money which it doesn’t have.

•According to the Kansas Legislative Research Department, the state could be facing a deficit of more than $1.2 billion in 2018.

•Public education in Kansas is already suffering with a steady decline in basic state aid that has cost individual school districts millions of dollars over the last four years. The result has been staff cuts and larger class sizes while bringing about what some are calling “forced consolidation.”

But that’s not all.

According to data compiled by school superintendents within the Southwest Plains Regional Service Center (of which the Scott County district is a member) property taxes have increased an average of 7.9% to offset the loss of state aid. This is in addition to increased student fees.

The 36 school districts within the service center have had to offset lost state aid with property tax increases amounting to $100 million between 2009-13.

 

Blame that on the liberal media. And while you’re at it, blame the media for the millions of dollars in state money that has been cut from Head Start, early child education and child nutrition programs in Kansas.

And yet Brownback says the problem isn’t the policy, it’s our lack of patience.

If that were the case, then job and business growth numbers in Kansas would offer a rosy picture of prosperity on the horizon. That doesn’t appear to be the case.

Kansas’ gross domestic product (GDP) grew 1.9 percent in 2013. Now, we may not understand all the numbers that go into the GDP, but here’s what you should know. That’s half the rate of Colorado’s growth and trails Oklahoma’s 4.2 percent.

Kansas also trailed the growth rate in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa.

Those states didn’t implement a massive tax cut program. Or maybe those states are doing better, suggests Brownback, because their economies aren’t being undermined by the liberal media.

There’s also the little matter of the “liberal” investment firms Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s each downgrading the state’s bond rating because they put politics ahead of patience. That’s how financial firms operate.

As a member of the media, we apologize to Governor Sam for our “we can’t wait for you to fail” philosophy.

When young children are pushed out of nutrition programs, when the poor are denied health care because the state won’t pay for Medicaid expansion, when Kansas teachers can’t get pay raises, when students are put into crowded classrooms and when the state’s infrastructure needs are put on hold because of state budget cuts, there’s only one thing you can say.

Be patient.

And ignore us naysayers in the media. We’re the reason this grand experiment is failing.

Rod Haxton can be reached at editor@screcord.com

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