Legislative tornado hits Kansas
By Rod Haxton, editor
Sitting on a stage at the CPAC convention last weekend, Gov. Sam Brownback looked remarkably good for someone who had been dragged from under a house that had crashed upon him as the result of a legislative tornado.
The house is a metaphor for a government branch in the Kansas Legislature. Or, perhaps Brownback communications director Mileka Willoughby would prefer to follow the lead of her White House counterpart and refer to it as an adjective.
Whether the victim of a metaphor, an adjective or voter discontent, Governor Sam still found himself a guest speaker at the annual conservative rally where Republicans gather to hear the virtues of tax cuts for the wealthy, anti-immigration policy, the evils of Planned Parenthood, the need for a smaller federal government and, of course, more tax cuts for the wealthy.
Governor Sam is supposed to be the poster child for ultraconservative stalwarts who continue to convince each other that trickle-down economics offers guaranteed prosperity and that states can do just fine without any help from the federal government.
This was an opportunity for our governor to tell how his “real live experiment” had turned Kansas into an economic engine that was producing more jobs, creating businesses, delivering prosperity and, best of all, building a budget surplus.
If those at CPAC or watching on Fox News were hoping to hear Governor Sam boast about his state’s economic success they were disappointed - but no less disappointed than Kansans who have had to live through his trickle-down fiasco.
What made Governor Sam’s appearance on the CPAC panel a little awkward is that in the prior week the Republican-dominated Kansas Legislature had rebuked the governor’s signature tax cut plan by passing a $1 billion tax increase just to survive the next 18 months.
Because the governor continues to believe the sun is shining somewhere in Kansas, he vetoed the tax increase and that veto survived by just a three vote margin in the Kansas Senate.
Trickle-down economics isn’t dead in Kansas, but it is on life support - much like the state budget.
We’re curious as to how Governor Sam sold that turn of events to fellow conservatives at CPAC. Did he have to call out the National Guard to turn back this revolt from the unwashed and uneducated masses?
Not yet, but this issue is far from settled. The Kansas budget is still in the dumpster and promises by Brownback that it will get better as he bumps into statehouse walls while wearing rose-colored glasses aren’t going to fix the problem.
Oh, but that’s not the biggest story coming out of Topeka.
Remember that terrible, nasty, socialist, freeway to Armageddon called Obamacare? Yes, it’s the same Obamacare that was putting our grandparents on death row and which the Kansas Congressional delegation was giddy about repealing as soon as President Trump finished giving his oath of office.
Well, it turns out that people don’t think it’s so bad after all.
If fact . . . you might want to sit down and grab your oxygen mask before reading any further . . . the Kansas House (on a 72-53 vote) approved expanding Medicaid after the U.S. House of Representatives had already passed a resolution to repeal the ACA. It seems that all those liberal, pot smoking, peace loving, Communist-sympathizing Republicans in our state legislature (you know who you are) decided that making at least 150,000 more Kansans eligible for Medicaid services was a moral thing to do.
And there’s also that little matter about Kansas forfeiting $1.7 billion (that’s a “b”) in federal funds since January of 2014 because of its failure to expand Medicaid. The lack of expansion was cited as a reason that Mercy Hospital in Independence closed in late 2015.
We could also add that the Kansas House voted (72-53) to restore that liberal, pro-union, pro-teacher measure known as tenure that had been eliminated in 2014 for K-12 public school educators.
Gee, Sam, how was all this going down with your ultraconservative friends last weekend? Were they questioning whether you’d lost your iron grip on the state?
Hopefully, this signals an end to the days when Governor Sam and the Koch brothers can target specific Republicans for defeat and bring in legislative lemmings who will follow whatever marching orders they are given.
Instead, perhaps we’re entering a new era when state lawmakers are listening to their constituents who put value on public education and the well-being of Kansans who don’t benefit from massive tax breaks.
Rather than learning from our massive mistake, it appears that others are determined to repeat it, which explains Governor Sam’s presence at CPAC. There’s every indication that the Trump Administration and Republicans in Congress still see what’s happening in Kansas as something that should be done nationwide - the failure of similar tax cuts during the Reagan and Bush 43 years notwithstanding.
The success of trickle-down economics is a myth. Every time the curtain is pulled back and the myth is revealed, there’s someone telling us not to believe our eyes. They insist there really is an all-seeing, all-knowing Wizard who will deliver on a promise where all others before him have failed.
Only the delusional continue to make that promise.
Only the naive continue to believe it.
Rod Haxton can be reached at email@example.com
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