Politics shouldn’t be a game

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Rod Haxton, editor


Rod Haxton, editor

By Rod Haxton, editor

 Much is said about the degree to which partisanship has taken over our politics.

Not that being partisan is unusual or likely to lead to the demise of civilization as we know it. We are all partisan about something or another - K-State vs KU, Chiefs vs Broncos, Chevy vs Ford.

It only becomes a problem when partisanship makes it impossible to have a reasonable discussion, to arrive at fair decisions or even to agree on what the facts are.

There was a time when protecting the environment wasn’t a partisan issue. The EPA was established under President Richard Nixon - a Republican. Today, Republicans are intent on gutting the EPA and environmental protections.

The primary goal for partisans is less about doing what’s right than it is about winning and losing.

When it appeared that a vote recount in Florida in 2000 would result in Al Gore being elected president instead of George W. Bush, Republicans were able to get the Supreme Court to intervene and stop the recount. A Court with a majority of its members who had been appointed by Republican Presidents changed the rules.

Rather than allowing the actual ballots to be counted, the Court - not the voters - decided the winner.

*   *   *

Imagine that your football team was leading by three points and they have just 20 seconds to go 90 yards. As the final seconds tick off the clock and you believe you’ve won, the game is stopped and everyone is informed that time has been added to the clock.

How much time? As much as the team that is trailing needs in order to get into the end zone.

Ridiculous? That’s what happened in 2010 when Congress was debating the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act (MMA). Republican leadership rejected amendments that would have allowed for negotiation of prescription drug prices through Medicare and the purchase of prescription drugs from Canada.

Under the rules, a vote to approve the MMA that should have been cut off after 15 minutes was kept open for three hours until Republicans could strong arm (bribe) enough votes for passage.

We’ve paid the price ever since. Because prescription drug prices can’t be negotiated, it’s estimated that Big Pharma saw their profits increase by $139 billion from 2010 to 2018.

Big Pharma and their supporters won. The rest of us lost.

*   *   *

President Obama nominates Judge Merrick Garland to fill a Supreme Court vacancy. Republicans change the rules and declare a president in his final year in office shouldn’t be allowed to appoint a Supreme Court Justice.

 The only Republican Senator who said that Garland deserved a hearing was Jerry Moran of Kansas, who later wilted from that position under pressure from his party.

Republicans were rewarded by getting their own nominee on the Supreme Court.

Republicans won. Nothing else matters.

*   *   *

Gov. Sam Brownback and ultraconservative lawmakers were successful in passing a tax plan in which more than 330,000 independent business owners pay little or no state income tax (the so-called LLC loophole).

The result has been cuts in services that aid the poor, young children and the elderly. It’s meant selling off state assets and ignoring our infrastructure needs. It’s meant higher college tuition costs, cuts in spending for public education and higher property taxes to compensate for state funding cuts.

Ultraconservatives win. Kansas loses.


*   *   *

Kansas has been sinking deeper and deeper into a budget hole ever since Brownback and conservative lawmakers passed the income tax cut in 2012.

The disastrous consequences have been well documented. The state has borrowed about $1.2 billion from KDOT, it has withheld funding from KPERS and this year it’s borrowing $291 million from a “rainy day” fund as a last resort to meet it’s obligations - even before it figures how to pay for a school funding plan.

What is the governor’s solution?

A flat tax that would increase income taxes on about 65 percent of low- and middle-income Kansans.

Even now, with the state budget in a shambles, Gov. Brownback can’t admit he’s been wrong. Ultraconservatives can’t admit they’ve been wrong.

To give up on tax cuts for the wealthy would be an admission that Reaganomics is a failed policy. Good Republicans don’t admit defeat. They take everyone down with them . . . and blame Obama.

We aren’t going to like every decision that comes out of Topeka or Washington, D.C., but there was a time when you felt the ultimate goal was to do what’s best for a majority of the people.

We express more outrage with deflated footballs and who was eliminated from Dancing With the Stars than we do with breaking the rules on Supreme Court nominees, pouring billions of dollars into Big Pharma or whether we have a tax policy that’s fair.

If you’re keeping score, you’ve probably noticed a pattern.

It’s ironic that many on the Republican sideline think they’re winning until they can’t afford health insurance, or prescription medications or college tuition for their children.

Wearing a big, bright “R” on your jersey doesn’t make you a winner under Republican policies and most of you never will be.

That’s not how the game is played.

Rod Haxton can be reached at editor@screcord.com

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