Tag Archives: economic ideology

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…