Brownback experiment

The Brownback Effect

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) speaks at CPAC, 28 February 2015.  (Detail of photo by Gage Skidmore)

This is the part where reality comes crashing down:

Lots of numbers in a new statewide survey of Kansas from Fort Hays State University, but here’s the stunner:

Only 18 percent of state residents said they were “very” or “somewhat satisfied” with GOP Gov. Sam Brownback.

Kansas, in case there’s any misunderstanding, is a heavily Republican state.

President Barack Obama, long a punching bag for Republicans, rated higher. Some 28 percent of respondents expressed satisfaction with the Democratic chief executive.

(Krase)

The whole thing with Kansas and Mr. Brownback really is a puzzle; it’s one thing to point out that he is wrecking the state’s finances to the point that schools can’t function, thus observing that there is a reason Kansans are annoyed with their governor. But there is also a twist, that Sunflower State voters already knew most of that when they re-elected Gov. Brownback last year.

Certainly, the numbers are remarkable; Mr. Brownback is so awful, in Kansans’ eyes, that President Obama now suffers less ill will in the Jayhawk Midway Wheat State. To the other, though, the notion of self-inflicted damage asserts itself. Kansans quite literally did this to themselves, and we might make that crass joke, “And we’re all just so proud of them for doing such a super job!” but in truth, no, nobody is proud. Nor is this merely a Kansas thing; the Brownback Way is merely a revival of the supply-side mysticism, the “voodoo” economics, of thirty years ago. And this Republicans would inflict on the nation.

Steve Benen recalls Mitch McConnell, who described the Brownback Way as, “exactly the sort of thing we want to do here, in Washington, but can’t, at least for now”:

“At least for now,” of course, refers to the fact that there’s a Democrat in the White House.

In other words, Kansas’ “experiment” – massive tax breaks, coupled with drastic cuts to public investments – is “exactly” the model Republicans want to impose on the nation. They’re just waiting for a far-right president to work with a far-right Congress, just like Kansas’ far-right governor worked with a far-right legislature.

It really is the strangest thing.

Then again, this is Kansas. They have their priorities.

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Image note: Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) speaks at CPAC, 28 February 2015. (Detail of photo by Gage Skidmore)

Benen, Steve. “Obama tops Brownback in ruby-red Kansas”. msnbc. 26 October 2015.

Krase, Steve. “Gov. Sam Brownback in deep hole with Kansans”. The Kansas City Star. 24 October 2015.

A Kansas Story

Great Seal of Kansas (detail)

It was not so long ago that Don Gonyea of NPR filed a report on the gubernatorial race in Kansas:

This isn’t your typical incumbent-in-trouble story, though. In office, Brownback has done exactly what he said he would. But many, many voters aren’t happy, including a lot of Republicans.

Big tax cuts that Brownback championed have left Kansas with a serious budget problem ....

.... Some of the loudest complaints have come from moderate Republicans. This summer, 104 Republicans — current and former Kansas officials — held a press conference to endorse Davis.

Brownback’s problem is that in fulfilling his promise to alter the state’s financial structure, he failed to fulfill the other part of his promise, that doing so would help Kansas.

In the first gubernatorial debate recently at the Kansas State Fair, Brownback addressed the state’s economic issues. “Our unemployment rate is 4.9 percent. We have a record number of Kansans working. We have the fastest-growing economy in the region and more new business created than ever in the history of the state,” he said.

But Democrat Paul Davis countered with a darker view of things, saying the deficit is projected to hit $1.3 billion in five years.

“Our credit rating has been downgraded three times. We’re 45th in the nation in new business creation,” Davis said. “In 2013, more businesses closed up shop than opened shop. It’s because we have an economic experiment that isn’t working. Let’s return to a proven Kansas model of growing our economy, and that’s how we’re going to help Kansas.”

Many of Gov. Brownback’s critics foresaw htis outcome. The question is whether or not the hardline Republican can convince voters that, “The sun is shining in Kansas and don’t let anybody tell you any different.”

What about the numbers? Will they say anything different, or will they reveal the sunshine?

Right.

Josh Barro explains:

Kansas has missed its tax revenue targets again, and the state is in for new fiscal pain as a result.

You may recall that Kansas gained national attention back in June because it had cut income taxes and lost a lot more revenue than lawmakers had anticipated. For fiscal year 2014, which ended on June 30, the state collected $330 million less in taxes than it had forecast, and $700 million less than it had collected in the prior year.

Those are big numbers in a state that spends about $6 billion annually from its general fund, and the revenue weakness led both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s to cut Kansas’ credit rating this year.

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