Brownbackers

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.

Brought to You by the Letter ‘A’

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI01), promoting his budget agenda.

The life cycle of bad ideas is a curious thing.

No, wait, no it isn’t. Something about history repeating itself and not being smart enough to recognize the point goes here. At any rate, Simon Maloy tries to explain a thing or two about the latest revival of supply-side mysticism:

they love cutting taxes for rich people, and they’re also enthusiastic deficit scolds. There’s a seemingly irreconcilable tension in that worldview that arises from a straightforward assumption: cutting tax rates for the people who pay the largest share of taxes will result in the government taking in less revenue.

The way they get around this dilemma is through the magic of dynamic scoring. Basically, when they calculate the cost of a tax cut, they assume that cutting taxes will produce an explosion of economic growth that will actually result in higher tax revenues. Cutting taxes, therefore, won’t increase the deficit – it could actually lower it! This is, to put it mildly, a contentious idea. Dynamic scoring on its own isn’t a particularly controversial practice, but strong proponents of supply-side economics vigorously abuse it in order to make some ruinous economic proposals seem palatable.

One of the biggest adherents of dynamic scoring is Rep. Paul Ryan, the incoming chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. The most recent of his celebrated ultra-conservative budget proposals made enthusiastic use of dynamic scoring in order to achieve balance in 10 years while simultaneously slashing tax rates and boosting defense spending. When you just assume that lowering tax rates will supercharge economic growth, anything becomes possible.

This is hardly news: The presumed increased revenues resulting from tax cuts are simply presumptions.

Those who remember Voodoo Reaganomics occasionally scratch their heads and wonder, “What? We’re still having this discussion?” And those who remember the financial crisis that started with the Bear Stearns collapse in 2007 can always blame it on the president who was elected in 2008 and didn’t take office until 2009. The idea is simple enough, that if the government takes less money in taxes, that money will produce even more in taxes under lower rates by staying in the consumer and business economies. The result, of course, is a widening gap between rich and poor, a private business sector that has become so privileged it feels the products and services it offers in exchange for money are merely obstacles they must overcome in order to get what is rightly theirs—namely the money in your pocket—and a resounding, persistent failure to produce the promised returns. All of these, of course, are why Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI01) calls “dynamic scoring” by another moniker, “reality-based scoring”.

You see, sometimes a joke is funny because it’s true. In the Republican Party, a fantasy is true because it sounds funny.

In this photo taken Sept. 6, 2014, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback speaks in Hutchinson, Kansas. The writing is on the wall for gay marriage bans in Kansas, Montana and South Carolina after federal appeals courts that oversee those states have made clear that keeping gay and lesbian couples from marrying is unconstitutional. But officials in the three states are refusing to allow same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses without a court order directing them to do so. It could be another month or more before the matter is settled. In a political campaign debate Monday, Brownback vowed to defend his state’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. A federal court hearing is scheduled for Friday.(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)No, wait, that’s still not right.

The thing is that we have an ongoing supply-side experiment in progress, and that is called Kansas, where Gov. Sam Brownback and his supporters—self-described (ahem!) “Brownbackers”—have produced not the fantasy results but, rather about what you might expect. Fiscal affairs in Kansas government are a bit sensitive at the moment, but don’t worry, the fantasy math says things will work out okay in the end.

Strangely, Mr. Ryan, the GOP vice presidential nominee in 2012, is considered something of a budget wonk.

Perhaps they have the wrong vowel.

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Maloy, Simon. “Paul Ryan’s ‘reality’ problem: Why his justification of ruinous supply-side tax policies is warped “. Salon. 1 December 2014.

The Shadow Over Kansas

The Capitol of Kansas, in Topeka.

Kansas will face a $279 million budget shortfall by July, far worse than state officials had thought before a new revenue forecast Monday that will force Gov. Sam Brownback and legislators to consider spending cuts.

Associated Press

The news only gets worse from there, you know.

Look, we are an American community.

Quick, someone tell the folks in Kansas. Wait, what’s that? They don’t care?

I realize Brownback has an “R” after his name, but the fact that Kansans actually re-elected this guy, despite the option of a credible and experienced challenger, and despite the disaster of his signature issue, is kind of amazing.

Of course, let’s not forget Art Laffer, the Republican economist who helped shape Brownback’s plan, who’s perhaps best known for his “Laffer Curve” which says tax cuts can pay for themselves. He, of course, feels vindicated, not because the Kansas plan is failing, but because Brownback won re-election regardless of his performance.

(Benen)

In this photo taken Sept. 6, 2014, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback speaks in Hutchinson, Kansas. The writing is on the wall for gay marriage bans in Kansas, Montana and South Carolina after federal appeals courts that oversee those states have made clear that keeping gay and lesbian couples from marrying is unconstitutional. But officials in the three states are refusing to allow same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses without a court order directing them to do so. It could be another month or more before the matter is settled. In a political campaign debate Monday, Brownback vowed to defend his state’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. A federal court hearing is scheduled for Friday.(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)As tempting as it might seem to rub our hands in curious satisfaction and chuckle deep in our throats like supervillains about to watch mindless, ant-like humanity destroy itself, the simple fact is that we’re Americans, not supervillains. And what Kansans are doing to themselves ought to be their own business, except, like masturbation, it becomes a problem when you visit your kinks on other people who don’t want anything to do with the mess you’re making.

And that’s the thing. Not every Kansan stays in Kansas, and the longer this goes on the more and more noticeable it will be when the young generation shows up in other states, with less education, and suffers in the job market. That is to say, even if we find some justification to say we’re just fine with the Sunflower State willfully squandering the futures of its youngest generation, everybody else is going to have to take up the slack.

We can’t just build a border fence and pen them in. That’s just not what Americans do.

But at the same time, these are the United States of America, after all. If general decency is insufficient, then think of the inconvenience this sort of thing might cause you in a future not so distant.

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Associated Press. “Kansas faces $279 million budget shortfall by summer”. KSN. 10 November 2014.

Benen, Steve. “Brownback’s economic failures start to look even worse”. msnbc. 11 November 2014.