In 2004, Thomas Frank wrote the book “What’s The Matter With Kansas?” which looked into the state’s religious and political extremism. It was a fascinating read. But it’s time for him to write a sequel because the answer to that question is now more clear. What’s wrong with Kansas is Governor Sam Brownback and his version of Horse and Sparrow economics (feed the horse enough oats and a few will pass through to fall on the road for the sparrows to eat), aka Trickle Down economics, aka Supply Side economics, aka Reaganomics, aka Voodoo economics.
Most economists have known for years that this economic policy doesn’t work. Even the architects of Reaganomics now repudiate the philosophy. But Brownback is certain that he knows better. So, since he was elected governor, he has implemented Reaganomics on steroids. He cut taxes for the wealthy and eliminated taxes for thousands of corporations, promising that businesses would flock to the state bringing thousands of new jobs with them.
It hasn’t quite worked that way.
There have been no businesses flocking to Kansas from neighboring states. And the resulting loss in tax revenue ($333 million in 2014 alone) has not only caused the state to burn through the $700 million reserve fund that existed before Brownback took office, it has led to cuts for public schools, community colleges and state universities. But Brownback steadfastly refuses to return taxes to their previous levels or to raise taxes even a little bit. So the governor and the state’s Republican legislature are hoping to meet this year’s $710 million deficit by cutting funding to pensions for public employees and by cutting the budget for roads and infrastructure.
And Kansas isn’t alone in this right wing-fueled misery. After more than 20 years of corporate tax cuts and, with almost nothing left to cut, the Arizona Republican-led government is facing a $1 billion annual deficit. After the failed policies of a Republican governor, Pennsylvania’s new Democratic governor is facing a $2.3 billion deficit. And, after Gov. Scott Walker’s $541 million tax cuts in 2014, Wisconsin is now facing a two-year deficit of $2.2 billion. In all, there are 16 states facing deficits…most of them controlled by tax-cutting Republicans. Meanwhile, Democratic-controlled states like California and Minnesota have some of the nation’s lowest unemployment figures, the nation’s best job creation and…wait for it…budget surpluses!
So tax cuts combined with budget cuts equals few new jobs, reduced revenue and even larger deficits, while reasonable taxes, reasonable spending on education and other services equals more jobs, more revenue and thriving economies.
It can’t be any more clear than that.