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Saturday, June 10, 2017


Recovering from the cult

by Tom Sullivan


Hullabaloo alum David Atkins this morning examines the fever breaking in Kansas, writing that "'conservatism' has in some parts of the world taken on all the aspects of cult dogma, little different in its own way from Leninism or any other totalizing political ideology." That frames it as an expression of the will to power. I prefer to call it the Midas cult. To my mind that focuses more on the pathological, greed-driven, moral rot behind it. But whatever.

Republican moderates joined Democrats this week to override Brownback's veto of a bill rolling back his tax cuts. After five, long years of waiting for Brownback's supply-side economic miracle to manifest itself, and after five, long years of a tanking economy, Kansans had had enough of America's least-popular governor. Even some Republicans are leaving the cult. With billion-dollar budget shortfalls projected through 2019, Sophia Tesfaye writes at Salon, even GOP lawmakers in adjacent states are mocking Brownback:

But the real joke is that Kansas’ failed tax experiment was crafted and endorsed by the most influential conservatives in the country and closely mirrors President Donald Trump’s tax reform plan. In fact, both plans were designed by the same right-wing economists.

Now as Trump attempts to pass the same failed plan through a Republican-controlled Congress, Republicans in Kansas are finally willing to bite the bullet and pass the largest tax increase in state history; they need to fund a public education system that the state Supreme Court recently ruled is inadequately funded.
NPR reported earlier this week that while some Republican legislators are ready to change course, not all ready to admit their mistakes:
Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning said lawmakers had known since May 2014 that the tax cuts were leading to fiscal woes and not playing out as intended. He said while he voted for the 2012 changes, he believes in cleaning up one's messes in life and planned to cast his vote accordingly.

"I'm going to mop it up," he said.

Conservative Republican state Sen. Dennis Pyle drew on the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty in his appeal that colleagues uphold the veto. He suggested some lawmakers might think Brownback is like the main character in that poem, but it is in fact the spend-happy legislators who are shattered.

"They continue to want more and more," he said. "They want to interfere in people's lives."
Getting what they wouldn't pay for

Brownback's crew has taken a wrecking ball to the Sunflower State. The state Supreme Court ruled in March that school funding was inadequate to meet constitutional standards and ordered a new funding plan by the end of June. With the rollback of Brownback's tax cuts, perhaps, Kansans are coming around to the idea that they'd rather have the politicians they hire make their lives better rather than worse. Why else hire them? What else is government for?

Atkins writes at Washington Monthly:
So it’s heartening in a way to see that Kansas, which has long been ground zero for the most extreme version of tax-cut orthodoxy in America and has suffered mightily for it, is finally coming to its senses somewhat. A new wave of more moderate Republicans have joined with Democrats to raise taxes enough to fill in some of the deep gaps left in Brownback’s “cut taxes for the rich and let everything else crumble” budget.
True believers will be undeterred, of course. Americans for Prosperity promises retaliation. Brownback’s secretary of state, Kris Kobach, is running in the primary for governor. He's not ready to leave the cult:
“This state does not need more money, and the people of Kansas do not need to keep feeding the government monster with year after year of increased taxes,” Kobach told supporters in a speech announcing his candidacy. “Kansas does not have a revenue problem. Kansas has a spending problem.”
In other words, gimme that old time religion.