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Wednesday, October 11, 2017


They're not anti-government. They're pro-oligarch.

by Tom Sullivan

As Congress considers something the GOP brands as tax reform, Republicans in Kansas hope Congress will learn from The Sunflower State's mistakes.

Gov. Sam Brownback's 2012 tax cuts were supposed to kick-start the state's economy by dropping the individual income tax rate from 6.4 to 4.9 percent and eliminating state income taxes entirely for pass-through entities such as sole proprietorships and LLCs (limited liability partnerships). The result was plunging revenues and a perpetual budget crisis. Tax cuts did not pay for themselves as advertised, something anyone who lived through the Reagan administration should have known.

But now, thanks to the sitting president's tax framework and help from House Speaker Paul Ryan, Republicans are looking at repeating on a national scale Brownback's "real live experiment" in conservative economic theory.

Those who survived it are not optimistic about its national prospects. Russell Berman writes in The Atlantic:

But the concerns of Kansas state legislators go beyond the pass-through policy. They worry that Republicans in Congress, including those in the state’s own delegation, are basing their tax overhaul on the same underlying assumptions about economic growth that have been articles of faith for the party since the Reagan era but turned out disastrously in Kansas. “This is designed to shrink government. It is not designed to grow business,” state Representative Stephanie Clayton told me. “I’ve seen it. It shrinks government. It doesn’t grow business.”

She alleged that Kansas’s representatives and senators in Washington had shown no interest in learning about the state’s experience and were simply following the orders of the Koch brothers, the powerful GOP donors headquartered in the state. “They don’t think anything’s wrong with it, but then again, none of them actually live in Kansas anymore, so what do they know?” Clayton said of the delegation. (None of the members of the Kansas congressional delegation I contacted were available for interviews about the tax plan.)
Anti-tax groups are running ads promoting taking the tax "reforms" national. Raw Story reports on one:
Critics of the Republican tax plan proposed by President Donald Trump describe it as a “gift for the rich.” Now, Ohio and New York media markets are running ads funded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce swearing that it benefits regular Americans. Their problem, however, is that none of the people in the ads would benefit from Trump’s plan.

An Intercept report details that Dow Chemical, Goldman Sachs and Microsoft are behind the ads, which feature a retail clerk, a mechanic, a man standing with tools, a factory worker and a woman sitting in an office. According to analysis of the plan, those in the ad would actually benefit the least, while those funding the ad would benefit more.

Another spot by Americans for Prosperity is funded by Koch Industries, the Kansas-based conglomerate:

The Intercept reports:
“Fixing our broken tax system isn’t about politics. It’s about helping people. It means the powerful, the well-connected, the politicians, they’ll stop benefitting from a rigged system,” says a woman in the Koch brothers-backed advertisement.

The ad does not disclose that it is sponsored by two of the richest men in the world, or that the legislation calls for eliminating the estate tax, which would allow the children of the Koch brothers, worth an estimated $94.8 billion, to inherit their parent’s wealth without paying a dime in taxes.
Truth in advertising. They're not anti-big-government. They're pro-oligarch.

The tax plan “shrinks government," Clayton said. "It doesn’t grow business.” People like the Kochs don't see that as a failure. Goldfinger wasn't interested in stealing the gold at Fort Knox. In rendering it radioactive and worthless, he reduced world supply, thus dramatically increasing the value of his personal stockpile. The Kochs of the world don't care if tax policy grows business if by shrinking the government's power, theirs increases.

Blade Runner 2049 is what that world looks like. From an oligarch's perspective, it is the opposite of dystopia.

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Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.