A Message from Kansas for the United States

36

by
Joseph O’Shaughnessy

Kansas has long been considered one of the most backward states of those that are not in the alliance of old Confederate states. In other words, other than the old Confederacy states, Kansas, mostly a farming community and sparsely populated has lived quietly and produced primarily decent, hospitable people. But almost since the days of Alf Landon, they have voted Republican and largely against themselves.

In 2012, Republican Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas said that he was about to transition Kansas from a “high-tax’ state to a “low-tax” state. Well, first of all Kansas was not a “high tax” state. It ranked number 22 among states, in all taxes and surtaxes, etc, a rating that is complicated, but right after Nebraska, with a 9.7 rating and basically in the middle of the pack. In fact all the way down to number 35 all states had higher than a 9.0 rating.

Kansas and other states were still recovering from the Great Bush-Cheney Stock Market Crash and Republican Recession of 2008-2012, which had stolen $7.5 trillion of personal net worth from American citizens. Brownback sold huge tax cuts to naïve Republican Kansas as an “experiment.” So…the state had run some deficits.

The previous Governor, Democrat Mark Parkinson, seeing at least a $400 million deficit coming in 2011, recommended two tax increases that would have brought the state deficit to under $100 million, He was replaced by Brownback in 2010, who instituted the tax cuts in 2012.

Brownback maintained that the tax cuts would go like “a shot of adrenaline” directly into the heart of the Kansas economy, attracting business and creating jobs. his “advisors” Arthur Laffer, who was as responsible as anyone for the $20 trillion national debt and Stephen Moore the Neo-Fascist economist, had fooled the public again. The tax cuts went to the heart of Kansas like a bullet, not a shot of adrenaline.

In the first year alone, Kansas lost 700 million dollars in state revenue.

No one should be surprised. Most rational economists who are not yet the payroll of an institution like Heritage or Cato (both funded by Kansas-based Koch Industries) consider supply-side that is, “trickle down” economics laughable, that is, cutting taxes and pretending that you’re doing it to increase government revenues. It has never worked—never.

Under Reagan and Bush and Bush, the result was $20 trillion in national debt. Of that, $2 trillion came under Reagan, $2 trillion under Bush I, and $11.6 trillion under Bush II and Cheney. During that same period, Democrat Clinton reduced the deficits to zero. Democrat Obama reduced the deficits left by the Bush II outfit from $1.4 trillion down to under $300 billion before leaving office. Yet Republicans in Kansas believed

Of course, it should be noted that, in addition to a population living on a vast prairie of wheat and corn and cattle, the state is the home base of one of the most vicious, anti-Middle Class corporations in the country, Koch Industries. Koch is basically an oil and chemical company, and the largest polluter in the history of the United States, if rated by actual fines paid to the U.S. government. Koch propaganda campaigns to cut their taxes and persuade the hicks to raise theirs are brilliant and relentless.

Needless to say as the $700 million deficit grew, even with monumental cuts to education at all levels, the super-rich defeated the super-hicks roundly every year, as the Koch-brothers-supported, ALEC organization did its job of electing one supplicant after another into the Kansas state legislature—each one attacking his constituents worse than the last, while the lying Koch brothers ads sold tax cuts as Valhalla.

In 2012, Governor Brownback, supported by Koch Industries, and their purchased state legislature, passed the tax cut of 25% for the highest income rates and complete elimination of taxes on companies like LLCs and S-corporations. In other words, tax cuts for the Koch Brothers’ personal incomes, among other rich, and LLCs, like small drilling companies, law firms, and small manufacturers, who draw their income directly from the profits to the company. The message to the Kansas hicks was that LLCs and Sub-S corporations are small businesses and by cutting their taxes, more would come to Kansas. Did not work. The owners of small manufacturing firms and law firms and accounting firms and, oh yes, not a few drilling firms got fat.(Were they partners with the Koch brothers?)

But business didn’t come. And taxes didn’t go up, and funds for schools were cut, health services were cut, state administration—even as the economy picked up in other states—was cut. Funds had to be transferred from highway funds, for example, so that roads and streets and dams and other significant projects were delayed or fell into disrepair.

These were the kinds of cuts: (annually) $112 million cuts to health care facilities, like vaccination programs for children and $97 million to basic government administration to run libraries and maintain public buildings and roads and dams. The agencies that handle health care services and servi to the aging and handicapped were cut by $57 million, which meant that matching funds of $72 million from the Federal government were lost to the state.

Children were not receiving care. Clinics for the poor were closing. Still Brownback refused to participate in the Affordable Care Act provisions that would have provided 100% coverage of Medicaid for the state from the Federal government. He refused over $1 billion that would have helped the poor in his state. Yet he continued to drive the state further and further into debt on the backs of the poor and the middle and lower income families, who, not only lost services but would also actually pay more in net taxes over the life of the legislation.

Education problems became so serious that the Supreme Court ruled that the support for education in Kansas fell below constitutionally mandated minimum standards. By 2014, Kansas educational expenditures for individual students, many of which are in rural areas with no alternatives, fell to below 2008 standards, which were already below the national average.

By 2018, even with all the cuts, and with no restoration of taxes, the deficit is projected over $1 billion. Kansas already has $7 billion in debt and rising rapidly. What does that mean for Kansans?
While the U.S. economy is growing rapidly, Kansas is falling. It is lower than any of the states around it in job growth, by a wide margin and it is lower by far than the national average. Only Oklahoma, a basket case of a right-to-work state, where–even when jobs are available–no one can live on the wages…can be considered worse than Kansas.

If Kansas elects a Republican, especially Chris Kobach, it will end up worse than Oklahoma. It will be a final blow to the hicks. The Koch brothers will own the state forever and education, health care, roads…anything the Kochs don’t need…will go to hell. And as long as Kansans vote Republican it will stay that way.

Even if Kansas were to go Democratic this year—top to bottom—it would take ten years at least, or a whopping big revenge tax on the Kochs and their allies, to get anything like state services back to normal. The budget is in deficit now, even with the removal of the tax cuts, by $1.1 billion. And because bond ratings are cut, the cost of recovery is more expensive and therefore cannot be borne in the short run. This means recovery in Kansas will be a long, painful process, perhaps a decade or more of suffering.

So how does a cut to a state budget actually affect people, individuals? How about if your kid only goes to school four days a week instead of five for the last three months—or four months, or six months of the school year? And teachers also have to take a turn cleaning up classrooms rather than working with kids after school because custodians (the people most needing the job) are laid off? Sound good? That happened in Kansas. It could happen in Wisconsin, where Scott Walker is on the Koch brothers’ payroll and cut $300 million from education.

It means that Medicaid is suddenly unavailable to working families with seriously ill children. It means panic when their care literally stops. They are forced to go to the emergency room, the most expensive kind of care. They are asked to basically forfeit their savings and sell everything they have to cover only some of the costs, while the hospital bears the rest.

None of this is necessary. The Affordable Care Act, while it costs the top 1% a small surtax on their federal tax bill, that tiny amount, across hundreds of thousands of very rich individuals, allows the government to spread costs across all Americans. By spreading those costs across an entire nation, healthy and sick, young and old, the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid balance those costs, care for those children and the parents who feed them and clothe them and provide a place to live. But the Koch Brothers and Sam Brownback and Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore do not care. They say they do. But the result of their actions is the opposite. So they are not stupid—merely liars.

People die from lack of health care. It happens every day in the third world. Even in the best of circumstances it can happen here, without medical facilities that are well funded and patients that can access care right away when necessary. That’s why people come to this country in any manner they can get here, because we have in the past been a society of compassion. We would never have considered letting someone die over a tax cut for the rich. But that was long ago, before we were so rich that people with two television sets only and only one smart phone were considered poor. Yet we kick people out of hospitals and let them die. At least we do in Kansas, or Oklahoma or the Confederate states.

What is happening in Kansas, a diminished quality of life—poor education, poor healthcare, reduced job opportunities, bad roads, bad public buildings—is what will happen to the U.S. as a result of more tax cuts for the rich. Oh, I know, you think you got a Trump tax cut. Well, let’s say you did. Here’s what happens next year.

The Republicans no longer make any pretense about “greater revenues as a result of accelerated business activity.” That’s been proven a lie now for at least 30 years but Republican propaganda continues to promote because they know people are venal. People, not just Kansans, are fools.

As a result of the Trump/Ryan/Republican tax cuts, and resulting reduced government income, the Republican Congress has created a budget plan that reduces Social Security care by $24 billion dollars. And that will go on every year so long as the Trump tax cuts are in effect. So you get a tax cut but you lose it when you retire, but you affect the retirement programs for others immediately.

Health care premiums will also go up. In some states as much as 23%. In Illinois next year insurance companies say the premium will go up by an average of $3,680. The government, by law, has to follow rules called Paygo. That means that the Republicans have to cut government or raise taxes. So they will cut Social Security and Medicare. They didn’t cut the military. Soldiers got a raise.

The Republicans will cut subsidies to health insurance companies for policies to low income individuals. Trump’s new cheaper, virtually worthless health care insurance proposal (created by that same “super-compassionate” health insurance industry) will make other health care premiums much more expensive.

You paid for Social Security with payroll deductions on your income up to $109,000. So it is yours. Not some billionaire’s. You need it. He doesn’t need it and he doesn’t need another tax cut. What would Kansans tell the rest of America about these kinds of Draconian tax cuts, which the President and Congress just passed?

In a recent poll 61% of Kansans thought the tax cuts were a bad idea. Only 7% thought they were OK. It took an override of Sam Brownback’s veto to do it, but the Kansas state legislature finally restored the income from those tax cuts. But the damage was done. Things don’t happen in the abstract. Childen get sick, need care. Without it they die. Now. Not at some convenient time when perhaps something can be done. So, we know that Brownback and his supporters caused the deaths of children and the poor. We know it because those are the things that happen every day without health care. And children are denied their educational opportunities. Because they go to school every day.

The damage that underfunding government can do, merely to provide more money to men who make hundreds of millions and already keep 80% of it—at the worst—and in some cases even more, is unrelenting and often unrecoverable.

If we do not fight for Americans and decide to have very rich people who keep the majority of their money but not so much that society cannot function, then we will not survive as a nation. As it is, this very day, while 61% of Kansans say that they agree that the tax cuts should be reversed, the Republican candidate is campaigning on a platform that wants to cut taxes again.

If Kansas votes for this kind of idiocy and if Americans follow the lead of ignorant hicks, then this country is doomed.