Follow the Yellow Brick Road to… Poverty?

September 25, 2013
By Leah Pickett | 0 comments

Brownback’s Conservative Utopia Dystopia

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has turned the Land of Oz into an experiment in ultra-conservative GOP economic policy. He’s also single handedly proving it doesn’t work.

Cowardly Lion: [noticing the snow that fallen on the poppy field] Unusual weather we're having, ain't it?

Ever wondered what the Republican dream world looks like?

Are you thinking of a place where corporate taxes are minimal; unions are systematically busted; public schools are criminally underfunded; legislators gravely refer to gun-free areas as “dangerous zones”; large cities have not a single abortion provider; and poverty is rising because everyone’s being kicked off social services in the middle of a recession?!

Surprise! You’re imagining a real place — the unfortunate state of Kansas. It’s a place where a rubber-stamp legislature has given ultra-conservative Governor Sam Brownback free reign since 2011.

Scarecrow: I haven't got a brain... only straw. 

Dorothy: How can you talk if you haven't got a brain? 

Scarecrow: I don't know... But some people without brains do an awful lot of talking... don't they?

Brownback’s five-point plan for the state’s future included goals such as “Decrease the percentage of Kansas children living in poverty” and “Increase the percentage of fourth-grade students reading at their grade level.” When elected, though, Brownback promptly cut school funding to illegal levels and condemned thousands more children to poverty by kicking 15,000 people off welfare, 20,000 off food stamps, implementing a staggeringly regressive tax policy, and eliminating tax rebates on food and rent aimed at the state’s poorest residents. And let’s be clear: Brownback’s tax policy is the most regressive in the country, actively raising taxes on the poor.

Brownback thinks is that poor people just don’t try hard enough to get jobs: “Instead of giving people a pittance of money from the government,” he explains. “Let's push people into work." This is his poverty-reduction strategy. Oh, that and the promotion of “family values.” And why all the cuts, you might ask? To help cover the budget shortfall created by tax cuts for the wealthy, of course!

The results paint a gloomy picture. Brownback’s policies led child poverty rates this summer to hit a record high, creeping up 1.6 percent since Brownback took office. Cuts to schools have left them “barely able to operate.” Debt incurred through massive tax breaks for the rich has led Moody’s to give Kansas bonds a “negative outlook”. Unemployment rose to 5.7%, the job growth rate (1.7%) is under the national average, and Kansas ranks 25th out of 45 states in job creation. Personal incomes fell 1.2% in 2013.

Dorothy: My goodness, what a fuss you're making! Well naturally, when you go around picking on things weaker than you are. Why, you're nothing but a great big coward!

Brownback’s Kansas experiment is a microcosm of what goes on on the national stage. Republican lawmakers intentionally mislead the public about the effects of their policies — particularly, who these policies are designed to help. For while conservatives like Brownback promise middle-and lower-class constituents that austerity will lead to more jobs, better schools, and less poverty, it’s clear that their legislative agendas bear no resemblance to the their folksy, populist, and disingenuous rhetoric. Promise better-educated children? Underfund schools by almost $500 million a year. Reduce child poverty? Cut welfare and food stamp programs, programs widely understood to disproportionately benefit poor children. Balance the budget? Lose hundreds of millions in revenue through tax breaks for the rich. It’s not spinning the truth; it’s lying.

Brownback’s classist policies demonstrate how completely unconcerned Republicans are with income inequality. Even the party’s recent obsession with balancing budgets appears to play only second fiddle to the fervor to reduce taxes on the wealthy. Brownback is the perfect example of why the GOP remains out of touch and unfriendly to middle- and working-class Americans: he misrepresents his loyalties and guts the programs that help them the most. Republicans pretend to wonder why they’re known as the “party of rich white men,” blaming the reputation on “identity politics” and “communication” issues. But here’s the blunt truth, GOP: people don’t vote for you when they realize that you aren’t on their side.

Brownback now has the fourth worst approval rating of all US governors.  

If they had their way, Republicans would model the United States after the unequal, impoverished, and indebted dystopia that Kansas is becoming.

Categories: Big Business Budget and Taxes Economy and Jobs Education


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