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.
August, the time of year when Congress leaves town for five weeks. Usually it gives them the chance to step away from the breakneck pace of the Legislative Calendar, and gives them a chance to reconnect with their constituents. Except under this failed GOP leadership, it's where we get to call them to task for barely doing anything for the American people. Here's a list of everything they left unfinished.
1. The Sequester
It's still there, and it's still killing over a million jobs (1.6 million by the end of 2014). The automatic spending cuts are already striking into the economy, and slowing growth. While the Tea Party continues to demand that it stays, or even doesn't go far enough, there's still a lot to say about moments like this one:
“Thus I believe that the House has made its choice: sequestration — and its unrealistic and ill-conceived discretionary cuts — must be brought to an end.” - Rep. Hal Rogers (R. KY)
You know something's up when the GOP head of the House Appropriations Committee speaks out against spending cuts.
2. Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development
The quote from the Kentucky representative is actually about the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development bill (THUD). The bill serves to fund a part of the government next year, so of course congress couldn't get its act together. But why? The bill would go higher than what sequestration allows.
Good job GOP.
3. The Budget
Congress needs to pass 12 appropriations bills to fund the government. Who made that dumb law?
Oh... the framers...
Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7 of the Constitution says,
No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.
So it's slightly mandatory for Congress to get its act together on this one. The fiscal year ends on October 1st. Because congress comes back on September 9th, and barely meets anyway, there will only be 9 days for them to pass a budget.
In a rare move, Obama and the House GOP leadership came to an agreement to set a deadline for immigration reform in the House. Guess what deadline came and went with nothing to show.
What's more? The deal powered its way through the Senate. What does this mean? It means that the House definition of "bipartisan" is actually "liberal."
The 113th congress had, until this week, only passed 13 bills. At the rate it's going it's likely going to be less productive than the 112th Congress, which was the least productive since World War 2, and take the mantle of being the least productive in the history of the United States.
What did they actually get done before the August recess? They passed their 14th bill - student loan reform that will actually raise rates over the years for millions of students.
Oh, and the House passed its 40th repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Sweet.
A month ago, we launched a national movement together to cut student loan interest rates. More than one million people signed on to give students the same good deal we give the big Wall Street banks.
So far, we can't get a cut. But it's worse than that.
Today, interest rates on new student loans will double to 6.8%, yet Republicans continue to block a vote to keep rates at the current 3.4% for another year. Instead, at a time when the government is scheduled to make obscene profits on federal student loans -- $51 billion this year -- Republicans have proposed their own plan to increase government profits even more.
We will not play chicken with our students' future. That's why my colleagues and I, led by Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Kay Hagan (D-NC), have introduced the Keep Student Loans Affordable Act, to lock in the current 3.4% interest rate for one more year as we continue to push for real, long-term reform. On July 10, the Senate will vote on this proposal.
There's a fundamental question here: Should we be investing in our students who want to build a better future for themselves and their families, or should the government be profiting at their expense?
One year is just a short-term patch. But we need the time to fight the bigger fight.
In the long-term, we need to address the $1.1 trillion dollars in existing debt, to bring exploding college costs under control, and to stop treating our students as a profit center for our government.
DFA members have done amazing work. You've called Senators, written letters, and brought new leading educators on board. We are on the right side on this issue, and I know that if we push harder, in time we will win the day.
But with the deadline now passed, our students shouldn't pay for Congress's failure to act. Allowing rates to double this summer, or passing the costly Republican plan, would add billions to the already enormous debt burden our students suffer.
Holding interest rates at 3.4% now gives us the time to craft a real solution, one that offers real relief and real reform.
It isn't a stretch of the imagination to realize that people want lower interest rates, and the last 6 weeks has seen an intense fight by the GOP to do anything but that.
Senate Democrats have backed a bill that would peg interest rates to the 91-day Treasury note rate plus a percent decided by the Education secretary. It would cap interest rates for the subsidized portion of the loan at 6.8 percent and the unsubsidized portion and graduate loan at 8.25 percent. It also includes the White House proposal to expand the income-contingent loan repayment plan. - RollCall
What does that mean for voters and college grads? You can find out here :