Democrats Need to Educate People About Kansas

I was hoping someone would take a careful look at how Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s experiment in Voodoo Economics has worked out for his state, and Justin Miller at The American Prospect has granted my wish. Without getting into all the details in this piece, I want to make a more general observation. There’s a lot of value in what Brownback did to Kansas because it gives us a chance to compare what the Republicans say will happen for education, employment, economic growth, and budgeting health if they get to implement their policies and what will actually happen.

Since 2013, the job growth rate has been 7.6 percent nationwide, but it has only been 3.5 percent in Kansas. There are 34 hospitals in the state that are now at risk of going out of business. Both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s have downgraded its credit rating, increasing their cost of borrowing. Public schools are so short of money that two districts were compelled to end their year early. Brownback found himself so desperate for operating capital that he looted the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System and slashed funding for the state’s transportation system.

In short, things got so bad that the Republican-dominated legislature overrode Brownback’s veto and passed a budget that, among other things, rolled back his tax cuts and provided more funding for schools.

The Democrats should not ignore these results. They should study them and they should figure out a way to highlight them relentlessly so that as many people as possible internalize the lessons. No one should have to endure what the people of Kansas have endured if it can be avoided. Republican office seekers will continue to assure us that the best way to raise revenue is to ask for less of it and that exempting businesses and limited liability corporations from taxation will lead to job growth. They’ll continue to starve education budgets with talk about providing choice, and they won’t stop attacking Medicaid even as it results in devastation for the health care system. But we can point, in all these cases, to Sam Brownback and Kansas.

We can say that we tried all that and here is how it turned out.

In the end, it was Republican lawmakers who had seen enough and voted to override their governor’s veto. But they had to learn the hard way, and Republicans from other states and in Congress show no signs that they’re going to alter their ideology as a result of seeing it fail so spectacularly when given a real chance to succeed.

Since the GOP won’t learn, it’s up to Democrats to make sure the voters learn.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.