Friday, May 09, 2014

Failed state: Kansas's experiment with conservative economic policy

By Mustang Bobby 

The state of Kansas was supposed to be the laboratory of the conservative prosperity theory: cut taxes to the bone and the free market will take off: hey presto, Emerald City!

So how's that working out?

In Kansas, Republicans dominate the state government. They have the Governorship (Former Senator Sam Brownback), the State House (92-33 for the GOP), and the State Senate (32-8 for the GOP). Democrats don't have a say in this blood red state that went 60%-37% for Mitt Romney in 2012.

Brownback and his buddies have enacted all manner of conservative economic policy in the state. Cutting taxes, et cetera. What is the result? Guess.

Citing a sluggish recovery from the recession, risk inherent in the governor's tax plan and uncertainty over the Legislature's ability to keep cutting spending, one of the nation's two major debt rating agencies downgraded Kansas' credit rating Thursday.

Moody's Investors Service dropped Kansas from its second-highest bond rating, Aa1, to its third highest, Aa2. The Kansas Department of Transportation also took the same downgrade.

As Businessweek explained, "the immediate effect has been to blow a hole in the state's finances without noticeable economic growth."

I have a soft spot in my heart for Kansas thanks to my annual pilgrimage to the William Inge Theatre Festival in Independence. It's your typical Midwestern small town in the prairie with nice people. They're not hard-core wingnuts... at least the ones who show up to support theater and the legacy of one of their hometown boys even if he was gay. They are conservative, but not so crazy that they couldn't elect a Democrat as governor in 2002 and again in 2006: Kathleen Sebelius, before she was Secretary of Health and Human Services.

So it's really painful to see the results of this failed experiment happen to people I like. But they brought it on themselves; they can't blame this on the liberals and the Democrats.

If it's any consolation, Gov. Brownback is about as popular there as a tornado in a trailer park — he's polling in the low 30s and is trailing his Democratic opponent — and maybe the voters will decide that they've had enough of this right-wing paradise and boot him and his fellow True Believers out.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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