Damage Republicans can do

Published 10:33 am Friday, June 5, 2015

It is hardly a secret that the Republican Party has moved closer and closer to an ideological fortress than the pragmatic “do what works” party it once was. Nothing explains this more simply than why Republicans cannot govern while holding both houses of Congress under their control.

Governing means controlling the fundamentals of good government, like maintaining the roads, the ports, the airports and the bridges. But Republicans cannot maintain the infrastructure because their ideology refuses to fund anything ever. Most, if not all, federally elected Republicans have signed a pledge to Grover Norquist, a private citizen, to raise no tax ever. So when it becomes necessary to fix our roads and bridges they simply cannot do that, not now, not ever.

Nor can Republicans protect Social Security and Medicare except by cutting healthcare benefits to our senior citizens and reducing payments to those who have contributed to Social Security for a lifetime. Why? Same ideological principle. No increases in funding anything, ever if it is not a weapon designed to kill someone.

But Republicans are not finished in their ideological bent to undermine America with their folly, for as their presidential candidates troop from state to state they uniformly advance policies that are religion to their true believers, but if put into practice are disaster.

And Kansas, in the heartland of America, a state of good people, is the perfection of the policies all the would-be presidential candidates advocate with a passion.

Kansas elected conservative Republican Sam Brownback as governor five years ago, and again a year ago. Governor Brownback promptly decided, after drinking far too much ideological Kool-Aid, that Kansas would become a model of conservative thinking. The governor has made that promise come true and Kansas now reflects the ideological purity all republicans advance.

Governor Brownback said in 2013 “My focus is to create a red-state model that allows the Republican ticket to say, ‘See, we’ve got a different way, and it works,’ ”. Indeed, it works if the following is what you see as “success”:

Brownback immediately cut property taxes and business taxes in Kansas, believing that this would “free” the capitalist engine to grow business at an incredible rate. Instead Kansas grew at an anemic 2.3 percent, one half the growth rate of its four neighboring states.

And, of course, with the reduced revenue coming into the state treasury Kansas developed huge deficits, a projected $344 million in this fiscal year and a projected $600 million in the projected fiscal 2016.

Then, facing deficits never before seen in Kansas, Brownback cut funding to education, both public schools and higher education, underfunded pension plans, and rejected the Medicaid expansion offered by the Affordable Care Act.

The budget hole continued unabated. Kansas saw its credit rating cut…twice. Parents and schools filed suit against the state, claiming Brownback policies violated constitutional support for the schools. The case has advanced to the Kansas Supreme Court.

Political chaos followed and now Brownback has proposed a tax increase, on the sales tax, the most regressive tax in the state. Increasing the sales tax directly affects the poorest Kansas residents which is sort of piling on those with the fewest resources. You see the poverty levels in Kansas have risen under Brownback to 14 percent according to the Census Bureau, the highest since 2008.

And Kansas’ Medicaid coverage is among the worst in the nation, available only to those making 32 percent of the federal poverty level while accepting the ACA expansion would have insured those making 138 percent over poverty levels.

Who is paying for Brownback’s’ ideological Republican purity in Kansas? Virtually everyone.

So if you want to see how the policies advanced by Republican presidential candidates will work when enacted, just look to Kansas to see what will come to a nation near you should Tepublicans continue to advance ideology over pragmatics.

 

Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.