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Repeating mistakes of Kansas

It has long been claimed by politicians that, at the end of the day, the first and foremost reason voters support one party or another is by their pocketbook. If that is true, then national Republicans and red state Republicans may be about to experience a flood of losses.

Just last week, several red states experienced teacher strikes over low pay. The common denominator in these strikes is the Republican definition of what “limited government” means in practice. And that definition is about your pocketbook. Limited government, in Republican terms means low taxes for business and the wealthy and fewer public services for everyone else.

The model was once called “trickle down economics” and it has not changed, in spite of failure every time it is utilized. The most recent example, before this Congress imposed it on every American, was the Kansas Experiment. The Republican governor and Republican legislature in Kansas decided in 2012 that huge tax cuts would stimulate economic growth, increase tax revenue and generate a better business climate. But what actually happened was large decreases in tax revenue, slower economic growth than in neighboring states, and a business climate damaged by the loss of basic social services.

Once the deficits grew out of control, Kansas stopped paying into its pension funds, raided its highway funds, underfunding roads and bridges, cut back the very basic Medicaid program and reduced school funding that cut teachers pay. And yet the debt still rose.

Ultimately, the debt became impossible to continue and the Republicans in Kansas had to raise taxes to cut the red ink in the state budget. And that might have been the end of the story had this Republican Congress not decided to repeat the Kansas Experiment on a national scale.

If you are a voter who votes based on your pocketbook, then you might want to consider the consequences of the new tax cuts. The first consequence will be significant increases in the deficit and the debt. That might not seem like it will cost you anything, but it will.

Inflation will be the byproduct and that means higher interest rates when you buy a home or a car, making everything more expensive.

The next “limited government” change will be reductions in Medicare, the most popular government program, followed by reductions in Social Security. Both of these are program revisions the retiring Paul Ryan has lamented he just did not accomplish. Ryan actually has already blamed these programs for the upcoming increase in debt, while ignoring that the real debt increase is caused by the cuts he just made in revenue.

Additional cuts have already been proposed by the administration in programs for children and new moms, heating support, student loans and consumer protections.

Translated to the state level, the red state governors and legislators have reduced school funding, frozen teacher pay, refused to fully fund their highway funds, closed schools and passed funding cuts to local levels resulting in local tax and levy increases.

All of this is the very Republican idea of “limited government” which simply means programs people like and need are waste and tax cuts the rich and corporations lobby for are essential.

What began with the Reagan tax cuts that later required tax increases, was supported with the very flimsy Laffer curve philosophy, became “trickle down,” then the Kansas Experiment, and now the Republican tax plan, has always been about cutting and gutting Social Security and Medicare. It has always meant social programs are, to Republicans, wasteful spending, and tax cuts wise, at least for Republican donors.

Enjoy your cut in taxes. You will certainly pay for it later.


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