Many of you may have read What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. Thanks to books on tape, I spent hours with the author, Thomas Frank, offering his critique as I traveled across Kansas. The basic thesis is that working Americans have been played by con artists in conservative ranks who generated a “transcendent state of indignation” against liberal elites. Fueled by promises to roll back social policies they have been sold a return to nineteenth century economic policy. (This does a great disservice to the book but you can read it yourself.)
It was fascinating to be in Kansas at the time when Congress was striving to get a tax bill on President Trump’s desk. Kansas offers a cautionary tale. Governor Brownback strode into office to lead a similar revolution slashing taxes and offering a vision of a glorious new day.
“Our new pro-growth tax policy will be like a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy. It will pave the way to the creation of tens of thousands of new jobs…”
—Gov. Sam Brownback (R-KS), July 29, 2012
In the intervening five years, reality has not been kind. While national GDP has grown by 7 percent, Kansas saw a sluggish growth of 3.8 percent (2013-2016). State government programs have been decimated and Brownback’s poll numbers plummeted. Out of desperation, the legislature dismantled the tax policy earlier this summer overriding the Governor’s veto. As Brownback prepares to leave to accept an appointment as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, the state will be left to pick up the pieces and we are facing . . .
“This huge tax cut … will be rocket fuel for our economy. … The biggest winners from this transformation will be everyday families, from all backgrounds, from all walks of life, and our great companies, which will produce the jobs. They are going to produce jobs like you’ve never seen before.”
—President Donald Trump, October 11, 2017