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GOP refuses to learn the lessons of Kansas’ failed tax experiment
In this Jan. 12, 2016 file photo, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback speaks to the legislature in Topeka, Kan. Photo by Orlin Wagner/AP
By Steve Benen November 29, 2017
Shortly after the 2012 elections, with Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s (R) radical economic experiment already underway, then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said of his former colleague’s plan, “This is exactly the sort of thing we want to do here, in Washington, but can’t, at least for now.”
At the time, McConnell’s ambitions were largely irrelevant. Barack Obama was in the White House, a Democratic majority controlled the Senate, and there was simply no way Democrats would consider “the sort of thing” Brownback created in Kansas.
But five years later, McConnell and his GOP allies have all the power they need to impose a Kansas-style experiment on the nation. Many who saw Kansas’ failures first hand have some advice to Republican policymakers: Stop.
The Kansas City Star published a piece over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend from Steve Rose, who described himself as a “Bob Dole Republican,” and who lamented the fact that Kansas’ failed tax plan and the current GOP tax plan “are twins.”
Republicans at the federal level are claiming, just like Brownback did, that there will not be a resulting massive deficit if taxes are slashed. Most independent, non-partisan researchers predict a $1.5 trillion deficit will be the result of the tax cuts that have been proposed.
Blinded Republicans claim these huge tax cuts for businesses and the wealthy will stimulate the economy enough that overall revenue will grow, not shrink. Revenue growth is supposed to trickle down to the middle-class taxpayers.
Sound familiar? That is exactly what was sold to Kansans, who saw their state’s budget hemorrhage. Nothing trickled down except cuts in services for the middle class.
The Kansas City Star’s editorial board published a related piece this morning, asking Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), “Why take this failed experiment nationwide?”
Moran endorsed his party’s regressive tax plan yesterday. Perhaps he hasn’t paid close enough attention to what happened in his own state this decade.
To be sure, there are some differences between Kansas’ disastrous plan and the proposal Donald Trump is pushing now. The current plan, for example, goes further to hurt working families’ health security.
But as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently explained, “[T]he GOP leaders’ federal tax-cut plan closely follows Kansas’ failed experiment. And many of the same salesmen who touted the Kansas plan in 2012 now are making the same type of outsized claims that the proposed federal tax cuts will ignite remarkable economic growth.”
As regular readers probably know, the scope of Kansas’ failed experiment is not in doubt. Brownback working with a GOP-led legislature, cut taxes far beyond what the state could afford, slashed public investments, and waited for prosperity to flourish across every corner of the state.
None of that happened. Not only have Kansas’ job growth and economic growth rates lagged behind neighboring states, but the state’s budget is in shambles, and Kansas’ debt rating has been downgraded multiple times.
The state has since decided to go in a different direction, though local officials realize it will take many years to undo the damage. Willfully ignorant Republicans at the national level seem desperate to repeat the same mistakes.