Republicans keep trying to create a conservative utopia, with predictable results. First there was Kansas, where Sam Brownback showed us how to cut taxes and destroy the social safety net, and when that failed, they doubled down with even more tax cuts (for the rich) and spending cuts, with disastrous results.
But did they learn? No, then presidential hopefuls Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal just had to try the same thing in their states of Wisconsin, and Louisiana.
Wisconsin famously destroyed their public unions, but they also refused to expand Medicare and Medicaid, turned down money to build a high-speed rail system, and tried to recruit new businesses. But the result was that Wisconsin now ranks dead last in new business start-up activity.
Louisiana also tried severe austerity, but when their state university fell into the equivalent of bankruptcy and the economy got worse, Jindal became so unpopular even his own state didn’t support him for president.
What’s really embarrassing about these examples is that we have plenty of example of the opposite strategy working just fine. After the Democrats took over California from the Republicans, the economy boomed. While Wisconsin’s economy was sinking, next door in Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton raised taxes, raised the state minimum wage, passed a law guaranteeing equal pay for women, and made education a priority by pumping one third of the budget surplus into public schools. You know, all the things that Republicans say will kill jobs. But instead Minnesota’s economic growth is one of the highest in the US, and Forbes ranked Minnesota the 9th best state for business.
Note that we don’t have to compare one state to another for examples. In Minnesota itself, the previous governor was another (forgotten) presidential hopeful, Tim Pawlenty. Pawlenty called himself Minnesota’s first true fiscal conservative in modern history and prided himself on never raising taxes. But he left the state with a $6.2 billion deficit and only created 6,200 jobs in his eight years as governor (compared to 172,000 jobs created by Dayton in four years.)
Strike two. But apparently the GOP never learns. This just in, the state of Kentucky recently elected Matt Bevin as governor, and he immediately stripped voting rights from 140,000 people and lowered the minimum wage for government workers.
You may remember that Kentucky is the home state of Kim Davis, who refused to do her job and grant marriage licenses to gay couples. Well, Bevin used his new executive power to give Davis an out. As a side note, Bevin also said that he believes making same-sex marriage legal could lead to parents marrying their children.
I’ll be watching Kentucky, to see how it does. But it appears that the GOP is still testing the definition of insanity.