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Kansas is not in Kansas anymore

For the last few years, Kansas governor Sam Brownback, with the help of the solidly Republican legislature and the Koch brothers, has been performing a grand conservative experiment of massive tax and spending cuts. Brownback promised “enormous prosperity” but instead the whole state has gone to hell in a handbasket (a handbasket that used to be named “trickle down economics” and is now called “austerity”).

Well, the nightmare might be starting to end. Earlier this week, the Kansas legislature voted to reverse Brownback’s tax cuts and increase taxes. Brownback promptly vetoed that bill, and then a miracle happened — the legislature overrode Brownback’s veto. To give you an idea of how crazy this is, even some legislators who voted against the bill in the first place (including the House Speaker) changed their minds and voted to override the Governor’s veto.

The experiment has failed. Again.

This should not surprise anyone. Is there any example where “austerity” or “trickle down economics” or whatever you want to call it has actually succeeded? But Donald Trump is attempting to repeat the same experiment. Lucky for us he is much more incompetent than Brownback, and will probably not get his tax cuts through Congress.

Don’t get me wrong. Believe it or not I consider myself a fiscal conservative. Most of this is based on my experiences starting companies and advising other startups. It is easy to get completely carried away spending money, and I would never deny that there is plenty of government waste that should be eliminated (with prejudice). But you don’t just cut all spending, you have to be smart and cut the wasteful spending. Just as it is easy to get carried away with spending, it is also easy to get completely carried away with stupid across-the-board spending cuts.

If a government program is working (and plenty of them work just fine and are frugal with their money) you don’t cut its funding — that often destroys the whole program and ends up wasting money, not saving it. I remember back when Reagan tried to destroy the Environmental Protection Agency. I had friends who worked there, and they told me that spending didn’t decrease at all. Instead, waste increased dramatically as we kept spending money, but the money was just thrown away and didn’t do any good. (As a side note, did you know that Anne Gorsuch, Reagan’s head of the EPA who led the charge to dismantle it, is the mother of Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s new Supreme Court Justice?)

Saving money is not what Republicans are doing. If they were, then they should take a long, hard look at our bloated military. Trump and the Republicans want to throw even more money at our military. They continue to fund weapons systems and airplanes that the military doesn’t even want or need. Why? Because those programs bring jobs (albeit wasteful ones) to their constituencies and to their donors. It is corporate welfare.

That’s not the only example of corporate welfare. If Republicans were interested in balancing the budget, they would eliminate the massive subsidies for the the fossil fuel industry and the crazy tax breaks given to hedge fund managers. But I guess they are happy to vote for wasteful spending as long as it helps to get them reelected.

You also don’t just privatize everything, you only privatize those things that make sense. If privatizing something does make sense, you do it. But privatizing prisons isn’t working.

And neither is our health care system. We should replace our bloated private health insurance system with a single payer system that will save massive amounts of money and result in a healthier and more productive citizenry.


Also published on Medium.

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10 Comments

  1. William wrote:

    Hear, hear!

    Saturday, June 10, 2017 at 2:40 am | Permalink
  2. ebdoug wrote:

    I agree with your tax cuts. those make sense. Throwing money away at the EPA makes perfect sense to me. It is glorified welfare. Those people go out and spend, return some in taxes, etc. My income comes from my grandfather and great Aunt. I “throw it away” my glorified welfare. It gets recycled as does any welfare money.

    I was sole proprietor at my business. Worked with no loans, no regulation (except a certificate from the IRS that I could e-file and insurance) and kept 50% of my gross. (and of course am double taxed on the profits.) The double taxation was Reagan’s doing. I watched it come into being.

    Saturday, June 10, 2017 at 4:33 am | Permalink
  3. Wildwood wrote:

    My husband worked in the aerospace industry and the department heads would increase their budget requests every time by much more than was actually needed because if they could hire more people it would make them seem important to be running such a large department. It also cushioned them in times of cuts because then they had excess to throw out the door and they and their friends would be safe for a while. Many of these people were retired military. So if they did this in the private sector I have to believe they did it in the military as well. Having never worked in a company at that level, I have no idea if this is standard thinking, but human nature would suggest that it is.

    The military is bloated and if it doesn’t work, it’s because of the bloat. Give them what they need, not what they want. The military would come to my husband’s work for conferences on what was needed and a simple project started looking like a giant one. They would come up with ideas to add to whatever it was they were building. Those $600 toilet seats were just a small part of their ideas. Boys and their toys and unrestricted money makes for bloat. The military needs to be audited. No government money should be used that can not be accounted for.

    There is very little to be said for privatization. Whenever profit is the primary goal then people get hurt.

    Saturday, June 10, 2017 at 8:20 am | Permalink
  4. James wrote:

    Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the humiliation of Brownback by the Kansas GOP will make enough of a dent in the mainstream, that this latest failure of “trickle down” and the Laffer curve will have a bit of sticking power.

    Saturday, June 10, 2017 at 10:33 am | Permalink
  5. PatriotSGT wrote:

    I mostly agree with you IK. Concerning the military I both agree and disagree. It is bigger then any other country. However, consider our mission all over the world, while much of the world in the much lower spending categories sits and watches and spends their money elsewhere. I believe in past posts of mine my position is consistent. We keep troops in the U.K., Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, A few other Asian nations, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa and even in central and South America. How about asking the rest of the world to defend, stabilize themselves or ask some of the G20 nations to (28 in NATO) to up their contributions so we can reduce ours.
    Not the I want to lose my job, but do we really need 17 intelligence agencies?
    As to HHS, they are the largest budget item ( around a trillion last year). Do we need all that?
    The interest on our debt is around 300 billion annually, what could we do with that money? And by 2025, if the trajectory stays the same it will exceed our current defense budget and be the 2nd largest budget item behind HHS.
    Do we need a federal dept of education? Wouldn’t it be much more cost effective to give that 20-30 billion directly to the states and let them manage it?

    There are lots of things we could do, but getting the swamp to do any of it is like talking to lil Kim in the DPRK. Or Like trying to convince a drunk when they are drunk to quit drinking.
    But I like the discussion.

    Saturday, June 10, 2017 at 11:58 am | Permalink
  6. Anonymous wrote:

    Wonderful young man in Maryland, ROTC commissioned as a Lieutenant. Stabbed to death by one of those “make America white again” I’ve said this before on this site. That is post school training for the young men and women. If the military wouldn’t spend money on unneeded items, we’d be all right. Those going through the military as long as baby Bush and Baby Trump make unnecessary wars to destroy these young people in body and mind, come out much better people.

    Saturday, June 10, 2017 at 3:34 pm | Permalink
  7. notycoon wrote:

    We are building a “new” aircraft – the F-35 – that will end up costing the tax payers over $1 trillion. That’s for an aircraft that, so far, has failed to pass its functional testing and it is projected that it won’t be capable of ever performing critical missions that it has supposedly been designed for. You want to cut the budget, start with the F-35.

    We’re also building a plant in South Carolina, I believe, that’s supposed to convert weapons grade fissionable materials to power plant fuel grade (the MOX process). Several billion dollars over budget and dozens of years behind with the treaty that it was supposed to support (the conversion of soviet/Russian material) now cancelled and there is no public utility under contract to use the material that might, some day, be produced. I believe the completion date is now 10+ years off. Another good candidate to ax.

    Oh, I could go on and on. I’m with IK – the rearranging of the military/industrial complex – and this is no simple task – needs to start. PSgt, starting the process of reducing our international military footprint? Yup, you’re quite right in your implication – this needs to occur, too. I think the last number I saw was that the US had a military presence in 140+ countries.

    The vast bulk of HHS is for Medicare and Medicaid, not discretionary spending. Different kettle of fish than military spending. Medicare, especially (50+% of the HHS spending) is funded through direct collection of payroll taxes and premiums by recipients.

    The national debt is, as an item of the budget, a true issue. The last time the debt shrank was under the Clinton era FY 2000 budget. We’ve been digging the hole ever deeper since then.

    Saturday, June 10, 2017 at 3:45 pm | Permalink
  8. Iron Knee wrote:

    And I mostly agree with you, PSgt. But I can’t agree with your statement about HHS (thanks, NoTycoon). Just because a budget item is big doesn’t mean that it is full of waste and should be cut. Is anyone arguing that Medicare is inefficient? By almost any measure, it is the most efficient and least wasteful part of the US healthcare system.

    Saturday, June 10, 2017 at 8:15 pm | Permalink
  9. PatriotSGT wrote:

    I agree with your Medicare assessment IK. Actually, I was talking to a Doctor friend of mine who is a big never Trumper, and likes to talk politics. I told her, I couldn’t understand why when the were doing healthcare they didn’t just stick with already exististing systems like Medicare and Medicaid. She said the same thing as you about Medicare and agreed with me.
    It would be easier to run those systems, adding a 1-2% payroll tax for Medicaid. You could also increase or decrease the payroll taxes for both to reduce the burden on the budget and deficits.
    She and I actually agreed that Trump (if he stops listening/waiting for congress) could be a guy who could make that happen.

    Sunday, June 11, 2017 at 6:17 am | Permalink
  10. Iron Knee wrote:

    If Trump were even marginally competent, he would get a “Medicare for all” health care system passed. But he won’t.

    Sunday, June 11, 2017 at 11:07 pm | Permalink