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.