Life and Death in Brownback's Kansas
June 5, 2015 10:06 PM   Subscribe

 
I don't think it even needs to be a "horde" -- I think a lot of people can't stand the idea that even a single person out there might be getting more than that person deserves from *their* tax dollars. Which leads to things like drug-testing welfare recipients...I can understand the idea that you don't want your taxes funding somebody's marijuana habit (I sure didn't like mine funding the war in Iraq)...but guess what? You just spent more on drug testing kits than you saved by denying a few people welfare based on the results. And Brownback's been screwing over Kansas on the same principle: none of us can have nice things because somebody out there might not deserve it.
posted by uosuaq at 10:20 PM on June 5, 2015 [51 favorites]


I've long thought that if you use something other than economics (e.g. morality) to make economic decisions, you get poor economic decisions.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:26 PM on June 5, 2015 [22 favorites]


I don't think it even needs to be a "horde" -- I think a lot of people can't stand the idea that even a single person out there might be getting more than that person deserves from *their* tax dollars...And Brownback's been screwing over Kansas on the same principle: none of us can have nice things because somebody out there might not deserve it.

I think there are lots of people who have abhorrent views like you describe, but they're not the ones who actually sent that 31.5 million dollars back. Sure, they elected Brownback, but that's where the identity politics came in, in winning the election, not his actual decisions in office.
posted by clockzero at 10:31 PM on June 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have to self link here, just because my kid was so prescient.
posted by biddeford at 10:31 PM on June 5, 2015 [60 favorites]


I don't think it even needs to be a "horde" -- I think a lot of people can't stand the idea that even a single person out there might be getting more than that person deserves from *their* tax dollars. Which leads to things like drug-testing welfare recipients...I can understand the idea that you don't want your taxes funding somebody's marijuana habit

One striking example is when you point out that it's many orders of magnitude cheaper to just give junkies free heroin than to pay the costs of heroin related crime. People don't care: they say "I'm not paying for junkies' drugs!!" You ask if they'd rather pay at least hundreds of times as much on crime and punishment and you get an unabashed "yes" in response.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:36 PM on June 5, 2015 [65 favorites]


He drew a fresh round of national outrage this April, when he signed a bill that slashed welfare further still—dramatically reducing lifetime eligibility, creating a laundry list of barred expenses (including swimming-pool visits), and establishing a lifetime ban for anyone caught violating the rules. “Too often, while well-intentioned, our poverty programs fail the poor,” Brownback said as he signed the bill. “They fail them by keeping them in cycles of dependency. This legislation helps break that destructive cycle.”

"It breaks that destructive cycle by letting them starve and die to preventable illnesses on the street" he quickly followed with.
posted by Talez at 10:40 PM on June 5, 2015 [12 favorites]


It's not even really about the taxes that they've paid. One of the most conservative people that I know personally is a relative who has been on disability (for depression) for long enough, and has had enough medical expenses, that she's taken out of the system way more than she put in when she was still working. We've got an agreement now not to talk about politics, because she will go on about how she gets inconvenienced in waiting for medical attention because of "those people" who "have no excuse." It's been said by others, but I'll say it again: the first sentence of the pull quote, with "Americans" substituted for "Kansans", is the Rosetta Stone of the Tea Party.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:45 PM on June 5, 2015 [18 favorites]


Meanwhile, my sister and her husband and over 24,000 other Kansans have been told they're on furlough as of Monday because the Legislature has been doing anything but addressing the budget issue that's been obvious to anyone since Brownback announced his tax plan. Not that that didn't stop people from re-electing him.

This is the link that's been floating about Twitter and Facebook. Meanwhile at least Topeka's been focused on the big issues.
posted by rewil at 10:50 PM on June 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


Keeping the middle class at the throats of the poor is an essential survival strategy for capitalism.
posted by clarknova at 10:52 PM on June 5, 2015 [56 favorites]


None of this makes sense until you realize they want people to leave. Like, that's actually the idea.

And by this, I mean a lot more than just this.
posted by effugas at 11:13 PM on June 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


Mike has found a new job, and they’re feeling optimistic again. But Martha’s no longer sure what to think about the safety-net programs she’d assumed were available. “We’ve always taken care of ourselves, and the one time we needed them, we weren’t able to use them.” She still agrees with Brownback that jobs are the best route to insurance, but Medicaid expansion is now an open question.

That's flabbergasting. They paid for their insurance all their life, but at one point were left without insurance due to a combination of (a) bad luck and (b) the politics of conservative compassion put into action. That experience left her almost dead and with debts of $14000. And the reaction? "Yeah, I generally agree with those politics and might vote for the conservative asshole candidate again next time."
posted by sour cream at 2:15 AM on June 6, 2015 [9 favorites]


Keeping the middle class at the throats of the poor is an essential survival strategy for capitalism.

Brownback's Kansas may be running the advanced version, keeping the poor at each others' throats by convincing some of them that they are merely the temporarily embarrassed middle class.
posted by kewb at 3:22 AM on June 6, 2015 [13 favorites]


“Here I am sitting here, bleeding like crazy, and I’ve got to find a way to get [medical care] right then. Finally, they had me sign a document saying I had to pay the $4,000 if I wanted to get to the hospital. So I agreed! I signed it.”

Jesus. That reads like it belongs in Bioshock's "Rapture", not modern civilization..
posted by mhoye at 4:25 AM on June 6, 2015 [14 favorites]


Before people here get all worked up about "What's wrong with Kansas", I think it's important to emphasize how unpopular the governor is here, and the growing pushback against his radical policies. He's polling at pretty consistent low numbers, usually somewhere in the mid 30's to low 40's. I wouldn't entirely be surprised to see a recall election, especially after this budget debacle.

And there's evidence that the last election was not entirely fair. It was a close race to begin with, and the local Republicans might have pushed it over the edge, in order to get their unpopular guy re-elected. Kris Kobach is the Ks. Secretary of State. In 2014, he rejected far more voter registrations than usual. He's also rejected a request, from a Wichita State University statistician, for election machine tapes, which is making more than a few wonder what he's hiding. He's successfully pushed for some of the most restrictive voter id laws in the country.

Kansans have often supported politicians with terrible views on social policies. But, part of the bargain was that those politicos were actually decent at the thing Republicans are supposedly good at: fiscal responsibility. The old GOP kept the schools running, and the roads in great shape, and since those two things are 90% of the budget and 90% of what the state does, both left and right could live with that. The current administration is breaking that promise and I think they (and their legislative followers) will pay a steep price for listening to the Kochs instead of their voters.

The effects can be seen even in my tiny town and county, where around 75% of the people vote GOP. The high school library is closing. A couple of teachers, who resigned in protest / indignation, are not being replaced and their classes will now be taught via a video feed from another school. The school administrative staff has been reduced to one very overworked person. Part of her oversized burden is coming from winding down various extra-curricular activities and sports which the school now can't afford. Since the school is really the only reason why this town is still a town, I'm hearing lots of complaints from the type of folks who would normally be the governor's base.
posted by honestcoyote at 5:10 AM on June 6, 2015 [31 favorites]


Why doesn't ‘Americans for Prosperity’ just rename themselves ‘Fuck the Poor’? I know the ‘for Prosperity’ bit is supposed to appear aspirational, but it's so transparently ‘for Incredibly Rich People’ and none other.

Canada should send aid. This is third-world material.
posted by scruss at 5:25 AM on June 6, 2015 [10 favorites]


I've come to realize that this is the fundamental state of American social politics right now. Spend all your energy scapegoating some group for all of the country's problems and devote as much political capital as possible punishing them for it. It's a version of what Jews experienced in Europe in the Middle Ages.

Of course, for those benefiting from the whole affair it's a feature not a bug.
posted by dry white toast at 5:44 AM on June 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


“I’m not ready to give up. I’m a hard worker,” she says, before breaking down in tears. She’s been taking anti-depressants for the first time in her life. “I’ve worked 30-some years and paid my dues, and here I can’t get any help? And all these years that people get food stamps and medical cards for their children, I helped pay for that. So what about me? What did all my hard work get me?”

This. So many people who need help but are not in a position to need it enough or qualify for the help that so many others have the ability to access. I think there are many in this same position. It fucking sucks. A heart-breaking read.
posted by Fizz at 5:49 AM on June 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is really horrifying. You're penalized for not having children, and not being ill enough. Screw everything about this governor.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:26 AM on June 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why doesn't ‘Americans for Prosperity’ just rename themselves ‘Fuck the Poor’?

I thinks it's telling that their organization isn't called "Prosperity for Americans."
posted by drezdn at 6:29 AM on June 6, 2015 [58 favorites]


I think it's important to emphasize how unpopular the governor is here, and the growing pushback against his radical policies. He's polling at pretty consistent low numbers, usually somewhere in the mid 30's to low 40's. I wouldn't entirely be surprised to see a recall election, especially after this budget debacle.

Except he was just re-elected, with full knowledge that his platform was essentially, "more cuts, more tax cuts, just a little more time and the Reagan miracle is coming". The only thing that Kansas hates more than cutting off it's own nose to spite it's face is voting Democratic.

Kansas is getting exactly the experiment in Koch governance Brownback promised and the state voted for, twice. He didn't hide the ball at all and has done exactly what he campaigned on to the letter. Perhaps the consequenes of elections will finally become clear and Kansas will look around and see facts through the hazy of ideaology, but all evidence suggests otherwise.
posted by T.D. Strange at 6:45 AM on June 6, 2015 [16 favorites]




Why hardly anyone dies from a drug overdose in Portugal
posted by robbyrobs at 7:09 AM on June 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


The only way into Kansas’ program was to qualify for disability—and in 2013 the state rejected her application. “They denied it,” says Cathy, still angry. “They said she was not ill enough.”

Apparently the worry about Obama setting up those death panels was that they didn't want the competition.
posted by Killick at 7:10 AM on June 6, 2015 [10 favorites]


I'm not sure what's taking Brownback and the legislature so long. Kansas clearly wants to eliminate all state taxes and government functions, so what's the holdup? Just get on with it and see what happens. I'm sure it will be great.

EDIT: To be clear, I'm being sarcastic here. But honestly, elimination of the state government is clearly the goal of the GOP and I'm not sure why they don't just do it while they're in control. Why the slow walk?
posted by LastOfHisKind at 8:10 AM on June 6, 2015


Watching the debacle from a neighboring state, the only consolation I can take is that even our most hard-core tax-cutting Republicans are looking at what's happening in Kansas and saying, "Hey, we're not going to let that happen here."

See, their idea of 'running the government like a business' is actually balancing the budget and paying the bills, not just driving the whole apparatus straight into the ground.

Never thought THAT day would come . . . Missouri politicians actually looking smarter than the ones from Kansas.
posted by flug at 8:21 AM on June 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's the same in the UK. For example, according to our execrable pox-ridden pus-oozing media, immigrants 'abusing' the NHS are a Big Thing. They're not - the figures are tiny - but, of course, we must stop this happening so an entire mechanism for checking people's status and charging those that don't qualify must be put in place (costing far more than will be recovered). This will protect the NHS for its 'proper' users. Of course.

That the NHS is so bloody efficient because it doesn't have this huge chunk of bureaucracy is neither here nor there. And that, once it's in place, it will be enormously simple to frog-boil the entire system into privatisation is also not important. Why, that didn't even occur to them.

Because we MUST stop THESE PEOPLE from STEALING our PRECIOUS HEALTH SERVICE YES I'M TYPING IN CAPS BECAUSE ANGER CAN YOU TELL?

Grar.

(Personally, I am very happy that people get good treatment on the state's - ie, my - dime. This seems to me to be highly civilised.)
posted by Devonian at 8:28 AM on June 6, 2015 [18 favorites]


Canada should send aid. This is third-world material.

The current Canadian government doesn't believe in foreign aid. Even to Canadians living abroad. So you're on your own.
posted by srboisvert at 8:50 AM on June 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


Do Democrats in these states not try a "truly holier than thou" approach during elections? By that I mean, appeal to Biblical scripture to support their positions on helping the poor, caring for others, and sharing the wealth for mutual benefit. Jesus had plenty of pro-tax, pro-welfare speeches that could be thrown in the face of any tea partyist types. I'd think defending ACA and progressive taxes would be Biblically easy to defend. Were I running as a Democrat in a Red state (and, uh, Christian) I'd be quoting chapter and verse in every speech, loudly and continually, and denouncing these kinds of Republicans as false prophets.

In many ways I wish someone would drag America kicking and screaming into the 20th century.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 8:56 AM on June 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


That's what Red Dawn was all about.
posted by benzenedream at 9:09 AM on June 6, 2015


Jesus is apparently all about prosperity now. He wants you to be wealthy. All that stuff about camel's eyes and help the poor was a smokescreen for his real message, which boils down to "fuck you, morally compromised poor people, I've got mine."
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:16 AM on June 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


RaDonna’s body was a financial time bomb. Inevitably, she would land in the emergency room, which would bankrupt Cathy and her husband.

I think this is the biggest point to make about exactly what single-payer public health insurance does for people who think it's evil, creeping socialism.

Even if it does absolutely nothing else, it guarantees you that a visit to an emergency room, whether for a broken bone or a catastrophic illness, is not an extinction-level event for your personal finances in and of itself.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:29 AM on June 6, 2015


It would seem, from reading some of these associated links, the reason they are taking so long to dismantle and drive the state government into the ground, is that the Koch brothers and some others have more dollars to extract before everything falls apart.

And that Supreme Court article? Seems like organized crime the more you read...
posted by Windopaene at 9:35 AM on June 6, 2015


Even if it does absolutely nothing else, it guarantees you that a visit to an emergency room, whether for a broken bone or a catastrophic illness, is not an extinction-level event for your personal finances in and of itself.

But that IS socialism, no, it's actually slavery. In Republicanland, people who get sick deserve it, and if they can't pay out of pocket, they deserve whatever happens without treatment. Anything else is not the government's problem. Moral worth is direct quantifiable, in dollars.

In Kansas' case, the same argument is being extended to the entirety of state government. And Kansas is just the early adopter of the national GOP platform, as soon as there's unified GOP control again, the same policies are rolling out nationwide.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:42 AM on June 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


By that I mean, appeal to Biblical scripture to support their positions on helping the poor, caring for others, and sharing the wealth for mutual benefit.

In addition to the Biblical arguments behind increased social programs, I also wonder why no one claims that government should be run like a business, emphasizing that the ultimate goal of a publicly held corporation is to increase the wealth of all (or, at least, the majority of) its shareholders -- this could also be used to argue a better progressive tax structure and greater social programs.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 10:37 AM on June 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


Not to mention more and more businesses these days wouldn't mind the government being responsible for their employees' health plan coverage, so they themselves don't have to spend as much on that.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:08 AM on June 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is why I'm moving my pension money out of KPERS. I do not understand why unions don't insist that the union itself manages pension money, since their counterparts are at least as incompetent at it, and clearly willing to try the "Oh, but we tried our hardest" ploy while ignoring the massive unfunded liability they created.
posted by pwnguin at 11:11 AM on June 6, 2015


Problem with trying to justify social safety nets with biblical texts is, y'know, feeling like a lot of people got a weird version of the bible, where Jesus beats up gays, persians and iberians, tags along the lenders to kick poor people's asses when they're due and charge the lepers for the cure, all while pushing back his gloriously arian blonde. Because when hearing some of those bible-people talk, I have the impression it's not the same book I had to read in Sunday School 20-something years ago.

Also, the reason why I think nobody says "government should be run like a business" is because there's already the idea that unless someone pays taxes (ie, being shareholders), they shouldn't get any public service because they aren't a part of it.
posted by lmfsilva at 11:29 AM on June 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


Do Democrats in these states not try a "truly holier than thou" approach during elections? By that I mean, appeal to Biblical scripture to support their positions on helping the poor, caring for others, and sharing the wealth for mutual benefit.

The trouble with that is that the religious right is already armed-for-bear with all manner of obscure biblical passages that defend everything they do, no matter how seemingly antithetical to the actual words and teachings of Jesus (you know...the "Christ" in Christian? Never mind that the right routinely runs to the old testament to justify their bigotry.). So, spouting verse to them would only engender a verse war. Plus, since you're talking about a Democrat quoting scripture...well, everyone knows Dems are godless liberals, so any Dem quoting scripture is as the serpent in the garden, and its words are to fall on deaf ears.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:36 AM on June 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


Also, the reason why I think nobody says "government should be run like a business" is because there's already the idea that unless someone pays taxes (ie, being shareholders), they shouldn't get any public service because they aren't a part of it.

Nailed it, the "47% argument" from 2012 was so devastating because it unintentionally revealed Mitt Romney's actual beliefs, which of course are the mainstream beliefs of the Republican party generally. 47% of Americans don't pay income taxes, therefore, they deserve absolutely nothing from the government, they are literally worthless moochers. That belief has not changed an iota since Mitt laid it out there.
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:57 AM on June 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


Thorzdad: "So, spouting verse to them would only engender a verse war."

Not to mention that all of the different denominations essentially constitute a multitude of verse wars in detente. Adding another front would not likely have the intended effect.
posted by rhizome at 12:01 PM on June 6, 2015


Maybe Kansas itself, in a brilliant inside move, it trying to become a "worthless moocher" and have the entirety of the state's expenses paid for by the federal government after they go completely broke.

I have tons of sympathy for the regular folks caught up in this neoliberal dick-waving contest, but that sympathy is mighty-strained when I hear they vote for their own demise.
posted by maxwelton at 12:29 PM on June 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


It all boils down to hate and fear:

Hate the poor because you think they're lazy and you're afraid you'll become one of them.

Hate minorities because you think they're violent and you're afraid they'll rob you, kill you or rape your woman.

Hate foreigners because you think they resent us for being on top and you're afraid they'll pull us down.

Hate immigrants because you think they don't belong here and you're afraid they'll take your job.

Hate non-Christians because you think they're all going to hell and you're afraid they'll take you with them.

Hate women because you think they're all sluts and you're afraid she'll leave you for a guy with a bigger dick.

Hate the sick because you think they deserve it for angering God and you're afraid of their dirty germs.

Hate the gays because you think they're disgusting and you're afraid your occasional gay thoughts will make you gay, too.

I could go on, but I really need a shower now.
posted by double block and bleed at 12:35 PM on June 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


In my darker moments, I'm cynical enough to believe that none of this is by accident or oversight. The system is designed to kill off the poor and disabled, while putting up a facade of civility.
posted by Soliloquy at 1:04 PM on June 6, 2015 [3 favorites]




I can understand the idea that you don't want your taxes funding somebody's marijuana habit (I sure didn't like mine funding the war in Iraq)...but guess what? You just spent more on drug testing kits than you saved by denying a few people welfare based on the results.

I've long thought that if you use something other than economics (e.g. morality) to make economic decisions, you get poor economic decisions.

One striking example is when you point out that it's many orders of magnitude cheaper to just give junkies free heroin than to pay the costs of heroin related crime. People don't care: they say "I'm not paying for junkies' drugs!!" You ask if they'd rather pay at least hundreds of times as much on crime and punishment and you get an unabashed "yes" in response.


Of course, it would be even cheaper just to shoot them. There's no extricating the politics from the economics: making these arguments based purely on economic efficiency is a dead end, since it will often turn out there are morally terrible but cheaper "solutions" to any given societal problem. These guys (the honest ones, anyway) believe that the increased costs of monitoring and policing are worth it if they prevent drug use and cheating, just as they believe that thousands of gun deaths a year are an acceptable cost for gun ownership rights. These positions are morally wrong, of course -- and usually racially-inflected -- but there's no getting around making the moral argument and bringing the entire ideological apparatus into it. It doesn't mean one can't point out the hypocrisy when Brownback or others claim to be doing the economically efficient thing even when they are not. But a positive proposal for an alternative course of action is always going to have to bring a lot of moral baggage, since the alternative -- pure economics -- leads either to morally terrible short-term solutions (shoot, exile, or oubliette drug users and "bad guys" with guns) or such complex economic arguments that no one will convinced.
posted by chortly at 1:57 PM on June 6, 2015


Nailed it, the "47% argument" from 2012 was so devastating because it unintentionally revealed Mitt Romney's actual beliefs, which of course are the mainstream beliefs of the Republican party generally. 47% of Americans don't pay income taxes, therefore, they deserve absolutely nothing from the government, they are literally worthless moochers. That belief has not changed an iota since Mitt laid it out there.

And of course Mitt and his campaign didn't originate that rhetorical move. It had been floating around for years, having been popularized by a series of Wall Street Journal editorials almost nine years earlier that labeled people so poor they lacked enough income to tax as "lucky duckies."

The idea then bounced around the conservative media for awhile, becoming enough of an article of faith that the 47% statistic for federal returns in 2008 was readily attached to it. Never mind that most of that 47% are the working poor; never mind that the WSJ article that coined the phrase was actually a defense of W.'s tax cuts.

The real usefulness, and the relevance to Brownback's Kansas, is most visible within a passage of pure envy-bait from that second editorial of 2003, which sputters that it is SO UNFAIR that a single mother of two gets a bigger tax break than a single mother of one. It's always been about pitting the poor against one another. I guess it's not class warfare if it's the rich getting the poor to fight each other over money.
posted by kewb at 2:16 PM on June 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


Jesus is seated at the right hand of the father. Once his family seat on the board of trustees was secure, did Jesus really have any inscentive to care about the poor? The only time people talk about the miracle of 'making it rain' these days is when we find out politicians are trying to revisit Jesus's more wild days where he hung around with prostitutes...
posted by Nanukthedog at 2:48 PM on June 6, 2015


This is a rich planet. I am certain that we can afford for 0.01% of the poorest to be freeloaders, just like 10% of the richest are.
posted by monotreme at 3:14 PM on June 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


I really don't understand the desire to prove moral superiority by hurting people you think are morally deficient. By treating them with such disdain, you're losing whatever moral high ground you're claiming you had in the first place. It just makes no sense to me. I grew up in a conservative state and saw this scenario play out over and over but I've never been able to get a straight answer out of the moralists about why.

And, of course, that's without even getting into why some things are chosen to be morally superior/inferior and the problems inherent in that.
posted by downtohisturtles at 4:08 PM on June 6, 2015 [3 favorites]




"If Jesus came back today, and saw what was going on in his name, he'd never stop throwing up."
posted by mephron at 8:16 PM on June 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Twenty years ago, KS had a 3% sales tax and did ok. Twenty years ago.
posted by buzzman at 9:51 PM on June 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


They re-elected him. No one of us is as dumb as all of us.
posted by lon_star at 10:36 PM on June 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


Good news, everyone! Kansas averted a furlough! By declaring all government workers essential and forcing them to work without pay.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:11 AM on June 7, 2015 [10 favorites]


The World Bank, hardly a hotbed of radicalism, estimates that at least 50,000 people died because of the global financial crisis - in the first two years alone. Now we see the very architects of that crisis arguing that the money that they were given during that time was not enough.

Of course, they might reply that all those people died because the bankers weren't given enough money.
You see, that's what happens when you give 80% of a venerable company like AIG to the state. People die!
posted by sour cream at 11:14 AM on June 7, 2015


Good news, everyone! Kansas averted a furlough! By declaring all government workers essential and forcing them to work without pay.

It gets better! If you work for free, you are employed, and you do not qualify for unemployment benefits, even if the state never gets around to mailing your paychecks. If you don't work for free, you will be fired for cause, and denied unemployment benefits.

It's pretty evil. I hope to god the unions and ACLU are parachuting in their attack-lawyers as we speak.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:51 PM on June 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


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