A "revolution in a cornfield", or a "failed experiment"?
September 30, 2014 2:22 PM   Subscribe

This Is What's the Matter With Kansas: Sam Brownback tried to create a conservative utopia. He created a conservative hell instead.

In 2012, advised by supply-side economist Arthur Laffer, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback hailed the start of "a real live experiment", in which state income taxes were significantly lowered, a move Brownback described as "pro-growth" and "a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy" that would create "tens of thousands of new jobs." However, the sharp income tax cuts left the state with a significant budget shortfall, causing Brownback and the Kansas legislature to approve a second measure in 2013, one that canceled a scheduled sales tax decrease even as it lowered income taxes even further.

The result was a radical reshaping of tax rates in Kansas (previously), where lower income Kansans who spend more of their income on goods and services saw their taxes go up sharply, while higher income residents saw a significant decrease in their tax burden. Promises of increased economic activity and job growth were left unfulfilled, and while Grover Norquist insists that the tax cuts will grow Kansas' economy, there is no denying that the state budget is in trouble, a fact that has led bond agencies to downgrade Kansas' credit rating, citing a $333 million budget shortfall.

There has been a great deal of political fallout from the experiment as well, with Brownback losing the support of more than 100 current and former Kansas Republican politicians, who endorsed Paul Davis, Brownback's Democratic opponent in the 2014 gubernatorial election. With polls showing Davis ahead in the 2014 race, the election is beginning to look like "a referendum on supply-side economics".
posted by tonycpsu (106 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
 
And on the lighter side, the state has begun auctioning off sex toys to raise money.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:25 PM on September 30, 2014 [9 favorites]


> A "revolution in a cornfield", or a "failed experiment"?

Bioshuck.
posted by boo_radley at 2:28 PM on September 30, 2014 [94 favorites]


Trickle down actually refers to the urine trickling down your face as the 1% pisses on you, who is standing in the street, from their penthouse.
posted by Talez at 2:29 PM on September 30, 2014 [34 favorites]


<nelson>ha ha</nelson>
posted by blue_beetle at 2:30 PM on September 30, 2014 [13 favorites]


"This is exactly the sort of thing we want to do here, in Washington, but can’t, at least for now," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told Brownback.

Ok, I'm scared now.
posted by Melismata at 2:30 PM on September 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


Only in modern American neo-liberalism (read: the evil that comes when conservatives and libertarians agree about an economic policy) could the failure-before-it-started of supply-side only be considered to be facing a referendum more than 3 decades after it started eroding this country from within.
posted by mystyk at 2:31 PM on September 30, 2014 [19 favorites]


Somewhere in Kansas Republican Headquarters, I imagine a white dude saying "if only these people would realize how much better off they are unemployed, poor and starving, we'd be a shoo in this election."
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:37 PM on September 30, 2014 [8 favorites]


I'd be curious to read up more on the sales tax policy. I suspect the most egregious aspect to the unequal burden on the poor is not the sales tax--which is used to fund successful European states with excellent social welfare programs--but the fact that the mechanisms used to correct the regressiveness on the bottom (rebates, exemptions, credits) were completely mangled.
posted by whittaker at 2:40 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


Also, seriously, what's up with the mefiquote extension? Killing me.
posted by boo_radley at 2:40 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Brownback has been at the top of my list of unacceptable rightists for many years, dating back to his days as a Senator. If he loses in November, I'll be happy dancing. He joins a list of conservative R governors whose help-the-rich and hurt-the-poor policies have also been economic poison for their states.
posted by bearwife at 2:41 PM on September 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


As with alchemy, any failures will be explained by the fact that Kansas didn't do enough neoliberalism, or didn't do it quite right.
posted by clawsoon at 2:42 PM on September 30, 2014 [42 favorites]


*wishes him into the cornfield*
posted by adipocere at 2:43 PM on September 30, 2014 [19 favorites]


This dumbfuck actually hit the trickle-down trifecta:

1. Taxes went UP for the poorest.
2. Taxes went down the most for the richest.
3. Tax receipts for the state went down.

In other words, trickle-down worked perfectly. He's just too fucking dense to realize it.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:45 PM on September 30, 2014 [66 favorites]


Yes, "experiment" is the wrong word for something where the politically correct conclusion can never be in doubt.
posted by sobarel at 2:45 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Don't cry for Brownback- he can just go to Canada and try again.
posted by happyroach at 2:48 PM on September 30, 2014


Benny Andajetz: In other words, trickle-down worked perfectly. He's just too fucking dense to realize it.

Well, the marketing material still says "more jobs" and "more economic growth", neither of which happened. If they'd shrunk the state budget, fired a bunch of government employees, and at least maintained parity with neighboring states in job growth, this may look like a conservative victory that they can sell on election day.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:48 PM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


*wishes him into the cornfield*

(On a differently somber note, Dan Don Keefer, who played "Bad Man!" Hollis in that one Twilight Zone episode, passed away this month. He led a real good life.)
posted by Iridic at 2:50 PM on September 30, 2014 [7 favorites]


I have been following this story for quite a while, and of course have many Thoughts and Feelings about the appropriateness of otherwise-sensible Midwesterners holding these kinds of punitive, innumerate right-wing attitudes, but for some reason I never noticed before this FPP put it in the second sentence --

Laffer is still alive? That guy's been pretty comprehensively debunked for LITERALLY AS LONG AS I'VE BEEN ABLE TO READ NEWSPAPERS, I just figured he was super-dead by now because he's so thoroughly discredited.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:50 PM on September 30, 2014 [22 favorites]


Meanwhile, Grover Norquist is seen scouring CraigsList looking for a large rectangular bathtub and muttering "the time is now".
posted by benito.strauss at 2:54 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


In his campaign ads, Brownback says (no joke), "The sun is shining in Kansas and don't let anybody tell you different!"
posted by mmmbacon at 2:57 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


How many times does this have to fail before they stop trying it?

No, wait. It didn't fail. It did exactly what it was supposed to do.
posted by edheil at 2:58 PM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


Grover Norquist is seen scouring CraigsList looking for a large rectangular bathtub and muttering "the time is now".

As vivid metaphor, the bathtub quip certainly gets the job done. But it's always made me wonder just how often Grover Norquist drags small things into his bathroom and drowns them.
posted by Iridic at 2:59 PM on September 30, 2014 [35 favorites]


If even Rasmussen has the Dems leading, things have gone haywire.
I wonder if the bond vigilantes are going to attack?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:02 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


It didn't fail. It did exactly what it was supposed to do.

Yeah, I don't get the confusion, a scheme did exactly what it was meant to do.
posted by Cosine at 3:06 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


the sharp income tax cuts left the state with a significant budget shortfall, causing Brownback and the Kansas legislature to approve a second measure in 2013, one that canceled a scheduled sales tax decrease even as it lowered income taxes even further.

Sounds like they're just copying our lovely ass-backwards tax system here in Washington State.
posted by trunk muffins at 3:15 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


In other words, trickle-down worked perfectly. He's just too fucking dense to realize it.

I don't know if "dense" is the word I'd use. "Capital Punishment is the solution to poverty" can be promoted far and wide (and probably with surprising support) if you're evil enough. The trickle-down people are pushing a conjecture, and this evidence will be hand-waved away by those with something to gain by its continued existence.
posted by rhizome at 3:16 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Why is supply-side not in an oubliette already? Or Arthur Laffer too for that matter?
posted by ob1quixote at 3:17 PM on September 30, 2014


And I have to say, "we got Brownbacked," has some great entendre going for it.
posted by rhizome at 3:17 PM on September 30, 2014 [10 favorites]


Ok, I'm scared now.

They already did this in washington. Seriously.

It's funny that we're seen as some liberal utopia when we're actually doing this fucking worse than Kansas. Economically, this is the most right wing state in some ways. Sooo much "bleed the beast!" bullshit here.
posted by emptythought at 3:19 PM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


What I find astounding - and scary - is how fast an economy can be shot to hell by faith-based hucksters who don't understand basic economics. Their whole magical-thinking vision of America may help them sleep at night, but it's a trainwreck coming for the rest of us.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:31 PM on September 30, 2014 [15 favorites]


Sam Brownback did create a conservative utopia for the people who matter.
posted by Foam Pants at 3:36 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


Their whole magical-thinking vision of America may help them sleep at night, but it's a trainwreck coming for the rest of us.

The problem with the American electorate is that they generally can't reason this shit out. Unfortunately, that train is going to have to wreck, and wreck nation-wide over-and-over before the voters of this country finally see the destructive lunacy for what it is and finally vote against it. I'm sorry to say, but, the US is going to have to suffer through many, many years of Kansas-style bullshit before the tide is effectively turned.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:37 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


What Republicans don't realize is that their policies are poison to the economy. They are based on some textbook ideals and not what works. Nine out of ten of the last recessions started during Republican administrations. (Going back through Eisenhower, the exception was the one during Carter's administration.)
The stock market does hugely better during Democrat administrations. More regulation actually allows for growth. A free-for-all grab for the football does not work as well as a structured game in which the best competers are rewarded.
From 1981 on violent crime in the US has gone up during Republican administrations and down during Democratic administrations. If you want to stop crime, social welfare actually works better. If you want to zing freeloaders and have more crime, the Republican way is best.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:43 PM on September 30, 2014 [36 favorites]


So this is basically the economic equivalent of "the beatings will continue until morale improves," then?
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:49 PM on September 30, 2014 [12 favorites]


What Republicans don't realize is that their policies are poison to the economy.

I don't think a carjacker is really all that concerned about the fact that you needed your Hyundai to pick up your kid from soccer practice.
posted by Atom Eyes at 3:57 PM on September 30, 2014 [33 favorites]


So what will the supply-siders use as an explanation for why this is not true supply-side economics but it would actually work if enacted properly?
posted by jeather at 4:00 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


So what will the supply-siders use as an explanation for why this is not true supply-side economics but it would actually work if enacted properly?

It would't matter, just string some words together. The problem is that it's an ideal, and thus, like Communism, can never be implemented "properly," so as to satisfy the ideology. There will always be something missing, and that missing part always leads to failure. It's a negative-space argument, "well, if there wasn't X, then it would work." Rinse and repeat.
posted by rhizome at 4:05 PM on September 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


So what will the supply-siders use as an explanation for why this is not true supply-side economics but it would actually work if enacted properly?

Not enough children clapped their hands and, thus, the Supply-Side fairy died.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:05 PM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


The Doom that came to Sarnath Topeka.
posted by blacksmithtb at 4:09 PM on September 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


So what will the supply-siders use as an explanation for why this is not true supply-side economics but it would actually work if enacted properly?

Obama.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 4:09 PM on September 30, 2014 [39 favorites]


Well you see, dances_with_sneetches, the affects of an administration aren't really felt until sometime during the following administration.

At least, that is the argument I've heard. I imagine that a graph of the various metrics you cited over time against the start and end points of the administrations would refute that pretty soundly.
posted by VTX at 4:20 PM on September 30, 2014


You know that apocryphal line about democracy lasting only until the people realize they can vote themselves the public treasury?

Guess what -- it happened, but only after people = corporations
posted by hank at 4:35 PM on September 30, 2014 [13 favorites]


You people make it sound like draining the state budget was not part of the plan. Next stop: corporate neo-feudalism.
posted by phaedon at 4:41 PM on September 30, 2014 [7 favorites]


VTX: the affects of an administration aren't really felt until sometime during the following administration.

Uh, sort of. On fiscal policy, Presidents generally get their first year attributed to the other guy because they're inheriting their budget, spending priorities, etc. A recession that started under the previous regime can take more than a year to fix, but if you haven't started to turn things around within a year, it's on you.

Likewise, it takes a while to change course on foreign policy, so if your predecessor started a war, nobody's going to blame you for not ending it right away, but if after a year you're not making progress, something's wrong.

Anyway, I still think you're wrong, because every chart I've seen of the economic performance under Democratic and Republican administrations does in fact credit the first year of each term to the previous administration. If you have evidence that crediting the first year to the prior administration changes the facts that dances_with_sneetches highlighted, please show your work.
posted by tonycpsu at 4:43 PM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


where lower income Kansans who spend more of their income on goods and services saw their taxes go up sharply, while higher income residents saw a significant decrease in their tax burden.

Though not publicly stated, I think this was exactly what was it was supposed to happen.
posted by sourwookie at 4:45 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


"The problem with the American electorate is that they generally can't reason this shit out. "

Because elections aren't won solely by reason. They're also won by personal relationships, identification with a party or candidate, and emotion. Which is to say, go door to door, build relationships, and don't just do it within your liberal social bubble. Preaching to the choir is good because it keeps the choir loyal, but if you want to "turn the tide" you gotta get out on the streets.

"The problem is that it's an ideal, and thus, like Communism, can never be implemented "properly," so as to satisfy the ideology. "

I read somewhere the other day (maybe Vox? Maybe the NYer?) an argument that, at present, Republicans are an essentially ideological party who seek a pure ideal and who can always explain away failures as "insufficiently conservative" while Democrats are an essentially practical party who ask themselves "what's the best we can do right now? How can we improve the program as it exists?" which enrages more ideologically-oriented liberals who don't want to settle for "good enough" or "as well as we can do right now." One of the points was, ideological parties motivate electorates, but tend to be shit at governing because practical compromise is anathema. (One of the other points was about how Democrats and Republicans have very different visions of failures of their own and the other party, and that has implications for how they try to retool after failures and how they understand the other party's missteps, and why Democrats are not very good at predicting how Republicans will respond to their own failure, because what's "reasonable" to a practical politician is different from what's "reasonable" to an ideological one; and vice versa.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:58 PM on September 30, 2014 [24 favorites]


No no no, I don't believe the argument, I think it's wrong too. It's something I've heard conservative family members say use it in response to what dances_with_sneetches said.

I think they're actually taking the partial truth (the first year being the effects of the previous administration) and expanding that out to the whole term.
posted by VTX at 5:00 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


VTX: I think they're actually taking the partial truth (the first year being the effects of the previous administration) and expanding that out to the whole term.

OK, thanks for the clarification. Certainly, their argument is correct that Presidents deserve a grace period, but it's not like one minute it's the predecessor's fault and the next minute it's yours -- it's more of a gradient, and dependent on the situation. Still, we have to draw a line somewhere, and a year seems like a good rule of thumb to me.
posted by tonycpsu at 5:10 PM on September 30, 2014


So what will the supply-siders use as an explanation for why this is not true supply-side economics but it would actually work if enacted properly?

Their explanations are generally of the "spherical cow" nature, if they have any education. And then, even if they do, it generally boils down to mono-cultural, anti-diversity, mono-racial, authoritarian, nationalistic hogwash.

I have yet to meet anyone who can incorporate supply-side economics into the proper aspect of covering the bases of Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs. Their odd fairytale belief in their superiority and unwillingness to ask the simple question of "what happens if anything goes wrong?" is always a fun game to play.
posted by daq at 5:15 PM on September 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


Trickle down actually refers to the urine trickling down your face as the 1% pisses on you, who is standing in the street, from their penthouse.

I'm pretty sure I said this already, about thirty years ago, while Ronald Reagan + co were busy robbing the future blind. Got a few bleak laughs. Now it just feels like ... I don't know. Urine in the face, I guess.
posted by philip-random at 5:31 PM on September 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


Trickle down actually refers to the urine trickling down your face as the 1% pisses on you

Fun fact! In the 1800s, before it was called trickle-down, it was called horse-and-sparrow theory. "If you feed the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows." It took a hundred years for the right-wing propaganda machine to discard an overtly coprophagic metaphor in favor of something that was merely evocative of urophilia.
posted by compartment at 6:18 PM on September 30, 2014 [110 favorites]



I'd be curious to read up more on the sales tax policy. I suspect the most egregious aspect to the unequal burden on the poor is not the sales tax--which is used to fund successful European states with excellent social welfare programs--but the fact that the mechanisms used to correct the regressiveness on the bottom (rebates, exemptions, credits) were completely mangled.


There's a difference between sales taxes and the European Value Added Tax. A sales tax is simply a tax on the final sale of a product or service. A VAT is applied everywhere in the chain of production where, well, value is added. A VAT is far more progressive than a simple sales tax.
posted by ocschwar at 6:29 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


I really like the horse-and-sparrow version because it shows a much more practical image of a profoundly overfed horse and sparrows getting what little they receive covered in shit
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:20 PM on September 30, 2014 [32 favorites]


A VAT is applied everywhere in the chain of production where, well, value is added.

How it works:
This includes not just direct materials incorporated into the item being sold but to all business inputs – machinery, equipment, office supplies, and business services – basically anything used by a business. This results in no direct VAT cost to businesses

The cost is borne by purchasers. Just like a sales tax. How is that progressive, exactly?
posted by jpe at 7:39 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


It isn't. ocsschwar isn't correct about VAT being progressive. It's a clear example of a regressive tax as low-income people pay a far higher proportion of their income in VAT than do high-income people. The only way you can make it look progressive is by de-coupling it from proportion of income and looking solely at the amount paid. But by that logic a flat income tax is also progressive because 10% of 1,000,000 is higher than 10% of 50,000. Which isn't what we mean by a "progressive tax".
posted by Justinian at 7:57 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


How naive to think Brownback is anything but a sock puppet for the Koch brothers.
posted by benzenedream at 8:21 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Well, I'm sure at least some minorities are being hurt, so everything is alright really.
posted by Artw at 9:10 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't know that much about Kansas, but does it seem like Judis is kind of grasping at straws to find that "progressive streak"? Opposition to slavery, temperance, public-school-supporting Methodist fear of Catholic separatism?

The Democrat's campaign sounds like he's selling nothing about himself really, just a sort of do-over with maximum discretion--elect me and we can go back to the way things were an I promise to never mention how you got drunk and shit the bed... He sounds like a fucking enabler, actually...
posted by batfish at 9:57 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Opposition to slavery, temperance, public-school-supporting Methodist fear of Catholic separatism?"

Lincoln, Neb., is widely regarded as the most conservative Catholic diocese in the US ... Witchita and KCK are not too far behind, if that helps your theory. (But there are plenty of liberal catholics in the KC area ... Although many commute to KCMO for church.)

I feel like I've read that Kansas, like all us agricultural Midwestern states, has become home to various immigrant and refugee populations who hear the Gospel of The Prairie while in refugee camps and can't wait to come to our green and pleasant and flat land, bringing with them delicious native foods and sometimes moderately concerning attitudes about the education of daughters. They do not want to fly over or get out; they want robust farms that will send their kids to state colleges. We've been the Rust Belt so long its hard to get used to immigrants who are like, "ooooooh, nice farmland, and they tell me you send a school bus?"
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:20 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Eyebrows McGee: I read somewhere the other day (maybe Vox? Maybe the NYer?) an argument that, at present, Republicans are an essentially ideological party who seek a pure ideal and who can always explain away failures as "insufficiently conservative" while Democrats are an essentially practical party who ask themselves "what's the best we can do right now?
Was it this?

Why Democrats and Republicans don’t understand each other, Ezra Klein, Vox, 15 September 2014

Cf. Why Republicans and Democrats Act Differently, Frank Moraes, Frankly Curious, 15 September 2014
posted by ob1quixote at 11:59 PM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


Well, clearly the Kansas Republicans are simply missing the final plank in the neoliberal assemblage that will make it "work": the elimination of universal adult suffrage.
posted by Sonny Jim at 12:25 AM on October 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


As a firebreathing economic left-leaning moderate, I will be using Horse and Sparrow Economics going forward.

1) It harkens back to the first time we had to fight this robber-baron bullshit

2) It's novel enough to make people stop and go "I have not heard of this theory!"

3) The imagery is shocking enough to poison the very concept, and continually put the GOP back on its heels to spend most of the time attempting to re-frame the metaphor rather than repeating the well worn fairy tales they tell each other. It's a chink in the talking-point armor, and a fatal one that the average voter can understand. Who wants to be fed horseshit?
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:20 AM on October 1, 2014 [20 favorites]


otherwise-sensible Midwesterners

I live in St. Louis and have visited my grandmother-in-law's tiny farm town in northern Missouri several times. I don't really see the evidence for that trope.
posted by Foosnark at 6:17 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Please tell me that Kansans are calling this guy Sam Blowback by now
posted by thelonius at 6:28 AM on October 1, 2014


As a resident of of neighboring Missouri, with a front-row seat to the slowly but surely sinking ship next door, the main thing that worries me is that our Missouri state politicians are literally falling over each other with excitement to follow the Kansas model. So that we don't fall behind.

Yech . . .
posted by flug at 6:38 AM on October 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


Justinian:
It isn't. ocsschwar isn't correct about VAT being progressive. It's a clear example of a regressive tax as low-income people pay a far higher proportion of their income in VAT than do high-income people.
That's my understanding as well which is why it's important to couple the revenue raised by such a tax into indirect and direct reinvestment into low income households.

The graph in the aforementioned link showing the Nordic countries is quite illustrative.

What these jackals seem to be doing is the regressive tax without proper controls on the low-income end or even proper revenue planning. The magical thinking of free-market fundamentalism.
posted by whittaker at 7:03 AM on October 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


And on the lighter side, the state has begun auctioning off sex toys to raise money.

And if you don't think Sam Brownback's signifier didn't just become "Aspiring Dildo Salesman Sam Brownback," well, you must be new here.
posted by TedW at 7:41 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


No, wait. It didn't fail. It did exactly what it was supposed to do.

Honestly, I don't think that can be true. Sure, the rich got a tax cut, but if the economy goes into the toilet and you don't get re-elected then that's bad and that can't have been what they were anticipating. I'm sure that Brownback and the supply-siders assumed that the economy would get better. The benefits might not be evenly distributed, but you can work around that.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 9:20 AM on October 1, 2014


It's Never Lurgi: but if the economy goes into the toilet and you don't get re-elected then that's bad and that can't have been what they were anticipating

Not so sure this is the case. The tea partiers have developed a reputation for being willing to be maximalist in what policies they push for and worry about the electoral consequences later. Of course they were hoping to have a better story to tell after they lowered taxes, but if not, Brownback goes to Cato or Heritage, or maybe cashes in big with the private sector. This makes sense given their hostility toward government -- Democrats actually think government should exist, so they're more interested in being part of it as they try to improve it. Republicans, especially tea party types, are happy to just storm the gates and let the chips fall where they may.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:24 AM on October 1, 2014


sobarel: Yes, "experiment" is the wrong word for something where the politically correct conclusion can never be in doubt.
"[T]he politically correct conclusion can never be in doubt" is an astoundingly naive statement. I double-dog guarantee you it can be, and is, in doubt by 50% of all Americans.

This is what is so important about Kansas' experiment: they tried, they achieved their input goals, and the results FAILED to support their hypothesis. Rather, the liberal hypothesis - more or less, rising waters lift all boats, as long as we don't let anyone without a boat drown - was implicitly supported.

Now, I'll grant that a large portion of conservative Americans are never, ever going to believe something as tainted and biased as facts. Some 22% thought Bush, who sent their sons and daughters to die foolishly, was a good president at the end of this term.

But many conservatives do think, and some of them might be capable of looking at this evidentiary experiment, and processing "I might be wrong."

This is important.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:31 AM on October 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


Republicans, especially tea party types, are happy to just storm the gates and let the chips fall where they may.

I prefer: "The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it."
posted by Talez at 9:33 AM on October 1, 2014 [8 favorites]


The part about the credit downgrade is totally misleading. Kansas was rated AA+ (the second best rating) and now it's rated AA (the third best). That puts it at about median compared to other states, and vastly higher than Illinois (A) and California (A-), which have more left-leaning tax and spending policies

http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2014/06/09/sp-ratings-2014

The reason for the downgrade was not income tax cuts alone, but the failure to offset them elsewhere. Texas, for example, has zero income tax, and is rated AAA. It also has one of the fastest growing economies:

http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/regional/gdp_state/gsp_newsrelease.htm

There are many reasons to oppose Brownback's tax cuts, like that they hurt poor people and increase inequality, or that they were not balanced with spending cuts. But the tax cuts alone are not the cause of the downgrade, and nor is the downgrade particularly significant.
posted by andrewpcone at 9:42 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


While a president does inherit his first budget from the prior administration, a president can do all sorts of things immediately to start a recession.

The last ten recessions (for reference, from Wikipedia).

July 1953 – May 1954 Eisenhower president for six months.
Aug 1957 – April 1958 Eisenhower president for 4 years, seven months.
Apr 1960 – Feb 1961 Eisenhower president for 7 years three months.
Dec 1969 – Nov 1970 Nixon president for 11 months.
Nov 1973 – Mar 1975 Nixon president for four and three quarters years.
Jan–July 1980 Carter president for 3 years.
July 1981 – Nov 1982 Reagan president for six months.
July 1990 – Mar 1991 Bush, Sr. president for one and one half years.
March 2001–Nov 2001 Bush, Jr. president for two months.
Dec 2007 – June 2009. Bush, Jr. president for seven years.

You can argue the first months theory (in three cases), but it is interesting how much it seems to be Republican president, recession, recession, yada-yada, Republican president, recession, recession.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:47 AM on October 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


California (A-),

tax and spending policies

I don't know where you've been but California has been held by the balls on the "tax" part of that for over three decades c/o Prop 13.
posted by Talez at 9:49 AM on October 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


dances_with_sneetches:
You can argue the first months theory (in three cases), but it is interesting how much it seems to be Republican president, recession, recession, yada-yada, Republican president, recession, recession.
1. Which three? None of those occurred in a POTUS' first three months. [Edit: Whoops, Bush was one.]

2. In the interests of fairness and accuracy, President Carter (D) is an exception.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:52 AM on October 1, 2014


andrewpcone: The reason for the downgrade was not income tax cuts alone, but the failure to offset them elsewhere.

Here's what I said in the FPP:

"there is no denying that the state budget is in trouble, a fact that has led bond agencies to downgrade Kansas' credit rating, citing a $333 million budget shortfall."

I did not say that the tax cuts are what caused the downgrade, I said that the tax cuts led to an imbalanced budget, which caused the downgrade. Yes, if they had hypothetically offset the cuts, the overall balance sheet could look better, but that's not what happened, so your argument is akin to saying that the arsonist could have totally poured water on the fire they started, so we shouldn't blame them.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:55 AM on October 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


I gave six months as being the first months. Perhaps that is too generous. I don't want to get into an argument about what caused the recessions, but Republican presidents often initiate anti-Keynesian policies. There is no question that oil prices contributed to several. (Bad Middle-East policy can contribute to that).
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:08 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


No, it's more like saying it would be fine to switch to a lower wage job, as long as I move to a cheaper place and eat cheaper food. If I do the first but not the second, I'll run out of money. If I do both, that's fine.

Tax cuts are supposed to be offset by spending cuts. That is what responsible politicians do, liberal and conservative. Brownback and co did not, and that is what caused the shortfall.

Arson is an inherently violent act, with no positive purpose. Cutting taxes may not be your preferred fiscal policy, but there are legitimate arguments for doing so—even, in some cases, when it causes shortfalls—and many instances in which it is the right thing to do. Brownback may have steered his state irresponsibly, but not in a way comparable to arson.
posted by andrewpcone at 10:08 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


andrewpcone: No, it's more like saying it would be fine to switch to a lower wage job, as long as I move to a cheaper place and eat cheaper food. If I do the first but not the second, I'll run out of money. If I do both, that's fine.

But they didn't do both, and, importantly, when faced with the opportunity in 2013 to address the shortfall, chose to dig deeper by lowering income taxes even more. It's not in any way misleading to point out that the tax cuts broke the budget. Saying they hypothetically could have made up for it somewhere else doesn't change the fact that doing so first is irresponsible, just like taking that lower wage job would be irresponsible unless you know you have the means to make up for the lost income.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:18 AM on October 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


Talez:

I live in California, and you are misunderstanding Prop 13, which makes tax *rate* *increases* more difficult. It was passed in response to high taxes in CA. California still has high state taxes.

CA annual per capita total direct revenue is $10,479.40.
The average over all states is $4,858.90.

(http://www.usgovernmentrevenue.com/CA_per_capita_revenue.html)

If a state's taxes are twice as high as the national average (despite having approximately average per capita income), and the state still manages to spend its way into debt, then yes, I would lean toward saying the state had a more liberal fiscal policy.
posted by andrewpcone at 10:21 AM on October 1, 2014


tonucpsu:

I agree more with your most recent phrasing, but it's still misleading. Cutting spending to match tax cuts is not "hypothetical," it is standard practice. It is even recommended (or perhaps even a major purpose) of folks like Grover Norquist. Even the US Congress manages to do it, as do most states, democrat or republican.

Brownback and the KS legislature failed to do that. That is your beef. Blaming tax cuts without qualification is a way to rhetorically smudge that into an attack on tax cuts generally, which is not merited.
posted by andrewpcone at 10:27 AM on October 1, 2014


andrewpcone: I agree more with your most recent phrasing, but it's still misleading. Cutting spending to match tax cuts is not "hypothetical," it is standard practice. It is even recommended (or perhaps even a major purpose) of folks like Grover Norquist. Even the US Congress manages to do it, as do most states, democrat or republican.

It's not standard practice, it's standard marketing of the practice. The spending cuts didn't happen under Ronald Reagan, and they didn't happen under George W. Bush. Norquist can say all he wants but he doesn't actually make policy. The actual Republican policymakers who enact tax cuts routinely pull this shell game of deep tax cuts now and vague promises to cut spending later that are rarely ever followed through on, certainly not to the extent that the taxes were cut.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:30 AM on October 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


andrewpcone: Blaming tax cuts without qualification

And, again, I didn't do this. Read my phrasing in the FPP.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:30 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


CA annual per capita total direct revenue is $10,479.40.

How in the world is that calculated? By those numbers California would take in $400b a year in revenue and all of our problems would be completely solved.
posted by Talez at 10:32 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Even factoring the state only $6000 that's still twice as much as Cali takes in currently.

My home state of Western Australia takes in $28.7b in revenue off 2 million people. I don't know how people in this country think they're overtaxed.
posted by Talez at 10:38 AM on October 1, 2014


Seriously, those California numbers are way off the mark. According to this (pdf), California's ranked 12th at $4,914 in state and local taxes per capita, while Kansas comes in at 24th at $4,095 -- ~16% lower. Considering California's per-capita income is 9% higher, we're not exactly talking about a huge disparity in terms of taxation.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:42 AM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


Huh, true, I don't know how they got that number. I just copied numbers off that site I referenced. The PDF tonycpsu sent out is clearly more credible.

The point still stands, though with less amplitude: California is a comparatively high tax state, and its credit rating is the 2nd lowest. Texas is a low tax state, and its credit rating is the highest. The only reason I brought that up was to show that low tax rates do not necessarily cause low credit ratings.

Also, I take your point about the disparity between marketing of tax cuts and actual implementation. You are correct in the two cases you mention, and I would agree Republicans are often misleading on that point, with hugely destructive effects. But if you look at the credit ratings I sent out earlier, you'll see there's little correspondence between fiscal conservatism and budgetary soundness, for which credit ratings are a decent proxy.

Mississippi and Connecticut both have low ratings. Utah and Maryland both have high ratings. You can balance a budget with low taxes, or with high taxes. Similarly, you can achieve high or low economic growth with low taxes, or with high taxes. That is my point, and after re-reading your FPP, I still think you are implying otherwise.
posted by andrewpcone at 11:00 AM on October 1, 2014


It looks like I copied the wrong number off the site for CA, which the site claims at $6,171.40. The number I had previously copied included local taxes.
posted by andrewpcone at 11:05 AM on October 1, 2014


Talez: My home state of Western Australia takes in $28.7b in revenue off 2 million people. I don't know how people in this country think they're overtaxed.
If someone get free donuts with their coffee in the mornings, and one day the box of donuts isn't there, they're likely to complain about their "hunger".

Likewise, if their coffee machine charges 50 cents a cup, and raises the fee to 75 one day, people are going to bitch and moan - even if every other floor in the building charges $1.00.

It's not about fair, right, nor reasonable; it's about Americans (IMO, fat off a century of plentiful resources and oceanic protection from invasions) wanting their donuts AND 50-cent coffee. No matter what.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:06 AM on October 1, 2014


andrewpcone: It looks like I copied the wrong number off the site for CA, which the site claims at $6,171.40. The number I had previously copied included local taxes.

Uh, the Tax Policy Center PDF also includes local taxes.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:06 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


andrewpcone: Mississippi and Connecticut both have low ratings. Utah and Maryland both have high ratings. You can balance a budget with low taxes, or with high taxes. Similarly, you can achieve high or low economic growth with low taxes, or with high taxes. That is my point, and after re-reading your FPP, I still think you are implying otherwise.

I'm implying no such thing. Kansas lowered taxes, creating a budget shortfall. That action, and that action alone, led to the downgrade. Hypothetical actions they could have taken to balance the budget don't change that, and I made no points about any other states in the FPP.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:09 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Alright, I'm just going to say that my site was bullshit then. I should know better than to trust sites that looks like that
posted by andrewpcone at 11:10 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


tonycpsu:
Well, I'm just going to disagree here. I trust that you did not intend such a bias, but I think it's there, and I think it creates a misleading impression. I disagree about the extent to which an obviously reasonable and commonplace and broadly recommended thing to do should be called "hypothetical" just because it wasn't done. You made no points about other states, but other states do provide a baseline against which to evaluate the situation, so I think they're relevant.
posted by andrewpcone at 11:19 AM on October 1, 2014


andrewpcone: I disagree about the extent to which an obviously reasonable and commonplace and broadly recommended thing to do should be called "hypothetical" just because it wasn't done.

You've got to be fucking kidding me. You've conflated theory and practice so many times and you want to tell me that I can't use hypothetical to describe policies that are "reasonable and commonplace and broadly recommended" but not actually, you know, enacted?

I'm sorry, but I don't have time for this shit. Tax cuts aren't inherently fiscally irresponsible, and if that's your point, that's fine. However, tax cuts without paying for them absolutely are irresponsible. That's what happened in Kansas, and that's what I said happened in Kansas. Accusations of bias because I am not interpreting the sales pitch as substantive action are entirely without merit.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:37 AM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


andrewpcone,

I'm not entirely sure what your point is. It almost seems like you're completely taking the post out of context by maintaining that any kind of reasonable reading is that all tax cuts are inherently fiscally irresponsible or lead to lower economic growth. The post was about an almost pure application of supply side economics.

And supply side economic theory claims that if taxes are lowered economic activity will rise such that there will be no deficit since the lowered rate will be applied against higher incomes arising from the higher economic activity, i.e., you can have your cake & eat it too. When you hear Paul Ryan claim that his numbers should be analyzed using "dynamic scoring," that's the underlying logic. When tried, it has resulted in budget problems.

Accordingly, since the post is about supply side economics, how can a reasonable reading of the post be that all tax cuts lead to lower economic growth, or fiscal problems? If Brownback had cut spending commesurate with the tax cuts, that wpuld not have been supply side.
posted by JKevinKing at 12:11 PM on October 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


I worked up the motivation to look around for a graph that would chart recessions against presidential terms and came up with this.

There are a quite a few instances of a republican president taking office, a short-ish amount of time passing and then a recession starting. I'd like to find a graph that shows the majorities in legislatures and used GDP instead of income per tax unit but I think it refutes my earlier argument pretty soundly.
posted by VTX at 3:49 PM on October 1, 2014


"I live in California, and you are misunderstanding Prop 13, which makes tax *rate* *increases* more difficult. It was passed in response to high taxes in CA. California still has high state taxes."

I live in California too and you're wrong. Prop. 13 did two things: Cap property taxes and require a two-thirds majority to increase revenues for the government through taxes.

"Cutting spending to match tax cuts is not "hypothetical," it is standard practice. It is even recommended (or perhaps even a major purpose) of folks like Grover Norquist. Even the US Congress manages to do it, as do most states, democrat or republican.

Brownback and the KS legislature failed to do that. That is your beef. Blaming tax cuts without qualification is a way to rhetorically smudge that into an attack on tax cuts generally, which is not merited.
"

This is bullshit, and misses on two key points. First off, the "cutting services" is hypothetical as it wasn't actually done in Kansas. Arguing that the blame is not in the thing that changed but in not changing two things is special pleading. Secondly, as the theory was that by cutting taxes revenues would rise to cover the cost of cutting taxes, cutting services is irrelevant to whether or not the implementation of that theory led to a decrease in bond rating.

Sorry, man. While you might have had something at pointing out that the bond rating change isn't that big of a deal, you're wrong about pretty much everything else.
posted by klangklangston at 3:51 PM on October 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


This is me biting my tongue instead of engaging in my usual anti-Prop13 rant. SO MUCH HATE.
posted by Justinian at 5:50 PM on October 1, 2014


LET YOUR HATE FLOW THROUGH YOU IT HAS MADE YOU POWERFUL
posted by klangklangston at 5:53 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


" That puts it at about median compared to other states, and vastly higher than Illinois (A) and California (A-), which have more left-leaning tax and spending policies"

I'm not sure why you think that Illinois has "left-leaning tax and spending policies" or if you are attempting to claim that these "left-leaning" policies led to Illinois's low bond rating, but in fact Illinois's low bond rating is due to massive unfunded pension obligations created when state government repeatedly robbed pension funds to pay for other state programs to avoid raising taxes.

Illinois has a flat income tax, which is a conservative idea; it has high sales taxes, with very few exemptions for necessities, which is regressive and penalizes the poor; it ranks in the bottom half of states for income tax rates; and it funds government services through local government property taxes (also conservative, putting government power at the lowest level possible) that results in massive, massive disparities in funding for essential services like police and fire protection, and among the worst educational funding inequality in the nation.

It is true we voted ourselves an income tax increase a couple years ago to start attacking the pension crisis, but it remains a flat tax.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:01 PM on October 1, 2014 [8 favorites]




Man, fuck the enviroment. That's more important as a principle than even money.
posted by Artw at 4:30 PM on October 2, 2014






Where the Tea Party Rules - 'Lima, Ohio, has been struggling for decades – and the GOP’s radical policies are making it even worse'
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:43 AM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Today's Planet Money episode covers this topic, featuring interviews with Laffer, local Kansas entrepreneurs, and school district administrators.

The one quibble I have with the reporting is that discussing job growth in percentages can be misleading. If neighboring states weathered the 2008 recession worse, they have a further distance to bounce back from. I'd be pleased to see a more detailed comparison, even though I suspect it would still compare unfavorably.
posted by pwnguin at 8:49 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


« Older The Future of China's Confucius Institutes   |   In Another Thousand Years the Dogs Will Actually... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments