Opinion: Kansas and Kentucky Show Support For Public Education: A Key For 2020 Democrats

Back in 2004, Thomas Frank’s book What’s the Matter with Kansas? elevated the state as the textbook case of how the Republican party has been able to leverage a platform of conservative social values to sway the electorate to vote against its economic interests.  Railing against abortion, affirmative action, big government, elitism, political correctness, and the like, Republicans surfed the wave of voters’ cultural outrage to election victories and then performed the bait-and-switch.

As Frank tells the story, these officials, instead of delivering on these platforms, engaged in unbridled deregulation and tax cuts, gutting the public sphere on which people depended, such as the educational system, and concentrating wealth in a fewer and fewer hands at the people’s expense.

In 2018, Kansas voters suddenly got “woke,” deciding they were mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.  They elected Democrats Laura Kelly as Governor and Sharice Davids to the House of Representatives.

They felt the reality of Republican Governor Sam Brownback’s Kansas, where it became apparent that, lo and behold, massive tax cuts did not pay for themselves, much less increase state revenues, but rather resulted in severe austerity conditions.   For example, the school year was shortened due to revenue shortfalls attributable to his criminally huge corporate tax cuts, exposing that these Republican fiscal and tax policies were not benefiting the economic health of the state or creating a higher quality of life. Brownback’s cuts to education were so egregious that they were deemed unconstitutional by the state’s supreme court. Bobby Jindal wreaked similar havoc in Louisiana back in 2016, granting massive tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations, leaving the state in economic chaos and facing massive cuts to education and basic social services.  Republican Governor of Illinois Bruce Rauner followed the same playbook, razing the state’s public sphere in the name of restoring economic health by lowering taxes and destroying unions.

As I wrote back then, voters paying attention should have seen what the GOP had in store for them should a Republican win the presidency in 2016. And Trump has indeed realized this vision, lavishing exorbitant tax cuts to the wealthiest among us and to corporations, resulting in the accelerating deterioration of the economy as well as gutting the public sphere. His budget cut proposals as well as the

policies of his Education Secretary Betsy Devos read more

Chicago Rally Reveals Economic and Human Damage of GOP’s Real Motives and Hypocrisy in ACA Repeal

“What is the best way to decimate a community? Deny its people access to healthcare.”

“What is the best way to decimate a community? Shut down its largest employer.”

These questions were asked and answered by Tim Egan, CEO of Chicago’s Roseland Community Hospital, last Sunday, January 15, as he opened his comments at a rally to defend the Affordable Care Act (ACA) against the GOP’s ongoing efforts to repeal it. Hosted by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) at its Chicago headquarters, the rally included such heavy-hitting speakers as Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, among others who shared their personal testimonies of how the ACA has literally saved their lives and how its repeal would certainly put their lives in danger.

Egan’s speech was particularly compelling because it highlighted the GOP’s hypocrisy when it comes to both improving the lives of average citizens and fostering fertile conditions for business. The Republicans like to represent themselves as the party with policies that help people by serving the interests of business, believing that policies that facilitate businesses by cutting taxes and eliminating regulations will improve the economy overall and create jobs, thus helping America’s working-class majority, regardless of how low-wage the jobs might be. Speaking as a corporate CEO, though, and not one of the American masses Republicans typically ignore, Egan made plain and clear that from the corporate perspective repealing the ACA would be devastating for business as well as people, threatening the very existence of his hospital, a primary employer in the Roseland community, not to mention millions of lives.

In her comments, Schakowsky emphatically reiterated this reality that GOP policies are neither pro-business nor pro-people, pointing out that if Republicans repeal the ACA, Illinois is projected to lose 117,000 jobs in 2019 and 33 billion dollars in federal funding between 2019 and 2022, a devastating blow to an already faltering Illinois economy Rauner has done nothing positive to improve. Highlighting GOP hypocrisy, Schakowsky called out Illinois Republican Governor for his silence on the issue of the potential ACA repeal and his refusal to speak out against it in defense of the Illinois economy and its citizenry.

So what is the point of Republican policy that seems both economically and humanly destructive? As I have argued previously on the pages of PoliticusUsa regarding the Republicans and Rauner in particular, we need to understand Republican scorched earth policies such as we have seen Rauner’s Illinois, Bobby Jindhal’s Louisiana, Sam Brownback’s Kansas, and Scott Walker’s Wisconsin as not pro-business but pro-wealthy. This distinction is of vital importance if we are to understand the GOP agenda. The Republican project, as I’ve argued, is to re-distribute wealth to the top, acceleratingly so, not to help business and by extension, perhaps, the working-class majority. Egan’s comments make this agenda clear.

Indeed, even the pro-business CNBC website has featured reports underscoring the far-reaching economic devastation and job-loss repealing the ACA would entail. Dan Mangan, for example, reports that according to a study from Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, the repeal of key provisions of the ACA would trigger massive job loss to the tune of potentially three million jobs in healthcare and other sectors as well as a 1.5 trillion reduction in gross state product from 2019 to 2023, triggering also a damaging slump in consumer spending. As Mangan puts it, “Spending less by getting rid of Obamacare could end up costing a whole lot more.”

So what’s the end game for Republicans? Well, according to Tony Nitti in a piece he contributed to Forbes (no left-wing rag), repealing Obamacare would result in an average tax savings of $33,000 for the wealthiest one percent of Americans, while those making between $10,000 and $75,000 would actually see their taxes increase—and millions would lose health insurance or have to pay astronomically more for it, effectively an additional tax increase. The end game is simply to give more to the wealthy, which is not the same thing as helping businesses or improving the health of the economy. (That the House GOP voted to conceal the costs of repealing the ACA from the public arguably underscores the repeal is not economically salubrious for the taxpayers and the nation.)

And the economic and human costs go together. At the Chicago rally, Tracy Trovato told the story of how her husband Carlo was diagnosed with leukemia in 2014. He has been cured after hundreds of thousands of dollars in treatment. Should the cancer return, however, and Obamacare were to be repealed, allowing insurance companies to re-instate lifetime caps on coverage, it is likely Carlo would not be able to afford treatment to save his life, or the Trovato family would endure absolute economic ruin. Trovato’s story makes clear the human and economic costs of repealing the ACA. Her family’s story is not singular but representative, and having widespread bankruptcy is not good for the health of our economy, not to mention our humanity.

We need to see that Obamacare is not a hand-out, but simply sound economic policy that serves both the American people as a whole and American business.

We also need to see that Republicans serve neither but simply want to accelerate the distribution of wealth to a speed that will break all of our necks, those of our working and middle classes and those of the business world.

As The Kansas Economy Dies, Trump Appoints Gov. Sam Brownback As Advisor

In a normal political environment, a national candidate seeking a model of what their proposed policies would produce would certainly choose a winner. However, this is no more a normal political environment than an elephant is quantum-sized, and the state of Kansas is no more an economic winner than Donald Trump is a quiet and thoughtful deep thinker.

Billions of Dollars in the Red, Louisiana Has Been Destroyed by Bobby Jindal

Starting a new job can be an exhilarating experience, especially when that new position is at the wishes and consent of millions of voters. However, for Louisiana’s new governor, John Bel Edwards (D), whatever exhilaration might exist at being chosen to run the state likely turned to fright and despair when he realized just how devastating was the severe budget crisis left him by his predecessor. It is an all-too-common story in America: a Republican administration inherits a surplus and directly sends the economy into free-fall by racking up colossal deficits, and then a Democrat has to spend their time and energy cleaning up what is always an economic disaster.

Last month Louisiana’s residents were weeping and gnashing their teeth when the state’s new leadership publicly admitted that “the elite” Louisiana State University (LSU) football program was in jeopardy due to the state’s budget crisis. However, now that the full extent of the economic clusterf*ck executed by former governor Jindal and Republican legislature left for the new leadership is fully realized, it is curious there is not a mass migration out of state. Or at least mass suicides due to the seemingly hopeless economic situation another Republican put another state in.

The real tragedy is that when Jindal came into office, the state was flush with money from the federal government’s largesse after Hurricane Katrina; money Jindal promptly handed over to the rich and to corporations.

The fine folk of Louisiana may lose a lot more than their precious LSU football program thanks to the typical Republican’s trickle-down catastrophe. Former governor and presidential candidate Bobby Jindal (R) left Louisiana in such a disastrous economic mess that observers are fearful that  “Louisiana may soon fundamentally cease to function as a state.”

The idea of a Republican enacting economic policies that cause a state to “cease to function” is not big news or unexpected, but it should be a clarion warning of what every Republican wants to do to America.

The economic situation Jindal’s trickle down madness left Louisiana prompted Governor Edwards to convene a second special legislative session to resolve a nearly $1 billion shortfall for the current fiscal year – the one ending in just three months. Edwards is hoping against hope that the legislature can also stave off the projected $2 billion shortfall next year. According to state economists’ estimates, the state will be unable to operate at all, much less even keep the lights on, unless politicians come up with $3 billion in a couple of days and the Republicans are not inclined to eliminate tax cuts Jindal and they enacted.

That massive shortfall will put an end to the most basic services the government typically provides; education, emergency rooms, hospitals, scholarships, safety nets for families in dire poverty, and even the agencies that guard abused and abandoned children. However, the government will continue to provide Jindal’s tax cuts for the rich because Republicans control both houses of the legislature.

If lawmakers and the governor cannot resolve the budget crisis, many Louisiana state agencies will see “Doomsday” budget cuts. Those cuts are in addition to the years of seriously drastic resource cuts Jindal already made to protect his trickle down tax cuts for the rich.

There are no agencies or departments that are not in dire jeopardy thanks to Jindal’s tax cutting madness. Education is already down 44 percent compared to when Jindal came in office, and further cuts to cover the present crisis will force schools to close. It is noteworthy, too, that Jindal squandered what little resources were allotted to education by shifting massive amounts of public school funding to his private religious “school choice” agenda.

The state’s hospitals are due for serious budget cuts to match the “doomsday” cuts to education. Hospital administrators warn that the “best-case scenario” they can hope for is that they survive on an only $64 million reductions in healthcare spending. Still, even that horrid “best-case scenario” will trigger equal reductions in federal matching funds and leave some hospitals with no other option but to close their doors; but the rich and corporations keep their tax cuts.

The entirety of this mess is attributable to Bobby Jindal’s attempt to keep pace with Kansas’ governor Sam Brownback’s undoing of Kansas’ government with economic malfeasance and unfunded trickle-down tax cuts for the very rich and corporations.

As soon as Jindal was elected, he started dismantling the state’s income tax system by cutting taxes on the rich that automatically slashed revenue to the tune of more than $800 million every year. Like George W. Bush, Jindal quickly turned considerable surpluses in equally considerable deficits; all to give the rich and corporations their tax cuts.

Despite the annual trickle-down deficits, Jindal argued, like Sam Brownback in Kansas, that the only way the state could possibly bring in more tax revenue, and solve the tax-cut induced deficits, was to double down and give the rich and corporations more tax cuts.

In fact, in 2013 Jindal tried, like Sam Brownback, to repeal taxation altogether; a move he pledged would generate more tax revenue for the government. Jindal’s attempt failed, and his next solution was giving the rich $25,500 more in tax cuts and hiking taxes on the bottom 80 percent of the population.

When Jindal was not slashing taxes for the rich and corporations, he was delivering ever-expanding “expensive giveaways to corporations that were so generous they looked less like subsidies and more like bribes.” For example, in the first 8 months of the current fiscal year the state has spent $200 million more on tax breaks for big business than it collected in business taxes. As one pundit put it, it is the “public policy equivalent of an actor handsomely paying his entourage to hang out with them.”

Faced with such inflexibility and crisis, Louisiana lawmakers now realize that facing a massive budget crisis, they are left with only dramatic options; options Democrats do not like but the legislature is controlled by the same Republicans that helped Jindal decimate the state.  The Republican legislature is “considering cuts to programs that are protected by the state Constitution even in emergencies,” as well as the current doomsday across-the-board cuts to most of the state’s agencies that are not constitutionally protected. Some Democrats in the legislature want to reverse Jindal’s income tax cuts and restore the pre-Jindal era rates, but Republicans want to hike the state’s sales tax so the poor and middle class bear the burden – all to preserve the tax cuts for the rich and corporations.

For residents of Louisiana who are not rich, it is a pity that they are victims of yet another Republican administration’s deliberate economic malfeasance and demise, but it is also a prime opportunity for Democrats, nationally and at the state level, to point out that Republicans’ trickle down madness is literally destructive. It is a very bad sign when a state’s politicians and economic analysts say that Jindal’s tax cut madness means that “Louisiana may soon fundamentally cease to function as a state,” and if it was just one state it would be bad enough. But it is every Republican state that appears to exist only to give or preserve tax cuts for the rich and corporations.

Every Republican presidential candidate has proposed even more massive tax cuts than Jindal enacted in Louisiana, and if any of them wins the White House; “America may soon fundamentally cease to function as a nation.” it is, after all, exactly what Grover Norquist, the Koch brothers, and Republicans have been working diligently to accomplish since their demigod Ronald Reagan was president.

Don’t Be Fooled Because Kansas Republicans Admit Trickle Down Is a Scam

Kansas' Republican legislators are all but admitting their precious trickle down experiment was not only a failure, it is a scam. In fact, although not quite stating "our only economic policy is a scam to enrich corporations and the wealthy," just admitting they have to raise taxes to plug gaping revenue holes and more recently, that income inequality is a problem in America, is just as good.