Nel's New Day

July 30, 2017

Faith-Based Economy Equals Scorched Earth

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 8:57 PM
Tags: , , ,

After destroying Kansas, its governor, Sam Brownback, is moving on—at least as long as he doesn’t offend Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Brownback has now been nominated as the at-large ambassador to head the State’s Office of International Religious Freedom. The position was created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 created the ambassador position which was held by Christians until 2014 when President Obama nominated Rabbi David Saperstein. The Senate approved him in a 61-35 vote.

As ambassador, Brownback would be responsible for a human rights platform and outreach to the diverse religious groups in the United States. Other responsibilities are to support minorities facing persecution or discrimination throughout the world. For example, ambassadors have been on the side of Muslims in Burma. The arch-conservative Brownback has signed a meaningless ban on Shariah law, warred against separation of church and states in public schools and everywhere else, and officially promoted Christian events and programming. He signed a bill in 2013 that states the government may not “substantially burden a person’s civil right to exercise of religion.” In 2015, Brownback signed an executive order rescinding discrimination protections for state employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In 2016, he signed legislation that prohibits the state’s universities from taking action against religious organizations on campuses that restrict membership to students that adhere to the group’s religious beliefs or “comply with the association’s sincere religious standards of conduct.”

Brownback decided to turn Kansas around in an economic “experiment” that drastically cut taxes, slashed public investments, and then expected prosperity to flow throughout the state. He eliminated the state’s top income tax bracket, exempted many businesses from any income tax, lowered the sales tax, and eradicated individual and corporate income tax. Yet there was no prosperity.

In 2012, Brownback said that his experiment could show what would happen in comparison to neighboring states that had not lowered taxes. Since 2013, Kansas has seen private sector employment rise only 3.5 percent, compared to 7.6 percent nationally and the lowest of its neighbors. Total employment is worse—2.6 percent in Kansas compared to 6.5 percent nationally. GDP growth has stayed flat compared to blue states such as California with 3.2 percent and Oregon at 2.5 percent growth. Hospitals completely closed and schools closed early because of the radical cuts in health care and education. Kansas government expenses are expected to outpace income by $1.1 billion through June 2019. Kansas pays a high interest rate on borrowings because its bond rating has been downgraded twice.

Brownback’s tax cuts caused average taxes to go up $200 for the one-fifth of the state’s households that make less than $23,000 a year while the richest one percent saved $25,000 a year. One health insurance company moved its headquarters across the river to Missouri. Brownback “saved” $400,000 by closing services for low-income children and developmentally disabled in Lawrence and then spent the same about in a legal vendetta against the Kansas Bioscience Authority. Brownback started hiding his economic reports that he promised would show the impact of the state’s economic laws. Last year, he killed the report entirely with the claim that it was so complicated that people couldn’t understand it.

The state’s revenue estimates are consistently and massively lower than estimates, leading to cuts to state agencies and reductions in government services. He took $2 billion from highway funding to make up for a budget hold. The budget could be in even worse shape if the Supreme Court orders hundreds of millions of dollars in additional education spending. that court has twice ruled that the budget allocates insufficient funding for public schools. The state does fund private charter schools.

Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation and trickle-down supporter Arthur Laffer have declared the Kansas “experiment” a success by using inaccurate data and highly selective, misleading information about unemployment and job creation.

GOP disasters in Kansas aren’t just fiscal: last year a bill permitted impeachment of any judge who opposed a legislative law. Before that bill, Brownback signed a bill that removes funding from the judiciary if a state court strikes down a 2014 law a 2014 law removing some powers from the State Supreme Court. The state Supreme Court struck down the law. Brownback also signed a bill permitting the Secretary of State Kris Kobach to prosecute someone for voter fraud even if prosecutors choose not to proceed in the cases. Of 18,000 accusations, Kobach convicted nine people, most of whom didn’t understand that they couldn’t vote on local issues in two different states where they had homes. Kobach is now the leader of a federal voter fraud (aka suppression?) commission. Kansas represents what Charles Pierce called the potential of unchecked GOP policies from Tea Party dominance.

Religious diversity’s loss is Kansas’ gain. After his “experiment” in trickle-down poverty, the state legislature overrode Brownback’s veto a few weeks ago to repeal the draconian tax cuts. In the last election, 13 additional Democrats were elected to the legislature, and several conservatives lost to moderate Republicans. Brownback’s gubernatorial approval rating has fallen to 25 percent, tied with New Jersey’s Chris Christopher for the bottom of the heap.

What happens in Kansas now is anyone’s guess. Brownback’s replacement, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, was a key player in the decision to privatize the state’s Medicaid system. Colyer called KanCare a success for saving money, but funding problems left providers without reimbursements. Last January, the federal government rejected the state’s request to extend KanCare because it didn’t meet standards and risked the health and safety of enrollees. Kansas has no system for reporting and tracking critical incidents and no data to show that unexpected deaths were investigated within mandatory timeframes. The program delayed eligibility, cut coverage, and increased caseloads.

Kobach calls Colyer a “good guy.” He said that he wished Brownback had won in his “battle … to preserve the tax cuts.”

Brownback’s approach in Kansas represents the GOP faith—indeed, a religion—in a system that consistently fails. The days that Republicans revere, the mid-twentieth century, was a time of great progressive taxation when the highest income tax rates topped 90 percent. As the taxes have shrunk, the income inequality in the nation has put most of the money in the hands of the top ten percent with the top one percent benefitting the most. The faith in trickle-down comes from the wealthy who can’t argue that they want tax cuts to get more money. When the faith in tax cuts is joined deregulation for the powerful, the result is wage suppression for everyone outside the golden circle.

Some conservative states have taken notice of Kansas’ failure in its “experiment” and consider tax hikes. Eight states, including Tennessee and Arizona, may raise gas taxes, and Nebraska is going more deeply in raising sales taxes to make up for falling income taxes.

Brownback’s failure in his religion of tax cuts may factor into the grand GOP plan to give massive tax cuts to the wealthy across the United States while increasing them for everyone else.  Every time that DDT makes a radical decision, he falsely claims it will save taxpayers money. In his withdrawal from the Paris Agreement he falsely claimed that saving the climate would cost $3 trillion in GDP and “6.5 million industrial jobs, while households would have $7,000 less income….” His numbers came from an isolated report, not a cost-benefit analysis, that omitted fiscal benefits of reduced emissions which could be as much as $4.5 trillion. The health insurance industry attributes the volatility and instability currently provided by the federal government to its departures from the marketplace, not the failure to turn a profit. DDT’s excuse for throwing out transgender service members was to save money–$5.4 million out of a $790 billion budget.

Republicans want Kansas’ faith-based experiment to be a model for the federal government. Like Kansas, the U.S. would then have a stagnant economy, failing job growth, falling personal income, massive budget shortfalls, loss of healthcare coverage, and significant delays in health care services. What the United States needs is the California model where the economy grew by 4.1 percent, and the budget surplus is nearly $900 million.

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