Gov. Sam Brownback Will Keep Floundering in Kansas Because Reagan

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 16 2014 8:53 AM

Gov. Sam Brownback Will Keep Floundering in Kansas Because Reagan

Was1462912
Sam Brownback—just like Reagan!

Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Manu Raju's report from Kansas is worth a read. Gov. Sam Brownback, elected in the 2010 wave, was bolstered in 2012 when conservatives primaried the moderate Republicans who used to run the state. He pushed through deep tax cuts, nixing business taxes and phasing the top income tax rate from 6.45 percent to 3.9 percent, to prove that the supply-side gospel was due for a second great awakening.

The subsequent economic slump in the state is probably the best-covered in the country. "The immediate effect has been to blow a hole in the state’s finances without noticeable economic growth," reported Peter Coy in Businessweek.* "What's wrong with Kansas' tax reform?" asked Governing magazine. In the hearth of the Koch family, it's impossible to find anyone who'll jiggle the balance sheets and pretend the tax cuts work.

Advertisement

Back to Raju, who was in Kansas when more than 100 current and former Republican officeholders endorsed, en masse, Democratic candidate Paul Davis. To the disbelief of Republicans and surprise of pollsters, Davis is consistently tied with Brownback in a state that's steadily trended Republican. Brownback's dismissal of Davis indicates just how he thinks about the long term.

[Davis] said he would try to delay the second phase of the income tax cuts in order to spend more money on public schools. Such a delay could add more than $1.2 billion to the revenue of the state, prompting Brownback to paint Davis as a tax-and-spend liberal.
“What’s Paul Davis’ answer? To raise taxes?” said Brownback, who also has backed increased spending for public schools. “A campaign is about choices at the end of the day: Are you going to choose a Reagan approach or an Obama approach?”

So, to delay a tax cut is to "raise taxes," and to be Reaganesque is to rule out any tax raises. The second part of the answer is actually the weakest—anyone who forgets that Ronald Reagan course-corrected on taxes, 11 times, has mentally substituted a fantasy of Ronald Reagan for the one who governed the country for a bit. But maybe this points to Brownback's salvation. Like Scott Walker, he needs to recast his experiments as a twilight struggle againt liberalism. If he loses, so do tax cuts, for now and ever.

*Correction, July 16, 2014: This post originally misspelled Peter Coy’s last name.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Crowds March in 160 Countries to Demand Action on Climate Change

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Americans' Inexplicable Aversion to the 1990s
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 21 2014 2:00 PM Colin Farrell Will Star in True Detective’s Second Season
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.