Monday, June 08, 2015

Uncle Academic: Could Brownback and KS Budget Bill Reveal a GOP #2016 General Election Strategy?

Hi, Mike:

A prevalent way of looking at the crisis in Kansas is to see it as a failed pilot project for the zombie idea of trickle-down economics, by which tax cuts for the rich will translate into jobs and income for the passive unenterprising underlings. But we should consider that it may be a not-yet-completed project for something quite different.

Let's begin with this piece by Tom Sawyer of Wichita, KS (already a Facebook friend of yours, I think):

Tom Sawyer

I just finished reading the bill passed by the Senate today 21-17. It places sales tax on rent, utility bills (Gas, Water, and Electricity), motor fuel- that would be about a 16c a gallon increase at today's pump prices, garage sales (and all isolated or occasional sales), text book rentals, food stamp and WIC purchases, Meals on Wheels, and pretty much all purchases made by all non-profits. It also taxes purchases made by the State, schools, cities and counties, hospitals, libraries etc. It also raises the sales tax rate to 6.55%, removes the food sales tax rebate for the poor elderly, disabled and blind. The cigarette tax would also go up by 50c. There are many other provisions placed into the bill including a school voucher program (capped at $10 million dollars), a tax lid on city and county governments, extension of the Rural Opportunity Zones for 5 more years, a tax break for Christmas Tree growers, and several other small provisions.
And of course, the 338,000 business owners as I stated earlier still pay no income tax. (There is a provision that requires they pay taxes on "guaranteed payments" but there aren't that many right now and even those that use them can easily get around paying the tax if they want to)
The Conference Committee report is 119 pages long. There is no way the 21 Senators who voted for this had a chance to read it before they voted. It wasn't printed until the beginning of their floor debate. It took me several hours to go through it. I think the tax provisions are horrible. It totally taxes the poor and working Kansans. And no matter how you might feel about all the added provisions, this is no way to pass these laws. They should be run as separate bills with public hearings and debate. They shouldn't be stuffed into a 119 page conference committee report late in the session with no chance for most legislators to even read or research these bills.

In connection with this, Christina Hauck succinctly summarizes what the GOP's plan appears actually to be:

This WILL happen at a national level if the Republicans gain Congress and the White House. First, tax cuts that primarily benefit the wealthy will be enacted, creating a fiscal gap that the anti-tax Republicans will fill by taxing all of life's necessities: rent, utilities, gas, food, even government spending.

"Trickle-down economics" may never have been about how to achieve general prosperity. 

  • After all, the wealth of folks like the Koch Brothers depends on the ability to force working people to accept low wages, a condition that depends on the very opposite of widely distributed economic well-being. 
  • It has in any case been for some time clear that a staple of right-wing policy has been to cultivate a distrust and hatred of government on the part of ordinary people, who -- Heaven forfend -- might be tempted to look to government ("socialism") to protect them from the predations of corporations (who meanwhile will continue to enjoy tax-supported subsidies). What better way than to soak taxation into even the most basic of life's necessities.
The course Brownback and company are embarked upon, if generalized beyond Kansas, will go a long way to accomplishing both goals.

Those who resist the idea that Brownback is not just scrambling to staunch the disaster sold on the basis of his zombie supply-side economic notions but carrying out the second half of the overall plan should at least be arming themselves with convenient evidence that these ideas do lead to disaster (except for the very wealthy).

Sawyer helpfully calls attention to this piece by Paul Krugman, who provides a chart that illustrates the results of Kansas' "experiment in trickle-down economics" (if indeed that's what it is).

"Oh," we might expect to hear, "perhaps the pilot project just needs more time!" as yesterday's Doonesbury strip at anticipates:

Note the aptly chosen name of the instructor here, and take stock of what he's shakin' off on this kid.
Whether Brownback is just bringing his plan to contemplated fruition, or desperately trying to foist his mess off on the People instead of his masters, we're fortunate that he has been carrying through JUST aPILOT project in reducing the welfare of ordinary people in a way calculated to turn them off from government, we can at least be happy that the results of this experiment can be made known to the national public before the next general election.

No comments: