Monday, June 15, 2015

Sam Brownback is a symptom of political rot

If you don't keep up with state politics in states you don't live in (or if you don't live in the United States), here's the short version of the Sam Brownback saga. The citizens of Kansas elected tea party Republican candidate Sam Brownback into the office of the governor. Once in power, he delivered on his pledge to slash income taxes. He and his policy wonks promised enormous economic growth following the tax cuts, but that turned out not to be the case. In fact, the consequences were monumentally disastrous for the economy. Although he managed to survive a re-election campaign where he still pulled in less than 50% of the vote, he has been hammered with severe criticism, including being mercilessly booed at a Wichita State University vs Kansas University game in which he broke down in tears while remembering same in a GOP meeting a bit later. Today, the state legislature passed a bill raising taxes, and Brownback signed same. However, the problem is these taxes are not income based but sales based.

If you took any kind of economics course in school, you probably remember that income tax, property tax and sales tax affect the classes disproportionately, with lower middle class and poor people hit the hardest by sales tax. Worse, Kansas charges taxes on items that most other states don't, such as food. The cherry on top? Kansas now has one of the highest sales taxes in the country.

Is there a lesson to be learned in all of this? A few, I think. The first is that running a country or state or county or city costs money. Even if you don't want to fund science or art or health care or anything else, it still costs money to have a basic infrastructure. Taxes fund that. You have to have taxes. The people and businesses who bring in the most money should pay the most taxes. We're not punishing them for their "success," we are making them support a system that they have profited off of.

Finally, the most important lesson is that Conservative politics hurt people. Conservatives want to conserve the status quo, and the status quo means oppression. Whether it is chipping away at women's reproductive rights or shifting the tax burden from the wealthy to the working poor, disadvantaged groups will further be disadvantaged under political theories and policies motivated by making sure wealthy (usually) white (usually) men maintain their power over everyone else.

So why do people continue to vote for them? How did Brownback get elected for a second term despite ruining the economy well before the election? There are probably scholarly papers more informed than I am on this, but my two cents is that there is always an appeal to some base instinct: Greed. Bigotry. Misogony. Homophobia/transphobia. Punish the "other" to make yourself feel good.

There's not even any reason to believe these people. Are they anti health care? They'll vote to give themselves the best insurance available, paid for by tax payers. Are they anti-gay? Chances are they are having an affair with a same sex intern, or worse, diddling some kids. Are they anti-tax? You know they are getting handsome donations by the richest people and corporations. Do they bleat about voter fraud? It's because they lie, steal and cheat every day.

Maybe you're on board with that. Maybe you really hate abortions, or immigrants, or homos. I tell you this, though: if you are reading this, you are not a wealthy, powerful mover and shaker. Once everyone else is disenfranchised, you'll be next. You're not part of their team.

That's just my opinion, and you're entitled to it.

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