Two States, Two Parties, Two Economies, One Winner
Blue Sunday: If You Want To End The Debate Once And For All About Trickle-Down Economics, Study Kansas and California.
Governor Jerry Brown (D-California) and Former Governor Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) are more similar than most people would assume. The two ideologically driven politicians — each having unsuccessfully sought their respective party’s presidential nomination — have held elected office for a combined sixty years.
Both men aggressively climbed up and down the ladder of elected office. Brown — the son of a governor himself — first served in his position for two terms from 1975-1983, lost two Senate elections and then spent his senior years as the Mayor of Oakland and California Attorney General before returning to the governor’s mansion for two more terms starting in 2011.
Brownback served a term in the House of Representatives before jumping into a special election to replace Kansas Senator Bob Dole, who left in 1996 to seek the presidency. He was re-elected to the position twice, in 1998 and 2004. He left the Senate in 2011 when he was elected governor, and won a second term in 2014 before resigning this year to become President Trump’s Ambassador-at-Large of the United States for International Religious Freedom.
But for better or for worse, there’s really nothing unique about being career politicians in contemporary America. Where Brown and Brownback truly become mirror images of each other has been in their ability to impact their vision on their home states, rarely bogged down by opposition parties the way other state governments are. More importantly, both were rewarded by their constituents with a second term. There were no broken promises here. No three card monte. Brown, the dyed-in-the-wool liberal, and Brownback, the arch-conservative Tea Party darling made no attempts to move to the center as is often expected in general election politics.
RELATED: Lawmakers In This Red State Are Cashing In On Government – And Don’t Have To Disclose It
With Brown in his final year of office, and with Brownback having already resigned his post, now is a perfect point in time to examine the effects of unadulterated left-wing policies versus the ramifications of unabashed conservatism. Both men were sworn in during January 2011. Both oversaw two presidential elections where their party’s candidate carried their state in a runaway. Neither governor was faced with one second of opposition control in either chamber of their state’s legislature. This is, for all intents and purposes, the perfect comparison of Democrats and Republicans in control.
Brown has created a booming economy while maintaining the toughest environmental laws and regulations in the nation.
So how do the two states compare?
Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal took an in-depth look at Jerry Brown’s economic record as he enters his final year in office:
California Gov. Jerry Brown appears poised to exit office next year with a top political priority in hand: free from the massive budget deficits that had weighed on his predecessors.
Buoyed by tax increases passed under his administration and a strong economy, Mr. Brown said Wednesday that the state is projecting a $6.1 billion surplus for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
That’s correct. A $6.1 Billion (with a “B”) budget SURPLUS. As the Journal goes on to point out, Brown assumed the position with a $27 Billion budget deficit. After instituting a series of spending cuts that were not nearly as painful as originally predicted, Governor Brown championed the “Proposition 30” ballot initiative in 2012. The referendum, which passed a public vote by almost 10 points, dramatically increased state revenue by asking the state’s top earners to pay their fair share. Among the details, it:
- Raised the state sales tax by .25 percent.
- Hiked taxes on those making between $250,000 and $300,000 by 10.6%.
- Increased the rate of taxpayers earning between $300,000 and $500,000 by 21%.
- People making between $500,000 and one million dollars saw their tax rate rise by 32.26%.
- Anyone making more than a million bucks was increased by 29.13%.
Collectively, only 3% of Califonia taxpayers were impacted by the income tax hike.
Not only did Proposition 30 pave the way for a massive budget surplus, California continually outpaced the rest of the country in economic growth over Brown’s tenure. Furthermore, California has the second-highest minimum wage in the United States. And starting this year, the state will offer one year of free community college to in-state residents. Perhaps most impressively, Brown has created a booming economy while maintaining the toughest environmental laws and regulations in the nation.
Brownback faced even less resistance than his west coast counterpart when it came to backing up his campaign promises.
And then there’s Kansas.
Sam Brownback piggybacked off the Tea Party wave that rolled over Red America at the dawn of this decade, relentlessly campaigning on slashing taxes and spending simultaneously and ushering a new era of limited government. As Democratic as California is, Kansas is even more Republican. Brownback faced even less resistance than his west coast counterpart.
The Koch-Brothers funded governor rolled out a series of economic policies and tax rates that would have been less extreme if they were written by Ayn Rand herself. In his first two years, Kansas adopted the following:
- Reduced the state’s previous three-bracket tax table to two rates.
- Reduced the top rate from 6.45% to 4.9%
- Cut the lowest rate from 3.5% to 3%.
- Shrunk the state sales tax by six-tenths of a percent.
- Rejected a $31.5 million grant from the federal government because Brownback didn’t like Barack Obama.
- Created the Orwellian “Office of the Repealer” to slash laws and regulations.
- Eliminated three state agencies.
- Killed 2,050 state jobs in the first year.
So how did this attempt to inject trickle-down economics with Human Growth Hormone work out for the Sunflower State?
Their job growth remained steadily and significantly behind the national average since the cuts were instituted. While the nation was in the midst of the longest stretch of job growth since FDR was in office, Kansas had a negative economic growth rate of -0.53%. Prison guards were forced to share “stab vests”. The situation in state-run nursing centers was so dire that employees were prohibited from speaking to the media or even lawmakers. Their school funding scheme was eventually declared unconstitutional by the state’s supreme court. The state’s credit rating was downgraded twice due to a lack of cash reserves. If Kansas were a foreign nation, the president might deem it a “shithole” (actually scratch that, the state is 84% white).
Brownback’s tax scheme was so disastrous and detrimental to the state that the legislature not only rolled them back five years later — the overwhelmingly Republican body overrode Brownback’s veto to do so. In short, there is no other way to describe the Brownback economic package as anything less than an unequivocal, outright failure.
Unfortunately, the effects of the Kansas horror story aren’t limited to the 34th state. The federal tax reform passed by Donald Trump and the Republicans eerily mirrors the failed Kansas experiment in trickle-down theory. As a nation, we may soon find ourselves grappling with the same horrid services and stunted growth that Kansans have experienced over the last seven years.
If we want to avoid a similar dystopia, we’d be much better served by looking west.
Now That You Mention It…
•I’ve had the unfortunate opportunity to watch Rudy Giuliani’s entire career up close. Growing up in the Northern New Jersey suburbs, 5 miles from the George Washington Bridge, in an era when an overwhelming amount of news one digested was from local sources, I’ve seen his rise from District Attorney, to Mayor of New York, to America’s Mayor to Failed Presidential Candidate and now “Personal Attorney for the President”. I could speak for days about my issues with the man, but I’ll leave it at this: I am thoroughly enjoying his total public meltdown. Especially since he enacted policies that forced the greatest club in New York City history to shut down.
•Despite the prevailing opinion inside the Oval Office, John McCain is a hero. The news that this Ameican icon, possibly in his waning weeks, has let it be known that he does not want the President of the United States to attend his funeral may be the most under-discussed story of the month.
I may be biased in this opinion, but my colleague, friend, and editor — Edward Lynn — offered some of the best insight I’ve read into the gravity of this announcement. Check it out!
•What took you so long, President Obama? It’s good to hear from you again.
•Pulling out of the Iran Deal is horrible policy. There are no two ways about it. It continues a disturbing trend towards radical isolationism, and threatening our allies only compounds the mistake. Denuclearization is good. Diplomacy — especially after the foreign military intervention that we’ve been accustomed to this century — is the noblest of goals. Because of this, there is absolutely no reason to hope against Trump succeeding in his attempts to broker a deal with Kim Jong Un. You don’t have to like him. Heck. I loathe him and I plan to party like I’m Keith Moon at Keith Richards’ bachelor party when he leaves office. But that doesn’t make me blind to the fact that a reduced threat of nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula would be a remarkable achievement. Let’s not let our principles distort us from wanting the best for the world the way right wingers did when a similar peace was achieved with Iran.
Plus, you just know those photos of Trump and Kim are going to make for some epic, viral memes. It’s going to be Beach Chair Christie 2.0!
•You will not find a better ensemble on television right now than the cast of “Billions“. Don’t even bother trying to change my mind. Paul Giamatti, Maggie Siff, Damian Lewis and rising star Asia Kate Dillon are as good as it gets. Don’t be so quick to write the obituary for the “Golden Age of Television” just yet, not while this crew is around.
•Leading Neo-Nazi and Trump aficionado Richard Spencer can’t afford a (ridiculously underpriced) glass of Bulleit Bourbon. Who says there’s no such thing as karma?
•I’ve been mainlining Flonaise, and I love it. You would too if you lived in New Jersey. I miss the four seasons that we used to have. Now our year consists of bone-chilling cold, pollen-palooza, unbearable heat & humidity, and the 10 day period where you have to rake up and bag all of your leaves before the bone-chilling cold returns.
•Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. Let’s make sure we heed the wise words of Mr. T today. And every day.
What Won Twitter This Week?
Here’s a word I hope to quickly integrate into my vocabulary…
Obama was a careful craftsman who built diplomatic deals in fragile regions.
Trump is a drunken fuckapotamus let loose in a china shop.
— The Hoarse Whisperer (@HoarseWisperer) May 8, 2018
I told you I was thoroughly enjoying this fall from grace…
I got a ticket for Jaywalking , my lawyer Giuliani plead it down to 1st degree homicide . 😂😂😂
— Randy Kennedy (@randyrocks08) May 7, 2018
No, that would actually require them to work…
When I first saw Death to America trending I figured the GOP had just rolled out its new healthcare plan.
— OhNoSheTwitnt (@OhNoSheTwitnt) May 9, 2018
If you can ignore the fact Donald cheated on Melania Trump with a porn star, paid her hush money before elections, broke federal election law in doing so and lied dozens of times to the American people about it with evolving stories, you’re exactly what’s wrong with this country.
— Scott Dworkin (@funder) May 7, 2018
Defeat The Meme!
Do you get a kick out of the sheer nonsense embedded in every right-wing meme you see on the internet? Are you tired of starting a fact-check reply, only to realize there’s no point because you can’t reason with some people? Worry not. Each week I’ll pluck a conservative meme from the vast wasteland of Republican social media and debunk it in this space. Got a meme you want to see defeated? Send it here.
“Classy” is a relative term. One man’s classy may be another man’s pretentious. Like beauty, it’s in the eye of the beholder. But I’d sure love to know what barometer of class the people at the “We Love President Donald J. Trump” Facebook page are using. The patriarch of the family has cheated on every wife he’s ever had, paid large sums of hush money to conceal some of those affairs, mocks disabled people, says unspeakable things about women and insults anyone he disagrees with by using childish slurs and unclever nicknames. Because I have at least a drop of class more than the president, I won’t even get into the rest of the family. The Family Trump may be many things, but make no mistake — “Classy” isn’t among them.
Songs of Freedom
Building the ultimate #Resistance playlist, one week at a time. I’m always up for discovering unheralded protest songs, if you have a recommendation, I’d love to hear it!
If I’m going to borrow an iconic Bob Marley phrase to title this section of the column, It’s only fitting that this playlist kicks off with The Legend himself.
Till next Sunday, my friends…