Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Brownback Cancer

12/2/2013

Dr. Bud Gollier, in a recent Reader Forum letter to the editor, lamented the seeming lack of public concern here about what Gov. Sam Brownback and his mob of radical right friends have done to the people of Kansas. I claim no expertise in why people here are wallowing in apathy, but I can assure Gollier they will react powerfully when they see the tidal wave of local property tax increases that are going to wash over Ottawa and Franklin County. They are going to be outraged nobody told them the whole truth about the effect of Brownback’s vicious effort to castrate the state income tax on wealthy individuals, businesses and corporations. Local taxpayers will feel the pain of that castration in their wallets, when the burden of school and local government taxes is shifted onto local property.

The simple truth is that Brownback gambled the whole fate of the people of Kansas on his crackbrained economic theory that tax revenue expands exponentially the closer you get to a zero income tax rate. Nobody with any sense ever believed that preposterous version of economic calculus, though it seems to gain some credibility if you first wholly distort economic history to focus on unique periods when targeted but discrete marginal decreases in taxation do seem to produce very modest versions of such results. Even so, zero income tax rates (which are his ultimate goal) make absolutely no sense in any set of conditions, absent a wholesale overhaul of the tax system of the whole country.

Dr. Bud Gollier, in a recent Reader Forum letter to the editor, lamented the seeming lack of public concern here about what Gov. Sam Brownback and his mob of radical right friends have done to the people of Kansas. I claim no expertise in why people here are wallowing in apathy, but I can assure Gollier they will react powerfully when they see the tidal wave of local property tax increases that are going to wash over Ottawa and Franklin County. They are going to be outraged nobody told them the whole truth about the effect of Brownback’s vicious effort to castrate the state income tax on wealthy individuals, businesses and corporations. Local taxpayers will feel the pain of that castration in their wallets, when the burden of school and local government taxes is shifted onto local property.

The simple truth is that Brownback gambled the whole fate of the people of Kansas on his crackbrained economic theory that tax revenue expands exponentially the closer you get to a zero income tax rate. Nobody with any sense ever believed that preposterous version of economic calculus, though it seems to gain some credibility if you first wholly distort economic history to focus on unique periods when targeted but discrete marginal decreases in taxation do seem to produce very modest versions of such results. Even so, zero income tax rates (which are his ultimate goal) make absolutely no sense in any set of conditions, absent a wholesale overhaul of the tax system of the whole country.

As Steve Rose recently said in the Kansas City Star, the Kansas economy simply can’t be isolated from the rest of America. Brownback acts as though he lives on Mars, not in the U.S. Having done his butchery with absolute contempt for the feelings of the vast majority of Kansans, and having done so with absolutely no consultation with anybody but his pals in crackbrained theories, Brownback now is sobbing that local leaders around the state don’t seem to want to talk to him. Alas, who but another fool wants to talk to the author of abject folly?

Smashing the Kansas income tax wasn’t just a gesture to Brownback’s super-rich friends and pals — enrich them though it will, until they have succeeded in killing the goose that lays their golden eggs. The truth is that the state income tax had a very powerful effect of leveling out huge local differences in property tax bases between different areas of the state. In a state that truly values the education of every one of its residents, it makes perfect economic and other sense to ask wealthy individuals and organizations across Kansas to help support the education of children in tax-base poor areas of the state. Moreover, what idiocy believes that the way to attract new businesspeople to Kansas is to impoverish their children’s schools? In any case, Franklin County taxpayers are going to see what I’m talking about, in their pocketbooks, in very few years. If they succeed fully, Brownback’s radicals will have utterly destroyed the whole fiscal integrity of local government, in places all over this state, and, I repeat, right here.

When that happens, the people will in fact clamor for an answer to Gollier’s question, namely, “Why didn’t our local leadership prepare us for what happened to us? Why were our local leaders such abject cowards in failing to warn us against the Brownback disease?” To his great and everlasting credit, nobody will be able to blame Gollier for this fact. He’s done his part.

This letter is my effort to do mine. I’m waiting for local city and county commissioners and members of school boards and the legislature to step up to the plate and do theirs, but I’m not holding my breath until they do. The whole lot of them taken together seem seized by some inexplicable brain freeze. If that’s one of the effects of Brownback Cancer, what happens when everybody gets it? So far, Gollier hasn’t gotten it, thank God, and I want to thank him for warning the rest of us against its devastating effects.

I don’t agree with Gollier on some issues, but he has never acted on the Devil’s Theory that life shouldn’t impose pain on those with the capacity for responsibility and leadership for their fellow human beings. That’s one gigantic moral lapse for which he will never be required to answer to God. It seems a pity the same can’t be said about other claimaints to public prestige hereabouts.

 

— David A. Lee,

Ottawa

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