John Gizzi devotes his Aug. 1 Newsmax column to putting the best face he can on the economy in Kansas in order to boost Republican Gov. Sam Brownback's flagging re-election prospects:
In one of the most improbable poll results to emerge from any state this year, a SurveyUSA poll two weeks ago showed Kansas Republican Gov. Sam Brownback trailing Democratic opponent Paul Davis by a margin of 48 percent to 40 percent among likely voters statewide.
"Improbable" is the adjective most frequently used to characterize these results because it accurately reflects the idea that any Republican governor, especially a national conservative hero for his no-tax, small government agenda, could be trailing a Democrat in Kansas. In the last 76 years, the Sunflower State has elected only five Democratic governors.
So why is Brownback, a former two-term U.S. senator who captured the governorship in 2010 with 63 percent of the vote, in political hot water this year?
To pundits, Brownback is the underdog against state House Minority Leader Davis because the governor has pursued a decidedly conservative agenda. With Brownback in charge as the state faces a $300 million revenue shortfall, The Washington Post concluded "he may be paying a political price."
Brownback supporters say his agenda is working, but like the tax and spending cuts Ronald Reagan helped put into law in 1981, its positive results may not occur immediately.
With Republicans in firm control of both houses of the legislature, Brownback successfully guided to law major cuts in the state income tax rate (from 6.4 percent to 4.8 percent) with the eventual goal of abolishing the state income tax. While it is true that Kansas faces a major shortfall, it also has unemployment of only 4.9 percent — "the tenth lowest in the nation," Brownback proudly says — and has witnessed a growth in technical education.
Actually, the economy in Kansas under Brownback is in much worse shape that Gizzi will admit.
The Kansas City Star points out that the job growth rate in Kansas has been anemic, and that in fact the state has recently lost jobs, led by thousands of local and state government jobs that were cut:
Kansas has had one of the nation’s poorest rates of employment growth during Brownback’s time in office, including since the first tax cuts took effect in 2013.
The new Bureau of Labor Statistics report also reveals that Kansas — like eight other states — had fewer jobs at the end of June than it did seven months ago. This fact undermines the Brownback mantra that the state’s economy is gaining steam in 2014.
By the way, several other states also have trimmed local and state government employment, yet still surged ahead of Kansas in private sector jobs. For good measure, the number of government and private sector jobs have grown in states like Colorado, Oklahoma and Iowa.
Meanwhile, Forbes describes how Brownback bought into right-wing ideology that tax cuts pay for themselves, the folly of which is demonstrated by the state's current revenue shortfall:
The business boom predicted by tax cut advocates has not happened, and it certainly has not come remotely close to offsetting the static revenue loss from the legislated tax cuts.
One can argue whether cutting taxes is a good thing. One can argue about whether government is too big. One can even argue about whether low taxes increase business activity. But one cannot credibly argue that tax cuts increase revenue or even pay for themselves. They didn’t for Ronald Reagan. They don’t for Sam Brownback. They won’t for the next politician who tries—whether he (or she) is in Washington, D.C. or in some state capital.
Nevertheless, Gizzi concludes his column in full Brownback rah-rah mode: "If Sam Brownback, who has already made history of sorts with a bold and controversial agenda, next makes history by winning re-election, it will be one of the defining political moments of 2014."