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A GOP Senate Means The Brownbacking of the U.S. Budget, And Worse

October 27, 2014

By Joe Rothstein

As Kansas goes, so goes the U.S.

Think about that. Think hard. Because if the Republicans control both houses of Congress, the “Kansas experiment” will take giant strides toward becoming U.S. policy----on steroids.

What’s the “Kansas experiment?” Kansas is a real live working laboratory for trickle down economics. In its designer dress trickle down is also known as “supply side economics,” an alchemy that turns lower taxes into more public revenue.

What’s the magic behind such a wondrous system? It starts by being a no-lose political position. Who doesn’t want to pay less and get more? Trickle down is an excellent way to change undecided voters into supporters. After that comes the hard part: getting gold out of the no-tax genie. Kansas is proving that you can’t.

When Sam Brownback became governor of Kansas four years ago he embarked on a mission to make Kansas “a red state experiment,” a model of Republican economic policy that would be duplicated elsewhere. He slashed taxes, eliminated important state services and neutered many state business regulators. Four years later Kansas has run through most of its once hefty budget reserve funds, decimated its educational system and now faces the unwelcome choice of even more draconian budget cuts or substantial tax increases.

But reality bullets bounce off the armor of true believers, and Governor Brownback remains unconvinced that his economic policies aren’t working. They take more time, he argues. Federal government policy got in the way. Maybe taxes weren’t cut enough?

According to the polls, Kansas voters are about to say “time’s up” for the great Kansas red state experiment. Brownback looks as if he will lose, and may well take down Republican Senator Pat Roberts with him.

But what’s happened in Kansas won’t stay in Kansas if Republicans take control of both houses of Congress. There are plenty of Brownbacks in Congress, and they happen to be in control of the Republican congressional agenda, capable of creating infinitely more damage than Brownback has.

The centerpiece of Republican budgeting and economic policy will be Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap,” a vision for the future that turns “trickle down” into a raging faucet. Ryan proposes scraping the current tax code for one even more heavily weighted to the rich and powerful: an end to capital gains taxes, elimination of inheritance taxes, a corporate tax rate half the average of other developed countries. And those are just the headlines.

Ryan likely will head the tax writing Ways and Means Committee, virtually assuring that his ideas will be endorsed by a GOP House all too ready to Brownback the federal budget.

Lest you have any doubts about that, merely turn the calendar back to April when the House passed Ryan’s budget which slashed food stamps, college loan programs and health care for the poor, cut the corporate tax rate to 25% and reduced the personal tax brackets to just two: 25% and 10%.

The 2014 Ryan budget didn’t go anywhere because the Democratic majority in the Senate stopped it. But what if Mitch McConnell and the Republicans are in charge?

McConnell has promised to use the budget to “push back against this bureaucracy.” Dig up the slash and burn budgets of past years that shut down the government twice and you will have a pretty good preview of what will land on President Obama’s desk as a federal budget if Republicans control both the House and Senate.

In Kansas, Brownback married budget cuts with de-fanging of state regulators. Expect all of that on a much grander scale as collateral damage to GOP federal budgets. McConnell’s not shy about his intentions. In a recording of a talk McConnell made earlier this year to a right wing GOP support group, McConnell says, “In the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy. We’re going to go after them on health care, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board---all across the federal government, we’re going to go after it.”

Media forecasts of what a Republican-controlled Congress would do assume that “moderates” in the GOP caucus would head off the most extreme edges of the radical right agenda. To debunk such Pollyanna thinking all you have to do is check out Republican performance in “moderate” states like Wisconsin, North Carolina and Michigan to see what really happens when the GOP gets full control.

But won’t Senate Democrats be able to filibuster Republican bills and gridlock a GOP majority? Not budget bills. It doesn’t work that way. And what makes you think that once in control Republicans won’t change the filibuster rules? They seldom are as wimpy as the Democrats when it comes to going for the legislative jugulars.

Ah, there’s President Obama to veto the worst of the stuff that comes across his desk. Think about that. One after another, President Obama will be given the choice of vetoing measures that roll back the Affordable Care Act, Dodd-Frank, EPA climate change measures, unconscionable tax cuts, Medicare and Social Security changes. These and more will be lobbed at him over the next two years. Each time he may well be faced with exercising his veto or shutting down the government. Some of these radical changes will get through.

The fact that the “red state experiment” didn’t work in Kansas won’t stop a Republican majority Congress from doing it all over again in Washington. Not as a matter of economics, but as a matter of inflexible ideology laced with the plutocracy’s self-interest.

Make no mistake, if the Republicans get control of the U.S. Senate we can expect the Brownbacking of the U.S. government.

(Joe Rothstein can be contacted at

Joe Rothstein is a political strategist and media producer who worked in more than 200 campaigns for political office and political causes. He also has served as editor of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Anchorage Daily News and adjunct professor at George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management. He has a master's degree in journalism from UCLA. Mr. Rothstein is the author of award-winning political thrillers, "The Latina President and the Conspiracy to Destroy Her," and "The Salvation Project."