Part II A Feature not a Bug
Posted on March 31, 2016
Kansas University Political Scientist, Burdett Loomis weighed in in response to my previous post, doubting that the destruction of Kansas’s credit rating is intentional. Burdett raised the question: how do we know Brownback actually wanted to permanently shrink government, rather than merely jumpstart government? Let me count a few of the ways.
1. Brownback is part of a tradition that first took power in the Reagan administration. We know from the words of the founders that:
a. the goal was to “starve the beast”, and
b. they knew quite well at the time that the Laffer curve wouldn’t work.
Later on, movement conservative leaders realized that “starve the beast” was a counter-productive slogan that revealed too much, so they stopped using it. Doesn’t mean they have forgotten.
2. Brownback would not be where he is without Koch backing. The Kochs have it crystle clear that their sole goal is minarchy. I have never heard a Koch say single word in praise of Lafferism. I have never seen a single step by Brownback of which the Kochs would disaproved. (And please don’t anyone tell me about the inconsistencies between libertarianism and Brownback’s radical religious right positions. The Koch themselves helped engineer the alliance between business/pseudolibertarians and the RRR.)
3. Brownback is resolute in holding to starving the beast even when the jumpstarting demonstrably isn’t working either economically or politically. If his only goal was lower taxes on capitalists, he could have pulled a Reagan and supported some increases on other tax bases. (Admittedly he did a bit of that with the sales tax, but not enough.)
4. Brownback has made it clear over and over again that he (like most conservative Republicans) does not actually give a damn about growing the economy. Most spectacularly, look at all the billions in free money he keeps giving away: MedicAid expansion, the grant for setting up the Kansas Obamacare navigation system, arts funding, failing to apply for federal grants (e.g. 2011 chronic ailment grants) etc. etc. Also look at the ecodevo programs he keep eliminating: the biotech initiative, the arts council, technology ed initiative.
There is such a thing as giving a bad guy far too much benefit of the doubt. Burdett, please just say no.
Burdett also raised a somewhat better question: how do we know that destruction of Kansas credit was a calculated ploy rather than a mere side effect of random pillage?
To some extent this is a semantic rather than real question. The Brownbackis came into office resolute on destroying the resources of state government to the maximum extent he could manage (or so I infer from evidence given in my previous comment). The strategy consisted in using up, abolishing, or privatizing anything at all they could get their hands on. They also came into into office intent on consolidating power along all margins in the hands of a tiny few movement conservative power brokers. Both goals quite naturally led to eliminating the power of would-be spenders to borrow money.
A more tightly organized question would be: did the Brownbackis know from the beginning that it would be important to attack the credit-worthiness of the state of Kansas? I don’t know. However as they looked around for ways to temporarily fill the permanent budget holes they had created, the importance of credit clearly became more and more evident. I don’t recall exactly when battles over Kansas creditworthiness first started, and I’m not going to research it now, but they have been going on openly for years.