SO HOW’S THE CONSERVATIVE KANSAS ECONOMIC EXPERIMENT GOING?
APPARENTLY GOVERNOR BROWNBACK THINKS “GOVERNOR” IS SPELLED “DICTATOR”
If you’ve been following the economic experiment that Republican Governor Sam Brownback launched back in 2012, you are probably aware that his “triple down” conservative economic juggernaut hasn’t been faring all that well of late. Once the poster Governor for how to spark economic growth and job creation by ramping up the fundamentals of neo-liberal, Tea Party, neo-con, trickle down economic policies we’ve all been more or less subjected to for about three decades now. Brownback’s experiment was lauded as the perfect example of how cutting taxes not only creates jobs but explodes innovation, business expansion and would bring general good-timey prosperity for all.
Well, four years later his “real live experiment” in conservative governance – like slashing income taxes for top earners, eliminating all taxes for 300,000 small businesses - the data shows that it’s been an abject failure. By the end of 2015 Kansas has lost nearly $3 billion in revenue, fell behind most states in job creation, gutted funding for pubic education, and no longer has the funds to keep the states school system running.
As I said, if you’ve been paying attention the Kansas experiment (much like the same but more Southern Louisiana experiment shepherded into existence by Governor Bobby Jindal) you know this. But here’s something you may not know, a little something that I learned from a recent Mother Jones magazine article: Brownback has gone some distance in taking over the state’s entire judicial system since the state courts and judges have declared that he’s violating the Kansas State Constitution. Several times. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that his cuts to public school funding are in violation of the equal funding provisions of the State Constitution and the HB 2338 law that stripped the State Supreme Court of the power to appoint Chief Judges to the lower district courts they also ruled as unconstitutional.
Sounds pretty serious. Maybe, you’re thinking, this is the result of a couple of liberal judges sitting on the Kansas Supreme Court. In Kansas, of course, Clarence Thomas would be considered a “liberal” judge. It isn't. Brownback is basically attempting to void the states entire legal system. But he's not about to be thwarted in his efforts. He's not taking the diminishment of his imaginary powers lying down. No sir. Here’s a short timeline over the courts issues:
May 22, 2012: Over the objections of many fellow Republicans, Brownback signs a tax bill predicted to gut the budget and slash school funding.
March 7, 2014: The State Supreme Court rules that Kansas is violating the state’s constitution’s mandate that schools get equitable funding. It orders the Legislature to devote tens of millions of dollars to low-income districts and asks lower courts to reexamine school spending.
April 17, 2014: Brownback retaliates by signing HB 2338, a bill that strips the state Supreme Court of the power to appoint chief judges to district courts.
February 18, 2015: A chief district judge files a lawsuit against HB 2338, arguing that it is an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers.
June 4, 2015: Brownback signs a budget for the courts that contains a self-destruct button: If any court rules against HB 2338, the state’s entire judicial budget becomes “null and void.”
September 2, 2015: District Judge Larry Hendricks finds HB 2338 unconstitutional – and just like that Brownback and his allies have defunded the state courts.
September 3, 2015: A constitutional crisis ensues. How can the state defend its law in court if the courts themselves have been shut down? Hendricks agrees to put his ruling on hold until the State Supreme Court can resolve the HB 2338 case.
September 4, 2015: Four judges file a new lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the “null and void” provision.
September 18, 2015: Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a rising political star, recuses himself from this new case. In his place, he hires Bradley Scholzman (whom an inspector general once found “unsuitable for Federal service” due to his role in the politicization of the Federal Justice Department during the Bush Administration). But Schmidt then hatches a bizarre plan to shut down the judge’s lawsuit: He convinces a Brownback-appointed judge in tiny Neosho County to freeze the “null and void” provision.
November 10, 2015: Two weeks before the Kansas Supreme Court considers HB 2338, the state requests the recusal of every justice on the court. In essence, the state argues it has created a law its highest court cannot review. The chief justice recuses himself, but the other six justices hear the case.
December 23, 2015: The state Supreme Court finds HB 2338 unconstitutional, daring Brownback and his allies to shut down the courts.
February 8, 2016: Brownback blinks, signing a bill to revers the “null and void” provision and preserve the judicial budget.
February 11, 2016: The State Supreme Court threatens to shut down the schools if the state does not appropriate more money to them. Later that day, lawmakers pass a new budget that ignores the ruling. The Legislature now has until June 30 to come up with the money; otherwise schools may not open in August.
March 22, 2016: The Kansas Senate narrowly passes a bill that would let lawmakers impeach state judges for “discourteous conduct” and other transgressions – a measure that could be invoked if the state Supreme Court continues to challenge the Brownback experiment.
Thus the truly insane state of affairs in the New Ultra-Conservative State of Kansas, USA! And this is only over one issue.
Well all right then. Looks like Brownback and his triple-down conservative allies in the Kansas legislature are still fighting the good fight. Meanwhile, the people of Kansas are basically being held hostage to this incredible foolishness. Used to be we would read about Presidents of Third World constitutional democracies in Africa or the Middle East – Robert Mugabe, Bashar al Assad, Muammar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein – acting as if they and they alone were the final word on anything and everything that occurred within their states. You know, acting like DICTATORS. Courts are always a prime target for strong men who will stop at nothing to ensure their own power is maintained. But, thanks to Governor Sam Brownback, with a little help from his friends, we get to witness such anti-democratic fascist rule right here at home. In the United States of America. In Kansas.
I would like to feel sorry for the folks who live in Kansas. But they elected this asshole. Maybe next time around they’ll vote differently and reverse all the damage that Brownback has done to them and the state of Kansas. But who knows? It's conservative economics after all.