The march to zero

The cover story is that cutting taxes on the rich will cause an explosion of prosperity and profits and productive investment that will almost instantly flood down to the workers and make them rich and happy and patriotic.

That, of course, is just the cover story. The real reason for cutting taxes on the rich is that it diverts more money to rich people, making them even richer. The end. That’s the goal, that’s the glorious project, that’s what they want – ever-richer rich people, period.

Meanwhile, Kansas offers a snapshot of what actually happens when Republicans slash taxes on the rich.

After a failed economic experiment meant to boost economic growth blew a hole in the Kansas budget as big as a prairie sky (a $350m deficit in the current fiscal year and nearly $600m in the next) state jobs and services have been slashed.

Prisons are badly overcrowded and understaffed.

Next year, the state faces a school shutdown after the supreme court found its educational spending was unconstitutionally low. Some of those schools have already had to shorten the school year in order to save cash.

To make ends meet, money that was earmarked for roads has been diverted to the general fund. A state that used to maintain 1,200 miles of road a year is now repairing 200 miles a year. Even in the capital, Topeka, potholes are everywhere.

The crisis follows the 2012 passage of a tax plan by Kansas governor Sam Brownback that he dubbed “the march to zero”.

He said it would give a big healthy jolt to the economy, but the jolt turned out to be the sickly kind.

Instead, the state’s revenues collapsed. Rich people who had been paying high taxes became “pass-through entities”. The state’s coffers emptied and the promised economic miracle failed to materialize.

Lisa Ochs, president of the American Federation of Teachers-Kansas, said Brownback’s plan is a scale model of Trump’s plans. He, too, intends to cut taxes for businesses and give big breaks to the rich in a plan he says will provide “rocket fuel” for the American economy.

“There never was a shot of adrenaline. If anything, that shot put the state on life support,” she said. “It’s the same thing that Trump is saying: there’s going to be tremendous job growth. Well, that didn’t happen either. It’s going to take an entire generation to undo this damage.”

Whatever; the point is, rich people will be richer! That’s the goal; that’s what matters.

Sarah LaFrenz Falk, president of the Kansas Organization of State Employees ,who recently spoke to Congress about her fears about the Republican tax plan, said she sees an agenda in the Brownback plan – one that is mirrored in Trump’s plan: give huge tax breaks to super-rich donors [the rightwing, union-bashing Koch brothers are Kansas’s richest residents], then hand them a second win by cutting services, waiting for those services to buckle under the strain and then argue the private sector can do it better.

More profits! More $$$ for rich people! More badly-paid jobs for poor people! More poverty, more crime, more for-profit prisons, more $$$ for rich people. Utopia here we come.

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