Thursday, August 04, 2016

The Kansas Republican Uprising Against Governor Brownback

The Christianist governor of Kansas, Sam Brownback, decided to run his state as a dystopian experiment on what happens when most firms are not expected to pay state taxes.  What naturally happened was this:  The state government couldn't collect enough revenues after those 2012 tax changes to balance its budget.

The reverse was supposed to happen, in Brownback's fevered mind:  Firms would thrive, new firms would enter Kansas, set up shop and hire zillions of workers.  Overall tax revenues would go up.

That this didn't happen made no difference for Brownback, because he is a minimal government Christianist who has faith in God and in tax cuts.  But he also has faith in balancing the state budget, so the next step was to start cutting state expenditures, including education spending.

Despite all this, the voters in Kansas re-elected Brownback in 2014.

That's the background to these more recent events inside the Republican Party of Kansas:

A top Senate leader and at least 10 other conservative Kansas legislators lost their seats as moderate Republicans made Tuesday’s primary election a referendum on the state’s budget problems and education funding.
Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, of Nickerson, fell in his south-central Kansas district to Ed Berger, former president of Hutchinson Community College. Bruce’s defeat came amid a backlash against Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and his allies that appeared to spell trouble for conservatives.

Emphasis is mine.

Could this be the beginning of a new trend inside the US Republican Party?  A return to greater moderation?

I can hardly believe I wrote that question in this era of Trumpism.  But we can always hope.


Monday, August 01, 2016

Short Posts 8/1/16: On Poking Trump, Voter Fraud and Blue Vs. Red States

1.  If someone pokes Donald Trump, he must poke back.  Must.  Even if ignoring that initial poke would be the rational thing to do.

Now that thin skin is a characteristic we really don't want to see in someone who wants to lead "the free world". 

What makes it even worse is the context of this most recent example of Trump's exaggerated self-defense:  His responses are to the father and mother of a slain American soldier. 

Trump's knee-jerk responses tell us not only that he would react like this to any needling by any foreign power but also that he lacks the ability to perceive nuances that most of us do perceive:  What is appropriate behavior if one absolutely insists on criticizing the parents of someone whose grave is in the Arlington National Cemetery, and what is not.

The sad thing from Trump's point of view is naturally that had he kept his mouth shut we would no longer talk about the Khans and the sacrifice they have made.  The sad thing more generally is that Trump is the Republican candidate for the presidency of the United States of America. 

2.  A federal court has struck down North Carolina's very strict voter-ID law.  On the surface that law was aimed at curbing "rampant" voter fraud, except that voter fraud is rare.  When we dig deeper into the reasons for the struck-down law, we find this:

In particular, the court found that North Carolina lawmakers requested data on racial differences in voting behaviors in the state. "This data showed that African Americans disproportionately lacked the most common kind of photo ID, those issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)," the judges wrote.
So the legislators made it so that the only acceptable forms of voter identification were the ones disproportionately used by white people. "With race data in hand, the legislature amended the bill to exclude many of the alternative photo IDs used by African Americans," the judges wrote. "The bill retained only the kinds of IDs that white North Carolinians were more likely to possess."

I'm very pleased to see that law struck down, and hope that this presages a trend of getting rid of other similarly biased laws.  If Republicans are so concerned about fraud in voting, perhaps they should focus on what might happen after a vote has been entered into the voting machine.

3.  This is an interesting opinion column on the economic differences between blue (Democratic leaning) and red (Republican leaning) states in the US.  As you probably know, the blue states are, on average, wealthier (though with higher income inequality) and have better educated populaces. Then there's this:

This red-blue divergence is all the more striking because red states still receive much more in federal spending relative to the federal taxes their residents pay. In other words, blue states are generally outperforming red states even while heavily subsidizing them.

An important plank in the Republican platform is, of course, to reduce the kind of federal spending which tends to benefit the red states.  That's as good a starting point as any for thinking about why people vote the way they do and to what extent their votes have something to do with their wallets.