One of the bolder queries in campaign politics lies in a simple question: “Are you better off now..?
Adjusted for the current Kansas election cycle, it is: Are you better off now, or were you better off then ‒ say in 2010, before Sam Brownback was first elected, before his Republican legislature embraced his Glide Path to Zero, the plan to abolish income taxes for certain businesses and the wejohnalthy.
We can view the question another way by scanning a few recent headlines, such as page A8 of the June 16 Salina Journal:
‒ “Regents OK university tuition hikes”
‒“Medicaid cuts add to health care providers’ concerns”
‒ “GOP ad lobbies court”
Over those past five or six years, the governor’s pet legislators, all of them Republican, have brought us these headlines and more, blessing tax cuts that have provoked historic budget deficits. In turn, and to cover the resulting red ink, they have cut off cities and counties, forcing local property tax increases; they have summarily raided state agencies of their appropriations, stolen their fee funds and even their federal aid, forced them to lay off thousands of valuable employees, including even law enforcement. (In a recent and pathetic exercise in patronizing, lawmakers approved a skimpy increase in vehicle registration fees so the Highway Patrol could pay a few new troopers ‒ with no guarantee, of course, that the Patrol will actually get the money. )
Our universities have been forced to increase tuition simply to cover operating costs because lawmakers keep cutting their funds. In effect, students are paying higher tuition to finance tax breaks for privileged citizens, with legislators’ blessing.
Same for hospitals, clinics and other health care services. Lawmakers’ refuse to expand Medicaid, tossing away millions in federal aid that we help finance. Instead, aid for the poor and sick is cut, funding for health care providers is slashed, thousands of citizens are denied services, and more than a few hospitals face closing, especially those in rural areas. Meanwhile more and more people go begging. And sick.
And because the courts have ruled repeatedly against such maltreatment, Republicans are campaigning for voters to throw out judges because their compassion for the law gets in the way of the party’s passion for total rule.
District Courts, the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court have at one time or another ruled that legislators cannot discriminate against classes of voters, deny equitable funding for schools, abolish all abortions, to name a few. Legislators, in turn, have threatened to cut off the courts’ funding and, now, embrace a sordid plan to paint Supreme Court justices as “activists” and “unpatriotic.”
The Republican majority of legislators have led the state to near bankruptcy, blessed the corruptions now crippling government and throttled nearly all public services as we once knew them. Remember those Republicans.
And then ask, Are we better off..?
‒ JOHN MARSHALL