Kansas is the Mother Shipton, the Madame Thebes, the
Witch of Endor, and the low barometer of the nation. When
anything is going to happen in this country, it happens first
in Kansas. Abolition, Prohibition, Populism, the Bull Moose,
the exit of the roller towel, the appearance of the bank guarantee,
the blue sky law, the adjudication of industrial dispute
as distinguished from the arbitration of industrial differences
– these things come popping out of Kansas like bats out of
-William Allen White, 1922
White had it right then. For a long time we led the country
as a progressive place, ahead of its time. The nation looked to
Kansas when it wanted to know where to go, and how. That
was long ago.
White is right again – unfortunately. The nation now looks
to Kansas to see how bad things can get, how a state falls into
ruin with a tax plan designed to benefit the few at the expense
of everyone and everything else.
When Speaker Paul Ryan began thumping the tub in
Washington for the Republicans’ grand tax “reform,” his
chief script was from the plan that Americans for Prosperity,
the Koch lobby, had given Sam Brownback years ago. Ryan’s
blueprint was called “Roadmap for America’s Future.”
Remember Gov. Brownback’s “Roadmap for Kansas”? It
soon morphed to his infamous Glide Path to Zero, a plan to
phase out the state income tax. In the process, over five years,
Kansas plunged toward disaster. Income taxes were cut for
the wealthy and hundreds of thousands of businesses; the state
quickly found itself with a dry bank account. Deficit and debt
soared. Agencies were decimated, their budgets raided and
staffs laid off. Services were throttled. Vendors were conned,
or filched. The state’s education system suffered repeated
assaults; the Highway Patrol shriveled. Hospitals went broke,
the state’s credit was in tatters and many cities and counties,
denied state aid, were forced into repeated tax increases. And
that was only the beginning.
Kansas was saved from disaster by the 2016 elections,
which sent to Topeka enough new and responsible legislators
to fashion reform and override Koch lunacy and a governor’s
maddening vetoes. A path to recovery was begun.
There are Kansas lessons for Washington, even if most of
our delegates there haven’t learned them. The first of these
lessons is, when lawmakers say tax cuts for the rich mean
prosperity for all, it won’t happen.
That’s because it can’t happen – not when a plan boils
down to profits for a few, and debt for the rest of us. A lot of
Kansans don’t want to go through this nightmare again. Why
should America go through it at all?
‒ JOHN MARSHALL