In my last post, I talked about how the Republican Party’s establishment has been watching in horror as their formerly (badly) hidden encouragement of racism and bigotry has exploded in their face. While true, and definitely attention-grabbing, it’s distracting from their other big problem. Three years ago, I talked about how the Republicans needed to “check their assumptions,” and sadly, they haven’t. The end result is that their basic philosophy of government has been a complete failure.
In that post, I was discussing the Republican Party’s “Growth and Opportunity Project.” One of the statements in that was this:
Republican governors are America’s reformers in chief. They continue to deliver on conservative promises of reducing the size of government while making people’s lives better. They routinely win a much larger share of the minority vote than GOP presidential candidates, demonstrating an appeal that goes beyond the base of the Party.
They were talking about the Tea Party wave of 2010, which swept a number of very conservative governors into office, along with control of the state legislatures. The basic philosophy they subscribed to was “small government, low taxes, few regulations.” The promise was that if they did that, there would be a boom in job creation, higher wages, and of course, the good times would roll. Once they came into office, they set about doing just that, which is why the Republican Party in early 2013 was touting them. But, anyone notice that they’re not talking about those same governors this year? There’s a good reason for it. It’s been a disaster.
In 2015, job growth in Kansas was a mere 0.1 percent, even as the nation’s economy grew 1.9 percent. Brownback pledged to bring 100,000* new jobs to the state in his second term; as of January, he has brought 700. What’s more, personal income growth slowed dramatically since the tax cuts went into effect.
Meanwhile, revenue shortfalls have devastated the state’s public sector along with its most vulnerable citizens. Since Brownback’s inauguration, 1,414 Kansans with disabilities have been thrown off Medicaid. In 2015, six school districts in the state were forced to end their years early for lack of funding. Cuts to health and human services are expected to cause 65 preventable deaths this year in Sedgwick County alone. In February, tax receipts came in $53 million below estimates; Brownback immediately cut $17 million from the state’s university system.
Louisiana has replicated these results. When Bobby Jindal moved into the governor’s mansion in 2008, he inherited a $1 billion surplus. When he moved out last year, Louisiana faced a $1.6 billion projected deficit. Part of that budgetary collapse can be put on the past year’s plummeting oil prices. The rest should be placed on Jindal passing the largest tax cut in the state’s history and then refusing to reverse course when the state’s biggest industry started tanking. Jindal’s giveaway to the wealthiest citizens in the country’s second-poorest state cost Louisiana roughly $800 million every year.
In other words, all those tax cuts and government spending cuts resulted in huge budget deficits, crumbling infrastructure, low education funding, and a loss of the social safety nets, without the job creation and income increases that were promised. It’s not just those two states, though. Oklahoma is now facing a billion dollar deficit, others are scrambling to make up lost funds. The “low regulations” have resulted in the lead in the water system in Flint, as well as examples in other states. Kentucky elected a Tea Party Republican governor, and now has a case of buyer’s remorse.
Which is why you don’t hear the Republicans talking much about how state governors are leading the way anymore. In fact, they’d rather you not talk about it at all. It’s why they’re passing (or attempting to) all those “religious freedom” bills, open carry laws, and talking about the threats from Muslims and immigrants. It’s a distraction from their failures at governing. It’s also one of the reasons Donald Trump has been as successful as he has, because the Republican base hasn’t seen the promised “good times.”
There was a time when you could see pragmatism in Republicans. They knew that there were government functions that had to be done, and you needed to have the taxes to do it. Yes, they might argue and gripe about it, or debate on how much was needed, but you knew that at the end of the day, it would be done, regardless of “ideology.” The problem these days is that the ideology is the only thing that matters. In the real world, it turns out to have been a major failure. The question now when will the voters wake up to that, and ask the Republicans to answer for their failure. That’s the other problem the Republicans have..