The progressive war on the middle class: Kansas vs. California

February 12, 2013

A few days ago, reactionary liberal E.J. Dionne wrote a piece in The Washington Post, part of which he devoted to bashing states that implement conservative fiscal and governance policies. And he singled out Kansas, the state with perhaps the most “Tea Party” government, for a ritual “two minutes hate:”

In some states where Republicans control all the levers of power, they are rushing ahead with astonishingly right-wing programs to eviscerate government while shifting the tax burden toward the middle class and the poor and away from the wealthy. In trying to build the Koch brothers’ dystopias, they are turning states in laboratories of reaction.

As Neil King Jr. and Mark Peters reported in a Wall Street Journal article on the “Red State model,” Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has slashed both income taxes and spending. This drew fire from moderate and moderately conservative Republican legislators, whom he then helped purge in primaries.

Note the requisite invocation of the demon Koch brothers, lest any of the progressive faithful miss the clue that these conservative reforms are EVIL!!!

Anyway, Washington Examiner columnist Conn Carroll read Dionne’s screed and did something increasingly unusual for journalists these days: he looked for facts before turning on his word-processing program. Imagine that.

So, first looked at how things are going in Mordor Kansas:

If Dionne were to bother to visit Kansas, he would find a state with an unemployment rate of 5.4 percent, a full 2.5 points below the nation’s 7.9 percent average. Despite “eviscerated” state government spending, Kansas’ fourth- and eighth-graders beat the national average in both math and reading scores. The state’s 11.2 percent poverty rate is also well below the national 15.8 percent national average. And despite all those evil tax cuts for the rich, the gap between Kansas’ wealthiest and poorest citizens is also much smaller than the national average.

The most recent Jayhawk Poll showed Brownback enjoying a 55 percent to 37 percent approval rating. But I’m sure the backlash Dionne predicted is just around the corner.

Then he compared it to the progressive Paradise, my beloved California, where Democrats control the governor’s office and have super-majorities in the legislature:

At 9.8 percent, unemployment is a bit higher in the Golden State then in Kansas — or the rest of the country, for that matter. Despite California spending far more per student than most states, its fourth- and eighth-graders perform far worse on reading and math proficiency scores than the average American students. A third of all the welfare recipients in the United States live in California, and the Census Bureau reports that the state also has the nation’s highest poverty rate. Almost one-quarter (23.5 percent) of Californians live below the poverty line.

And there is plenty of wealth to go around in California, but it also has one of the nation’s highest levels of income inequality. According to the Census Bureau, it is getting more and not less unequal.

Oh, and Governor Brown’s claims that our budget is at last balanced turned out to be a total lie, too. No word about Kansas’ budget, but I’m willing to bet they’re in better far fiscal shape than we are. Even Albania is.

Anyway, based on just this brief comparison of two states that most embody, respectively, what Walter Mead has called the Red and Blue models of government, if anyone is waging a war on the middle class, it’s the liberal/progressive/statist Democrats. Instead of looking at conservative states and shrieking “My God, what are you people doing,” Dionne should look to places where “his way” rules and ask “My God, what have we done?”

PS: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. That California isn’t yet in flaming ruins after decades of progressive misrule is evidence of just how powerful this state’s natural economy was and could be, again, if only the oligarchs in Sacramento would pull their heads out of their collective backsides — and their hands out of our wallets.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


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