Trickle down economics made Kansas business dry up

September 30, 2014

Kansas voters are angry; they elected Sam Brownback governor on his promises that slashing state budgets and slashing taxes for the wealthy would make Kansas prosperous.

Now the roads are bad, schools are suffering, and many other state services can’t be done.  Kansas is crumbling, and the state government is too broke to do anything about it.

Which explains this picture, in Mother Jones:

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback meets with Kansas farmers about why the roads to get their crops to market are so bad, breaking their trucks and costing them time and money. Illustration by Roberto Parada, in Mother Jones Magazine.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback meets with Kansas farmers about why the roads to get their crops to market are so bad, breaking their trucks and costing them time and money. Illustration by Roberto Parada, in Mother Jones Magazine.

I do love that illustration. It tells an important story.

From the story, by Patrick Caldwell:

That the RGA had been forced to mobilize reinforcements in Kansas spoke to just how imperiled Brownback had become. After representing Kansas for nearly two decades in Congress, he had won the governorship in 2010 by a 30-point margin. Once in office, Brownback wasted no time implementing a radical agenda that blended his trademark social conservatism with the libertarian-tinged economic agenda favored by one of his most famous constituents, Charles Koch, whose family company is headquartered in Wichita and employs more than 3,500 people in the state. Other GOP governors elected in the tea party wave, such as Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, garnered more ink for their brash policy maneuvers, but in many ways Brownback had presided over the most sweeping transformation.

Early in his tenure, he said he wanted to turn Kansas into a “real, live experiment” for right-wing policies. In some cases relying on proposals promoted by the Kansas Policy Institute—a conservative think tank that belongs to the Koch-backed State Policy Network and is chaired by a former top aide to Charles Koch—Brownback led the charge to privatize Medicaid, curb the power of teachers’ unions, and cull thousands from the welfare rolls.

“[Brownback] said, ‘I’ll be glad to campaign for you coming up, but I want all of my guns pointed in the same direction,’ meaning there’s no room for difference of opinion. From there on it was chilling.”

But his boldest move was a massive income tax cut. Brownback flew in Reagan tax cut guru Arthur Laffer to help sell the plan to lawmakers, with the state paying the father of supply-side economics $75,000 for three days of work. Brownback and his legislative allies ultimately wiped out the top rate of 6.45 percent, slashed the middle rate from 6.25 to 4.9 percent, and dropped the bottom tier from 3.5 to 3 percent. A subsequent bill set in motion future cuts, with the top rate declining to 3.9 percent by 2018 and falling incrementally from there. Brownback’s tax plan also absolved nearly 200,000 small business owners of their state income tax burdens. Among the “small” businesses that qualified were more than 20 Koch Industries LLCs. “Without question they’re the biggest beneficiaries of the tax cuts,” says University of Kansas political scientist Burdett Loomis.

Laffer told me that “what Sam Brownback has done is and will be extraordinarily beneficial for the state of Kansas,” but many Kansans beg to differ. Brownback had said that his tax cut plan would provide “a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy.” Instead, the state has gone into cardiac arrest. “The revenue projections were just horrendous once the tax cuts were put into place,” Loomis says. The state’s $700 million budget surplus is projected to dwindle into a $238 million deficit. Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s downgraded the state’s bond rating earlier this year as a result. “The state’s on a crisis course,” says H. Edward Flentje, a professor emeritus of political science at Wichita State University who served alongside Brownback in the cabinet of Kansas Gov. Mike Hayden in the 1980s. “He has literally put us in a ditch.”

Conservatives once celebrated Brownback’s grand tax experiment as a prototype worthy of replication in other states and lauded Brownback himself as a model conservative reformer (“phenomenal,” Grover Norquist has said). “My focus,” Brownback said in one 2013 interview, “is to create a red-state model that allows the Republican ticket to say, ‘See, we’ve got a different way, and it works.'” By this fall it was hard to imagine anyone touting the Brownback model, especially with the Kansas governor at risk of going down in defeat—in the Koch brothers’ backyard, no less—and dragging the entire state ticket down with him. The Wall Street Journal recently dubbed Brownback’s approach “more of a warning than a beacon.”

More at the website.

Income inequality, failure of trickle down economics, dramatic tax cut disasters, all come home to roost at some point. Kansans, it appears, are ready to change things.

How about the rest of the nation?

More: 


Obama wows the tourists at Stonehenge

September 5, 2014

He didn’t insist the site be cleared.  When he ran into some tourists, he was engaging and human.

Obama’s a nice guy, and represents our nation well, abroad.

GOP will note the sheep were not impressed.  Just wait.


How can this be controversial? The Water Cycle

August 26, 2014

Water Cycle poster formerly available through NRCS of USDA.

Water Cycle poster formerly available through NRCS of USDA.

Here’s a video guaranteed to tick off the anti-Agenda 21 crowd, and anyone else who hates American farmers and their work to make their farms last for centuries — what is known as “soil and water conservation” to Boy Scouts, and “sustainable practices” to agronomists.

But for the life of me,  I can’t find anything offensive in it.

From USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, the descendant of the old Soil Conservation Service.

 


Every major league pitcher needs a change up; in politics, too

August 11, 2014

I don’t generally post these posters, except to take issue . . . but this one made me chuckle.

Daily Edge poster,

Daily Edge poster, “Not Reagan, you idiot. Obama.”

Text, with English teacher editing:

He created 9.9 million jobs in a record 53-month stretch of uninterrupted job growth.
He reduced the deficit by $800 billion within 5 years, and grew the stock market by 142% within his first 2,000 days.

Not Reagan, you idiot:  Obama.


August 9, 1945, at Nagasaki: What we hope was last use of atomic weapons in war

August 9, 2014

Much has changed since I wrote most of the post, below, in 2009. The number of years, perhaps (and I’ve changed them in the text).  Not enough else.

The Obama Administration made some progress in getting Iran to the table to talk non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.   START was renewed.  But not much more.

We’re left with the hope that this was the last time atomic weapons are used.

Stars and Stripes posted this short video of the ceremonies held in 2011 in Peace Park in Nagasaki

21

Stars and Stripes said:

A memorial service was held at the Nagasaki Peace Park on Aug. 9, 2011, the 66th anniversary of the atomic bomb being dropped on the city at the tail end of World War II. The ceremony was attended by dignitaries from 44 countries – including an envoy from the United States – to honor the more than 155,000 people who were claimed by the bomb, including the 80,000 killed instantly.

The service came three days after one similar in Hiroshima, and marked the first time in history that an envoy from the United States attended both services.

In the wake of the March 11 disaster, Japanese officials called for the abolition of nuclear weapons and also for renewable sources of energy to replace nuclear power.

Below is mostly an encore post:

Nuclear anniversaries have been ignored again this year, it seems to me.

Ceremony in Nagasaki marked the remembrance of the victims of the second atomic weapon used in war, which was detonated over Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. Agence France Press reported (in 2009):

Nagasaki’s mayor, marking the 64th anniversary [66th in 2011] of his city’s atomic bombing by the United States, called on Sunday on the leaders of nuclear-armed powers to visit the site and build a nuclear-free world.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki, map by CNN

Hiroshima and Nagasaki, map by CNN

Tomihisa Tanoue urged world leaders from both declared nuclear powers and others such as Iran, Israel and North Korea to visit the city in southwestern Japan.

“I am sure anyone who visits here would feel the sorrow of the victims and be shaken by it,” the mayor said in an address at an annual ceremony commemorating the 1945 bombing.

A minute of silence was observed at 11:02 am (0202 GMT), when the US bomb exploded above the city, killing roughly 74,000 people. The bombing followed one a week before in Hiroshima and hastened Japan’s surrender in World War II.

Tanoue said an April speech by US President Barack Obama in Prague, where Obama pledged to build a world with no nuclear weapons, “impressed” the residents of Nagasaki.

“The Japanese government must support the Prague speech. As a nation that has come under nuclear attack, Japan must lead the international community” in abolishing the weapons, he said.

Similar appeals were made Thursday when Hiroshima marked the anniversary of its bombing, which killed 140,000 people.

At the Nagasaki ceremony, Prime Minister Taro Aso reiterated the Japanese government’s anti-nuclear stance, three weeks ahead of national elections that he is tipped to lose.

Aso raised eyebrows at the Hiroshima ceremony, when he pledged to work toward abolishing nuclear weapons but later told reporters that he thought it was “unimaginable” to attain a nuclear-free world.

Similar ceremonies, and similar pleas for nuclear non-proliferation marked the August 6 anniversary of the atomic bomb drop on Hiroshima. The Chinese news agency Xinhua reported:

Some 50,000 people gathered Thursday at the peace park in Hiroshima to mourn the 64th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city by U.S. forces during the World War II.

Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba delivered a peace declaration, calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons by 2020.

“The hibakusha still suffer a hell that continues,” said Akiba.

“The Japanese government should support hibakusha, including those who were victims of black rain and those who live overseas,” he said.

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso delivers a speech in front of the Memorial Cenotaph during the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony in Hiroshima, western Japan on Aug. 6, 2009. Hiroshima on Thursday mourned the 64th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city by U.S. forces during the World War II. (Xinhua/Ren Zhenglai)

“Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso delivers a speech in front of the Memorial Cenotaph during the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony in Hiroshima, western Japan on Aug. 6, 2009. Hiroshima on Thursday mourned the 64th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city by U.S. forces during the World War II. (Xinhua/Ren Zhenglai)”

It was reported Wednesday that the Japanese government aims to come to an agreement with all atomic bomb survivors who have sued the government for financial support to help them pay medical bills for illnesses related to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Akiba also said “The year 2020 is important as we want to enter a world without nuclear weapons with as many hibakusha as possible. We call on the world to join forces with us to eliminate all nuclear weapons by 2020.”

Referring to the movements such as the environmentalists, Akibasaid, “Global democracy that respects the will of the world and respects the power of the people has begun to grow.”

“We have the power. We have the responsibility. We are the Obamajority. And we can abolish nuclear weapons. Yes we can,” said the mayor.

On Wednesday, Akiba urged the people around the world to join the city’s efforts to abolish nuclear weapons in response to U.S. President Barack Obama’ s appeal for a world free of nuclear weapons.

During the 50-minute memorial ceremony, a moment of silence was observed at 8:15 a.m., the time the atomic bomb detonated over Hiroshima 64 years ago, killing nearly 100,000 people in a blink.

This in a week when two burgeoning new nuclear powers, Iran and North Korea, continue to claim they will flout non-proliferation agreements for their own self defense. [Still true in 2014, alas.]

The question obtains on nuclear issues as well as genocides: When does “never again” start?

It’s up to you and me.  What have you done to make “never again” with atomic weapons, start now?

Other related posts at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

This is an encore post.

This is an encore post.


“Earth’s not warming; it’s dying”

August 8, 2014

From the same designer who brought us INY; would this graphic design symbol get people more properly concerned?

Designer Milton Glaser suggests a logo for discussions on global warming . . .

Designer Milton Glaser suggests a logo for discussions on global warming . . .

Designer Milton Glaser created this logo; he’s serious, according to Salon, today.

Milton Glaser is famous for uniting New Yorkers under the simple, iconic “I Heart New York” logo. (He also designed the label for Brooklyn Brewery and, as I learned on a recent tour, had the good sense to emphasize the beer’s borough of origin back before it was cool.) Now, at age 85, he’s out to rebrand the climate movement. The pitch: a hazy black circle with just a small band of green (read: Earth), which people can purchase and wear as a button. In a poster hung on the exterior of the New York School of Visual Arts‘ East 23rd Street building, the logo is accompanied by the slogan “It’s not warming, it’s dying.”

The obvious problem, right off the bat, is that Earth is warming: It’s done so rapidly over the 20th century, and is expected to continue at an even faster rate over the next 100 years. The world’s governments agreed that we should try to limit warming to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels to try to avoid the worst consequences of that warming, yet we’re on track to blow right past that limit. While Glaser obviously agrees that this is a problem, the slogan obscures that point. And as someone attuned to the world of climate deniers, I can’t help thinking that getting the hashtag #itsnotwarming to go viral might not have the intended effect.

(Also, as Fast Co.Exist points out, it’s not the planet that’s at risk of dying — it’s us.)

But those are technicalities. Glaser told WNYC’s Brain Lehrer that his problem with the word “warming” is that it “sounds reassuring and comforting.” So if your complaint is that the slogan sounds overly pessimistic, well, that’s kind of the point. “Either Earth is dying or it’s beginning to grow again,” Glaser explained. “My preference would be that it was beginning to grow again, but for the moment I have no evidence of that.”

More at Salon.

What do you think?  A good idea?  Better indicator of a more appropriate message?

(Yes, Fast Co.Exist is right — remember this cartoon?)


History in art: August 4, 1964, and the Dallas Symphony

August 4, 2014

On August 4, 1964, President Johnson awoke to the news that two U.S. Navy ships cruising in the Tonkin Gulf had been fired upon by North Vietnamese Navy gunboats; then the FBI called and announced that the bodies of three civil rights workers had been found, young men registering African Americans to vote in Mississippi.  Both of these events rumble through history like a Rocky Mountain avalanche to today; either was a make-or-break event for any presidency.  

Lyndon Johnson dealt with them both, the same day

“August 4, 1964,” is an oratorio covering a remarkable and fantastic coincidence in the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson.  On that day, the bodies of three civil rights workers who had been missing for nearly seven weeks, were found in shallow graves near Philadelphia, Mississippi — they were the victims of violence aimed at stopping blacks from voting.  The incident was a chief spur to the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

And also on that day, the U.S.S. Maddox reported it had been attacked by gunboats of the North Vietnamese Navy, in the Gulf of Tonkin.  The Gulf of Tonkin incident led to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave Johnson the authority to expand and escalate the war in Vietnam, which he did.

Cover for the CD of the Dallas Symphony's performance of Steven Stucky's

Cover for the CD of the Dallas Symphony’s Grammy-nominated performance of Steven Stucky’s “August 4, 1964,” Jaap van Zweden conducting.

The Dallas Symphony commissioned the work, from composer Steven Stucky and librettist Gene Scheer, in commemoration of President Johnson’s 100th birth anniversary — he would have been 100 on August 27, 2008.  The works were premiered in Dallas in 2008.

The music is outstanding, especially for a modern piece.  The Dallas Symphony was at its flashiest and most sober best, under the baton of new conductor Jaap van Zweden.  It was a spectacular performance.  According to the New York Times:

Mr. van Zweden, hailed in his debut as music director a week before, scored another triumph here. And the orchestra’s assured and gritty performance was rivaled by that of the large Dallas Symphony Chorus, both corporately and individually, in shifting solo snippets charting the course of the fateful day.

The strong cast, mildly amplified, was robustly led by the Johnson of Robert Orth, last heard as another president in John Adams’s “Nixon in China” in Denver in June. Laquita Mitchell and Kelley O’Conner, wearing period hats, were touching as Mrs. Chaney and Mrs. Goodman. Understandably, the taxing role of a high-strung McNamara took a small toll on the tenor of Vale Rideout in his late aria.

The entire thing deserves more commentary, perhaps soon.  There is stellar history in the choral piece.  And there is this:  Consider that Lyndon Johnson, the best legislator and second most-effective executive we ever had as president, got hit with these two crises the same day.  On the one hand the nation got the Voting Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act, executive orders and government support to end segregation and the evils it created.  On the other hand, we got stuck with the disaster of the Vietnam War.

How would the nation fared had a lesser person been in the White House on that day?

(August 4 is a busy, busy day in history; much to think about.)

More: 

This is an encore post.

Much of this is an encore post.


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