Kansas is my home. My parents moved my 5 year old self, plus my 4 and 1 year old brothers to Overland Park in 1993. I graduated from Blue Valley North High School in 2006, and then from the University of Kansas in 2010. I am a Jayhawker for life, and no matter what anybody says about Kansas, I am proud to call it home. From the jokes of it being a flyover state, to evolution teachings, to everyone and their mother in my current state of residence (California) constantly saying to me, “you’re not in Kansas anymore,” this is truly a great state from which I am proud to hail.
Lately however, that pride has been faltering. And it is because of Sam Brownback.
He won his bid for re-election when he defeated his Democrat opponent Paul Davis by a narrow margin in the 2014 gubernatorial elections. He since has been running roughshod over Kansas by literally using the state as his own personal guinea pig. The experiment has failed in dramatic and tragic fashion; now the citizens of Kansas must live another four years while a criminal is at the helm.
Where to begin with this madman? Let’s start with the most publicized of his transgressions: cuts to education spending.
He has recently cut education spending by nearly $45 million because of “lower than expected” revenues from sales tax. But guess what? He’s lying about that. Sales tax revenues are actually up by $27 million. This article here outlines the many other ways in which he has lied about the reasons for his cutting education spending. As if this weren’t bad enough, he has done something else that prohibits learning in Kansas schools.
Teachers are now potentially subject to jail time if they essentially are too honest about sexual relations in the classroom. Do you want teen pregnancies Brownback? Because this is how you get teen pregnancies. Children need to be taught in a very frank manner about sexual relations. Does this mean “The Miracle of Life” is now inappropriate material? Talking about condoms and their correct use is inappropriate? Are teachers going to be charged with a misdemeanor if they simply say there are some people out there who are gay? I quote directly from the proposed bill:
“‘sexual conduct” means acts of masturbation, homosexuality,
sexual intercourse or physical contact with a person’s clothed or unclothed
genitals or pubic area or buttocks or with a human female’s breast…”
A teacher, or potentially a parent wishing to educate their child about sex (by the way, the bill defines a minor as anyone under the age of 18) could potentially be arrested for distributing materials that discuss these things.
Ladies and gentleman we live in the age of the internet. There are no secrets with Google. Kids are going to learn these things no matter what. I know I would rather my hypothetical future children learn about these things from me or from a certified instructor than Wikipedia. You parents are smart too. I know from firsthand experience; you guys know how to speak frankly about these matters, and you know how important it is kids have this knowledge. But Brownback is so prudishly backwards about this he would prefer this stuff not even be taught. And with his cuts on education spending, schools will have to cut sex ed anyway because they won’t be able to afford it.
This leads to the reason for cutting education spending in the first place: he instituted a series of tax cuts, mainly on income tax. He wants to be one of only seven states that have no income tax. But this, among other things, has caused revenue to plunge to horrifyingly low levels. The evidence for this is everywhere. Brownback knows this is not working.
There’s no better evidence of this than his decision to raise sales tax on cigarettes and alcohol. This by itself is not bad. If there are two things that deserve higher sales taxes, they are cigarettes and alcohol. But this is bad for the reasons why he did it.
Firstly, he realizes that the other tax cuts he has imposed means that the state is making very little money. You can lower income tax all you want but guess what? Money has to be made from somewhere else otherwise. All of the aforementioned seven states with no income tax have other things they tax in order to compensate for this, such as tourism tax, property tax, use taxes, etc., etc. Kansas does not have these things. I only took an intro to economics class in college and even I know money has to come from somewhere.
Beyond this, Brownback is stuck in the Reagan years with his belief that trickle-down economics actually works. Even though every economist worth their weight have said otherwise. The situation is so dire that Brownback is resorting to an option that is commonly known as the “least bad alternative.”
PBO stands for pension benefit obligation, and it happens when a state or city sells bonds and then uses the money from the sale to invest in other assets, hoping that those investments will fetch a better return than the interest on the bonds. This is often seen as a risky move, even an act of desperation. I honestly had no idea what this was, and I wish I still didn’t. The move has bankrupted whole cities *cough Detroit cough* and a Goldman Sachs CEO even called it, “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of.” If implemented, this could send Kansas even further down the rabbit hole.
Of course, none of this (read: all of this) is actually Brownback’s fault. He has blamed just about everything under the sun for the failings of his implementations. It’s the media’s fault that it’s not working, because they’re rooting for him to fail. He has blamed state legislature for the ineffectiveness of state tax cuts. By the by, a nice little tidbit from that article is that Kansas is projected to have a deficit of $436 million next year. He even blamed President Obama for Kansas’ shortcomings in income tax, by saying it was because 2013 collection totals were inflated. Brownback, the Sunflower State saw income tax revenues fall from $453 million to $227 million. You have taken the state from a budget surplus of $700 million to a deficit of $238 million (and growing). I’m pretty sure that’s not Obama’s fault.
Then there is the question of gay rights. Really, it should not be a question. It has been scientifically proven that being gay is by and large not a choice. It escapes me how this is such a difficult concept to grasp. When did you choose to be straight, Brownback? That’s right, you didn’t. It’s something that felt right. To me, there is absolutely no difference between denying gays and lesbians the full rights to marriage and the Jim Crow laws of the 1950s South. To me, there is no social issue more infuriating than the rejection of human rights.
Kansas House Bill 2453, aka the Religious Freedoms Act, would allow businesses to refuse service to someone from the LGBT community if their objection is based on religious beliefs. This is so bad on so many levels I don’t even know where to begin. Where is the difference here? Where is the difference between this and restaurants refusing service to black people? The implications and consequences of such a bill are catastrophically bad, and only seek to increase the divide in this country. Fortunately it did not get past the Senate.
To piggyback on this bill, Brownback recently revoked an executive order instituted by former Governor Kathleen Sebelius that guaranteed employment protection to members of the LGBT community. This essentially means that those who are LGBT can be fired, simply because they are so. In what world is this right? In what world is it okay for someone who shows up on time, does their work, and smiles as they do so to be fired simply because they are gay? There is a reason Kansas is looked down upon by the rest of the country Brownback, and it is not because its biggest tourist attraction is the world’s largest ball of twine.
It is honestly impossible to figure out how Brownback got re-elected in the first place. More than 100 Republicans endorsed his opponent’s candidacy; not because they liked Davis, but because they just wanted Brownback out of office. A 20 percentage point advantage in voter registration on the GOP side has been cited as one possible explanation for why Brownback won. But it seems that Kansan’s are still frightened of a 26 year old, single male going to a strip club (I guess that means I can’t run for governor) almost 20 years before he ran for office. The place was being raided because an informant said the owner of the place was dealing meth. Was Davis in on that? No. He was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The people who voted against him must have somehow managed to conceive their kids with a sheet between them and their spouses.
The previous 1000 or so words have all been a lead-up; they serve as physical evidence to back up what I’ve been wanting to say for quite some time:
I don’t know much about politics. Very little in fact. But I do know the difference between right and wrong. Brownback, you are what’s wrong with this country, and specifically the state of Kansas. Your stubborn, bigoted and all-around backwards ways of thinking has caused irreparable harm to my home state, and nothing will get better until you leave office.
And when you do, Kansas will celebrate. In fact, some are trying to get you out as soon as possible. If anyone who reads this is as angry as I am about Brownback, please sign this petition. Make your voices heard.
It is not easy to recall a Governor, especially in Kansas; but I believe there are grounds for a recall to be made. For one, it says the grounds for a recall must include, “incompetence, or misconduct in office.”
I think it is well proven that Brownback qualifies.