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Editorial cartoon (3/22/3017)

Time to revisit the trials and tribulations of my favorite "trickle-down" politician, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.

Sam is the one-time bomb thrower in Congress who demonizes gays, believes that evolution is a hoax, thinks that there ought to be fewer restrictions on guns, if any, and is convinced that the way to raise more tax revenues is to cut taxes on corporations and the rich.

Two of his biggest fans are our Wisconsin congressman and now House speaker, Paul Ryan, and, of course, our man in the governor's office, Scott Walker. Ryan once served on Brownback's congressional staff and was apparently smitten with Brownback's "supply-side" economic theories, which were championed by the late President Ronald Reagan.

After several terms in the House and then taking Bob Dole's place in the Senate, Brownback ran for governor in his home state of Kansas, a state with a lot of fellow Republicans, where he could show once and for all how trickle-down really works.

Oh, he's shown how it works all right. Five years ago he engineered the biggest tax cuts in Kansas history, claiming that by reducing corporate taxes to zero and lowering the taxes on Kansans in the upper brackets, the economy would magically start humming and money would begin flowing into the Kansas state treasury.

Today, Kansas' economy is among the nation's worst. The state is deeply in debt. Those big tax cuts, like our own Gov. Walker keeps promoting, have not convinced employers to invest and hire more. The state's credit rating has been reduced a couple of notches. Brownback's answer was to cut back school funding to such a low level that the state's supreme court had to step in and inform the governor that he was violating the state's constitution on education funding.

In other words, the state's a complete mess — yet another example of how supply-side economics is a completely phony theory. It was phony when Reagan saddled the country with such "voodoo" economics and it still is under clueless politicians like Sam Brownback and, I might add, Paul Ryan. The only people who enjoy its benefits are those who get big tax cuts. The rest of the people are left waiting for all that largess to start trickling down. 

As folks in Kansas now know, it doesn't.

It's become so bad that Brownback's Republican colleagues in the Kansas Legislature have even turned their backs. They voted to reverse the governor's tax cuts and enact new taxes totaling more than a billion dollars by killing Brownback's policy, which has allowed some 330,000 business owners in the state to escape taxes altogether. That idea, you may notice, is the same one that our corporate lobby, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, has been peddling for years.

Alas, though, Sam isn't backing down. He vetoed the Legislature's tax bill. While the Kansas House, to show how fed up it is with Brownback's folly, voted to override the veto, the veto managed to survive in the Kansas Senate by three votes.

You might think that Brownback would be chastened by all this, but you'd be wrong. Supply-siders, if nothing else, are persistent no matter how often they are proven wrong. He's talking again about making education cuts in an effort to fill the budget hole he's dug the past five years.

As the New York Times editorialized a few weeks ago, "(Brownback's) real-life test of the economic theories so warmly embraced by the likes of Mr. Ryan has provided indisputable proof that no miraculous free lunch will result from his party's tax-cut delusions."

Just remember we've got one of those trickle-down guys right here at home. Scott Walker's still a true believer. 

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel

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Editor Emeritus

Dave is editor emeritus of The Capital Times.