I've told you, and others have told you, that cutting or eliminating state income taxes (which tend to be somewhat progressive) is all the rage among GOP governors, as is raising sales taxes (which fall disproportionately on the poor, the lower middle class, and the middle class, because the more of your paycheck you have to spend to live, the more they get to tax you). Bobby Jindal is a big fan of this approach (he wants to eliminate all income and corporate taxes in Louisiana) -- and you know he wants to be president.
So it's not a surprise to read what I'm reading in The Wall Street Journal this morning: that Republicans -- bizarrely -- think this approach could win them the White House four years from now.
TOPEKA, Kan. -- Even if he doesn't enter the race himself, this state's Republican governor, Sam Brownback, is determined to play a starring role in the next presidential election.Is this an idea limited to a few Republicans, or is it a party idea? Ask Brownback:
How? By turning Kansas into what he calls Exhibit A for how sharp cuts in taxes and government spending can generate jobs, wean residents off public aid and spur economic growth.
"My focus is to create a red-state model that allows the Republican ticket to say, 'See, we've got a different way, and it works,' " Mr. Brownback said in a recent interview.
Coming off the largest tax cut in state history on Jan. 1, Kansas is now on the leading edge of a growing but still largely untested quest among conservative governors to create growth by dramatically revamping state tax codes.
Mr. Brownback recounts how Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reacted when the two talked recently about the work under way in Kansas.Now, what exactly is Brownback doing? As The New York Times recently reported:
"Mitch said, 'This is exactly the sort of thing we want to do here, in Washington, but can't, at least for now,' " Mr. Brownback said. An aide to Mr. McConnell confirmed the conversation.
... the poorest 20 percent of Kansans will spend an additional 1.3 percent of their incomes, an average of $148 per year, on taxes, according to a report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.And as Jamelle Bouie notes:
As for the top 1 percent of Kansans? Their tax burden will decrease by $21,087 a year, or a little less than the state poverty line for a two-person household.Is this actually meant to appeal to voters? Or is it meant to appeal primarily to Republican donors? I suspect it's the latter -- as I said yesterday, Wall Street donors want the GOP running on fiscal policy rather than social issues, and many Republicans really, really want to do what these donors would like them to do.
And they apparently want to do what rich donors would like even if it alienates ordinary citizens and puts their states' fiscal health in peril. Consider what the Journal story says about Brownback's plan:
... the governor faces an array of challenges. His income-tax cuts, which took the top rate from 6.45% to 4.9% at the start of the year and are targeted to hit 3.5% by 2017, are projected to leave a significant hole in next year's state budget, which starts in July.Seriously? This guy wants the party (and, probably, himself) to pursue the White House in 2016 on a plan that eliminates state home mortgage deductions? As well as keeping sales taxes high and allowing roads and bridges to crumble?
The official state economic-forecasting agency predicted last fall a drop of $700 million in revenue in the next fiscal year, equivalent to about 12% of this year's budget, with the decline growing steeper after that. Mr. Brownback's budget proposal for the coming year, released in January, put the figure even higher, at $800 million....
To make up for the revenue drop, the governor is pushing to preserve what was meant to be a temporary increase in the state sales tax, and to eliminate two popular deductions, including the state write-off for home-mortgage interest payments.... He also wants to transfer more than $100 million from a state highway fund to cover other expenses.
Even some GOP legislators are balking -- though we're told,
In Kansas, about a dozen centrist Republican lawmakers were targeted by conservatives and voted out of office last year, so Gov. Brownback now enjoys the backing of an overwhelmingly conservative legislature.Corporatist teabagging!
Brownback seems to be engaging in classic Laffer-curve magical thinking:
Mr. Brownback and others believe the tax cuts will eventually pay for themselves by drawing in new businesses and stirring job growth.In any case, Brownback is not alone -- he's doing this, Jindal is doing similar things, and so are Governors Mike Pence in Indiana, Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, and John Kasich of Ohio. I think this is what Romney/Ryan probably would have done with a willing Congress. I'm certain it's what a Republican president elected in 2016 will do if there's also a GOP House and Senate.
But can the GOP win with this? I think it's possible. I worry that the fat cats just didn't know how to use Citizens United effectively last year -- and that they may be learning from their mistakes. Then maybe, with this as inspiration, they really will buy an election for the GOP.