Kansas Proves That Trickle Down Economics Doesn’t Work

The actual state flag of Kansas.

The actual state flag of Kansas.

I interrupt your long week of freaking out over weird poll results—seriously, you can stop reading the news right now—to highlight this very important Los Angeles Times piece by Michael Hiltzik. As you probably know, Governor Sam Brownback’s leadership in Kansas is the most straightforward example of trickle down economics that we have in the United States right now. Brownback and a supermajority of conservative state legislators have done everything in their considerable power to enact into law the three main pillars of trickle down economics, which I will recount for you right here:

  1. Tax cuts for the rich.
  2. Deregulation for the powerful.
  3. Wage suppression for everyone else.

Brownback immediately cut the income tax for the wealthiest Kansans and passed “business-friendly” laws like exempting pass-through business income from taxes.

The thinking with trickle down economics is that when government redistributes the wealth to the top one percent, that money trickles down—ugh, that image—to everyone else. This is why Republicans refer to really rich people as “job creators.” No other state has gone this far in the effort to create a trickle down economy; Kansas is in uncharted waters, here.

So how’s it going? Hiltzik says the state’s income tax collection has fallen by more than 20 percent, and even the Brownback administration’s own financial report…

…painted a “doom and gloom scenario” in which the gross state product had declined from 2014 through 2015, and that growth in personal income, nonfarm employment and private industry wages all trailed the region and the country as a whole. Sales tax collections were up, but that’s because Brownback enacted two sales tax increases to compensate for his other tax cuts. The general effect was to burden the middle class and poor with costs that wealthier Kansans escape.

Huh. So it looks to me that when you take money from the middle class and give it to the richest people in your economy, the richest people tend to keep that money. Who would’ve thought?

Seriously, look at the map at the top of Hiltzik’s story and tell me everything in Kansas is fine.  It’s got the worst economy in the nation—far worse than all its neighboring states. The results of Brownback’s trickle-down experiment are coming in sooner than anyone could’ve expected.

Meanwhile, states with economies that grow from the middle out are thriving. Washington state, birthplace of the $15 minimum wage and hopefully soon to adopt a statewide minimum wage of $13.50, is booming. So why we should believe conservatives when they say that the minimum wage is a job-killer and the wealthy are job creators? Governor Brownback’s Kansas conclusively proves them wrong.

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Paul Constant
Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.