Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Kansas --- Brownback and his administration are taking the state down the toilet

There's nothing but bad news in Kansas on revenue and their economy:

Kansas tax revenue $11.2 million less than expected in March

Weak sales, corporate income and oil tax revenue to blame

Tax revenue to the state of Kansas slipped $11.2 million below estimates in March, state officials said Tuesday.
Collection of sales, corporate income, and oil and gas severance taxes fell below forecasts developed by state officials in November. Projections were revised downward at that time to reflect diminished optimism about the state’s short-term economic future.

House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs, D-Kansas City, said sweeping state income tax reductions were marketed by the Republican-led Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback as a “shot of adrenaline” to the heart of Kansas’ economy. After three years, Burroughs said, the GOP’s tax policy had been exposed as “more like an ax wound.”
“Kansas continues to bleed revenue as is evident by this month’s numbers," he said. "How we resolve this issue remains unknown as the legislative session is nearly over and we haven’t seen a comprehensive balanced budget.”

State revenue has fallen hundreds of millions of dollars since implementation of legislation approved by the 2012 Legislature and Brownback to repeal state income tax on owners of more than 300,000 businesses and to reduce individual income tax rates.
Kansas is in such bad shape, unable to manage the minimally necessary safety maintenance on its infrastructure that the state is starting to fall down in rubble.  You can be confident that the Republican majorities at the Federal level are doing the same slighting of infrastructure; they won't make up the gaps.  From the Wichita Business Journal:

No April Fools' Day Joke: 2,416 of Kansas's Bridges Need Structural Repair, New Analysis of U.S. Department of Transportation Data Finds

Federal Highway & Bridge Funding Facing May 31 Deadline

The analysis of the federal government data, conducted by American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) Chief Economist Dr. Alison Premo Black, shows cars, trucks and school buses cross Kansas's 2,416 structurally compromised bridges 787,632 times every day.  Not surprisingly, the most heavily traveled are on the Interstate Highway System, which carries the bulk of truck traffic and passenger vehicles

The ARTBA analysis of the bridge data supplied by the states to the U.S. DOT also found:
  • Kansas ranks 7th place nationally in the number of structurally deficient bridges—2,416.
  • Kansas ranks 22nd place in the percentage of its bridges that are classified as structurally deficient—10 percent.

Sam Brownback's policies are literally jeopardizing the safety of Kansas citizens and anyone traveling in or through Kansas.

Sam Brownback has promised his policies would work given time.  The architect of those policies is failed Reaganomics trickle-down economist Arthur Laffer - famous, or infamous, for the Laffer curve.

Here is what Laffer was saying back in January 2015, and in 2012.
Back in August 2012, Laffer told a crowd at the Johnson County Community College, if Kansas would slash its income tax rates, it would result in “enormous prosperity.”
He told a reporter at the time that he had not produced an economic model on when Kansas will notice meaningful economic growth.
Two-and-a-half years later, Kansas is staring at a budget crisis, with more than a billion dollar gap between revenues and expenses projected in the current and next budget years. The state is also experiencing a low private job growth rate, as well as a slow-growing economy.
In a 45-minute phone interview, Laffer said while he is “not surprised,” he didn’t know why the deficits have occurred. He still believes adamantly in his supply-side economic theory: If you reduce income taxes, you will raise more revenue, not less.

...The 74-year-old former economist for President Ronald Reagan, who remains controversial among mainstream economists, was paid $75,000 to consult with Brownback and his staff before the tax-cut legislation passed in 2012. Some say Laffer was the inspiration for the Kansas tax-cut plan, if not its architect.
He has stayed in touch with Brownback. Laffer told me the two talked just before the November election.

Read more here:
No one in Kansas is laughing.  The state is swirling around on its final go-around down the crapper.  Kansas is severely under-performing the economies of adjoining states and the national averages, while facing a continuing severe revenue shortfall.  While Laffer -- and presumably Brownback -- want to wait to see results in ten years, the state doesn't have that long.  Further, there is ZERO evidence that following this economic model and policies will EVER produce the desired results.

These are the same policies touted in other red states, and by conservatives at the federal government level.  NEVER have these policies produced the promised economic results.  What they do produce is a more rapidly expanding instability from the enormously widening chasm of wealth and income inequality.

Like fictional cartoon figure Bullwinkle the Moose,  Governor Brownback continues with the line "this time, for sure!", believed only by the most gullible, the most credulous, and possibly a handful of toddlers.

The latest news refutes the promises and claims made by Brownback.

As noted by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities:
  • The tax cuts delivered lopsided benefits to the wealthy.  Kansas’ tax cuts didn’t benefit everyone.  Most of the benefits went to high-income households.  Kansas even raised taxes for low-income families to offset a portion of the revenue loss; otherwise the cuts to schools and other services would have been greater still.
  • Kansas’ tax cuts haven’t boosted its economy.  Since the tax cuts took effect at the beginning of 2013, Kansas has added jobs at a pace modestly slower than the country as a whole.  The earnings and incomes of Kansans have performed slightly worse than the U.S. as a whole as well.  (An exception is farmers, whose incomes improved as the state recovered from a drought.)  And so far there’s no evidence that Kansas is enjoying exceptional business growth: the number of registered business grew more slowly last year than in 2012, and the state’s share of all U.S. business establishments fell over the first three quarters of last year, the latest data available.
  • There’s little evidence to suggest that Kansas’ tax cuts will improve its economy in the future.  No one knows for certain how Kansas’ economy will perform in the years ahead, but it isn’t likely to stand out from other states.  The latest official state revenue forecast, from November 2013, projects Kansas personal income will grow more slowly than total national personal income in 2014 and 2015.[1]
Evidence from other states and academic studies casts further doubt on claims that the tax cuts will cause the state’s economy to boom.  States that cut taxes the most in the 1990s performed worse, on average, over the course of the next economic cycle than states that were more prudent.[2]  And the academic literature overwhelmingly finds that states with lower personal income taxes perform no better economically than their peers.[3]

It's not just Kansas; every other Republican administered state with Republican majority or super-majority legislatures that emulated these policies is having similar problems.  Conservative Economics, like Republican Math, DO NOT WORK.  Today from Yahoo Finance News:

Why State Tax Cuts Aren’t Driving Job Growth
But the dramatic tax cutting doesn’t appear to have done nearly as much for job growth as promised. 
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says that Wisconsin ranked 35th of the 50 states in job growth during the first three years of Scott Walker’s term, and dead last among its immediate neighbors, including, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Ohio.
Kansas hasn’t fared much better. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the state’s rate of job growth has lagged the national average since Brownback’s tax cuts took effect.
North Carolina, at least, matched the national average in job creation in 2013. But the total number of jobs added to the state’s economy in the second half of the year – when the tax cuts went into effect, was actually smaller than the total number added in 2012.
Repeat after me: REPUBLICAN ECONOMIC POLICIES SUCK, THEY DO NOT WORK, THEY DO NOT DELIVER AS PROMISED.  And if you're planning to travel to any of these red states, you might want to find routes that don't require any kind of bridge crossing.  That is, just to be on the safe side.

Conservative Economic Polices Are Epic Failures -- and have been since post-Eisenhower

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Pence Continues to Blow It, and Blow It BIG

I predict that there will be no 'fix' changing this law; the only adequate 'fix' is repeal.

No Republican candidate, many of whom are embracing the Pence legislation, will ever be elected.

Denver station 7 hits PRECISELY on why this legislation differs from either the federal legislation that Pence keeps referring to, and differs substantially from the other 19 states with the legislation he refers to as well.

First of all, the claim that this was not intended to be discriminatory is not credible.

From abc 7:

Indiana ‘religious freedom' law is different – and here's why

Hobby Lobby paved the way, not Clinton-era law

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The backlash to Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration law is growing but the bill’s opponents are blaming the wrong Hoosier. Indiana-born Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ role is far more important than Governor Mike Pence’s, even though Pence signed the law.
Here’s why:
You probably have heard that 19 states besides Indiana already have “a” Religious Freedom Restoration law and that all those laws “are based” on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) passed by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. That is true only loosely, only if the words above are in quotes.
Indiana’s RFRA law has new and different language than the other statutes and the federal law. And it has different legislative intent.
States began passing their own RFRA laws only after 1997, when the Supreme Court ruled that the 1993 federal law did not govern state laws.  States wanted to “protect” religious liberty just as the feds had (more on that later).
But all of that came before Chief Justice Roberts ruled last summer in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell.  That was the famous case that ruled that a business, Hobby Lobby, was being burdened in its free expression of religion by a provision of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare to its foes) requiring coverage for contraception. This was a revolution in defining religious freedom in this country.
The Indiana law is the first state RFRA to pass after Hobby Lobby, and it actually codifies its jurisprudence in two ways.
First, it explicitly states that for-profit businesses – and not just individuals – have a right to the free exercise of religion. As The Atlantic points out, the federal law has no such language, nor do 17 of the 19 existing state RFRA statues. In fact, Louisiana and Pennsylvania exclude businesses from being protected by RFRA.
Second, the Indiana law makes explicit that for-profit business’ free exercise of religion is a defense against discrimination claims made not just by the government but also by private parties, something that is murky in the federal law.
So the claim that Indiana’s new law is just the same as a bunch of existing laws is off base.
That claim is also disingenuous and phony in a much simpler way, and so is the claim that that RFRA laws are not being used to try to justify discrimination.

Guess Mike Pence DOES believe in Indiana Discrimination

Shall we start a betting pool on how long before Indiana - and Pence - cave on this?

Shall we be honest that this was always all about gay discrimination, as well as promoting "corporations are people", and that these jerks knew exactly what they were doing. And is it just me who notes these are white guys, and what looks to be pretty much only white guys running this show?

By way of FB

Just sayin' -- bigotry is bigotry is bigotry

Monday, March 30, 2015

Open Letter to Governor Pence of Indiana, and to conservatives in Georgia and in Arkansas

Dear Mike Pence,

You sir, Governor Pence, are a liar and a coward, and a bigot.

Do not pretend, Pence, conservatives, that your legislation is LIKE the federal legislation.  It is not.  Federal legislation supported religious freedom for individuals when infringed by government.  This treats businesses as people -- hello, anti-LGBT Romney -- and it facilitates businesses discriminating in public accommodation against individuals over sexual orientation.  It is not about freedom, it is just about facilitating dumb bigotry.

Let's just cut to the chase, and cut through your bullshit.  Your statement on the George Stephanopolous Sunday 'talking head' interview was dishonest, and it was nothing more than a clumsy tap dance trying to get around the truth.

It is significant that Pence is trying to tar both Bill Clinton (as a proxy for Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama, both of whom support LGBT rights) in advance of a potential presidential run.

ABSOLUTELY, "Hoosiers engage in discrimination." (see the video of the interview at the 10 minute mark); they not only engage in LGBT discrimination, they want it, YOU WANT IT, and they brag about doing it.  Do just give it up on having it both ways; you know this law you signed is entirely about religious anti-LGBT discrimination being given proactive and pre-emptive legal cover to let them do so where previously they did not have such legal advantage for discrimination.

The AFA was right there with you when you signed this; they pushed for it, they're candid about what it is: a pro-discrimination bill to legalize anti-LGBT discrimination. PERIOD. 

So quit lying about it; you're not any of you going to get away with having it both ways, a discrimination law AND not a pro-discrimination law.  You might as well pander to the bigots, Mikey; because you aren't fooling the rest of us.

From Mediaite:

The man, who only identified himself as Ryan, said that as a Christian he understands that some people have a different “lifestyle” than him, but he doesn’t want them coming into his place of business and making his customers “uncomfortable.”

The hosts did not let him off easy, asking directly if he has ever discriminated against gay people in his restaurant. “I have discriminated,” he said openly, explaining that he has pretended there was a problem with his kitchen in order to not serve them in the past.

“That makes you feel OK?” Rachel Bogle asked him. “I mean, when you get a bed at night saying, ‘I’ve discriminated against other human beings,’ you feel at ease with that?”

Ryan said he feels fine about it because he believes he should be able to do whatever he wants in his own restaurant. “We don’t want to have this in our place of business, it’s just not right,” he said. But while the caller was happy to share his story, he would not say the name of his restaurant.

Let me sort this out for you and for your bigot businessman restaurant owner. 'Ryan' wants to be able to tell people they can't eat at his place of business, but he doesn't want to risk losing the heterosexual $$$ of people who would not knowingly patronize the businesses that discriminate.

Let me point out Ryan, let me point out Governor Pence, that LGBT people pay taxes. Those taxes pay for the infrastructure and services that make it possible for this business owner to make money, to operate his business. Our armed forces have gay patriots serving in their ranks protecting this country, so that those businesses may operate, so that state, and all the other states and territories are safe and free.

So unless these businesses want to go somewhere else, outside this country, they have no damned right, no damned freedom to take all the benefits of taxation which includes the LGBT community along with the family and friends who support them being who they are as human beings who were born the way they are. There is no more right to do that, no more ethical or moral justification, no political justification to do that, than there ever was to deny service to a person of color, or a person who is of an ethnicity like being Jewish or Asian, or to deny someone service on the basis of a religion in which they were raised or chose to embrace.

This notion that there is some kind of religious legitimacy to discriminate is one we've seen before, used to try to prop up segregation of races. It was wrong then, and it is wrong now. That belief creates a second class group of citizens, and then tries to smear heaps of lipstick on that pig to pretend it is nothing else.

There will be a severe penalty for you Governor Pence, much larger than I believe you have calculated. Not the least of those penalties, those costs will be to the people in your state who support this law and who elected you. Personally however Governor, you can kiss good bye any hope or dream you might ever have, in 2016 or any other time in the future, to sit in the office of President in our White House.

Bigots are going bye bye. And you gentlemen --- all of you who contemplate and desire to enact laws like this, you damned conservative bigots, are as conservatives always are, on the wrong side of the arc of history. You consistently choose the role of the bad guy, and then you whine about it after you made the choice of your own will. Your values are flawed, your morality and ethics are dirty and ugly. YOU FAIL.

It is only a matter of when, not if, your law will be flushed down the toilet of shitty historic legislation, where it will end up on the dung heap of human hatred.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Conservatives LOVE LOVE LOVE our Constitution, except when they don't - especially the 1 A

If you follow right wing propaganda sources, like the World Nut(Net) Daily or the right wing Townhall, or the speeches by many conservatives, especially those who seek to be conservative presidential candidates, or the right wing nut megachurch preachers, there is a war on Christianity in this country.

Perennial candidates for president on the right, like Santorum, and Huckabee, want to put their extreme and highly controversial version Christian religion into public schools, on the taxpayer dime.

That is not true. The true threat to Liberty and religious freedom is not against Christianity, but from it,, against anyone and everyone who dares to refuse to conform to the religious right's bigotry and intolerance.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
from Conrell University Law School's Legal Information Institute:
The First Amendment's Establishment Clause prohibits the government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion.” This clause not only forbids the government from establishing an official religion, but also prohibits government actions that unduly favor one religion over another. It also prohibits the government from unduly preferring religion over non-religion, or non-religion over religion.

It is consistently conservatives, who give loud but meaningless and empty lip service to loving and supporting our Constitution (hypocrites that they are) who persist in attempting to foist Christianity on the nation, attempting to turn us into a theocracy.

So for example, not only do we have a push for theocracy, we have a push to dumb down education -- PUBLIC education -- by not only a push to repeal testing and standards, but by removing qualified teachers from classrooms and then replacing them with unqualified cheaper babysitters, who could be expected to push garbage, like creationism.

from PoiticusUSA:
Republican anti-education efforts don’t get much worse than the Tea Party’s own Michigan State Rep. Gary Glenn’s (R-Larkin Township) House Bill 4394.
As Michigan-based Electablog explains,
If Glenn’s bill – House Bill 4394 – becomes law, schools can hire anyone they want. The criteria currently used would be tossed out the window. The bill literally strikes out all of the criteria. In addition, it removes the words grades “9 through 12″ meaning that schools could hire anyone they wish, with or without a teaching certificate, for any grade level. No training as an educator required.
And continuing from the same piece in Politicus:

Here is the thing, students who get a quality education -- which should include civics classes, which should include the 1A establishment (of no public religion) DOES create BOTH good citizens AND EMPLOYABLE CITIZENS, who can then support themselves, support their families, pay taxes, and be qualified if we need them to do so to serve in our armed forces. Lack of adequate education is actually a problem for armed forces recruiting -- and serving in the military, which is very much NOT a corporation, is a real and legitimate job choice/ career choice.

Further the notion that one can only be a good citizen if one is indoctrinated in and a current believer in religion -- and let's be candid here, by religion these nutjobs ONLY mean Christianity, they make a fundamentl error. People recognize and understand moral and ethical behavior WITHOUT RELIGION. Further, there are plenty of people who are believers in religion who do bad things, both as private individuals, and in their roles as citizens in the public sphere. So having religion is no guarantee of being a good citizen and not having religious beliefs does not present a risk that someone will be a bad citizen.

That is a right wing fantasy, part of their 'Us vs Them' orientation where they are dishonest about the faults of the 'us' and dishonest and unfair, and just plain bigoted about the 'them' of that equation. So apparently Todd Courser, like his buddy in the MI legislature, Gary Glenn (what is with the redundant consonants?) BOTh fail to grasp the appropriate role of government (which includes providing functional, not religious public education), but which also utterly fails to understand and loyally support the Constitution, notably the 1st Amendment.

This is appallingly unique to conservatives, who present an actual danger by these beliefs to our representative form of secular democratic government and who threaten our very real liberties.

More than that we have the Arizona legislator who would like (but at least does not expect) to coerce everyone in the USA to go to church (again, CHRISTIAN church, none of the Jewish, Muslim, or pagan religions like Hinduism or Buddhism) and again the presumption is this is essential for the success of the nation, and for proper soul-saved citizens. Never mind what the practical results on institutions of religion would be if citizens were actually coerced by the law to attend against their will.

From KREM2:

Arizona senator wants to make church mandatory

Allen, as You know, is a Republican from Snowflake, a Tea Party favorite who wants to pretend Arizona is an independent country rather than a state, and who believes government should stay completely out of people lives -- unless she can use her position to help out a son-in-law who got into some hot water over behavior with some of the inmates he was guarding at a women's prison.
But that's another story.
Anyway, Big Guy, they were debating a gun bill at a legislative committee meeting at the State Capitol this week so, naturally, Allen brought up religion.
(In Arizona, complete lack of logic is natural. But, you know that, too)
This was one of those crazy bills in which lawmakers want people to be able to bring concealed weapons into public buildings. Allen got upset because a few people expressed common sense opposition to the idea. Lawmakers here cannot abide common sense.
Allen said, "Probably we should be debating a bill requiring every American to attend a church of their choice on Sunday to see if we can get back to having a moral rebirth," adding "that would never be allowed."
The problem is that even when these right wing FASCISTS know that what they want is not allowed, as we see in Michigan and other states, they try it anyway. Because they do NOT love the Constitution and they do NOT love religious freedom.  They love coercion, they love religious conformity, so long as it is strictly to whatever shots they see fit to call in their ignorance, bigotry, and intolerance.

Louisiana, Tennessee and Mississippi (again with the redundant consonants) want to make the Bible their state book.

Mississippi conservatives want to make Christianity their state religion.  So do conservatives in North Carolina.  Both states have had actual legislation to do so, other red states have had discussions about doing so, or at least desiring to do so.

A poll by the HuffPo and Yougov back in April 2013 found that 1 in 3 Americans want to make Christianity the official NATIONAL religion.  Let us be clear, overwhelmingly, regardless of declared party affiliation, this is hugely more a problem from conservatives, attacking actual religious freedom.

From the Huff Po:
Although a large percentage of Americans said they would favor establishing a state religion, only 11 percent said they thought the U.S. Constitution allowed states to do so. Fifty-eight percent said they didn't think it was constitutional, and 31 percent said they were not sure.
...Republicans were more likely than Democrats or independents to say that they would favor establishing Christianity as an official state religion, with 55 percent favoring it in their own state and 46 percent favoring a national constitutional amendment.
We are not a theocracy.  Theocracies created second class citizens, and it has wisely been observed that the pernicious state religious promotion is the new Jim Crow.

Disclaimer, I've written in the past for both IVN and PoliticusUSA.