Read Sam Brownback's Lips: Whoops, We Raised Kansas's Taxes

The last redoubt of conservative economists has always been the complaint that their radical, free-market ideas have never been tried before. If conservative ideas have never been put to the test, the argument goes, then how can you say they don't work, you're not even being fair! Sadly for conservative economists and their fedora-clad fanboys, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has, in fact, put low-tax, low-service conservatism to the test, and it didn't work out quite the way he thought it would. Loosen up those cackling muscles, Wonketeers, because this one's good.

Let's get the newsy part of the story out of the way so we can get to the lulz. Take it away, Politico.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, whose massive tax cuts became a cause célèbre for conservatives but threw his state’s budget into disarray, announced Friday that he would pursue tax increases. [...]

Critics of the tax cuts enjoyed a told-you-so moment Friday, calling Brownback’s reversal inevitable.

That we did, Politico, that we did! We wouldn't go so far as to say that we progressives live for this kind of thing, but if we're being honest with ourselves, yeah, we totally live for this kind of thing. Vindication, sweeter than the nectar of the gods we tell you! Remind us again which aspects of Gov. Brownback's supply-side fantasy failed?

Brownback’s cuts to a number of state taxes in 2012 failed to boost the economy like he had hoped, triggering a backlash when the huge budget shortfall that resulted forced major decreases in government services. His state’s credit rating was lowered, and Brownback nearly lost his job in the November elections. [...]

Kansas revenue analysts reported in November that the state would require $278 million in cuts by this June to balance the budget. They said a state reserve fund of about $379 million would be emptied, and lawmakers should cut an additional $435 million to avoid a deficit this year.

Who has a calculator on their phone? Yr Wonket can't do math right now, we are smarming so hard. Brownback followed the conservative economic playbook to the letter, and it wreaked devastation clear across Kansas in just two short years. It happened so fast that some Kansas residents didn't even have time to get into their root cellars.

Brownback and the GOP-controlled legislature slashed corporate taxes, cut personal income taxes by a quarter, and dished out a bunch of goodies to high-income earners. Yet somehow, pro-growth pixie dust did not fall upon Kansas, an outcome foreseen by no one except for literally everyone. Brownback's pet policies failed so spectacularly that his own re-election ended up far closer than it ever should have considering that he was competing in a midterm, in a near-wave year, in beet-red Kansas. As another Republican governor once said, "Oops."

Victories for progressives are likely to be in short supply over the next few years, so cherish this one, and remember how quickly it all came tumbling down for Sam Brownback. Here's Brownback shortly before his re-election, explaining that his policies were going to work out just fine, and that all the liberal haters out there weren't giving his idea-shaped objects a fair chance.

I think the left is just so desperate. They want this model to fail so bad that they can’t wait for it to and they just want to get me electorally before we get on through this and prove that this is working.

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Now, compare and contrast Brownback in October with Brownback in January.

“My budget proposal recognizes that the current budget trajectory is unsustainable and that difficult solutions are required by state law as well as by fiscal prudence,” Brownback said in releasing his two-year budget.

Let us taste your tears, Sam Brownback, let us taste your teeeeeears!

It's rare to see a conservative admit they're wrong like this — usually, they'll claim that they failed the cause of conservatism, not the other way around. But Brownback has seen the writing on the wall, and we are sure he will responsibly change course and stop bringing ideologically driven penury to his constituents.

But [Brownback] said this week that he would stick with his plans to phase out the state’s income tax. “We will continue our march to zero income taxes,” the governor said Thursday in his State of the State address. “States with no income tax consistently grow faster than those with high income taxes.”

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Say, you know who else invoked the image of a long, arduous march, even as the lived reality of the body politic undercut the stated purpose of the march? For once it is not even Hitler, you guys!


Brownback's insistence that he's still going to "march to zero" on income taxes is important. After all, if he truly admitted economic defeat out in the hustings, congressional Republicans would have a harder time convincing America that the party's new magic math is such a good idea. And the true believers, like Grover Norquist, are still on board with Brownback's refusal to acknowledge reality.

Grover Norquist, the anti-tax guru influential with conservative lawmakers, said Brownback’s new revenue proposal doesn’t roll back what they believe to be the most important part of what he did several years ago: income tax cuts.

“There has been no compromise on the commitment to phase out the income tax. The Kansas income tax did not receive a pardon from the governor, just a delay in the date of execution,” he said in a statement to POLITICO.

"Courage," Grover Norquist tells his troops. "Have courage, men, for we are in Kansas, a magical land where pure belief can shape physical reality. Courage, men, ain't it the truth, ain't it the truth."


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