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Mohamed El-Hodiri: Kansas is bleeding for the wrong causes

  • Published Friday, May 10, 2013, at 12 a.m.

It must be clear to anyone observing the shenanigans in Topeka that Kansas is hell-bent on becoming “Bleeding Kansas” again. Except this time it is self-inflicted.

The governor imports Arthur Laffer and pays him big bucks so this unpublished “expert” can reiterate the commonly accepted theory that cutting the tax rate will increase tax revenue.

The governor is seeking a trophy that he could mount on the walls of his backers. So why not be like Texas? Texas is doing great (if you ignore the quality of roads and K-12 education). Texas has no income tax.

But we’re not in Texas. Texas has a lot more natural resources and collects a lot more severance tax than Kansas ever will.

Truth of the matter is the governor and the legislators are engaged in shifting the tax burden from the super-rich to the poor. The poor, my friends, are not just with us these days. They are us.

Most Kansans spend a considerable proportion of their income on basic necessities. And most Kansans who vote (not very many, alas) voted for the actors in the depressing comedy that unfolds in Topeka.

There is more. The structure of state decision processes is being changed to an undemocratic, irresponsible, non-responsive structure. To defeat checks and balances from the judiciary, Topeka is changing the way judges are chosen, lest the courts look askance at how less and less Kansas tax money is provided for schooling the children of Kansas taxpayers.

Under the new-speak rhetoric of right to work (translation: shifting power from workers who sell the services of their human capital to owners who buy), Topeka is chipping away at collective bargaining. And there are more and more anti-Kansas initiatives – turning back dollars from Washington, D.C., cutting back on health care, dismantling support for the arts, etc.

Most of these punitive acts, ones that make Kansas bleed, are perpetrated in the name of economic development. Do this and businesses will flock to Kansas and make us all rich and attractive, they argue.

I have news for Topeka. Businesses will relocate to places where the environment for doing business is better. They will not come to a state with poor schools for their workers, with polluted air and water, with homeless broken citizens, with politicians who do not care for the well-being of their constituents.

Kansas should not ever bleed again, but if it has to then let it be for a good cause and not for the narrow-minded, short-sighted interests.

Mohamed El-Hodiri is senior economist at the Kansas Progress Institute and a professor of economics at the University of Kansas.

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