Burdett Loomis: GOP presents: ‘Barack-nado’

08/16/2014 7:04 PM

08/17/2014 12:04 AM

Soon to hit the megaplex is “Sharknado 2,” the sequel to the so-bad-it’s-kinda-good original 2013 made-for-TV blockbuster. The plot, so to speak, depends on sharks being lifted up by a tornado and plopped down in New York City. Chaos ensues.

While “Sharknado 2” is coming to select theaters this week, Kansans are already familiar with our own improbable story: “Barack-nado.”

To the GOP, Barack Obama is more terrifying than land sharks. Obama is omnipresent – in ads opposing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis and on the tip of Gov. Sam Brownback’s tongue, as he blames Obama for everything from the huge revenue shortfall to his unknown opponent’s 37 percent showing in the Republican primary.

Even though Kansas newspapers are having a field day in skewering this Obama obsession, it shows no signs of abating. Rather, we will see negative ads and twisted story lines aimed at linking Davis to the president, whether these links are modest or beyond belief.

Why are Republicans, their financial allies and Brownback all so fixated on Obama? First, these scare tactics have worked before, especially in 2010. Second, and more important, they have nothing else.

If the governor could run on a strong record in an overwhelmingly Republican state, his re-election would be inevitable. But that’s impossible, given the results of his first term.

The Brownback record here is familiar, but crucial to remember, given Republicans’ attempts to ignore it.

To recap, we’ve had tax cuts that greatly benefited the wealthiest Kansans and hurt the poorest. State income taxes were eliminated on almost 200,000 businesses, so that attorneys, doctors and out-of-state investors pay no taxes while fast-food employees and secretaries keep paying.

These tax cuts have led to plunging revenues. A year from now, according to legislative estimates, we will be essentially broke. This means that more cuts are coming. And from where? Likely from the places we spend the most, notably education.

The disappearing revenues have led to seven bond downgrades from two different firms. Thus we’ll pay more for the money that we must borrow and that has been already used to help “balance” the budget.

The FBI is investigating several individuals close to the governor. What’s already come out is that great pressure was placed upon lobbyists to help fund the 2012 purge of moderate Senate Republicans.

According to one study, Kansas was one of only three states that saw a decrease in the rate of health care coverage.

We have rising levels of childhood poverty and record numbers of kids in foster care.

And then there are the governor’s negative job approval ratings, the unlikely showing of Jennifer Winn in the GOP primary, and a paltry re-elect number of 41 percent across several polls.

The governor and his supporters do, from time to time, make a case that his programs have worked, but that’s a very tough sell, because the plain facts (revenues, credit downgrades, etc.) present a much more persuasive, reality-based narrative.

So what’s a governor to do? Barack-nado! But it’s a tired old story, and one utterly disconnected from the realities of Kansas policies and budgeting.

Burdett Loomis is a political science professor at the University of Kansas.

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