Kansas, let’s recall, gained a reputation in recent decades for its bold sorties against the twin abominations of evolution and abortion. Yet today, with its most sincere culture warrior in the governor’s chair, matters of the soul have somehow slipped off the legislative agenda. Sure, there is an occasional fusillade leveled at the state’s few remaining abortion providers. But for the most part, Kansas is concerned with economic issues—which is to say, with pleasing the corporate class. How can this best be accomplished? What can the state do to bring some jobcreating magic to the lone prairie?
Well, for one thing, Kansas can drastically reduce its personal income tax and its corporate income tax, a measure passed by the legislature in May. To refine its tax-cutting methods, the governor’s team brought in the widely discredited economist Arthur Laffer, who coauthored a booklet in 2007 exhorting states to compete with each other to win the favor of the nation’s businesses. And with Laffer on board, the conservatives began talking up their pet fantasia: the best way to increase tax revenues is to cut taxes.
If you are familiar with the annals of the real, you might be aware that this doesn’t work. Even though they bowed beseechingly to the business community, Presidents Reagan and Bush Junior both learned that tax cuts lead to less tax revenue, not more. And in both cases, their supply-side voodoo plunged the U.S. government into deep deficits. But hey, what’s wrong with that? Cutting taxes has plenty of other things going for it: allowing, for example, a certain generous Wichita billionaire to keep that much more of his gross income. And once tax revenue has cratered, Brownback (or whoever succeeds him) will be more or less forced to shrink the state’s recalcitrant, Darwin-worshipping educational establishment....