The dangers of unfettered conservative power in Kansas
The Kansas City Star
In the movie, “Less Than Zero,” one of the characters talks to his friend about her self-destructive behavior.
“You don’t look happy,” he says.
“But do I look good?” she purrs in reply.
Such seems to be the state of affairs in Kansas these days.
On a national level the recent election cycle yielded some interesting items. It appears we are becoming more accepting of, if not entirely happy with, the fact that big problems sometimes require big solutions, solutions which may be complex, lengthy and expensive.
Exit polling showed that a majority of voters do not blame President Barack Obama for the weak economy, at least not enough to deny him another term to keep working on it.
Record numbers of Hispanics, African Americans, young voters and women brought a necessary and refreshing balance to the electorate, which returned Obama to office.
A bump in the number of Democratic senators will hopefully promote a more productive balance between the two congressional bodies and the Oval Office.
All told, it appears that aggressive advocacy from various points on the political compass will exist to ensure that fiscal prudence, social responsibility and national strength all have a chance of being addressed.
Kansas has chosen to follow a different path. With “business friendly” as their mantra, elected officials are pursuing tax reductions and regulatory rollbacks.
The resulting decrease in state services and increase in budget deficits is supposed to be balanced by an influx of new jobs, attracted by those minimized tax and regulatory burdens. However, the number and average salary of new jobs necessary to offset the projected budget shortfall is a bar that even these measures’ staunchest supporters admit may be unreachable.
And all of this was prior to Nov. 6 and the further bolstering of conservative control in both houses in the state Legislature. “Supermajority” is the term being used.
The day after the election this new entity said further tax cuts and service reductions will be considered, and acknowledged that this will lead to even larger budget deficits.
I am worried about Kansas and my concern goes far beyond partisan differences. Strong policies do not come from one group holding almost unfettered legislative power.
They come from at least two distinct groups agreeing on the challenges that need addressing and then working out solutions from among differing approaches. The most recent election cycle in Kansas has almost guaranteed that this process will not exist.
This is to everyone’s detriment, no matter which party holds the majority. If differing opinions are too few and far between, no idea has to prove itself beyond the self-congratulatory atmosphere in which it was conceived.
The present all-in gamble to attract business to the state is an example. Kansas lawmakers see themselves as putting in place the vital components of an attractive atmosphere for commerce and employment.
In reality they may be well on the way to producing a barren landscape that holds no appeal for the families who would need to move here to fill those jobs. To say nothing of those already here.
Echo chamber decision-making does no one any good, no matter who holds the keys to the room. It produces weak ideas that may look good to their creators but can do real and lasting damage.
The character in the movie, “Less Than Zero,” eventually begins turning her life around but not before hitting rock bottom. I truly hope Kansas doesn’t have to fall as far.
Derek Martin, of Olathe, has been a pilot at FedEx for 16 years on both domestic and international routes. To reach him, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Midwest Voices, c/o Editorial Page, The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 64108.