Every Saturday morning, President Obama releases a weekly address, issued over the air and on radio, followed by an official Republican response. Ordinarily, they’re intended to reinforce the parties’ message of the week, or push some new initiative, and they’re not especially newsworthy.
But this week’s GOP address, delivered by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R), struck me as more interesting than most.
National party leaders selected Brownback so that he could tout Kansas’ new tax policies, which Republicans apparently now consider a model for the nation. The governor specifically called his tax agenda an example of “ideas that work.”
“They involve a more focused government that costs less. A taxing structure that encourages growth. An education system that produces measurable results. And a renewed focus on the incredible dignity of each and every person, no matter who they are.”
The next question, of course, is, “Ideas that work for whom?”
Brownback’s initial approach to tax reform was ludicrously regressive – sharply reducing tax rates for the wealthy, while punishing the poor. For his next phase of “tax reform,” the Kansas governor, with the help of a Kansas GOP legislature that’s been purged of moderates, intends to eliminate the state income tax altogether, while making matters even worse for families that are already struggling by raising sales taxes, eliminating the mortgage interest deduction, and scrapping tax credits for things like food and child care.
Remember to keep the larger context in mind: Brownback’s agenda is awful for Kansas, but Republican Party officials at the national level chose the governor to deliver their weekly address, not just because they heartily endorse his tax policies, but because they want to see them implemented elsewhere. Indeed, with a debate over tax reform on the horizon, GOP leaders in Washington are sending a not-so-subtle signal: Brownback’s regressive vision is the kind of plan they have in mind.