Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback delivers his State of the State speech to an annual joint session of the House and Senate at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan., Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014.
Photo by Orlin Wagner/AP

Laffer feels vindicated by Kansas failure

Perhaps the first sign that Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) was pursuing a misguided economic policy was when he chose a high-profile advisor: Art Laffer. The far-right economist, best known for his ridiculous “Laffer Curve” that says tax cuts can pay for themselves, guided the Republican governor’s agenda.
The “experiment” failed spectacularly: the Kansas plan fell short on every possible metric, from growth to job creation to revenue. The state’s finances are in shambles, leading to Kansas’ bond rating getting downgraded, and then downgraded again.
Voters in this ruby-red state, however, didn’t care – Kansans re-elected Brownback to a second term this week. Laffer talked to Dave Weigel about his satisfaction with the results.
“Every one of the tax-cutting governors won, and the tax-increasing governors lost. Connecticut and California, they won, but if you look at Massachusetts, Illinois, Maryland, the incumbent parties that had hiked taxes were rejected.” […]
“The states that cut their taxes really outperform the states that raise them,” Laffer said. “People will see that.”
I’m reminded of something Paul Krugman wrote this morning: “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet midterms to men of understanding. Or as I put it on the eve of another Republican Party sweep, politics determines who has the power, not who has the truth.”
Laffer encouraged Brownback to pursue an economic vision. Brownback agreed and the Republican-led legislature did as it was told. That vision failed on every measurement.
But that’s OK, apparently, because what works is less important than what wins. Sure, Brownback couldn’t deliver on his promises, and the economic miracle turned out to be a disaster, but so long as voters endorse failure, the vindication is in the election results, not on the balance sheets.
What a shame.
Postscript: I’ll confess to chuckling at Laffer’s belief that the “tax-increasing governors lost” except for those tax-increasing governors who won. His career in political punditry is obviously bright.