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., Jan. 15, 2014.
Photo by Orlin Wagner/AP

What Kansans don’t know might hurt them

The Bush/Cheney administration had an amazing gimmick it relied on several times: when reports suggested there was a problem with the White House’s agenda, Bush’s aides decided it was time to get rid of the reports.

In 2005, for example, after a government report showed an increase in terrorism around the world, the administration announced it would stop publishing its annual report on international terrorism. When the Bush administration was discouraged by data about factory closings, the administration announced it would stop publishing information about factory closings. When Bush’s Department of Education found that charter schools were underperforming, the administration said it would sharply cut back on the information it collects about charter schools.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) was a member of Congress during all of this, and it appears he learned a few things from the Republican White House. Bloomberg View published an interesting piece this morning on the Kansas governor’s latest move.
Brownback, despite promising to measure the results of a “real life experiment” in cutting taxes, has decided to cancel a quarterly report on the status of the state’s economy.

Although Brownback’s spokeswoman said “a lot of people were confused by the report,” no one has been fooled. The problem was that the reports didn’t match the governor’s predictions for the state’s soon-to-be-booming economy.
As the Topeka Capital-Journal reported, the original idea was to publish a quarterly report to “assure timely analysis of the administration’s economic policies.” Brownback’s Council of Economic Advisors chose specific metrics in advance, which were “championed as an accountability test” of the his economic vision.

And while that may seem like a good idea for a governor who’s certain his agenda will work wonders, reality got in the way: timely analysis of Brownback’s economic policies became far less appealing when Brownback’s economic policies didn’t workat all.

This left the governor and his team with a choice: adopt more effective economic policies or make it harder to see the evidence of their failures. The GOP Kansan chose the latter – because as the Bush/Cheney team believed, if a report tells you something you don’t want to hear, the obvious move is to get rid of the report.

The Kansas City Star’s Yael Abouhalkah recently added, “Remember when Brownback said in his 2014 re-election campaign that ‘the sun is shining in Kansas’? Alas, all that sunshine has disappeared behind a big, dark cloud of obfuscation.”

By some measures, Brownback, narrowly re-elected in 2014, is now the nation’s least popular governor. Of course, by his reasoning, the appropriate response to details like these is to stop conducting polls.

Kansas and Sam Brownback

What Kansans don't know might hurt them