Kansas native and author/historian Thomas Frank notes the "privatization, deregulation, and an enthusiastic race to the bottom" which has characterized the leadership of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. The incumbent faces a major electoral challenge because
You’ve got tax cuts so severe they’ve brought on fiscal catastrophe and thrown the state’s school system into crisis. You’ve got bullying by state legislators against organizations that criticize Brownback’s healthcare plans, and hints of pay-to-play corruption just under the surface. And, of course you’ve got credit downgrades as all this becomes known to the outside world.
The wrecking crew is in full swing in Kansas, and for once the people there seem to be ticked off about it. Once the hero of the state’s sin-hating millions, Sam Brownback is unpopular today. Indeed, his situation is so bad that the only sure way he can be rescued is by a mass disregard for economic reality—by cognitive blinders strapped on simultaneously by millions of individuals.
More ominously, he adds "either that, or by the culture wars." And now Politico, relying on a report from "a twice-weekly local paper with no website," reports that in 1998, police looking for illegal drugs executed a search warrant at a club known as "Secrets" (or Club 169) near the border of Oklahoma in southeastern Kansas. The owner of the club was charged with sale of methamphetamine and not having a tax stamp and the business was closed, but not before a police officer in his own words
noticed a white male sitting in a couch with a white female standing over him. She did not have her top on and was only wearing a G-string. I told them to get on the floor and to keep their hands where I could see them. They got on the floor, but the white male was still in a sitting position. I told him again to lay on his stomach and to keep his hands where I could see them. At this time he did so. When he got on the floor he advised that he was the attorney for the owner of the club and he wanted to see him. I told him that he would have to wait until things were secured.
That was sixteen years and the white male is now 43 years old, married with three children, and Brownback's opponent Paul Davis. Davis was not charged in the incident, nor was there any indication he knew of a connection between the business and illegal activity. In a normal world, his actions at the strip club nearly a generation ago would eclipse those of Representative Michael Grimm (video below) of New York. Last year, the New York Republican was asked by a reporter about an investigation into campaign finance fraud and responded "Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again I’ll throw you off this f***ing balcony…No, no, you’re not man enough, you’re not man enough. I’ll break you in half. Like a boy.”
He was not charged, and currently leads his Democratic challenger in polls and is favored to win re-election in his Staten Island district. Davis perhaps faces a greater electoral obstacle because his behavior involved sex rather than a mere threat to kill. Fortunately for the Democrat, however, he has to defeat only Brownback, who has steered a normally conservative state sharply backward, and to whom Kansans seem to be catching on.
Only last month, Standard & Poor''s Rating Services downgraded the state's credit rating as it cited the sharply lower revenues brought about by the deep cut in taxes pushed by Brownback. S&P suggested the state faces a major deficit in the coming fiscal year and its move comes on top of a credit downgrade by Moody's in April for largely the same reason(s).
Whatever the outcome in Kansas, the real moral of the story might be found in the tale of the tea party Republican Brownback appointed to be the chairperson of the Kansas Securities Commission in 2011. In a turn of events which could serve as a metaphor for the tea party movement, Frank explains
Can you guess how the Tea Partier played it? Yes, you can: He played it exactly like the hack-n-crony regulators of the Bush Administration that the Tea Party was supposed to be so very different from. Jack’s main agenda item, according to a withering account of his tenure that ran last year in the Topeka Capital Journal, was to get rid of a majority of the commission’s staff and replace them with political allies and, of course, lobbyists. His grand vision was to cut the regulated some slack, to remake the state as a place where hedge-fund types would no longer need to worry too much about “overzealous” supervisors — “to open Kansas as a destination state for hedge fund managers, private equity operators and venture capitalists.” With the tools of deregulation they were going to build a Wall Street on the Plains—and along the way Mr. Jack somehow found money in the commission’s budget to air radio spots in which he himself told listeners about all the neat things he was doing. Finally, when things didn’t work out for him in politics, it was through the revolving door to a local brokerage....
That story has pretty much been lost amid the broader avalanche of calamity in Kansas, but still it’s worth dwelling upon. Ten years ago, when I wrote a book about politics in the place where I grew up, I was impressed by the populist tone of the state’s conservative rebels. I was amused by the way they mocked the state’s successful and well-connected professional class. (This kind of thing still goes on, of course. On Thursday, Republican Senator Pat Roberts, who also finds himself behind in the polls,denounced his opponent as “another millionaire politician trying to deceive voters and buy a U.S. Senate seat.”) In the aftermath of the slump brought to you in 2008 by Wall Street, those populist rebels won. Thanks to the Great Recession, those rebels were able to defeat their opponents completely. The offices of the state are now nearly entirely at their command.
And what have the populists’ leaders done with that power? To say they proceeded to sit down and write passionate love letters to Wall Street is hyperbole, but it’s not sufficient....
Think back over all those years of prayer and organizing and going door to door and yelling about the liberal elite with their lattes and their fancy Volvos—what has it fetched the rebellious right-wingers of my home state? Yes, one of their leaders got a cash-out job in leafy Leawood. Hopefully a McMansion, too. But for most of the rest of them it’s crumbling schools and dwindling services and the huge expressionless face of the local ag monopoly, remorselessly bidding down the labor of their neighbors. Before they vote again for that prayerful fellow who makes such a show of genuflecting before Mammon the great and powerful, they need to consider: maybe this guy’s got the wrong god.
Fittingly or ironically, the only thing that now can save the fanatically anti-abortion rights governor is sex and his shouts of Obama! Obama! The strip club incident occurred almost a long time ago, but the Governor to the 1% needs a titillating diversion to divert attention from the privatization regime (The Young Turks video below) he's destroying his state with.