Policy: Economy

Big Ideas: On libertarians, Kansas' taxes and inequality

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Education,Taxes,Republican Party,Libertarian Party,Kansas,PennAve,Joseph Lawler,Economy,Think Tanks

David Kirby for Cato at Liberty: During his ironman 21-hour speech, Sen. Ted Cruz read excerpts from Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged," name-dropped “libertarians” at least six times, and yielded to Sen. Rand Paul, who invoked Frederic Bastiat's “What is Seen and Unseen,” a favorite among libertarians.

Ted Cruz, who retained remarkable composure over the long night, seems in all things deliberate. Political leaders seem to have become more comfortable talking about libertarians, even identifying themselves as such. Libertarians may have reached a tipping point within the Republican Party.

Last week, a FreedomWorks study on public opinion found that libertarian views within the Republican Party are at the highest point in a decade, today representing 41 percent of Republican voters. ...

Paul calls himself a “libertarian-leaning Republican.” Glenn Beck now considers himself libertarian, saying “I’m a lot closer to Penn Jillette than I am to Chuck Hagel.” Matt Drudge recently tweeted his frustration with Republicans on Syria, saying it’s now “authoritarian vs. libertarian.” According to FreedomWorks’ poll, only 10 percent of Republicans “don’t know” the word libertarian, compared to 27 percent nationally.

The data confirm that libertarian views may well have reached a tipping point in the Republican Party.

 

KANSAS TESTS THE FRONTIERS OF TAX CUTS

Michael Leachman for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: No state did more to cut taxes in 2012 than Kansas, and no governor proclaimed as loudly as Kansas' Sam Brownback that tax cuts would have minimal negative impact on public services. So it's worth looking at what our recent 50-state report on state K-12 funding trends found about Kansas:

In fiscal year 2014, the first full year since Kansas’ massive income tax cuts (targeted largely to the wealthy) took effect, Kansas cut general state aid for schools per pupil by 2.6 percent (or $129). That’s the third-biggest drop in the country. Most states (35) raised general aid this year to offset some of the cuts in previous years.

Kansas’ cut this year came on top of large earlier cuts. Since the recession hit, the state’s general aid for schools per pupil has plummeted by 16.5 percent, also the third-biggest decline in the country. That amounts to a cut of $950 per student. ...

Kansas schools have had to make a number of changes to cope with the state funding cuts. For example, the Shawnee Mission School District outside Kansas City has closed an elementary school and two middle schools, increased class sizes, cut music programs, and put off buying new library books. It’s eliminated hundreds of staff positions — including teachers, coaches, librarians, and counselors. And it’s shifted costs to parents by raising the fee for attending kindergarten, creating a new high school activity fee and raising bus fees.

As Kansas’ huge, irresponsible tax cuts continue to depress state revenues in the years ahead, they’ll make reversing the school aid cuts — let alone making new investments in early childhood education or other promising areas — nearly impossible.

 

ONE TRICK TO REDUCE INEQUALITY

David Callahan for Demos' Policy Shop: America's huge income gaps are routinely described as unavoidable, thanks to large structural forces like globalization and technological change. Skilled labor has become worth more, unskilled labor is worth less, and that's that.

Of course, though, we know that story is incomplete. Any number of public policies have also fanned inequality, like giving big tax breaks to the rich, and any number of policies could help close the income gap.

Consider one super easy thing Congress could do tomorrow to reduce inequality: Create more equal pay in the federal government's own workforce.

I'm not talking about career civil servants, but rather the hundreds of thousands of Americans who work for government contractors doing everything from building jet fighters to changing bed pans.

Earlier this year, Demos published a report -- "Underwriting Bad Jobs" -- that found that 560,000 Americans employed by direct federal contractors were paid $12 or less an hour, which is essentially a poverty wage. Another 1.5 million people whose jobs are supported by Medicare, Medicaid and other government programs also earned such low wages.

Federal spending, Demos found, underwrites more lousy poverty jobs than Walmart and McDonald's combined!

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