The GOP presidential primary has offered some odd debates on who cares about the "very poor" and whether there should be a "safety net" or a "trampoline" to help people get out of poverty. Meanwhile, in Kansas, it seems Governor Sam Brownback is hoping to dig a bigger hole for the poor fall into. Between his tax plans and his approaches to school funding, Brownback's agenda overtly boosts the wealthy and makes things harder for the poor. While many liberals speculate this to be a secret goal, Brownback is hardly making a secret of his agenda.
Currently, the Kansas Legislature is examining Brownback's plan to redesign education funding. The plan removes extra dollars for students who are more expensive to educate—those who must learn English or come from challenging backgrounds. Instead of providing funding based on the actual costs of education, Kansas would allow counties to raise property taxes and keep the revenue. That's great for wealthy districts with high property values and seriously damaging for poor districts where the tax base is relatively small. The plan would likely create enormous disparities between school districts, leaving students in poor communities with few good options among traditional schools. Meanwhile, wealthy school districts can likely spend more and more to make their schools top-notch.
While low-income kids would attend schools getting outpaced by wealthy counterparts, their parents would get to pay more in taxes. That's because the governor is also pushing a tax plan, approved by Reaganite Arthur Laffer, that would actually raise the total tax burden on those who make less than $25,000 a year. For the record, that's more than 40 percent of filers in the state. As I wrote last week, the plan not only raises taxes on the poor but also cuts government programs that target low-income Kansans, compounding the hit. Meanwhile, the biggest tax cut in the plan would go to the wealthiest residents, those making more than $250,000.
But perhaps most galling is that Brownback will not object to a new decision by the state's welfare officials that cuts off food-stamp benefits for U.S.-born children of undocumented workers. The decision leaves hundreds of American children without access to the program.
I should also mention that Brownback has long considered himself a "compassionate conservative." With his level of compassion, who needs safety nets, or as Newt Gingrich would say, "trampolines"?