Caldwell

Patrick Caldwell

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Patrick Caldwell is a reporter in Mother Jones’ DC bureau. Previously, he covered domestic politics for The American Prospect and elections for The American Independent. His work has also appeared in The NationThe New Republic, and The Washington Independent. E-mail any and all tips to pcaldwell [at] motherjones [dot] com. Follow his tweets at @patcaldwell.

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Patrick Caldwell is a reporter in Mother Jones’ DC bureau. Previously, he covered all things domestic politics for The American Prospect and elections for The American Independent. His work has also appeared in The NationThe New Republic, and The Washington Independent. E-mail any and all tips to pcaldwell [at] motherjones [dot] com. Follow him on Twitter at @patcaldwell.

How Kansas Is Selling Sam Brownback's Failed Trickle-Down Tax Cuts

| Wed Oct. 1, 2014 3:38 PM EDT

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback's reelection campaign is in serious trouble. The latest poll has the incumbent Republican losing to his Democratic opponent by 4 percentage points.

As I explained in our November/December issue, Brownback's woes can largely be traced back to the drastic tax cuts for the wealthy that he pushed through the state legislature. Kansas' tax rate for top earners dropped from 6.45 to 4.9 percent, with further future cuts baked in. The cuts were even more generous for business owners, entirely wiping away their tax burden for pass-through income.

Brownback sold his tax cuts on supply-side promises of unbounded future growth, but the results have been less than stellar: While the state's unemployment rate, like the national jobless rate, has dropped over the past few years, Kansas' economic growth has lagged behind its neighbors'.

Despite these disappointing results, the state has settled on enticing out-of-state businesses with its low tax rate. Check out this full-page ad from the Kansas Department of Commerce, scanned from an issue of the US Small Business Administration's magazine Small Business Resource by a reader:

That ad's pitch—"one of the most pro-growth tax policies in the country" leads to "a perfect state"—lines up with the theories of free-market economist Arthur Laffer, the grand poobah of Ronald Reagan's trickle-down economics. Brownback cited Laffer's work to justify his cuts. During the thick of the legislative debate, he flew Laffer in for a three-day sales pitch, costing the state $75,000.

When I called Laffer in August, he excitedly proclaimed that Brownback's cuts would prove a resounding success. "I'll make you a very large bet that Kansas will improve its relative position to the US over, let's say, eight years, hands down. I'll bet you with great odds," he told me. "I feel very confident that what Sam Brownback has done is and will be extraordinarily beneficial for the state of Kansas."

As Laffer saw it, low tax rates would entice out-of-state residents and businesses to relocate. Laffer himself had moved to Tennessee sight unseen nine years ago, fleeing from California because of the Volunteer State's lack of income tax. "In someplace like Kansas, I don't think the income tax makes any sense whatsoever," Laffer said. "That's what we're trying to move toward in Kansas. The income tax is a killer."

Except that magical migration hasn't developed yet. In August, the state added just 900 jobs, with a tepid growth rate of just half a percent for the full year. Maybe I should have made that bet with Laffer.

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Sam Brownback's Administration Is Auctioning Off Some Incredibly NSFW Sex Toys

| Thu Sep. 25, 2014 4:16 PM EDT

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback drove his state into the gutter with a string of income tax cuts that were among the largest in history. As I explained in my story on Brownback's struggling campaign, many typical Republican voters turned against the governor after it became clear that his trickle-down promises of wild economic growth looked a lot more like a sop to the state's richest denizens, such as Charles Koch.

State revenues have regularly come in below projections this year. The state legislature's nonpartisan numbers crunchers expect a $238 million budget deficit by summer 2016, and things will only grow worse as further tax cuts go into effect. How is the state going to make up the difference? Perhaps by getting into the sex toy business. From the Topeka Capital-Journal:

Kansas state government is on the verge of a financial windfall with the auctioning of thousands of sex toys seized by the revenue department for nonpayment of income, withholding and sales taxes, an official said Wednesday.

Online shoppers for adult DVDs, novelty items, clothing and other products can participate in a bonanza shopping experience resulting from the four-county raid on a Kansas company known as United Outlets LLC.

Owner Larry Minkoff, who was doing business under the Bang label, apparently resisted requests from the Kansas Department of Revenue for payment of $163,986 in state taxes.

...

The online site lists about 400 lots — individual lots can contain dozens of items — that include the Pipedream Fantasy Love Swing, books, hundreds of DVDs, sex and drinking games, a wide assortment of sexually oriented equipment, carrying cases for devices, the Glass Pleasure Wand, bundles of lingerie and the Cyberskin Foot Stroker.

Kansas officials explained to the Capital-Journal that this is the standard operating procedure when businesses can't pay off their tax debts, though the list of available wares is a bit more colorful than usual.

The full online auction is available here, (that link takes you to the entry landing page, but should you venture past that it becomes quite NSFW).

Online Auction
The "Booty Parlor Good Girl Bad Girl Wrist Cuffs," one of the few SFW images we could find in the auction Equip-Bid

The timing isn't ideal for Brownback, though, as he's been busy trying to capitalize on a racey scandal involving his Democratic opponent. Last week the Coffeyville Journal, a small-town, twice-weekly paper that lacks a website, revealed that in 1998, Brownback challenger Paul Davis had been at a strip club when the cops showed up in a drug raid. Davis, 26 at the time, counted the club owner among his firm's legal clients, though at the time cops busted down the door he was receiving a lap dance from a topless dancer.

Davis wasn't charged or implicated in the drug dealings, but Brownback's camp has been using the incident to smear the Democrat as out of step with heartland values. Now that the Brownback administration has gotten into the sex toys business, that could be a tougher sell.

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