The Kansas-California experiment

In 2010 Kansas elected extreme conservative Sam Brownback governor and put Tea Party Republicans in charge of the legislature. Together they passed a program of deep tax cuts and spending restrictions that they promised would quickly lead to a massive economic boom and bigger tax receipts.

At the same time, much more liberal California elected Jerry Brown governor and gave Democrats overwhelming control of the legislature.

We should obviously be wary of inferring too much from the results of this experiment, given the small sample size and how different the states are. But it’s still interesting that since then Kansas has done so much worse economically than have similar neighboring states. Plummeting revenues forced the state to slash education and other spending, and the legislature finally had to raise taxes, over Governor Brownback’s vetoes, to prevent bankruptcy.

(Brownback is no longer in office, having resigned in January to become the Trump administration’s ambassador-at-large on international religious freedom, an appointment criticized by religious freedom groups and one that required Vice President Pence’s tie-breaking vote to confirm.)

California, in contrast, is in excellent financial shape, with moderate taxes, an $8.8 billion state budget surplus, and a gross domestic product that has recently passed even that of the significantly more-populous United Kingdom. If California were an independent country, its economy would be the fifth largest in the world. In first place would be the remainder of the U.S., followed by China, Japan, and Germany. (Russia, by the way, is in 12th place, with an economy smaller than Canada’s.) For a list of countries by GDP see this link.

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