Playing off its role in The Wizard of Oz and pretending that there is much to see and do there, Kansas bills itself as “the land of ahs.” But take it from someone who was born and raised in southeast Kansas: besides the University of Kansas Jayhawks basketball program, there aren’t many things in the state that make you go ah.
Except when it comes to following its race-to-the-bottom politics, where you can experience a lot of take-your-breath-away moments.
I’ve written a lot about what Governor Sam Brownback and a hellish host of reactionary legislators have done to Kansas, so I won’t go over all that again. I just want to catch you up on the latest.
Beginning on July 1 of this year, if you live in Kansas and want to carry a concealed weapon, you don’t need a permit. Heck, you don’t even need any training. Just pass a background check and you are good to go. Surrounded by NRA hacks, Brownback signed the bill into law on Thursday. It allows those 21 and older to pack hidden heat all over the state. And one genius, who happens to be president of the Kansas State Rifle Association, can’t wait until she can get the law changed again:
“I believe we can lower the age to 18 at some point in the future. I think after everybody sees that there are not going to be any of the dire predictions coming true, and they relax a little bit, then we can talk about that.”
Yes. And when we all relax over allowing 18-year-olds to carry guns in their jeans in high school, then we can move on to middle school kids. Then grade school. Little Tommy can pack his little pistol in his little lunch box and have a little Second Amendment fun at recess. The land of ahs, indeed.
On the budget deficit problems in Kansas, which Brownback and the extremists in his party created by passing drastic cuts in income taxes that went mostly to wealthy people, the governor has decided how he is going to fund government:
In case you don’t know what that means, it means that the burden of funding Kansas government will fall on the working poor and middle class, who have to spend all or most of their income on goods and services. What Republicans have done and are doing in Kansas regarding taxes should be a national scandal. It should be as controversial as anything Republicans did in Indiana or Arkansas regarding their attempt to take away civil rights from non-heterosexuals. But it isn’t. I guess people are used to it by now. The rich control the Republican Party. The Republican Party controls the Kansas legislature and the governor’s mansion. And, of course, it is those without money who suffer. No big deal.
Oh, here’s another ah for you:
Yes. It is true. But there is more. In Kansas, if you get Temporary Assistance for Needy Families—and Christian Sam Brownback and his godly legislature have already made it tougher to get and keep: only 15,000 families received such benefits last year—you get your assistance via state-issued debit cards. Nothing wrong with that. A lot of states do it. But no other state does what Kansas want to do:
Kansas welfare recipients will be unable to get more than $25 per day in benefits under a new law sent this week to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s desk by the state legislature…Under the new rule, a three-person family receiving the maximum benefit would have to go to the ATM more than a dozen times to get the full benefit, which would be whittled away by an 85 cent fee for each withdrawal after the first one. And the local cruise liner ATM will no longer be an option.
Liz Schott, associated with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, emailed HuffPo and said:
“This provision makes it nearly impossible for a recipient who does not have a checking account to pay rent. Moreover, it actually takes money from the pockets of poor families since they will need to pay 85 cents for each additional withdrawal after the first one in a month, and often more with ATM transaction fees.”
So, Kansas Republicans cut taxes on the rich, are considering raising taxes on goods and services that working people spend most of their money on, and are penalizing the few poor people able to qualify for stingy government benefits by making them go to an ATM and pay a fee a dozen times a month. That is truly breathtaking stuff.
But there is one more political ah worth noting. The Associated Press reported on Thursday:
Two school districts plan to end the academic year early to save money, citing financial pressures caused by reduced state aid for this academic year.