Trump Liberates Kansas from the Governor who Wrecked its Economy

Alan Pyke

Alan Pyke Deputy Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

Kansas won’t have Sam Brownback to kick around anymore.

The second-term Republican governor who wrecked his state’s economy and ruined the education system to give rich Kansans a tax break will quit his job to accept a new posting as Ambassador-At-Large for International Religious Freedom.

Brownback’s nomination marks the second time President Donald Trump has tried to help the onetime presidential hopeful move on from the economic and political crisis he fueled on the High Plains. The first — a cushier gig in Rome working on food policy — fell through a couple months before Brownback’s political situation went from “bad” to “humiliating.”

The recent nomination, announced by the White House on Wednesday, is a political bailout for Brownback. The governor now leapfrogs a shortlist of experts Trump’s team had already prepared in order to run away from his failures that have harmed the quality of human life in his home state.

Brownback’s governorship was defined by what he called a “real, live experiment” in extreme right-wing fiscal policy, a version of Reaganesque trickle-down ideology with the volume knob turned to 11. The state all but eliminated taxes for the wealthy, not just slashing rates but allowing anyone who could afford some creative accounting to pretend to be a small business and start paying zero percent state income tax.

The experiment was supposed to jolt the state’s floundering economy, luring jobs at such a fast clip that nobody would mind Brownback gutting the budget for public services like schools, hospitals, and work training facilities.

It didn’t.

Kansas remained in the bottom tier of states on economic measures. The state’s schools — already so badly underfunded when Brownback took office that the state Supreme Court had ordered lawmakers to add millions of dollars to the system — quickly became a parody of banana-republic failure. Nurses who couldn’t buy ice packs anymore took to putting sponges in the kitchen freezer. Administrators warned they’d have to cut school years short.

The problem with Brownback’s tax scheme is that everyone already knows it doesn’t work.

Brownback was re-elected despite the early evidence that his tax policies were gutting the state’s ability to provide Kansans with any of the services they pay for. But when the fiscal bleeding didn’t stop, both voters and the governor’s elected allies turned on him. The legislature dealt Brownback a series of policy rebukes through the winter and spring, culminating in an early June vote to roll back his platform and raise taxes by some $1.2 billion over the coming years.

It wasn’t long ago that Brownback was widely regarded as a likely GOP presidential nominee. He had received glowing marks from hard-right conservative groups throughout his long Senate tenure. A smooth retail politician who could put a charming aw-shucks spin on just about any regressive right-wing idea about poverty, women’s bodily sovereignty, and sexual orientation, Brownback seemed poised to take the Republican mantle after former Massachussetts Governor Mitt Romney ran for president in 2012.

Now, Brownback is fleeing for a State Department job that’s all but anonymous.

Brownback will still be in position to do significant harm. The Trump team reportedly intends for its religious liberty ambassador to set the kind of hard line on relations with the Muslim world that former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush explicitly avoided so as not to conflate the violent fringe elements within Islam with the planet’s 1.6 billion Muslims. The office Brownback will run has long been viewed as a do-nothing job, but religious and foreign policy actors are eager to change that.

In accepting the position, Brownback gets a new lease on political life. A few years traveling to international meetings and preaching the gospel of Trump might just mean that people forget what a mess he made when Kansans gave him power. Spend some time out of the spotlight after a debacle, and it’s much easier to come storming back at just the right moment to be viewed as a hero.


Reposted from ThinkProgress

Alan Pyke is the Deputy Economic Policy Editor for Before coming to ThinkProgress, he was a blogger and researcher with a focus on economic policy and political advertising at Media Matters for America, American Bridge 21st Century Foundation, and He previously worked as an organizer on various political campaigns from New Hampshire to Georgia to Missouri. His writing on music and film has appeared on TinyMixTapes, IndieWire’s Press Play, and TheGrio, among other sites.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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