Conservative Republicans bankrupt Kansas
The children are of course happy. Three wonderful weekend days instead of two, only four days of school every week instead of five. The US state of Oklahoma - a paradise for students.
In truth, however, it is a crisis. Oklahoma is a rural, very conservative state in the middle of the United States that has been ruled by the Republicans for years. And with missionary zeal, the party has cut taxes there again and again, the income has been reduced by tens of millions of dollars and the budget has been cut.
Now the state is struggling with a huge deficit. This affects education, among other things: arts, sports and foreign languages are either no longer taught at many schools due to a lack of money or only taught at an extra fee for the parents. And nearly a fifth of Oklahoma school districts have switched to a four-day week. Fewer school days - that means lower teachers' salaries and less spending on heating and cooling the school buildings or fueling the school buses.
Tax hikes: devil stuff for Republicans
In the face of the budget disaster, however, the Republicans in Oklahoma have done something that was unthinkable until recently: they increased taxes. A few days ago, Republican Governor Mary Fallin signed a corresponding budget law, and the tax increases came into effect on July 1. Among other things, energy companies are burdened significantly more because they are removed from tax advantages, and citizens have to pay higher taxes when buying new cars.
To understand how radical this move is, one has to look at Republican history. Ever since the tax-lowerer Ronald Reagan was president, at least for almost 30 years, the party adhered to the dogma that taxes are socialist devil stuff and must be reduced.
The economic logic that Republicans use to justify their fight against taxes is this: Lower taxes stimulate the economy. Citizens are spending more money, jobs are being created, and consumption is increasing.
In the end, the expectation is that the new economic growth will wash more taxes into the treasury than the cuts previously removed. So the tax cuts are self-financing.
The problem: In practice, the "self-financing" model rarely works as smoothly as it does in theory. And more and more often, even Republican politicians have to recognize the gap between theory and practice in the interests of their constituents and ensure a balance - through tax increases.
Oklahoma is no longer the only example of this. In the southern states of South Carolina and Tennessee, Republican parliaments have increased gasoline taxes in order to be able to spend more money on infrastructure or education.
Budget deficits are unconstitutional
Another, almost spectacular example is Oklahoma's neighboring state of Kansas - also very conservative, also ruled by Republicans who have massively cut taxes for years. And also practically broke.
Kansas is a special case, because the state has long been considered a kind of laboratory, a place where you can study what happens when Republicans do fiscal policy according to doctrine. The disappointing result: drastically falling revenues, which were by no means offset by more economic growth and new tax revenues.
In the next two years, the state threatens a deficit of $ 900 million. As in most US states, however, the Kansas Constitution stipulates a balanced budget, so the hole could not be filled by debt.
In June, the Republican-dominated parliament of Kansas decided against the opposition of the Republican Governor Sam Brownback, a tax increase with a volume of more than one billion dollars. Governor Brownback wanted to veto the law, but was overruled by his fellow party members.
A similar confrontation is currently looming in Illinois. Several Republicans have teamed up with the Democrats in the state parliament to force tax increases. The state is as good as bankrupt.
Even some Republicans are now enforcing tax increases
The new tax law provides, among other things, to increase local income tax, which many US states levy in addition to federal income tax. As in Kansas, Illinois Republican governor Bruce Rauner has vetoed it. So far it is unclear whether enough Republican MPs will rebel against him to overrule the objection.
The Republican tax hikes in the states contradict what the Republicans in Washington are calling for. President Donald Trump and the Republican leaders in the US Congress want big tax cuts, for both businesses and citizens.
It is still unclear how this will be paid for, because armament expenditure is also expected to increase significantly. But the American federal government has an advantage: unlike the states, whose budgets have to be balanced, they can take on new debt.
In addition, none other than Trump's chief strategist Stephen Bannon is reportedly in favor of something truly revolutionary: He wants to lower the tax burden on the middle class - counter-financed by tax increases for the rich.
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