The same Tea Party that handed the House of Representatives to Republicans in 2010 also elevated Sam Brownback to the Kansas governor’s mansion and gave him GOP majorities to work with.
In short order, they slashed income taxes for the wealthy, repealed taxes for tens of thousands of businesses, privatized Medicaid delivery, and slashed hundreds of millions of dollars from the state education budget. The results speak for themselves. Tax cuts starved the state for revenue, earning it massive deficits with little additional job growth. Those deficits sparked a fiscal crisis, forcing painful cuts to higher education and other essential services.
Similar policies brought similar results to Louisiana under Gov. Bobby Jindal. During his two terms, Jindal slashed taxes on the wealthy, cut social services, and borrowed to make up the difference. To deal with years of massive budget shortfalls—$1.6 billion in 2015, Jindal’s final year in office—Louisiana has cut funding from education, health care, and criminal defense services, including $800 million from Medicaid services for the elderly and $142 million in funding for hospitals. Students face tuition hikes, and the poor are set to lose more services and assistance.
Despite the ruinous results in our laboratories of democracy, Republicans want to bring these policies to the nation at large. GOP leaders are planning strategies for how to repeal the Affordable Care Act, slash upper-income and corporate tax rates, and end the tax on wealthy estates.
They seek a full rollback of Obama-era regulations on climate and employment and want to turn Medicaid into a series of “block grants” that would cut the program beyond recognition in states with hostile legislatures. They want to cut food stampsand other forms of income assistance, while adding tough new requirements for eligibility. They want to free banks to resume predatory lending and—assuming they find the support—want to turn Medicare into a series of vouchers, while also reducing the amount of money that goes into the program.
Taken together, congressional Republicans want to roll back government to what it was before Lyndon Johnson, not just Barack Obama, and from Kansas, Louisiana, and other GOP-controlled states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and North Carolina, we have a good idea of what the results will be. Trump’s ascension promises a radical, and potentially disastrous, reordering of American governance. Millions will lose assistance—siphoned for the sake of tax cuts—and millions more will face the brunt of a policy agenda that gets most of its funds from cuts to programs for poor and working families.
Observers from across the political spectrum are, for good reason, focused on the most extraordinary elements of Trump and his impending administration—the corruption, the demagoguery, the dishonesty, the racism. But we shouldn’t forget that the more “ordinary” part of the next four years, the Republican domestic policy agenda, is just as radical, just as extraordinary.