Fish in a Barrel

The Republicans in the Kansas Legislature deserve all the rhetorical stones thrown their way these days. The same goes for our GOP Governor. Criticizing people who combine religious zeal with abject stupidity amounts to a simple project, the proverbial shooting of fish in a barrel. For those unfamiliar with the Sunflower State's travails, somehow (contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of the Kansas Republicans) slashing income taxes--preferentially on the wealthy, of course--has only lead to a collapse in state revenue and a budget crisis. "Non-essential" state employees face a furlough starting Monday. This predictable outcome shocks our elected leaders, because their prophets have long promised just the opposite, that the only way to increase tax revenues was to cut tax rates.

Contrary to both evidence and reason, this tax-cutting fervor motivated the Kansas Governor and Legislature to take a challenging economic and budget situation in 2011-12 and make it worse. It's as if the time my daughter got into a minor fender bender I had decided the way to fix the car was to beat the shit out of it with a sledgehammer. And then been shocked when the resulting wreck didn't fix itself.

After sundown, I can see flashes of cognitive dissonance on the horizon shooting up from Topeka. They look a little like the northern lights, only stupider from the cuts to education budgets.

Complaining about the yahoos in Topeka is like shooting fish in a barrel. The problem is, we're actually the fish in this scenario, and the water is draining from our barrel.

We're the parents and grandparents of school aged children. We're the public university students and employees. We drive on the public roads of Kansas. We rely upon a functioning civil society without even thinking about it, assuming that the insurance we buy for our cars is regulated and that courts exist to handle our case if we are harmed unjustly.

We expect the water in the little barrel called Kansas to be the wholesome water we've relied upon for so long. Some of us moved here years ago because the water was superior to that in other barrels, thanks to decades of boringly pragmatic government. We were happy to pay our share of taxes to keep the water in our barrel clean and pure.

Those days of boringly pragmatic government have ended; now we have committed ideologues running the state. They're against water on principle, so they're trying to drain our barrel.