Red-state radicalism hastens rural decline
Republican radicalism thrives here in Kansas, the reddest of red states, and within our state, in the reddest counties, and our brand of red-state radicalism does not bode especially well for the future of rural Kansas.
The antics of Kansas Congressman Tim Huelskamp, who represents many of the state’s rural residents, threaten the federal spending on which these Kansans heavily rely. And Gov. Sam Brownback’s perilous experiment in eliminating the state income tax has placed state services in jeopardy and eventually will push more school funding onto property taxes, driving the high property tax burdens of rural residents even higher. Curiously, voters in the reddest counties of Kansas cheer the loudest for both Huelskamp and Brownback.
Recent news stories in the Kansas City Star and the Boston Globe highlight the hypocrisy of red-state radicalism. The Star found the fiercest critics of federal spending also were big-time “takers” of federal spending. The Star focused on Sumner County, part of the Wichita metropolitan area, and reported in 2010 “the U.S. government spent roughly $189 million in Sumner County, almost $7,900 for every man, woman and child who lives here. That’s an estimated 40 (percent) to 50 percent more, on average, than each county resident paid in federal taxes.”
The Globe reporter traveled to Hodgeman County in rural southwest Kansas and interviewed residents attending a public forum for Huelskamp and later at a downtown coffee klatch in the county seat of Jetmore. Those interviewed applauded their congressman for saying “no” to federal spending and refusing to compromise on spending even with leaders of his own party. His obstinance got him booted from the House Agriculture Committee last year, leaving Kansas without a representative on the committee for the first time in memory.
Hodgeman County might provide a useful prism for viewing federal spending in rural Kansas, as more than half of the state’s 105 counties have fewer than 7,000 residents.