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SPOTLIGHT
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The GOP presents: Barack-nado

Published on -8/17/2014, 2:08 PM

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Soon to hit the megaplex is "Sharknado 2," the sequel to the so-bad-it's-kinda-good original 2013 made-for-TV blockbuster. The plot, so to speak, depends on sharks being lifted by a tornado and plopped down in L.A. Chaos ensues.

While "Sharknado 2" opens next week -- with a similar unbelievable storyline -- Kansans already are familiar with our own improbable story, Barack-nado.

To the GOP, President Barack Obama is more terrifying than land sharks. Obama is omnipresent -- in anti-Paul Davis ads and on the tip of Sam Brownback's tongue, as he blames Obama for everything from the huge revenue shortfall to his unknown opponent's 37-percent showing in the Republican primary.

Even though Kansas newspapers are having a field day in skewering this Obama obsession, it shows no signs of abating. Rather, we will see negative ads and twisted storylines, all aimed at linking Democrat Paul Davis to the president, whether these links are modest, tenuous or beyond belief.

Why are the GOP, its financial allies and Brownback all so fixated on Barack Obama? First, these scare tactics have worked before, especially in 2010. Second, and more important, they have nothing else. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

If the governor could run on a strong record in an overwhelmingly Republican state, his re-election would be inevitable. But that's impossible, given the results of his first term.

The Brownback record here is familiar, but crucial to remember, given the Republicans' attempts to ignore it.

To recap, we've had tax cuts that greatly benefitted the wealthiest Kansans and hurt the poorest. State income taxes were eliminated on approximately 200,000 businesses, so attorneys, doctors and out-of-state investors pay no taxes while fast-food employees and secretaries keep paying -- and sometimes more.

These tax cuts have led to plunging revenues, far beyond projections. A year from now, according to legislative research estimates, we essentially will be broke. This means more cuts are coming. And from where? From the places we spend the most, notably education at all levels.

The disappearing revenues have led to seven bond downgrades from two firms. We'll thus pay more for the money we must borrow and that already has been used to help "balance" the budget.

The FBI is investigating several individuals close to the governor. What's already come out is great pressure was placed upon lobbyists to help fund the 2012 purge of moderate Senate Republicans.

According to one study, Kansas was one of only three states to decrease the rate of health-care coverage, because we (a) turned back $31 million to set up our own exchange, and (b) refused to expand Medicaid, which would have covered 100,000 or so Kansans and proved an economic boon.

We have rising levels of childhood poverty and record numbers of kids in foster care.

And then there are the governor's consistently negative job approval ratings, the unlikely primary showing of Jennifer Winn, and a paltry re-elect number of 41 percent across several polls.

The governor and his supporters do, from time to time, make a case his programs have worked, but that's a tough sell because the plain facts (revenues, downgrades, etc.) present a much more persuasive, reality-based narrative.

So what's a governor to do? Barack-nado. But it's a tired old story, and one utterly disconnected from the realities of Kansas policies and budgeting.

"Sharknado 2" will have come and gone before the November election, but Barack-nado will continue to show up, unwelcome, on our screens, on our phones and in our mailboxes.

The 2010 original was boffo, to be sure. But it's 2014 and time to put away improbable storylines and outrageous hype. It's time to decide on the actual record of the past four years.

But never mind -- Barack-nado.

Burdett Loomis is a political science

professor at the University of Kansas and teaches a course on fiction, film and politics.

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