A toe-tapping song from the hit musical “The Wiz” offers lyrics as apropos in today’s Kansas as it was in 1978.
“If you’re gonna bring me something, bring me something I can use. But don’t you bring me no bad news,” sang Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West. She was used to getting her way, she wanted Dorothy’s slippers, and most definitely did not want to hear anything contrary to her goal.
While Gov. Sam Brownback should never be cast as the Wicked Witch — he’s more the Great and Powerful Oz type — the two do possess similar traits. The governor’s used to getting his way, desperately wants his red-state experiment to succeed, and won’t tolerate opposing views or even facts that illustrate clouds are blocking a sun he still insists is shining.
The bar keeps getting set lower. High school students visiting the Statehouse being admonished for social media commentary. Intra-party purges during elections. Department heads offering personal doctrine on state websites. Job candidates in the Capitol being screened for loyalty instead of skill sets and legitimate credentials.
The latest bout of crazy-town is the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors no longer posting economic indicators on its website. As revealed in a Topeka Capital-Journal report, council members believed the quarterly reports being available to the public allowed certain numbers to be taken “out of context and misconstrued.”
The “Indicators of the Kansas Economy” report examines statistics such as personal income, unemployment, wages, business filings, oil production, sales tax collections, consumer prices, gross state product and population.
Pretty standard stuff, in our opinion. But Stan Ahlerich, executive director of the council, said the report was “the subject of careless scrutiny.”
We believe the only careless scrutiny taking place with these figures is by the governor’s administration. Eliminating income taxes for businesses and individuals has not proven to be a successful stimulant for the economy. Judging by the debt load increases, reduced credit ratings and the largest tax increase in state history passed earlier this year, there aren’t many numbers that show Brownback’s plan is working.
“We’re not keeping pace with the region or the country,” said Annie McKay, executive director of the Kansas Center for Economic Growth. “This trend is going to continue as long as we stay on this path.”
This administration must believe if it can hide the negative statistics from the public, or at least make them more difficult to obtain, it will be easier to make people believe “the sun is shining in Kansas.”
The information will continue to be uncovered, and presented to citizens more inclined to believe in the magic of an Emerald City. They don’t want bad news, either.
But just as in “The Wiz” and the original “Wizard of Oz,” the wizard’s curtain has been drawn back. Will we actually pay attention to the man standing behind it — or will we continue blindly to accept what he is saying?
Editorial by Patrick Lowry