As much as possible, I try to ignore Kansas. It’s a dull disaster of a state, and Sam Brownback is unequivocally one of the worst administrators to ever inhabit in a governor’s mansion. (It’s a small miracle he was re-elected in 2014 — and he wouldn’t have if the Democratic nominee, Paul Davis of Lawrence, could have demonstrated he had a pulse.)
And yet I can’t entirely ignore the damn state. I live a block from State Line Road; I frequently shop at the Hy-Vee at 77th and State Line; we occasionally go to restaurants there; and, most important, a minor but valued part of my income hinges on secondary-education funding in Kansas.
After retiring from The Star in 2006, I enrolled in Avila’s teacher certification program, and since 2008 — when I got my certification — I’ve been a substitute teacher in the Shawnee Mission School District. I teach Language Arts, usually in high schools. It’s a great job, paying $135 a day. The assignments are handled by phone and computer, and I can make myself unavailable for any days or periods of time that I choose. The substitute coordinator doesn’t hold it against you if you make yourself unavailable for weeks at a time; she’s just glad to have you whenever you can jump in and fill a void.
As a result, when I read about each round of cutbacks in government funding in Kansas — the latest was yesterday — I cringe because I envision secondary education taking a big hit and SMSD subsequently announcing it is either cutting the number of subs or slicing their pay.
So, I was relieved when I read in today’s Star that the latest round of budget cuts hits higher education but not secondary. Too bad for the universities but, frankly, I’m more concerned about my extra piece of bacon at the breakfast table.
…But I’m not completely selfish. In the bigger picture, the most maddening thing, once again, is a new round of cuts for Medicaid funding. Those on Medicaid — the poorest Kansans — aren’t thinking about an extra piece of bacon; they’re worried how they’re going to get treatment for such things as pneumonia, flu and accidental injuries and how they’re going to get needed surgical procedures.
By refusing to expand Medicaid (of course Missouri did the same thing), Kansas has already turned its back on more than $1 billion in federal funding, and after yesterday’s cuts, Medicaid funding will be reduced by another $50 million or so. How that will trickle down is that doctors and hospitals will receive less on the front end, and then they will either refuse or not be able to treat as many Medicaid patients.
As former Kansas governor (and former U.S. Health and Human Services secretary) Kathleen Sebelius told The Star, “I think the result is likely to be that more doctors will just refuse to take Medicaid patients. In the long run I think it is a very shortsighted way to save money.”
This fellow Brownback has got to be one of the cruelest, most callous people to ever run a government. He has simply decided, in effect, “to hell with the poor.” He figures they don’t vote (unfortunately he’s right), and they’re mostly out of sight and irrelevant. Brownback wants to lend a helping hand not to the poor but to those who run corporations, those who have proprietorships and LLC’s (like Kansas basketball coach Bill Self), and people who work as independent contractors. Yeah, the people who make a lot of money and can always use a little more and then might turn around and up their political contributions to the good Republicans who put a lot more bacon on their tables.
…One night back in the mid-2000s, when Sebelius was governor of Kansas and Matt Blunt (another stuffed-shirt Republican) was governor of Missouri, we saw Sebelius and her husband Gary at Knuckleheads Saloon in northeast Kansas City. There they were, out on the dance floor with us regular folks, laughing and drinking and dancing. Between songs, the band leader introduced Sebelius as “the good governor,” distinguishing her from Blunt. The line got a big laugh, and the crowd applauded her.
What are the chances, do you think, of seeing Brownback at Knuckleheads some night? And what do you think the crowd reaction would be if he did show up? I would hope the band leader would have the spunk to call him “the bad governor,” to distinguish him from Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, who isn’t all that good, but at least isn’t the asshole Brownback is.