Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R), who campaigned on reducing poverty, has instead presided over a steady increase in his state’s poverty rate, new Census figures reveal.
The poverty rate in Kansas was 13.6 percent in 2010, the year Brownback campaigned for the governor’s mansion on a five-point Road Map for Kansas that included a promise to reduce child poverty. It climbed to 13.8 percent in 2011 and hit 14 percent in 2012 in Census data released Thursday. Data specific to child poverty for last year is not yet out, but the the Annie E. Casey Foundation reported this summer that child poverty in the state had reached a new record high in 2011, with 134,000 children — 19 percent of the state’s total — impoverished.
Those results may violate Brownback’s campaign promise, but they are the natural result of the policies he has advanced and signed into law. He cut 15,000 people off the welfare rolls, a majority of whom were children. He slashed child tax credits aimed at the working poor. He eliminated tax rebates for food and rent that were targeted at his state’s poorest residents. He made the income tax more regressive, cutting taxes for the rich and raising them for the poor. Two weeks ago, he announced a change to the state’s food stamp rules that will boot 20,000 unemployed Kansans from that crucial anti-poverty program.
In tandem with those concrete budgetary steps, Brownback convened a Task Force On Reducing Childhood Poverty in November of 2012 to propose “innovative and groundbreaking ways to reduce childhood poverty.” When it finally reported back this month, its 27-page report included just six pages of actual recommendations for reducing childhood poverty. The ideas themselves were neither innovative, testable, nor practical, according to critics like Betsy Cauble of Kansas State University. The task force recommendations included multiple points about promoting family values and the importance of fatherhood. Its other primary area of focus was education, which a federal judge says the state is illegally underfunded by hundreds of millions of dollars under Brownback’s budgets.