WICHITA, Kan. - Over 100 citizens from the Wichita metro area and people throughout Kansas met in Chisholm Creek Park to exercise their freedom of speech by protesting KOCH Industries on October 29th, 2011.
This historic rally and march was organized by a new grassroots group called "Kansans United in Voice & Spirit " with the goal of bringing together, "Concerned citizens of Kansas united to support, advocate for and protect valuable state services, programs and policies." Founders Tamara Werth and Cyrstal McComas, want to preserve such communist inspired programs like public education, Medicaid and assisting abused and neglected children. They understand that further cuts by the Kansas State Legislature and Governor Brownback will decimate the lives of Kansans just barely holding on.
The mobilization weekend events were part of a state wide grassroots effort beginning first in Kansas City then followed by a meeting in Lawrence, Kansas. People in attendance listened to speakers discuss how radical changes already in the works could drastically alter the quality of life for vulnerable Kansans and the middle class.
The mobilization effort then transformed into action in Wichita as the organization sponsored a march and rally at Koch Industries, who epitomize corporate influence in the political process. This powerhouse of money and connections was targeted due to its offshoot groups like American's For Prosperity, the Kansas Public Institute and ALEC(American legislative Exchange Council) that have radically altered the political process in America. These shadow groups are writing policies for state legislators to implement new laws (think Voter I.D. laws, stripping labor unions from collective bargaining rights) providing talking points for conservative politicians and making donations to conservative politicians.(Brownback received $20,000 in political donations from Koch.)
There is nothing wrong with Koch Industries making a profit. Corporations however, should not control government by writing laws that will increase their profits while hurting the middle class and making it difficult for Americans to thrive. The Koch brothers have every right to be part of the political discourse but they use the profits from their business to create a kind of underground government of Think Tanks and policy institutes to manipulate the political process and offer up findings that always help their business while harming the environment or preventing government from passing regulations for the public good. If this continues,we can hardly claim to be a democracy but will have to call our government a plutocracy.(Rule by the wealthy)
In Tony Carrk's article, "The Koch Brothers", he noted how the Kochs have donated directly to 62 of 87 freshman GOP congressman in 2010, and to 13 governors who won their elections. These are not representatives of the people, but men and women in the service of Koch Industries. Republicans elected to Congress in 2010 have refused to compromise to help the people and the nation. Their ideology streams from the Koch philosophy that government should only provide for capitalists. Make no mistake, this philosophy underscores everything behind Koch Industries. The Koch anti-tax ideology shatters the long held belief that government was instituted for the welfare of the people.
After the march in Wichita, the local television newscasts posted comments on their website. Comments ranged from calling the protesters "whiners", "losers", to lazy people who should just get a job and leave poor Koch Industries alone. Interestingly, any group which challenges cuts in programs that would hurt quality of life for the poor, are denigrated as moochers. These old smear tactics are just pathetic.
Supporters who assembled for the rally and march in Wichita included people from all walks of life. There were professionals, laborers, as well as students, children and special needs individual. With their homemade signs, those who gathered at Chisholm Park marched nearly 1 mile, and those who gathered in a residential neighborhood marched nearly 2.5 miles to stand together in front of Koch Industries. Like something out of a police state, Koch security guards dressed in pale gray slacks and pale green polo shirts were busy filming the demonstrators and taking pictures as a police helicopter made several passes over the rally. The message from Koch Industries was clear: intimidate and make these people think twice for having the nerve to protest in Koch's own backyard.
Clearly, moderate, sensible politics is dead in Kansas. And remember, things can always get worse. The cuts that are coming will leave Kansas no more than a hollowed out shell of its former self. The only thing that can stop this from happening are the voters rejecting such politics in November of 2012. And it is the people the marchers, the demonstrators who can be a catalyst to wake up the average citizen who is uninformed and not paying attention. If groups like Kansans United can raise awareness of just what is really happening in the state, the people can defeat those who want to turn the state of Kansas into a corporate owned subsidiary of Koch.
Davis Burress, President and lead economist with Ad Astra Institute of Kansas provided the chilling facts about the efforts to cut and rearrange the tax structure in Kansas. While Brownback is still very secretive with his new tax proposals, overall, middle class Kansans would see an increase in their taxes but it would be lower for the wealthiest families in Kansas. The middle class would have lower income taxes but higher property taxes and sales taxes.
The figures become very scary regarding cutting tax revenues. Burress stated that if just 50% of income tax revenues are cut, this would mean the state of Kansas would lose $1.2 billion dollars in revenue! Even if there was a statewide sales tax enacted to make up for this loss, say a 1.8% increase, that would only make up HALF of the amount lost to the tax revenue cuts.
Why is this so devastating to the lives of ALL Kansans? Cuts to public schools have been deep and placed schools back to 1991 funding levels regarding spending per pupil. When adjusted for inflation, schools are currently at the 1982 level. A decrease in income taxes by 50% could be take Kansas schools back an additional 10 years.
Currently Kansas ranks 15 out of 50 states in seniors' graduating from highs school, but we certainly could not maintain that high number if budget cuts continue. Parents already know the effects of these budget cuts on their children; larger classes, less extra-curricular courses and activities-such as foreign languages and theater are gone. Looming before Kansas taxpayers will be the cost of lawsuits for failing to adequately fund education in Kansas.
Who would want to move to the desert regions of western Kansas or anywhere in Kansas, when there will no longer be good public schools or NEA funding of art programs in the state? Kansas will be nothing but a bowl of oil, gas, dust and poverty after the evangelical republicans have brought their New World Order into being. Brownback is playing with fire to develop, direct and operate this secret and interlocking series of laws and programs that will impoverish the people of Kansas.
Kansans can look forward to higher sales tax, higher property taxes, cuts in funding for child abuse/neglect and domestic violence programs, medicaid cuts, closing of healthcare facilities that dispense contraceptives, greatly restricting access to abortions by impossible regulations, and high unemployment across the state, especially in education when Brownback's new restructuring of the tax system is put in place.
And, what could possibly be the motive to make such drastic cuts in public education? There are two reasons. One is ideological and the other is practical. First, conservatives view public education as a secular/liberal propaganda hothouse and would be delighted to shut down the very institution that attempts to level the playing field for all classes. The only schools conservatives want to thrive are religious and private. In the colonial era, only the most wealthy or connected were educated in America. Many conservatives today believe only the most worthy should be educated and not the masses. Besides, public schools allow too many radical ideas to be discussed. Without government interference, private schools could indoctrinate students with bogus history such as the idea that America was founded as a Christian government and that capitalism sits at the right hand of God. The bonus in doing away with public schools is that conservatives wouldn't have to pay to educate the children of the poor.
Second, imagine how quickly life would change for millions of Americans. Climbing the economic and social ladder would be impossible. In short, there would be massive numbers of poor worker bees all too grateful to have a job from their large benevolent employers who by this point would have destroyed any unions or trivial benefits like healthcare to become even wealthier.
Many years ago I thought the talk about the republicans wanting to end the use of all contraceptives as hyperbole. Today, if you think it is hyperbole that public schools could be so gutted that they become unsustainable-think again.
To stand up to the radical conservative agenda that is destroying good government in Kansas, go to www.kansansunited.org and be a part of this important grassroots effort.