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Sen. Mark Steffen's complaints about "The Man" sounds like, well, me.
I knew I was going to write something today. I just never imagined it would be about how Sen. Mark Steffen and I agree on something.
But imagine my surprise when I came across a video from Sen. Mark Steffen lamenting the fact that some of the best financed companies and organizations in Kansas have undo influence in the Kansas Legislature.
I could give you the laundry list of all the things I deeply dislike about Sen. Steffen and the way he’s conducted himself during his time in office.
But I’ll instead focus on the fact that Mark Steffen is now sounding very much like me. And not just the 2023 version of me - the 2013 version of me back when Sam Brownback was governor and there were almost no Democrats in the Kansas legislature.
While Steffen makes a few half-hearted attempts to lay the blame at the feet of Kansas Democrats and Gov. Laura Kelly, it’s clear that he knows the truth - and he says as much. The richest businesses largely get what they want in Topeka - and the cost of what they want is borne out by Kansas taxpayers.
It’s on this we agree. There is a serious problem - and I’ve been writing about it for a very long time.
Your taxes are higher so that big business can pay less. In every community across the state, property taxes have gone up to offset reductions in corporate income tax rates and various business giveaways. Every single area of life in this state - healthcare, education, transportation, social services - has been compromised and undermined because of the outsized influence of the biggest corporations and their stranglehold on state government. Meanwhile, average Kansans are watching their quality of life suffer - while the richest groups in Kansas soak up all those sweet, sweet taxpayer dollars.
This is not a new problem, but I’m glad that Mark Steffen has finally caught up with reality and recognized that the biggest problem in Kansas is that people can’t catch a break so long as giant corporations get what they want. If he’s on that fact, he can dust off all the points I’ve been making for more than a decade. After all, it’s better to be late to the ball than to never show up at all.
But one of the troubling ironies here is that Mark Steffen (and a host of others) actually benefited in the 2020 election from resources and involvement from some of the groups he’s now condemning.
In 2020, Sen. Ed Berger wasn’t quite Republican enough, and big business and their lobbying groups thought they’d like them a little taste of Sen. Steffen instead. When they ended up not liking the flavor, those same groups experienced a healthy dose of buyer’s remorse and started wondering if they might like the taste of someone else.
These same groups insert themselves into every election. They are primarily responsible for the moderate Republican purge in 2012, and they’ve consistently worked to spread their influence to voters across the state. They don’t do that so you’ll have lower taxes, more freedom, a more protected Constitution or anything of the sort. They don’t really care about any of those things. They care about money and their ability to make more of it.
They spend unimaginable amounts of money to get their people elected because it’s an investment in their future. If they get the people they want in office, they most often get the policy they want. And that is without question seldom good for the average Kansan - and it’s certainly not good for your day-to-day life.
But Steffen’s assertion that somehow voting for this moving target of what a “good’ or “true” Republican or conservative is as much a warning as it is a joke. In 2020 he was the true conservative that big business loved. Now, not so much.
And while I have Republican friends who I respect greatly and whose friendships I deeply appreciate, we can’t seriously believe that electing more bona-fide Republicans - by whoever gets to define that for us - is the solution to the problem. Republicans have had an iron-clad grip on state government for the entirety of the state’s history. If they were going to solve the state’s biggest problems, they’ve had their chance for the past 162 years.
As Mark Steffen so clearly articulates, the problem is the intimate relationship between big business and big government. And as much as it seems like something I’d never find myself saying - I couldn’t agree with him more.
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