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Are We Living in the Land of Oz? (Reviewing the Chaos of the Kansas Legislature)

The Emerald City in the Land of Oz, from the Wizard of Oz
The Emerald City in the Land of Oz, from the Wizard of Oz

Tax hikes, budget cuts and Brownback, oh my! It's been a wild ride in the capitol city of Topeka this year. And commentator William Jennings Bryan Oleander is not happy.

These are the comments of William Jennings Bryan Oleander, otherwise known as Tom Averill, Writer-in-Residence at Washburn University.


(TRANSCRIPT for William Jennings Bryan Oleander on the 2015 Kansas Legislative Session / Topeka Tornado)

Folks, seems like all spring we in Here, Kansas, have been waiting out the awful Statehouse weather, hunkered in the basement of the Co-op, hoping, unrealistically, against a Topeka tornado.  

The big storm came and went, and when the all clear sounded, we staggered outside to assess the damage. Our schools took a terrible hit, our roads are torn up with little money to fix them, and we’re worried about our health care clinic, which still lacks federal dollars. We’re facing the biggest tax hike in Kansas history, and a regressive one at that.

We might as well be Dorothy, tossed by a tornado into another world. And, in fact, we saw a lot of little people passing through Here. They were Kansas legislators, returning home. We asked them for help, but they seemed helpless. “It'll all be good in the future,” they promised. “Just be patient. Reform takes time. “Someday,” they insisted, “we’ll all be better off.” Folks, they might as well have told us that the whole state will someday be paved in gold bricks.

Of course, those bricks will have to be paid for with regressive taxes on food, goods, and everything we common folks have to buy to repair the damage from our Governor’s tempestuous red-state agenda.

If we were like Dorothy, we would travel to Topeka, to ask the Governor for help, but we fear he's long ago run out of heart, brains and courage. In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy exposes the Wizard as a humbug, and says, “I think you are a very bad man.” He corrects her, claiming to be a good man. “But I’m a very bad Wizard, I must admit.” Folks, the same might be said of every elected official who failed the state, but particularly of our Governor, who came from behind the curtain at the last minute and insisted that a tax hike wasn’t a tax hike because taxes had been lowered before, and this increased sales and tobacco tax just balanced that out. Humbug never presented a better face.

I wish we could click our heels, like Dorothy, asking our slippers to take us back home, but the Sunflower State has run out of gold bricks and slippers. That footwear was silver in L. Frank Baum’s novel, because during hard times Free Silver! was the commoner’s cry against the rich. Ruby red replaced silver in the film, because of technicolor. But Kansas was always black and white, no matter the version. And it still is, as this legislative session proves.

Folks, I heard that the latest Kansas tourism slogan echoes the Wizard of Oz. In the book, Dorothy declares, “There is no place like home.” The Kansas commerce department wants us to promote ourselves by saying, “There is no place like Kansas.” I’ll echo that: “There is no place like Kansas.” But like the rest of the folks in Here, I’ll add: “Thank God!”