Saturday, September 15, 2012

Wrongway Corrigan/Brownback


Who is Douglas Corrigan, and what does he have to do with Sam Brownback? Corrigan earned the  nickname "Wrongway Corrigan" when he flew his single engine plane solo over the Atlantic in 1938, after filing a flight plan to go from New York to Los Angeles.. This was before radar. He claimed that he had a broken compass, and that's why he flew for 28 hours in the wrong direction, crossing the Atlantic ocean instead of the American continent.

     He was heralded by a depression weary American population for his “wrong way” flight, and even feted with ticker tape parades in New York and Chicago. Truth be known, he simply lied about it. He had  been denied the right by aviation authorities to cross the Atlantic in his single engine plane because aviation officials deemed it unsafe to fly. They told him he couldn’t do it, so he figured a way around them, leaving in the pre- dawn hours from Long Island, and heading out to sea. Despite his filed flight plan, which said he was heading west…he headed east.  He actually developed a leak in his gas tank while flying, which caused gas to spill into the cockpit, so  he poked a hole in the cockpit  floor to let the gas drip out to the ocean below,  instead of accumulating and causing an explosion.  In short  he knew what he was doing,, and he was hell bent for leather to do it.       So ,  Why the comparison?  Governor Sam Brownback and Wrong way  Corrigan have a lot in common. Damn the torpedoes...full speed ahead!  And so it is with Governor Sam Brownback.

     When historians come to judge the Kansas Governor's stewardship at the helm of state, it may be written of him that,  like  Corrigan,  he was a fierce pilot who flew his plane  with lots of guts and gusto, but in the wrong direction.  They both thought they were aiming correctly.   While the initial result for Corrigan was a ticker tape parade,  he became an historical footnote,  and poster child for bullheaded reversity.  Corrigan was literally flying blind  across the Atlantic. He could not see out of the front of the plane because of the gas tanks that obfuscated his vision, but that didn’t matter, because they fueled his journey, and buoyed his grit and determination to do what no one else, save Lindbergh, had ever done. And so it is with Sam Brownback.  Anyone who is standing in the way of his vision of a Kansas without an Income tax, which he believes will reverse the fortunes of and bolster the economy of the state, is to be ignored, or to be end run arounded.

     Corrigan’s zealotry for  crossing the Atlantic in a plane that was not ever fit to do so, earned him initial public plaudits but eventual  retrospective ridicule. The end result for Brownback may be similar, in that he may be feted at  conservative conventions in Wichita and  Topeka for now, but he may be  less than revered by future historians.  Unfortunately, the real consequences of his studied actions may be to set Kansas back for decades, instead of propelling it forward to economic hegemony.  So convinced is he of the rectitude of trickledownomics that he has literally bet the ranch, his entire state, on it.  True zealots like him never fade away. They are either vaulted to the forefront by virtue of the success of their wild and speculative ways, or catapulted to the dung heap of history by the odiferous scents of their failed gambits that won't go away. Their  ideas may die, but the scent of their experiments hang ‘round for a long, long time. And so it may be with Brownback. He will either be lionized by future generations as a hero, or considered a bum who messed up Kansas' entire governmental and educational structure.

I hope it is the former, but my bet is on the latter.

So, move over "Wrong Way Corrigan"… Governor Sam Brownback is about to outdistance you in the Guinness Book of foolhardy records.  The problem is, the joke may be on Kansas,  and it’s people.