John Kasich: The New York Times Smooth Operator
by Bob Fitrakis
July 4, 2011
You would never know it after reading the July 2, 2011 puff piece “In Ohio, a new Governor is off to a smooth start,” but Governor John Kasich is already on the ropes. In the Times’ analysis, the passage of Kasich’s controversial budget “…has been about as smooth as a knife through butter.”
In reality, Kasich is a founding member of the “gaffe of the week” club. His budget is based on busting all the public employee unions in the state of Ohio and began with the supposed savings Kasich cited in the union-busting Senate Bill 5. The bill not only went after state employees, public school teachers, and professors, but also attacked police and firemen. In a gaffe that went around the Buckeye state, Kasich justified union-busting by calling a police officer who gave him a traffic ticket “an idiot.”
Soon after that, during a speech in Cleveland, Ohio, Kasich pronounced himself a fan of the Cleveland Browns’ arch-rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers. After trying to get himself sworn-in secretly and refusing to live in the governor’s mansion, Kasich recently announced he will not honor the long-held tradition of the Ohio governor sleeping overnight in a barn at the Ohio State Fair.
When workers and their supporters gathered $1.3 million signatures to repeal Senate Bill 5, half a million more signatures than ever submitted for an Ohio initiative, Kasich stuck to the analysis that his budget will save the state.
Kasich emerged as a freshly-scrubbed Nixon supporter in the 1972 election after moving from Pennsylvania to attend Ohio State University. He parlayed his connections to Nixon and to Nixon supporter and cult-figure Reverend Moon into an internship at the Ohio legislature. His next step was from intern to hired staff, where he earned a reputation for being both volatile and lazy.
He had the good fortune, however, to run for state senator in a suburban district during the Reagan landslide of 1980. The ever-ambitious Kasich next ran for U.S. Congress against incumbent one-term representative Bob Shamansky. Good fortune again smiled on Kasich when legendary Ohio House Speaker Vern Riffe had the district re-drawn to favor Republican candidates because Shamansky failed to endorse Gov. Dick Celeste in the Democratic primary.
Kasich lorded over the gerrymandered 12th district in Ohio for nearly two decades. The district included the Republican stronghold Delaware County as well as the heavily Republican Licking County, thrown in with the east side of Columbus and the eastern suburbs, including Westerville, where he still lives.
After a disastrous bid for president, Kasich took a turn bloviating on Fox News and took another turn ripping off stockholders with Lehman Brothers. He sold $400 million in junk assets into the State Teachers pension fund just prior to Lehman Brothers going belly up. This has not stopped him as governor from attacking the teacher’s union for making bad investments and not being solvent. Despite the fact that teachers gave back $11 billion to make their fund solvent, Kasich has demanded 2% morec of their salaries in his budget.
Kasich ran for Ohio governor backed by the Republican Governors’ Association and Rupert Murdoch. Exit polls in his gubernatorial election showed that he actually lost by 2.7%.
Kasich’s most recent approval numbers show 33% approval and 56% disapproval, tying him with Florida governor Rick Scott as the worst in the nation.
An analysis of Kasich’s budget shows the standard Republican tax cuts to the wealthy followed by cuts to public schools and local governments. It also includes huge handouts to Republican-connected corporations.
In April, Kasich gave Diebold a $56 million package of grants, tax credits and loans to keep its headquarters in Ohio. Diebold made national news in the 2004 Ohio presidential election when its then-CEO Wally O’Dell pledged to deliver Ohio’s electoral vote to George W. Bush. This was no idle promise since much of Ohio’s vote was tallied and counted on Diebold computers and their GEMS software. The software is proprietary and secret.
Kasich also gave the Bob Evans restaurant company a $7.8 million incentive package to move its headquarters out of Columbus into the wealthy suburb of New Albany, well-known as being created by Ohio’s only billionaire Les Wexner. In the Bob Evans case, he cited population losses in cities like Columbus as the reason for the incentive package.
Lost on Kasich was the fact that Columbus had added nearly 155,000 residencies in the last 20 years, according to the U.S. Census. Kasich has always taken the Reagan approach on facts: “Facts are stupid things,” as Reagan said.
At the same time he was giving the wealthy Bob Evans owners nearly a $8 million welfare check, he was attacking public workers for having decent benefits when a waitress at Bob Evans had “shabby at best” health care benefits and no pension.
Here’s an analysis of Kasich’s budget:
• In order to fill an $8 billion budget deficit, Kasich extended a 4.2% income tax cut.
• Kasich’s budget cut $640 million from local government and $700 million from Ohio schools.
• Despite massive problems with Correction Corporations of America, a private prison company in Ohio, Kasich is putting 6 state prisons up for sale.
• The Kasich administration also plans to lease the Ohio turnpike, a 241-mile toll road in northern Ohio. Kasich began his term by refusing $400 million of federal money for passenger rail service from Cleveland to Columbus to Cincinnati. Columbus, Ohio, the nation’s 15th largest city has not had passenger rail service since 1979.
• Kasich cut state Medicaid payments to nursing homes by 6% and initiated new rules that lift the requirement that each nursing home room has access to a bathtub or shower (hey – it works in the Ohio State University dorms).
• Kasich will lease Ohio’s wholesale liquor operations to the so-called JobsOhio. Thus, he will be able to take credit for creating jobs when the state workers go from being public workers to private workers without any real net job gain.
• Kasich, of course, slashed funding to the Ohio Consumer Council and banned it from operating a call center to take consumer complaints and inform people of their rights against utility companies.
• Kasich’s budget also provides heavy subsidies to charter schools increasing the number of vouchers paid by the state from 14,000 to 60,000 by the 2012-13 school year.
• Kasich’s budget eliminates the seniority system for teachers in determining layoffs. Any new and cheaper teacher with a better evaluation will be kept over a higher-priced senior teacher.
• Senate Bill 5, which was passed in conjunction with the budget, eliminated all unions for public college and university professors.
• His budget also prohibits municipalities from regulating fast food restaurants ingredients or requiring restaurant nutritional data be displayed.
• Kasich’s budget does, in fact, move away from privatization and toward heavy government regulation in one key area – it mandates that those who obtain Freemason license plates to document membership in good standing in the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Ohio.
So there’s Kasich’s “smooth as butter” start. We can only hope his departure will be even smoother.
Bob Fitrakis ran against Kasich for Congress in 1992 and is currently the co-chair of the Ohio Green Party.