Ohio Governor John Kasich is offering himself to the good people of New Hampshire as a pragmatic, optimistic, kinda-centrist manager: a guy who can Get Things Done and Work With Others. His campaign schtick even convinced MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who called him “real and reasonable-seeming and relatable-seeming.” And:
If some voters up here are looking for authenticity in their candidate, well, just as a political consumer, a political observer who’s been up to New Hampshire for a lot of primaries and seen a lot of these events, I can see how New Hampshire voters see authenticity in John Kasich.
Yeah, well, not so fast. John Kasich is a veteran politician. He is presenting himself as relatable and reasonable, but his actual record in Ohio tells a very different story. His administration has been nearly as hard-right dogmatic as those of Michigan’s Rick Snyder or Kansas’ Sam Brownback. And just about as successful, too. When you open the attic of Kasich’s Ohio, there’s an awful lot of spiders up there.
“Out-of-state media are oblivious to the disgrace at the Ohio Department of Education.”
Those words are from the keyboard of Toledo Blade columnist Marilou Johanek. She’s writing about Kasich’s scandal-plagued education reform effort, which centers on that favored right-wing nostrum, school choice. His (ahem, former) school choice director, David Hansen,
… engaged in a fraudulent scheme to boost the evaluations of some charters. Mr. Hansen, whose wife worked as the governor’s chief of staff until she left to manage his presidential campaign, admitted scrubbing data on failing online and dropout recovery-charters to improve their standing in the state.
Wonderful. If charter schools aren’t working, then cook the books!
Hansen “quietly resigned,” and the Kasich administration sprung into full ass-covering mode. But…
The Kasich chiefs at ODE, who were required by law to judge charter school sponsors with the same academic and administrative performance criteria used for traditional public schools, broke that law. The GOP power brokers who control Ohio lined up to protect the governor and let the ODE fraud slide.
Yeah, we can’t have a little wholesale fraud derail Our Man’s bid for the White House, can we?
This is the biggest scandal threatening to emerge (so far) from Kasich’s tenure, but there’s plenty of bad news elsewhere for those who might see him as a breath of fresh air in a hateful, dogmatic Presidential field.
His presidential campaign is heavy with bragging about tax cuts and balancing the state budget. In fact, much of the pain was simply transferred to local governments and public schools. The Dayton Daily News:
… local officials are raising questions about the steady stream of cuts that are forcing painful decisions about whether to seek local tax increases or curtail public services, and they say the savings at the state level is extracting a heavy local price.
… “I’ve been in local government in Ohio for 35 years and I’ve never seen the relationship between state and local government deteriorate to this point,” [Centerville, Ohio city manager Greg] Horn said last week. “It’s truly an ‘us versus them’ mentality. You keep thinking it can’t get worse and it continues to regress.”
Oh, did I mention that Kasich’s tax cuts are weighted heavily toward the rich, while the working poor and retirees have seen their taxes go up? Yeah, there’s that.
Kasich’s people insist the goal is to spark economic growth by easing tax burdens, and that will more than compensate for all the cuts.
But — stop me if you’ve heard this before —.Kasich’s jobs record is atrocious. As of last September, Ohio had experienced 34 consecutive months of below-the-national-average job growth. This, according to George Zeller, one of the state’s most respected economic analysts.
“Ohio now unfortunately is now still 42,800 jobs short of recovering the jobs that it has lost since the March 2006 peak prior to the national ‘Great Recession,’” Zeller wrote in prepared remarks. Zeller added, “Further, Ohio is still 225,100 jobs short of Ohio’s peak employment prior to the 2000-2002 national recession in May 2000. So, despite the August 2015 Ohio employment growth, too many Ohio workers still cannot find a job because Ohio has recovered from neither the ‘Great Recession’ or the 2000s recession.”
Zeller found abundant evidence of anemic growth, such as a dwindling labor force and subpar household income. In short, Kasich’s “cut taxes and Free Money Shall Rain Down” is as much of a failure in Ohio as Sam Brownback’s more radical version is in Kansas.
I could go on. There’s no shortage of foul stenches emanating from Kasich’s Laboratory of Democracy. I haven’t mentioned his tenure as a leader of the Newt Gingrich Congress in the 90s, or his government’s loathsome efforts at voter suppression, or some of his slimy dealings as Managing Director of Lehman Brothers. (He helped his employer unload some lousy investment instruments on Ohio public-sector pension funds, costing them hundreds of millions and mperiling the retirements of teachers, police offers and firefighters.)
But I think that’s enough to prove my point: Those who look to John Kasich as a rare oasis of sanity in the freakshow of Republican Presidential politics are only fooling themselves. He’s just as toxic as the rest. And he’d make a terrible President.