Joe Vardon’s piece in the Dispatch on Sunday detailed the many reasons “real” conservatives in Ohio think Kasich hasn’t lived up to the promises he made to them during the campaign. Unfortunately for Kasich, the “statistics” his office provides as evidence of his spending “decreases”, when looked at in detail, do more damage than good to his conservative credentials.

I’ll give Vardon credit for one thing: he’s hunted down quotes from some of the most well-known conservatives in Ohio: Chris Littleton (anti-obamacare, “right to work”), Matt Mayer (former head of the Buckeye Institute) and Dave Zanotti of the Ohio Roundtable. He got all of them on the record questioning Kasich’s conservative credentials in different ways.

Free market advocates think JobsOhio is corporate socialism, with Kasich and Kvamme spending state money to help pick the winners. Anti-tax folks are all worked up over Kasich’s plan to increase taxes on oil and gas companies in order to “spread-the-wealth” around via an income tax break. And the “right-to-work” folks are annoyed that Kasich has refused to support their ballot measure, or the concept of right-to-work in general.

I’ll leave it to these guys to battle it out with Kasich and his team over what is or isn’t “conservative enough” for Ohio. But I have to take serious issue with the numbers Kasich uses to defend himself, and I think these conservatives should too.

To provide a counterpoint to the claims from the leaders of many of Ohio’s top conservative groups, Vardon points to “Statistics provided by Kasich’s office”.

According to these ‘statistics’: “the budget Kasich signed last June cut general-revenue spending by $683 million when Medicaid is excluded.

The phrase “statistics provided by Kasich’s office” should already have you worried. And in this case you’d absolutely right if you did. That’s because Medicaid – which Kasich’s office decided to exclude from his spending numbers – actually makes up 44% of the state’s general revenue fund budget in 2012 and 46% in 2013. So Kasich’s “statistics” actually exclude nearly half of GRF spending!

Are you asking the next question yet? What happens if we DO INCLUDE GRF spending for Medicaid?

Well I’m glad you asked.

Under “conservative” Governor John Kasich, general-revenue spending on Medicaid jumped 32%, from $18.9 billion in FY10-11 to $25.0 billion in FY12-13. That’s a 6 billion increase. Across all funds, not just GRF, Medicaid funding totals increased $0.97 billion and $0.93 billion in FY 2012 and 2013 to $18.84 billion and $19.76 billion respectively. That’s a nearly 2 billion increase.

When you look at the ENTIRE budget, you see that overall GRF spending under Kasich went UP over FIVE BILLION dollars. No wonder he wanted to exclude the Medicaid numbers from his budget.

(Check the numbers for yourself here)

If anyone had bothered to follow up with the Governor’s office on these numbers, I’m sure they’d defend their choice by saying the Medicaid stuff is complicated. There’s federal money involved. And some stimulus dollars. And an increase in Medicaid recipients because of the recession. And this is all true. But completely irrelevant.

The whole budget is complicated and has these same issues. You can’t just pick and choose the parts that make you look good and assume no one will notice. You can’t go out and say your budget cuts spending when it actually increased spending by over 5 Billion dollars. You can’t go out and say I’m a super-conservative, budget-cutting genius … but only when you look at this specific 56% of my spending and ignore the rest.

I realize these numbers were included as a way to try to balance the story and give Kasich’s team a chance to respond to the claims. And I can’t completely blame Vardon for not questioning their relevance in his piece. But conservatives already angry at Kasich for other reasons should be seriously concerned when the best response his office can muster up to their concerns is a set of deceptive numbers that, when fully analyzed, completely destroy the fiscal conservative credibility they were intended to provide.

  • Dmoore2222

    Good work, Joseph. But I don’t think it really matters. We’re stuck with this creep for nearly three more years so we might as well get used to the wordsmithing and cherry picking. When you see what just happened in Wisconsin it doesn’t bode well for truth or democracy. People believe what they want to believe no matter what the actual facts are. And the money that is now put into campaigns makes the facts that much more irrelevant.  It comes down to who can outspend whom. That puts republicans at one hell of an advantage. Game over.

  • pb_dirtgirl

    My guess is that it wasn’t just about money – people (rightly, imo) have a much higher bar for a recall. Everyone expects to evaluate an incumbent after 4 years and throw him out if he hasn’t performed. Doing so after 18 months is another story. 

    That aside & when you recover from last night, think about this. If we want to get rid of Kasich in 3 years, then when he tries to sell himself as a budget expert in 2014, we’ll have to remind people that it was all smoke & mirrors.

  • amyvav

     It absolutely comes down to money. The big players throw their dollars at specific candidates, regardless of what state they are in. Their eyes are on federal prizes, probably not state and certainly not local.  Ohioans get slammed every election with this. And now Wisconsin has, too. Taking just a quick look at donation figures, you see out-of-state names popping up. It’s hard to compete with that much money and the manipulative advertising that it buys.

    I’m going to keep trying though. We all have to. It’s our state, not theirs.

  • Dmoore2222

    That would be nice if people really took time to look at the details about the budget, job creation, education reform, etc. But they don’t. They remember the last slick ad they saw or heard, just like the swiftboating episode that put Kerry out of the race. There’s no question that democrats can make solid arguments about bad republican legislation or policy. But it just doesn’t get through. Sure this is about money. Unfortunately, most things are in this country. We’re at a point where more people have more material wealth. And they feel it’s threatened when government policy tries to help those less fortunate. It used to be  people helped each other out because they were all struggling and felt a kinship in that. But material wealth has an insulating effect. Once you’ve “arrived” you worry more about maintaining that level of wellbeing than about the family next door. The republican message is that these low life working and poor people, minorities and disabled types are gong to bleed you through government programs so you can’t have that fourth car in your driveway or a bigger flat screen TV.

    The solution is for all of us to care more about one another. Then the money won’t matter so much.  I’m just sayin.

  • pb_dirtgirl

    I agree with your framing about what the Republicans are going to try to make these elections about. They’ll say it is the welfare state vs. the job creators. I’m seeing it more and more. I might post about that soon. But I’m not about to stop telling the truth or blowing up the lies just because they won one special election.

  • Dmoore2222

    No one’s asking you to stop telling the truth or blowing up lies, my friend.  But that is not going to be enough in this political climate. The influence of money cannot be understated. A top priority for democrats should be the reversal of the Citizens United decision. Exposing lies while you’re getting sucker punched doesn’t get you very far. While Plunderbund does a magnificent job of analysis of just about everything, it’s reach is nothing compared to the high exposure media ads bought by big money. The lesson Ohio republicans will glean from Wisconsin for this November–spend like there’s no tomorrow.

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