Any reporter who’s attended one of John Kasich’s patented political Sermon on the Mount pressers knows it doesn’t take long for the go-go state CEO to invoke the Lord in some form or fashion. It’s basic Kasich, bring God into the conversation to secure the unassailable high, heavenly ground that no timid statehouse reporter would dare push back on.
Kasich has found that faith-based, dog-whistle rhetoric is his best bargain to parlay his limited compassion for the so-called “people living in the shadows” into his political compassion play. The phrase has been crafted over many years to show without offering any detail that he has a heart for the down and out, no matter their circumstances, as he told us in one of his final campaign TV ads this year.
But Gov. Kasich’s first-term budget priorities tell a different story, as Kasich cut funding for vital services to make way for income tax cuts for the wealthy. And the shadow people shouldn’t expect much more help during the second half of his two-term stint as chief executive if the first-half isn’t proof enough of where his priorities lie.
But helping the shadow dwellers isn’t reserved anymore for the former Lehman Brothers banker, Fox TV political talk show host and nine-term congressman from central Ohio. Someone with higher authority has taken up their cause now. Looks like Johnny Pennsylvania has more than a little competition for the shadow people from none other than the President of the United States, a job Ohio’s governor would love to occupy one day, that is, if the Hands of the Lord are still on him in two years and not on one of the other Republican governors who also prize the position.
In his remarks explaining his executive action on immigration reform Tuesday evening, President Obama defined his shadow people as undocumented immigrants who fear being found out and deported. Whether they are families who enter the country the right way and play by the rules while others flout the rules or workers who are exploited at jobs with low wages and no benefits, President Obama had their backs. “All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America,” he said, adding, “And undocumented immigrants who desperately want to embrace those responsibilities see little option but to remain in the shadows, or risk their families being torn apart.”
So when President Obama signed his executive order last week to start to fix a broken immigration system following more than 500 days of political inaction by one of Gov. Kasich’s best golfing buddies, Ohio congressman and speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, John Boehner, more than five million people “living in the shadows” due to lacking documentation learned that not only won’t they be deported going forward, but there’s a better path to citizenship now than before the White House took this action in the face of inaction by congressional Republicans bent on opposing a president twice elected by majorities on virtually any issue.
In Ohio, the ranks of Kasich’s shadow people are holding steady, as food banks don’t have enough food for all the hungry Ohioans who want decent nourishment, and job creation is lackluster at best, as evidenced by The Wall Street Journal and Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business ranking Kasich’s Ohio at 45 out of 50 states.
Another example of of why Ohio’s shadow people remain in the shadows is Kasich’s record on unemployment benefits. The average weekly benefit in the year ended June 30 was $322.97, which one group said Monday is not enough to keep a family of three above the official poverty line. “Ohio has a very high earnings requirement to qualify for unemployment benefits, and fewer unemployed qualify here than across the country,” said Zach Schiller, an economic researcher with Policy Matters Ohio. Ohio’s unemployment compensation system is now more than $1 billion dollars in debt to the federal government.
From authoring the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which has helped millions in its first year of operation to obtain affordable healthcare, to leading the nation out of the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression 80 years ago, President Obama has a solid track record of helping shadow people see a little sun now and again. Maybe Gov. Kasich should look to the Obama Model, because his Ohio Model isn’t working as advertised.