When 60 Minutes profiled Republican leaders in Congress Sunday night, returning House Speaker John Boehner and new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell attacked President Obama for the audacity of his State of The Union Address. The nation’s twice-elected president offered a cornucopia of good news for the nation under his leadership including fast falling deficits, a stock market at record levels, millions of private sector jobs recovered and ten million-plus Americans who can now afford quality health insurance through The Affordable Care Act.
“Our deficit’s cut by two thirds. A stock market that has doubled and health care inflation at its lowest rate in 50 years. This is good news people,” President Obama told a joint session of Congress last week. To the chagrin of Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell, who have tried their mightiest to hobble or hinder him, Gallup now reports that President Obama’s job approval is now at 50 percent for the first time since 2013.
Mr. McConnell, nicknamed “The Undertaker” because of his constantly grim countenance, and Mr. Boehner, who will always be remembered for handing out tobacco company payola checks on the House floor, were thoroughly miffed by the president’s bodacious declarations in his penultimate SOTU as Republicans regained power following last November’s terrible turnout election for local offices. Looking constipated and acting petulant, they said the message to the White House from the lowest turnout of voter since World War II was to cooperate with them.
One question CBS News anchor reporter Scott Pelley didn’t ask but should have directed to the moribund duo was why they didn’t cooperate with President Obama following either of his back-to-back national elections won with more than 50-percent of the vote? Mr. Pelley also didn’t ask either of the warmed-over leaders why they vowed to confront and derail, whereever and whenever possible, the president’s recovery agenda, which in spite of their ideological, partisan-based opposition has guided the nation forward. It’s an interesting thought experiment to wonder just how much faster and stronger the recovery from the second worst economic collapse since the Great Depression would have been had Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell even half-way cooperated with President Obama, instead of being the un-loyal opposition.
Healthcare, Wages Top Concerns
But now that Congress is again in the grip of Republicans, it may come as a shock to them that austerity, via budget cutting and sequestration—the same unproductive cards they know how to play unless it’s spending on war which has no ceiling for them—isn’t close to what Americans are interested in these days. Had these Congressional leaders bothered to look at the results of a recent Gallup survey, they would understand that healthcare costs and lack of money or low wages, in that order, rank as the two most important financial problems facing American families.
Gallup finds that top earners name retirement savings and college expenses as their top concerns while low earners say “lack of money/cash flow” is what they are interested in. Speaker Boehner, good golfing buddy to Ohio Gov. John Kasich, said raising the federal minimum wage is DOA. Leader McConnell said free community college for hard-working, responsible students is a bad idea because it only adds more debt to the national deficit. Neither seem to understand that $1.3 trillion in student loan debt is squeezing out spending on other items like home mortgages, for example.
Meanwhile, Ohio’s cowardly but Quixotic governor is out west speaking in deep red states, where he’s pushing his tread-thin idea for a federal balanced budget amendment, which has been roundly ripped by both conservatives and liberals as stupid at best and disastrous at worst. When Gov. Kasich goes to safe, non-threatening Republican states, he might as well be talking in solidly safe red counties like Allen or Medina or Warren back in Ohio. His junket to red zones like Boise, Idaho or Pierre, South Dakota, two of his stops, was paid for by donors whose names will be kept secret.
Trying to pin the tail of job loss on one-term Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, elected with 60-plus percent of the vote in 2006, Gov. John Kasich complained in 2010 that Ohio lost 600,000 during the first decade of the new century. What he purposely failed to say is that half of those jobs were lost during the first six years, when GOP candidates controlled all statewide offices and the legislature. He also failed to mention that Ohio’s economic woes had been failing since the early 1990s, when Republicans gained control of the state from top to bottom. During these years of decline and domination, they passed one income and business tax giveaway after another. And now that Mr. Kasich has essentially “Lehmanized” Ohio by privatizing its decades-old public job creation agency, which under Gov. Strickland out-performed the national average, Ohio’s is now in its 26th consecutive month of under-performing the national average for job growth by as much as 40 percent. So much for Ohio being open for business, another Republican fairy tale that has repeatedly demonstrated it doesn’t work.
Gov. Kasich has been silent on raising either the federal or state minimum wage, a crusade Democrats are on to help solve the “lack of noney/cash flow” concern revealed by Gallup. When this reporter asked Gov. Kasich about income inequality two years ago, before his communicators excommunicated me last year, he brushed off the question, saying it was a “federal problem.” Mssrs. Boehner and McConnell said taking money from the richest, who could pay twice the amount they do and still be fabulously wealthy, was also DOA. They are all for lowering tax rates for individuals if it’s “across the board,” GOP code for one-percenters who derive most of their income not from actually laboring but from paper transactions like stock dividends and capital gains, which enjoy a tax rate far below that for income from actually working a job.
Kasich Can’t Make Ohio Grow Again
Meanwhile, what Gov. Kasich has no solution for, a problem of immense problems that under gird any real advancement in job growth here, is Ohio’s record of lackluster population growth. Ohio is no longer growing, despite Mr. Kasich’s claim that once people come here they don’t leave. It follows that the state’s political power in Washington also dims. Ohio has 18 Electoral College votes now, but that’s quite a dip from 1964, when the Buckeye State enjoyed 24 seats in the U.S. House, which when its two senators are added to that number gave it 26 votes in the Electoral College.
For 120 years, from 1820 through 1940, Ohio held the third (1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880) or fourth (1820, 1830, 1890, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940) largest U.S. House delegation in the nation, according to Smart Politics. Ohio’s population was the fourth largest through the 1940 Census, out pacing California by only 225 residents that year. Over the next 50 years, Census figures show that the Buckeye State was passed in population in census years by California in 1950, Texas in 1970, and Florida in 1990.
All efforts to pave a path to prosperity by gutting government, the only trick Republicans care to perform it seems, have caused great harm by keeping the president’s recovery agenda from recovering faster. Gov. Kasich’s razzle dazzle is powerless against stalled population growth. From 2001-2010, Ohio’s growth in population was only 1.6 percent, representing the second lowest among the twelve Midwestern states. .
So while Gov. Kasich can talk the talk of low taxes for individuals and business along with less burdensome government regulation, as former Texas Gov. Rick Perry enjoys doing, the former Fox TV talk show host doesn’t have people moving into the state at a rate the likes of Texas. The Lone Star state, for example, gained four more congressional seats following the 2010 Census while Ohio lost any two.
Whether it’s Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine off again on a doomed-to-failure challenge of Obamacare, or Gov. Kasich being blind to billions of taxpayer dollars wasted on poor-performing charter schools, or Mr. Boehner preparing to sue the president over his executive actions that gave legal status to millions of illegal immigrants, or Mr. McConnell pushing an agenda that has twice been smacked down by a national vote that put a Democrat in the White House for eight years, the misguided effort by Republicans to force feed policies Americans don’t want only sets up two years of more anguish, heartache, wasted time and money for workers looking for responsible pubic officials to work on issues important to them. Partisan wedge issues pushed by hard-right conservative strategists who think opposing the White House is still a winning hand will only pave the path for another Democrat to win the next presidential cycle in 2016.
Republicans tried to embarrass the president last week at his SOTU by cynically applauding when he said he wasn’t running for election again. They were quickly silenced when President Obama royally stuffed them like he was Lebron and they were fourth graders trying to make a layup. “I know because I won both of them,” he fired back, taking all the fizz out of their soda.