If anyone thinks Gov. John Kasich’s sixth State of the State speech will be different in any significant way from the previous four off-road showy productions, think again.
For those fluent in basic Kasich, predicting what’s coming can save a trip next Wednesday to Marietta in southeastern Ohio, venue for his next great political production.
The State of Ohio Is Mediocre
The governor’s first State of the State was delivered in 2011 at the Ohio Statehouse, the traditional venue for governor’s telling citizens how things are and what they plan to do to make it better. After that first one, his next four were staged-for-TV off-road copies featuring the world’s largest Ohio flag as backdrop. And when it suited him, he added sympathetic human props, as he did at his third address in Lima when he brought on stage for a group hug the three Cleveland women who had finally freed after been held hostage in a basement for a decade.
Now that Mr. Kasich is one of the three of the 17 Republicans who started out running for president last year, national eyes will be focused on what he says, since his tale of miracle working in Ohio is his marker for what he says he can do nationally, if only more voters can hear his message about how his positive conservative thinking will help heal a nation increasingly split along partisan political lines.
In advance of his next yearly state sermon on how great he, his team and his administration’s policies are, others have weighed in on the state of the state. What those reports show isn’t the Ohio miracle John Kasich loves to claim credit for.
Lagging And Not Growing
In its Sunday edition, even the normally all-embracing Columbus Dispatch labored to paint a picture of Ohio under Gov. Kasich as much more than mediocre at best. “Things in Ohio are decidedly average — the state a mid-pack performer — ahead of Kasich’s sixth State of the State address Wednesday evening in Marietta,” the longtime GOP house organ noted. It said that while Ohio job growth has been diverse and broad-based, it continues to lag the national growth rate. On the subject of incomes, facts forced it to say the rate trails “the get-ahead gains seen by many Americans.”
Further blemishing what Gov. Kasich will no doubt declare a great record over the past five years, the capital city newspaper declared “jobs remain elusive for the young, and 10 Appalachian counties still have unemployment rates in excess of 9 percent. And Ohio has 160,000 fewer jobs than at its all-time peak in 2000.” Camp Kasich won’t be happy that its Sunday state profile piece observes that “Ohioans make nearly 10 percent or $4,200 less than the national average” while Buckeye workers’ “weekly earnings rank 25th nationally.” Also not flattering is Ohio’s poverty rate at 15.6 percent (19th nationally) as compared to the 14.8-percent national rate. Meanwhile, the number of Ohioans who can’t earn a living wage grew from 3.4 million to 3.8 million between 2009 and 2014, it said, quoting a food bank administrator who said “Too many jobs are part-time, barely above minimum wage and don’t offer benefits.”
John Kasich once said that after visitors come to Ohio, they won’t want to leave. Unfortunately for Mr. Kasich, Ohio isn’t the growth state it once was, as those honors are going to southern and western states. The state’s dismal population growth rate turns out to be a drag on the economy as the lack of new residents fails to create demand for housing and fuel other purchases. How slow is that rate, very slow. “Ohio’s population growth of 77,000, or 0.7 percent, since 2010, to a total of 11.6 million, ranks 44th among the states,” the CD wrote, noting that “Population growth tends to follow the availability of jobs.” Population shifts tell the tale of why Ohio keeps losing congressional districts every ten years and Texas keeps adding to theirs.
Dispatch Education Editorial Slaps Kasich
On its editorial page, it took a backhanded slap at the governor without tagging him personally for the tremendous failures at the State Department of Education. “Talk to any knowledgeable observer about the state of the Ohio Department of Education and it quickly becomes clear that the department is dysfunctional,” the editorial said, adding, “It is riven by partisan conflict, suffers from frequent, destabilizing turnover in the state superintendent’s office, and is failing to provide consistent, long-term vision and guidance for Ohio’s 600-plus school districts.” Covering for Kasich, it didn’t blame him for the tremendous collapse of educating Ohio boys and girls but the “hybrid nature of the state Board of Education,” a group composed of elected seats and seats appointed by Gov. Kasich.
In a parallel report released last week by an advocacy not in alignment with Gov. Kasich, One Ohio Now’s report measuring the state of the state in multiple areas of measurement wasn’t kind to Mr. Kasich. In its report comparing how Ohio ranks compared to the nation in 11 key quality of life metrics spanning the categories of Health & Home, Education, Employment & Economy, and Inequality, One Ohio Now said the hard reality is that “Too many Ohioans are struggling.”
“Since 2005, Ohio has consistently chosen to shift taxes in the name of job and economic growth,” the report said. “That choice now means we have at least $3.5 billion per year less to invest in solving the problems this report details, like skyrocketing college tuition and nearly the worst infant mortality rates in the country. We believe that without significant investment, many of our biggest, most vexing problems – like poverty and job growth – will dog us for decades to come. But we can avoid this fate. Through smart public policy that follows the research, all Ohioans can benefit.”
How Gov. Kasich frames his mediocre performance next Wednesday will be interesting to watch, in light of his claim that his resume, in Washington and now in Columbus, are proof positive that he has the answers to what ails the nation. But others know the game plan John Kasich will run even if media won’t admit to it.
Basic Kasich Uncloseted
One person familiar with basic Kasich commented on the Dispatch’s piece Sunday by forecasting what the governor’s next sermon on the stage will sound like: “One can predict Kasich’s state-of-the-state speech. First he blames Strickland for the Bush (& yes, Clinton) financial debacle with yuuuuge job losses. Then he claims credit for Obama’s recovery with yuuuuuge job gains. Then he spins our mediocre recovery into his economic miracle. Finally he claims soul cause of the balanced budgets during the Clinton years when he was a bit player at best. There, just saved you a lot of time watching that rerun.”