John Kasich’s greatest hits

On Sunday morning, John Kasich went on CNN’s State of the Union to talk about his cross-country “crusade” for a balanced budget, a move that has been widely interpreted as a test run for his presidential campaign. When asked directly whether he would actually run, Kasich clucked non-answers like “I don’t know” and “all my options are on the table.”

In other words, he is almost certainly going to run and I, for one, hope he does.

As a young, politically engaged native Ohioan, I must be one of the hundred – nay, thousand – people in the country who could actually pick Kasich out from a lineup. With support hovering around 1% in the Republican Iowa caucuses according to a Des Moines Register poll, he isn’t exactly a hot candidate. To a follow-up question about whether or not the candidate was too conservative or too moderate, 67% of respondents answered, “not sure.”

And so it is that I am in the position to inform you about the illustrious career of this former Congressman, Fox News talking head, Lehman Brothers employee and, now, Governor of the most “eh” state of all. Let us first relish the fact that Kasich’s career encompasses everything a true red-blooded American should hate – Washington, Wall Street and the media – whose program nonetheless bore the folksy title of “HEARTLAND: with John Kasich.” Here is a man whose smugness and ability to say one thing while doing the complete opposite could make even Frank Underwood blush. Which all but makes him the living embodiment of the corporate GOP.

But before we dig deeper into the man and his policies – from how the myth of Kasich’s “bipartisan” approach is a smokescreen made up of what I would call “dad-politics,” to how he took credit for his predecessor’s economic development efforts while also completely reversing them – let us remember some great moments in John Kasich history:

Kasich to state senator Nina Turner: “I don’t need your people.”

One of my favorite John Kasich moments occurred just weeks after his inauguration. After appointing a 23-member, all-white cabinet to lead his government – for the first time in state history since 1962 – Kasich responded to a conciliatory offer of help from state senator Nina Turner by saying “I don’t need your people.” Nina Turner is a black woman.

Needless to say, it didn’t go over well. The Governor would later claim he was talking about Democrats, which doesn’t exactly evince a collaborative spirit either:

That one time Kasich failed where Scott Walker succeeded, triggering an uprising:

Another classic early-Kasich hit was when he tried to do the Scott Walker and end public-sector unions’ ability to collectively bargain. Though he did manage to sign the union-busting Senate Bill 5 into law, the backlash against it fomented a summer of incredible organizing, with almost a million and a half people signing a petition to repeal the law before it could be implemented. Ultimately, anti-SB5 forces were victorious, winning a referendum on the law by a 62-38 percent margin. In an off-year election, no less!

Kasich shies away from endorsing Obamacare, approves Medicaid expansion:

This is one of those moments where Kasich actually did a good thing by expanding Medicaid access for up to 275,000 Ohioans. He would explain his own actions with a combination of mealy-mouthed “compassionate conservative” mumbo-jumbo and a more convincing argument that Medicaid is actually cost-effective:

Of course, a much simpler answer would be that it was all about the votes.

Despite unconstitutional school funding, charters soak up more money than ever

Ohio’s school funding regime was ruled unconstitutional in by the state Supreme Court back in 1997 for relying too heavily on property taxes. The school funding scheme wasn’t Kasich’s invention, but under his governorship funding for charter schools has increased dramatically, even as overall spending on schools stagnates below pre-economic crisis levels.

Meanwhile, an investigation proved that several Ohio charters have been overstating their own attendance rates in an effort to get more money, and the state’s former top lawmaker now works as a lobbyist for so-called “school choice.”

Kasich and his right-wing legislature restricted women’s access to abortions and healthcare

Under new state rules requiring a “patient transfer agreement” between abortion clinics and local hospitals, numerous clinics have been fighting to stay open and many have shuttered. Forced ultrasounds, funding for so-called “pregnancy crisis centers” run by religious groups, and other burdensome regulations have made it harder and harder for Ohio women to have access to abortions.

When the Green and Democratic candidates in the governor’s election last November pressed him on some of these policies at their only debate, Kasich refused to answer, or even acknowledge they were there:

Attacks on early voting and depressed turnout handed Kasich a “landslide”

When Kasich and the Ohio legislature passed a law restricting early voting and ending the so-called “golden week” when one can both register to vote and vote early at the same time, the NAACP and other organizations sued the state for what they saw as a restriction of minority and low-income peoples’ voting rights. That lawsuit made its way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the state.

The subsequent 2014 governor’s election broke a record for lowest turnout on record in a gubernatorial election. Kasich likes to call this win a “landslide,” but when only 40% of eligible voters actually participated, it doesn’t sound quite as impressive.

Kasich’s deafening silence on police brutality

Tamir Rice. John Crawford III. Tanisha Anderson. These are just three of the many names who have come to signify the ugly realities of police brutality in this country, and they all hail from the state of Ohio. Though he apparently “agreed within five minutes” to form a statewide task force to address community-police relations in the aftermath of these killings, one wonders whether the problem is really between the community and the police and not, say, just the police.

Kasich hasn’t received half the flack over police brutality that Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (deservedly) has, but that’s probably because he’s kept his mouth shut and hasn’t sent tanks through downtown Cleveland. That seems like a pretty low bar to clear in order for a governor to avoid serious scrutiny over police violence in their state.

The time John Kasich privatized the state development agency and gave it to a friend

This is the Kasich moment that I personally find most baffling. When Kasich was running his first campaign for governor in 2010, one of his campaign promises was to privatize the state’s economic development agency because that, for some reason, would make it more effective. Opponents of the move claimed it could be an invitation to corruption, and the fact that it now is a private entity makes it exempt from public records laws, so no one can really know how effective it is.

But given that its former head is a big Republican donor who gave Kasich about $45,000 before the 2010 election, and given that many of its board members have ties to the same firms they are trying to attract to Ohio, I think we can hazard a few guesses as to how efficiently the board is functioning.


James Neimeister is a freelance writer from Ohio. His interests include: Russia, Ukraine, education, technology, and "cyberspace."

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  • The_Fixer

    What people like Kasich, Walker, and in fact, any of the Republicans who drink the kool-aid don’t seem to realize is that an economy, no matter what the scale, is really a device to move money around among all of its participants. That’s the basis of any economy. A person provides goods/services in exchange for money. That money is spent, allowing others to do the same. Taxes are paid, government uses them to provide services, etc. Government spending also feeds this money exchange machine.

    One of the problems we have in the current economic situation is that money isn’t moving all around, it’s moving to those who don’t need any more of it. The very, very rich are hoarding it, whether they be corporations or individuals. If you haven’t got money moving to everyone, the economy rots. That’s what drives a government into deficit (in addition to the tax breaks rich people and rich corporations enjoy). When there’s not enough money moving in the private sector, the government has to put some out there.

    These idiots don’t understand very basic economic theory. Rarely will there be a balanced budget, as the economy is in a constant state of adjustment, which affects the government not only in what is spends, but what it collects. Governmental budgets are usually going to be unbalanced. Add to that the role the government has in regulating the economy, and it’s budget is bound to be out-of-balance, one way or another.

    This is all very basic stuff. Guys like Kasich, et al are clearly not qualified to hold office; they simply don’t know enough and don’t have the talent and skills to manage an economy.

    Here’s where it’s tempting to say that we have unqualified voters electing unqualified public officials. However, the way the deck is stacked (gerrymandering, owned media, powerful people covering up their misdeeds so well and a glut of right-wing money), it’s no wonder these fools get elected.

    It’s what you get when the system is broken.

  • The best candidates money can buy.

  • It’s been a long theme of right-wing economic blather that deficits are inherently bad, and regularly dragging out the insultingly ignorant ‘family budget’ comparison. As if the average American household wasn’t toting around ~$15k in credit card debt, ~$150k in mortgage debt, and ~$32k in student loan debt. Our entire economic system relies on the constant cycle of debt and repayment.

  • nicho

    The second someone says “balanced budget,” you know that he is a clueless idiot. There are times where it is absolutely necessary that you run at a deficit in order to spur the economy. You don’t really need to know anything else about this guy.

  • Don Chandler

    How do they ever get elected? Geesh.

  • 2karmanot

    Well done James, informative and laced with just the right amount of snark!

  • Sally

    Well, I’d say from reading the above that Kasich will not be driving the GOP Clown Car, but he will be perched in the front passenger seat with Cruz. He and Snyder have a lot in common..mostly the ability to lie or just ignore questions. Snyder has so far stayed away from Presidential aspirations talk, but when the rest of the crew crashes and burns, I’d sure the Koch are ready to propel King Rick to the front of the pack.

  • Kasich is a Lehman Brothers fraudster. As if Ohio didn’t already have enough problems. How are people with a history of illegal activities Like Kasich and Rick Scott even getting through primaries? Is our politics this corrupt? Obviously so.

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