Monday, October 02, 2017

Ohio Pension Problems: Big Story Earns Little Coverage

Reports on the oncoming fiscal crisis with Ohio's pension retirement systems  seems to have eluded Ohio mainstream media, that has yet to fully tackle, what should become a top issue for Democrats running for governor and state legislative seats next year.

Now that Ohio's term-limited, lame duck Gov. John R. Kasich only talks to national media, who have fallen in love with him for sounding like a Democrat when he defends expanded Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act, even though he's as rightie a Republican as they come, his declaration that state pension programs are "rock solid" bears a deeper dive now that some reporters are finally coming to understand how bad things are and will be for millions of active and retired public workers.

Kasich doesn't like answering questions from state and local media, as his failure to hold any press conferences in Ohio for years attests to. Making news on his terms is basic Kasich strategy, honed over decades of crafting his performance politician aura that avoids topics he's fatally flawed on, including but not limited to taxes, women's issues, budgets, healthcare, jobs and many more.

Readers of Spinelli on Assignment will recall how citizen John Kasich, before he ran for governor, helped sell a bag of bad investments to Ohio pension funds while working as a Wall Street banker for Lehman Brothers before the storied investment house went bankrupt, initiating the meltdown on Wall Street that lead to the Great Recession and Ohio pension funds taking huge losses for the package "rainmaker" Kasich helped sell.

Pension Problems

The Dayton Daily News reported Friday that the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS), the largest of the state's five pension plans, is considering options that will probably impact all current and future retirees. Included in this discussion is an attempt to connect the cost of living allowance to inflation, then capping it and delaying the onset of the COLA for new retirees.
"OPERS is the latest of the five public pensions systems in Ohio to consider benefit cuts," DDN reporter Laura Bishoff wrote, adding that the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio in April voted to indefinitely suspend the COLA for retired teachers. "Trustees said they weren’t certain that the cut would be enough to shore up the finances of the $72-billion fund," Bishoff wrote.
According to DDN's report, Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund is expected to hire a consultant to help restructure its health care benefits. The fund "announced in May it would switch in January 2019 to issuing stipends to each retiree, who can then use the money to purchase coverage. School Employees Retirement System, which covers janitors, bus drivers and cafeteria workers, is taking steps to link its cost of living allowance to inflation, cap it at 2.5 percent, and delay its onset for new retirees."
Next year's elections for governor and legislative seats in Ohio are stacking up to be more important for Buckeye Staters than the next presidential election in 2020. If Republicans continue to hold the governor's office and the party's stranglehold majority control in the legislature, Ohio can expect to suffer the same kind of Kasich-supported programs and policies through another decade or more that have hobbled the state over the last two decades.

Dems' Golden Issue To Campaign On

As Democratic candidates running for governor tout their strengths and what they will do if elected, some wonder when they will seize on the crisis now blooming and use it to their advantage, since it cuts across the grain of working families who don't want to be shortchanged after working all their lives for a decent retirement that offers healthcare benefits if funds above and beyond actual pension payments are available. As it is, Democratic fortunes at winning are long, given Ohio's terribly gerrymandered districts and the sound thumping Donald Trump delivered to Hillary Clinton by last year.

In contrast to Kasich's claim while running his losing campaign for president last year that Ohio's pension systems were "rock solid," the reality Plunderbund has reported on is alive and well. It should be added to the long list of reforms Democrats will make if common fiscal sense returns as a factor Ohio voters will use when they go to vote next year to keep 1.9 million members, beneficiaries and retirees, the cumulative total for all five funds, from having their golden years turn into their pyrite or fool's gold years.

In their first Democratic debate held recently in struggling eastern Ohio, the four declared candidates so far—former congressman Betty Sutton, former state representative Connie Pillich, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and State Sen. Joe Schiavoni—talked about many things, but not about Ohio's looming pension system crisis.

Gov. Kasich and his Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, the only GOP woman who has declared her candidacy for governor next year, the Republican-led state legislature and the other three declared GOP candidates—Attorney General Mike Dewine, Secretary of State Jon Husted and Congressman Jim Renacci—will have a hard time defending why it's good that cutbacks and shorting COLAs is what Republican control over the decades has produced for hard-working Ohioans.

The big issue that's earned little attention from Ohio media, especially the Big Eight legacy newspapers, is ripe for the picking for Democrats. The issue should also be ripe for Buckeye voters to understand and rally around if nearly two million beneficiaries of these funds are to have confidence in a livable future they've earned.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Plain Dealer Endorsed Rob Portman Votes To Hurt Ohioans On Healthcare

The Cleveland Plain Dealer (PD) has done nothing to atone for its shameful removal of a video in 2014 showing Gov. John Kasich acting like a petulant, spoiled teenager instead of the adult in the room by capitulating to political pressure from Team Kasich. Now the shrinking paper by Lake Erie finds itself in another embarrassing dilemma of its own making.

On Tuesday, junior Ohio Senator Rob Portman voted to essentially repeal the Affordable Care Act by voting to proceed with floor debate on a bill that would gut or kill Obamacare for tens of millions. The paper up north apparently forgot all the laudatory rhetoric it used to complement the 60-year old "commonsense conservative" from Cincinnati when it endorsed Portman instead of former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland.

Fifty Senate Republicans, including Sen. Portman, acted like kamikaze pilots trying to sink Obamacare instead of thoughtful, commonsense lawmakers looking out for the best interests of their constituents. The bill Portman did not object to will hurt tens of millions across the nation and maybe a million or more Ohioans poor enough to qualify for Medicaid.

In their silly editorial dinging Portman for his vote, which enabled Vice President Mike Pence to cast the tie-breaking vote, the PD had the gall to say to Mr. Portman, "You let us down."
"Sen. Rob Portman cast the wrong vote Tuesday in supporting a hasty, politically motivated effort to allow Senate debate and, presumably, a vote on one or a series of ill-considered, narrowly partisan measures likely to devastate health care in Ohio," said the tired paper whose constant support of Cleveland's powerful ruling corporate oligarchy is now embarrassing.
Really? But it was just last year when the PD gushed on Portman, sucking up to the silver-haired human waffle in an endorsement article that said, "Portman has the proven ability, understanding and energy to help Ohio citizens and businesses prosper and to do his part to make the U.S. Senate a place where competence, not churlish partisanship, matters most."
The only thing Sen. Portman proves he has the ability to do is misunderstand policy on issues critical to Ohio and Ohioans and kowtow to the partisan interests of his own political party.
"It's hard to believe Strickland could make a difference in the Senate," the PD wrote about a Democrat governor who made a huge difference as the Great Recession rolled over Ohio, and who would have made another huge difference had he moved to the Senate to defuse the ticking time bomb that Republicans want to exploded as soon as possible.
Writing about the PD's soft treatment of Cleveland Mayor Frank, Ohio's senior and leading independent reporter, Roldo Bartimole, who has reported on inside Cleveland politics for scores of years, said the Plain Dealer has played a supporting role in promoting the interests of downtown corporate players over neighborhoods. What Mr. Bartimole said about the paper's cozy relationship with Cleveland's mighty can equally apply to its dopey treatment of Portman.
"The PD Editorial section, free to express opinions and uninhibited to voice criticism, appears docile and weak. Not up to the job. Columnists—unbound from the strictures of normal balanced reportage—likewise appear feeble or preoccupied with less essential coverage."
Sen. Portman not only voted to proceed to discuss the Better Care Reconciliation Act, but he wasn't among the nine Republican senators who voted no on the bill itself.
American Bridge President Jessica Mackler released the following statement after Republicans in the Senate voted with Donald Trump to take healthcare from millions of Americans:
“Every Republican in Washington will own this plan to gut healthcare for the American people in order to cut taxes for the rich. Pushing this reckless plan, while exempting themselves from the pain they plan to inflict upon the country, just to give the scandal-plagued President a poisoned political ‘win’ is a gross display of misplaced priorities, and the country isn’t going to stand for it. Today Republicans chose to ignore the country’s overwhelming opposition to Trumpcare, and the consequences will be felt by every Republican running for Senate or House in 2018 — and for years to come.”
Ted Strickland got clobbered last year, and the PD's reporting, or lack thereof, helped Portman clinch a second term shortly after voting stopped.

You reap what you sow, it's said, and the PD has sowed seeds of discontent for Ohio when it gave Portman a pass last year. Sen. Portman will continue to hurt Buckeyes and Ohio's economy and its future, so don't look for the PD and other Ohio media that became part of the pro-Portman herd to find their journalistic spine anytime soon.

'PensionGate' Can Make Ohio Dems Winners In 2018

 Virtually no Ohio newspaper, television or radio station or even political blog has figured out what the single biggest issue, that if prosecuted properly by Ohio Democrats between now and Election Day next year, could install them back in the winner's circle in Columbus.

After two terms of a hard-right, Christian conservative turned Wall Street banker like Gov. John Kasich and his CPA sidekick Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, Ohio is the worse for wear.

Lousy Ingredients, Lousy Government

One national ranking of states after another shows Kasich the reformer and complicit accomplice Taylor, a former state auditor, have colluded to rob cities and schools of billions, while gifting billions to poor performing for-profit charter schools whose owners kickback in campaign contributions with the same appreciation credit card companies offer cash-back when a purchase is made.

Under the guise of balancing a state budget racked from devastating effects delivered courtesy of the 2007 Great Recession, put in play lest it be forgotten from trillions of income tax cuts financed on the national credit card by then President George W. Bush and his then budget director, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, Team Kasich sold his flim flam budgeting ideas and misguided public policies as smart, business-based reforms, when what they did was to stall the economy when other states slipstreamed a rising national economy. They also bloomed into a billion-dollar-plus budget shortfall that plagued Gov. Kasich's last budget, which austerity-minded Republicans filled with cuts from elsewhere. Team Kasich reversed Papa John Pizza's sales pitch—Lousy ingredients, lousy government. But it was part of the great reformer's elaborate political showmanship.

A Better Issue

Sen. Portman waltzed to an early and resounding victory last year over the governor Ohioans elected in 2006 to turnaround the state from an array of economic problems decades in the making, incubated in the GOP hothouse that favors private interest growth over safeguarding the public interest.
Voters recoiled in 2006 after years of overt corruption and pay-to-play politics culminated in the now famous scandal called Coingate. Like Rip Van Winkle, voters woke up from a long sleep, as Ohio Republicans fleeced their constituents with media going along for the ride.
"Coingate is a nickname for the Tom Noe investment scandal in Ohio revealed in early 2005 in part by Toledo, Ohio newspaper The Blade. The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) invested hundreds of millions of dollars in high risk or unconventional investment vehicles run by people closely connected to the Ohio Republican Party who had made large campaign contributions to many senior Republican party officials.
"A rare coin investment fund has attracted particular scrutiny after it was reported that two coins worth more than $300,000 had been lost. Further investigation then revealed that coins worth $10–$12 million were missing and that only $13 million of the original $50 million invested could be accounted for. Tom Noe was convicted of running a criminal enterprise, the theft of $13 million from the fund, and of keeping a second set of books to cover for it." [Source:]
Tom Noe is still in stir in a state correctional facility after he and accomplices defrauded the state in the pay-to-play corruption drama known as Coingate. Voters in 2006 had enough of GOP control of state government that enabled political insiders like Mr. Noe to run roughshod with Ohio funds. Mark D. Lay, an investment banker from Pittsburgh also involved in Coingate, found himself behind bars like Mr. Noe after the dust settled.

After two-consecutive terms each, first by George V. Voinovich then Robert Taft, Ted Strickland, a pragmatic former Democratic congressman representing a large swath of Appalachia Ohio, was elected governor in 2006 by a wide margin. It was an electoral feat Democrats have been unable to duplicate since, not just for governor but for auditor, treasurer, secretary of state or attorney general.
Statewide Democratic candidates got shellacked in 2010 and 2014, as they continued their run of failures to take control in the House or Senate, with the exception of a two-year period from 2008-2010 when Democrats took majority control of the House. Meanwhile, some political pundits believe outdated political history augers well for a switch next year from Republican to Democrat as all statewide offices become open seats now that current GOP incumbents become term-limited.
Why would voters who have turned Columbus red by trashing Democrats in election after election for decades—dating back 33 years to when Democrats last controlled the Ohio Senate—suddenly vote in Democrats? Will the new national Democratic agenda dubbed "A Better Deal" win the new political war, with all its new contours and non-traditional markers, that's been brewing from Election Day last year when Donald Trump thumped Hillary Clinton in red Ohio by nearly nine points or almost one-half million votes?

Is there any issue that would so rile Buckeye voters, Republican, Democrat or in between, that they would vote out Republicans by voting a Democrat back into the governor's office, especially after eight years of Gov. Kasich talking a good game about jobs and progress but delivering little on wages or the quantity and quality of jobs or education performance their the average wage earner can look to with pride on how his taxes are being spent?

If Ohio Democrats want an issue that can work to their advantage again, like Coingate did 11 years ago, and comes with a built-in constituency of millions of Ohio current and retired workers who vote, it's starring them in the face. So far they've failed to see it and assess it, so using it to batter ram a message that political change is needed to protect the funds from vulture managers who would fly off with billions and leave little behind may not be imminent.

Hedge Fund Fees

Gov. John Kasich spent years working on Wall Street for Lehman Brothers before running for governor in 2010. He's stated without equivocation that Ohio's retirement pension systems are "rock solid." That claim is fake news on par with declarations that come from the Trump White House on a daily basis on matters easily fact checked as false.

But for all the words Ohio's Big Eight newspapers print every day on issues big and small, the story that looms for Democrats, if they choose to seize the day on it despite it not garnering much ink with Buckeye media so far, is just how hollow, or overvalued as experts might call some of its key holdings are, that jeopardize retirement pension funds that suffered low investment returns throughout Gov. Kasich's seven years. While returns for retirees were low, the returns for hedge fund managers in the form of fees was high. Ohio retirees have been sold a bill of goods whose value is far lower than it should be.
"Ohio’s largest pension plans are at risk of falling significantly short on their obligations to hundreds of thousands of Ohioans. In fact, Ohio ranks ahead of only Mississippi in terms of the level of unfunded liabilities relative to the size of the state’s income." [Source:]
Mr. Kasich built a reputation over 40 years in elected politics as a great reformer who's now allowed state pension funds to be looted by Wall Street money managers of the ilk he worked with while at Lehman Brothers. The theft of millions in management fees is akin to the graft Tom Noe engaged in when Robert Taft was governor. The caper isn't that dissimilar to the more recent scandal of people being drained of lifetime earnings by Bernie Madoff, the New York investment man who ran a Ponzi scheme of historic proportions.

If the problem in Ohio is anything like it is in Rhode Island, where the Security and Exchange Commission has been called in to investigate whether "individuals are criminally responsible for the mismanagement of the state’s pension fund which has since cost Rhode Island 'nearly a billion dollars,'” Democrats have a real dragon that can breath the kind of fire that could motivate voters to wake up the sleeping giant of self-interest.

Are there issues that play to the Democratic agenda of a better deal on education or jobs or healthcare or infrastructure? Yes. Will selling these issues work for Democrats next year? Maybe and maybe not, given the reluctance of Ohio media to crank up outrage over misspent funds or misguided policy by the Kasich Administration, which has stiff-armed reporters at all levels who tried to warn Republican voters last year that John Kasich's run for president was ginned up as something different, when it was just Donald Trump's agenda without Trump's over-the-top bombast and outlandish attitude. Kasich's run, and his claim of being the "adult in the room" was fake news anyone could figure out with a little research.

Dems Have The Issue, But Can They See and Seize It?

Democrats have an issue that cuts across all segments of society and all political persuasions that can win the day for them next year. The sooner they figure out how to communicate how bad off Ohio's pension retirement funds really are, the better off they will be in pushing Kasich-friendly Republicans and media into a corner from which they can see no other culprit but themselves. Gov. Kasich and his team have sold pensioners down the Ohio river who will pay more during their working lives, only to receive less when they eventually retire.

Hedge fund managers showed up when Kasich won his first term in 2010, and have taken the most while delivering the least, under the cover of night as media fails to dig down to find out why the state's pension funds are in such terrible shape, based on hedge fund investments that could be as hollow as Mr. Kasich's claim of being the adult in the room.
"Despite having assets of more than $150 billion, some estimates show that Ohio needs to increase pension funding by at least $275 billion to be fully funded—that’s almost $25,000 per Ohio citizen. If lawmakers fail to make the decision about how to close the gap now, future generations will bear the burden of higher taxes, reduced government services, or even reduced benefits." Source:]
Republicans have no one else to blame but themselves for the deplorable plight Ohio's retirees face. If Coingate helped Democrats win some statewide seats in 2006, surely PensionGate can help them do the same next year.

Former Fox News investigative reporter John Damschroder has sounded the alarm.
"It's politically crazy Ohio Republicans are taking this sort of risk after Coingate and Crofters," he said, calling it a sign of political incompetence by Ohio Democrats that the issue is ignored.
Writing for the Fremont News Messenger, Damschroder sees a breakdown in media scrutiny that such an investment strategy executed during record highs for the stock markets have forced pension cuts for more than a million Ohioans without much coverage.
During his run for president on the Republican Party platform last year, Gov. Kasich called Ohio's pension funds rock solid, when they are in fact a national leader in high risk low reward investment, according to Mr. Damschroder, a Fremont native who worked in Gov. George Voinovich’s administration, writes about business and economic development in Sandusky County. He notes that no Ohio political or media figure has said word one about Kasich's fiction on how rock solid the pension is for millions of Buckeyes.
Democratic candidates for governor and auditor can led the charge on restoring the value Ohioans deserve who have worked and contributed to a state retirement system that has fallen flat on Kasich's watch.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Kasich Talks To The Mirror Again, Ignorant About Other, Better Healthcare Systems

What a waste. It's a real shame that someone who's gained fame and fortune over 40 years as a professional political showman is so ignorant about healthcare delivery in America.

It's worse when such politicians are willfully blind to how healthcare is delivered in other nations, where it's so far superior to America's exceptionally harsh and uncompassionate system that leaves so many who are poor, elderly and sick to fend for themselves.

But that's basic Kasich. Always at the center of his one-man universe, Ohio's term-limited governor coos about his so-called Ohio-model formula for lowering Medicaid costs and improving the quality of health care. Gov. John Kasich, the lame-duck governor who got pummeled in last year's race for president after losing 49 state or caucus primaries, continues to pop up on national TV shows as some-kind of expert on government policy and spending. Mr. Kasich's routine is to repeat his misbegotten and misguided belief that repealing and replacing The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act [ACA, a.k.a. Obamacare] is the way to  move forward, even when doing so would endanger the very people he cries crocodile tears about as the "vulnerable citizens...left behind."

Talking into the mirror again, because mirrors don't talk like a good reporter would, Gov. Kasich offered his unverified and unspecific vision of how to fix Obamacare while ensuring the most vulnerable of people—drug addicted, mentally ill and the working poor—get the quality care they need.

A Wasteland Mind

It's too bad that Gov. Kasich doesn't read more articles in the newspaper of record that endorsed him for president in the Republican primary last year. Had the Buckeye State's crusty CEO done so last week, he might have learned a thing or two from an opinion piece called "The Fake Freedom of American Health Care." As it is, the great reformers vision for healthcare reform is just more of the awful belief that healthcare is a privilege, not a right, and that all those vulnerable people he pretends to care about will end up far worse off under the destructive ways he and his Republican colleagues want to pursue healthcare compared to retaining, then building on the ACA in a positive way.

Author Anu Partanen, who lived in Finland for eight years before returning to the United States, wrote about the belief among Republicans like Mr. Kasich and others that there is "an appealing logic to such thinking...that buying health care is like buying anything else," when it is anything but the same. Mr. Partanen admits that America is home to some of the world’s best medical schools, doctors, research institutes and hospitals. He says this is good if "you have the money for the coverage and procedures you want..." At the same time, he argues, it "likely results in extreme inequalities and it might be expensive, but it definitely buys you the best medical treatment anywhere."

Odds are the governor didn't read Mr. Partanen's enlightened analysis or digest the troubles low-wage Ohio workers suffer as they work long hours, hoping their paychecks are enough to keep them from resorting to government safety-net programs Mr. Kasich has been so stingy about throughout his life in politics. Ohio job creation numbers on the governor's watch show he's failed to meet or exceed the national average for 49 or the last 50 months, a record fraught with embarrassment.

America lauds itself as the land of freedom. But the freedom Gov. Kasich would claim, and that House Speaker Paul Ryan tweeted "is the ability to buy what you want to fit what you need,” is also the freedom to dig your own grave. The kind of freedom Ryan and Kasich fantasize about, according to Mr. Partanen, "requires most Americans to spend not just money, but also time and energy agonizing over the bewildering logistics of coverage and treatment — confusing plans, exorbitant premiums and deductibles, exclusive networks, mysterious tests, outrageous drug prices....And more often than not, individual choices are severely restricted by decisions made by employers, insurers, doctors, pharmaceutical companies and other private players...Those interest groups, not the consumer, decide which plans are available, what those plans cover, which doctors patients can see and how much it will cost."

Corporate Bureaucrats

It's telling for anyone who falls into America's healthcare tiger-pit system that the person standing between you and your doctor isn't a government bureaucrat, as Gov. Kasich would likely bemoan, but a corporate bureaucrat who actually determines what procedure or drug that could save your life the company will pay for.

Meanwhile, Gov. Kasich touts his smart management. It doesn't take a healthcare expert to know that when a state pays nursing homes far less for the care they provide than before, state costs go down. But that's a simplified version of Gov. Kasich reducing Ohio's share of Medicaid costs, since Medicare doesn't pay for nursing home care like Medicaid does. Ohio's 69th governor's reforms have only exacerbated income inequality since 2011 through a tax distribution system that makes everyone but top earners pay more.

With the Ohio House of Representatives planning to vote on the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act this Thursday, the seventh anniversary of the ACA, there's zero reason to believe Mr. Kasich will show up to offer his own testimony, the kind he reserves for largely forgotten-politico cameos on Sunday morning TV talk shows.

Whether its income tax giveaways of $5-plus billion or $6 billion in reduced workers' compensation costs, that ironically have not produced the quantity or quality or jobs Mr. Kasich promised to deliver when voters first elected him governor in 2010, Mr. Kasich loves talking policy to his reflection in the mirror. And media, in love with access to him, repeats his blather with little push back on his bogus beliefs that being stingy [read as "personal responsibility"] to those who need compassion is wrong on every account.
During his days living in Finland, Mr. Partanen learned this: "In Finland I never worried about where my medical care came from or whether I could afford it. I paid my income taxes — which, again despite the stereotypes, were about the same as what I pay in federal, state and local income taxes in New York City — and if I needed to see a doctor, I had several options."

Does Gov. Kasich even know that virtually every wealthy capitalist democracy in the world has decided that some form of government-managed universal health care is the most sensible and effective option?
Does Gov. Kasich even know that Americans spend far more on health care than citizens of any other country?

Does Gov. Kasich even know that Americans get a raw deal because they pay much more than people in other countries yet get much worse results? American-style healthcare, as the author of the NYC opinion piece sees it, imprisons people, not liberates them, as speaker Ryan and Gov. Kasich would argue. Mr. Kasich's plan, in reality, would put all people, especially those he uses as rhetorical props to promote his trickle-down ideas, in a constant state of stress.

Gov. Kasich is so full of his own bad beliefs that he would dismiss without consideration Mr. Partanen's appeal to politicos of his radical right-wing ilk. "Here is my appeal to Republicans: If you really want to free Americans and unburden American employers, why not try, or at least seriously consider, some form of government-managed health care, like almost every other capitalist democracy? There are many ways of giving people choice and excellent care under government management. Universal publicly managed health coverage would even free America’s corporations and businesses to streamline their operations, releasing them from bureaucratic obligations that to me, coming from Finland, I have to say look weirdly socialist. Would this mean they would have to pay more in taxes?"

Americans are afraid of what's coming, either from Trumpcare as proposed and in the U.S. House now or reforms proposed by great reformers like Gov. Kasich. Americans know how inefficient healthcare is today, in light of the fact they pay far more in money, worry and hassle for the same, and sometimes worse, care than people in other wealthy capitalist democracies.

It would take a real leader to admit the obvious, that healthcare in America has been helped by Obamacare, and that returning to the days before it would be a disaster. For lovers of freedom, as Gov. Kasich would surely agree identify with, freedom from worry and stress would be real freedom. False freedoms, as Ohio's petulant governor and his ilk like, would further imprison the very populations that say they want to help.

Liar Tapping John Kasich On Bi-Partisanship, Obamacare

Is Donald Trump's claim that President Obama wire tapped him true or a lie? In Trump world, a lie is as good as the truth if Trump believes it, even if the Big Orange Machine provides no evidence or proof to back it up.

When other public officials make claims based on equally flimsy proof about one topic or another, holding them to account could by liar tapping them is a duty for all citizen patriots. Liar tapping would be a fitting description about Ohio Gov. John Kasich's often repeated claim that everyone but the great reformer is a partisan engaged in partisanship.

Yet again, Ohio's gaffe-prone governor, who's as partisan as the day is long, has rolled out the same stream of lies he's become so fond of, that media seem incapable of liar tapping with any consistency or strength.

Writing in The New York Times Friday, Ohio's lame-duck CEO is again shoveling his easily debunked claims that his way is the best way, and that everyone else, be they Republicans or Democrats, are less politicians than he is.

Liar Tapping Doesn't Require A FISA Warrant

You don't need a FISA warrant to liar tap the former Lehman Brothers banker on his view of history, from his days in Congress to his more than six years as governor. The 65-year old says that Democrats, in 2010, fixed health care unilaterally, without bipartisan support. "The result was Obamacare, which has run up government spending while failing to drive down the cost of health care."

Liar tapping Kasich shows that Republicans were politically opposed to anything the Obama Administration advanced, so they carped and whines and didn't go along with the leader the nation had overwhelmingly picked over the GOP challenger, Arizona Sen. John McCain. It takes a lot of brass for Mr. Kasich to talk about working with others who are political rivals when he voted, along with all other Republicans at the time, to approve President Bill Clinton's first budget that raised taxes on the wealthy. Kasich claimed it would be lead to end days, but instead it lead to a decade of prosperity and record job creation.

In his editorial, Kasich's claim that Obamacare is a failure is an easily corrected lie. The historic healthcare law has now insured 20 million who didn't have insurance before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act became law. The cost curve on medical cost growth is the lowest in decades, due to the ACA, and states who accepted expanded Medicaid coverage through the ACA have populations that have coverage where they didn't before. John Kasich was one of 16 Republican governors who broke ranks to take billions from Washington so Ohio's rising population of low-income workers, seniors, disabled, mothers and children would have access to doctors where they didn't before.

Another chestnut Kasich has trotted out repeatedly, that he does again in his NYT op-ed, is his version of history of when he was in Congress and chaired the House Budget Committee in the sunset years of his time in the U.S. House of Representatives. "When I was chairman of the House Budget Committee in the 1990s, we were able to make over Pentagon spending, revamp welfare and balance the federal budget for the first time in decades because Democrats and Republicans made a commitment to work together." As noted above, Kasich voted against Clinton's budget, the one that produced all that extra money that produced a so-called balanced budget. Has Kasich and his GOP comrades won the day, there would not have been any surplus to balance any budget.

Kasich claims that throughout his career he's "learned that meaningful change happens only with bipartisan support." Ask any Ohio Democrat when and where Mr. Kasich has involved them in his deliberations, and you'll find it slim to none. He's learned to talk a good game, but the proof of the pudding of working across the isle is a rare bird indeed.

When the term-limited governor claims that conservative, market-driven reforms control health care costs, liar tapping that one is easy: there are no examples to point to. Before the ACA became a reality, Republicans like Kasich were in a fever pitch over the skyrocketing costs of all medical costs, from doctors to drugs to procedures. Republicans controlled congress in Clinton's days and for a majority of President George W. Bush's time in the White House, but they did zero to reign in costs when they had the power to do so.

As he always does, the self-righteous leader can always find answers to what ails the nation in what he's done, either in Washington or Columbus. He does it again, pointing to his Ohio model as the bi-partisan solution devoid of bi-partisanship. "States often serve as the laboratories of change," he says, refusing to admit that laboratories sometimes blow up when chemists don't know what they're doing.
Liar tapping his claim on a good job being the "best anti-poverty program" is as easy as looking what he's done to create jobs over the last 50 months. For 48 of those months, Gov. Kasich has fallen woefully short of creating jobs in sufficient quantity to give every Ohio worker who needs a good paying job one. He's done so poorly, in fact, that Ohio's workforce has shrunk significantly on his watch, as discouraged workers bow out.

Republicans should reach across the aisle for help, and Democrats should accept the offer, he said. Really? Where was that spirit of bi-partisanship in 2010 when the ACA was working its way through Washington? Why didn't Republicans reach out to Democrats in 2008 and 2009, when the nation put them in charge by big margins? John Kasich has never believed that what's good for the goose is good for the gander, because if he did, he would have a long list of policies he could point to where he was willing to work with Democrats. But the hyper-partisan governor has little to point to on that score.

Commenters Liar Tap The Great Reformer

One commenter liar tapped Mr. Kasich with precision guidance. "Setting aside the fact that it's a bit rich to hear a Republican leader suddenly call for an end to partisan warfare after eight dirty years of GOP warfare - you then go on to make your case using your partisan opinion as facts," Dana in Santa Monica notes.

Den Barn, writing from Brussels, liar tapped Ohio's CEO this way on his GOP-centric view of the magic of the market: "So the idea of market based affordable health care is an oxymoron. It's like a government where people could individually choose how much tax they pay and how much service they get."

Gordon MacDowell of Kent, Ohio, knows this about Kasich's kind of politics: "All my life, the Republican party policy towards national health care has been that there should be NONE." Mr. MacDowell then liar taps Kasich, saying, "Since passing of the ACA, Republicans have confirmed the position that there be NO national health care by voting in Congress many times to repeal it, with no substitute. I guess that if Gov. Kasich and enough other Republicans now accept the notion of SOME national health care obligation, then Pres. Obama has won."

VJR outed Mr. Kasich for the partisan he is. Riffing off Kasich's intro, he translated it this way: "America, we need to be bipartisan, so I'll be partisan and start by blaming Democrats. Not a nice way to open up an opinion piece, Governor Kasich."

Longestaffe liar taps Kasich in similar fashion to VJR: "I must say he [Kasich] gets off on the wrong foot in this opinion piece by making the Democrats' supposed disregard for bipartisanship central to his argument."

Kathy in Hopewell Junction told John Kasich exactly what he refuses to admit: "Like it or not, Governor Kasich, the government is the solution not the problem.

Bite the bullet and recognize that the more we unravel health care from payroll, the more we will employ."
John Kasich knows he can get away with with his outlandish and preposterous claims because Media lets him. Plunderbund has held his feet to the fire throughout his governorship. And we'll keep the home fires burning so we can scorch him again when he wants to defy the truth with blatant lies.

In Reversal Of Fortune, Obamacare Kills GOP House Death Panel

The death panels Sarah Palin concocted in 2008 after then GOP presidential nominee John McCain picked her as his vice presidential running mate never existed in reality. Even though the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act [ACA] contained no real language that actually created her so-called death panels, that wasn't a problem for the winking girl from Wasilla, Alaska, who parlayed her time in the national spotlight into fame and fortune.

A real life death panel Palin missed talking about—the GOP Majority Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives—engaged in an act of Hari Kari. Sudden death came when House speaker Paul Ryan, who like Palin in 2008 became the GOP's pick for vice president in 2012, admitted defeat at repealing and replacing the ACA, best known as Obamacare, by his bill—The American Health Care Act—from a floor vote. Had Mr. Ryan let that vote proceed, it  would have killed it dead like Palin said her fictional death panels would do to so many Americans forced to live under President Barack Obama's signature legislative accomplishment.

As people from across the nation swarmed into town hall meetings called by their elected representatives in Washington, speaker Ryan and his partner in crime, President Donald Trump, learned that all their misleading, misguiding and misbegotten lore about how big a disaster Obamacare has been, America's fondness for the program that reined in the excesses of the private for-profit health care market reached new highs, as calls to some Republicans reached 1,000 to keep it versus 1 to toss it out.

Republicans were doomed either way they went. If they ran off the cliff to placate the Big Orange Man in the White House who called for an up-or-down vote, they would have shown how craven they were to the lives of so many millions who before Obamacare lived in fear of going bankrupt or dying. Had a vote been taken and as many as 30 or more Republicans balked at supporting Ryancare or Trumpcare, the aura of infallibility the White House has draped itself in would have exploded like a North Korean missile shortly after launch.

President Trump wants to move on now, but investigation by the FBI of him and his campaign cronies ties to Russia could be another death panel for the 70-old New York billionaire whose inexperience and fumbling in the art of the public deal killed passing a very bad bill.

Democrats, independents and progressives can bask in the satisfaction that they defeated the Big Orange Machine and its army of Republican senators and House members on an issue so central to their core being that they spent seven years battling against it, only to fall victim to it in the end.

But now, with victory fresh in their rear view mirror, everyone opposed to Ryancare or Trumpcare should gear up for the coming battles of the budget and tax reform. The same people that brought you a decidedly disastrous bill on health care will be pushing for equally bad bills to trim the budget in harmful ways to nearly everyone but the super wealthy and reform an already disastrous tax code that subsidizes the rich at the expense of the poor.

Revel in yesterday's defeat, but remember that tomorrow will be equally dangerous if the resistance pulls up short in energy or commitment.

When The 'The Shoe' Doesn't Fit

The release in April by The Ohio State University of its top earners, 13 of whom pull in more than $1 million per year, will impress many who see seven-figure salaries and figure a big, nationally recognized public university like OSU is doing what it has to to compete for top talent.

At the same time salaries for public employees like head football and basketball coaches dwarf that of OSU's actual president by millions, the average student debt for OSU graduates is approximately $27,336 after four years, a tidy sum that puts the pressure on those graduates to find jobs to pay it all back while also affording a life outside their parent's basements. The burden of student loans, which by law cannot be refinanced at lower interest rates, prevents these newly minted graduates from participating as good consumers by buying cars or homes because they don't have the disposable cash.

Data released by OSU shows how misplaced the university's priorities have come to be: head football coach Urban Meyer rakes in $4.61 million in salary and bonus pay. Urban is followed by men's basketball coach, Thad Matta, at $3.39 million. OSU President Michael Drake, by contrast, earns a paltry $1.04 million, which includes a $204,000 bonus. In the mightiest of all departments at OSU, athletics, Director Gene Smith won't have to worry where his next meal is coming from with a yearly income draw of $1.98 million.

Student athletes, the ones who win the big games and whose performance nets hundreds of millions into Scarlet and Green coffers, are unpaid. Paying them like any university employee would be the right thing to do in light of what they do to further the brand and create revenue, but the long-standing taboo that shrouds amateur athletes remains strong, even though coaches' salaries is a point of commercial pride for their respective universities.

Ohio remains above average in college costs, as college boards raise tuition whenever the legislature lets them. Gov. John Kasich, aided by his fiscal conservatives in Ohio's GOP-led General Assembly, stemmed cut back on funding public colleges, which only motivates trustees to mind the gap by raising fees and tuition when they can.

And since Gov. Kasich can't produce enough jobs, even with his so-called friendly attitude toward business, the ones he does take credit for are jobs that mostly pay minimum wage, guaranteeing those job holders need to find other incomes sources to make ends meet each month. Ohio's lame-duck CEO has consistently under performed the national job creation average for over 50 straights months, so while it sounds impressive when he says he's overseen the creation of 460,000 jobs, some of them came on the heels of former Gov. Ted Strickland leaving office, while the rest have trickled over the last six years.

Ohio ranks in the bottom half of states in job creation, according to the W.P Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, a well respected national analyst of how well states perform in economics.
It's no wonder that Ohio suffers from a so-called "brain drain" as students get their K-12 education here, then move to states where good-paying jobs are being created, like California, a favorite whipping boy for Kasich who mocks it as a "whackadoodle" state, which under Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and a Democratic legislature has turned into a leading job creator. In other categories, like green energy jobs, the Golden State is truly golden compared to Ohio that once had the nation's most advanced energy portfolio but squandered it as Gov. Kasich called for a reset.

John Kasich has bemoaned the fact that Ohio has plenty of jobs but is wanting in applicants with the right skill set to fill them. As Dean Baker at the Economic Policy Institute argues, those jobs would be filled if wages offered were higher. Who wants to work for low pay when they have skills that should command higher wages? But wages are not rising, having been essentially stagnant for 30 years. If skilled workers are in demand, they would be seeing it in their paychecks, but that's not happening. So Gov. Kasich's claim that more training is needed is politically artful but bogus.

Instead of standing up to the wasteful spending of tens of billions of dollars in for-profit charter schools that mostly perform below the worse public schools, Mr. Kasich should look to Ohio's future, if it's an educated workforce he wants. He should change course 180 degrees and renew funding to Ohio's still unconstitutional system of public education, including boosting funding for public colleges and universities.

Instead of paying outrageous sums to individuals who have as many hours in their day as anyone else, and who are now leasing out assets for decades in exchange for a fistful of dollars now—sold in part to help boost student scholarships—to offset the funding Camp Kasich isn't giving them, Ohio lawmakers should go back to what made Ohio great in the first place: public funding for important core public needs like a quality education and functional infrastructure. But that's unlikely as Ohio's 69th governor has more important spending priorities like funding income tax cuts for the wealthiest, a manifestation of his ideology to wean groups and individuals off pubic assistance. But after decades of demonizing government as spendthrifts and bureaucrats dismissive of local needs, the emphasis remains to allow private sector corporations to rob workers of high payer. With profits at record levels and tax rates at record low levels, returning value to shareholders is the best and highest use of after expense profits for governors like Mr. Kasich who want to work "at the speed of business." The cost of labor is to be minimized like any other business expense.

Speaking in Columbus Thursday, urban soothsayer Richard Florida, author of "The Creative Class," told an audience at the Mershon Auditorium at Ohio State University that ""I think we need to understand that we as a society are not going to function well if we don't pay people a living wage," according to the Columbus Dispatch.

Who wouldn't want to make a million or more per year of income? The question should be, when will austerity politicians wise up to the fact that their plans to create a livable society has failed miserably? The downhill slide started with President Ronald Reagan, who famously said government isn't the solution, it's the problem. Tax shifting that creates more income inequality may result in big pay for university honchos, but it only pounds another nail into the coffin of workers who wonder if they'll have a job tomorrow, and what it will pay when compared to the cost of a robot working 24/7 forever, without need of shelter, food, healthcare or retirement income.

If 1,000 people were stopped on the street at random and asked to give their first thought about The Ohio State University, the odds are better than great that they would mention the glorious history over time for the men of the scarlet and gray. The stadium where the men's football team plays home games, built in the 1920's with an eye to the future, has been dubbed "The Shoe" since it resemblance a horseshoe. It seats more than 100,000 clamoring fans who pay big bucks to watch the current coach lead his team to victory, and maybe even a national championship.

Maybe thinking outside "The Shoe" for a change is what's needed in light of the pay scale at OSU? And maybe, just maybe, this shoe shouldn't fit anymore. With concussions on the rise, can anyone imagine a day when men's football is divorced from university academics? In other countries, soccer teams are run like clubs. When students go to Oxford or Cambridge or any other great world university outside America, they don't go there because these institutions of higher learning have a great sports team.
Isn't the education, stupid, that should count, not whether OSU beat Michigan this year or not.

Will 'Trumpcare' Bring Back Bake Sales To Pay For Health Care?

President Donald Trump finally got his first big legislative win recently, when by one vote extra House Republicans passed what is now labeled Trumpcare, a bill so bad that it had no hearings, was never "scored" by the Congressional Budget Office, and few GOP backers could say they actually plowed through its 1,800 pages of legalese that will shock many voters who voted for The Donald thinking he was their Messiah.

On HBO last Friday, political comedian Bill Maher mused that California's law permitting medical marijuana could be the only treatment Sunshine State residents will have access to, if and when the badly botched bill House Speaker Paul Ryan's Majority Caucus voted for ever becomes law, which could be a pipe dream now that Senate Republicans say they'll start from scratch to craft their own version.

Bringing Back Bake Sales?

At the end of each of the major news networks' evening news programs is a segment on people doing good things or overcoming hurdles so high they were once thought insurmountable. The names of these human interest story segments range from Inspiring America to America Strong to On The Road. Before President Barack Obama's signature health law, The Patient Protection and Affordability Act, became law in early 2010, it wasn't uncommon for local or national news programs to feature bake sales as one way parents at their wits end thought of paying for someones costly procedure to keep them alive.

With Trumpcare on the march, is it premature to ask whether the era of the bake sales as a viable alternative to the affordable health care provided by the ACA has returned. Brownies, cookies and cakes baked by loving moms and dads to come up with the cash it costs in America to treat severe illness brings many a tear to many eyes who think its so inspiring that people come together to purchase sugary treats in order to pay the bills for treatments and procedures that in America cost far more than they do anywhere else around the world. where holding a bake sale would be considered a preposterous alternative to universal, single-payer health care.

If people can't afford the cost of health insurance, they shouldn't be entitled to it, is the thinking by many social and fiscal conservatives who believe when it comes to whether health care in America it's a privilege not a basic right. Most advanced countries have already decided it's a right, and built their health care system around that conclusion. American exceptionalism is exceptional in that it sometimes ignores the wisdom of the world as it meanders down a long and winding path that leads more of than not to heartache and despair for many who haven't feathered their nest as thoroughly as Donald Trump and his close cohorts have.

Bake Sales In Ohio?

In Ohio, the perfect storm delivered by Trumpcare will leave 900,000 Buckeyes at risk of losing coverage under the newly-passed House Republican healthcare plan. Another 200,000, the number of Ohioans currently receiving care for opioid addictions, could also lose coverage. Equally discouraging is a list of 90 pre-existing conditions that will leave many hurting, now that states can opt out of requiring for-profit health insurers from covering them.

On the right side of history and morality, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown said these pre-existing offer insurance companies 90 reasons to discriminate by denying coverage or making it so costly as to be unaffordable. According to Sen. Brown, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates roughly 28 percent of non-elderly Ohioans had pre-existing conditions covered under the Affordable Care Act in 2015.

"That's over 1.9 million people in Ohio alone who stand to see their premiums soar because of conditions for which they desperately need care," Brown said in prepared remarks following the passage of Trumpcare in the House.

In another call for sanity, The Center for Community Solutions has analyzed Trumpcare and determined that Ohio could lose $16 billion to $22 billion in federal Medicaid funding over the next six years if the bill in its present form becomes law.

What hope there is for a better ending to the tale Trump and Ryan bragged about last week, that puts 26 million in harms way, relies on a sensible Senate trashing Trumpcare and starting over with one that keeps and improves on the ACA, as a growing majority of Americans now want to do. Should Trumpcare become law in any form that resembles Trumpcare today, the hope is that the warning issued by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi last week, that voting for this bad bill will become a tattoo on Republican foreheads that "glows in the dark" in 2018 and 2020 comes true.

Democrats have lost so many legislative seats and governors chairs over the last eight years that it seems a dream that they can come back from the dead. But with Trumpcare as flawed as it it, the golden opportunity to right the ship of state so that bake sales don't return as a way to pay for keeping people healthy and alive is an open door Democrats need to walk through, if they can.

Can Republicans whose cold-hearted thoughtlessness on what ails the nation stands naked for all to see actually be turned out in sufficient numbers in two years that they lose control of the House and Senate in two years? Does a similar fate await the current occupant of the White House in 2020? Republicans have produced a poorly baked plan. Democrats must rebake it so the era of bake sales become a thing of the past.

Kasich Escapes 'Un-Mahered' To End Book Tour Junket

Ohio Governor John Kasich ended his national book tour with a guest appearance on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher."

In Los Angeles to promote his book "Two Paths: Divided or United?" the governor, who last year got his "ass kicked" as show host Bill Maher described the beating he took after losing 49 GOP primaries and caucuses, turned in his best performance to date on why he's upset with both political parties, and why his voice on a variety of issues will continue to be heard even after he departs office in about 18 months.

Mr. Kasich's latest book was released in New York April 25, and since then he's been a guest on numerous political talk shows. Bill Maher is well known for his uncompromising criticism of Republicans, and so-called liberal Democrats like the "Bernie of bust" crew who didn't vote last year for Hillary Clinton, who beat their hero, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an avowed Democratic Socialist.

"Liberals, who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary cause she was the lesser of two evils, quite a bit lesser, wouldn’t you say now?" Maher tweeted out.

By the end of the opening segment featuring Kasich, Bill Maher was actually applauded Kasich for his well-worn statements about why he wants to re-define Republicanism around his own issues and history, then urging him on to take on President Trump again in 2020.

One of America's leading proponents of legalizing marijuana for recreation use, Maher joked early on that "Good thing California has Medical Marijuana, cause when the Republicans get rid of Heath Care that’s the only treatment you’re going to have." He put Ohio's term-limited, lame-duck governor on the ropes early by trying to compliment him for being for medical marijuana, which voters approved last year that is still a far cry from legalization by other states like Colorado , Maine and Washington. Gov. Kasich did his best to void saying "yes" when asked if he supported it, pivoting immediately to his preferred narrative about opioid deaths and children using drugs, and how marijuana plays a roll, minor as it is, in this crisis where Ohio leads the nation in deaths per day with about eight.

Asked by Maher to choose between whether health care was a right or a product, Mr. Kasich, who has won attention by defending Medicaid expansion even though he would fundamentally repeal and replace Obamacare, said he thought it was a right, but again went into rhetorical overdrive to explain why people shouldn't be allowed to lose health care coverage, even though most of the moderate Republicans he has talked to walked the plank on Friday to vote for Trumpcare, the White House's alternative to Obamacare that would toss as many as 26 million people off affordable health care rolls.

John Kasich has garnered the kind of national media attention from the promotion of the new book that he wanted to get last year, when he said he was like an "Uganda swimmer" in the Olympics whose best lane was the outside lane. Mr. Kasich does his best to criticize President Trump, including the president's negative and divisive tone.

While Gov. Kasich likes to say he doesn't plan to run for public office again, his on the road stops keep his hopes alive. Never say never, he says, adding that if duty calls, he might get back in the game, something he said he didn't think he would do after exiting politics for Lehman Brothers and the Fox News Channel back in 2000.

Bill Maher was way too accommodating to the governor, whose job approval rating has plummeted to 42 percent in the last Gravis Marketing poll. Gov. Kasich had a chance to be an independent candidate last year, but said the time wasn't right. The right time for Mr. Kasich may never come again once he wanders off the political radar screen for the political graveyard or another chance to be a talking head on TV.

Flawed Ohio Poll Raises Red Flags

A new poll focused on Ohio, performed by Gravis Marketing, shows red flags flying for some of Ohio's biggest political personalities. The nonpartisan research firm, whose polling performance in the past has been criticized for inaccuracy, surveyed 1,352 registered voters across Ohio, with respondents leaning Republican versus Democrat 686 to 558, respectively.

Even though Gravis has come under fire by some as "the worst poll in America," what it showed about Gov. John Kasich, Senator Sherrod Brown and others may be dismissed by some, given the level of trust many invested last year in two of the nation's best pollsters, Nate Silver and Charles Wang, who despite their earned reputations of excellence, were wildly off when it came to their predictions that Hillary Clinton would be elected president.

Kasich Crumbles

When the question was asked, "Do you approve or disapprove of Governor John Kasich’s job performance?" Ohio's traveling national chaplain and book salesman didn't fare well. Kasich's numbers were very bad in light of the poll leaning Republicans. Only 42 percent said they approve of his the great reformer's job performance, compared to 35 who disapproved and another 23 percent who are uncertain. Mr. Kasich has long enjoyed media repeating the narrative that he's a popular, moderate governor, when in reality he's underwater with his own party, and based on the bills he's signed into law that hurt women, turn a blind eye to billions wasted on poor performing for-profit charter schools and the theft of billions in local government and school funds, he's not even moderate.

Even hometown Republicans rained on Kasich's parade. Third Base Politics reported on Kasich's fall from grace this way: "It appears that his approval rating has taken a huge hit as a result of his weeks-long
2020 presidential campaign book tour out of state, combined with his insufferable preaching about how he was the only reasonable alternative to Trump."

Brown Down

When a similar question was asked about Senator Sherrod Brown, who is running for a third term next year, his job performance approval came in at 32 percent, with 36 percent disapproving and 32 percent uncertain. Sen. Brown is expected to face Josh Mandel, Ohio's term-limited state treasurer who many believe will eventually become the Republican nominee. Brown beat Mandel in 2012 to win a second term in Washington. In that match up, Mandel edges past Brown 45 percent to 42 percent with 13 percent uncertain. When the match up is Brown versus Congressman Pat Tiberi, Brown edges out the nine-term congressman 43 percent to 41 percent.

A figure the Ohio Democratic Party might want to digest with some Maalox is the 39 percent who plan to vote in the primary next year. Republicans can smile as 53 percent of their base said they will vote in the 2018 primary.

Based on Democrats who have declared their candidacy for the open governor's seat in 2018, 67 percent of respondents are uncertain if their choices are Betty Sutton [13%], Joe Schiavoni [12%] or Connie Pillich [8%].

On the Republican ledger, 40 percent are uncertain in a four-person field of Mike DeWine [31%], Jon Husted [14%], Jim Renacci [6%] and Mary Taylor [10%].

This poll by Gravis Marketing may have oversampled Republicans versus Democrats, a legitimate criticism some have pointed out, but it shows that races for senator and governor next year won't be a runaway for any candidate in the primaries or in the general election that follows. Digest it with a grain of salt as flawed as it is, but make no mistake, red flags are flying high for some if circumstances don't dramatically change between now and then.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Kasich Sleeps As Hedge Fund Fees Gobble Up Pension Fund Bucks

It's a story that's been buried so deep for so long by Ohio media that the hedge fund burglars at the heart of milking and bilking Ohio's retirement pension funds can operate in the shadows without fear of the sun shining on them.

The degree of in-plain-sight theft of state pension funds going to hedgefund investment adviser fees is off the charts. But for reporting by Plunderbund and a former statehouse reporter who has no fear of taking on Ohio Gov. John Kasich and state lawmakers for their help in siphoning off mountains of money that should be going to retirees but are instead going to high-paid brokers who deliver poor results, media has largely been blind to the robbery taking place for all to see.

Bilking The Pension Cow

John Damschroder, a Fremont resident who worked in Gov. George Voinovich’s administration and now writes about business and economic development in Sandusky County, has been the thought leader of the robbery of pension fund bucks that grew and come to full bloom under the nose of Ohio's now term-limited CEO. Before John Kasich was elected governor in 2010, he had worked for Lehman Brothers on Wall Street for six years, during which time he was a central figure in case of his employer losing about $400 million in bad investments that happened because he was a door-opener or rainmaker, as the industry calls former lawmakers who turn to lobbying.

In one of his opinion pieces about how off-kilter pension fund investing has been since Mr. Kasich took the state reigns, Damschroder notes the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio announced plans to cut its investment return assumptions from the 7.75 percent annual projection currently used. The teachers, he said, now join the Ohio Public Employee Retirement System and the Ohio School Employees Retirement System in trimming a half percent from investment return assumptions. 

"The combined holdings of these Ohio public pension funds is $170 billion, so the half-percent adjustment means the state acknowledges an $850 million additional annual increase to the unfunded liability of the retirement systems."

Pushing back on the crafted narrative that people living longer lives is the underlying problem with contributions and disbursements over time, research by Damschroder shows that Ohio has become the largest source of alternative investment funding, a fact, he says, that "has made Wall Street wizards rich on annual fees that totaled $734 million last year alone." Based on his reporting at the News-Messenger in Fremont, STRS and OPERS both earned less than 1 percent last year and ended the year with less money than they started with. "To compound the irresponsibility, leadership of both retirement systems wrote to this newspaper professing financial strength, while these sub-par results were known to them but still unknown to us."

Last fall Plunderbund also sounded the siren on what hedge fund managers are doing to bilk pension funds. A month later, Christopher Mabe, a Corrections Sergeant at the Lorain Correctional Institution and President of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, was recently elected to fill one of four seats on the Board of Trustees for the Ohio Public Employee Retirement System. 

In a statement on his role on the OPERS board, Mr. Mabe said, "Rest assured, as a 25-year employee with the Ohio Dept. of Rehabilitation and Correction, I will fight night and day to protect our pensions so that you, me and the generations that follow us, can retire with dignity and security, too! Thank you for having the faith in me to be your voice."

Ohio’s retirement investment expenses are exponentially larger than either of the options that were once the standards proscribed by state law, Damschroder from Fremont wrote. "The bitter irony to this story is that self-described conservatives presided over the change in law that opened the door to reckless retirement investing and who acted upon the power to plunge into illiquid high cost investments despite the lesson from the BWC Coingate fiasco."

Damschroder's concern is simple, something conservatives, especially Republican conservatives should know after decades of preaching about government excess. "The current silence on this true state government outrage is as shocking and as troubling as the blunders that caused the problem and denials when the issue is raised," he wrote, adding, "It’s as if Ohio pensioners, media and voters no longer expect basic competence and candor from state government. If that doesn’t change, this is just the start of our problems in Ohio."

Kasich's High Note

Gov. Kasich is taking bows for expanding Medicaid, a federal-state program for the poor that he would limit access to if he had his way. Because he's one of the handful of Republican governor who opted to take billions from Washington when most other Republican governors said no, Mr. Kasich is enjoying the plaudits of Democrats for being principled. None of these Democrats so far have taken him to the woodshed on his turning a blind eye to the rapacious methods used by Wall Street bankers to hoodwink state pension funds, at the expense of state pension retirees.

If Gov. Kasich was a real conservative out to ferret out wasteful government spending, he could mount an attack on hedge fund managers and their exorbitant fees that produce lower returns than traditional investments, and on the tens of billions he's spent in failing for-profit schools. He could end his legacy on a high note instead of the low note he's destined to leave office with.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Are Bumblebees Smarter Than Democrats?

For news of the weird fans, here's an oddball headline about what small brains can do that has political overtones for large-brained animals: Are Bumblebees Smarter Than Democrats?

Observable history tells us that Hillary Clinton lost the presidential race last year because tens of thousands of Democrats, especially in three key states—Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania—turned out to vote but decided not to vote for the Democratic nominee for president.

Had they voted for Mrs. Clinton when they were at the polls voting for other offices, she would be president now, not Republican-in-name-only Donald John Trump, who upended all former traditional notions of political science.

So it begs the question, if so-called Democrats didn't know enough to vote for their party's nominee last year, especially in light of who Donald Trump showed himself to be from 2015 until Election Day, why should they be expected to vote for any Democratic nominee for any office, great or small, in any future election?

Buzz This

Meanwhile, in bumblebee world, an insect with a very tiny brain has learned how to push a ball to the center of a platform in order to retrieve a sugary treat, the New York Times reports. Bumblebees can do what Democrats seem unable to do to retrieve their sugary treat. We are told, based on this experiment, that scientists better understand the complex workings of insect brains.

As the NYT notes, "The new research finding is one more reason that scientists who study insects, of all sorts, would like to point out that just because a brain is small, doesn’t mean it is simple."

For whomever becomes the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee on Saturday, February, 25, with expectations of herding Democrats and those who identify with Democratic principles and values to vote for their candidate when they have a chance, if bumblebees are more trainable than Democratic base voters, the future of the Democrat beehive won't be full of sugary treats like winning Congress or the White House.

Will news about intelligence in bee world create a buzz about what big-brained mammals can do in people world?

Friday, December 02, 2016

OpEdiTude: Finding His Real Purpose In Life

"My purpose is to serve the Lord," Gov. John Kasich repeated yet again this week, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported. "My purpose is to try to live a life a little bigger than myself."

Jesus Christ, John, you're not running for National Chaplin, so give the God thing a rest already. You had a chance early in life to serve the Lord, but you ditched Him for a long career in politics that's made you very rich and a legend in your own mind.

If at the ripe old age of 64 you still don't know what your purpose in life is, who's fault is that? Here's a start: Your purpose for the last two years of your final 4-year term as state leader is to not screw things up any more than you already have, which has been a lot so far, as only God and those who pay close attention know.

Your Master didn't want you to be elected president, so you can erase that big one purpose from your chalk board of bigger than life purposes. And for obvious reasons The Lord didn't want you to join the Trump Administration, so erase that one, too.

Is your real purpose to fade into history sitting on your back porch waiting for the Lord to send you a sign about what to do after 2018, when your two terms as Governor of Ohio ends? Not likely since your ego has always been a little bigger than yourself.

Is your real purpose to go back into the media world, the industry that lost all credibility this year because it couldn't tell the difference between fake and real news? Roger Ailes, your former aggressively horny but now disgraced employer, is gone at Fox News, but you can probably nab yourself another lucrative post-public-service, know-nothing spot being the petulant adolescent you've earned a well-deserved reputation for from those left running the most unfair and unbalanced network in the world.

Is your real purpose to go back to being a salesman on Wall Street, like you were at Lehman Brothers, where as a rainmaker you expected doors to open so your team members could milk and bilk taxpayers, as you helped make possible with Ohio's retirement systems that lost bigly from bad deals you helped match make? Now that you've tasted the sweet fruit of CEO world for almost eight years, it's unappetizing to go back to being just an employee for someone else more powerful who gives you orders and expects to carry them out.

Is your real purpose in life to continue your Quixotic quest for a federal balanced budget amendment? You'll be off the taxpayers dime, so you'll travel without a cadre of state funded police protection and have to foot the bill for expenses along the way. You didn't have much money in your presidential run, and that's when you were governor, so it's not likely the flood gates of funding will open for you when you're out of office, operating on a smile and a shoeshine like Willy Loman.

Is your real purpose in life to finagle moving Michael Drake out of the president's office at your Alma mater, OSU, so you can take it over, making some real money again in the process, moving your team from state to OSU, marketing the university with tentacles around the world and delivering a homily to each graduating class of 10,000 or more? Word is that, while you will have appointed most of the members of OSU's board of trustees, they aren't keen on you being president.

Is your real purpose in life to write yet another book that cunningly associates you with people who have done wonderful things? You've stood for something your entire political life, but what you've stood for other than making life difficult for everyone but yourself has escaped most of us.

Is your real purpose in life to lay a plan for your return in 2020, when you'll be as old as Hillary Clinton was this year, mostly out of sight and mind, with President Trump ready to obliterate anyone who dares think they can topple the Great Donald? Good luck with floating your presidential prospects in four years.

Is your real purpose in life to actual run a business, something you talk about but have never done yourself? Be a reak CEO again, but of your own profit-making business, not some grifter's think-tank or policy institute that survives on rich people's money to continue ideas and programs that benefit the few while leaving the many with loaves of bread and fish. Jesus took a few fish and loaves of bread and multiplied them for the hungry masses. Your political ideology always wants to reduce food for the hungry so they get weaned off of being too dependent on government handouts when they need help the most.

Is your real purpose in life to take on Josh Mandel, and maybe your former driver, Pat Tiberi, in the Republican primary in 2018 to see who survives to then take on Sherrod Brown for Senator? Mandel, the former Marine who spent $40 million to take out Brown in a losing campaign in 2012, will cut your heart out without wincing once. If you choose that purpose in life and survive, Sherrod Brown won't be Ted Strickland. You'll have your eight years of bad governance to defend, and Brown won't let you do to him what Strickland let happen in 2010 and this year.

Is your real purpose in life to to give back to schools and local governments the billions you stole from them in your first terrible budget? That would be a good start in confessing your sins as governor. Remember, not stealing is one of the Ten Commandments.

Is your real purpose in life to stop closing abortion clinics for women who need them? In case you missed it, Pope Francis just said that anyone, even a woman who's had an abortion or a doctor who helped her, can be forgiven by God if they are truly repentant.

Maybe your real purpose in life should be to confess all your sins to your Master, then beg for forgiveness and grace. There's hope for you after all, but you just have to ask for it.

You asking for forgiveness would truly be living a life a little bigger than yourself.

OpEdiTude: An op-ed with attitude, meant strictly to reflect the opinion of the author.