Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Gov. Kasich's shame on gun and abortion bills

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has signed 20 bills into law over his nearly eight years in office that make it harder and harder for law-abiding women to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion. That's a fact.

John Kasich, Ohio's imperious governor,
asks Congress to "wake up and do something" 
after he spent 18 years there doing  next to 
nothing on gun control.
Another fact is that Kasich has not signed one bill into law, or introduced one himself, that makes it harder in Ohio to buy a gun. But he has signed over a dozen bills sent to him by Ohio's uber-right legislature that expands access to guns, Cincinnati.com reports.

Yet access to guns and abortions are both protected by the U.S. Constitution. For guns, the path to Second Amendment rights is virtually without impediment.

For abortions, the path to Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that offered constitutional protections to women, is littered with one hurdle after another.

Still the darling of east coast elite media that continues to delude itself that the National Chaplain who's still waiting for the Lord to tell him what to do in life will mount a third run for president in 2020, as either "Republican classic" or an independent, Kasich enjoyed yet another cameo appearance Sunday on "State of the Union" on CNN.

In the avalanche of news surrounding the 17 students in Florida who were murdered by a student who bought an AR-15 assault rifle easier than he could a beer, Kasich, who says not a word more than he's "pro-life" when the issue of abortion comes up, said he would support background checks on people trying to buy guns. That's good, since 90 percent of Americans already agree on the need for background checks.

Not having expressed any previous support to ban so-called "bump stocks," a device that converts a semi-automatic weapon into an automatic weapon, as a shooter in Las Vegas did to mow down 58 people at an outdoor concert, Kasich, who loves to talk about his religious values, apparently had a rare come-to-Jesus moment. He revealed he would support a ban on bump stocks. Does he also support bans on giant magazine clips that other shooters have used to cause deadly havoc? Don't know since reporters don't ask him these kind of pointed questions.

For reference on Kasich's close association with the National Rifle Association, whose solution is to give more people more guns, the NRA endorsed him in 2014, when he had to win reelection to make himself a viable GOP candidate for the white House in 2016. Kasich was so unviable that he got blown away by Donald Trump just like he got blown away by George W. Bush in 2000, when he first tried a run for the presidency.

Kasich aides went to great lengths to cover up his past tracks on guns that differed wildly with his new-found, media inspired evolution. One report by Kasich's adjunct PR department, The Columbus Dispatch said this:
"Kasich's aides removed from his campaign website a page that had boasted that as governor, Kasich had "signed every pro-Second Amendment bill that crossed his desk." The reported continued, "Those bills included measures that made it potentially legal to carry concealed weapons in day-care facilities and on college campuses."
A congressman for 18 years, Kasich's record on taking on the gun industry is as thin as water. His only noteworthy effort was his vote in 1994 to ban the production and sale of 19 models of semi-automatic assault weapons. After doing virtually nothing during his days in Washington, he's now calling on Congress to "wake up and do something," Fast talk from a fast talker.

Basic Kasich instruct, don't do anything important when doing nothing wins elections. Say something bombastic when you're out of harm's way, so you can point the finger of blame at someone else.

As a presidential candidate two years ago, and knowing the power the NRA holds for wayward candidates, he said the ban was "superfluous, and we don't need laws that are superfluous. It didn't have any impact," a reporter wrote. Congress failed to renew the ban in 2004.

The National Chaplain and soon to be former governor by the end of this year plays media, local and national, like chumps. He's allowed ten seconds to say his headline-grabbing banter without challenge that would make him look the fool he is. Diligent reporters who know his history and know his penchant for showmanship are few and far between. He riles easily, becoming testy and bristly when questions don't go his way.

Where was Kasich's new-found outrage in calling for background checks after any one of the 18 school shootings just this year? Where was his voice on the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Florida or the Las Vegas shooting? He says without naming any names, that he's formed another committee to propose recommendations on gun safety. Where will he be when those proposals come forward if they ever do? Where he'll be is churning the mill as a lucrative political talking-head on TV, something he did at Fox News before running for governor in 2010.

Ohio media has coddled Kasich his entire political career. As a bob-and-weave master, Mr. Reformer has been a flim-flam man who can be counted on to follow all the worst policy flaws that misguided and misled Republicans do as "fellow travelers" in GOP circles. Whether it's him being enamored of corporations and CEOs versus workers and workers unions, or being anti-women versus pro-life or being pro-NRA and weak on gun control regulations, Kasich has rarely been shamed as the rich fool he is.

He will continue to make headlines because media let him get a way with talking rubbish. Junk yard dog journalists, whose standard should be to hold two-faced politicians accountable for what they say and what they do is, are few in number.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Sen. Sherrod Brown speaks out on Gov. Kasich's plan to require Medicaid recipients to find work

After other states like Kentucky and Iowa and Indiana, each controlled by austerity-minded, tax-averse Republicans that love to talk tough about personal responsibility, it was only a matter of time before Ohio would follow suit and ask the Trump Administration for permission to require Buckeyes needing Medicaid health insurance to find a job.

John Kasich on Election Night 2010
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, now term limited and looking ahead to what his next lucrative job might be, has been a broken record on calling for personal responsibility by individuals. Meanwhile, the CEO-style leader is ideologically averse to ask the same commitment from corporations, who apparently are worthy beneficiaries of state largess that include reduced taxes. fewer regulations and taxpayer-financed loan programs.

Reports out Wednesday say Kasich’s administration is moving forward to ask Washington regulators to approve adding a work requirement for adults who use expanded Medicaid coverage for their health care. By contrast, such a requirement wasn't allowed by the Obama administration.

On his weekly call with Ohio media, I asked Sen. Brown what his thoughts were on requiring people poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, tax-funded insurance for the poor and disabled that dates back to the Johnson Administration in 1965, to find a job?

Keep in mind that Kasich, who promised when he ran for his first term in 2010 to "move the needle" on jobs," has not done well in moving that needle when compared to many other states. In fact, while he claims to have created hundred of thousands of jobs, the reality of that claim is that scores of thousands of jobs he takes ownership for came through efforts by his predecessor, Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland. Strickland weathered the Great Recession, turning the tide around enough in 2009 to deliver both jobs and about $1 billion in revenue to Kasich, who will never acknowledge what he inherited from Strickland.

Another factor that presents a problem is that Gov. Kasich has failed for 61 straight months to meet or exceed the national job creation average. Ohio is ranked 33rd in job creation by the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. It's tough to find a job when those jobs go wanting in so many of Ohio's 88 counties.

Kasich, who ran for president in 2016 and got clobbered in the process, isn't big on transparency, especially when it comes to releasing his tax returns. However, through required filings for his second loss for the White House, the public learned his net worth is gaged between $9 and $22 million, as Forbes Magazine notes. Not bad for a congressman who served 18 years in Washington, who parlayed that time into lucrative gigs on Fox News and at Lehman Brothers, the storied Wall Street investment banking firm whose collapse triggered the meltdown on Wall Street that bloomed into the worse economic recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Brown's response on the question was that those who may be forced to find employment to keep their coverage under Medicaid, will mostly be stay at home parents, the disabled or those working for minimum wage.

Brown said such requirements come from "privileged politicians," adding that they are "mean spirited and wrong." Without naming the governor by name, Sen. Brown said efforts like Kasich is ready to undertake on behalf of Ohio's very right-wing legislature reflect "bigotry" spewed out by politicians "who should be ashamed of themselves."

A blueprint on Kasich's plan says the state "would exempt those who are over age 55, in school or training for a job, in treatment for drug or alcohol addiction and those with intensive health care needs or serious mental illness."

Kaiser Health News reports that 60 percent of Medicaid recipients nationwide already work, with advocating saying that "the ones that don’t usually have a good reason for not having a job, because they’re caregivers, students or in drug recovery."

Seema Verma was appointed by Trump to lead the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services after she ran Indiana's program under former governor-turned Vice President Mike Pence. She helped Indiana become the first state to enact a very conservative approach to Medicaid. Eight other states have submitted requests similar to Ohios. Sen. Brown voted against her nomination.

Brown is running for his third term in the Senate in Washington. His all-but nominated Republican challenger is Congressman Jim Renacci of northeast Ohio, who earned the endorsement of the Ohio Republican Party last week.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Trump budget par for his course: upside down, inside out

"I want to be a strong voice to reform social service programs so that we can encourage and help people get back to work, rather than the system we’re stuck with today, with all the federal rules and regulations, that really just keeps people dependent on government."

Talk like this by Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor in her interview with The Courier newspaper in northwest Ohio sums up for the hard-of-learning why uber-conservative Republicans like her will fall in line, and in love, with the upside down, inside out budget President Donald Trump proposed Tuesday.

Taylor and GOP congressman Jim Renacci, who last week won the Ohio Republican Party's endorsement to take on two-term incumbent U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, set their compass headings for TrumpWorld, where debt and deficits no longer seem to matter. 

Candidate Donald Trump in Columbus
The White House summed up its view of the 2019 budget this way: This document provides for a strong national defense, promoting a healthy American economy and curbing wasteful Washington spending." For Taylor and her term-limited, lame-duck governor boss, John Kasich, weaning citizens off government programs designed to help them bridge the gap when paying the rent, feeding the family and weathering sickness on their own dime falls short, Trump's $4.4 trillion budget reads like Simon Legree, the brutal taskmaster slave owner made infamous by Harriet Beecher Stowe in her Civil War era novel, "Uncle Tom's Cabin," wrote it.

In Ohio, where midterm elections will determine the fate of Ohio for maybe decades to come, the White House budget would deliver cruel cuts to benefits that so many Buckeyes rely on every day to make ends in their life meet. Among the many cuts in domestic spending, a perennial target Republicans love to shoot, is a $200 billion cut to Medicare. Democrats say Trump's budget cuts are unconscionable, especially in light of a tax cut bill passed in December that lavishes billions on the nation's wealthiest individuals and corporations by expanding the debt by another $1.5 trillion.

The AP reports that "if enacted as proposed ... the plan would establish an era of $1 trillion-plus yearly deficits." For perspective, it says, "Trump’s pattern is in line with past Republican presidents who have overseen spikes in deficits as they simultaneously increased military spending and cut taxes." The proposed budget foresees adding deficits of $7.2 trillion over the coming decade.

“We’re going to have the strongest military we’ve ever had, by far,” Trump said, according to remarks he made in an Oval Office appearance Monday. “In this budget we took care of the military like it’s never been taken care of before.”

On healthcare, Trump expects the GOP-controlled Congress will repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Recent history shows that Republicans come out losers when they try to do that, since they have no alternative that works without leaving millions losing their coverage, as the Congressional Budget Office has determined. Relying on states to devise their own programs is currently a bridge to far to cross.

For lovers of the arts, get ready to cry out loud as the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, whose combined funding total is about $300 million, are targeted for shutdown. Saving them will rely on Republicans and Democrats who like them to fight for them. The same goes for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, two more federal investments that are on the chopping block.

The Environmental Protection Agency, created by President Richard Nixon in 1970, is also slated for reduction by more than one-third, including ending the Climate Change Research and Partnership Programs. Trump isn't a fan of federal employees, so there's no surprise in budget numbers that show agency staffing could be cut by more than 20 percent from budgeted 2018 levels. There are currently 14,162 employees at the agency, the AP reports, the lowest staffing levels since the mid-1980s.

Also in the crosshairs is Housing and Urban Development, which faces funding cuts for rental assistance programs, the elimination of community block grants. Moreover, anticipated future legislation would apply work requirements for some tenants receiving public assistance.

If you're poor and hungry, get used to it, because Trump’s budget hits at 42 million Americans with food stamps who will have work requirements to fulfill. The 2019 budget reduces SNAP by roughly $213 billion over the next 10 years.

School choice advocates rejoice, the Donald is on your side. Trump is behind putting more decision-making power in the hands of parents and families to choose a school for their children. A $1.5 billion investment that would expand both private and public school choice is in the budget.

In broad strokes, the massive spending bill delivers giant setbacks to domestic programs that the poor and middle class currently enjoy, like food stamps, housing subsidies and student loans. Medicare providers would be hit with approximately $500 billion in cuts, representing a nearly 6 percent reduction, but retirement benefits would escape the ax. Meanwhile, proposed changes would mean some Social Security disability program participants would be required to find a job to maintain eligibility. Similar requirements would apply to housing subsidies, food stamps and Medicaid.

Richard Cordray, a Democratic candidate for governor who resigned last year from leading the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, said in response to the budget release that the Wite House and like-minded Republicans "didn't mind adding more than a trillion dollars to our deficit to help their rich donors and corporate sponsors. But when it comes to programs that help children, the poor, and the disabled, they tell us cuts need to be made. They've mortgaged our fiscal future only to line the pockets of people like the Koch brothers."

Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan labeled Trump's budget proposal in a tweet "a non-starter." "The only function the President's budget proposal serves is to remind us how completely out of whack his priorities are for the American people," Ryan, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said a statement.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Kasich Lt. Gov. sidekick, Mary Taylor, crucified herself at Ohio GOP endorsement meeting

Little leaguers have a favorite shoutout when they are hammering the opposing team's pitcher: "Stick a fork in him, he's done."

Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor in the ceremonial 
Cabinet Room at the Ohio Statehouse
Based on reports of smack talk Friday by Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor about why she will not support Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine if the Ohio Republican Party endorses him for governor this year, the same infield chatter could apply to her.

Mary Taylor is a CPA, which based on her time in public office could also stand for "career politician accomplished." By following the pathetic path her cranky outbound boss Gov. John Kasich took on being anti-Donald Trump, Taylor burnt her bridge bigly today when she verbally assaulted Mike DeWine, another "CPA" running for governor after serving as attorney general for the last eight years.

Taylor sealed her fate with fellow state GOPers as a loser by refusing to support the party's pick to run against Democrats this fall, just like her petulant boss Kasich has done with national GOPers by being the reliable dancing bear who berates Trump. Taylor has tried to distance herself from Kasich without success. She has been endorsed by Ken Blackwell, a former Republican secretary of state who got clobbered by nearly 2-1 in 2006 by Democratic governor Ted Strickland.

When she bad-mouthed DeWine in Columbus, by extension, she also trash-talked his running mate, two-term Secretary of State Jon Husted.
"My opponent is a creature of that Establishment," she said. "A shill for the entrenched special interests and lobbyists who stalk the halls of the statehouse looking for a handout. He’s (DeWine) a career politician who has been on the state ballot in each of the last five decades, and has a liberal voting record as long as the line of babies he has kissed and hands he has shook."
As if that wasn't enough gutter talk, the former Ohio House of Representative member who survived the drubbing Republican's took in 2006 when Democrats surfed the "Coingate" scandal to victories for governor and other statewide seats except auditor, the scorned woman didn't hold back.
"After 42 years on the public dole, he is soft on protecting your Second Amendment rights, soft on getting conservative judges appointed, and soft on immigration. His entire campaign has been built on an air of inevitability. A false belief that it is his turn, and his team has worked hard to make you believe the same."
She called the Republican leadership present in Columbus today, "Mike DeWine’s living room."
The kicker that pretty much seals her fate as a soon-to-be disgruntled sore loser, "I’m not asking for your endorsement here today. With all of the good old boy bullying and backroom deals that have been struck to get us here...I’m not sure I even want it."
Insiders who have spoken with me in confidence consider Taylor a lazy officeholder. After her tirade today, she just qualified as a personal non grata.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Ohio's new redistricting plan is fatally flawed by partisanship

When it comes to naming the elephant in the room on big, thorny topics of governance and who doesn't like government as the main player, the answer, generally, is Republicans.

Voting ballot
When it comes to naming the 800-pound gorilla in the room on big, thorny topics of governance and who likes government as the main player, the answer, generally, is Democrats.

When it comes to naming the fatal flaw in all of American politics, as George Washington warned about when he accepted the presidency instead of being named king as some of the founding fathers offered him, political partisanship is the culprit behind our modern-day, broken and gridlocked system of democracy.

SJR5 Fatally Flawed

With the passage by the Ohio General Assembly of a proposed amendment to the state constitution that will go before voters in May, Republicans, Democrats and members of a coalition of good government types seeking a new framework to mapping legislative districts, they agreement on one thing. Senate Joint Resolution 5 would require, for the first time, bipartisan input and approval on Ohio congressional maps.

The nuts and bolts of the measure include the following three points:
  • Both major parties must be meaningfully engaged in the process.
  • Communities should not be needlessly split.
  • Rule to prohibit gerrymandering or drawing a congressional map to favor or disfavor one political party.
It sounds wonderful, this happy talk about Republicans and Democrats being bipartisan when it comes time to map out legislative districts. The fatal flaw that no one wants to talk about, because they're either afraid or oblivious to the elephant or gorilla in the room, is that SJR5, as currently configured, is created with political parties and their candidates at its center.

When partisans are in charge, as SJR5 makes them, partisans want to win. They don't want to compromise with the competitor if at all possible to lose some advantage they had that now makes them losers.

Reading the document bears our the notion that if partisans don't at first agree, then other combinations of partisanship are tried, until in the end, after all earlier attempts have failed because of partisanship, a four-year map would be drawn that would be subject to veto by the governor at the time (a partisan), or be subject to a citizen referendum, something citizens are historically not good at to begin with, even though they hold ultimate power to create a political system that works for them. Then, after four years of a map that fails, the long, laborious process that sounds good on paper but will hit potholes and ditches along the way by accident or design, starts all over.

What SJR5 should have done but didn't do, because partisanship drives all things political in Ohio and the other 49 states, was to do the right and smart thing: eliminate any participation by any political party, not just the big two majors, in the process.

That's hard to imagine today. By putting non-partisans in charge of devising maps, and maybe even voting rules and regulations that sideline partisan interests, voters would be in the position of picking their candidates instead of candidates picking their voters.

Partisan Control

In any other competitive sport where neutrality is expected and demanded, only a madman would think it a good idea to have partisan referees or judges delivering non-partisan decisions. Which Republican or Democrat would think its a good idea for the referees in an Ohio State-Michigan football game to represent the interests of either team? No one. But these same politicians think it's okay to let their political party gum up the works when it comes to delivering democracy, which is already shortchanged by massive amounts, as county boards of elections run on skimpy budgets from county commissioners who would rather spend the same buck on a rural road than give it to the local elections board. Ohio and America runs democracy on the cheap, so to speak.

One day, maybe, political candidates representing all political parties run in districts created by real neutral, non-partisan officials. When and if that day arrives, mandatory voting as an alternative to volunteer voting might also be part of the package. With mandatory voting, like Australia and a handful of other countries do, neutralizing billions spent each election cycle today would be part of the co-production of better voting. Suppressing the vote of many groups, as Republicans strive to do with the help of billionaires who fund their anti-democratic gambit, would level the playing field for all candidates, especially those representing small parties with little to no money to compete in today's rigged and lopsided election system.

Going the full voting Monty, a national or state holiday to vote would also be a valuable part of the new democracy. No more voting on the first Tuesday in November, when demands of showing up for work often win out over the civic pride and duty of voting.

Will SJR5 be an improvement from the mess in place today? Yes, because "It can't get no worse," as John Lennon said in "Getting Better All The Time."

SJR5 is still fraught with partisanship that could bollocks things up for years. But who cares enough about that to write about it?

Follow me on Twitter @OhioNewsBureau

Monday, February 05, 2018

Why Amazon won't pick Columbus for HQ2

When a new American electronic commerce behemoth like Amazon promises to bring 50,000 jobs, each with an average annual compensation of $100,000, to one of 20 finalist communities competing to be the lucky picked for its HQ2, city and state leaders might disown their own if that's what it takes to convince Amazon billionaire founder and CEO Jeff Bezos to pick them.

Downtown Columbus, Ohio, along
the Scioto River
"Amazon would be foolish to dismiss the strengths of Pittsburgh and Columbus, and Amazon is not foolish," a recent Toledo Blade editorial observed about why HQ2 should come to Pittsburgh, PA, or Columbus, Ohio, two cool cities located in two heartland Rust Belt states.

HQ2 Wants More Than Taxes, Universities

Amazon watchers give good odds to cities located in the D.C. region like Washington, Northern Virginia, and Montgomery County, Maryland, citing among other reasons the acquisition of the Washington Post by Bezos in 2013. The fact that Amazon's global guru is finishing renovations on a Washington home he bought for $23 million only adds more fuel to the fire.

Columbus, Ohio's only growing city, is among the twenty cities that include other big hitters like Atlanta, New York, Boston, and Chicago. Based on one key criteria in the selection process—that the winning city has a strong university system—Columbus and Pittsburgh stack up well in that category, with The Ohio State University in Cbus and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, respectively.

As the Blade notes, "Columbus and Pittsburgh can compete with the large metros on quality of life and affordability. Young millennials have flocked to the two cities, creating vibrant social scenes and an enterprising, start-up culture," as well as boasting lots of affordable housing.

Never forget that that Amazon is headquartered where it started, in Seattle in Washington State, a city and a state that pride themselves on being more progressive on social issues than other cities and states. Ohio's population growth has been moribund for decades, as people look for good jobs in other places. When Ohio stagnates, it also loses political power in Washington, as has been happening for decades and decades.

Moribund Ohio

Ohio once boasted 25 Electoral College votes in the 1920s, but 25 has dwindled to 18, and that number will only go lower, as many demographers predict it will, when the 2020 census shows other states are expanding at the expense of Ohio. 

In addition to slow or no growth, a trend that can't be reversed anytime soon regardless of how business-friendly Gov. John Kasich says the state is, what haunts Columbus and will work against it is that the State of Ohio, under leadership by Kasich and a like-minded far-right legislature, have chosen to embrace many policies that show just how mean-spirited social conservatives can be when they have the power to put in place policies and programs designed to hurt the very populations Amazon embraces, including LGBTQ, immigrants and women.

Look to a recent ruly by the Ohio Supreme Court to close Toledo's only abortion clinic to understand why Ohio's socially unfriendly environment won't be an asset when Amazon weights the pros and cons of each contestant.

Whatever financial incentives (aka, legal bribes) Ohio chooses to offer Amazon, any one of the other 19 finalists can meet or beat it if push comes to shove. What Ohio has that many others don't have is an unfriendly social social climate where women's issues, including access to abortion services, as just noted, are among the harshest in the nation.

It's About Diversity, Stupid!

In the economic development site selection dance, quality of life is often more important that tax policy to some  industries. And Amazon is one of them.

Why would a smart, progressive CEO like Bezos, whose home turf social-climate in Seattle would make Kasich and Ohio Republican leaders lie awake at night, want to bring thousands of female employees to a state that has a drum beat of eliminating constitutionally recognized access to abortion services? Why would Amazon's female employees want to subject themselves or their daughters to the kind of thinking that has put the Buckeye State in retrograde motion on so many social issues other than abortion, when other cities and states, by comparison, have embraced laws related to minorities, immigrants and women that Ohio would find incompatible with its current, dominant political ideology?

Why would a progressive company like Amazon want to bring its employees to a state where public schools are bleed dry to pay for for-profit charter schools that do a terrible job of educating children? Why would Amazon, if it has a choice, and it does, want to pick Ohio when the next crop of Republican leaders promise to ditch Medicaid, dance around unsafe roads and bridges because repairing them costs money, and public spending, as they see it, is to be reduced rather than expanded by taxing a billionaire Colossus like Bezos a few dollars more?

For these and other reasons that go to the heart of why policies and laws at the heart of social conservatism are turning Ohio backward instead of forward, don't expect legacy papers like the Blade and the Cleveland Plain Dealer and The Columbus Dispatch to write about at length, because doing so only focuses the spotlight on Ohio's socially inconvenient Achilles Heel. Amazon can see the obvious, and the obvious is that fiscally and socially conservative lawmakers are passing laws that are silly, stupid and outdated for the Millennial generation that gives less and less of a hoot about race, religion, gender or ethnicity.

For these reasons about the state climate—not for reasons about the Columbus climate that include a good university or an abundant, skilled workforce—Amazon won't pick Ohio's capital city for HQ2.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Buckeyes beware of too much 'Blue Wave Kool-Aid' this midterm election cycle

In just 281 days, the 2018 midterm elections will be over. Will President Trump's low ratings bleed into Republican turnout? Will Democrats, as so many are speculating now, take back the U.S. House or Senate and deliver a mortal blow to Trump World in the nation's capital and in many state capitals across the nation?

Ohio Statehouse in Columbus
Blue Wave Kool-Aid, the tasty, powerful election energy drink Democrats and pundits are ladling out in vast quantities, can make anyone who drinks too much of it too fast drunk with the idea that Republicans are on the ropes this election cycle, due in large part to Trump's unstable, erratic performance one year into his first term that's been captured best so far in Michael Wolff's world best seller, "Fire and Fury: Inside The Trump White House."

When historical facts are broken down and applied to this year's midterm elections, as Bloomberg has done in "All Signs Point to Big Democratic Wins in 2018," Republicans, even those who have tried to distance themselves from the rhetoric and actions of this White House, should be quaking in their boots after presented with a set of tea leafs that predict their demise or destruction in November.

The Blue Wave Kool-Aid might not be the universal elixir it's being cracked up to be, especially in ruby red Ohio, where Trump decimated Hillary Clinton by almost one-half-million votes, and where Republicans at the state level have ruled the roost for decades, with the exception of the short span of 2006-2010 when all but one statewide seat was won by Democrats and the Ohio House for a short two-year stint (2008-2010) was controlled by Democrats. Aside from this anomaly, Republicans have controlled all gears of Ohio government, including the legislature, where laws are made and executive wishes are dashed even for long-time establishment Republicans like John Kasich, who as governor saw many of his cherished policies and goals summarily ditched when even more conservative legislators showed the prickly, lame-duck governor who was boss.

Bloomberg predicts, based on historical averages and the popularity of the president at the time (above or below 50%), that as many as 33 GOP House seats could be lost. With Dems needing a net gain of 24 seats, Blue Wave Kool-Aid drinkers can already see bright light shinning down on them this year.

In the Senate in Washington, Democrats have to defend 26 seats versus just eight for Republicans. Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown is among the 26 defenders this year, so as the last Democrat to be elected statewide, Brown's fate could be dicey if Trump voters turnout in numbers not expected while Democrats slack off at the polls, as history shows happens in midterm elections when overall voting dips.

At the state level, Democrats have racked up wins for city mayor in many of its largest municipalities, but Republicans enjoy veto-proof majorities in the state Senate and House. The gift that keeps on giving stems from the Tea Party wave of 2010, when Ohio rebounded from four years of Democratic control of the governor's office and other statewide offices. Every election cycle after 2010, Democrats have been washed away by Republicans, whose control of the legislature guaranteed that redistricting would favor their party of Democrats.

“If a Democratic wave is big enough, I could actually imagine several Ohio seats being potentially vulnerable,” Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia Center for Politics said, the Dayton Daily News reported. “But at the moment, the Ohio seats are sort of on the periphery of the national conversation.”

Nathan Gonzales, editor and publisher of Inside Elections, has a message that seems to be on point: “If Democrats are winning congressional races in Ohio, then they’ve already won the majority,” he said, adding the big news that Ohio Democrats don't want to hear because it rings so true: “I don’t think any of the Ohio races are in the first or second tier.” Republicans control 12 of 16 House seats, and districts are so gerrymandered that any one of them losing to a Democrats is only seen by Blue Wave Kool-Aid drinkers who have imbibed too much of the fantasy drink.

And keep in mind the prediction that Ohio will lose another house seat following the 2020 national census. Republican map makers will force another two Democratic congressman to fight it out in a new district not of their making. When that happens, GOP candidates will still control a dozen seats compared to just three for Democrats.

If Sen. Brown can win his third term in the upper chamber in the era of Trump, that will be because his populist economic agenda hits home with average Ohio workers, many of whom voted for Trump two years ago. If Brown should lose, the Ohio Democratic Party just might drift into irrelevance after losing big time in 2010, 2014 and 2016. President Barack Obama won Ohio in 2008 and again in 2012, but even in those years, Republicans kept control by expanding their seats in Washington and Columbus.

Marc Dann served as Ohio's 47th Attorney General for a short time before being run out of office over scandals in his office that brought the wrath of Democrats and Republicans down on him. The leader of the Dann Law Firm, which specializes in protecting consumers from various forms of predatory financing, Dann offers up a glimmer of hope for Democrats searching for a new agenda to attract Trump voters back into the fold this year.

At Working Class Studies, Dann says Democrats may already have their opening, and it "doesn’t involve porn stars, Russians, racism, or tax cuts for the rich, none of which seem to matter much to the president’s supporters." What could work, he says, is recognition of the fact that Trump has abandoned them when "they finally realize that he’s betrayed them by gutting the regulatory framework that really made America great for the working class"

Dann lists his suggestions for where Democrats can make their mark when it comes to the new message many Democrats say they need to beckon back wayward workers.

  • Net neutrality may seem like an arcane issue, but FCC Chair Ajit Pai ‘s decision to roll back Obama-era internet rules will inevitably lead to increased costs for internet access.
  • Betsy Devos, the clueless Secretary of Education, is repealing rules that made it difficult for private universities to rip-off students and making it more expensive for kids and parents to repay student loans.
  • Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, who was installed as director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB), has submitted a “zero budget” for the agency he absolutely loathes, and instituted a hiring freeze and a prohibition on new regulations.  Just for good measure, he’s also decided to make it easier for the vultures in the payday lending industry to prey on the poor and the working class.
  • The Labor Department’s decision to allow pool-tipping and to ditch rules that would have made hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers eligible for overtime pay will cost working families millions of dollars each year.
  • The unrelenting attack on the Affordable Care Act, which survived repeal but has taken a number of other hits, will lead to premium increases and the loss of coverage in the years ahead.
The unrelenting attack on the Affordable Care Act, which survived repeal but has taken a number of other hits, will lead to premium increases and the loss of coverage in the years ahead.
"Every one of these actions will impact working-class Americans disproportionately, especially those who live on the edge of bankruptcy and lack the financial resources to fend off unscrupulous lenders and other scam artists. According to a 2016 Federal Reserve Report 46% of American households could not handle a $400 emergency expense. That makes them prime targets for payday, car title, and predatory mortgage lenders that generate huge profits by exploiting people who barely live paycheck-to-paycheck," said Dann, who served in the Ohio Senate prior to being elected Ohio attorney general in 2006.
In Ohio, where the results of this fall's election may already be baked in, based on some of the most gerrymandered districts in the nation, and where Ohio media cannot be trusted to speak the truth if it means investigating a Republican ticket they think will ultimately be successful so they can guarantee continued access, Dann believes that "when combined with Trump’s unrelenting attack on the very things that make America a land of opportunity, these bold, state-based initiatives may provide Democrats with the weapon they need to send Trump back to his tower – and actually make America better for the working class."

Another reason Ohio Democrats should beware of drinking the national Blue Wave Kool-Aid that may not have the salubrious effects in Ohio that many think it will have in other states, is the promise by Koch Brothers to spend $400 million in 2018 to tilt the election cycle to Republicans.

Kool-Aid drinkers, drink at your own risk.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Taylor receives 'kiss of death' as outbound Kasich confirms his endorsement

Lonely are the petulant who bristle when asked the wrong questions. When Ohio Republicans shun one of their own, like GOP governor candidates are doing when it comes to seeking an endorsement from their term-limited governor John Kasich, is it a kiss of death when he confirms who he has endorsed?

Gov. John Kasich at the Ohio Statehouse.
That seems to be the case with Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, who has been Kasich's number two partner for going on eight years. Recent reports quoted Taylor saying she hadn't spoken with Kasich in about a year. Taylor told a county Republican party recently that she hasn't spoken with the lame-duck governor, but subsequent reports shows she's been in his presence on numerous occasions, mostly at cabinet meetings in Columbus chaired by Kasich.

As big supporter of President Donald Trump, Taylor, who some Republicans have tagged as lazy and who won't be able to defeat her primary challenger, Attorney General Mike DeWine and his running mate Secretary of State Jon Husted, appears to be distancing herself from Kasich, whose become a reliable Trump critic, to show conservative Buckeye voters she's not as liberal as Kasich has been, especially on accepting expanded Medicaid, a feature of former President Obama's Affordable Care Act.

At a Statehouse event Thursday, reports are that Kasich said he could not recall the last time he talked to Taylor following her recent statement, which some might see as confirmation of Taylor's comment of not really engaging Kasich, who spent most of 2016 out of state campaigning for president. Kasich lost 49 states, winning just one, Ohio, by less than 50 percent of the vote.

"She's been a great teammate ... a great, loyal partner," Kasich said, The Toledo Blade reported.
Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor in the ceremonial
cabinet room in the Ohio Statehouse
Kasich, who returns to New Hampshire, the cite of his biggest victory two years ago, where he came in a distant second to Trump, acknowledged that Taylor has periodically disagreed with his policy positions. Ohio's glib governor on issues he likes to talk about, referred to a the dust up as "a lot of loud voices out there that are on the far right. They don't all like me. That's OK. They didn't want me to expand Medicaid. That's fine."

The author of a book about his second loss at running for president, which he's used to stay in the media's eye even though Trump and Trumpworld has ridiculed him from time to time, said Taylor has a right to be independent. Kasich, who continues to fuel speculation about him running for a third run at the Oval Office in 2020, said he has provided Taylor with advice on running for governor and would be willing to campaign on her behalf of the woman who he says would make a "great governor."

Headlines about no other Republicans rushing to get his endorsement or have him campaign on their behalf, prompted Kasich to say things haven't changed much since he won 86 of 88 counties in his 2014 reelection campaign. "I know that decisions have been made that she wasn't always comfortable with," he said, adding that "She'd (Taylor) express herself and then she'd go out and support the team."

Kasich did win that many counties, but the record from 2014 hows his Democratic rival had imploded and voter turnout at 36 percent was the lowest since World War II. Kasich refused to debate his major party challenger, and when a video of him at a Cleveland Plain dealer acting like a spoiled child, the paper bent to pressure and took down the video shortly after it was posted.

When looked at further, voting data shows Kasich received fewer than one in four registered voters.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Siri, which GOP candidate for governor is lying about John Kasich's endorsement?

It wasn't that long ago when Ohio Gov. John Kasich had the entire Republican establishment, with the exception of state treasurer Josh Mandel who lined up behind Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, cheering him on as he mounted his second run for the presidency since his first one in 2000.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich at the Ohio
Statehouse at a bill signing ceremony
Those were the days. Now, after his humiliating loss in 2016 to be the leader of the free world, Ohio's term-limited lame-duck CEO isn't high on any statewide Republicans' list.

To show just how confused about which, if any party candidate the outbound governor is endorsing, Kasich's two-term Lt. Gov, Mary Taylor told Republicans in Clermont County in southwest Ohio, two starling facts.

One, she's not spoken with her boss, who lost 49 GOP state contests and won exactly one Electoral College vote, in a year. Second, she thought her boss for the last eight years had endorsed her rival team of Attorney General Mike Dewine and Secretary of State Jon Husted. Taylor, a CPA, has been misinformed of the facts, even though CPA's can't be as forgetful or ignorant when it comes to federal or state tax law.

Talk about mixed messages, which candidate(s) Kasich likes this year, and which of those candidates wants his endorsement, reflects why so many Republicans in no rush to court him this year even though they backed his run for president two years ago. The sanctimonious supply-sider, who can't talk about anyone but himself for more than ten seconds, spent most of 2016 campaigning out of state for a job voters didn't elect him governor to pursue.

"She said it’s widely known that Jon Husted and Mike DeWine have been endorsed by Gov. Kasich," Greg Simpson, a township executive for the Clermont County Republican Party, told The Cincinnati Enquirer. "I about fell off my chair, because it’s widely known that John Kasich had endorsed Mary Taylor."

To clear things up for Taylor, Husted, who was awaiting to address the same audience, engaged the services of Apple's famous information concierge.
"Siri, who did John Kasich endorse in the governor's race?" Husted asked his iPhone, already knowing the answer, the Enquirer noted. "An article from The Enquirer popped up, titled 'John Kasich backs Mary Taylor for Ohio governor. Will it help?'"
Spokesmen for Taylor and Kasich added even more confusion, saying the other candidate's statements were wrong. Kasich's PR guy said Taylor and Kasich have spoken by phone, while Taylor's PR guy said she hasn't seen him, ostensibly in person, for a year.

Despite media portrayal of Kasich as both popular and a moderate, history, based on the policies he's endorsed and the bill's he's signed into law, show he's not popular and not moderate. Spending more time on DC-beltway Sunday talking-head political TV shows than he does back home in Ohio, Gov. Kasich is the perfect anti-Trump dancing bear who will reliably invoke God as his heavenly wing-man about what his purpose in life is, and why he hasn't found it yet, including whether he'll mount a third run at the Oval Office.

What Kasich has found to his liking over the decades, is that dedicating himself to the Lord, as he once wanted to do as a young Catholic boy in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, wouldn't have brought him the fame—18 years in Congress and years on Fox News—and fortune—somewhere between $9-22 million—he enjoys now.

On the outs with Trumpworld, and with his well-known abrasive relationship with just about everybody else, including members of his own political party, John Richard Kasich will soon be put out to pasture. He'll have to graze, maybe in the media again, for another three years until the presidential merry-go-round gets cranked up again in 2020.

Until then, his role, or lack thereof in the Republican race to succeed him, will be a carnival ride to watch. Candidates like Taylor, whose claim to fame is not being a third term for Kasich because she'll be even more conservative than he's been, should cause average, hard-working Ohioans to pull out their political worry beads should she win the office and dispense with Medicaid or rally the Right-to-Work crowd. For DeWine and Husted, not having Kasich endorse them might be the daylight they've been looking for to distance themselves from his poor record on jobs, poverty, opioids and for-profit charter schools, at least in words if not deeds.

For Democrats who think the much talked about blue wave will cascade into the Buckeye State this fall, don't fill up too much or too fast on Blue Wave Kool-Aid. It might be a real factor in other states but maybe not in ruby-red, gerrymandered Ohio, where Republicans control the legislature by veto-proof margins and Republicans rule the Ohio Supreme Court.

Gulp up the good times, but don't chug too much too soon.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Kasich evades truth telling on future plans again in front-page report

To criticize Ohio media, especially the very GOP-centered Columbus Dispatch, for fawning coverage of Ohio Gov. John Kasich is too easy, like shooting fish in a barrel.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich at a media event 
in 2013 for the Bureau of Workers' Compensation.
The Buckeye State's term-limited, lame-duck governor gets yet another front page report Monday on his many PR appearances on national TV.

When his Sunday show segments are compared to his many fewer appearances as state CEO last year, after losing his second run for the White House in 2016, it shows he values the national spotlight over lesser venues back home.

In a tally of where he spends his time these days, the Dispatch noted that Kasich took 62 times at bat on various national TV networks in 2017, compared to just 54 events back home in his adopted State of Ohio.

It came as no surprise to Kasich watchers that he "bristled" when asked what his appearances on Sunday shows like "Meet The Press" was designed to do. Students of the former 18-year congressman, Fox News TV talk show host and Lehman Brothers banker know him to have a hair trigger when it comes to media asking him questions he doesn't want to answer, because answering them would give away his game, honed and crafted over four decades in elected public office.

In 2014, when he was running for reelection against a Democratic challenger who imploded with media aiding by pumping up careless indiscretions to oversized proportions, Kasich knew all along that he would mount a second run at the White House, this time with state resources. When media failed to press him on it, after he told them to stop asking questions he wasn't going to answer, Kasich knew he had reporters and editorial writers right where he wanted them.

Where he wanted them was beholding to him for access on the campaign trail, where he spent the greater part of 2016 along with a crew of state highway patrolmen safeguarding the governor and members of his family and inner circle who traveled with him on occasion. Kasich and his administration has refused to reveal to Ohio taxpayers how much has been spent to protect him on a job voters didn't election him governor in 2014 to pursue in 2016. Had he come clean then and said he would run for president if elected, that would have been the kind of truth telling he's not known for. Meanwhile, those costs—which one reporter  calculates in the millions—remain a closely guarded secret. Ohio statehouse media know not to ask for the data, so they don't.

National TV pundits like him because he's their anti-Trump dancing bear, ready to sound off with the same phony, baloney gibberish about his concern for so-called "Dreamers" or dysfunction in Washington or one of his favorites, "people living in the shadows." He took credit, as Chairman of the House Budget Committee following Republicans' rise to power after the "Contract For America" in 1994 elevated him and then Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich to leadership positions. A favorite Kasich talking point on the campaign trail and in Republican debates was him taking credit for balancing the federal budget for the last time since men walked on the moon.
"I'm going to continue wherever I can to raise a voice as long as my friends and as long as the Lord gives me a voice to talk about things that I think are not just or fair. We're all screwballs, including me. I'm going to make mistakes. But when I see this, I've got to say something about it," he said, according to the Dispatch, a life-long Republican legacy newspaper that endorsed him every year he ran for congress and in each of his two elections for governor.
Curiously, while Kasich likes to raise his voice on Trump, foreign and domestic policy, that voice is silent when it comes to the many scandals on his watch that have largely gone uninvestigated. Wasting billions every two years on for-profit charter schools, Ohio pension retirement funds spending exorbitant fees on Wall Street hedge fund managers who deliver little in returns, signing 20 bills into law that make women's health rights harder to achieve, raising sales taxes and other fees to pay for billions in income tax cuts that favor the state's wealthiest, suppressing voters or falling behind the national average in job creation for 61 months are stories Kasich has nothing to say about.

Gov. Kasich's wing man and presidential campaign strategist, John Weaver, told the Dispatch the governor is not out to promote "Kasich for 2020."
"It's about keeping that voice, which is sadly underrepresented, in the marketplace," Weaver said, the Dispatch reported. "You don't see him on TV talking about running for president. You see him passionately talking about issues and common-sense solutions."
And that's the simple but fake news ruse. Kasich doesn't have to overtly talk about running for president, because everyone today knows he's dying to run for president again in 2020, just like everyone knew as back in 2010, that if he got elected twice, he would pull out all the stops to run for president as the "popular ... moderate" governor of a battleground state candidates had to win if they wanted to move into the White House.

The Quixotic, petulant leader whose time on the political stage will end when 2019 starts, is using the same tired but predictable excuses to deflect attention from his plan to be in the presidential hunt again in 2020 if at all possible.

While media continues to buy his lines that he doesn't know what he's going to do tomorrow, they have taken little notice of him turning down a golden chance to remain relevant by taking on and defeating two-term U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, following the vacuum created when lead GOP war horse, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, bowed out.

The opportunity to defeat a popular populist like Sen. Brown would show Kasich is not only still popular but has the political chops to defeat the last Democrat elected statewide. Senator Kasich would have six years to impact public policy, which he says he knows so much about and is so good at. He could run from cover in 2020 as a governor-turned Senator from a Rust Belt state, and still have four years to capture daily headlines if he lost his third run for POTUS since first trying in 2000.

The National Chaplain who hates Obamacare but defends one of its best social safety net programs, Medicaid, evades questions by invoking his master, The Lord, someone he leans on for guidance when circumstances call for divine intervention, like when questions are hurdled at him he has poor answers for. The Lord, to whom he once wanted to go in service to until he found politics more to his liking, appears to have left him in the lurch following two massive defeats for president, and who has apparently convinced him he can't beat a rugged, career politician like Sen. Sherrod Brown.

Otherwise, the Wizard of Westerville would take on and beat Brown. By doing so, Kasich could prove he's the messiah the GOP has been waiting for to move Trump out of the Oval Office and back to Trump Tower in New York City.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

For the hard of remembering, a look back to a year ago today

For everyone old enough to have lived through the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, his younger brother and likely next president of the United States, Robert F. Kennedy, and civil rights leader Martin Luther King, remembering where you were when the news broke that each of these political and civil rights giants had been felled by an assassin's bullet is a memory that will never be forgotten.

Had each of these true leaders not been sent to an early grave, the course of this country would have bent toward very different futures than happened.

For all of us who watched with amazement and awe that a self-absorbed, show- and conman like Donald Trump won the Electoral College by under 78,000 votes spread out over three states over a candidate many say was the smartest, most qualified and experienced among Democrats to run in 2016, we also remember where we were when the nuclear arsenal of this nation was put in the hands of a man who just might trigger a modern day war with the fire and fury the likes of which the world has never seen.

A year ago today, I was in Washington D.C. with two tickets to attend Donald Trump's inaugural ceremonies. Instead of wasting my time with that, and it seems many, many others had the same idea, I chose to cover the Women's March on Washington.

A year later, those same women, and likely many more, were out in force in their hometown streets. The resistance, as their opposition to President Trump has been dubbed, is as energized as it was a year ago. Only this time, it can be fulfilled this November with voters turning out in record numbers to vote in the good and vote out the bad. The good to be voted in will be candidates who will change the course of history in Washington, from disassembling the federal government to reassembling it to help the public interest combat the worst traits of private interests.

Here's a fond look back at where I was a year ago today.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Gov. Kasich extends subpar job growth to 61 months

Being above average is better than being below average, most everyone would probably say. Going on eight years in office, Gov. John Kasich has spent over five of them—61 months to be precise—below average in job creation when compared to the national average.

While some media and reporters prefer to fixate on the unemployment rate, which dipped one-tenth of one percent (4.8 to 4.7) from the previous month, the larger story is the length of time, now 61 months, Ohio couldn't meet the national job creation average.

The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics released data Friday on employment and unemployment in Ohio during December 2017. Ohio gained 2,500 jobs seasonally adjusted in December 2017, according to analysis performed by George Zeller of Cleveland.

With a reputation for accuracy that's never been challenged, Zeller told this reporter today that the current Ohio job growth rate is now 0.98 percent while the current USA job growth rate is now 1.50 percent.
"December 2017 is the 61st consecutive month when Ohio's job growth rate has been below the USA national average," Zeller said, adding, "That lengthy streak of sub-par job growth in Ohio has now reached five full years and one additional month."
Zeller pointed out that during 2016, Ohio gained only 49,700 jobs seasonally adjusted, the slowest annual job increase since the end of the Great Recession. For 2017, Ohio gained only 38,500 jobs, "an even slower and highly alarming figure that replaces 2016 as the fewest number of jobs generated in Ohio during any year since the end of the Great Recession."

The most positive development in today's new figures, Zeller notes, is the 5,000 jobs gained in durable manufacturing. That was the positive news. Negative news showed that Ohio lost 1,400 jobs in Health Care and Social Assistance during December.
"This disappointing figure in Ohio's normally fastest growing industry contributed heavily to Ohio's slow growth in December," he said.
Gov. Kasich brags about reducing government jobs, but the addition of more government jobs would do him a world of good. A gain of 1,900 jobs in state government covered losses of 1,100 in local government and a loss of 100 federal government jobs. "But, a loss of 4,700 Government jobs between December 2016 and December 2017 continued to be a leading cause of the slow sub-par employment growth in Ohio," Zeller points out.

And for reporters who fixate only on the unemployment rate, they fail to mention that Ohio's rate of 4.7 percent is higher than the USA unemployment rate of 4.1 percent in December, for the 16th consecutive month.

Zeller schools media and reporters who fail to see the significant of the numbers delivered to them.
"Ohio's improved unemployment rate came from an increase of 12,000 employed workers and a decline of 9,000 unemployed workers, for a net improvement of 21,000 workers. That is not possible during a month when Ohio gained only 2,500 jobs, showing that the accuracy of the Ohio unemployment rate is poor once again this month. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics does not sample any of the 50 states in its model-based unemployment estimates for states. Thus, the accuracy of the employment estimates consistently is far better than the accuracy of state level unemployment statistics."

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Dennis Kucinich livens up Ohio race for governor, slamming Gov. John Kasich for years of corruption

Ohio media has been reluctant, maybe even afraid, to investigate all the corruption marinating in Gov. John Kasich's two terms. Reporters worth their salt would have a field day diving into them, maybe winning an award or two for uncovering what lies below.

Citizen John Kasich in 2010 with running
mate Mary Taylor 
The crowded field of candidates seeking to follow Kasich, as he leaves office at the end of this year, have held their criticism of the governor and his administration in abeyance.

Republicans, including Kasich's "wicked smart" lieutenant governor, Mary Taylor, as he once called her, will have to figure out how they criticize the sanctimonious but petulant one without actually naming him, for fear of appearing too partisan.

The same reluctance to name names seems to apply to Democrats, who have mountains of reasons to impale the former congressman, Fox News TV pundit and Lehman Brothers banker, yet who have yet to name him as the governor responsible for so much bad government.

But one candidate just might find the gumption to take Kasich on by name. That candidate, Dennis Kucinich, is now an official candidate.

"The same person, battle scars and all, is before you today, with a wealth of experience, no less ready to stand up, to speak out, to take on corrupt interests on behalf of the people of Ohio, ready to be the voice that bridges left and right, a clear voice unafraid to call things like I see them," Kucinich said in published reports.

The political war horse he is, Kucinich has an agenda that isn't unfamiliar to his other primary challengers: infrastructure spending, broadband internet expansion, increasing the minimum wage to $12.50, broadening access to health care and expanding public transportation are part of what he'll campaign on.

What Kucinich can do that Ohio media has failed to do, is to prosecute Gov. Kasich and his like-minded right-wing legislature for the state of corruption in state government. When corruption in state government was all the rage, back in 2006, Democrats won four of Ohio's five statewide seats, including governor. That level of corruption is here now, but Ohio media has little in the way of headlines or investigative reporting to show for it.

"The state has given away billions in tax breaks while destroying programs essential for health and education," the battle-scared politico whose so-called "quirkiness" could be the breath of fresh air this years race for state CEO needs. "You cannot have communities where some people are living in third-world conditions unless the politics of the state itself reflects or tolerates deep corruption."

Kasich has been essentially free of any real attempt to delve into his corrupt practices, from his cabal of inner-circle confidants waging a campaign to derail a potential challenger in 2014 to the obscene fees Wall Street hedge fund managers have raked in from state pension funds whose returns are dismal by comparison, to the billions of dollar in tax breaks and wasted spending on for-profit charter schools.

The barrel of corrupt fish is there for the shooting, but media who endorsed Kasich in 2010 and then again in 2014, and who followed his every move as he mounted a second losing campaign for president, have show their watchdog credentials have expired.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Shitheads probably don't want to recall Trump saying 'shithole countries'

Say something outrageous, vulgar or crude, then deny saying it. That's the now established pattern of President Donald John Trump on what he says from day to day and what he says he didn't say.

Trump T-Shirts at Columbus rally in 2016
Photo credit: John Michael Spinelli
Last week Trump called African nations and others, including El Salvador and Haiti, "shithole countries" and asked why America needs more of them? Maybe it was because the day before he had meet with Norway's prime minister that he wondered why more Norwegians aren't coming to make America great?

After the meeting at which one Democrat and six Republican senators were in attendance in the White House to discuss DACA, Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, the lone Democrat and one of the Republicans confessed the president had indeed used the word shithole in his conversation with them. South Carolina Sen. Lyndsey Graham said he said his piece with Trump at the meeting, while Democratic Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin told media Trump used the word not once but several times.

The other Republicans in the room said either nothing or that they didn't recall the use of the word. A spokesman for Durbin is questioning a Republican senator who says President Donald Trump did not refer to African countries using a word the world press was challenged to translate into various languages.

According to the AP, a tweet by Ben Marter Sunday, shortly after Republican Georgia Sen. David Perdue went on ABC’s “This Week” to call reports that Trump used vile language in the meeting a “gross misrepresentation,” questioned Perdue's credibility. Perdue said Durbin and Graham were mistaken in indicating Trump had used that word.

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week" show on Sunday, Perdue said, “I am telling you that he did not use that word. And I’m telling you it’s a gross misrepresentation.” GOP Sen. Tom Cotton had weighed in, saying he didn't "recall the President saying those comments specifically” then modified that on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” where he said he “didn’t hear” the word shithole used.

Denying what he said to reporters is now common practice for The Donald, who said he was quoted incorrectly in an interview with the Wall Street Journal about relations with North Korea’s leader. The WSJ, the AP reports, said Trump said he "probably has a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un.” Trump quibbles over the quote, saying what he really said was that "‘I’d have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un,’ a big difference. Fortunately we now record conversations with reporters and they knew exactly what I said and meant. They just wanted a story. FAKE NEWS!'”

Meanwhile, the White House and the WSJ have released separate audio clips and say they stand by their reporting.

In Ohio, Rep. Jim Renacci, who Trump convinced to jump from the race for governor to the race against U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democratic, said Trump was only saying what Americans are thinking.

Brown seized on the comment by a possible challenger this fall. "The President certainly isn't speaking for me and he isn't speaking for a great majority of people across Ohio," said Brown in a statement.

Then there was Ohio's term-limited Gov. John Kasich who as he so often does, had to drag God into it.
"It's a terrible comment," he said, according to reports. "The bottom line is, we're all made in the image of the Lord and we don't want to say disparaging things. We all make mistakes, but there's no excuse and when you do it you have to apologize."
Although he didn't use a swear word like Trump did, Kasich had no problem saying disparaging things about Hillary Clinton in 2016, when he lost all state GOP primary contests except one.

The question reporters should be asking is this: Why would Norwegians want to come to America when their country is so good when compared to the United States? And why aren't more Haitians wising up and asking to immigrant to Norway, where more Americans migrated to than the other way around?

As the AP reported, "Norwegians generally live longer than Americans. There's a generous safety net of health care and pensions. And although it's pricey, the country last year was named the happiest on Earth"

It seems absolutely impossible to conceive that if anybody, especially a politician who holds the grandest office in the land, used the word shithole several times in a short amount of time to refer to you, that anyone present at the meeting, especially you, could possible develop overnight amnesia and pretend that word wasn't used.

If someone called you a shithead more than once in the span of minutes, would you really walk away from that conversation thinking that you weren't referred to in such a vulgar way?

Does that make you a shithead for not remembering you were just called a shithead? Or does that make the shithead who called you a shithead, a shithead?

Maybe? Probably? Who knows? Really? I don't think so.

For a reminder, here's Emma Lazarus' poem at the Statue of Liberty:
"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Ohio Media Challenged As Gov Race Gets Interesting

For a couple decades now, Ohio Democrats have been the loyal but usually losing party when it comes to statewide elections.

Ohio Statehouse in Columbus
Will that history play out again this year, when Gov. John Kasich wanders off the political radar screen after two terms to some unknown media gig, where his voice will be mostly muted as Republicans seeking to replace him are confronted with defending his terrible record while Democrats attack it as woefully poor?

In the crowded field among Democrats and the less crowded field among Republicans, Ohio media will have to figure out how they cover the candidates. Will media treat DeWine as the inevitable and entitled winner? Will it treat Cordray as "Obama's boy," thereby poking Trump voters who turned out to beat Hillary Clinton by almost five-hundred thousand votes in 2016? Will it treat Kucinich as a sideshow "menace," based on long-ago history as Mayor of Cleveland when he took on the powers that be and got sent packing?

Ohio Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine is seen by some as the likely nominee, made more likely by his union with Secretary of State Jon Husted. The new DeWine-Husted ticket faces a primary, and while Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, who will bear all the burdens of her boss Kasich with little of her own accomplishments to crow about, the odds are very long she can beat DeWine-Husted. DeWine would cap his long history in Ohio by being crowned the Buckeye State's next governor.

For Democrats, their race is full of contenders, with the most recent addition of Dennis Kucinich spicing up an otherwise unspicy race. Former Attorney General Richard Cordray, former President Barack Obama's pick to lead the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, went to Washington because he lost a close race for Ohio AG to DeWine. His time in Washington will give him a leg-up on his little known Democratic challengers, and more money to wage his race.

Kucinich adds some charisma where none existed before, on either side. Like DeWine teaming up with Husted, Cordray has done the same with former Rep. Betty Sutton as his running mate. Kucinich is a two-time presidential candidate who until recently could be seen on Fox News as a commentator. With the exception of Sen. Sherrod Brown, Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill was the only other Democratic statewide officeholder. O’Neill likely can't raise any significant funds, as may be the case with the other Democrats in the race: Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni and former state Rep. Connie Pillich.

Political watchers are betting the race comes down to DeWine vs. Cordray. It would represent a rematch of their 2010 battle for attorney general, when DeWine, who lost to Brown in 2006, defeated then-incumbent Cordray by about one percentage point.

It will be interesting to watch how Ohio mainstream media treats DeWine, Cordray or Kucinich. It's now news that DeWine starts with good polling numbers given how long his name has been associated with Buckeye politics. Because of his long history, the University of Virginia's Center for Politics gives DeWine a small general election edge.

In a report on races for governor this year, Sabato's Crystal Ball says this about Democrats netting new seats:
"To really have a strong year, Democrats need to win some of the bigger states, and several major states with Republican governors should be very competitive: Florida, Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio all qualify. Democrats realistically have only one big-state governorship that might be tricky to defend, Pennsylvania."

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown calls White House infrastructure spending bill 'Trump Toll Bill'

On his first conference of the year with Ohio media, Ohio senior U.S  Sen. Sherrod Brown outlined his Bridge Investment Act, which calls for significant investment in bridge repair projects.

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (right) speaks with Ohio's
leading independent reporter, John Michael Spinelli 
in Columbus in Oct, 2016
President Donald Trump has called for $1 trillion in infrastructure spending, but Trump and Republican spending may end up using tolls instead of traditional government-financing.

We need to make robust investments in infrastructure, so people can get to work, kids can get to school, and we can move goods and services that support Ohio jobs,” said Brown in prepared remarks.“That’s why I introduced the Bridge Investment Act, which will put Americans to work repairing and updating Ohio bridges with American iron and steel.”

Trump Toll Bill

Brown is the ranking member of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee who co-sponsored the bill with Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). The bill would help repair bridges of all sizes in urban and rural areas, and require all projects to use American-made steel and iron for bridge projects funded by the bill.

Sen. Brown, running for his third term this year, wondered where local governments might come up with local match funds. Ohio Gov. John Kasich has withheld billions in local government funds that once upon a time flowed back to local municipalities.

When asked his thoughts on how Washington Republicans will tackle financing infrastructure, now that the president has signed a massive tax cut bill last year that pumped up the nation's debt by estimates that range from $1-2 billion, Brown offered one label that takes into account the use public-private partnerships Republicans are fond of, "Trump Toll Bill." 

Brown’s bill, estimated to cost about $75 billion, of which Ohio might realize as much of a five -percent return on, would also do the following

  • Ensure that a bipartisan infrastructure package could eliminate the national bridge repair backlog, if the new bill is added to such a package.

  • Create an innovative evaluation process for proposed projects to ensure the fair and efficient allocation of federal funding. 

  • Bundle medium and small projects into a single application to cut down on red tape and accelerate repairs.

  • Allow entities of all sizes and scope to apply for funding, including: states, counties, cities, metropolitan planning organizations, special purpose districts, public authorities with transportation functions, federal land management agencies and Indian tribes.