Now that the 2016 election is behind him, Gov. John Kasich has taken off his rose-colored glasses. Re-engaging with his job, to construct a state budget, the governor has discovered that Ohio’s overall economic condition is not so glorious. The “Ohio miracle” (his term) has vanished.
In fact, the state’s economic condition is suddenly so worrisome that the governor has invoked the “R” word: recession.
It was only last winter, on the primary campaign trail in New Hampshire and other places, that the governor said our state was bursting with jobs. But while he was trying to nab the GOP nomination for president, and later traveling to the Obama White House to endorse free trade, residents in the Buckeye State were living — and still are — in the reality of the state’s long-distressed economy. It is an economy still stuck in a 40-year-old structural “readjustment,” in which the factories are shuttered and the inner cities and small towns are devastated. It is an economy John Kasich never saw.
And the most recent fruit of that structural shrinkage, especially in our small towns, is the opioid epidemic. In opioid addiction, Ohio can now brag that “we’re No. 1!”
Somehow that was never mentioned on the campaign trail.
Perhaps the governor deserves credit for sticking with his tax cuts, which he says jump-started Ohio’s economy. But since July 1, the start of this fiscal year, state collections are $259.1 million — 2.8 percent — lower than what the governor and his staff projected (hoped for) them to be.
Part of the blame can be laid at the door of lower oil and natural gas prices and environmental regulations on coal. Once other revenue sources such as federal grants, investment earnings, and license fees are included in the calculation, Ohio’s situation is worse — more like $706.7 million or 4.8 percent off target.
So, the governor and various think-tank types are talking about a “belt-tightening” budget — even less for cities and towns that need help dealing with the opioid crisis (enforcement, treatment, and the nexus between the two as Sheriff John Tharp has sagely defined it). And even less funding for public higher education — starved for decades. We now rank, in that area, right down there with Mississippi.
The thing is, this governor denied higher ed and cities and towns in relatively good times. He said they were spectacularly good — miraculous — times. So there was no investment when there could have been, and now we are looking at greater austerity.
This is the management record by which John Kasich hoped to capture the White House.
In truth, Mr. Kasich should never have uttered the word “miracle,” just as the word “recession” coming from his lips at this time is profoundly unhelpful.
Mr. Kasich confidently predicted Donald Trump could never win this state (which he won big), because the governor never could grasp the depth of the suffering in Ohio. Now, suddenly, he sees, and his plan is that we should suffer more.
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