Parties play football with Ohio’s gains

Dems, GOP each claim credit claim credit

Ohio Governor John Kasich speaks to delegates last month during the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
Ohio Governor John Kasich speaks to delegates last month during the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

It’s a standard part of Gov. John Kasich’s political stump speeches these days: “Ohio’s on a comeback now.”

Mr. Kasich brags about the state’s growing rainy-day fund and its rapid gains in job creation.

But he never mentions his Democratic predecessor, Ted Strickland, or the Democratic President in the White House.

“We went from 48th in job creation in the nation to fourth and first in the Midwest. Ohio’s rockin’ it,” Mr. Kasich told a Republican audience in the rural Cincinnati suburb of Owensville on Wednesday.

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“We didn’t raise taxes to deal with our problems. We made government work. We skinnied it down. From $8 billion in the hole we now have a balanced budget in the state of Ohio. We went from 89 cents in our rainy-day fund — and I know toddlers who have more than 89 cents in their piggy banks — to a half billion in our rainy-day fund.”

Talk like that drives the Democrats crazy.

Mr. Kasich’s speech to the Republican National Convention in August prompted a detailed response from the Ohio Democratic Party pointing primarily to the impact that the rebound in the auto industry had on Ohio employment.

“It’s clear that our state is on a path to recovery, despite Governor Kasich and Mitt Romney’s failure to support the most significant economic investment we’ve had,” said Chris Redfern, Ohio Democratic Party chairman .

Ohio is indeed in economic comeback mode.

The question of who gets credit is one that will be asked over and over again during the next two years as Democrats coalesce around a candidate and Republicans gear up to try to re-elect Mr. Kasich to another four years in office.

The comeback started under Mr. Kasich’s predecessor and picked up steam since Governor Kasich took office.

To Democrats, there is an obvious explanation — the 2009 auto industry rescue that President Obama pushed through, and which Republicans opposed.

Aided by $82 billion from taxpayers, both General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC have rebounded and reported profits and record sales — a recovery that has coincided with Ohio’s comeback.

Ohio has the country’s second-highest number of auto-manufacturing-related jobs — 848,304, a number Democrats cite often because it is one-eighth of all the jobs in the state.

However, only 120,285 jobs are directly involved in making cars and car parts.

The rest are jobs that depend indirectly on the auto industry, including people in service and retail businesses and car dealerships.

“The auto industry supports one of every eight jobs in Ohio, and it’s alive and growing in America again,” Mr. Strickland said Sept. 4 at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.

A month-by-month look at labor statistics shows that Ohio’s job loss bottomed out in January, 2009 — the same month that President Obama took office and probably the worst month of the Great Recession that President Obama inherited from President George W. Bush.

For Ohio, that was the worst month of job loss, with 25,851 jobs disappearing.

Under President Obama and Governor Strickland, Ohio continued to lose jobs every month after that for the next year, but with fewer jobs lost each month.

The last month of job loss was December, 2009, when the state lost 1,296 jobs.

The following month, January, 2010, after 24 straight months of job losses, Ohio started generating job gains.

Mr. Strickland still had a year to go in office.

The unemployment rate followed a similar progression. In Ohio, unemployment peaked at 10.6 percent in August, 2009, and has dropped steadily since, to a rate of 7.2 percent for July.

Five years ago, Ohio had a higher unemployment rate than the nation’s, which was 8.1 percent for August.

Since late 2010, Ohio’s unemployment rate has been below the national average, which is 8.2 percent.

Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols declined to give President Obama any of the credit for the state's rebound.

"The people of Ohio deserve the credit," Mr. Nichols said. "All we have done is create an environment friendly for business and let the market rebound, and job creators were unleashed to hire more Ohioans."

He said policies coming out of Washington are not helpful for business.

"The people of Ohio went through a lot the last four years," Mr. Nichols said.

"People are resilient. While things are improving, there is a long way to go and we are facing large headwinds out of Washington."

Mr. Strickland told The Blade last week that Governor Kasich is either misinformed or being untruthful.

"In 2010, Ohio's unemployment rate went down about 1.6 points and in the first year and a half of the Kasich administration, it went down an additional 1.7 points, so I think the recovery was well under way, and his budget didn't kick in until he was well into office," Mr. Strickland said.

"In his speech to the Republican convention, the governor was not truthful," he said.

"[Governor Kasich] said Ohio was [48th] in the nation when he took office and now Ohio was number one in the Midwest. Well, he got half of that right. Ohio was 6th in the nation not 48 ... I think he was relying on old data and either he was misinformed or he was dishonest."

Mr. Strickland said Mr. Kasich has also been "woefully inaccurate" in describing the effect of the auto bailout.

Blade staff writer Ignazio Messina contributed to this report.

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