No sooner had Ed FitzGerald aired his first campaign TV spot of the 2014 election season Wednesday morning, that Ohio Republican Party tried to take a bite out of a candidate little known outside his home turf of Cuyahoga County who appears unshakable by Gov. John R. Kasich and his many allies.
In an email blasted out today that announced a new negative website called “Meet the Real Ed FitzGerald,” a GOP state party spokesman repeated the half-truths and full-blown fibs Gov. Kasich and his team have reiterated over and over again that fail to tell the whole story behind Ohio’s slow recovery from the Great Recession of 2007.
Chris Schrimpf, who came to Ohio after working for Wisconsin’s White House aspiring governor, Scott Walker, who like Gov. Kasich was elected in 2010, said the new website would reveal “FitzGerald’s record of incompetence, mismanagement, and secrecy.” Had Schrimpf not identified FitzGerald as the target of the website, informed voters might have thought it was Gov. Kasich who was on the receiving end of his partisan barbs.
“While only about 30 percent of Ohioans even vaguely recognize his name, we believe voters deserve to meet the real Ed FitzGerald,” Schrimpf said in prepared remarks. “Voters don’t just need to take our word for it, the website lays out the many, many news articles published about Ed’s numerous failures and missteps.” Of course, Schrimpf failed to mention that Ohio wasn’t exactly brimming with prosperity when former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland too the reigns of the state in 2006, a year voters turned out all but one Republican from statewide office following years of total control of Ohio elected offices by Republicans who came to power in 1994.
Between 2007 and 2010, Democrat Ted Strickland ran up an $8 billion budget shortfall and oversaw the loss of 350,000 jobs, Schrimpf said. “Over the past few months, Ed FitzGerald has proposed billions in new spending without a way to pay for it and has introduced a county budget that takes in more than it spends. Ed embraces the same anti-jobs, big-spending policies that would run Ohio right back into the ditch where Republicans found it in 2011.”
Since Schrimpf wasn’t in Ohio during the years of the Great Recession, maybe he doesn’t know that Strickland endured the worse of what a failed national economy under eight years of George W. Bush, made worse by $4-6 trillion in unnecessary war costs in Afghanistan and Iraq put on the nation’s credit car and $2.3 trillion in tax cuts that, amazingly, produced two terms that culminated in a negative job growth of nearly one-half million jobs.
Schrimpf likely wouldn’t admit it, but even the one term of President Jimmy Carter, a president Republicans routinely deride as a failed president, produced seven million jobs at a time the country was suffering through oil embargoes and high inflation inherited from Gerald Ford, his GOP predecessor who became president when Richard M. Nixon left office before he was impeached following the political fiasco known as Watergate.
“Under Governor John Kasich’s leadership, Ohio has a $1.5 billion budget surplus, the state has added over a quarter-million private sector jobs, improving Ohio from 48th to 6th in job creation, the state’s unemployment rate is at a seven-year low, and Ohioans’ wages have grown faster than the national rate,” Schrimpf notes.
What he fails to say, for obvious reasons, is that the state’s budget deficit wasn’t as large as $8 billion, a figure estimated by Ohio’s Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, who at the time was Auditor of State. Other sources peg that deficit closer to $5 billion. But in any event, Ohio’s economy was not one to be emulated for its prosperity when Strickland was elected by a nearly 2-1 margin over his Republican challenger, Ken Blackwell, a hard-right, evangelical even stalwart Republicans had problems with.
John Kasich, who has made a career out of public office and become a multi-millionaire in the process, did balance Ohio’s budget. But so has every other governor including Ted Strickland. In a demonstration of contrasts, Gov. Strickland actually cut state spending, working with state employees and their unions to reduce costs and to produce a budget smaller than previous budgets. Kasich, by comparison, increased state spending by billions of dollars, and he withheld billions more in payments to local governments and schools, enabling him to crow he balanced the budget without raising taxes. What he did do was fill the state larder by essentially stealing food from local governments, forcing them to either reduce services taxpayers want or ask taxpayers to pay more at the local level.
When a state loses as many jobs as Ohio and virtually every other state did when the Great Recession hit full force in 2008, a politician promising to restore those jobs, as John Kasich did in 2010, has a very appetizing campaign message. But the reality of Kasich’s promise on jobs is that he’s failed to out perform the national job creation rate by 56 percent, according to respected Cleveland economist George Zeller, who follows the numbers on Ohio’s economy.
Furthermore, Team Kasich has bumped up the 238,000 jobs the Bureau of Labor Statistics says Ohio has produced since early 2011 another 12,000 jobs – hence the 250,000 job figure now prominently featured in Kasich campaign talking points. What Schrimpf and others purposely fail to mention is that Ohio’s recovery started under Gov. Strickland. While the GOP won’t acknowledge this fact, the monthly financial report Ohio’s budget director sends the governor’s office each month shows that fact, for wonky people who read charts and graphs, on at the beginning of each month report. And Schrimpf is right, Gov. Kasich has reduced the income tax rate. But to pay for those reductions, which any economist worth their salt knows, taxes were raised else where, including the sales tax and severance taxes for extracting oil and natural gas from rich reserves deep down in Ohio.
Curiously, the GOP mantra has been “you can spend more than you take in.” So you would think than when you spend less than you take in, as Schrimpf states is the case with FitzGerald’s county-wide budget, that would be a good thing. But in the upside down world that characterizes today’s GOP mindset, doing that is a bad thing. FitzGerald, an elected official who works with a council composed of local elected officials, appears to have managed his budget exceedingly well, a conclusion supported by the fact he has spent less than his budget.
Even more troubling for Kasich to explain is Ohio’s falling unemployment rate, which those who follow the ups and downs of this set of data points knows is as low as it is because more and more people—about 14,000 who dropped out of the workforce in May because Ohio can’t produce enough jobs for them—just can’t find jobs under the Kasich Administration.
This fact is made sadder still because the governor’s pet project to trigger job creation—JobsOhio, a nonprofit whose secrecy is unrivaled and whose members are appointed by Gov. Kasich—has floundered at best and failed at worse. It should be noted that John Kasich proposed being the chairman of JobsOhio when he announced it in 2010. Unfortunately for Kasich, the Ohio Constitution reared it’s ugly head and forced him to step down from that declaration. Even though he doesn’t official hold that post, it’s shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that he’s the éminence grise behind JobsOhio. More damage comes to Gov. Kasich from figures that show Ohio’s GDP and median salary has also declined.
For all Gov. Kasich’s showtime performances, from moving the State of the State address out of the Statehouse and into high school auditoriums and other large venues, it appears with the release of a new poll yesterday showing the race in Ohio is essentially a tie, that voters have still not warmed up to a governor whose reputation as a straight talker hasn’t rung true with Buckeye voters.