Strickland still the manWritten by Don Burnard | | firstname.lastname@example.org
According to the most recent polls, Ted Strickland is in a dead heat with John Kasich for the 2010 governor’s race. Strickland’s numbers are down for his handling of the state’s economy and, even though seven out of 10 voters don’t know who Kasich is, 40 percent claim they would vote for him over Strickland if the election took place today.
We’ll come back to Kasich in a moment. The Republican Party had a virtual stranglehold on Ohio politics for 16 years. During that time, they did all they could for their largest contributors, while virtually ignoring the constituencies they were elected to represent. Corruption and Good Ol’ Boy politics reigned supreme. Costs for services, education, health care and the government in general were cut to bare bones while the major contributors were reaping huge rewards.
A basic nonbelief in government or taxes were the cause du jour, while good-paying jobs, especially in manufacturing, fled the state by the hundreds of thousands. Those who lost their jobs were expected to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get over it. Social safety nets were underfunded or nonexistent and you could always get a job or two or three in the “service” industry to get by. This was the New Global Economy and you’d better get used to it.
Just to show you its heart was in the right place, in 2005 the Republican-controlled Legislature voted in a 22 percent tax cut, which gave most Ohioans a single-digit amount of dollars extra every month, phased in over a five-year period. This came to approximately $4.4 billion in lost revenue to the state budget, which (surprise!) just about exactly corresponds to the budget deficit Strickland found himself left with when he came into office. For good measure, the Republicans did everything they could to keep Strickland from dealing with the problems created by them and their counterparts on the national stage.
As we entered the most trying economic crisis in most of our lifetimes, it became much more important to try to make political points than to try to solve the problems facing our state on a bipartisan basis. Even though the old Republican mantras of lower taxes and less government and regulation at all costs brought us to the brink of collapse, they still couldn’t see the big picture. Everyone should just accept that this was the new way of things and this is as good as it was going to get.
Strickland was elected to turn Ohio around, but the hand he was dealt was more than anyone could have foreseen. In an effort to deal with the incredible economic storm that struck, he even agreed to things he was morally opposed to in the interest of the greater good. The former Methodist minister held his nose and agreed to slot machines at racetracks to try to raise revenue. He made painful cuts to libraries and education, not because he wanted to, but because he had to. He proposed putting off this year’s phase of the tax cut to try to fill an $851 million hole in the budget. Only two Republican representatives had the cojones to do the right thing and vote for it. He did what he had to do.
Now, we come back to Kasich, the candidate who thinks he can straighten out this mess. Kasich was a nine-term U.S. Congressman from Ohio who, after a short-lived run for the presidency in 1999, became a managing director for Lehman Brothers. You may remember Lehman Brothers. It was the investment bank that filed for bankruptcy Sept. 15, 2008. As USA Today reported, “The collapse of the investment bank was so shocking that it triggered a financial tsunami of such size and scope that it was compared to the Great Depression.”
Do 40 percent of those polled really think this is the guy to get us back on the track? He’s one of the engineers who derailed the economic train to begin with! Let’s pay attention people, and look carefully before we leap. Our future depends on it.
In the interest of disclosure, I was the Lucas County coordinator for the Strickland for Governor campaign in 2006. I thought he was the man for the job then, and still do. I was not compensated in any way other than personal satisfaction.
E-mail columnist Don Burnard at email@example.com.