John Kasich - Caricature

John Kasich - Caricature

Enigmatic Republican Governor John Kasich of Ohio continues to baffle both the left and the right. His biennial budget proposal is definitely a mixed bag in this Socialist Barbarian’s opinion, but Teabaggers, lawyers, and accountants positively hate it; therefore, it’s not all bad. The News Record  has a nice, short summary.

First, what I don’t like. Kasich wants to cut the state income tax rate by 20% and the “small business” tax rate by 50%, which helps “job creators,” of course. It’s hard to define what politicians mean by “small business.”  A mom and pop pizza place, sure. A McDonald’s franchise, not so. Besides, truly small businesses don’t create that many jobs, much less good paying ones,  and, if you’ve ever worked for one and not been a part of the family, you know they’re usually horrible employers. “Small business” has become part of the American mythos as automatically good things, but I don’t believe that small business is necessarily “good.” There’s probably a whole ‘nother post there.

Cutting the state income tax rate will necessarily benefit the top 1% in Ohio more than anyone else. There’s just no doubt about that. They’ll get to keep a LOT more than the bottom 80% will, and that’s for sure.

Kasich starts wandering from my black into my gray, however, in how he proposes to pay for the above. For one thing, he wants to impose an excise tax on oil and gas extraction. It’s not much in the budget–it starts at something like 2.4%, increasing to about 5% over a couple of years. Kasich originally wanted to imitate Texas and just slap a 10% royalty on the oil and gas companies, but that had zero chance of making it through the corporatist-controlled Republican legislature and he scaled it back. Even his more modest proposal faces stiff opposition and may not happen.

For another, he wants to cut the state sales tax from 5.5% to 5%, but expand it to include lawyers, accountants, concert and theater tickets, haircuts, and lobbyists. About the only thing I’d pay more far would be haircuts and the very occasional ticket, so it just doesn’t bother me that much. Democrats, and of course the Ohio Bar Association, are saying that the proposal would make legal services even more expensive for the poor, but that is a bogus argument, in my view.

If poor people can’t afford to pay $250/hour for an attorney now, they can’t afford to pay $265/hour, either. As for lobbyists, to hell with them.

There’s a big school budget change, but I don’t totally understand it. There are no cuts to school funding, and the overall budget is increased by $1.2 billion, but only half the districts  get more. Some of them are wealthier and have more students, some of them are poor and have fewer students; but I just don’t know enough to intelligently comment on it. Feedback is welcome.

Now, for what I do like.

Medicaid expansion. To the apoplectic outrage of the Tea Party, Kasich proposed accepting the Obamacare Medicaid expansion to include all Ohioans who make up to 138% of the abysmally low federal poverty line. From a  fiscally conservative, pragmatic point of view, it makes sense. Why should Ohio turn down oodles of free federal money?

But that’s only part of Kasich’s pitch. He’s main thrust is that it’s the morally right thing to do,  as displayed in his recent performance at the City Club of Cleveland.

Responding to Tea Party threats to primary any Republican legislator who votes for Medicaid expansion, Kasich said “This nasty, mean politics must come to an end. When it comes particularly to poor people, there is no partisanship. I don’t care if they’re addicted. I don’t care if they’re disabled. I’m not leaving them behind.”

(Howls of outrage from the Tea Party, Grover Norquist, and Fox News.)

As far as Republican legislators who are adamantly opposed to Medicaid expansion, Kasich told the Cleveland audience, “Kick them in the shins if they’re not going to vote for this.”

Ever heard Obama talk like that about Republicans? (Waiting). Didn’t think so.

I don’t know for sure why Kasich is pushing for Medicaid expansion, but at least he’s pushing for it all over the state, unlike Obama when it came to the public option, or a veritable plethora of other progressive things, such as closing Guantanamo or ending overseas imperial adventures or, well, you already know the drill.

On the one hand, he advances the agenda of the oligarchy. On the other, he opposes it. It depends, on what I’m not sure. But I kinda sorta like him. At the very least, he seems open to reason, and he sometimes actually applies Christian ethics to the poor. And that in itself makes Kasich an endangered species within the Republican Party.

If he’s re-elected 2014, I also wonder if he’ll stay a Republican. This could get very interesting.

 crossposted at Voices on the Square


Caricature from DonkeyHotey licensed under Creative Commons