On Tuesday at a downtown Columbus hotel, at the 23rd annual tax conference hosted by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, first-term Gov. John R. Kasich repeated the same familiar talking points of a narrative under girded by his Christian faith and cemented to a belief of lowering or eliminating the income tax, even though history shows it doesn't work well in practice, as the growing inequality between America's rich and poor stands as testament.
Ohio according to the Book of John
Speaking for about 30 minutes to a gathering of about 660 people who braved the below-zero temperatures to attend the tax conference, Gov. Kasich, who turns 62 in March, who hopes voters will rehire him for a second and final four-year term this fall, delivered his now-familiar political homily about why rich people have left Ohio for no-income tax states like Florida or Texas, and why to lure them back again he wants to further reduce state income tax levels across the board to under five percent, or if he had his way, to zero.
Wearing a Harlequin sweater, casual yet appropriate for the frigid arctic temperatures that descended on Ohio and most of the Midwest, the Tea Party governor who became chief executive by a slim margin in 2010 cruised through his now familiar narrative of how he balanced a budget in 2011 out of whack by $8 billion following a Great Recession that showed no mercy and from which the state still struggles to find its footing, directed program reforms based on efficiency and effectiveness as determined by the Book of John, and delivered a $3 billion income tax cut, the largest in the nation.
While he talked fervently about lowering income taxes, Gov. Kasich made no mention of the sales and property taxes he raised in the last budget, the largest spending plan in state history, to pay for his individual and business income tax reduction package. Budget watchers say it delivered few if any real gains to middle-class and low income earners compared to the wealthiest of Ohioans, who will reap thousands in savings compared to small change for most Buckeye tax filers.
Acknowledging a lifetime spent as a politician, he said his administration likes bottom-up management but doesn't test the political winds as others do. Killing the death tax in Ohio, he said, is a way to assure generational transfers of wealth. He said $17 billion in wealth "walked out of the state" due to Ohio's high-tax rates, which he wants to reduce to less than 5 percent or none at all to signal to Buckeyes who fled to no-income tax states that it's safe to return home.
Midway through his now-standard homily on why tax cuts should always be a goal no matter what, when Kasich asked the crowd full of professionals if they would help him reduce state income taxes below 5 percent, silence ensued. Clearly surprised by a lack of jubilant response, the governor goading conference attendees into applause mode.
Kasich has come under fire recently for poor performance on job creation, the single most important issue he spoke about in 2010, when he squeaked to a win over former Gov. Ted Strickland, on whose watch the Great Recession started and ended. Strickland, a Democrat, took office with a state already sliding and ended his term with a state on the mend.
In his tabernacle for the day, the Regency Ballroom at the Hyatt, Gov. Kasich claimed about 170,000 jobs have been created since he became governor, a figure Democrats and other progressive critics say are as high due to a pipeline full of jobs from the last year of Strickland's term that emptied out in Kasich's first year. When he mentioned the jobs figure, and the audience remained quiet, Gov. Kasich pushed them into applause mode, saying, "You can clap for that."
Kasich, who bucked Republicans in the Ohio legislature who didn't want to expand Medicaid by going around them through an administrative committee, reaping praise as a moderate in the process, tried again yesterday to show compassion for the poor. The poor, he said, are "treated like widgets" instead of people. He said he doesn't share the view by many Republicans that poor people sit around with Big Gulps, chips and a large screen TV instead of looking for a job.
"We are our brothers and sisters keeper," he said, declaring a rational system should be developed to help the most worthy of the poor. "My passion is to keep the poor from being poor."
Although he's touched on the notion of vocational education before, he invoked his Christian faith to justify why vocational education should be introduced in the early years of education. "If the Lord made you to make things," he said, you should have that opportunity to live up to these God-given talents instead of being herded into a tract to earn a college degree that may not be appropriate and could lead to student debt if pursued.
He called for a new degree in career counseling as a step toward a holistic approach to students compared to "treating them like a widgets" when they become adults and can't find a job in order to process them for social safety net programs like unemployment insurance compensation or food stamps. To do this, he wants business to be involved with every child in every classroom.
He also sees a big role for the faith-based community, too, because, he said, "The Lord has a plan for their life." He called on the audience to change a child's life, a now standard part of his stump speeches that circle back to the main themes of two of his four books, "Stand for Something" and "On Every Other Monday." His third book is "Courage is Contagious."
To get inside Gov. John Kasich's mind to understand his unshakable yet largely unproven faith-based belief that lower taxes for the rich is good for the poor, who like others should have the opportunity to live up to the God-given potential, it helps to enter through church doors.
In much the same way Jesus of Nazareth was considered a zealot of his day, taking on the status quo of the Jewish Temple and its hierarchy of powerful and wealthy priest-class, Gov. Kasich is a dyed in the wool, Jack Kemp supply-side zealot for income tax cuts and the power of belief in righting the wrongs of the world.
"Sing it like you mean it," the title of a chapter in Kasich's book "Every Other Monday," a book about his Bible training with other Congressman during the 1990s when he became Chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee, shows Kasich learned early on that being passionate about something, even if that something was wrong, won him attention and applause.
As he did as a very young church member in his hometown of McKees Rocks, PA, when the congregation he was asked to lead wasn't singing the right hymn because he wasn't on the same page as they were, which prompted him to admonish them by telling them to "sing it like you mean it," Gov. Kasich was preaching the gospel of tax cuts according to John Kasich yesterday.
He likened tax cuts to planting seeds before the harvest, their value isn't seen immediately but over time they grow a crop that is harvested later. Children should be taught that the "Lord has a purpose for their life" and that people need to "leave the pews" and get involved with children.
As is his custom, Gov. Kasich plays down the role of government, while simultaneously saying it has a limited role.
Last year at this time, Gov. Kasich traveled to Davos, Switzerland, to mingle with the rich and powerful that gather there each year to talk about the state of the world and devise new solutions and remedies to cure what ails it.
Alluding to an investment by a Chinese company who will occupy a former shuttered GM facility in southwest Ohio, where 800 jobs over time are expected to be created, Gov. Kasich concluded his remarks, saying, "People have their eye on Ohio."
The news article At Ohio tax conference, Gov. Kasich preaches familiar homily on income tax cuts appeared first on Columbus Government Examiner.
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