After three years of programs and policies designed by Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich and approved by a friendly Republican legislature to turn around Ohio from the economic ravages inflicted by the Great Recession, claims by the executive branch that Ohioans are doing better because their incomes are going up are challenged by a new U.S. Census report showing that a greater share of Ohioans are living in poverty than before the Great Recession and that median household income dropped by as much as $4,800, after adjusting for inflation.
Is Kasich failing on jobs, incomes?
The Census numbers show one in six Ohioans was living in poverty last year and that the state’s poverty rate increased from 13.1 percent in 2007 to 16.3 percent in 2012.
Elected in 2010 with the help of Tea Party activists, Gov. Kasich has claimed more than 174,000 jobs have been created and that per capita income is rising. New analysis of Kasich's job creation numbers concludes that jobs claimed to be created not always turn out that way in reality.
During that six-year period covering the start of the recession and a supposed economic recovery, the median income for Ohio’s 4.6 million households, adjusted for inflation, fell by almost $4,800.
The Dayton Daily News [paywall], citing estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, reports that the 9.2 percent drop was the 10th-worst slide among the 50 states and the District of Columbia during the six-year period.
Another review of the Census information, performed by Opportunity Ohio, a conservative economic think-tank group located in Columbus, shows that Ohioans are worse off than they were in 2011. According to report author Mary McCleary, in inflation-adjusted dollars, Ohio's median household income dropped over $1,200 to $44,375. "In fact, after adjusting for inflation, Ohio's median household income is the lowest it has ever been between 1984 (the first year that data is available) and 2012.
Since 2007, the income of the median Ohio family has dropped about $10,000. Ohio’s median household income in 2012 was $6,642 below the national median, which was $51,017.
Blade blazes report on questionable job numbers
In an investigative series in the Toledo Blade newspaper designed to ferret out whether taxpayer funding creates jobs, the northwest Ohio daily reported that state documents "contain vastly skewed numbers — inflating the number of jobs created by more than 11,000."
According to Blade reporter Kris Turner, officials at the Ohio Development Services Agency said they improved the process for tracking whether state loans, grants, and tax credits stimulate job growth, but The Blade found the state agency still is largely unaware if companies create the jobs they promise.
"About 37 percent of the grant reports that businesses submitted to the state contained errors, including incorrect job-creation numbers," Turner wrote, adding that the newspaper received reports that were dated as early as 2006 and continued through 2013.
In separate news, about 1.8 million low-income Ohioans will see their food assistance cut by $29 a month as benefits drop to an average of only $1.40 per person per meal beginning Friday, according to the Ohio-based economic analysis group Policy Matters Ohio. The Cleveland think-tank outfit said that in addition to harm to individual families, the state's economy will slow when $193 million in federal funding stops flowing in Ohio.
From its report, PMO wrote, "Nearly 2 million (1,847,000) low-income people in Ohio will see their food assistance cut when a temporary boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) expires November 1. SNAP benefits will average only about $1.40 per person per meal after the cut, which will affect all of the nearly 47 million Americans, including 22 million children, who receive SNAP. For a family of three, the reduction amounts to $29 a month, a serious loss given SNAP’s already low benefit levels and the very low incomes of SNAP participants – over 80 percent of SNAP households live in poverty."
Adding further harm to this worsening situation is Gov. Kasich's decision to tell up to 130,000 "able-bodied" Ohioans that they're off the food stamp rolls unless they work or get job training as a condition of receiving that aid. Joan Walsh who writes at Salon said Kasich's decision, made after his play to end-run the legislature on accepting $2.56 billion in federal Medicaid money, is "widely seen as a sop to the right to make up for it."
Walsh applauded Kasich on his move to expand Medicaid, but says it's a stretch to proclaim him a moderate when he complains one day that Republicans are waging a "war on the poor" and the next day tosses thousands off food stamps.
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