Cut the Kasich ’16 Talk

Cross-posted from Townhall.

Conservatives talking up Ohio Governor John Kasich as a potential 2016 GOP standard-bearer ought to stop kidding themselves.

Unless you’ve managed to block out coverage of the 2016 field, you’ve heard the Kasich Admin spin: pragmatic conservative John Kasich saved Ohio from disastrous Democrat Ted Strickland, and has been cuttin’ taxes and creatin’ jobs ever since!

While there is truth to this narrative – Kasich is certainly superior in many respects to Strickland, whose record of failure landed him at the Center for American Progress – the devil’s in the details, and it’s the responsibility of citizens to shake him out.

Is Ohio’s economy recovering? Yes, but not as quickly or consistently as it should be after years of decline that began long before Strickland took office… and our labor force is in the pits.

Is Kasich cutting taxes? Yes, but instead of shrinking the state government Kasich has hiked taxes elsewhere and taken advantage of a cyclical uptick in revenue.

In this case, it’s unnecessary to argue about the quantities of tax cuts or job growth a state should expect under a Republican governor with a Republican legislature; even if you accept Kasich’s talking points asterisk-free, there are glaring reasons to reject the Kasich ’16 buzz.

Since it’s baseball season, let’s go with a three strikes theme.

Strike 1 – Common Core: Ohio signed on to Common Core under Gov. Strickland, but Kasich and his legislative allies have made sure the state doesn’t back out. Asked about Common Core in a recent radio interview, Kasich replied, “that program is written by local school districts.”

Strike 2 –Medicaid expansion: Kasich handled this issue so horribly, the Obamacare expansion alone should disqualify him from presidential consideration.

While insisting the Obamacare Medicaid expansion has nothing to do with Obamacare, Kasich lied about how the new entitlement will be paid for, said it’s what God wants, and circumvented the Ohio General Assembly to ram it through.

Strike 3 – Energy: Kasich has fought for a tax hike on fracking for two years,pitching a plan to soak Big Oil (and Appalachian Ohio landowners) and redistribute the revenue as a statewide tax cut.

Want to argue that Kasich got a piece of that pitch, since he was swinging for income tax reduction? Well, Kasich also threatened to veto a permanent freeze on Strickland-era “green” energy mandates, demanding a 2-year freeze instead.

The electricity mandates were supported by Republicans in 2008, and the approach to repealing them is illustrative of how Ohio’s political process works under Kasich.

  1. Ohio Senator Kris Jordan introduces repeal of “green” energy mandates;
  2. Ohio Senate leadership torpedoes repeal bill, fiddles with freeze for months and months;
  3. Kasich says he won’t sign freeze unless it’s dramatically watered down.

Good policy gutted in three easy steps!

Now, if you’re like me you don’t want to even think about 2016 yet. Unfortunately, the chatter has begun in earnest, and Kasich’s time as a Fox News host means that national commentators whose opinions carry weight are giving Kasich more credit than he deserves.

Kasich has grown government, has lied about it, and has attacked advocates of limited government while doing so. He’s basically a less-orange Charlie Crist who wants to change his party instead of his party affiliation.

Philosophy and politics overlap in ways that can make policy successes – and failures – tough to measure. That makes it all the more important to hold elected officials accountable on issues where it’s obvious what course they should take.

An important part of that is laughing at GOP flacks who treat criticism of big-government Republicans as a shameful lack of devotion on the critic’s part.

Assuming our fiscal canoe hasn’t gone over the waterfall by 2016, why would conservatives rally behind a Republican who has paddled toward the edge and spit in the eye of anyone telling him not to?

Compassionate Conservatism is a Love Song to Big Government

Cross-posted from Townhall.

Few aspects of the Republican Party affair with the welfare state are worse than the crooning from politicians who offer “compassion” as an excuse for betraying conservatism.

By muddling messaging and helping the press dismiss anyone to his right, a big-government Republican who claims he’s a limited-government Republican can undermine conservative principles in ways honest leftists cannot.

The story’s as old as boy meets girl: Politician is elected to tackle runaway welfare spending. Politician decides goosing welfare spending would be easier than tackling it. State-worshiping media sigh about what a pragmatic wedding it was as politician and welfare spending leave the chapel hand in hand.

Spending money that isn’t yours is not generous. Promising benefits that taxpayers can’t afford – and that often hurt the recipients, regardless – isn’t compassionate. These are not difficult concepts.

But when a “conservative” decides growing government is his best career move, he further entrenches broken programs both by expanding them and by insulating stupid arguments from the public shaming they deserve.

Think back to all the times you’ve heard variations of, “cut Bush/Dole/McCain/Romney some slack, we agree 90% of the time,” or, “you guys loved spending on this when Dubya backed it!”

The first thing a compassionate conservative will tell you about his decision to spend more of your money on some failed entitlement program is that he’s not motivated by politics.

This is a dead giveaway that he’s motivated by politics.

Consider Ohio Governor John Kasich, a Republican who ran against Obamacare in 2010 and is now one of America’s foremost advocates of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.

To name only a few of the problems with the Obamacare expansion, Medicaid is already rejected by 28% of Ohio doctors, Medicaid expansions in other states have failed by nearly any metric, and DC is already $17 trillion in debt.

With that in mind, Gov. Kasich could have stopped an estimated $53 billion in federal spending and $4 billion in state spending through 2022 by refusing to expand Medicaid.

Instead, Kasich spent a whole year serenading the Obamacare expansion with lyrics asserting Ohio must claim its “fair share” of federal money to help Ohioans who are living “in the shadows.”

Repeatedly insisting that God supports Medicaid expansion, Kasich has used everyone from drug addicts to the mentally ill to veterans as props for new federal spending – because obviously Ohio’s governor cannot help Ohio’s disadvantaged except by digging DC deeper into debt.

How has one self-described conservative’s advocacy of bigger government echoed through state and national politics?

Hospital executives and the rest of the entitlement lobby have showered Kasich with praise; everyone loves being handed more of someone else’s money.

The legacy press has cheered Kasich’s awkward embrace of the welfare state, pretending his lunge to the left proves the worst policy enacted in Ohio in 30 years has no credible critics.

Since the Ohio Republican Party only cares about winning elections, Party flacks cover for Kasich by repeating his awful rhetoric, telling adherents to shun critics from the right, and then changing the subject.

Everything the national GOP and GOP-friendly pundits know about what’s happening in Ohio comes from the state GOP, so Kasich’s abandonment of principle has little impact on 2016 presidential chatter.

Meanwhile, John “Caring” Kasich has handed the Obama Administration a much-needed Obamacare win, making it tougher for conservatives in other states to stop their own treacherous Republicans from chasing “free” Medicaid expansion money.

Does this sound like a formula for a compelling limited-government narrative?

Of course not, but it’s a cover of a song you’ve heard a hundred times before. The next election is never far away, so conservatives can either sing along or shut up.

Gov. John Kasich – Ohio’s Own Obama?

Cross-posted from Townhall.

Ohio taxpayers are being treated to an unwelcome taste of DC, as Governor John Kasich brings President Obama’s favorite policies and tactics to the Buckeye State.

Narrowly elected as a small-government conservative in 2010, Kasich has veered sharply to the left despite Republican supermajorities in both houses of the Ohio General Assembly.

Candidate Kasich warned that the Obamacare Medicaid expansion would “stick states with large and unsustainable costs.” But after failing to trim public unions’ power in 2011, Kasich decided last winter that he’d show what a caring moderate he is by hanging the millstone of Medicaid expansion around Ohio’s neck.

Kasich used laughably false talking points to undercut conservative critics, saying the Obamacare expansion would be paid for with “Ohio’s tax dollars” and warning that Ohio’s slice of some imagined funding pie would be served to other states if Ohio rejected it.

Although political wrangling over Medicaid expansion was big news for most of 2013, Ohio’s dino-media let Kasich lie about billions in taxpayer money without batting an eye.

Sound familiar?

Coordinating messaging with the entitlement lobby the same way Obama frequently does, Kasich developed a “compassionate conservative” stump speech that would make a Clinton blush.

Kasich even improved on Obama’s routine of torching straw-men opposed to big government: just add brimstone. Frustrated by opposition to the Obamacare expansion, Kasich warned his foes that they may be securing themselves a place in Hell.

Nonetheless, Ohio’s legislature – lobbied by grassroots groups the press acknowledges only to sneer at – stripped Medicaid expansion from the state budget and even passed language explicitly forbidding it.

Kasich responded by line-item vetoing the Medicaid expansion ban, and thenunilaterally expanding Medicaid when several more months of emotional blackmail didn’t work.

The legislature wouldn’t grow government the way Kasich wanted, so Kasich took a page from Obama’s playbook and pretended the huge policy decision was an executive matter.

Ohio’s newspapers cheered along, but the leftist press is only part of the state’s problem.

Like Obama, Kasich is the shark in a bristling ecosystem of political suckerfish eager to help grow the welfare state.

“I guess for some people in Ohio, unless you are a card-carrying Nazi you can’t be a Republican,” a GOP lobbyist and Kasich advisor told The Daily Beast in an autumn story about intra-party strife.

“Conservatives all oppose Obamacare and Ohio’s Republican leaders have helped lead that opposition,” Ohio GOP Chairman Matt Borges said in a hilarious announcement the day Kasich made official his move to expand Medicaid over legislative opposition.

“On the separate matter of Medicaid, good conservatives have worked to make the program better and engage in a healthy debate on its future,” Borges added.

The Ohio Republican Party’s idea of “healthy debate” involves branding critics as secret Democrats and instructing party faithful to blacklist them.

Probably the first obvious red flag of Kasich’s tenure was when the governor created JobsOhio, a secretive, publicly-funded nonprofit later described inFortune as an “Obama-like jobs plan.”

Before spending most of 2013 pushing Medicaid expansion, Gov. Kasich was using Obama-worthy class warfare rhetoric to hawk a tax hike on fracking.

In 2012, Kasich toured Ohio promising his fracking tax proposal would redistribute money from rich, out-of-state Big Oil companies in the name of fairness and job creation.

Sure, Kasich’s plan – which the legislature and industry now tepidly support, after watching him ram through Medicaid expansion – would also hit Appalachian landowners, but Gov. Kasich cares about personal property rights about as much as President Obama does.

On school choice, the Second Amendment, and the rights of the unborn, Kasich has signed some good policies sent to his desk by a legislature pushed in the right direction by Ohio taxpayers… but even excluding Medicaid expansion, both of Kasich’s budgets have increased the reach and cost of the State.

Lately, it seems the main difference between John Kasich and Barack Obama is that Obama doesn’t claim to be a limited-government conservative.