Opinion

John Kasich’s Ideological Detour

Dan Smith Member, Lorain Growth Corporation

As he travels the country field-testing a potential presidential candidacy, including a stop in Washington Thursday, Governor John Kasich is trumpeting the story of Ohio’s economic comeback under his leadership.

Having pursued policies that fostered economic growth and imposed fiscal discipline on a once-profligate state government, Mr. Kasich certainly does deserve a great deal of credit for our state’s resurgence.

But something has happened to Mr. Kasich since he won a second term last fall by an impressive two-to-one margin throughout most of the state.

He has eschewed the wise principles that got him elected in favor of the kind of failed, big-government policies he once decried, much to the dismay and bewilderment of many Ohioans, including business leaders like myself.

Consider, for example, the fiscal bomb that Mr. Kasich, a man I voted for in two elections, just dropped on our state: a budget proposal that would raise taxes in Ohio by more than $5 billion.

Mr. Kasich’s budget isn’t only an example of the kind of bad governance that once hampered growth in Ohio. It makes absolutely no sense politically, given Mr. Kasich’s clear interest in entering the race for the GOP presidential nomination.

Indeed, this John Kasich would be barely recognizable to his former colleagues in Washington, where he rose to political prominence in the House of Representatives as a top lieutenant in Newt Gingrich’s army and as a chief architect of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 that President Clinton signed into law.

Mr. Kasich’s reversal on sound governing principles have not gone unnoticed on the national stage, even as he draws attention with high-profile appearances in New Hampshire and South Carolina, as well as on Meet the Press.

Drew Johnson, a Washington Times columnist and Taxpayer Protect Alliance fellow, recently wrote a blistering piece pointing out that that Mr. Kasich’s budget proposal complicated the state’s tax code for small businesses and individuals.

Mr. Johnson also points out that Mr. Kasich is proposing additional taxes and fees on the energy industry, even though the industry has led other sectors of the economy in job creation both in Ohio and nationwide.

“Not surprisingly, the Kasich tax increase plan has been met with all the support of a drunken strumpet in church,” Mr. Johnson writes in a recent column entitled, “Kasich adds failed ideas, big government policies to GOP field.”

“Both sides of the aisle have lambasted the proposal,” he continues, “with everyone from businesses and state and local chambers of commerce, to progressive activists and national tax policy experts dismissing the plan as gimmicky and defined more by ‘tax shifts’ than ‘tax cuts.’”

What is Mr. Kasich’s response to this? Some would call it denial. During his trip to Washington this week, he defended his tax policies, saying his efforts to raise taxes on industry would allow him to provide tax cuts for individual taxpayers. But taxing job creators is no prescription for economic success.

It is not too late for Mr. Kasich to reverse course and abandon a wrongheaded agenda that his advisers almost certainly convinced him to embrace. It would benefit Ohioans in the long run, while instantly turning Mr. Kasich into a potentially formidable candidate for president.