Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What's The Matter With Ohio?

Several times here at TDS I've used the term, Spoiled Rotten Nation, to describe a country where an infantile electorate demands a high level of government services, but yet does not want to pay taxes to support those services. A couple of generations ago, the political divide on such issues was that the Democrats were the party of "tax and spend," while the Republicans generally favored fiscal restraint. Then Ronald Reagan came along and started selling the "Morning in America" snake oil of having your cake and eating it too. As a result, the Republicans became the party of "borrow and spend," and all fiscal restraint went right out the window. Yet Republican voters, who are every bit as addicted to government largess as are Democrats, still laughably see themselves as the party of fiscal restraint.

This dynamic can be seen very clearly in this recent Los Angeles Times story about the effects of budget "austerity" in the Great State of Ohio:
Ohio has been a battleground for budget issues. In 2010, it elected a Republican governor, John Kasich, who pledged to balance the state budget without raising taxes, an approach echoed by GOP presidential candidates circling the state before Tuesday's primary. In his budget, passed last summer, he eliminated the $8-billion deficit by slashing funding for local governments, among other things. In some towns, the new budget means a 25% reduction in state funding this year and a further 25% drop the year after.

"Think about this: In six months we eliminated an $8-billion budget shortfall without a tax increase," Kasich said in his state of the state address this year.

The cuts were felt across the state: Auglaize County, where Uniopolis is located, lost $5 million in the new budget, according to Innovation Ohio, a left-leaning think tank. Cuyahoga County, the home of Cleveland, lost $230 million, and Hamilton County, where Cincinnati is located, lost $136 million, the think tank reported.

Around the state, police departments have laid off staff — in some cases, half of the officers. Police will no longer respond in person to theft calls if there are no witnesses, said Jay McDonald, head of the Fraternal Order of Police. About 166 school districts are projected to run deficits by 2014; many are scrambling to come up with cash by selling space for cellphone towers and charging students hundreds of dollars to participate in sports or extracurricular activities. The cuts came at the same time federal stimulus funding for schools ran out, dealing a double whammy for many communities.
Okay, a politician actually did what he pledged to do during the election campaign. So what exactly is the problem, other than the hardships it is causing?
In the western part of the state, a Republican stronghold where forgotten barns with peeling paint sit atop flat fields, many who supported Kasich say they didn't expect the cuts would reach their small hamlets. Uniopolis voted for Kasich by a margin of more than 2 to 1.

"I did vote for Kasich. He said he was going to balance the budget and he did," said Bob Wenning, whose wife, Elaine, has sat on the Uniopolis Village Council for 19 years. "But there's a lot of towns that are hurting because of those state budget cuts."

"He could have cut less than what he did," added Elaine Wenning, standing outside the couple's small house as big rigs rumbled by on a two-lane highway.

It's not surprising that voters supported the idea of balancing the budget in concept, but don't like the reality, said Bob Ward, director of fiscal studies at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government in Albany, N.Y.

"People like the idea of cutting government, but not cutting services," he said.
Well, no shit. And here is an even better quote:
"These communities have existed for generations. To try to devastate them with funding that has been taken away is un-American and un-Ohioan," said J.K. Byar, the Republican mayor of Amberley Village, a town outside Cincinnati.
Actually, Mayor Byar, there is a word for people like you who believe it is the government's job to maintain the common good: "socialist."

What this story portrays is just what powder keg Spoiled Rotten Nation really is. Beyond just dreary old partisan politics, there is a profound lack of understanding why such austerity is unavoidable in this brave new era of permanent peak oil induced economic contraction. For instance:
Many blame the federal government for the budget problems, accusing it of spending money on bureaucracy and fancy dinners.
Of course, the budget cuts in this story are STATE government revenues, and and have nothing to do with the federal government. Additionally, every state receives huge amounts of money from the federal government every year for such things as highways and schools, without which the Ohio cuts would have undoubtedly been even deeper.

So what will happen as the real economy continues to deteriorate and government services get cut even further? It's pretty obvious from this story that the anger and frustration will continue to mount even among those who claim they support such cuts.

Addendum: Right after I initially wrote this post, a story appeared from Cincinnati.com indicating that Governor Kasich turned down federal disaster assistance to help with the cleanup from the recent tornado outbreak in The Buckeye State:
Ohio Gov. John Kasich said thanks but no thanks to immediate federal disaster relief Saturday, even as governors in Indiana and Kentucky welcomed the help.

Kasich did not rule out asking for assistance later, but his decision means tornado-ravaged towns in Ohio will not get federal aid now and are not eligible at this time for potentially millions of dollars in payments and loans.

The governor said Ohio can respond to the crisis without federal help and he would not ask federal authorities to declare the region a disaster area.

“I believe that we can handle this,” Kasich said while visiting a shelter for storm victims at New Richmond High School. “We’ll have down here all the assets of the state.”
Take comfort, Ohio. You got EXACTLY what you voted for. Not many people can actually say that these days.

Bonus: "It's a small town, son...and we all must know our place"


  1. This is small time. The cuts required to balance the federal budget will be intolerable. They are unfathomable.

  2. Exactly what I was thinking as read this... They got what they asked for.

  3. Ha, Kasich must be an Ayn Rand disciple! Who knew that almost 1/3 of Americans have read Atlas Shrugged?


    1. Naw, there's about 50 freaks in the US who have read it 2,077,279.45 times (take that Larry Summers)---so it just seems like 1/3 of the people have read it!

      Really, is there any more pathetic figure to worship than Rand? Housecoat, Medicare, bitter about her boy toy....all that- it's like your favorite superhero being aqualad (yeah, aquaman had a sidekick-look up lamest superheroes)

      Can you picture young Greenspan sitting on the floor of her apartment eating popcorn and painting her toenails, giggling and drinking an Orange Nehi? I can.

    2. Kathleen, you made me laugh so hard my cats are looking at me like they're planning an intervention.

    3. Kathleen - yep, we all know that billionaire right wingers buy all of those books. Like Ann Coulter. They buy 100,000 copies of her latest turgid tome, and after that she gets to go on teevee touted as a "best selling author."

  4. Good article. During the discussions of Nixon's proposed freeze of budgets, salaries, etc, my neighbor said, in all seriousness, he was all for it but wanted it after he got his salary increase.

    I agree with Megadoom, the Federal cuts will be very painful and made even more so by out of a military budget and the national disaster we call health care.

  5. For every person who did not lose their job and have not been directly effected by the cuts (I.E. their house hasn't been robbed), Kasich is a hero. To everyone who has felt the pain, he is a menace.

    What scares the shit out of me is Kasich is clearly trying to establish a record of which he will stump from to run for president in the 2016 or beyond election, and it is the type of record that will probably fool enough people to win compared to the other clowns that keep trotting out.

  6. Yeah, I got an Ayn Rand vibe reading Kasich's comments too. Sounds like a true believer. This is what happens when the Randroid imperative collides with Spoiled Rotten Nation, right wing fundie style. "But it sounded so good during the debate!" LOL!!!!!

    Actually, what the LA Times story seems to only hint at is the true motivation behind rural-white conservative suppport of "fiscal responsibility." But here's the clue: "In the western part of the state, a Republican stronghold where forgotten barns with peeling paint sit atop flat fields, many who supported Kasich say they didn't expect the cuts would reach their small hamlets." In other words, I thought those cuts were only for those lazy black people in Cleveland!

    Without the barely concealed racial, religious and cultural bigotry, the Republican party would be left with only its true constituency: one percenters and their enablers. Not a winning electoral formula, that.

    Another fine column, BH.

    1. You are no doubt absolutely correct, Huey. They thought they were voting to stick it to the big cities and those horrible minority-types. Just like the woman who was holding the "Keep the Government's Hands Off My Medicare" at the Tea Party rally, their bigotry is only surpassed by their cluelessness.

  7. Funny...I was planning a blog post with the exact same title a couple weeks ago, but from a different angle. I was going to point out irony of the then-rising support for arch-moralist Santorum in the Ohio Republican primary in a state where, around the same time in the span of a week a teenager shot up his high school killing several people, and a foster couple were accused of sexually abusing and pimping out a twelve-year old boy.

    The white-working class in America may go down in history as the first to actively commit suicide. See this heartbreaking article from The New York Times last year:


    and see this:


    The latest trend is to blame the working class’s lack of moral rectitude for their decline. This is the current line being pushed by the “intellectual” wing of the GOP, with Charles Murray’s new book being flogged by David Brooks of the New York Times and others. In Murray’s and Brooks’ world, the lack of good jobs and declining wages have nothing to do with America’s decline – it’s just a massive decline in morals among poor people that caused all those jobs to flee, while the upper class deserves their ever-larger slice of America’s income thanks to their moral rectitude and ability to delay gratification. Globalization, of course, has nothing to do with it.

    As a member of the white-working class, I can attest to what an earlier commenter hinted at – the very concept of government has been demonized by convincing the working class that government is nothing more than taxing hard-working whites to give to lazy blacks to sit around and reproduce. This is why the working class abandoned Democrats at the exact same time as the Civil Rights era. This is never said out loud, of course, it is merely “understood.” What’s interesting is that all the pathologies supposedly endemic to the black community are now affecting whites as well – decline of marriage, violence, drug abuse, failing educational outcomes, etc.
    It's no coincidence the "Juggalo" phenomenon began in Detroit.

  8. Oh good lord, David Brooks.....the man who would kick a Haitian hours after their earthquake!

    I love their myth of omnipotence, that individuals have all the power-- circumstances of their life are never the root causes-- only personal gumption.

    They like this meme because, of course, any advantages they have are entirely because of their superiority-not due to an inherently uneven world.

    I wish I was omnipotent. I'd test their theory by dropping them without funds/assistance onto a dirt street in Somalia. I'd like to see how that would turn out.