John Kasich

Ohio governor and former congressman John Kasich has not led national polls or won any state primary or caucus other than his own constituency, but he has nonetheless been a notable factor in the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

Often considered the last moderate Republican candidate left in the race, Kasich’s optimistic and sometimes conciliatory tone has distinguished him in a race led by the truculent voices of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz [1]. Kasich has performed best among more moderate Republican voters in Northeastern states like Vermont and New Hampshire, in both of which he took second place to Trump [2].

Kasich’s pitch fits this group well: he is experienced, with his 17 years in the House of Representatives and 6 years as Ohio governor putting him nearly on par with Hillary Clinton. He is a self-styled fiscal conservative and budget balancer, who served as Chairman of the House Budget Committee the last time the federal budget was balanced, in 1997. Kasich also touts the successes of Iowa under his leadership, both in fiscal discipline and job creation [3].

Kasich has a more bipartisan record than his rivals, having worked with the Clinton administration to balance the budget [4] and pass the federal assault weapons ban [5]. He is also one of few Republican governors to have accepted the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion program for his state, a decision which may have hurt him among Republican primary voters [6]. In the first Republican debate, he was also recognized for his uniquely amicable tone on same-sex marriage–while he personally opposes it, he accepts the Supreme Court decision on the matter and does not support a constitutional amendment to overturn it [7].

This said, many have challenged Kasich’s moderate image. Most of his positions are in line with conservative orthodoxy, including his recent decision to defund Planned Parenthood in Ohio [8]. He is also afflicted with a tendency to make clumsy statements, as when he credited women coming “out of their kitchens” for his initial elections to the Ohio state senate [9].

While Kasich is still considered a long-shot for the Republican nomination, his candidacy remains significant. Contrasted with that of Donald Trump, it illustrates a battle for the heart and soul of the Republican party–traditional conservatism against fiery right-wing populism.

Sam Fraser

Ohio governor John Kasich’s political positions and portrayal of electability rests almost exclusively on a “legal precedent” style of campaigning. His “Elect Me” web page [10] provides a plethora of information about what policies worked in Ohio, but little discussion regarding how those policies might fare if applied on the national level. As a preliminary matter, for a candidate to base his campaign solely on his past accomplishments is short-sighted, and to imply that federal and state systems operate identically is unrealistic. This overarching flaw in his marketing is only exacerbated by his flawed, state-focused take on the federal government.

Firstly, Kasich believes that education has been and always should be under states’ discretion and that the federal government should have no control over what material teachers should teach. While this doesn’t sound bad at first, such a system inevitably allows states such as Oklahoma to outright ban classes that go against the political rhetoric of the region, effectively indoctrinating our youth [11]. He supports regulations establishing the standards to which students should be held in public schools and encourages the creation of committees at each school, consisting of parents and community members, to review and assess school performance [12]. This is foolish for a few reasons. The first is that he encourages a system in which students who start public high school in California could be entirely unqualified to finish it in Texas. Like it or not, certain classes like math and science require very strict prerequisites, sometimes even before the college level, and Kasich’s new system would allow schools in one area to lack the necessary prerequisites of another. Secondly, the notion that the public school system is there to “serve” the values of the communities and adults of individual states is not only preposterous, but it is dangerous as well. The public school system is (and should be) designed with the sole intent of preparing children to be productive members of society in a globalizing economy. Finally, this policy is just downright discriminatory toward children in communities whose “values” don’t bode well in the college selection process. Have fun explaining to every public school student in state XYZ that they shouldn’t even bother applying for MIT or CalTech because their community forbade them from learning about evolution and biological science. BBC reported last year that the United States schools are ranked only 28th in the world — pretty pitiful for the wealthiest country in the history of the world [13]. The only way we’re going to solve this issue is by demanding higher standards for all American citizens, not by denying children born in politically- and religiously-charged states to never be given the chance to take classes that challenge their parents’ beliefs.

Kasich shows right-wing roots in his unrealistic interest in moving away from income and corporate taxes, toward a regressive system based more heavily in taxing consumption [14]. Such a policy targets America’s poor, who, unlike their wealthy counterparts, cannot afford to not spend all their money on consumption, and if Kasich gets his way, they won’t be able to afford consuming any more. His economic policy will likely make more money for big businesses and at the same time fail to accommodate his other propositions. Take, for example, mental illness. Kasich wants to increase the availability of care and housing for the mentally ill and invest in early childhood mental health and crisis services. Normally, the federal government would need to increase some tax in order to raise funds for these types of programs, but Kasich’s economic policy proposes to do just the opposite.

Kasich’s answer to this quagmire is that he will find funds by cutting them from other programs, such as welfare. He wants to impose stricter limitations on welfare, including a lifetime limit on cash benefits and work requirements for those receiving aid from the government [15]. The job requirement would also create a higher demand for a limited supply of jobs in the United States, which Kasich insists is his first priority. But let’s face it, there’s simply not enough jobs to accommodate all of the unemployed [16], and to force people to work to earn their benefits when there simply aren’t any jobs available is to deny benefits to the non-professional unemployed that don’t win the occupational lottery. Like the Reaganomicists that came before him, Kasich wants to perpetuate a vicious cycle of making the lower class fight each other just to survive.

Disconcertingly, Kasich’s strategy for national security is no better than his economic solutions. The Governor’s policies on firearms do not reflect the current dangerous atmosphere permeating American society. Kasich believes that every American deserves the right to bear arms and wants to make it easier to get them and be approved for Concealed Carry permits [17]. Kasich’s Second Amendment stance omits consideration of the negative statistics, such as the fact that making guns more accessible makes our streets more dangerous.

In sum, Kasich presents himself as a moderate Republican candidate in his speeches, but his policies are confusing, sometimes contradictory, and at other times overly conservative and one-sided. Kasich’s policies do not produce realistic solutions to America’s problems but instead tend to perpetuate an elite class of Americans on a small-state level. Furthermore, the largest flaw in Kasich’s policies lies with his economic policy, which simply does not create the funds necessary to implement and support any of his various other policies effectively.

Ross Reggio

Handing control of education standards over to the states reduces bureaucratic difficulties while still ensuring that parents have some control over what their children are taught. Leaving education primarily to the federal government is dangerous because states are too diverse in intellectual culture to be restrained under federal standards. Too much federal involvement in educational standards will endanger these cultural differences, disagree with them though we might. MIT admissions will understand these differences.

The Common Core, which Kasich supports, will keep the nation bound to some educational standards. Only seven states have either not adopted or withdrawn from Common Core standards, and some of these states, such as South Carolina, have similar standards [18] [19]. Common Core will ensure that states abide by national standards and that students can move to different states without fear of falling behind.

In Congress, Kasich was an outspoken opponent of corporate welfare, on which the federal government spent nearly $100 billion in FY 2012 [20] [21]. Additionally, his plan to block-grant Medicaid funds to the states would save billions because states can offer better incentives to use healthcare dollars more wisely than the federal government [22]. His proposal to block-grant education funding saves money because states would have to spend less to comply with federal standards. Kasich has experience with cracking down on wasteful defense spending, so his proposed defense spending increases will come with more efficient national defense, making the increases cheaper than they look [23].

Kasich is not incapable of sympathizing with the poor. His tax plans include a 10% boost to the Earned Income Tax Credit, and his education policy includes an overhaul of funding formulas to direct more funding to charter schools [24] [25]. Welfare cuts decrease the size of the “benefits cliff” from which working-class people suffer when they earn barely enough to not qualify for welfare, so they do not harm all working-class people.

Bruno Youn

John Kasich is the most obscure of the remaining major presidential candidates. That is a shame; he is the candidate most fit for the highest office in the land. He has a rare combination of experience both in Congress and in a state governor’s office. He is also more willing to compromise than Cruz or Sanders and is moderate enough to get much of his agenda past Congress. He played a significant role in balancing both the federal budget in Congress and Ohio’s budget as governor [26] [27].

One of Kasich’s highest priorities is balancing the federal budget again and paying down the federal debt. He has plans to reduce federal spending: freeze all non-defense discretionary spending, slow the growth of healthcare spending, and transfer certain federally funded programs to the states [28]. Our national debt is at levels unprecedented since the late 1940’s [29]. More importantly, debt cannot be paid down overnight. Nobody likes having their Social Security or Medicare cut or their taxes increased, so deficit reduction and debt repayment must be gradual. Our federal government must address its debt and budget deficit before they become greater issues and burden our children and grandchildren.

Kasich advocates downsizing the Department of Transportation from the costly bureaucracy it is today to a source of standards for the states [30]. The Federal Highway Administration, a sub-agency of the DoT, requested $48.6 billion for FY 2015 to maintain and improve highways [31]. Most of that $48.6 billion was to be spent on making grants to states to conduct highway maintenance [32]. The interstate system is long finished and states already maintain it, so there is little justification for the federal government’s current involvement in highway maintenance. Cutting those grants and turning funding over to the states would allow states more freedom to determine how to maintain their highways and save the federal government most of that $48.6 billion per year. The states would not take on as much of the financial burden as one might think because less federal government involvement means more efficient highway maintenance. Kasich would treat education similarly; he would repurpose the Department of Education as an agency of research, get rid of federal education standards, and send funds back to the states, reducing the administrative costs of the Department of Education greatly [33]. Kasich would still have national education standards; he supports the Common Core because it was written by state superintendents and local principals, not the federal government [34].

President Kasich’s healthcare reform would minimize cost growth without gutting healthcare. It would be cheaper than the Affordable Care Act by, once again, granting funds to states so that the states have more control over their costs. Kasich has proven as governor of Ohio that he is able to keep costs under control while expanding healthcare. Although the Ohio Medicaid expansion that Kasich accepted increased the cost growth rate by nearly 12%, the cost-growth rate is projected to decrease to pre-expansion levels over the next two years [35].

Kasich has proposed cutting the corporate tax to a 25% maximum rate [36]. The top statutory rate for U.S. corporate taxes is currently 39.1%, the highest in the developed world [37]. After deductions and credits are accounted for, the US has an effective corporate tax rate of 27.9%, the second-highest among developed countries [38]. Assuming that corporate tax breaks and deductions remained unchanged, the effective rate would be 13.8%. If 13.8% sounds too low, consider that Canada, Belgium, France, and Singapore all have single-digit effective rates [39] Lowering the corporate tax rate would not only spur economic growth to make up for lost revenue, but also prevent massive corporations like Walgreens from moving their headquarters overseas [40]. So if this decrease in corporate taxes sounds too large, keep in mind that not only is this a long overdue adjustment, but also that the two percent taxes from companies like Apple are much lower [41].

With the withdrawal of Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, John Kasich is the last moderate Republican standing. His nuanced policy proposals make wise use of federalism to reduce the deficit and debt while spurring economic growth through lower corporate taxes. He would not take a hammer to the system and smash it indiscriminately, but rather make the federal government more fiscally sustainable in order to carefully fix the smashing Obama has already done.

Bruno Youn

If Kasich’s “highest priority” is balancing the federal budget, then why is he implanting specific programs that increase spending?It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that increased spending and reduced taxation don’t exactly lead to a balanced budget. Kasich intends to counteract his budget-growing policies by cutting funding for programs that aid the American poor, while his tax cuts exacerbate the wealth gap. For example, Kasich recently signed a bill to cut $1.3 million dollars of Ohio funding from Planned Parenthood, which provided STD and HIV testing as well as basic health care for (predominantly low-income) women across the state [42]. This is not balancing the budget, but simply re-allocating the overbearing financial weights of the government from everyone’s shoulders to only those of the poor and middle class. Not only does this action show a blatant lack of understanding for our current economic situation, this proves that Kasich has and will continue to allow his personal faith to infringe on the very health of Americans that don’t possess the power to fight back.

Kasich’s tax cuts for the corporate sector is invalid, as simply decreasing the tax that companies have to pay will not prevent them from moving their headquarters overseas. United States corporate taxes would have to be lower than competing countries’ corporate taxes, which he is not proposing; Mr. Youn even wrote “Canada, Belgium, France, and Singapore all have single-digit effective rates” [43].

Mr. Youn also fails to mention how Kasich’s policies don’t address the large burden that a tax code built upon consumption will place on the lower class [44]. Taxes on consumption, especially sales tax, statistically create more difficulties on poorer individuals than wealthier ones. These types of taxes typically take a higher percentage of income from the lower class, and a small proportion of the wealth of the upper class, making them intrinsically unfair and limiting to the poor. While Kasich markets himself as the only remaining moderate in the race, his “A”-ranking with the NRA, deeply classist and evangelical views mark him as anything but moderate [45]. And the fact that this man is considered a “moderate” for the Republican party indicates that the GOP much less grand and a lot older than it has ever been before.

Ross Reggio












image: Governor of Ohio John Kasich at NH FITN 2016” by Michael Vadon — Own work. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Flickr Creative Commons —

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