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COLUMBUS, Ohio (CGE) – When you’re opponent is governor during the worst economic downturn since the end of the Great Depression 80 years ago and you’re a public official who’s never run a business or directed a multi-headed state bureaucracy, it’s easy to castigate a beleaguered chief executive for losing so many jobs.
That was the case last year, when Republican candidate John Kasich, who had been out of public office for a decade, dethroned his opponent, Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, whose term as Buckeye State chief executive coincided too closely with the onset and duration of the Great Recession, the deepest and longest of its kind since the early 1930s, when the national ship of state foundered against the rocky shoals of an economic downturn that, at its height, sent the unemployment rate to nearly 25 percent.
Kasich, who before he took on Strickland in 2010 had worked as a managing director in Ohio for the storied Wall Street investment bank of Lehman Brothers, relentlessly pounded the amiable and affable man from Duck Run in southeast Ohio for losing over 400,000 jobs during his one-term as governor.
With the defeat of Strickland by fewer than 78,000 votes or 23.5 percent of all registered voters, Kasich found himself governor of a state that, while it had taken multiple punches to its economic solar plexus in both the recession of 2001 and 2007, had nonetheless managed to create about 57,600 net jobs during Strickland’s last year as governor, according to U.S. Dept. of Labor statistics.
Kasich, who some call the Wizard of Westerville because he lived in the middle-class suburb northeast of Columbus where his Congressional district was centered, came into office in January promising to “climb a mountain” and turnaround Ohio in a way Strickland said he wanted to, but ended up failing to do because the pull of the national recession on Ohio and other similarly situated snake-bitten states was too strong to avoid.
Spoiling for a fight, as nationally renowned conservative Columnist George Will wrote early on about Kasich’s desire to shake Columbus up, the new governor spoke glowingly about how a new private jobs agency could “work at the speed of business” and make Ohio great again.
And during Kasich’s first seven months, the jobs numbers were moving his way. From January to July, 56,660 jobs came Kasich’s way. But then something happened that stopped the sun shinning. For each of the last three months, Ohio’s unemployment rate has ticked up enough that the state’s unemployment rate had risen from 8.6 percent to 9.1 percent, equally the national unemployment rate.
Then, in just the last two months, Ohio lost 34,360 jobs, according to DOL and ODJFS job figures. Bearing in mind that Ohio under Strickland had gained over 57,000 jobs during 2010, his last year as governor, the loss of 700 and 21,600, respectively over the last two months, was not the song Kasich has been singing since he strode so confidently into office.
Based on an analysis of these figures, and projected through the end of the year, Kasich may not be able to point to more than about 43,000 jobs created during his first year, a 14,000 job shortfall compared to Strickland’s last year in office.
And with more than one economist predicting the nation could slide into a second recession, the scenario Kasich is banking on to make his strategies for his policies a good idea could disappear as easily as another wizard does when he dons his cloak of invisibility.
Laughing at a driver stuck in a ditch is good fun until it comes times for the laugher to take the wheel and get the vehicle back on the road again. Kasich doesn’t have much room to laugh anymore, now that he’s behind the wheel. With jobs still being lost and home foreclosures not a thing of the past, Gov. Kasich is getting a taste of the lash he flogged Strickland with so mercilessly last year.
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