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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Whatever Happened to John Kasich?

Back in the 1990s, there was a Republican Congressman from Ohio named John Kasich who was a scourge on corporate subsidies. He even ran a "Stop Corporate Welfare Coalition" and had a joint news conference with Ralph Nader, Grover Norquist, and others to oppose it on January 29, 1997. "We've reformed welfare for those who don't have money or powerful Washington lobbyists," he said there. "Now it's time we did the same for those corporate welfare programs that aid the rich and powerful." (Newark Star-Ledger, Jan. 29, 1997, no link).

Interestingly, a guy with a similar name was elected governor of Ohio last year. But this Kasich indulges in the worst kind of subsidy abuse, offering incentives to companies to move existing facilities. Governor Kasich is offering Sears $400 million to move its headquarters, with 6100 jobs, from the Chicago suburbs to Columbus. At a time when the state is engaging in substantial budget cuts including, according to the linked story, funds for local governments and school districts, it's hard to justify $400 million subsidies that create zero net jobs for the country. Moreover, by dangling these subsidies in front of Sears, Kasich (and others like him in other states) is enabling the company to extort retention subsidies out of Illinois, just like it did in 1989 when it left the Sears Tower for Hoffman Estates.

Yet this Kasich has no shame. After poaching 500 jobs from Kentucky in September, he told Sean Hannity, "I was accused in the front page of the Cincinnati Enquirer by people in Kentucky of wanting to steal all their jobs. And guess what? They're right."

The John Kasich I remember would have seen that since the states can't help themselves (two voluntary no-raiding agreements between states have collapsed in the past), there is a need for federal action. Only the federal government can pass laws to prevent subsidies from being given for relocations, or tax them so heavily a company would have no incentive to accept such inducements. If he were still in Congress, maybe he could even be persuaded to author a bill like that.

I wonder whatever happened to that guy.

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