John Kasich and the #VotetoEndHunger

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My wonderful friend Russ was kind enough to invite me to be his guest at the Portsmouth Rotary meeting where John Kasich was speaking. Of course, I had to wear out my welcome within two seconds and ask him if he could ask Gov. Kasich a question (only Rotary members are allowed to ask questions at events) about poverty.

Russ is a wonderful person, who, by the way, with his lovely wife Katie, runs Portsmouth Music and Arts Center (PMAC), an organization that changes lives by providing unbelievably top notch music and art education to children and adults that keep asking their piano teacher to help them cover ELO songs…oh wait, is that just me? Effinberger, I know you miss me. Everyone else: get to PMAC. Be grateful for PMAC. Support PMAC.

Anyway, Russ is amazing and I adore him and he was really gracious in taking the #VotetoEndHunger question to Kasich in my stead.

Vote to End Hunger is a coalition and grassroots movement to make hunger and poverty a priority in the 2016 election. Let’s ignore the fact that we even need a well organized coalition to make such a priority possible…in 2015. The main goal is to get folks out there asking candidates a “simple” question:

“If elected, what will you do to end hunger, alleviate poverty, and create opportunity?” 

Before we get to Kasich’s specific answer to that question, let me start with some positive feedback.

John Kasich has a very interesting back story that really shows he is a man of action (he somehow got a 5 minute meeting with President Nixon when he was only 18, starting with a letter of admiration and materialized through what sounded like sheer will and fumes of persistence). I love that he started, right off the bat, with his own personal narrative, telling the crowd who he was and how he formed his view of the world. Born to immigrant, non-english speaking grandparents, parents experiencing poverty. His grandfather was a coal miner, father was a mailman, he himself was nominated to the Ohio Senate at age 26 – the youngest person ever elected to the Ohio Senate. American Dream anyone??

The thing Kasich wants you to underline next to his name is that he was the U.S. House Budget Committee chairman and “led the successful effort to balance the federal budget for the first time since men walked on the moon.” Kasich went on to say that “Americans seem to think that our problems are so huge, and the system is beyond broke,” but there is reason for optimism because there are solutions to our problems. Right there with you, Johnny.

A familiar refrain on the campaign trail is the need to create jobs. I want jobs to be created, sure. But how exactly do we do that? For Kasich, it’s simple accounting but also a moral priority to balance the budget. Without jobs, “people lose confidence, dignity, and hope. It’s a downward slide.” Got it. Been there. Totally. He goes on.

“Do we really feel connected? Do we really know our neighbors? The strength of the family is the strength of the United States.”

“We need to take care of our children, we can’t leave the working poor in the shadows, we won’t build anything that doesn’t allow opportunity for all.”

Great. Until you explain how you plan to do all that. Which is where the positive feedback ends, essentially.

Kasich proposes shifting the power of government closer to the people. Read: states’ rights. Read: block granting. Read: Deep cuts to federal programs disguised as “savings.”

“Tax cuts equal empowerment, more money in pockets.” More money in whose pockets?

So let’s get back to that #VotetoEndHunger question, “If elected, what will you do to end hunger, alleviate poverty, and create opportunity?”

Kasich answered this broad question with a lot of policy ideas in a short amount of time. Following his theme of bringing government closer to the people, he does not believe anti-poverty programs should be run by the federal government, these programs should be administered where people live. “We have food banks in Ohio,” he said. So let me just put this right here:

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The other problem here is that federal level programs like SNAP and the Earned Income Tax Credit/Child Tax Credit are critical programs that are hugely successful, particularly in times of disaster, like, say, a recession. Many states have grossly cut back benefits, or even eliminated programs that lift millions out of poverty every year.

Incredulously, Kasich stated the income gap comes partly from bad public schools, and the lack of education, adding, “it’s your job to figure out how to make your school work locally,” – not the job of the federal government. There’s personal responsibility and then there’s some sort of Lord of the Flies scenario.

Perhaps the most upsetting thing I heard that afternoon with John Kasish was when he invoked his mother’s retelling of Luke 14:12-14.

“It’s a sin not to help people who need help,” said Kasich. “But it’s also a sin to help people who need to learn how to help themselves.”

That has got to be one of the leading causes of why we have not ended poverty in this country. Even though we could. The myth about the pathology of poverty was alive and well in Portsmouth that day.

 

 

 

 

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