Thursday, August 26, 2010
Anyone who has followed Ohio politics for more than 25 years or so finds it difficult to hear the word "jobs" in political discourse without thinking of James A. Rhodes (left) who dominated Ohio politics during his sixteen years as Governor (1963-1971, 1975-1983). He was a man obsessed with the idea that every Ohioan should have a decent job. The accomplishments for which he is most remembered are the expansion of vocational and technical high schools, and the creation of a system of community colleges, both of which continue to prepare young (and often, not so young) Ohioans for the workplace.
As everyone knows, Ohio has been dragged out from the industrial era kicking and screaming -- and almost 30 years after Youngstown Sheet went down the tubes, Ohio politicians are still kicking and screaming; so when John Kasich (right) "welcomes" the thought that he is a "reincarnated Jim Rhodes", he is strikng a nerve for many Ohioans.*
Ohio desperately needs a paradigm shift.
Most of us realize, at least instinctively, that our service-based economy is not going to last much longer. The currency is going to hyperinflate, goods from abroad will become unaffordable due to high oil costs (and the depreciated dollar), and multinational corporations aren't going to make their bucks off the American consumer, because the American consumer isn't going to have the money to spend.
"Jobs" are of vital importance only in an industrial economy, where large corporations employ 30-40% of the workforce. In the economy we had two hundred years ago, toward which I believe we are returning, having a "job" conveyed a very different meaning.
Two hundred years ago, a job was something a slave had; or a man who was too poor, timid, or unintelligent to run his own business. Those who were poor, but ambitious, saved their wages to buy the tools they needed to get out on their own as soon as they could.
Everyone else ran a farm, a store or local bank, or made something -- bread, tools, wagons, barrels, whatever. Enterprise was free because no one was large enough or powerful enough to corrupt the system. Competition was brutal, but you had control of your own destiny, and learned to adapt your business to the market -- or if you failed, you looked for a job.
It is not the function of the state to create jobs. It is the function of the state to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to compete on a level playing field, by ensuring that every child has the opportunity to get a useful education, by protecting the sanctity of contracts, and by protecting our property from force and fraud.
If the state wants to strengthen the Ohio economy, it would secede to get out from under the federal tax burden; then reduce taxes and entitlements to a point where it becomes profitable for ordinary people to go into business for themselves. It can review banking regulations to remove any barriers to lending to small business.
But what the state should not do is to continue our feckless search for industrial jobs, which, by now we should know will never return.
It's time to move on, Ohio, and neither Mr. Kasich nor Gov. Strickland seem to have the foggiest idea how to do it. We do have an alternative. Consider Ken Matesz (Libertarian) for governor who appears to be on the right track.
One thing is clear, Ohio will not recover until Ohioans change the way they think about politics and the economy.
* I agree with Joe Hallett at the Columbus Dispatch that the comparison is inaccurate, if for no other reason than that Gov. Rhodes did not have Mr. Kasich's conservative ideology, but the point of this post is to discuss what Mr. Kasich wants the voters to believe.