NEW YORK – Ohio Gov. John Kasich is an enthusiastic free-trade advocate who boasts of job growth during his two terms as Ohio governor, despite the state’s continued loss of manufacturing jobs to free-trade outsourcing and the transformation under his watch of its economy from high-paying, full-time jobs largely in manufacturing to lower-paying, part-time service jobs.
When he was representing Ohio in the House of Representatives, Kasich voted for NAFTA and supported the measure to extend “Most Favored Nation” status to China under the auspices of the World Trade Organization, much as he now supports the quick passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the TPP, dubbed by critics “Obama-trade.”
Kasich said in the GOP debate in Milwaukee on Nov. 11, 2015, the TPP is “critical to us, not only for economic reasons and for jobs, because there are so many people who are connected to getting jobs because of trade, but it allows us to create not only economy alliances, but also potentially strategic alliances against the Chinese.”
“They are not our enemy, but they are certainly not our friend,” he said.
However, Robert Higgs, the Northeast Ohio Media Group Columbus bureau chief, took Kasich to task on Aug. 15, 2015, for claiming in the GOP presidential debate in Cleveland on Aug. 6, 2015, that Ohio had added 350,000 private-sector jobs on his watch.
Higgs pointed out that according to federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, Ohio was recovering from recession at the end of President George W. Bush’s second term. Under the leadership of Kasich’s predecessor, Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, Ohio was down nearly 360,000 jobs through October 2010.
The left-leaning Washington-based think tank Public Citizen, founded by political activist and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader, claims Ohio has lost more than 307,000 manufacturing jobs – one out of every three – since the 1994 NAFTA and WTO agreements took effect.
Ohio loses jobs to TPP countries
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported March 3 that Ohio lost 112,500 jobs in 2015 as a result of the U.S. trade deficit with TPP countries, citing a study by the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute, EPI.
“The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries lacks an absolutely key component to keep it from doing potential damage to the U.S. economy,” the EPI report noted. “The missing piece of this trade and investment deal is a set of restrictions and/or enforceable penalties against member countries that engage in currency manipulation.”
The report said currency manipulation is “one of the key driving forces behind the high and rapidly rising U.S. trade deficit with the 11 other members of the TPP.”
“In 2015, the U.S. deficit with TPP countries translated into 2 million U.S. jobs lost, more than half (1.1 million) of which were in manufacturing,” the EPI report stressed. “Without such provisions against currency manipulation, the TPP could well follow other trade agreements and leave even greater U.S. trade deficits in its wake.”
Shift to low-paying, part-time jobs
The New York Times reported March 4 that the nationwide shift under the Obama administration from manufacturing and mining jobs to hospitality workers and service workers away, as well as from full-time employment to part-time employment, is being felt in Ohio.
“Working people in states like Michigan and Ohio feel the lousy manufacturing job loss and growing trade deficit with China, even if Wall Street and D.C. do not,” Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, said in a statement to the New York Times. “If you’re wondering why there’s so much interest in political insurgencies among both Democrats and Republicans this year, here’s your answer.”
On Thursday, the Hamilton Journal-News in Butler County, Ohio, noted that while unemployment is down in Ohio, wages remain a source of frustration.
“Jobs are coming back, but there’s still a great deal to do in terms of strengthening the middle class,” said Bryan Marshall, a political science professor at Miami University. “There’s a lot of angst and anger among voters about how the promise of the middle class has kind of fallen to the wayside.”
The Hamilton Journal-News further reported that since 1999, median household income in Ohio dropped more than 16 percent when adjusted for inflation, the second-biggest drop in the nation, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
In recent years, Ohio has added to the loss of steel-making jobs the loss of coal-mining jobs, as the Obama administration continues to wage a war on coal, and economic growth in China has slowed dramatically.
The International Business Times reported on March 3 that Ohio’s miners are being forced to seek “a life after coal,” as the industry loses steam in Appalachia, with employment in coal mining currently at a 20-year low.
“Prices of metallurgical coal, the type used in steelmaking, plunged 18 percent last year from 2014 due to softening economic growth in China and an overall global supply glut,” the International Business Times noted.
“Thermal coal for power plants is losing ground to natural gas, which emits fewer pollutants and less carbon dioxide than coal,” the International Business Times said. “With the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tightening rules on climate change and clean air, utilities are increasingly converting their plants to gas and building more solar and wind power projects.”
On Friday, Reuters reported that Trump is likely to benefit in the Ohio primary on Tuesday from blue-collar Democrats crossing over to vote for him.
To come to this conclusion, Reuters interviewed workers in Canton, a town Reuters described as “a gritty northeastern Ohio city where the once-dominant steel industry has been in decline for 20 years, is the heart of Stark County, a political bellwether that, save twice, has picked every winning presidential candidate since 1964.”
Reuters noted that in Canton, a city of 72,500 people, Trump’s denunciation of free trade, political correctness, and illegal immigrants “is resonating among some traditionally Democratic blue-collar steel workers.”
“The labor unions, who usually support the Democrats, a lot of our members, and a lot of their families, are supporting Trump,” said Keith Strobelt, a political director for the United Steelworkers local union in Canton.
Reuters noted Strobelt does not support Trump.
Reuters further reported Canton’s local United Steelworkers union has 1,800 members, down from 6,700 at its peak 30 years ago.
“It could be that several hundred of our members will back Trump,” Strobelt told Reuters. “A lot find him refreshing. He says a lot of things they say around their dinner tables.”