About Michael Calabrese

Ohio’s Primary Importance

Ohio’s Primary Importance

Ohio’s Primary Importance

Ohioans are used to hearing that we’re a “swing state,” and how pivotal a role we play in national elections. With eighteen electoral votes, we’re often in a make or break position – just ask Karl Rove. But Ohio plays a major role in the democratic primary as well. With 97 district delegates, we have a lot to say about who gains the democratic nomination.

When Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders square-off in the Ohio primary (March 2016) we’ll have front row seats in a contest between the party’s progressives and a democratic establishment that looks more and more republican as the days pass. It will be an interesting time to be an Ohioan.

In most ways the Ohio battleground can be summed up in two words: Wall Street. Two major issues rise to the top immediately: Jobs lost to destructive U.S. trade deals, and the banks.

Ohio is still a labor state. Losses from bad trade deals, income reductions and the loss of homes are big deals here. Even with 315,000 manufacturing jobs lost (according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics) and all the factory closings since NAFTA, Ohio remembers not just the dignity of work, but its prosperity. We remember supporting our families and paying our bills. In March 2011 Ohio ended Governor Kasich’s hope of crushing labor by defeating Senate Bill 5, the republican gambit to end collective bargaining in the state. We did what Wisconsin couldn’t. Candidates for President should probably remember that.

The Transpacific Partnership Agreement – a 12 nation Asian “Free Trade” agreement called NAFTA on steroids is a very big issue in Ohio. Seeing the losses of our bad trade deals in the past, every one of Ohio’s democratic federal representatives is set firmly against it.

Senator Sherrod Brown showed great leadership in opposing TPP and the President’s ultimately successful effort to gain “Fast Tracking” authority to speed passage. All of the state’s democratic representatives (Beatty, Kaptur, Fudge and Ryan) signed protest letters to the President in past years, voted against Fast Tracking and all oppose TPP. In his bid to unseat Rob Portman, former Governor Ted Strickland has come out firmly against TPP and any such trade deals. With the state’s whole federal delegation lined up against Wall Street and the trade deal, Hillary will have an Ohio problem.

The President is in a race. He’s got to get TPP passed before Hillary truly gets into primary season next February.  Hillary’s ties to Wall Street and the banks and their money, put her on the wrong side of the trade debate and if TPP is on the table when her campaign is in full swing – she’s toast in places like Ohio. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka’s pledge to withhold support from any candidate backing TPP will have a big impact Ohio primary.

Hillary Clinton has tried to protect her “inevitability,” with silence. She won’t take a position on TPP, just as she won’t take a position against the XL pipeline or the banks. That won’t work here.

The carefully managed Hillary holds kitchen table meetings with a dozen chosen voters and keeps reporters contained within rope corrals in order to avoid questions. Granted, she’s got a few issues to hide from. It’s not just what she did or didn’t do as Secretary of State and Benghazi, the email debacle and the subpoenas. Through it all, she wears a frozen smile mask no matter what challenge comes. The silence plants the seeds of doubt and waters them as her “trust numbers” crash.

She might run from reporters, but she can’t run from the trade and political policies she helped put in place. Obama’s “Asian pivot,” didn’t happen without his Secretary of State. Obama lost the support of Middle America when he failed to make an “American Pivot.” Hillary is telling the country she will do the same. That won’t work here either.

Bernie Sanders doesn’t have an Ohio problem. If anything his growing ranks of supporters are taking root here and time and again, he’s proven to be a man who seeks questions because he’s there to give answers. He is leading the drive for an American investment in Americans, supports the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall to take apart the banks and will kill off TPP and other agreements. From jobs to taxes; race and education; climate change and infrastructure, Bernie Sanders lays out his plans – often in incredible detail. He’s not only saying what. He’s saying how and Americans are listening.

For the most part, the media has ignored Sanders. They are owned by the corporations that are pressing for global control via TPP and other so-called “Free Trade” agreements. When he does get coverage the media is amazed at the size of the crowds he draws, followed statements that he can’t win – as if it were fact. It isn’t. There was speculation that he might do well in Iowa (famously progressive on the democrat side) or New Hampshire since it’s next to Vermont; but the tens of thousands who came to hear him were in Colorado, Wisconsin and Arizona. We’re about to find out how many will come and then vote in Ohio.

Bernie Sanders is drawing interest and support from the left, the center and even some from the right (they don’t all have rabies). There is no radical agenda. Sanders is speaking directly to a huge range of key American issues while no one else is. Hillary has had to adopt some of his themes (along with Elizabeth Warren’s), and there are even republicans who’ve started to sound like him, but there is no substance. A few weeks ago, Senator Claire McCaskill got on TV to paint Sanders as a wild-eyed radical – a socialist! Of course, Bernie’s supporters have a label for McCaskill: republican…

It’s time to stop asking if Bernie Sanders can win in a state like Ohio. A better question might be: If she stays silent on TPP, Wall Street and the banks, can the Hillary campaign make it out of Ohio?

There is no “managed” Bernie Sanders, no mask and the smile is his. He’s running on a four-decade long record ideas, actions and successes against the odds. Bernie Sanders steps to the podium and invites us to join in his forty year long conversation with America.

Michael Calabrese

Michael Calabrese – has been writing throughout his professional life. As a business writer, Michael’s proposals for government contracts (RFP’s) have garnered over $46 million in federal awards from the Department of Defense, Justice, the EPA and the SEC.  As a grant writer for a non-profit, his proposals have won $2 million in awards to feed hungry school children in need and fund social services for the poor and disabled.

From 1999 through 2008, Michael was Manager for Information Services for contractor for Labat-Anderson, providing client services to 56 offices of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.  He was the management lead for the Agency’s provision of 15 years of environmental science, regulations and methods to support the Iraq Ministry of Environment. Earlier in life, Michael was Director for Public Information for the National Space Society and ran their Philadelphia office writing congressional briefing books, white papers on space policy and articles on space colonies and in-space mining. He was a contributing panelist on the OMNI Magazine Symposium on US Space Policy. Michael is married, has a dog and a cat and lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.

John Kasich Tax Cuts

John Kasich Tax Cuts

John Kasich Tax Cuts 

by guest author, Michael Calabrese

Over his years in the governor’s mansion, John Kasich has become something of an enigma who leaves democrats and even republicans wondering who he is. He won the governor’s office riding on the republican surge of 2010 and quickly fell into line as a conservative hardliner along with Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) and Sam Brownback (R-Kansas). The race to the right didn’t work out so well. Walker had to fight off a re-call for his attempt to end collective bargaining and Kansas is broke and may face bankruptcy after Brownback’s tax cut for the rich. Kasich’s passage of Senate Bill 5 – another attempt to end collective bargaining state, turned into a resounding defeat at the polls. Kasich responded by saying that the people had spoken and he’d heard them. Some say the Governor took the lesson to heart; others say he just shifted gears in his drive to the right.

In November 2013 Kasich broke with Republican Party hardliners by accepting $14 billion in federal funding to expand Medicaid in spite of language inserted into the 2012 budget forbidding it. Getting the money into Ohio was too big a prize to resist. Kasich did an end-run around republicans in the state house by instructing the little-known Ohio Controlling Board to appropriate the funds. Ohio didn’t join the Obamacare. No state exchange was opened and things will stay that way as long as he’s governor; but Kasich got the money to fund treatment for Ohio’s poor, the addicted and those suffering from mental illness. The move left republicans fuming and democrats scratching their heads and the Kasich mystery grew.

Kasich’s tax cuts and their impacts on Ohio are no mystery. The Governor claims success for reducing taxes, but that success came from breaking the backs of every municipality and school district in Ohio.

Kasich’s plan is all about transferring the costs of government and basic services from the state to local government. This is about the end of governance; divestment and handing the costs to those least able to pay while lining pockets that are already fat. Those basic services include police and fire protection and education for our children.

Everyone agrees that education is the key to better employment and a better life. While government talks about improving education, Kasich has cut more than $500 million in state funding for schools. Hamilton County alone lost $48 million. Our schools offer the minimum instead of excellence. They are ending the future in order to get by today.

With growing costs and falling revenues, Ohio schools are consolidating. Class size grows while qualified teachers are being replaced by lower quality non-certified aids. Those aids are being left to teach swollen classes, learning is reduced and so are our prospects for the future. We’re not talking about funding for the arts here or a new field for the football team. Fundamental skills in English, math and the sciences are hanging in the balance. It’s not that our students are failing – we are failing them.

All day kindergarten/school-based daycare is going away across Ohio. Those programs let parents work, so they can pay taxes to provide a decent education for their children. With 48% of Ohioans in poverty or employed in low wage jobs there is no money for child care.

John Kasich Tax Cuts

In July 2013 Kasich’s administration poured gas on the education fire when the republican state house slipped a last-measure into the budget that eliminated the “roll-back” increasing all new taxes and levies by 12.5%. The 12.5% used to be picked up by the states. At a time when the costs of everything is going up and employment is down the full weight of all new local taxes are falling on property owners. It means that school levies that were once covered by House Bill 920 (school districts could approve levy increases up to 10 Mills per thousand dollars in home value without a vote), aren’t anymore. They are being pushed over the limit and while tax rates are increasing in every Ohio county. More levies will have to be voted on making it harder for schools to gain funds that used to be automatic.

Kasich cuts to public education look all the worse since he is providing state financing to for-profit charter schools that operate virtually without oversight to the detriment of students. The recent charges of abuse put the spotlight on both the schools and the lack of controls. In May 2014 the Akron Beacon Journal ran an expose on the misuse of public fund with for-profit schools spending as much as $400 per student to lure them away from public schools using fears of violence and bullying to scare parents. At the same time, drop out rates are soaring at the schools. Nationally – they are falling.

The governor’s 2014 tax income plan is simply upside down with deep tax cuts for the top 1%. An average tax cut for them would be $10,269, and a smaller cut for the next 4% at about $1,500. The lowest 20% in income gets a $63 tax increase. Ohio’s tax system is already out of balance with our lowest 20% paying over 11% in taxes while the top 1% pays an effective rate of 8%. Kasich’s overall tax strategy is to eliminate the income tax altogether and replace it with a higher statewide sales tax. That burden will fall with greater weight on the poor and middle classes who spend their income on basic life needs – food, shelter, clothing, education and healthcare.

Kasich’s budget success in Columbus is being paid for by parents and home owners and our children. The governor scoffs at the protests over lost state funding by pointing to the 3-5% and saying that counties and municipal government can absorb those losses with simple consolidations that won’t hurt and are actually good for government.

The 3-5% isn’t the problem. Ohio’s towns and schools are primarily funded by real estate and sales taxes. Homes have lost up to 30% of their values since 2008 and so have the tax revenues they generate. We’re no where near recovery. Police and fire protection, education and roads still have to be paid for, so real estate tax rates are increasing everywhere. Kasich’s funding cuts forces the situation from bad to worse and the governor is blowing smoke while he sends tax dollars to the wealthy. Maybe he’s trying to make up for finding the money for healthcare.

Less than a hundred days from the 2014 election, John Kasich looks like he’ll cruise back into office. Maybe Ohioans should ask: Why?

Of course “Why?” might be a more disturbing question than it was a week ago. The man who should save Ohio’s children from crippling budget cuts, Ed Fitzgerald has had a bad week. According to press reports and state records show that Cuyahoga County’s executive drove around without a valid driver’s license and used learner’s permits intermittently, meaning he didn’t have any license at all for over three years. He didn’t bother getting a valid license for about a decade. I guess he figured no cop would give him a ticket…

Things went from bad to worse with the disclosure that in October 2012 police answered a citizen’s call to investigate activity in a car parked in an empty lot at 4:30am. When they arrived, Ed Fitzgerald got out reportedly from the back seat and a woman (Irish business representative, Joanne Grehan), was in the back seat too. Now police confirm Fitzgerald’s claim that they were in the front seat.  The Fitzgerald campaign hopes that’s somewhat better… I guess… How knows? Maybe Ohio’s children will get an education if “Front-Seat” Fitz can win the election.

 

Michael CalabreseMichael Calabrese – has been writing throughout his professional life. As a business writer, Michael’s proposals for government contracts (RFP’s) have garnered over $46 million in federal awards from the Department of Defense, Justice, the EPA and the SEC.  As a grant writer for a non-profit, his proposals have won $2 million in awards to feed hungry school children in need and fund social services for the poor and disabled.

From 1999 through 2008, Michael was Manager for Information Services for contractor for Labat-Anderson, providing client services to 56 offices of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.  He was the management lead for the Agency’s provision of 15 years of environmental science, regulations and methods to support the Iraq Ministry of Environment. Earlier in life, Michael was Director for Public Information for the National Space Society and ran their Philadelphia office writing congressional briefing books, white papers on space policy and articles on space colonies and in-space mining. He was a contributing panelist on the OMNI Magazine Symposium on US Space Policy. Michael is married, has a dog and a cat and lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.

 

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