As media pundits and mainstream conservatives begin to realize that Donald Trump is beyond likely to be the Republican nominee for President, the search for a viable alternative remains fruitless. Throughout the race, Ohio Governor John Kasich has tried to present himself as just such a moderate anti-Trump.
The one problem with this framing (beyond the fact that voters have nearly universally rejected him): he’s no moderate.
That Kasich is actually a far-right conservative, not a moderate, is no shocker to voters in Ohio. They saw him enter the governor’s mansion in Ohio riding the 2010 Tea Party wave on a platform to “break the backs of organized labor”.
One of Kasich’s first actions in office was to repeal Ohio’s state estate tax, or inheritance tax, in his 2011 state budget. The tax only impacted the wealthiest 8 percent of Ohioans, those with assets over $330,000, yet it raised over $200 million in revenue. Because of the way the tax was structured, this hit local communities the hardest meaning towns had to cut back critical public services like public safety and emergency response.
Kasich replaced the estate tax with an increase in the state sales tax, shifting the burden of paying for public services disproportionately to the poor. In a move that represented little more than hollow pandering, Kasich included a 5 percent Earned Income Tax Credit, similar to the federal program. Unfortunately, the credit was non-refundable meaning those at the bottom of the income spectrum could not take advantage of it.
Kasich’s tax reform represented a huge shift in the tax burden from the top to the bottom—the poorest 20 percent actually saw their taxes go up. The biggest winners in his tax plan? The top 1 percent, who got an average tax break of $17,618.
Included in Kasich’s presidential tax plan is a provision to eliminate the federal inheritance tax like he did the state inheritance tax in Ohio. In his words, he wants to “kill the death tax”. Granted, Kasich is merely repeating the GOP supply-side talking points developed to hide the fact the estate tax only impacts the wealthiest 0.2 percent of families.
But it’s worth noting the would-be-funny-if-it-wasn’t-terrible irony that Kasich has supported an actual tax on death. In his state tax reform plan, Kasich proposed expanding the sales tax to include taxing services, including funeral services.
There’s much more in Kasich’s record as Governor that points to his far-right conservative views on taxes as well as just about every other issue. His time in Congress, as well as his time at the failed Wall Street behemoth Lehman Brothers, also provide a rich trove of data all pointing to the fact that Kasich is no moderate.
While the Republican Party continues to grapple with the reality of Trump as their nominee, and ultra-conservative Ted Cruz as the only potential spoiler, John Kasich has the appearance of a moderate alternative. His record, however, shows a politician far from moderate on inequality.
Josh Hoxie directs the Project on Opportunity and Taxation at the Institute for Policy Studies. He is the co-author of the recent study, Billionaire Bonanza: The Forbes 400 and the Rest of Us.