John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Rules Not People

Posted on November 8, 2011
Ohio will vote today on Proposition 2, a referendum on Governor John Kasich’s efforts to repeal collective bargaining for government employee unions in his state.

By all accounts, the vote is not expected to turn out so well for the Mr. Kasich.

John Kasich is a blue-collar guy.   He is not a smooth country clubber.  While he worked for a Wall Street firm at one point in his career, he knows enough about politics from his own background to understand why the Wall Street crowd is not popular with the Main Street crowd.

Kasich decided to go for broke in his efforts to reform his state’s relationship with its government employees because, well, his state is going broke.

Unfortunately, all of his efforts may be repealed in one fell swoop by a simple vote by the people of Ohio.

Getting rebuffed by a State Legislature is one thing.  Getting smacked by the people is something completely different.

What Kasich is suffering from, I think, is a failure to communicate.

The communications breakdown occurred because the Governor tried to do too much too soon and he picked the wrong target to attack.

He decided to make his primary enemy the public employee unions.  In doing so, he pissed off a bunch of people who either are union members or have family, friends or neighbors who are union members.

Kasich was attacking collective bargaining because collective bargaining comes with a bunch of rules and regulations that make it impossible for local governments to take steps to cut costs.

Kasich wanted to give local government more flexibility to do more with less because he wanted to give less state money to towns and villages.

Kasich had to do that if he wanted to put Ohio on a fiscally responsible glide path.  And the governor knows that if his state is going to be business friendly, it had to be fiscally responsible without raising taxes.

Instead of focusing solely on collective bargaining, the Governor should have considered a more piecemeal approach, one that would have highlighted the silly rules that comes with collective bargaining.

For example, what if Kasich had pushed to make it easier for local governments to fire incompetent workers?  Who could be against that?

What if he had then pushed to modernize the pay structure, so that union employees (especially teachers) could get paid more for excellence performance?

What if he had then pushed to give each local village and town a flexibility act that would allow them to opt out of union rules?

What is if he then pushed a law that said that contributions to health care plans should be consistent for both the private sector and the public sector?

Kasich instead pushed hard to bust the union without properly defining the debate.  He attacked the union members and not the union rules.

Attacking union members is not politically smart.  Attacking the union rules is politically smart.

I understand why Kasich wanted to rush through his reform efforts.  Ohio is in serious financial trouble and quick action was not only necessary, it was expected.

But sometimes, haste makes waste.  This is a cautionary tale for the next Republican President, should we have one a year from November.  Don’t attack the people.  Attack the rules.  People vote.  Rules don’t.