LACONIA — Running near the back of the pack with poll numbers mired in single digits, Ohio Governor John Kasich kick started his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in New Hampshire this week by naming a leadership team topped by former senators John E. Sununu of New Hampshire and Trent Lott of Mississippi one day and unveiling an ambitious fiscal and economic plan the next.
In between he stopped at The Laconia Daily Sun on Wednesday where, after demonstrating the mechanics of his golf swing and hustling a cup of coffee, he spoke about his candidacy and fielded questions about how he would address the challenges of a threatening world and sluggish economy.
Kasich who served nine terms in the House of Representatives, all of them on the Armed Services Committee and a third of them as chairman of the Budget Committee, and is serving his second term as governor, said his executive experience as governor prepared him for the presidency. "I can do this," he declared. It'll be hard. But, I can do this."
Kasich, who has called the Republican Party "my vehicle, not my master," dismissed the dissension in the ranks of the GOP, particularly the turmoil that has left the speakership of the House in limbo. "I don't worry about the party," he said. "As president I can pull it together with an aggressive agenda."
That agenda includes what Kasich called an "assertive" foreign policy suited to "the leader of the world with a military presence second to none. We must say what we mean and mean what we say," he said." He stressed the importance of bringing the western powers together and favored the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a means of cultivating friends and partners in Asia.
In the Middle East, Kasich said that the Obama Administration erred in failing to arm the rebellion seeking to topple the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. He favors establishing no-fly zones to delineate sanctuaries in Syria, where the end game should be to remove Assad. At the same time, he said that American "boots on the ground", as one element of a coalition of Arab and European states, will be required to eliminate the threat to the Middle East posed by Isis. Finally, Kasich insisted the United States "must never go back on Israel" and said a closer relationship with Turkey would contribute to greater stability in the region.
Kasich said he is "wary" of both Russia and China. Putin he called "a bully," adding that "Russia is not a force for good in the Middle East." The United States, he said, should be assisting the Ukraine, including shipments of weapons, in maintaining their independence against the rebellion supported by Russia. Likewise, Kasich said that America should respond to China's sponsorship of cyber attacks on American governmental institutions and private corporations and encroachments in the South China Sea.
Firmly rejecting the notion that the weak recovery and slow growth following the 2008-2009 recession represents a "new normal," he outlined the plan he announced yesterday, claiming it would increase the rate of economic growth to around four-percent and balance the federal budget in eight years.
The plan includes lowering the top individual income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 28 percent, capping the rate of the capital gains tax at 15-percent, reducing the top corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent, eliminating the estate tax altogether and doubling the research and development tax credit for small businesses. The earned income tax credit,a refund to working people with meager and modest incomes, would be increased by 10 percent.
Kasich proposed bundling federal funding for education, transportation, job training and Medicaid into grants to the states, which would be authorized to administer these programs. Spending on both Medicare and Medicaid would be cut and increases in discretionary spending on other federal programs, except for defense, would be frozen for eight years. Meanwhile, Kasich intends to increase defense spending by 17 percent, or $102 billion, between 2017 and 2025.
Acknowledging that lower taxes would add to the budget deficit in the early years, Kasich claims that reductions in federal spending and greater economic growth will offset foregone revenue and balance the budget.
As the interview drew to a close Kasich remarked he had not touched on an important problem — "our broken families and broken communities." Asked if they sprang from economic roots, he replied "to a degree", then added somewhat wistfully that "we need to live lives bigger than ourselves, to be responsible to our spouses, our children and our neighbors."
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