Joe Hallett Wears Many Hats: Liberal Columnist AND an Unbiased, Objective Reporter Extraordinaire
The problem is, I can’t tell where The Dispatch’s obfuscating octogenarian Joe Hallett draws the line between his two jobs, both of which he is handsomely paid for in gold bars.
For example, this is from Joe’s column on Sunday, where he continues his endless support of higher taxes while avoiding any signs of intellectual curiosity as to the claims made by Gov. Strickland’s comm. shop (emphasis mine):
Indeed, the loss of legislators with experience, a bipartisan spirit and a big-picture focus on Ohio’s greater good has been replaced by a continual influx of rookies guided by the narrower interests of their districts and lacking the institutional knowledge to deal with a $50 billion-plus biennial budget.
These newcomers gravitate to their ideological ilk, are fearful of intra-party challenges and vote with an eye toward their next political job. For a leader like [Rep. William] Batchelder, forging consensus among the term-limited is like herding cats.
He intimated as much by saying he could have trouble determining how many in his 46-member House Republican caucus, if any, might support whatever fix the GOP-controlled Senate hatched to break the state budget impasse. (Only two did.)
“I have more difficulty than I did when I was here before, because we don’t know people’s proclivities because of term limits,” Batchelder said.
He opened his meeting with Dispatch editors with an observation steeped in significance, especially given all of his years in the House: “This is a session unlike I’ve ever seen.”
The 128th General Assembly is not one that would engender confidence in the participants. Sure, they were buffeted by the worst recession in generations, but they dealt with the resulting massive shortfall of funds in the state budget like wimps, driven foremost by fear that they might lose their blessed jobs.
Gov. Ted Strickland did what he had to in the face of declining tax revenue, cutting $2 billion in spending and eliminating 4,900 state jobs. But Strickland dithered mightily to avoid the “Tax-Hike Ted” tag heading into his re-election year by offering to close an $851 million budget shortfall with slot-machine revenue from racetracks.
An Ohio Supreme Court ruling that Ohioans had to vote on slots brought Strickland around to the logical budget fix: delaying for two years a 4.2 percent income-tax cut effective this year.
Strickland, though, looked brave compared to Senate Republicans. Their solution to the budget impasse was to insist that reforms to construction and sentencing laws be included in the deal. And then they delivered only five votes for their own solution, because the other 16 GOP senators needed an anti-tax vote to trumpet back home.
Sen. Mark Wagoner, R-Toledo, one of the five with backbone, rightly called out his GOP compatriots. He said, “If we were all storming the beaches of Normandy right now, very few in our caucus would have gotten off the boat.”
The expedient behavior of Republican wannabe governor John Kasich also deserves to be noted. Throughout the long budget debate, he hid in the weeds, constantly refusing to comment. Predictably, when the impasse ended, Kasich rocketed forth a news release deploring the tax increase, vowing to cease the “culture of tax and spend.” Such promises are easy to make from the sidelines after the game.
Joe Hallett’s thesis is that if there weren’t term limits, then representatives would be courageous (courageous as American troops on the beaches of Normandy???) enough to raise taxes, in a bipartisan fashion, more often.
Never mind the Buckeye Institute’s Matt Mayer debunked the concern of term-limits forcing lack of experience into the legislature (many term limited Reps end up in the Senate). Joe Hallett is entitled to his point of view, no matter how far from reality they are.
BUT, how can Joe Hallett suddenly become an objective reporter when interviewing Gov. Strickland? This was published the day after his Sunday column ran, and it takes an identical tone.:
Referring to a possible $5 billion shortfall in the next two year budget that must be enacted by July 1, 2011, Strickland said the failure by a majority of legislative Republicans to support last week’s budget compromise does not bode well.
“They weren’t willing to do it now, yet they pretend to be really concerned about what’s going to happen in two years,” he said.
Strickland said GOP lawmakers continually talk about the need to cut the size of government, but have done little toward that end. By contrast, he said, he has reduced the number of state employees by 4,900 since taking office.
“I don’t know of a single thing they (Republicans) have been willing to cut, not a single thing,” Strickland said. “I am the one who has been willing to make tough decisions, even some that have caused some of my longest and best friends to be upset with me.”
Asked if he could support a House Republican plan to reduce the number of state agencies from 24 to 11 at a projected savings of $1 billion, Strickland again criticized the plan as empty rhetoric.
“Of course I would if they would tell me what functions of government are you going to eliminate?” Strickland said. “I’ve done what Republicans have claimed they’re going to do for decades and have not done.”
Although they controlled the Statehouse for much of the two decades before 2007, Republicans made no effort to enact their government-reduction plan.
Strickland appeared raring to go against former U.S. Rep. John Kasich of Westerville, the likely GOP gubernatorial nominee. The governor said anew that at 68 he is in excellent health, but indicated he would not release medical records.
“I’ll release my medical records when John Kasich releases his tax returns,” Strickland said.
The reference was to the eight years since 2000 that Kasich spent as a managing director of Lehman Brothers, the giant Wall Street brokerage whose collapse is blamed for triggering the recession. Kasich has maintained that he had no role in management decisions at Lehman or the firm’s failure. His campaign said it will release Kasich’s returns for 2008 and evidence he didn’t reap a large bonus in 2007 although not the actual returns for earlier years.
Reminded of his 2006 campaign promise to “turnaround Ohio,” Strickland said he cannot be held responsible for the national recession or the “greed and avarice on Wall Street” which he said caused it. Even as state tax revenues declined, Strickland said, he allocated more money to schools due to federal stimulus funding and “laid a foundation over the last three years that will serve Ohio well.”
During his first term, the legislature passed an electricity deregulation bill that “is bringing stability and predictability to electric costs,” Strickland said, and expanded health care coverage to more than 100,000 Ohioans.
So on Sunday we are treated to a column from Hallett which is glowing about Strickland’s 4.2% income tax increase.
Then on Monday, we are treated to an unquestioning, soft-ball interview. Never mind that the market downfall and the collapse of Lehman’s is due to government intervention in the marketplace that Strickland supported. And never mind Strickland’s so-called “electricity deregulation” bill was actually a bill to maintain Ohio utility monopolies and turn “fair and equitable” rate increases over to a toothless PUCO. And lets not mention how dubious the 4900 jobs cut is. And never mind that Gov. Strickland is personally comfortable with releasing his tax reforms because, despite a lifetime earning a high salary, owns NO investments and has essentially lived paycheck-to-paycheck.
Joe Hallett is such a fan of Ted Strickland’s policies that this interview wouldn’t have been remotely different if Strickland’s press office wrote it the questions and answers for him. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if that really happened.
Then, to top it all off, Joe Hallett authored this short, 3-paragraph news article reiterating his personal opinion that John Kasich should have offered endless specifics about a budget negotiation process that he was not privy to:
John Kasich, the likely Republican nominee for governor, continually refused over the past month to comment on the state budget impasse.
As Senate Republicans and Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland wrangled over a solution that eventually included delaying a 4.2 percent income-tax cut effective this year and a pilot program to reform state construction projects, Kasich declined to say what he would do as governor.
But less than a day after a budget deal was struck — and agreed to by the GOP Senate president and Finance Committee chairman — Kasich’s campaign e-mailed a fund-raising pitch to supporters blasting Strickland for “sticking Ohioans with a tax hike.” The fundraising foray included a link that took recipients to a page offering options to contribute from $25 to $11,359.56 to the Kasich campaign.
Even the caption under Kasich’s stock picture reads in bold letters: “What would a Gov. John Kasich do? He wouldn’t say.”
So at The Columbus Dispatch where is the line drawn between Joe Hallett’s op-eds and Joe Hallett’s reporting? There doesn’t seem to be a line, which is why if the Dispatch was serious about maintaining a reputation of objective reporting, they would FIRE Joe Hallett immediately.