Out of Control Policy Blog

Is Ohio the bellweather for national economic planning?

The fact Sen. Obama is leading Sen. McCain in popular polls in Ohio (and elsewhere) is not surprising. Some of the best tracking of these trends is done by the Rasmussen Reports and Ohio polling results can be found here. Short of a Russian invasion of the Ukraine, little good news for McCain is evident since nearly half of Ohio's likely voters rate the economy as the most important issue in this election and national security is a distant 24%.

But a far more troubling aspect of popular support for Obama became clear in a recent Ohio Newspaper Poll reported by the Dayton Daily News. Not surprisingly, economic issues were the single most important factor to Ohio voters. Obama and McCain are in a statistical dead heat according to this poll. Whle McCain had a slight edge (48% to 46%), 47% of Ohio's likely voters believed Obama would do a better job "improving economic conditions" (compared to 44% favoring McCain). Fifty five percent of Ohio voters believe the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been "bad" for the Ohio economy.

But, here may be the most telling statistic from the Ohio Newspaper Poll: 33% of the Democrats responding to the poll believed that the president has a "great deal" of influence over the "day-to-day economic conditions of Americans". Majorities of both Democrats and Republicans said they believed the president has "some" influence over everyday economic conditions. In short, Obama's political base will be highly supportive of active management of the economy by the federal government.

Granted, these are Ohio poll numbers. But Republicans have done a good job of establishing the importance of government management of the economy through their orchestration of the recent nationalizations of the banking and financial services industry. It's just a small step to justify Obama's economic plan to "create" 5 million "green jobs" by sinking $150 billion into efforts to create a green economy. In addition, he will renegotiate NAFTA to better "protect" American companies and jobs and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.50 per hour, among other proposals.

Perhaps this political retrenchment is inevitable. After all, these ideas were telegraphed by people such as Robert Reich and Thomas Friedman during the Clinton Administration. An Obama win in November will come with the political conditions that are both necessary and sufficient to impose an unprecedented era of national economic planning and industrial policy on the US economy since Democrats will likely also control the House and Senate. This election is making clear that national economic planning is alive and well, and will likely emerge as a defining component of economic policy in the next administration.

Samuel Staley is Research Fellow


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