When President Biden issued his sweeping vaccine mandates last fall, many Republican governors fired back with their rhetoric guns blazing. “@JoeBidenSee you in court,” tweeted Kristi Noem of South Dakota. Georgia’s Brian Kemp also said he might sue to “stop this blatantly unlawful overreach.” Alabama’s Kay Ivey said the rules were “outrageous, overreaching mandates.”
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, who wore face masks and set up a $1 million lottery prize for vaccinated Ohioans, also wasn’t pleased with Biden’s mandates. But he wasn’t looking to get into a public spat with the president. Instead, he issued a respectful statement saying he disagreed with the mandate.
“I think the President made a mistake by announcing federal vaccine mandates. We should be focused on the science of preventing virus spread – the vaccine is our best tool to stop Covid – but people and business owners should make their own decisions about vaccination,” DeWine tweeted.
It’s fashionable these days for politicians on both sides of the aisle to entertain the Twittersphere and corporate media with loaded and disparaging comments aimed at their political opponents. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel developed national reputations because of their eagerness to go on CNN and MSNBC and trash President Trump. Nessel famously belittled Trump as a “petulant child.” Trump dismissed Nessel as “Do Nothing Dana.”
DeWine, and other Ohio officials, most notably Republican Atty Gen. Dave Yost, and Democratic Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, prefer to sit at the sparsely occupied grown-up political table, laser focused on developing economic opportunities and protecting Ohioans from corporate shysters and others looking to cause harm.
That focus just landed Ohio a humongous economic development deal that demonstrates the Buckeye State can compete with Texas, Florida, and Tennessee for mega investments.
Silicon Valley-based Intel announced on Friday that it plans to invest at least $20 billion to build two chip factories just outside Columbus. The company said the site could be expanded to accommodate as many as eight chip factories, with Intel spending as much as $100 billion to build them. The initial two factories will employ 3,000 workers earning an annual average salary of $135,000. The project also is expected to create 7,000 construction jobs and 10,000 indirect jobs. Intel has also pledged $100 million for Ohio educational institutions to ensure a pipeline of talent and support research programs in the region. Ohio State University is in Columbus, as is Capital University, a respected private college.
Landing an investment commitment of Intel’s size doesn’t happen by accident. Ohio bested about 40 states, and it was an eight-month process involving the coordinated efforts of various state leaders and agencies. DeWine learned Ohio won the Intel project on Christmas morning while his children and grandchildren were opening their presents. The Columbus Dispatch did an admirable job covering the story, including this feature explaining how Ohio landed and closed the deal.
Admittedly, big investment projects sometimes don’t live up to their hype, Wisconsin’s much ballyhooed Foxconn factory being the most notable example. Chinese-owned Foxconn promised to invest more than $10 billion in the manufacturing project, generating some 13,000 high-tech manufacturing jobs. In the end, Foxconn only generated about 1,500 jobs.
My sense is that Ohio is one state where companies would be wise to honor their commitments, at least while AG Yost remains in place. Yost is an unrivaled bulldog shaking down companies whose business practices he doesn’t like, even those based in his home state.
Yost last September finalized an $808 million accord, plus repayment of Ohio’s attorneys’ fees, with the three largest U.S. drug distributors, resolving claims they fueled Ohio’s opioid epidemic. Yost chose not to participate in a national settlement because he rightly predicted he could cut a better deal on his own. Yost’s trump card was a 2018 lawsuit he filed against the drug distributors that was set to go to trial. Notably, one of the drug distributors that settled, Cardinal Health, is based in Dublin, whose headquarters is about a 20-minute drive from the Ohio statehouse.
Yost last June won a landmark $88.3 million settlement with powerhouse pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) Centene Corp., resolving allegations the company overbilled the Ohio Department of Medicaid for pharmacy services it provided. Yost also is suing two other major pharmacy benefit managers, Express Scripts and OptumRx.
Critics say pharmacy benefit managers, which manage prescription drug benefits on behalf of health insurers, lack transparency and significantly drive-up healthcare costs. PBMs have very deep pockets and taking them on requires considerable legal acumen. Ohio’s Centene investigation was initiated when DeWine was attorney general and came in the wake of a Columbus Dispatch report.
Ohio is home to Nicole Johnson, a Cleveland pediatrician who is quite active and vocal taking on the business practices of what she calls the “healthcare cartel.” It also is where Cleveland Clinic is based, which consistently ranks among the best hospital systems in the country. Cleveland Clinic was among the hospital systems that refused to fire its nonvaccinated staff until it was forced to do so by the Biden Administration.
The Toledo region is represented in Congress by Democrat Marcy Kaptur, the longest serving woman in the House and certainly among the most inspiring Congressional members. Kaptur sits on very powerful committees, is an effective champion of the military, veterans, mental health, and Mideast peace. She was advocating Black causes decades before the BLM movement was founded. She’s steered impressive amounts of federal funds to her northern Ohio district.
Kaptur, who holds a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Michigan, refuses to accept Congressional pay raises, instead donating them to the Treasury to offset the federal deficit and charitable causes in her home community.
Kaptur also is wise to the wayward ways of the healthcare industry, which is likely why she promptly nixed the University of Toledo’s plans to explore the possible sale of its teaching hospital in July 2020. Studies show that when hospitals merge, the quality-of-care declines and patient prices go up.
“Decisions of this magnitude require careful consideration, transparency, oversight, and input from the community,” Kaptur said in a statement. “The sale of northwest Ohio’s only public hospital during a public health emergency in my view would not only be a mistake, but a moral injustice.”
Yost let it leak that he wouldn’t stand idly by if the hospital put itself on the auction block. And the former Democratic mayor of Toledo led a local coalition to block the possible sale. The hospital quickly announced it had shelved its sale plans.
DeWine, Yost, and Kaptur lack the national recognition of neighboring Michigan’s leaders, despite accomplishing considerably more. In fact, Governor Whitmer and AG Nessel have accomplished nothing of note. Michigan’s leadership is so poor that Ford didn’t even bother exploring a possible counteroffer from the state when it moved to invest $11 billion in Tennessee and Kentucky to build EV plants. The state’s business roundtable issued a report last week warning about Michigan’s dismal economic future. Yet President Biden nearly picked Whitmer as his running mate, reportedly because he liked watching her on television.
My view of Nessel is sufficiently dismal that I doubt she even knows what a pharmacy benefit manager is, let alone know how to prosecute one. She stood by and allowed the steady decline of Beaumont Health, once a nationally ranked hospital, as did Representatives Rashida Tlaib, Debbie Dingell, and Andy Levin.
It is said that people deserve the government they get. Perhaps an Ohio educational institution could earmark some of its Intel largesse to study the reason Ohioans elect A-team leaders and Michiganders opt for failures.