Editors' note: Mac McClelland is spending a month in her home state of Ohio, reporting on the Wisconsin-style showdown involving Republican Governor John Kasich, public employees, unions, teachers, students, and struggling middle-class families.
Over at the house I'm staying at in Gahanna, Ohio, everything's a little on edge.
"I'm freaking out," Erin, the lady of the house, told me on Friday. Very calmly and quietly.
"You don't look like you're freaking out," I said.
"I'm trying not to." Maybe because there was a 10-month-old skirting her feet at the moment. The day before, though, she'd turned in the paperwork to switch her family over to her insurance just in case her husband, Anthony, loses his job at the Ohio Consumer's Counsel, whose budget Governor John Kasich has proposed cutting by 51 percent. On her way home, she cried in the car for an hour while the baby, Jocelyn, was sleeping in the backseat.
That night, Anthony went straight back to work on their laptop when he got home from the office. While Erin and I watched a reality cooking show, Jocelyn toddled over to him. She's got a thing for electronics; no cell phone or remote control in her vicinity is safe. So she reached up to the computer and started tugging on the plug. "Could you not, uh," Anthony said, waving her baby-fingers away. She made a mad-baby face. "I know. I'm sorry. But I'm kinda trying to find a job."
Yesterday, Anthony shared some good news. Right now, the state budget's in conference committee, where the House and Senate are trying to reconcile their versions. And according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Anthony's boss at the OCC is trying to make a deal with lawmakers that would keep her office's funding at 75 percent. In return, along with instituting some other changes, she would resign. A lot of the reason for the OCC cut is that the state is broke. But part of it is, apparently, that lawmakers also don't like her.
Last night, a guy I knew when I was at Ohio State pointed out one industry around here that's not suffering cutbacks: defense. I hadn't seen him since I left 10 years ago, and when I stopped by his house last night he explained the security of working in weapons-systems support for the federal government. Every time they develop a bigger, more armored vehicle, he said, the enemy figures out how to blow it up, requiring a project to develop an even bigger, more more-armored vehicle. And with all the waste and padded budgets everyone's always talking about in the defense industry. "I think if I didn't go to work for a month nobody would notice," he said.
So. No economic-apocalypse effects here in his neck of the woods?
"Noooooo," he replied. "This kind of government job isn't affected by cutbacks. It's flourishing."