Sen. Ron Johnson has a message for the GOP candidate
As the only manufacturer in the Senate, Ron Johnson brings a viewpoint to Washington that he feels is lacking. And the crowd that gathered at the headquarters of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce last Thursday wholeheartedly agreed with his point of view.
“The financial situation the country in is dire,” Johnson said. “It is time to roll up our sleeves and address this, but unfortunately Washington is not doing that.”
Johnson spent 30 minutes addressing the attendees of the MMAC’s Leadership Dialogue and another 30 minutes answering questions. In that time, Johnson state that, while government is necessary for some things – national defense, regulating anti-trust and providing a social safety net – it needs to be smaller, less intrusive and out of the economy’s way.
With that basis laid, Johnson gave some advice to the Republican nominee who will run against President Barack Obama in 2012.
“To get the economy going first, eliminate uncertainity. Repeal everything Obama has done – health care, Dodd-Frank and all the regulations,” Johnson said. “The 2012 election will determine the fiscal fate of our nation.”
He wants the nominee to be someone who isn’t in the race just for the title and prestige. Instead, Johnson wants a candidate to possess principled beliefs and have a definitive plan.
Of course Johnson has a favorite candidate; he would like to see Congressman Paul Ryan of Janesville jump in. However, Ryan made it clear earlier this week he has no desire to run for president in 2012.
So in the absence of Ryan, Johnson wants the candidate to either adopt the congressman’s Roadmap for America’s Future as their own or come up with a plan that recognizes the reality that entitlements need to be reassessed, the tax code needs to be restructured and the budget process has to be reformed.
Johnson is a true believer in the “Cut, Cap and Balance” plan for federal spending that was introduced during the debt-ceiling debate in late July. The plan called for substantial spending cuts in fiscal year 2012, a statutory spending cap, and Congressional passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution as a precondition to raising the debt limit. The ultimate goal of the plan is to get the nation back to a point where increases in the debt limit are no longer necessary.
“Sixty-six percent of those polled said they agree with the basis of ‘Cut, Cap and Balance’ and 75 percent believe in a balanced budget amendment,” Johnson said.
Johnson describes the current budgeting process “a joke,” especially the fact that the Democratic-controlled Senate has not passed any type of budget in over 800 days.
“Imagine if your controller or accountant came to you in October or whenever the budget is due and said, ‘Sorry, I don’t have a budget done.’ Then imagine they did it the next year. That’s what the Democrats have done.”
He suggests the nation move away from zero-based budgeting, where an annual budget is based off the numbers from the prior year.
“Right now, we (the Congress) only control 30 percent of the budget, the discretionary spending,” he said. “Seventy percent of the budget is made up of entitlements and military spending.”
Instead, he wants to look at everything every year, including Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. And he wants to see real cuts, not just reductions in the annual rate of growth.
“We should have to authorize entitlements every year,” Johnson said. “We have 10,000 people retiring every day and we must reform these programs so they are structurally sound.”
He defended Ryan’s plan to maintain Medicare and Social Security as it currently is, operating for those 55 years old and above. But he is positive those in their 40s and younger would respond to the ability to invest in their own retirement.
“Young people don’t believe Social Security will be their for them as it is now,” he added. “When Social Security began, retirement benefits began at age 65, but the life expectancy was 62 years. That was a good plan. But now people live 20-or 30-years in retirement. When will we talk and realize that the old retirement model doesn’t work anymore?”
As for Obama’s promises of a plan for Social Security, Medicare or even the economy, Johnson is not convinced. He recounted that Obama asked for plans and when Ryan came forward with his, he used it as a club to beat on the Republican caucus.
“He played political chicken…asked for the plan then ran ads with a Paul Ryan look-alike pushing granny off a cliff.”
Johnson says he wants the people in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and all across the nation to stand up and say enough. He begged the audience of mostly sympathetic listeners to get involved, to tell politicians that Washington needs to work for them, not the other way around. And the only way Johnson sees limited government happening is through the election of true fiscal conservatives; businessmen and women who understand the real world and the economic realities of job creation, taxation policies and regulations.
That final issue — regulation — is personal for Johnson. In July he introduced the Regulation Moratorium and Job Creation Act of 2011, which will halt new regulations on businesses and industry until the federal unemployment rate falls below 7.8 percent. He chose that rate because it was the unemployment number the day President Obama took office in 2009.
“We’re now into the third year of the Obama ‘recovery.’ But job growth is anemic, and companies are still laying off workers,” Johnson said. “You would think that Washington would be focused on job creation. Instead, the White House is intent on adding new layers of job-killing regulation.”
He pointed to the policies placed on businesses by the Environmental Protection Agency, which he described as “an agency in hyperdrive.” He said the EPA power grab over state’s enforcement of the Clean Water Act, new air quality standards in more cities and drilling moratoriums are costing American jobs, stunting innovation and stalling energy independence.
“The EPA’s Boiler MACT rule (which would affect Wisconsin’s paper and pulp mills) for example, would cost as much as $20.7 billion, and risk 338,000 jobs,” Johnson said. “There’s no reason for the EPA to go forward with such a costly new rule when the economy is in terrible shape.”
But as a minority member of the Senate, Johnson knows his battle is uphill.
“I have no faith in Washington right now. They blew it,” he said. “You’re going to have to fix the problem. This is something bigger than the Republicans or the Tea Party. This is a time for the silent majority … this country is too precious to be left in the hands of the those in Washington.”