Just in time for Tuesday’s primary: GOP Senate race – Eeny, meeny, miny, mo

We all know that Russ Feingold and Ron Johnson are running for senate, but first Johnson needs to get past two primary opponents before officially setting his sights on Feingold.

Johnson, an Oshkosh businessman, is facing David Westlake, a tech-business owner from Watertown and Stephen Finn, a Milwaukee plumber. Johnson has received all the press and the endorsement of the Republican Party. Early contenders Terrance Wall and Dick Leinenkugel dropped out after the state party eagerly adopted political neophyte Johnson as their man.

But are there any differences between this trio of GOP hopefuls?

All three candidates share a common economic message – to lower taxes, cut spending and get the government out of the way of small business and individuals. They all believe this is the only way the economy can rebound and capitalism can thrive.

Finn says he would cut military spending by 10 percent to save $500 billion in light of the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and the proposed drawdown of troops from Afghanistan next year. He would also phase out farm subsidies for wheat, dairy and corn and eliminate the holding of housing stock by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Finn would also eliminate the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which he claims has lost $2 billion held in trust for Indians.

Finn is also a believer in the flat tax – for ease of filing and for fairness. Tax brackets would be 5 percent for incomes up to $50K; 10 percent on income $50-$125K; 20 percent on income $125-$250K and 30 percent on incomes over $250K.

“I know it would be a big plus to the economy even if an accountant could not show it on a spreadsheet,” Finn said. “I have no doubt it would be a net compared to what we have now.”

Westlake is a dyed-in-the-wool capitalist. He promises to remove oppressive regulations, excessive taxes, and overbearing government involvement in markets.

He says he would also work to rein government’s role into three distinct roles – provide a strong infrastructure of transportation and energy, a cohesive national military and a consistent national legal system — and implement a consumption-based tax to “bring fairness back to the tax system.”

If elected, his overriding goal is simple. “Elected officials are there to remove obstacles to individual success, not slow it down.”

Johnson touts his 22 years as the owner of Pakur, Inc. of Oshkosh as credentials on economic rebuilding. He believes that reducing spending and taxes will create jobs and bring the economy back. However, Johnson spends more time opposing what has been done – the stimulus and the Wall Street bailout — than presenting his own specific ideas for job creation.

On education, Finn looks at the college/university model for funding K-12 education. He would attach school dollars to the student, not the school or district, allow parents to shop all of the options for education.

Westlake is a true 10th amendment believer, saying that control of education should be returned to the state and local districts. To that end, Westlake would eliminate the U.S. Department of Education and its cabinet secretary.

Johnson points to his years as president and member of the Unified Catholic School Board of Oshkosh and also as the chairman of a Catholic high school expansion program for his expertise on educational issues. He promises to reduce (but not eliminate) the federal government’s role in education and to reform No Child Left Behind  to allow states the  flexibility to fashion goals that fit their needs.

All three candidates agree that “ObamaCare” has to go.

“The health care bill is the greatest assault on our freedom in my lifetime,”Johnson said. “It must be repealed.”

Johnson doesn’t believe the cost projections advertised by Obama concerning health care reform, pointing to the predictions made when Medicaid was enacted — that by 1990, the cost of the program would be $12 billion. Instead, Medicaid actually cost $111 billion by 1990. “His numbers are just unbelievable,” Johnson said about the President’s promises

Instead of the current health care reform bill, Johnson wants to ensure health insurance portability, malpractice reform and a safety net for patients with pre-existing conditions to reduce costs and provide health care access for all.

Westlake would leave health care to the free market system, by instituting tort and malpractice reforms to prevent lawsuits. He says he would also remove employers from the role of health insurance provide and create tax incentives for individuals to purchase their own coverage, with state-based solutions for pre-existing conditions. He says this would foster an environment where doctors and patients — not insurance companies or government — can make health care decisions.

Finn is sparse on his health care plan, whittling it down to three words – Medical Bank Accounts. He would seek to reallocate a portion of payroll taxes, approximately $2-$4K annually into individual medical accounts. These accounts would accrue funds during health periods and be used in sickness.

“This will have people paying attention to what they’re paying for and the quality of medical care,” Finn states on his website. This re-establishes the “free market principle” for medical care.

I said it before and I’ll say it again, theJohnson/Westlake debate is like comparing apples to apples. We’ve just found the third apple in Finn. And while Johnson is the front-runner and heir apparent, keep an eye on the other candidates — the mainstream press hasn’t noticed them, but Westlake and Finn have some interesting ideas.


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