This is a first — writing a candidate profile without speaking personally to the candidate in question. But Ron Johnson has been tightly controlling his message to the public and chose not to speak with ThirdCoast Digest after repeated requests.
So, onto Plan B. I culled through my notes and recordings from Johnson appearances I have attended to find five questions on matters of policy and governance to help you know what Johnson has in mind should he take Russ Feingold’s seat this election.
Johnson’s message from the start has been “we don’t have a tax problem, we have a spending problem.” As senator, he promises to approach the office as an accountant and implement federal spending and hiring freezes, ‘zero-based’ budgeting, and eliminate stimulus spending, the TARP program and eliminate earmarks.
However, he won’t get specific on what things in the federal budget need to be trimmed, a point he made to reporters at the Milwaukee Press Club.
“I won’t play that game,” he said. “You will just use my ideas against me.”
Johnson says his accountant side will reduce federal spending and the deficit, while his 30 years as a manufacturer will allow him to create jobs. How? Through tax cuts.
“Ronald Reagan faced bad inflation, high interest rates and a government that was too big,” Johnson said. “So he reduced taxes and we had a phenomenal economy and job growth in the 1980s and 90s.”
Health care reform
We’ve all heard the story of Johnson’s first daughter, born with a heart defect, who was treated at Children’s Hospital because Johnson had the freedom to choose the doctor and treatment necessary. He has promised to work for the repeal of the recently passed Health Care Reform Act, which he says will end the ability to choose, drive up costs and usher in Canadian-style health care rationing,.
“Health care reform was designed to take over health care and I will stop that,” Johnson said. “We were told that if you like your doctor or your plan you will be able to keep it. That is a lie. Now we hear 51 percent of businesses will not be grandfathered in and be forced to enroll their employees into government plans.”
He explained that if HCR continues there will be no health innovations, similar to the ones that saved his daughter. Plus, he wants to implement tort reforms to lower medical malpractice costs and ensure the portability of insurance across state lines.
“How many people believe that the government can take over 1/6 of the economy and do a better job? Only Democrats believe that. The people want this to go.”
The Military,”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and Iran
Johnson says he believes in the concept of non-discrimination, but when it comes to ending the discrimination of LGBTQ people by the military, he wants to wait.
“I would like to see the military report on this completed by the Pentagon,” Johnson said. “I want to see the operational and moral effectiveness of either removing or maintaining the policy before deciding.”
Johnson disagreed with President Obama’s decision to pull the missile shield installations out of Hungary and the Czech Republic earlier this year, saying it makes vulnerable to attacks based in Iran. However, he will give Obama and Gen. David Petraus the benefit of the doubt on Afghanistan, since he doesn’t get to see the daily intelligence reports.
He would like to see increased sanctions placed on petroleum products originating from Iran and official American support of the Iranian students fighting for democracy in that country.
“I we apply pressure, there is hope that the regime will change.”
Johnson is a proponent of all energy sources and says America has the technology and knowledge to ween ourselves off foreign energy — eventually.
“It’s just a reality that we will be a fossil-based economy for decades, but we need to expand into other areas, especially nuclear,” he said. Johnson added that he will work for the safe production of oil, clean coal, natural gas, nuclear and alternative energies.
“I’m not opposed to other sources, such as wind or solar, but we shouldn’t invest heavily until it is economically feasible. And nuclear is a huge job creator.”
Johnson opposes ‘Cap and Trade,’ calling it a job-killer.
“Cap and Trade legislation could cost an average Wisconsin family as much as $1,600 per year and would put Wisconsin businesses at a huge competitive disadvantage, damaging our economy for many years.”
Johnson has proudly shared his appreciation for Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, a favorite of conservatives and Tea Party followers. He admires the book because it “speaks to our times.”
The book describes an society where the manufacturers willingly abandon their companies and lives under the mounting pressure of government regulations and taxation. Johnson says the book has shaped his governing philosophy of smaller government and allowing the free market to work.
“‘Atlas’ represents the producers in our world; ‘Shrugged’ is what happens when government imposes rules, regulations and taxes,” Johnson explained. “You can see how this has happened in our state — the snowbirds left due to the taxes, which has led to a brain and wealth drain. We have driven people away and this book is a critique on the perils of socialism.”
In response, Johnson plans to remove regulations and taxes that prevent businesses from innovation and growth and demand the Bush administration tax cuts be made permanent to remove the uncertainty that businesses and individuals are now living with.
“We have more people who are net beneficiaries of government than are actually paying into the system. That’s a very serious thing to think about.”