Saturday, July 17, 2010

Does Ron Johnson want Feingold re-elected?

Hi everyone,

The more I watched Ron Johnson's first commercial for US Senate, the curiouser things became. The positions he advocates in that spot are, essentially, Feingold's. Maybe, I thought, subconsciously, the guy wants Feingold to be re-elected. Stay tuned.

Saturday's column.

Does Johnson want Feingold re-elected?
Republican’s commercials describe opponent

If Ron Johnson’s early TV commercials are any indication, we know what kind of senator he wants for Wisconsin.

He wants a senator who will fight unfair trade agreements that send American jobs overseas; who will vote for new laws to reduce the federal debt, eliminate earmarks, and advocate pay-as-you-go budgeting to keep Congress from spending like a room full of drunken monkeys.

From the sound of his early commercials, Ron Johnson wants a senator like Russ Feingold.

This works out great because we have a senator exactly like Russ Feingold already in place. I suppose it only makes sense that, even if unconsciously, Mr. Johnson supports Sen. Feingold’s legislative agenda. As a citizen of Wisconsin he’s benefited from exactly the kind of representation he says he wants, ever since we elected Sen. Feingold the first time.

In 1999, Feingold was one of only eight senators who opposed gutting the Glass-Steagall law, which protected us from unregulated Wall Street cowboyism and two years ago, Feingold was one of just 15 senators who opposed the Wall Street bailout that steered U.S. tax dollars into the accounts of the speculators. He voted against NAFTA at a time when, apparently, only Ross Perot could hear the giant sucking sound of US jobs leaving the country.

West Bend has always been enemy territory to Sen. Feingold, but his votes faithfully represented the interests of those people who used to work second and third shift at the West Bend Company. More recently he’s unveiled his Control Spending Now Act which targets earmarks and restores PAYGO (Pay As You Go) budgeting in order to cut and eventually wipe out the federal deficit.

He voted against the No Child Left Behind legislation, which effectively bit into local control of our schools’ curriculum, but has also helped increase access to Pell grants that will help guarantee access to college and, thus, a better chance that America’s economy won’t be swamped by the tidal wave from China and India.

Best of all, Feingold was one of the senators who voted against TARP. (Like Proxmire before him, Feingold is an oldschool Wisconsin progressive looking out for working people by voting for bills that help Wisconsin citizens and by voting against governmental waste.

Some kidding aside, Mr. Johnson kicked off his campaign by running against Washington instead of against Sen. Feingold and that could explain why, at this early stage, the race looks close.

In order to win this race, however, Johnson will have to run against Washington instead of Feingold because 1.) Feingold is already a champion of Wisconsin’s tradition of fiscal responsibility (the very platform on which Johnson hopes to stand) and 2.) when he eventually has to start running against Feingold, he’ll get pounded the same way Tim Michels did. (Tim Michels, you ll remember, was the previous businessman-millionaire who ran against Sen. Feingold and who folded like an incompetent boob as soon as he had to address deep-end-of-the-pool questions that went beyond a businessman-millionaire’s level of competence).

Once he starts running against Sen. Feingold, he’ll also have to start explaining the baggage he s carrying into the race. None of it fits in the overhead bin or under his seat. For instance: Is he or isn’t he being supported by the Tea Party; why did he lobby the Legislature, as part of the Green Bay Diocese’s Finance Council, against the Child Victims Act. Does he believe there should be a statute of limitations on child rape? And does he really believe it’s a good idea to drill for oil in the Great Lakes and does he really believe a government that looks after the public interest by demanding responsible environmental stewardship from companies like BP is beating up on those guys? (And finally, speaking of government getting out of the way of private initiative, let s go back to earmarks. While Feingold consistently opposed earmarks throughout his career, Johnson has been silent about a $500,000 state earmark from Assembly Democrats for restoration work on the Opera House in Oshkosh – on whose board he sits as treasurer.

He’s painting himself as an anti-government millionaire so, if he wanted the Opera House fixed up, why didn’t he spend his own money or raise it privately?

Maybe he believes, like other millionaires in the Republican Party seem to, that taking government handouts is okay so long as your personal welfare is sufficiently big -- like paying for pheasant hunting in Great Britain or restoring an Opera House as opposed to, say, buying food or getting medical coverage for your kids. Most telling, Republicans like this will even accept money from Democrats... which should tell you that their true priorities are not even political or public, but economic and private.

John Dewey, one of America s greatest thinkers, noted that the real problem in government is electing people who will look after the public’s interest rather than their own private interests. That’s the single best reason why Ron Johnson does not belong on the ballot this November and, from his early commercials, he doesn’t seem to think he belongs on it either.


ps. An editorial note... editorial adjustments to the version in Saturday's paper introduced a contradiction in the argument about whether millionaire Republicans thought it was okay to accept government handouts. I'd meant to note the irony that when the handouts are big enough they seemed to think it was okay to take government money (no-bid contracts to Halliburton, pheasant hunting for Wall Street hot shots, repairing an opera house). My editor adjusted this to suggest that they'd only accept money when their personal interests were *not* involved -- the exact opposite of what I'd meant to say. Dan always like to err on the side of decency, unlike the millionaires and billionaires gorging at the public trough and leaving a trail of trickle down bread crumbs for the rest of us.

pss. Oh, and I'm sorry I wrote that Tim Michels folded like an incompetent boob. My pointing this out contributes in no way to understanding just how dumb he looked at the end of his first debate with Feingold.


Kevin Scheunemann said...

I like the "drunken monkeys" comment. I'm going to use that one!

You have to come to the reality that when one party is in power of Congress and Executive branch, that produces the worst drunken monkey spending.

Some of the most responsible federal fiscal budget restraint occured while Republicans controlled Congress and Clinton was President. When Republicans got control of White House in 2000 it was drunken monkey spending. Absolute power corrupts even the well intentioned.

However, the last 2 years has been a drunken monkey orgy compared to the irresponsibility of the Republicans in power earlier in the decade. The average taxpayer needs daily antibiotics after the Democrat orgy the last 2 years.

Divided power is best. For that reason, Russ has to go.

Mpeterson said...

Strangely enough I agree with most of your starting assumptions here, but your conclusion is wrong for a couple of reasons.

Feingold already represents divided government because he belongs to the current majority party but has always voted for fiscal sobriety -- always. The fact that he annoys the Democrats and is still on friendly terms with some of the non-insane Republicans is one reason I think we urgently need him to stay in Washington and, I suspect, exactly the reason why millionaire businessmen, and you apparently, want him out.

By saving the taxpayer money, he's costing the corporations billions in handouts. You have to stop siding with an economic class that continually puts its interests ahead of yours. That's why you, and everyone else who believes government should look after the public interest ahead of private interests, need to vote for Russ.

"Drunken monkey" was how the Buddha described those who are enslaved to their appetites, their desires, and to their own dissatisfactions.

JimOakley said...

Thanks, Mark, for all your columns. I read the WB paper on line, and most other columns I just skim. Yours I read.

You should tell your editor that the link to your blog as it comes through on-line does not work. I found the link by googling, not through what was printed.

--Jim Oakley
Ashland, WI
(former WB Spanish teacher)

Mpeterson said...

Hey Jim. Nice to see you and thank you for the kind words!