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Dave lives in Bay View and is a graduate student at Marquette University. He is a student of politics and history, a skeptic, optimist, and writer, among other things.

Ron Johnson: Reasonable and Pragmatic or Crazy and Wrong?

johnson, senate, feingold, taxes, global warming

 If you’ve turned on a television during the past couple of months, you’ve seen Ron Johnson, the Oshkosh businessman running against Russ Feingold for the U.S. Senate, wandering around a cold, white, windowless infinity.

Senate candidate Ron Johnson in n-space

Johnson and the suspended televisions in his ad make the case that he is a reasonable and pragmatic businessman who will straighten things out in Washington. Which is why I want to write about how Johnson’s ideas are not reasonable and pragmatic but actually crazy and wrong.  I’m starting to feel bad for him, though, since he’s been trapped in that white room for months, with no way of knowing what is actually happening in the outside world

As a for-instance. In a session with Journal Sentinel reporters and editors this week, Johnson expressed his views on the overwhelming scientific consensus that human actions contribute to global warming. The theory, Johnson says, is “lunacy,” and those who believe it are “crazy.”

I’m not qualified (and I’m too lazy) to make the scientific case for man-made global warming, so I won’t. But calling the scientific conclusions of the world's top experts "lunacy" is beyond reasonable skepticism. In fact, I’d suggest that it’s crazy for Ron Johnson to declare “it's far more likely that it's just sunspot activity.” Or that excess carbon in the atmosphere is not a problem because it “gets sucked down by trees and helps the trees grow.”  

Johnson also told the Journal Sentinel that he would oppose government spending to address global warming because he doesn’t “think we can do anything about controlling what our climate is.” I suppose he doesn’t think building a United-States-shaped sunspot deflector is feasible. And what somehow stands out as the most ridiculous thing he says in the interview is that having a strong economy is the best way to protect the environment. If successful businessmen like Ron Johnson think that protecting the environment is “lunacy,” then why the hell would they?

But as a successful businessman, Johnson must understand economics, right? So what about his reasonable and pragmatic ideas about how to fairly and responsibly finance the government?

In a campaign video on his site, Johnson equates freedom with paying no taxes. He says that during Reagan’s presidency, “with a 28% top tax rate for a brief period of time, we were actually 72% free.” I suppose with a 0% tax rate we would be 100% free to build our own interstate highway system and fend off our own international threats. Granted, the freedom from lower taxes can be a great benefit to those who really need the extra money. But Johnson wants tax cuts for the richest Americans at the same time he is complaining about government debt. The Washington Post said that the Ron Johnson/Republican plan “to extend tax cuts for the rich would add more than $36 billion to the federal deficit next year -- and transfer the bulk of that cash into the pockets of the nation's millionaires.” Republicans argue that those tax cuts go to small businesses, but in reality, only 3% of small businesses earn enough to get them.

With regard to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which funded 16,347 jobs in Wisconsin during the second quarter of 2010 alone, the Johnson website says, “government doesn’t create jobs.” Which is, of course, self-evidently false. Just ask the private sector police officers, firefighters, and public school teachers who don't exist. Johnson said in May that “we would have been far better off not spending any of the money and let the recovery happen as it was going to happen.”

Which I think sums up Ron Johnson’s philosophy toward government's role in the economy. Let’s not pay taxes, or offer unemployment insurance, or do anything about global warming or to spur the economy. Let’s just let it happen as its going to happen. It’s quite Zen, actually.

Which leads me to this stunning conclusion: Ron Johnson isn’t trapped in a boundless white infinity, he’s reached Tea Party nirvana.

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