Jul 24 2013
Originally published in USA Today, July 14, 2013
The dominoes have been falling for years: 36 municipalities have gone bankrupt since 2010. Last Thursday, the biggest domino yet fell. The City of Detroit – with debt of $18 billion-- filed for protection to reorganize under Chapter 9 of the federal bankruptcy code.
American taxpayers need to watch their wallets. Next will come a call for a federal bailout to alleviate Detroit's pain. Congress should act now to ensure taxpayers aren't forced to pay for decades of mismanagement by liberal politicians and public sector unions.
Detroit's failure is rooted in an unholy alliance between politicians and public sector unions. Its 47 municipal unions spent their members' dues to elect public officials who then "negotiated" with those same unions for overly generous contracts that resulted in bankruptcy. The city's emergency manager laid out the gory details in a settlement he offered to creditors last month. Health benefits to the city's 19,000 retirees are lavish and unfunded. The city acted too late to reduce staff numbers bloated by union work rules — for example, last year it was discovered the city water department employed a horseshoer for $56,000 a year, though it owned no horses. Unions won "sweeteners," like extra pension checks and easier pension eligibility, that increased costs without benefiting the general public.
In exchange, residents suffer one of the worst homicide rates of any big city, an average 58-minute police response time, four out of ten streetlights are broken, and the highest per-capita tax burden in Michigan. Sounds great, huh?
Overtaxed residents and businesses fled. Pension payments outstripped the funds' income by approximately $3.3 billion over the past five years, and the city now owes $3.5 billion in pensions for which it has no money. Its unfunded retiree health and other benefit promises total another $5.7 billion.
As a result, Detroit is seeking a fresh start in federal bankruptcy court -- following the example of other municipalities that found it impossible to pay off unsustainable promises. Federal Bankruptcy Court is the proper venue for settling these debts and obligations that taxpayers cannot afford.
But bankruptcy courts won't solve the entire problem.
Cities are the first to face their day of reckoning because they have no capacity for printing money. But the truly jaw-dropping insolvency problem is at the federal level. Detroit's debt is $18 billion. Federal debt is fast approaching $17 trillion - America's debt problem is almost a thousand times worse!
The federal government has habitually promised benefits without making adequate provision to honor them. Social Security already pays more in benefits than the payroll tax brings in, and its trustees say its finances will only worsen. Privately, President Obama conceded what researchers at the left-leaning Urban Institute reported: that for every dollar Americans pay into Medicare, they will ultimately receive about $3 in benefits. Obamacare commits us to trillions in additional future spending.
Washington gets away with this because the U.S. Dollar is still the world's reserve currency and we own the printing press. How long can that last?
The first step in solving any problem is acknowledging you have one, and then accurately defining it. Only then can you start looking for real solutions.
Too few Americans are acknowledging that their government has made promises it cannot afford. How bad is it? I have led an effort using accepted, nonpartisan sources such as the Congressional Budget Office that project cumulative deficits could total $100 trillion over the next three decades. To put that number in perspective, it exceeds the net value of all private assets in America.
The federal government is already on an unsustainable debt path, it certainly cannot afford to bail out cities and states. We must put the country's fiscal house in order, not make taxpayers in fiscally responsible states and municipalities subsidize irresponsible ones.
That is why I offered an anti-bailout amendment during the Senate budget debate. Unfortunately, Democrats were not even willing to allow a vote on it. It is also why Sen. David Vitter offered — and I am happy to cosponsor — a bill to put states and cities on notice that federal taxpayers will not provide them a bailout.
Detroit's emergency manager does cite "economic headwinds," as a contributing factor to his city's problems. But it's striking that he puts most of the blame for the city's bankruptcy on mismanagement that has continued practically to the present day -- long after it was obvious Detroit needed to change.
Detroit isn't the only place that has ignored reality. Governments at all levels are flirting with bankruptcy. Unless Congress says no to bailouts, municipalities and states will continue their profligate spending, fully expecting the federal government to ride to the rescue. This would only hasten the day of reckoning for our nation's finances. Now is the time to prevent that from happening.
Ron Johnson is a Republican senator from Wisconsin.
Originally printed in The Wall Street Journal, May 15, 2013
In January, for the first time since the Benghazi terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2012, Hillary Clinton faced the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to testify about the attack. In response to my persistent questioning about what the State Department knew about the nature of the attack, the former secretary of state famously exclaimed: "What difference, at this point, does it make?"
New testimony by State Department whistleblowers and an Interim Progress Report prepared by five House Committees show what a huge difference it makes when members of the administration ignore repeated warnings of growing danger, deny requests for additional security and then attempt to cover up their negligence. That dereliction of duty ultimately resulted in the death of four Americans.
While the whistleblowers' testimony is gripping, the House report also is well worth reading. Collectively, the five committees reviewed tens of thousands of classified and unclassified documents, cables, emails and reports. They interviewed dozens of individuals with firsthand knowledge of the events. Their findings, although far from complete, are damning.
In public, Mrs. Clinton has claimed "full responsibility" for the attack in Benghazi. But in testimony before Congress, she shielded herself with a report by the Accountability Review Board and pinned the blame on unnamed State Department officials a few levels below her. "I have made it very clear that the security cables did not come to my attention or above the assistant secretary level where the ARB placed responsibility," Mrs. Clinton said on Jan. 23, 2013.
Yet, an April 19, 2012, State Department cable responding to former Ambassador Gene Cretz's request for additional security in Benghazi bears Mrs. Clinton's signature. That cable specifically acknowledges Mr. Cretz's request for additional security, and "stipulates that the plan to drawdown security assets will proceed."
There was a steady stream of warnings about the deteriorating security situation in Benghazi from the U.S. intelligence community. The British, the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross had removed their personnel. Libya was an obvious hot spot, and 9/11 was a day to be on high alert. And yet we are supposed to believe that none of this required or received the attention of the secretary of state? If it is true Mrs. Clinton was so profoundly uninformed, then it would also be true she was profoundly negligent.
When she wasn't hunkered down in the days following the attack, maintaining strategic silence due to an "FBI investigation," she stuck to the administration talking point that the attack was a spontaneous protest. She repeatedly referred to the YouTube video—even telling the father of slain American security officer Tyrone Woods that the producer of the video would be brought to justice.
President Obama's re-election narrative was that Osama bin Laden was dead, al Qaeda was decimated, and Libya proved the success of his "leading from behind" strategy. Despite the warnings, the administration ramped down security in Benghazi. It's no wonder Mrs. Clinton would want to keep her head down following the attack and make every attempt to misdirect attention from the administration's negligence.
The natural reaction of any leader when a subordinate loses his life in the line of duty is to talk to anyone who could explain what happened. That's why, in January, I asked Mrs. Clinton why she didn't just call the survivors to find out the facts.
At first, I assumed her exasperated response revealed that she knew she should have made those calls. But with the revelations of the Interim Progress Report and testimony, it is becoming clear her reaction—and the behavior of President Obama and his administration—was designed to mask their failure of leadership. Instead of making a call to acting Ambassador Gregory Hicks, Mrs. Clinton and the White House sidelined him, leaving him "stunned" and "embarrassed" as he watched Susan Rice's Sunday show appearances, as he put it to Congress last week.
Thanks to the bravery of Mr. Hicks and his colleagues, the truth about Benghazi is beginning to be revealed. But more survivors need to be able to tell their stories. Some are contract employees who will need whistleblower protection, and some are current or former administration officials whose testimony may need to be compelled by subpoena.
A congressional Joint Select Committee can offer that protection and issue those subpoenas. Such a committee should be appointed without further delay, so that the full story of Benghazi can be told and so such a fiasco never happens again.
Mr. Johnson is a Republican senator from Wisconsin.
Originally printed in Investor's Business Daily, March 1, 2013
Over five months ago, terrorists in Libya successfully assaulted the American diplomatic post in Benghazi. Four brave Americans died: Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.
On Jan. 23, I asked then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a simple question: Why didn't she just pick up the phone and call the survivors to determine what actually happened in Benghazi?
Instead of providing a simple answer, she displayed exasperation, launched into an indignant reply, and ultimately dismissed my question with one of her own: "What difference, at this point, does it make?"
This administration's behavior in the aftermath of the Benghazi terrorist attack has eroded the public's confidence. So it does make a difference when the administration purposefully misleads the American people.
And it makes a big difference whether or not the public has full confidence that the president will be honest with them in the future. We deserve answers, and we deserve the truth.
The administration seems to be hiding behind the excuses of an FBI investigation, an Accountability Review Board report and a top-secret imperative of CIA involvement.
Now I'll admit that there is some legitimacy to these excuses, particularly where national security interests are involved.
But too many questions remain unanswered:
- Military and intelligence officials realized almost immediately that the assault in Benghazi was an organized terrorist attack, not a spontaneous event sparked by a protest over a web video critical of Islam.
- Why then did the administration begin a narrative that the video sparked the attack?
- For two weeks, the administration continued to use this misleading narrative regarding the cause of the attack. Intelligence officials admit that talking points provided to administration members, including U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, were changed and ultimately utilized to mislead the American public.
Who changed these talking points?
- Intelligence officials have promised to release the chain of custody on these talking points. When will they release this information?
- The attack began at 3:40 p.m. Eastern Time. President Obama was briefed by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta at 5 p.m., at which time he ordered "all necessary actions" be taken to secure our personnel.
The president also spoke with Secretary Clinton around 10 p.m.. But with an American team from Tripoli delayed at the Benghazi airport and lives on the line, the president did not bother to call Libyan officials for assistance.
Did President Obama speak with any other officials or take any other action during the crisis? What was he doing during that 12-hour period?
- A complete timeline of what the president was doing that night, like we saw during the operation against Osama Bin Laden, has never been provided.
Did he ever assemble a team in the situation room to monitor events?
Or did he simply check out, rest up and then fly to a campaign fundraising affair in Las Vegas only a few hours after those brave Americans had died?
- Regional American military assets were not immediately brought in to respond to the situation.
Exactly what assets were readily available within striking distance of Benghazi?
If they were not ready, could they have been made ready had the order been given?
- In testimony to Congress, Panetta defended the lack of U.S. military response partly on a lack of real-time intelligence.
Yet sources on the ground said they were on the phone constantly with their chain of command reporting the situation.
Was there, or was there not, communication of real-time intelligence?
- Prior to the attack, embassy personnel were highly concerned about their safety.
Precisely what intelligence was available before the attack? And how specific was that intelligence?
- Embassy personnel had been requesting additional security for months. Those requests were denied.Why?
- A press report indicates that the American team inside the CIA Annex captured three Libyan attackers, but were forced to hand them over to the Libyan rescue team.
Is that report accurate? If so, where are the terrorists now?
- The FBI interviewed survivors of the attack on Sept. 15 and 16. Yet the administration continues to deny access to most of those survivors, their statements and corresponding evidentiary material.
When will that information be made available to Congress and the public?
- Who, if anyone, is being held accountable for this attack?
A few days after the attack, the father of a young Marine from Wisconsin implored me to get to the bottom of what happened.
He wanted to know if his son was under the command of a president who would abandon the age-old American military principle of "leave no man behind."
I am sorry to report that after more than five months, we have made so little progress in providing him the answer he deserves.
Johnson,a Republican, is the senior senator from Wisconsin.
Originally printed in Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 12, 2013
Throughout its history, the federal government has properly used debt to help overcome threats to the nation and to build necessary and longstanding infrastructure. Much of the American Revolution was financed with borrowed money, as were World War II and the Cold War against the now defunct Soviet Union.
The interstate highway system, coastal ports, and the locks and dams that make our inland waterways navigable are examples of valuable debt financed infrastructure. Failure to incur debt to finance these worthy, constitutionally allowed activities would have made the establishment of our prosperous nation more difficult, or maybe even brought our history to a premature end.
But for the past two generations, and particularly during the last 12 years, Washington has begun to pile up a massive and unsustainable level of debt. For the most part, that red ink spending wasn't used to avert national crisis or to rebuild an aging infrastructure. The deficit spending that built that debt was used primarily to pay for current operations of ever-expanding government in Washington and to fund ongoing government programs.
Washington's permanent establishment has sold a toxic bill of goods to the American people, who haven't read the fine print on the back of the contract.
One major consequence of this huge accumulation of debt in Washington has been the harm it is causing to the American economy right now. Out-of-control deficit spending and debt are undermining the private sector, business expansion, and the creation of new jobs.
Another ominous consequence of Washington's political greed and fiscal insanity is the future direct cost of borrowing all that money. The current debt stands at $16.4 trillion dollars, and Washington has plans to add another $10 trillion to that amount over the next 10 years.
But before Washington can pay a soldier to protect this nation; before Washington can send out a Social Security check or pay a Medicare bill; before Washington can spend a dollar to build an inch of federal highway, or inspect our beef, or fund basic R&D to help discover a new life-saving drug - it must first make certain it can pay the interest on its debt to the people, entities and nations that have lent us money. That's just a fact.
This year, the American taxpayer will pony up $224 billion just to pay that interest on our growing debt. What does that mean to you? That's over $1,850 per American household - this year alone.
And here is where it starts to get increasingly scary. The Congressional Budget Office recently estimated that between 2014 to 2018, Americans will pay $1.77 trillion of their hard earned money, just to pay the interest. The Congressional Budget Office then estimated that the interest we all will pay in the five years after 2018 is $3.64 trillion - about the size of our entire federal budget in 2012 and an estimated cost of $30,000 per current household over that five-year period.
Just to remind you again, that money can't be used for government programs or defense of the nation. It doesn't even pay off or reduce Washington's debt. It merely pays interest to our money lenders.
This is not a partisan issue. Both major parties have helped create that debt. Whether you are a Republican, Democrat or independent, the debt impacts you. Whether you are conservative, moderate or liberal, we are all in the same economic boat and we will sink or float together.
Washington has been unwise, irresponsible and greedy. That much is not even debatable. The real questions are: Do the American people have the wisdom Washington lacks? Will the American people demand that the professional political class in Washington kick its addiction to spending money it does not have and stop endangering the economic security of the very people they purport to represent?
On Tuesday night, President Obama will address many issues in his State of the Union address. I can promise you he will try to sell Americans on increasing taxes again. He will talk about "investing in America,", which is Washington political window dressing for increased Washington spending and future debt.
President Obama will outline more things Washington can do for you. In fact, he'll declare that these are things Washington should do for you.
What he won't address - at least honestly address - is the fine print of his contract. He won't address the massive suffering that will result if this nation does not get its financial house in order. He won't say that his plans do not include reduced spending and smaller government in Washington. He won't lay out the problem of debt or how Washington can begin mitigating and then reducing the true cost of that debt and put this nation back on a path of enduring prosperity.
Ron Johnson is a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin.
Originally printed in USA Today, January 25, 2013
During her Senate testimony, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that approximately 25 Americans who were on the ground or who witnessed the terrorist attack in Benghazi were immediately evacuated. Secretary Clinton also revealed that neither she, nor her senior people, debriefed or spoke with those people immediately after the attack, or for months afterward, to understand what happened. She stated that she didn't want to be later accused of playing politics.
When I questioned her about the misinformation disseminated for days by the administration, most notably by Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice on Sunday news programs five days after the attack, she asked, "What difference does it make?"
If you don't expeditiously debrief the people who witnessed the attack, how can you understand who initiated it, what weapons they used and who may have been involved? How do you initiate a proper response if you don't know what transpired? How do you move properly to protect other American assets and people in the region? How do you know what failures occurred, so that you can immediately correct them, if you have not debriefed the very victims of those failures? And lastly, how do you tell the truth to the American people if you don't know the facts?
Our diplomatic forces in Benghazi were denied the security they repeatedly requested for many months before Sept. 11, 2012. Secretary Clinton stated that she was not told of those desperate requests in the most dangerous region in the world. As a result, our people in Benghazi were ill-prepared to repel or avoid that attack, and four Americans were murdered. For many days after the event, the American people were also misinformed as to the nature and perpetrators of that attack.
In truth, Benghazi is a failure of leadership — before, during and after the terrorist attack.
To answer Secretary Clinton, it does make a difference. It matters enormously for the American public to know whether or not their president and members of his administration are on top of a crisis and telling them the truth.
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.
By: Sens John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte and Ron Johnson
Originally printed in The Washington Times, October 31, 2012
Nearly two months after the murder of four American citizens in Benghazi, Libya, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, there remain many more questions surrounding this tragedy than credible answers provided by the Obama administration. The American people want to know what happened on Sept. 11, 2012, and they deserve to hear an explanation directly from the president. Among the many questions that still need to be answered about the Benghazi attack, here are five of the most important ones.
Why was security at the consulate so inadequate despite two previous attacks this year and the repeated pleas over many months from security agents on the ground and our ambassador for greater assistance?
On the anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and after multiple attacks this year on our consulate and other Western interests in Benghazi, why were our forces in the region not ready and positioned to respond rapidly to this foreseeable emergency?
Why did President Obama and his administration spend nearly two weeks insisting that the Benghazi attack had been the result of a spontaneous protest to a hateful video, when all evidence clearly concluded that it was a planned terrorist attack by an al Qaeda affiliate?
At any point during the attack in Benghazi, did any member of the U.S. government, including senior administration officials, reject requests for greater military and intelligence assistance for our personnel on the ground in Benghazi? Did anyone order U.S. military and intelligence personnel in Benghazi or nearby in the region who offered help to stand down?
How can the president insist that “the tide of war is receding” when al Qaeda affiliates have grown stronger on his watch across the region, including Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Mali, Iraq and Syria — and when one of these al Qaeda-affiliated groups has killed a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans and driven us out of Benghazi?
Rather than providing straightforward answers to the American people on these and other questions, the administration has been playing a blame game ever since the attack occurred. First, officials sought to blame the attack on a spontaneous demonstration caused by a hateful video. When it was reported that no such demonstration had occurred and the attack clearly had been committed by terrorists affiliated with al Qaeda, the administration next sought to shift blame to the intelligence community. Now the administration is citing a lack of situational awareness in Benghazi as why no U.S. military personnel or assets were called in to respond to the attack, which lasted nearly seven hours.
Emails sent from our personnel on the ground in Benghazi within hours after the attack began clearly identified it as a sophisticated militant attack. There never should have been any debate over this point. The administration knew within hours after the assault on our consulate began that it was a terrorist attack. Though the attack occurred on the anniversary of the worst terrorist atrocity in our history, and though it was preceded by two earlier attacks on our consulate in Benghazi this year, the administration did not have adequate forces ready and in position in the region to respond to this foreseeable attack.
Regardless of what the president said in the Rose Garden on Sept. 12, the fact is that he and members of his administration refused to characterize the attack in Benghazi as an act of terrorism for as long as two weeks after the attack. The president himself spoke about the events in Benghazi at length in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 25 and never once characterized the attack as an act of terrorism. In press interviews around the same time, the president instead sought to blame the attack on a demonstration against the video.
Ultimately, the reason it is so important to learn all of the facts surrounding the attack in Benghazi is because there are larger national security issues at stake. The administration wants us to believe it has diminished the threats posed by terrorism — that “the tide of war is receding,” as Mr. Obama has said — and now we can focus on “nation-building at home.” The tragic events in Benghazi show how false and misleading the administration’s narrative is. The fact that it continues to act under this misguided assumption is only increasing the dangers we face around the world.
We do not need an administration-led investigation to answer the question of what the president knew, what he was told and what action he chose to take before, during and after the Benghazi attack. The American people deserve to know the facts about the attack in Benghazi, and the facts that have come to light thus far paint a disturbing picture the president needs to step forward and explain.
By Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Sen. Ron Johnson
Originally printed in Politico, July 31, 2012
There is widespread agreement across America that cybersecurity is an urgent national priority and the federal government needs to play a major role. The threat of a cyberattack is real, and its consequences could prove devastating to our economic and national security. Effective action cannot come too soon.
Any solution to cybersecurity must allow the private sector, which owns 85 percent of our nation’s critical infrastructure, the freedom to use all tools at its disposal to protect against cyber intrusions. Business owners understand the need to protect themselves in the cyber domain and are devoting considerable resources to do so. Industry is right to expect that any Senate legislation will complement their current efforts.
As much as possible, Washington should facilitate — rather than dictate — cybersecurity.
When the Cybersecurity Act was brought to the floor last week, without either a hearing or a markup, industry understandably mobilized to express alarm. The bill’s proposed framework creates a government-based solution that hampers the private sector’s agility and ingenuity to meet this rapidly evolving threat.
The list of those opposed is telling. It includes the Chamber of Commerce, the American Petroleum Institute, the Internet Security Alliance, the Business Roundtable, IBM, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and the National Association of Manufacturers.
They are raising legitimate concerns that the “voluntary” framework offered to industry is overly burdensome and prescriptive. It could quickly turn into a mandatory regulatory scheme. Increased bureaucracy and uncertain liability protections would actually slow the sharing of threat information between business and government. Resources better spent on innovation and deterrence would be diverted to satisfy government notions of compliance.
Meanwhile, the number of cyberattacks on federal networks rose 39 percent in 2010, according to the Office of Management and Budget, while the number of incidents on private networks went down.
In 2011, incidents on federal networks went up again — this time by 5 percent. At the same time, only 18 percent of federal agencies’ nearly $76 billion information technology budget was spent on security. Of that amount, 76 percent of IT security costs at nondefense agencies were spent feeding a bloated bureaucracy.
The federal bureaucracy simply cannot compete with the private sector’s expertise and dexterity in identifying and implementing effective solutions. Before dictating standards to businesses, the government should certify that it meets the same levels of IT security and efficiency that it intends to impose on the private sector.
There is a legitimate role for government in protecting the Internet. But we must work with — not against — business to identify a solution.
Unfortunately, the message to industry this week is: We’ve run out of time and we’re passing a bill. If it’s flawed, don’t worry; we’ll fix it in conference.
That is a risk we cannot take. The impact that this legislation will have on the economy and the private sector is still unknown. The Congressional Budget Office has not had an opportunity to analyze its cost — which is an expected step under standard procedure.
Any analysis would undoubtedly be complicated by one provision that allows up to six months after enactment for the Office of Management and Budget to tell Congress what resources and staff would be needed for specific responsibilities. Meanwhile, our national debt nears $16 trillion, real unemployment is almost 11 percent and there is a $1.75 trillion annual regulatory burden on the economy.
Affected parties have legitimate concerns about the effects this legislation will have if it becomes law. These should have been addressed before the floor debate. Congress can and should solve the problem this year.
But in doing so, we must not lose sight of our obligation to deliver to the American people the best product for both our economy and our national security.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) is the vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) serves on the Budget and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees.
Jul 25 2012
Originally published in the Wausau Daily Herald, July 25, 2012
Like many Americans still enduring Obama's broken economy, I was astounded by the president’s recent comments. It was another Joe-the-Plumber moment where — detached from a teleprompter — he committed the classic gaffe of revealing what he truly believes.
“If you’ve got a business,” President Obama said, “you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
This comment is incredibly insulting to entrepreneurs who work 60 hours a week building businesses that provide products, services, and employment to society.
The president said he is “always struck” by businessmen who think they alone deserve all the credit for their own success. Instead, “we do things together,” he said. Congratulations, Mr. President — nearly every adult who has succeeded in American business realized that long ago.
The president believes he is spouting some profound truth. Instead, he is highlighting his own ignorance and lack of respect for free enterprise.
As someone who spent 31 years building a manufacturing business, of course I would tell you that I didn’t do it alone. Anyone who’s talked to businessmen has heard the same thing: We couldn’t have made it without our dedicated employees. We owe it all to our customers. Our families provided great support. Our communities were crucial. And, yes, government provided infrastructure — from roads to the stable legal environment of a free society.
Obviously, government infrastructure is important to free enterprise’s success. But it is free enterprise that funded it, by giving us the most successful economy the world has ever seen. This circle of prosperity is threatened when the president disparages the role of business.
What the president does not understand, is entrepreneurial spirit and the role of leadership. He knows so little about it that he imagines people rise to lead companies without learning the importance of cooperating with others. He has so little respect for the private sector that he hasn’t bothered to figure out what any successful entrepreneur knows — that you succeed by keeping your customers and employees happy. He doesn’t understand the private sector depends on people working together voluntarily. It’s as if he never heard of making a deal.
It’s from this position of ignorance that he presumes he’ll teach businessmen a lesson.
Yet it’s the president whose vision is too narrow. “There are some things,” he said, “we do better together.” He then listed these things. All his examples involve the federal government. This is incredible, but not surprising from a man who really does believe the center of economic activity lies inWashington.
If President Obama had any experience in the private sector, his definition of “we” would be much richer. “We” do many things better together in a free market thriving within a civil society.
Shortly after our independence, Alexis de Tocqueville was struck by how good Americans were at working together — in businesses, in charities, in towns, and by building schools, libraries, associations and communities. That’s still striking today. It’s no wonder that the people who organize the voluntary good works in our communities are often the people most successful in business. Entrepreneurship teaches you to work with others. President Obama might have known this if he had respect for any actual business people.
Instead, he believes all goodness flows from government. His vision seems to be a nation of citizens grateful mainly for whatever benefits an all-powerful government deems they deserve. We’ll all wait to be told by federal authorities what to eat, what to drive, how to run our town’s schools, how to get our health care, how much money we can keep and how to succeed in business. He talks of us all being “in this together.” But for Obama, “this” amounts to making us clients of an ever more controlling federal government.
The problem isn’t just that we cannot afford this. Obama’s effort is bankrupting America. But worse, as government grows, our freedom recedes. The citizen’s relationship to government becomes the most important relationship in his or her life. The more important government is and the more that it tries giving us, the less room there is for others. We become more like the France that de Tocqueville knew — where the people did not work together voluntarily the way Americans did because they instead relied on the state, not each other.
There’s a better vision. It’s one where we work together, under the discipline of Adam Smith's invisible hand, for mutual benefit without Washington directing every move. It’s one where government has a place — but the extraordinary spirit of the entrepreneur is primary.
Jul 18 2012
By Senators Ron Johnson, Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham
Originally printed in the Washington Examiner, July 18, 2012
If Republicans want to win big in November, we must do more than show voters how we plan to govern in 2013. We must also demonstrate how we're working right now to stop the last-minute spending spree the Democrats have planned for December.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., wants to force a postelection lame-duck session of Congress, in which defeated politicians will no longer be accountable to voters. In that context, he will have more leverage to raise taxes and increase spending against the threat of yet another government shutdown, leaving taxpayers on the hook for more borrowing, debts and deficits.
Republicans in the House and the Senate must work together to avert a disastrous postelection looting of the taxpayer. We urge House Republicans to pass -- before the August break -- a responsible plan that funds the government into the next year, leaving major issues for the newly elected president and Congress.
Should Republicans fail to do this, Americans can expect another carefully choreographed crisis that will needlessly take government to the brink of a shutdown, without concern for voters, consumers and businesses that desperately need stability amid these fragile economic times.
A series of terrible events will occur at or near the year's end if Congress does not act soon. The current tax rates are set to jump beginning next year. Medicare payments to physicians will expire. Defense spending will be gutted. The government is also likely to reach the debt ceiling again.
Despite this coming "fiscal cliff," Congress will take its monthlong break in August. The delay is deliberate. History shows that by waiting until the last minute, creating an atmosphere of confusion, fear and alarm, proponents of big government give themselves a much better shot at getting what they want. Lame-duck sessions have been used in the past to ram through gas tax hikes, congressional pay raises, debt limit increases, thousands of wasteful earmarks and trillions of dollars in new spending.
When Congress returns the second week of September, there will only be three short weeks until the next government shutdown. That's due to Reid's refusal to pass a budget in the last three years and his failure this year to pass a single government funding bill.
In these moments of planned chaos, Reid will do all he can to divide Republicans and depress their supporters over matters of taxes and spending. But we know his primary goal is to force Republicans into accepting a stopgap, temporary, two-month government spending bill, called a continuing resolution. If he accomplishes this, Congress will be forced to reconvene for a lame-duck session in late November or December to complete its work for the year.
That's when the real mischief can begin.
During that time, under the gloomy cloud of yet another government shutdown, members of Congress who lose in the 2012 elections can freely vote to raise taxes, increase spending, pass international treaties, increase the debt limit and gut national defense. They will never have to answer to voters again.
These important issues should not be decided in panicked moments. And it would be a complete disservice to the public if we chose to let an old Congress, completely unaccountable to voters, determine the major issues of our day.
We cannot give Reid this chance. Let us repeat: House Republicans need to pass the plan to keep the government funded through 2013 before the August recess.
Republicans should use the August recess to discuss their plan to keep the government running until next year. Senate Republicans can then force a vote on the House-passed government funding legislation. This will make it very difficult for Reid and President Obama to make an honest case that Republicans are threatening to shut down the government.
Responsible leadership never would have created this mess, but we need responsible leadership to get us out of it. If Republicans don't take bold action today to save our nation from fiscal collapse, there is little reason for voters to believe we ever will.
Sens. Jim DeMint, R, and Lindsey Graham, R, represent South Carolina. Sen. Ron Johnson, R, represents Wisconsin.
May 31 2012
Originally printed in Politico, May 31, 2012
Starting Wednesday, most of the folks I know in Wisconsin will be looking forward to a well-earned respite from what seems like a permanent campaign.
Instead of taking a break from politics between elections, Wisconsin has for months been dealing with fugitive legislators, ugly protests, legal challenges and a series of recall contests allegedly aimed at overturning Gov. Scott Walker’s legislative agenda. There’s virtually no possibility that his successful reforms will be overturned, so one has to wonder: What exactly is the point of Tuesday’s recall vote?
The simple facts are the governor’s reforms have worked, and Wisconsin is open for business.
Since Walker and his allies in the Wisconsin state Legislature passed reforms that asked public-sector employees to contribute a small amount to their retirement and health care plans, prevented unions from automatically collecting dues from workers’ paychecks and granted local governments more flexibility in dealing with public-sector unions, property taxes have actually gone down. Counties and municipalities have balanced their budgets. And the state has gone from a budget deficit of $1.8 billion to a surplus of $275 million.
These reforms have worked, and the people of Wisconsin recognize there’s no reason to return to the deficits of the past.
When Republicans took control of Madison in 2011, the Legislature was dealing with a gaping budget deficit. While most elected officials prefer to decide whether to boost spending or cut taxes, this team was different.
The serious-minded legislators elected in 2010 recognized that business as usual was ruining the state. Wisconsin’s business climate was worsening. Jobs were leaving. Budget deficits were growing.
The leaders stepped up and adopted reforms they knew might not be popular at first, but would — over time — put the state on sound fiscal footing. Facing serious fiscal challenges, they made the hard decisions and took the tough votes. So far, it looks like they were right.
We could use some of that fortitude in Washington. At the federal level, the problem is nearly 1,000 times worse than it was in Wisconsin — with Washington running annual deficits of well over $1 trillion every year since President Barack Obama was elected in 2008.
Given the size of the problem and the consequences if we fail to act, the last signal the people of Wisconsin should send to our nation is that elected officials who make tough decisions will be booted out of office. Instead, we should encourage elected officials — in Washington and elsewhere — to take practical steps to control spending and rising deficits.
That has not been the case in Washington, where the president has simply refused to lead. He has presented four federal budgets. None of them included reforms to save Social Security and Medicare. None included a plan to get this nation to a balanced budget.
Instead, the Obama administration is content to prevail over historic levels of spending, deficits and debt. The president’s most recent budget was so unserious, it was defeated in the Senate, 99-0, after being rejected in the House, 414-0. This isn’t leadership; it’s a complete abdication of responsibility.
Compare the president’s performance with the governor’s. Both benefited from voters who were deeply frustrated and disappointed with their predecessors and badly wanted a change in direction. Both were elected along with partisan majorities in control of both houses in their capitals — Walker in Madison and Obama in Washington.
But as both prepare to face the voters again, Walker has assumed responsibility for what happened on his watch, while Obama is doing everything he can to avoid responsibility.
Walker campaigned on a promise to control spending and encourage private-sector job creation. He’s governed as he campaigned — delivering the reforms he said Wisconsin needed.
Contrast that with the president, who campaigned against an individual health insurance mandate, for net spending reductions, for cutting the deficit in half and for bringing the American people together. Instead of taking credit for promises kept, he’s now focused on shifting blame — to Republicans in Congress, to natural disasters, to the Arab Spring.
Is that what the American people expect in a leader?
What are the implications of Tuesday’s election in Wisconsin? It will tell us whether moderate and independents are willing to stick with an elected official who governed as he promised — even when it meant making tough calls on spending.
It will tell us whether voters in a middle-of-the-road state such as Wisconsin recognize the importance of a little belt-tightening now, instead of much greater shocks down the road.
Elected officials in Washington and elsewhere will be paying close attention to what the voters of Wisconsin have to say.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), a businessman from Oshkosh, is a freshman who serves on the Appropriations, Budget, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees and on the Special Committee on Aging.