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.
Originally printed on CNN.com, April 30, 2012
Editor's note: U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, is a member of the Senate Budget Committee.
The U.S. government is the largest financial entity in the world. Nothing else comes close.
On Sunday, April 29, it will be exactly three years since the U.S. Senate passed a budget.
If you own or work for a small business that has a loan from a bank, I'm quite sure your business has a budget -- and a rather detailed budget at that. Every year around tax time, many American families sit down to fill out tax forms, estimate their income, and set spending priorities for the upcoming year. It's the responsible thing to do.
And yet, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appears to believe it is not necessary for the Senate to fulfill its legal responsibility by debating and passing a budget to account for $3.8 trillion in federal spending next fiscal year, $15.6 trillion of debt and, according to figures produced by the Senate Budget Committee Republican staff, more than $65 trillion in additional unfunded liabilities.
To provide some perspective to these incomprehensible numbers, the total net private asset base -- that is, the net value of all household assets, small business assets, and large business assets -- of the United States is $82 trillion, according to figures from the Federal Reserve Flow of Funds Account from March 8, 2012.
Even worse, President Barack Obama and his administration seem to view budgeting as just one more political maneuver. His efforts have been so completely unserious that the President's 2012 budget was rejected by a vote of 97-0 in the Senate. And three weeks ago, when Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-South Carolina, sponsored a budget proposal based on Obama's 2013 budget plan, it lost in the House by a vote of 414-0.
That's right, not a single member of Congress cast a vote in favor of Obama's last two budgets. That is a stunning repudiation of his leadership. What it really represents is a total abdication of leadership.
Democrats in the Senate have all the votes they need to pass a real budget and show the American people their plan for today and the future. But they refuse, because they don't want to be held accountable. They would rather cut backroom deals that hide the details of their plans, and then take political pot shots at Republicans who have had the courage to produce and vote for a serious budget.
Democrats claim that last year's Budget Control Act is an adequate substitute for a real budget because it "deems" spending caps. Obviously, it is not. It is only half the equation. It includes no plan for saving Social Security or Medicare, for reforming taxes, or for ever living within our means. But it does prove that Washington is certainly good at making sure spending continues.
Business owners and consumers all over America are watching Washington, shaking their heads in disgust, and holding on to their wallets. These are the people we need to get our economy moving again, but these are the very people that are under assault by Obama and his policies.
The Obama administration's agencies are regulating business to death, limiting the use of America's domestic energy resources, threatening to punish success by increasing tax burdens, and providing no credible plan for reining in our debt and deficit. As self-defeating as all of these policies have been, not having a credible long-term budget plan might prove to be the most harmful.
For the 30 years from 1970 through 1999, the average borrowing cost of the U.S. government was 5.3%, according to an analysis made by my staff of figures from the Office of Management and Budget. During that period, the ratio of our debt to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) averaged 47% and never exceeded 67%. We were a far more creditworthy nation back then than we are today.
Now our debt-to-GDP ratio exceeds 100%, and over the last three years, America's borrowing cost has been kept at an artificially low rate of 1.5%. How long can that last? Nobody knows.
What we do know is that if our borrowing costs were to revert to the 1970-through-1999 average of 5.3%, America's annual interest expense would increase by $600 billion -- an amount that equals 50% of discretionary spending.
Out of our $3.8 trillion annual budget, only $1.3 trillion is discretionary spending subject to appropriation and some level of control. Everything else, roughly $2.5 trillion, is mandatory and entitlement spending that is on automatic pilot -- with no requirement to ensure financial solvency of these programs.
This is unsustainable. Increased interest expense resulting from higher rates, the true cost of Obamacare, and reduced revenues from slower economic growth caused by uncertainty and lack of confidence, all significantly raise the risk of dramatically higher debt and deficits. Employer surveys by McKinsey, as well as analysis by former Congressional Budget Office Director Holtz-Eakin, show that far more Americans will lose employer-provided care than CBO estimates. Additionally, Congress is unlikely to implement the hundreds of billions in Medicare cuts that are called for in the president's health care law
It is past time for Obama, and his allies in Congress, to show the American people a credible plan to address our looming financial crisis. It is time for Senate Democrats to pass a budget.
Mar 26 2012
Originally published in The Hill, March 26, 2012
Our nation’s computer systems are vulnerable to online attack. This is a growing threat to our economy and our national security. American businesses understand this threat — this is why last year they invested more than $80 billion in the security of their computer networks.
I came to Washington as the CEO of a manufacturing company. I know firsthand that the private sector is choking on a torrent of federal regulations. Job creators face a $1.75 trillion — and growing — regulatory burden. In his first three years, President Obama issued 106 regulations that each had more than a $100 million impact on the private sector, and hundreds more that imposed smaller but still heavy burdens.
These days, businesses are more likely to hire a lawyer than a new employee.
Yet proposals in Congress, advocated by the White House, would give the federal government, namely the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), power to dictate cyber-
regulations to the private sector. Such regulations would create a maze of assessments, audits and standards that must be obeyed by companies deemed by DHS to be “covered critical infrastructure.”
I do not believe this is the right strategy because I have little faith in the ability of the federal government to be the leader on cybersecurity.
First, the federal government’s “cyberhouse” is not in order. According to the Office of Management and Budget, there were 41,776 reported cyberattacks against federal networks in 2010 — a 39 percent increase from 2009. Over the same time frame, the number of incidents on private networks decreased by 1 percent. Even DHS has been the victim of high-profile hackings. Yet businesses are now supposed to trust government regulators to tell them how to do their security better?
These proposals raise some basic questions: What businesses will have to comply with new rules? What will be the total cost of these new regulations? When asked, many companies are uncertain whether DHS will deem them as “covered critical infrastructure” and subject them to regulation. This is exactly the kind of uncertainty that stifles investment and job creation, and prevents our economy from achieving robust growth.
At a recent hearing, I questioned Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on whether DHS had analyzed the cost of the proposed regulations. She wasn’t even willing to admit they were creating new regulations, much less analyze the costs. To date, DHS has been unable to identify the cost of cyber-regulations advocated by the White House. This isn’t a new trend. Only 0.5 percent of rules have received a cost-benefit analysis under Obama. Nobody really knows the true cost of Obama regulations, cyber or otherwise.
The very idea of placing DHS at the helm on cybersecurity should concern every American. DHS has been cited numerous times for inefficiency and waste. It has proven inept at managing regulatory programs, such as its scandal-plagued chemical security program, the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards. It also lacks the experience and expertise already contained in other federal agencies. Why reinvent the wheel? Giving DHS more regulatory authority would only add another layer of bureaucracy and increase the cost of compliance.
The federal bureaucracy simply cannot keep pace with technology. Cyberexperts have said it could take eight to 10 years for DHS to develop cyber-regulations. Ten years is a millennium in technological terms; 10 years ago, there was no iPad, no Wii, and most Americans had never heard of “the cloud.”
New cyber-regulations could even make us less secure. Forcing industry to focus on checklists and audits rather than creating innovative solutions to threats might only provide a false sense of security. The correct strategy will recognize that industry is already the leader on cybersecurity. It is in business’ best interest to keep their networks secure.
For these reasons, I am co-sponsoring the Strengthening and Enhancing Cybersecurity by Using Research, Education, Information, and Technology (SECURE IT) Act. The bill was initiated by senators who agree that increasing the size and scope government is the wrong approach to cybersecurity.
SECURE IT removes legal roadblocks that prevent the private sector and government from sharing cyberthreat information. The bill facilitates cooperative sharing by protecting industry from frivolous lawsuits, and maintaining civil liberties. It also improves the security of government networks by giving prosecutors better tools to stop cybercriminals, and without expanding the nation’s out-of-control debt.
These are commonsense measures that will keep our nation more secure from cyberthreats, without the heavy hand of regulation. Choosing the right approach on cybersecurity is vital. Dramatically increasing Washington’s role in the complex and rapidly changing issue of cybersecurity would be a step in the wrong direction.
Johnson is a member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies.