By Pamela Powers
U.S. Senator Ron Johnson said Friday he is surprised there are a number of U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate members just starting to understand the nation's spending problems and growing national debt.
He is heartened, however, to see that Democrats and Republicans apparently want to work together to resolve budget issues.
"People are definitely coming to the realization we don't have a whole lot of time," Johnson said while visiting the UW-Stout campus. "It's an urgent situation. I'm certainly getting a sense the Democrats and Republicans are coming to that realization."
The proof will be when it comes to the actual votes to cut spending, he noted.
When he decided to run against former Sen. Russ Feingold, Johnson said a poll indicated many citizens wanted to cut defense and infrastructure, but he added that the U.S. must defend itself and government must provide infrastructure to run a country.
"We have a real schizophrenia in this country," he said. "We want to control spending, but people don't want to lose their programs."
As he was meeting with UW-Stout Chancellor Charles Sorensen and Provost Julie Furst-Bowe, Johnson said education is vital to the economy.
He said children need to be taught basic economic principles.
"We need to stop denigrating the trades," he said. "There are a lot of kids starting college too young. They are not focused. They are getting into huge debt and companies don't want them. I would be a real proponent if they are not ready (for college) to go to work and then go to college."
Johnson, who has been in office about four weeks, said being a senator is incredibly interesting.
"I am trying to get up to speed as quickly as possible," he said, noting he is not afraid to call people for the information he needs to make an informed decision.
He did equate to the House and Senate as being a matter of "herding cats."
"You've got 535 strong-willed individuals and everyone has their own ideas," he noted. "It's not an efficient process."
On the issue of health care, Johnson voted to repeal Obamacare.
He wants to see real tort reform to prevent nuisance lawsuits, which drive up health care costs. He also supports health savings accounts for high deductible health care plans and does not want health care rationed.
"When you spend your money you bring in free market principals," Johnson said. "It insures the highest possible quality and the highest customer service."
On the budget deficit, he would support an overall spending cap or some kind of spending discipline.
"We've got to straitjacket all of us politicians and the American public," he said.
Working toward a balanced budget amendment or limiting spending to a certain percentage of the gross national product are some other ideas.