US Senator Ron Johnson let the numbers tell a lot of the story Tuesday during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” session at Marquette University Law School.
Numbers showing how the percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) that comes from federal spending, which has risen a lot with projections that it will keep rising. Numbers showing how the gap between projected federal revenue and spending has grown and is forecast to become much bigger. Numbers showing how, in the history of Social Security, the amount collected exceeded the amount spent every year until 2010 but now we’re at the start of a projected long run in which payments are greater than revenue. Numbers showing how steps such as increasing taxes on rich people would do very little to close the gaps in upcoming federal budgets if we stay on the course we’re on. He showed these and other matters as graphs on two large screens in Eckstein Hall’s Appellate Courtroom.
But Johnson also included numbers on some non-economic issues. A chart on the dramatic long-term climb of “births out of wedlock” appeared to spark the most reaction in the audience of about 200. The single-mother birth rate was 6.9% in 1964 and 41% in recent years, Johnson’s chart showed. He called the rise “a very graphic, very harmful unintended consequence of all of our good intentions” in the national War on Poverty, started in the 1960s. Among the factors Johnson said were behind the increase: Public benefits policies that provided unintended incentives for mothers not to get married. As “a compassionate society,” he said, government wanted to help those in need.
Asked by an audience member what could be done now to change the trend, Johnson said he didn’t know the answer, but he thought the facts were important to understand.. He said he was not advocating for not helping people in need.
An Oshkosh businessman with no previous runs for public office, the Republican Johnson defeated Democratic incumbent Russ Feingold in 2010. Johnson has been a strong advocate of much tighter controls on government spending and he has been a favorite of Tea Party groups in Wisconsin and beyond.
Johnson strongly criticized President Barack Obama, particularly on government spending issues, and backed Republican challenger Mitt Romney for president. He said four more years of Obama as president would be “a disaster” filled with divided leadership between Congress and the president.
“Governor Romney understands America must be strong if we going to be a leader in the world,” Johnson said. Obama “doesn’t appreciate American exceptionalism” and doesn’t understand that the American economy has to be strong if America is to be a strong world leader.
“The stakes are extremely high in this election,” Johnson said. “The financial future of America rests with this election.” He said Wisconsin is crucial to the election.
Johnson’s session with Gousha, the Law School’s distinguished fellow in law and public policy, may be viewed by clicking here. Johnson’s visit provided interesting contrasts in views with an Oct. 4 “On the Issues” with Feingold. That session can be viewed by clicking here.