Wisconsin senator talks to Neil Cavuto about failing economy, lack of leadership in Washington. Watch full interview here.calendar
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-WI, says the Obama administration is making a “concerted effort” to scare the public about the debt ceiling. Watch the full interview here.calendar
June 9, 2011
A payroll tax cut has emerged this week as a possible way for Washington to seek to spur hiring, as concerns about the sluggish economy are impacting deficit-reduction talks between the White House and congressional leaders.
But even some staunch supporters of lower taxes say this is a dangerous idea, since it would take even more revenues away from the federal government at a time of spiraling deficits and debt.
On ABC’s “Top Line” today, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. –- who spent more than three decades in manufacturing before being elected to Congress last year with tea party support — said it would be a mistake to lower the payroll tax paid by businesses.
“I would love to be talking tax decreases — I mean I really would — but right now we’ve got to focus on providing the structural reform for entitlement programs and just [spending] caps, to discipline Washington once and for all,” Johnson told us.
Asked whether a payroll tax cut would make the deficit worse, Johnston said: “Unfortunately, I think it would.”
“Let’s face it: Part of the problem is the entitlement programs that are simply unsustainable. So we’ve got to provide structural reform,” Johnson continued. “As unfortunate as it is that we can’t be talking about tax decreases to spur the economy, the fact of the matter is they use Keynesian economics. They indebted us to another $2.4 trillion these past three years. Total employment’s down since when that program started. It hasn’t worked. It just hasn’t worked. We’ve dug ourselves such a deep hole.”
Johnson blasted President Obama for not showing sufficient leadership in trying to address the debt.
“What I see this president do [is] literally phone it in,” Johnson said. “He sends his vice president to do negotiations maybe once a week. Guess he’s gonna be talking today — it’s all behind closed doors. What this president should have done is sent up a serious budget. … We need a leader here. This country hungers for leadership.”
We talked a little Wisconsin politics with Johnson, with several Republican lawmakers facing recall elections, and Gov. Scott Walker’s, R-Wis., move against public-employee unions drawing a national backlash.
“It certainly roiled up the body politic in Wisconsin. But you know, let’s face it, our Gov. Walker and the new Republican legislature was faced with $8 billion a year budget deficit. They did what I think most voters want their elected officials to do: you know, go into their jobs and make the hard choices, take the tough votes. Not necessarily what’s popular but what’s necessary.”
And Johnson called on Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., to step down, if only so the media focus can move back to the spending issues Congress is wrestling with.
“I wish he would just to get that story off the front page, so we can again focus on what’s going on in this country,” Johnson said. “To me, there’s no greater issue right now than the fiscal situation of America. It is such an urgent problem, and to have it being distracted from even five minutes by that type of nonsense and shame. … I take no pleasure in these types of stories at all. I just want him off the front page so we can actually start attacking the problems, start growing our economy, start creating jobs. That’s really what we’re here to do.”calendar
ABC News’ Sunlen Miller (@sunlenmiller) reports:
One day before the fifth round of Biden-led debt ceiling talks are held on the Hill, Republican Senators today increased the pressure on President Obama directly, accusing him of “phoning it in” and calling for the president to be more personally involved in the negotiations to avert a potentially catastrophic default on the nation’s debt.
“Our president is totally disengaged,” Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wis., at a press conference today, “He sent his Vice President to negotiate, what maybe once a week, twice a week? We are facing a debt crisis and our president is just phoning it in, I find that very disappointing. I think the American people find that very disappointing.”
In April President Obama appointed his Vice President to lead the bipartisan deficit reduction talks with a group of lawmakers from each of the four caucuses, in order to raise the $14.3 trillion debt limit before the August 2nddeadline for action. Since, Mr. Biden has held four meetings with the group – with the fifth being held tomorrow on the Hill.
Senator Johnson said that the issue requires the president’s full attention, “24 hours a day,” suggesting that the level of involvement of the president shows that he doesn’t properly understand how dire the situation is.
“Obviously a president can appoint people to stand in for him and do some negotiations but my problem is that I have not seen this president engaged to the extent he should be based on the severity of the situation,” Johnson said.
Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, echoed the sentiment adding that as the leader Mr. Obama should get directly involved and “not just shovel it off to someone else.”
On Thursday Vice President Biden will meet with the group at 1 pm on the Hill. So far negotiations have yet to produce measurable progress, although both sides insist progress is being made.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has said that Republicans will not support any deal to raise the debt ceiling unless it is accompanied by spending cuts at least equal to the amount by which the borrowing limit is raised.
Aft the last meeting of the bipartisan group Vice President Biden said the group is “on pace” to identify at least $1 trillion in cuts. But Democrats oppose any deal that would include cuts to entitlement programs like Medicare.
Democrats say that new tax revenues need to be part of any eventual deal to raise the debt ceiling. Republican leaders in Congress have steadfastly said that the country has “a spending problem” – not a revenue problem – and raising taxes is not an option.