Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ron Johnson unveils another Doomed Initiative called "America's Choice"

Oh, Lord. Fresh off the heels of a disastrous first year in the U.S. Senate, Ron Johnson decided to kick off his second year in office with a plan to transform Congress into a partisan Thunderdome spectacle designed solely to "highlight the differences" between the two parties. Seriously, those are his exact words.

Here he is in today's Wall Street Journal:
Americans are frustrated over Washington's inability to address our nation's economic and fiscal problems. That's why I have been working with a growing group of senators and House members to develop a plan that can build public support for solutions. It's called "America's Choice."
One quickly discovers that Johnson and his team spent more time working on the branding of this "plan" than on the plan itself. 
America's Choice seeks to highlight the differences between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party led by President Obama.
If the entire piece can be reduced to one sentence, here it is. This plan does not appear to advance an policy goals, has no ambitions to put people back to work and is not supported by any data, but is designed to embarrass the President during a re-election. The only good thing about this plan so far is the brazen transparency of it all.
It could do so over the coming months by presenting to the country, through a series of votes in the House of Representatives, the battle between those who believe in broadest terms in limited government and freedom and those who promote government control and dependency. 
Could do so? It doesn't sound like Johnson thinks enough of his niftily-named plan to actually think it will have any hope of doing so, but then again his plan calls for votes in a House of Congress to which he does not belong. Why Johnson is asking the House of Representative to carry the water when he is a member of the Senate is a bit ridiculous, but not entirely inconsistent with Johnson's M.O. Johnson does subscribe to the inane belief that a supermajority is required to get anything done in the Senate, a tenet that runs counter to his consistent whining that the Senate never gets enough done and this very plan. Go figure.
What are the choices these votes could present? Growing government spending and debt or growing the private sector and reducing government. Limiting energy development or using America's energy resources. Punishing success or pro-growth tax reform. A government takeover of health care or repealing ObamaCare and replacing it with patient-centered, free-market reforms.
Blah blah blah... We've heard this all before: the Manichean worldview of government coming from Johnson is as unproductive as it is tiresome.
The alternatives are stark. President Obama's faith in government is so strong that he has increased its size to 24% of gross domestic product from 21%, and increased our nation's debt by over $4 trillion. Republicans, on the other hand, believe long-term self-sustaining jobs are created in the private sector—that government cannot tax, spend and borrow our nation to prosperity.
Just because Johnson and his Republican cohorts keep saying it, doesn't mean it's true:
And on taxes, Obama's lowered those too.
Will green energy power America's future? The administration has squandered billions of dollars on politically connected, green-energy boondoggle projects, while at the same time maintaining a de facto moratorium on off-shore drilling, and dragging its feet on granting permits for other energy utilization projects such as the Keystone XL Pipeline and restricting and limiting leases for offshore energy production. Republicans could propose a plan to utilize crucial domestic resources, including oil, natural gas and coal, to produce energy and create jobs. 
To be fair, the green jobs initiative has been something of a bust, but it should be noted that it does conform to Johnson earlier demand for "using America's energy resources." Clearly, Johnson was only talking about fossil fuels.

The problem with the green jobs initiative has been the recent oil boom in North Dakota, which has kept oil prices down in the U.S. below the point where spending on green tech -- much of which is still in the expensive R&D phase -- is profitale. Last year the U.S. became an oil exporting country for the first time in over 60 years. The fact is that we are developing our oil resources here in the United States, as fast as humanly possible. Johnson is still speaking the coded GOP language calling for drilling in ANWR and off the shore of Florida even though, at the moment and like the green tech industry, neither of those are necessary.
Regulatory overreach in this administration has been breathtaking. Executive agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Labor have been in hyper-drive, adding to the already job-crushing $1.75 trillion annual cost, according to the Small Business Administration, of federal regulatory compliance. Republicans could propose a regulatory moratorium to give businesses a chance to recover, and then enact real reform to achieve common-sense regulatory balance.
 Another series of rote talking points Johnson includes in everything he does...
President Obama has launched a divisive campaign pitting one group of Americans against another. 
Which is exactly what this "America's Choice" plan seems to aspire to do. You remember that "plan," don't you? The one Johnson opened up his op-ed piece discussing, but hasn't talked about since, even though we're now half way through the piece? Yeah, that one.
Yet 10% of Americans already pay 70% of all income taxes. 
And here's Ron Johnson, once again, valiantly sticking his neck out for the upper marginal income earners. This is a mathematical reality of a progressive tax system. We've discussed this before here and here.
Increasing the tax burden on that group is counterproductive. Sowing class division is an act of political cynicism producing terrible economic consequences. Significant pro-growth tax reform is the better path to build our economy and create jobs. 
It'd be great if Johnson used this incredibly value space in a national newspaper to outline such a tax plan, but instead we get an electioneering strategy.

The next part just rags on Obamacare:
Government takeover of our health-care system has been a liberal-progressive dream for decades. President Obama and Democrats in Congress passed the partisan Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It neither protects patients, nor does it make health care more affordable. But it will lead to a government takeover of one-sixth of our economy, and it will blow a hole in an already horribly broken budget.

Republicans are united in our commitment to repeal ObamaCare and replace it with patient-centered reforms. Malpractice tort reform, health savings account expansion, insurance purchase across state lines, reduction of government mandates, and equalized tax treatment of insurance premiums are some of the key changes we will propose to the country. 
Now back to "America's Choice:"
America's Choice would clearly present two different visions of the country's future—one represented by the Republican Party and the other represented by the Democratic Party and its leader, President Obama. Once Congress returns from recess later this month, the Republican majority in the House could focus on one major area of domestic policy at a time. For example, February could be used to debate, craft and pass an energy utilization policy. 
It should be clear by now that Johnson is using his word count to propose a plan that he has not discussed with any other members of Congress. Johnson doesn't offer much in the way of detail because Johnson is completely oblivious to the fact that this is an election year for everyone in Washington except for himself (and 65 colleagues in the Senate). It's every man for himself.
When the House debates and passes an agenda item, Republican senators, candidates and conservative groups could concentrate on the same issue, using the same powerful facts and figures to inform and persuade the American public. Coordinating our focused efforts improves our ability to compete with the presidential bully pulpit and counteract media outlets that often work to marginalize us. 
This would have been sage advice ... about 20 years ago. This is actually what the conservative movement does extremely well. The only thing this paragraph goes to show is that Johnson doesn't get invited to the important meetings.

In 2011, President Obama stopped running the country and started running his re-election campaign. In his cynical attempt to divert attention away from his record by dividing us, Republicans have been put on defense. The America's Choice agenda would put us on offense.

If done well, we just might put enough pressure on Senate Democrats and the president to actually pass legislation that will begin to solve our problems. If not, Republicans will have provided Americans with a clear choice in November.
Again, in the end it's all about politics.

This op-ed just continues to drive home what a lousy Senator Johnson is. This plan is nothing more than branding, an empty catch phrase that has no details to consider carefully, no support from his colleagues and nothing to offer his constituents. There's a complete lack of focus on the issues -- Johnson mentions about eight of them during the course of his word limit and they seem to roll of the pen like poll-tested talking point rather than actionable items.

Expect "America's Choice" to wither on the vine until being blown away by a stiff autumn wind. This will be yet another one of Johnson's fail attempts to do his job.

MORE: It's been about 36 hours since Johnson's op-ed dropped and so far it's gotten very little traction. Only one of Johnson's senate colleagues has publicly signed on to the program and largely because it "was his idea first." Jennifer Rubin, WaPo's conservative blogger had this to say about the proposal:
Johnson’s very public style of marketing legislation, he conceded, is not how government usually operates. To someone coming from the private sector, however, as he did, “it is obvious” that lawmakers have to development a coherent message and sell their ideas to the public. At the very least, Johnson’s goal is to line up with that of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.): Lay out a vision, explain it to voters and contrast it with the president’s.
That's about as delicate a way a sympathetic journalist can possibly say, "this guy doesn't know what the hell's going on in Washington."

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