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Sen. Ron Johnson calls failure to agree on virus relief 'very good news'

‘I hope the talks remain broken down,’ the Wisconsin senator said.
 

By Josh Israel - August 11, 2020
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Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) told right-wing outlet Breitbart on Friday that he did not want Congress to reach any deal on pandemic relief, citing concerns about the national debt. But in late 2017, he voted for Donald Trump’s tax cuts for the rich with no offsets, a move projected to increase the deficit by trillions.

In the interview, Johnson cheered the lack of progress in negotiations on an emergency relief bill. “From my standpoint, the breakdown in the talks is very good news. It’s very good news for future generations,” he opined. “I hope the talks remain broken down.”

“We’re already $26.5 trillion in debt, on our way to $27- or $28 trillion. We don’t have an unlimited checking account. So I’m glad there’s not a deal,” he added. He reportedly opposes any new spending that will increase the debt.

Johnson has a history of selective concern about the national debt.

During his first campaign for the Senate in 2010, Johnson ran as a deficit hawk, committed to spending cuts and debt reduction. “Robbing the bank accounts of future generations of Americans while creating unsustainable debt is a threat to our freedom and we must stand together to stop it,” read a post on his campaign site.

That October, Johnson published an op-ed titled “We need to balance budget and create jobs,” writing, “To get our economy going, it’s absolutely essential we remove the drag that excessive spending and debt put on our nation’s growth. I’d support a balanced budget amendment and work with anybody to pass measures to cap spending.”

He did not balance the budget. During his 2016 reelection campaign, he published another opinion piece, warning that the debt crisis “hangs over my evaluation of every other problem America must confront” and that it “should be at the forefront of every campaign and policy debate.”

Nonpartisan budget estimates projected that the Tax Cut and Jobs Act would increase the national debt by more than $1 trillion over 10 years.

Still, Johnson backed the legislation, which massively slashed taxes for corporations and the very rich while raising them for 10 million American families, claiming that it would actually lower the deficit through increased economic growth. Asked that December what he would do if his rosy predictions did not come true, he dismissed the possibility as “a hypothetical.”

As predicted, the legislation massively increased the budget deficit, which rose to $1 trillion annually even before the coronavirus pandemic. Revenue dropped, while spending continued to grow.

While Johnson now celebrates the lack of a deal, millions of Americans are hurting. As of July, the unemployment rate nationally was over 10% as millions of Americans have lost jobs. More than 5 million Americans have contracted the coronavirus, and more than 161,000 of them have died.

The House of Representatives passed a bill in May that would provide $75 billion for enhanced coronavirus tracing, testing, and treatment, expand hazard pay and child care for essential workers, and extended temporary unemployment benefits until January.

Johnson and the rest of the Senate Republican majority have refused to even vote on the proposal, instead spending most of their time confirming Donald Trump’s judicial appointments.

Johnson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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