Consider this another salvo in a quixotic quest for spending cut details this campaign season.
Wisconsin Senate candidate Ron Johnson, a Republican who is running a tough race against incumbent Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, has blanketed AM radio waves in Minnesota and western Wisconsin with ads targeting big government’s out-of-control spending. So where, exactly, would Johnson cut?
Johnson’s ads don’t specify any programs. Neither does his web site, which offers up the usual generalities, such as "Unsustainable spending is a threat to our freedom’’ — part of a vague four-paragraph statement on debt reduction and spending.
Nearly two weeks after Johnson’s campaign was asked for specifics, it finally provided via email these answers to an editorial writer’s questions. Keep in mind that most budget experts agree that any spending cut proposals ignoring reforms to the big federal entitlement programs — Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid — simply tinker around the edges of nation’s spending problem.
Q. Can you provide a detailed plan (for example, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s Roadmap) on how Ron Johnson would balance the budget?
A. Ron would work with anybody in Washington to pass measures such as a balanced budget amendment, a proposal to limit spending to 20% of GDP, or a plan to limit spending to population growth plus the rate of inflation. If voters send him to Washington, he’ll be working with goodwill and determination to pass proposals like these that will place an overall spending discipline to force lawmakers to prioritize.
Q. Specifically, what would Johnson do about Medicare costs and Medicaid, which funds much of the nation's nursing home care? Repealing health care reform would do little to solve these program’s soaring budgets. Nor would the private insurance reforms outlined on Ron Johnson’s web site.
A. Ron is dedicated to repealing the health care bill which cut over half a trillion from Medicare. He’s also committed to free market reforms that will bring down the costs of health and long-term care. He’s willing to look at all of the options in order make the reforms necessary to keep the programs sustainable long term.
Q. What is your candidate’s view on defense spending? Are cuts needed here, too?
A. There are absolutely examples of waste in the defense budget, and waste should be cut. But there are certain priorities that should absolutely be preserved such as protection for the finest among us, our troops whose mission is to protect this nation.
Q. Does Ron Johnson endorse Paul Ryan’s Roadmap plan? If yes, why. If not, why not?
A. He applauds Paul Ryan for putting forth a plan in good faith to begin the conversation on entitlement reform. Even President Obama has called the Roadmap a serious plan. Ron will look at all the plans and all the ideas on the table when he gets to Washington and work with anybody serious about crafting a bipartisan plan to keep our entitlement programs sustainable after first securing benefits for current retirees and those near retirement. Two things he would not consider in any package would be raising taxes or mandatory privatization of Social Security.