Senator's visit mixes politics, business
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson's workplace at the nation's capital is 1,100 miles from Interfacial Solutions' River Falls research/manufacturing facility, but Johnson was like a member of the family when he visited with founder Dr. Jeff Cernohous and his employees the morning of Friday, April 5.
It was probably more about the plastics business than political synergy.
Johnson, who turned 60 on Monday, had never held elected office before selling his interest in Oshkosh-based PACUR, LLC, a polyester and plastics manufacturer, to run against three-term incumbent Russ Feingold.
Johnson's former company manufactures plastics used, in part, for the packaging of medical equipment and supplies.
Interfacial's staff provides research and development for outside customers as well as having invented several unique polymer-based products themselves.
Cernohous and partners Gregg Bennett and Brian Szymanski met privately with Johnson for about 15 minutes, then gave a quick tour of the plant before the senator strolled into a training room to talk with employees.
Johnson earlier had spoken to a group assembled at WESTconsin Credit Union in Hudson. Later Friday morning he addressed a gathering at Pierce-Pepin Electric Coop in Ellsworth.
Johnson told the 25 men and women at Interfacial his dream would be to get voted out of office for helping solve America's debt crisis.
He cited the staggering $575 billion annual cost of Medicare as the poster-child for government entitlement programs.
"Paying in $1 for every $3 spent is not sustainable," he said.
Noting that the program was begun when average life expectancy was 62, today Americans are living much longer.
"We're going to have to means test ... we're hemorrhaging cash."
About a month ago, Johnson and 11 other Republican senators joined President Barack Obama for dinner at the upscale Jefferson Hotel -- near the White House.
Johnson said if the American public could have been "a fly on the wall" that evening, they would have been impressed by the president's sincerity at wanting to find a solution to the nation's budget woes.
That dinner came just days after Obama signed an order authorizing bureaucrats to begin across-the-board budget cuts (coined "sequestration") as required by the deal Obama and Republican Congressional leaders struck in August, 2011, in exchange for increasing the government's borrowing limit.
When he got the chance to address the president that evening, Johnson told him: "I'm just a little voice, but it would be enormously helpful if you would utilize the bully pulpit of the presidency to express the true depth of the problem."
There's many more facets of federal overspending than just Medicare, the senator told Interfacial employees Friday.
Many in Washington seem unwilling to address the massive deficit.
"In business, you can't solve a problem until you've defined it," said Johnson. In Washington, officials just continue to "paper over the symptoms, layer upon layer upon layer."
In addition, government intrusion into our lives has grown to the point it impedes our freedom, he said.
America's staggering $16.7 trillion debt has grown larger than the nation's annual economic churn.
Johnson advocates aggressively developing the nation's energy resources, including building out the controversial Keystone pipeline to haul crude oil from Canada to refineries in the southern U.S.
While he recognizes that fossil fuels pollute, America has the resources, technology and willingness to control emissions, unlike many Asian nations.
The senator forecasts that "Obamacare is going to be an utter disaster," noting that the subsequent medical device tax created to help pay for it has already cost American jobs and has resulted in manufacturing going overseas.
"Elements of the solutions can be pretty obvious, but gathering the political will to (execute) will be the challenge," he said.
"I ran to take tough votes," said Johnson, adding that if he gets defeated in 2016 because his constituents are unhappy, so be it.
"Not every solution can be popular when the problem is so incredibly severe," he said.
Just as parents wouldn't intentionally accumulate consumer debt with intentions of pushing it off on their children to pay back someday, the government shouldn't either.
"It's fiscal mismanagement, but that's what we're doing."
For more information, Johnson encouraged area residents to visit his website, www.ronjohnson.senate.gov.