Sen. Ron Johnson, R-WI, summed up his experience with the national government thus far with one phrase: “It’s as bad as I thought.”
Johnson, a freshman senator and member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, went “On the Issues” Thursday with Mike Gousha, distinguished fellow of law and public policy at the Marquette’s law school.
Talks of cooperation within the government and its effectiveness dominated the discussion between Gousha and the senator. Johnson was critical of Congress’s ability to compromise, as well as many of President Obama’s decisions.
Johnson added that he understands why Americans lack confidence in Congress.
“I think that they are accurate (in thinking that way),” Johnson said. “Just look at the handling of the debt ceiling.”
When asked about his thoughts on compromise and cooperation within Congress, Johnson responded by saying that he was willing to work with both sides of the aisle.
“I’ve always said that I am willing to work with anybody who is willing to seriously address these issues,” Johnson said. “In the end, Democrats aren’t going to go away and Republicans aren’t going to go away. We have to work together to solve these problems.”
President Obama’s effectiveness and leadership ability were also discussed. Johnson was critical of the president and said that while he has done good job in some areas — such as continuing Bush’s policies on the War on Terror — others, like business regulation, are in need of improvement.
He also said there are a large amount of regulations being imposed on small businesses, and that government is moving toward overregulation of the economy.
Gousha asked about Johnson’s thoughts regarding current Republican presidential candidates. Johnson said that he would like to see other Republican candidates put out a concrete economic plan.
“I certainly wish there was a clear choice, one that we could all rally around,” Johnson said. “But politics is a messy process.”
After the discussion with Gousha, Johnson fielded questions from the audience about a range of topics.
One audience member asked about Johnson’s views on what should be done about retiring veterans.
“We need to support these young men and women as long as they need our support, both in terms of when we recruit them and train them,” Johnson said. “We need to continue to support them when they come back.”
Johnson was also questioned about his stance on education — both nationwide and in Wisconsin — and how he thought it should be changed. Johnson stressed the importance of education and ways the business community can help.
“I certainly understand how vitally important education is to a community,” he said. “We need to go back to the basics in terms of academics as well as life skills.”
Audience reactions were mixed about Johnson’s responses to the various questions.
Larry Kress, an audience member, asked Johnson about his thoughts regarding how America’s current financial situation compares to certain times in European financial history.
“He couldn’t give much of an answer,” Kress said. “I was hoping to get an opinion out of him, but he didn’t really give me that.”
Others thought that Johnson answered most questions to the best of his ability.
“I thought the answers were very polite, but very accurate,” Jim Konowalski, another audience member, said. “I think he said what he really believes, and I think that majority of people feel the same way.”