Q&A: Johnson focuses on fiscal responsibility

Editorial Board with Appleton Post Crescent

Five months into the job, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson continues to emphasize the theme of fiscal responsibility in the federal government.

In a meeting Wednesday with The Post-Crescent editorial board, Johnson answered questions about Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposal to overhaul Medicare and the country’s debt limit.

He was critical of President Obama’s leadership in the debate over the national debt. And he reiterated some his 2010 campaign themes, railing against the federal health care reform law and maintaining that the federal government cannot spend its way to prosperity.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

How have things have gone so far — what have you learned and what has surprised you about being in the Senate?

I recognize how broken it’s become, how polarized it’s become and certainly nothing that I’ve seen in five months has changed my opinion. The process is pretty well broken.

I’m pretty disappointed by what I would consider a total lack of leadership on (the budget). The president, the Democrats, certainly the Senate spend (time) playing a political game of chicken. “Show us what you’ve got. Come on. Tell us how you’re going to reform those entitlement programs so that we can destroy you politically.”

Your contention is that the debt limit might not necessarily need to be raised but that the Obama administration, along with Congress, ought to be working on a contingency budget. Why do you think that’s possible?

My point is that it doesn’t have to be a crisis. If we don’t increase the debt ceiling, what’s the effect? We’ll have to live within our means. We’ll have to live within that $2.6 trillion.

What we should be doing is figuring out how we get by. How do we allocate what money we do have to essential services, to essential spending?

Are there any particular areas that you think are ripe for cuts within the federal budget? I know you said there’s a game of chicken going on, but doesn’t somebody have to go first?

What I argue for is, let’s first do structural reforms, structural caps. … You need to first instill those disciplines.

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