On Tuesday, our state will host the Republican presidential candidates as they share their vision for our nation. The debate at the Milwaukee Theater will provide a forum for the best and brightest ideas from our party to be honed and presented to the American people.
We have serious problems facing this nation that deserve serious discussion. The federal government’s debt exceeds $18 trillion — more than $57,000 per person. Over the next 30 years, Social Security — just one example of a government program on an unsustainable path — will pay out $14 trillion more in benefits than payroll tax receipts. And hardworking Americans continue to feel like they just can’t get ahead.
Past debates have featured a mix of serious issues, personal attacks, and silly discussions about low priorities — but what I believe the people of our state and country want to hear is how to spur economic growth and expand opportunity.
The Republican Party is focused on creating long-term, self-sustaining, private-sector jobs. Wisconsinites who are concerned about making ends meet aren’t interested in false promises of expanding already strapped entitlement programs — they want leaders who have a plan to encourage the kind of robust private sector growth that creates opportunity for everyone.
While there are many opinions as to how we create that economic growth and opportunity, we should focus on the things that we can agree on — both as a party and as a nation. That means keeping energy prices low by using our God-given resources. That means cutting red tape and getting the regulatory burden off of the backs of small businesses. And that means promoting pro-growth tax reform to provide relief to hardworking Americans.
As Wisconsinites, we love our state’s natural beauty. Many of us are hunters, like the new Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. Personally, I’m a fisherman — and I always enjoy boating and trolling for walleye on Lake Winnebago. We all want a pristine environment. But we also need to utilize our abundant natural resources to produce energy, keep prices low and create jobs. Unfortunately, the president rejected the Keystone XL Pipeline, defying the will of the American people and rejecting thousands of good-paying jobs. Despite what millions of dollars in special interest ads would want us to believe, there is a way to protect our environment while keeping the cost of energy low — and the Republicans on the stage need to lead the charge in creating that balance.
Multiple studies show that it costs our economy close to $2 trillion complying with federal government regulations. The regulatory overreach under this administration is completely out of control. Just last week, the Senate voted against an onerous Environmental Protection Agency rule that would give the federal government the power to regulate a puddle in your backyard. That is not a joke — this rule would give the federal government regulatory authority over 92 percent of the land in our state. This is the kind of government overreach that many agree is a threat to our freedom and economic prosperity.
There are a variety of tax proposals on the table from the Republicans who will take the stage tomorrow night — but all of them are designed to simplify our complex tax code and promote economic growth instead of punishing success.
Hopefully, most of us can agree on these commonsense policies: protecting our environment while keeping energy costs low; cutting red tape and reducing our regulatory burden; and promoting pro-growth tax reform.
But beyond promoting economic growth that creates opportunities, the Republicans on the stage Tuesday night need to be able to make tough decisions — the kind of decisions that challenge the dysfunction in Washington. That means standing up to politicians on both sides of the aisle who want to continue the status quo. That means being able to find areas of agreement that unite Americans rather than exploiting what divides us. They must demonstrate they are willing to take action even when it’s not politically popular, because it’s the right thing to do.
There’s a good chance the next president of the United States will be on the stage Tuesday night — and I look forward to watching a spirited debate about how to advance our shared goals of creating economic growth and opportunity for all.
Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, is a U.S. Senator representing Wisconsin.