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Issue of the Week: Anti-Government Republicans Who Love Government Aid

Sep. 29, 2010
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What is it about Republicans who say they hate the government and can’t acknowledge that they’ve been helped out by the government?

Take GOP Senate candidate Ron Johnson. Johnson is campaigning on his résumé as a “job creator” and multimillionaire businessman in Oshkosh who is sick of “big government.” But what, exactly, is he so upset about? Pacur, the company Johnson runs—which was created as a Bemis Co. spinoff by his father-in-law Howard Curler, then the CEO of Bemis—has benefited mightily from government aid through the years.

Pacur won two low-interest government-subsidized loans, which saved the company an estimated $1 million in interest over the years. But Johnson argues that the loan wasn’t government help. Right.

Then there’s the $75,000 Housing and Urban Development grant given to Pacur’s forerunner in 1979. The grant money was used to construct a railroad extension directly to Pacur’s door, which must have made shipping a whole lot easier and cheaper. One of the conditions of the grant was that the company had to try to create 11 permanent jobs.

Recently, Johnson told a reporter that the grant was no big deal because he joined the company months after it got the money.

So was Johnson’s job actually one of the jobs created by the government grant?

That’s very likely.

Even worse, Johnson said he wasn’t even aware of the grant. But Johnson was working as Pacur’s accountant. Wouldn’t he know the origins of $75,000 on the books of a small startup company?

This wouldn’t be such a big deal if Johnson acknowledged all of the government help that Pacur has gotten along the way. But time and time again Johnson has portrayed himself as an up-from-the-bootstraps kind of guy and the free market as some sort of wise entity that shouldn’t have to suffer with government intrusion like low-interest loans and incentives to create jobs.

Johnson’s hypocrisy is sort of like Rep. Paul Ryan’s votes for the big bank bailout, the auto bailout, and for allowing top executives at the bailed-out AIG to keep their multimillion-dollar bonuses by insisting that he was saving the free market, even if it took government funds to do it. And then he turned around and voted against the stimulus package—which preserved or created a few million jobs for teachers, police, firefighters and other middle-class workers—because he doesn’t like government spending.

Johnson’s showing the same talent for spin. Let’s hope the voters in November don’t fall for it.

Heroes of the Week

SHARE Volunteers

Next week will mark the 25th anniversary of SHARE, a nonprofit that provides access to reduced-cost food through a self-help distribution system. Volunteers help to sort food at the group’s warehouse facility in Butler, Wis., and staff approximately 50 distribution sites throughout Milwaukee. Volunteers also operate SHARE’s Mobile Market, which offers fresh fruits, vegetables and meats in neighborhoods that lack affordable, convenient access.

Readers who wish to help SHARE in their mission to build and strengthen the community through volunteer service are directed to www.sharewi.org for more information.

Jerk of the Week

GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Scott Walker

Looks like Scott Walker is following the grand Republican tradition of taking the low road in campaigns. Following in the steps of sleaze masters like Nixon’s G. Gordon Liddy, senior George Bush’s Lee Atwater and George W.’s Karl Rove, Walker is allowing and likely encouraging his campaign staffers to do anything it takes to win. That means engaging in frat-boy tactics like goading someone in a bar to talk, secretly taping that person and then lying about your identity as a Walker campaign staffer. The same staffer, Michael Brickman, also mocked Democratic candidate Tom Barrett’s thoughtful 67-page jobs plan by blowing up the font of Walker’s five-page plan so that it would be 68 pages. Brickman’s stunt only made Walker’s jobs plan look even more ridiculous during a recession. Did we also mention that the juvenile Brickman sent out that race-baiting Tweet and video during the debate on high-speed rail? And don’t forget Darlene Wink, who worked for Walker in his official capacity as county executive and also worked on Walker’s campaign while on the clock at her taxpayer-funded day job. Either Walker is approving of these unethical acts because he hopes it will help his campaign or he is a poor manager who is unable to control his employees. Either way, it doesn’t make for a great governor.


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