Russ Feingold: A senator for regular folks

By Bill Kaplan

The most important congressional state race this fall is Democrat Russ Feingold vs. GOP U.S. Senator Ron Johnson. The winner could determine which political party controls the Senate. Johnson beat Feingold in the 2010 "wave" election, with low-voter turnout, after spending nearly $9 million of his own fortune. Moreover, the New York Times reports that Johnson is one of "the richest members of the Senate", wealth between $13.4 million and $60 million. Feingold's worth is between $328,000 and $795,000. It gets worse.

The Supreme Court's Citizens United decision opened the door wide to big money and corporate funding of U.S. campaigns. The Koch brothers' network may spend nearly $1billion in 2016 (Washington Post). Total campaign spending could reach $9 billion (New York Times). And, the Times said: "As the money torrent rises, it's no coincidence that for the first time in history, most members of Congress are millionaires....Republican control of the agenda has snuffed out Democratic proposals to control or at least disclose the true extent of the wealth now driving elections." Wisconsin needs Feingold and his campaign reform ideas.

No wonder the GOP-led Congress is impervious to income inequality, low wages, full funding of private pensions and most of all the catastrophic loss of well-paying factory jobs resulting from unfair trade agreements. And, the ideologically-driven Johnson is one of the ringleaders of Senate plutocrats. He is a follower of Ayn Rand, a crackpot philosopher, who opposed Social Security, Medicare and idealized the 19th century "Robber Barons". Enough.

Johnson used his Senate perch to bully, grandstand and talk down to former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in his crusade against the Affordable Care Act (ACA). He has hysterically railed at the ACA saying: "It (ACA) is the greatest single threat to my (Johnson's) freedom, our freedom." Nonsense. 20 million more Americans, including 224,208 Wisconsinites, now have health care coverage because of the ACA. There's more.

Johnson has shilled for corporate pirates like Apple. At a 2013 Senate hearing he defended Apple's "stashing some $100 billion in Ireland without paying taxes on much of it anywhere in the world" (New York Times). But the European Union has now ruled against Apple. Johnson has also suggested ending the corporate income tax, despite the fact that corporations already use tax loopholes to pay low rates. Moreover, Johnson is oblivious to Apple's exporting U.S. jobs abroad, where workers are exploited.

In contrast, Feingold wants U.S. corporations to haul down the pirate flag and fly the star-spangled banner. Unlike Johnson, who voted to "fast-track" the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Feingold is unequivocally opposed to this unfair trade agreement. Why? The Washington Post Fact Checker said: "The math says trade pact's job creation is zero...." And, Feingold exclaimed: "Senator Johnson has spent five years in Washington, supporting corporations that have sent jobs overseas, particularly by supporting tax loopholes, voting for every bad trade deal that has come along." Feingold would be a senator for regular folks who deserve economic security.

Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C. for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 - 2009.


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