Quotes of the week
“And then along comes Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. He’s arguing that five years is too long to savage these programs people depend on. He wants to put Social Security and Medicare literally on the chopping block every single year and treat it like any other appropriation.”
– President Joe Biden at Milwaukee’s Laborfest blasting the Oshkosh Republican for proposing to make the government assistance programs discretionary spending.
“Democrats cannot defend their record so they’ve resorted to baseless smears and personal attacks. Their latest? I want to end social security. I want to save social security and protect the long-term success of this vital program.”
– U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson in a tweet ahead of Biden’s Laborfest speech defending his proposals.
This week’s news
— President Biden on Labor Day urged the country to come together while slamming “MAGA Republicans” for opposing policies he said have strengthened the economy.
Biden told Milwaukee’s Laborfest the country is at an inflection point, touching on a theme from his speech last week warning of the dangers he sees from the most ardent supporters of former President Trump.
But he largely stayed away from some of the harsh rhetoric from last week’s speech that some Republicans called divisive. Biden said not all Republicans are extremists, but they are afraid to support his policies because of the risk they could lose a primary. That prompted them to vote against protecting the pensions of blue-collar workers, strengthening the nation’s infrastructure and improving the economy.
He said Americans can choose a different path forward to build a better America.
“We remain in a battle for the soul of America,” Biden said.
Gov. Tony Evers introduced Biden. The Dem governor, up for reelection in November, touted his own record of cutting taxes and investing in Wisconsin’s infrastructure while praising Biden as a partner on providing COVID-19 recovery funds for schools, the economy and public safety.
While Evers appeared on stage with Biden, Dem U.S. Senate nominee Mandela Barnes did not.
The lieutenant governor told WISN 12 News he didn’t appear because he “had a pretty packed schedule and had to get around the state.” Barnes also visited Labor Day events in Racine and Madison.
Ahead of the event, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, accused Barnes of hiding from the media and voters and questioned if his Dem rival has ever had a job outside of politics.
— U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore at Laborfest touted Evers as “the best Governor ever” and ridiculed former GOP Gov. Scott Walker as “someone who wanted to destroy the Wisconsin idea.”
The Milwaukee Dem in a roughly 8 minute speech only referred to the former Republican guv by first name when she referred to potholes as “Scotty-holes.” She told the crowd under “that other governor, whose name will not be spoken in this place,” they were worse off economically. She also said Walker worked to make higher education less accessible and slammed his deal with Taiwanese technology company Foxconn.
“Remember when their idea of jobs was to give billions of dollars in tax breaks to a union-breaking foreign company to dig a giant hole in the ground and call it ‘the eighth wonder of the world,’” she said, referring to Foxconn’s facility in Mt. Pleasant.
Moore also praised unions and Dems for working to increase wages, decrease inflation and reduce gas prices.
“Look around you, y’all,” she said. “With increasing wages and jobs, decreasing inflation and gas prices, we are modeling what the power of labor skill is.”
— Labor union members ahead of the president’s speech at Laborfest in Milwaukee shared a wide range of views on Biden canceling student loan debt — from emphatic approval to absolute disapproval.
Dan Keegan, 68, of West Allis and a retired member of Laborers’ Local 113, and Dennis Przybylski, 65, of Milwaukee, member of Teamsters’ Local 344, said Biden shouldn’t have ordered the debt cancellation because they say those who take out loans should be responsible enough to pay them back.
Przybylski also said Biden and colleges across the country should do more to reduce the overall cost of higher education because he says that would reduce students’ need to take out loans in the first place. He added Biden also shouldn’t cancel student debt for those who failed to complete their degrees.
“If you don’t graduate, you don’t get reimbursed,” he said. “Just like some of the scholarships; you’ve got to maintain a certain average and you’ve got to finish. If you don’t finish, you’re screwed.”
Latricia Johnson, 51, a Milwaukee-area educational consultant, said those arguing middle-class taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay to cancel others’ student loan debts should be more focused on other loan cancellations, such as Paycheck Protection Loan forgiveness.
“The rich were able to get those PPP loans to support them,” she said. “What’s the difference?”
Johnson added the student loan forgiveness helps middle-class people attain more economic mobility, financial freedom and actually live out the “American dream.”
“Whereas you can’t do these things and live that ‘American dream’ because you still have this [debt] hanging over your head,” she said.
Clint Pope, 56, a U.S. Postal Service semi-truck driver, said the program might not be as targeted at reducing debt for those who truly need it as some want, but it’s still truly benefitting Americans. He also said people should be more focused on other expenses such as the military and the numerous wars the U.S. has been involved in throughout the recent past.
“No, we might not be happy about everybody who’s benefitting from it,” he said. “Maybe you’re not happy about the person with a doctorate. But you shouldn’t have to pick and choose. I mean it’s benefitting Americans. There’s no question about that. The argument is really they’re upset about who is benefitting. You’re never going to please everybody.”
Mike Jazwiecki, 64, a construction worker wearing a red Michels for governor shirt, said Biden should be more focused on helping those he says truly need it rather than college graduates. He pointed to water crisis’ in Michigan and Mississippi, where many residents are struggling to get access to clean drinking water from their taps.
He also raised concerns about Biden policies such as student debt cancellation increasing taxes for everyone.
“You’ve got a $4 billion rocket sitting on a launch pad that won’t take off, you’re giving away billions of dollars in student loans that we’re all going to be paying for,” he said. “Even the people that are getting the money are still going to be paying it back somewhere down the road in taxes.”
— U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman applauded former White House Chief Medical Advisor Anthony Fauci’s retirement and blamed some loss of life during the pandemic on his refusal to focus more on improving vitamin D intake among Americans.
The Glenbeulah Republican in a statement said he was “relieved” to see Fauci leave the job after Grothman says he gave questionable advice. The House Oversight Committee member also said in January he will be investigating the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and White House for decisions they made during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Dr. Fauci repeatedly and deliberately misled Congress and the American people on natural immunity, the efficacy of masks, and the funding of gain-of-function research by the National Institutes of Health at the Wuhan Lab, all of which warrant an investigation,” Grothman said.
He also said many Americans do not get enough vitamin D and “Dr. Fauci’s refusal to highlight this supplement in the fight against COVID-19 and encourage more research undoubtedly cost lives.”
“Even after he shared that he takes vitamin D supplements, Dr. Fauci never truly devoted his nationwide platform to sharing the benefits of maintaining healthy levels of vitamin D,” Grothman said. “Instead, he almost exclusively made medical recommendations that made pharmaceutical companies exorbitant amounts of money.”
— U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher touted construction of the U.S. Navy’s new Constellation Class frigates at the Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipyard in his Green Bay-area district.
The Allouez Republican in a statement said the move is a sign the future of the Navy is being built in northeast Wisconsin right now. The Navy’s FY 2023 budget calls for a fourth ship of the new class to be procured at an estimated $1.1 billion. Gallagher said the 20 FFG-62 ships expected to come out of his district by the end of the Navy contract will be important for the Navy’s role in southeast Asia.
“The Constellation Class frigate will play a critical role in deterring rising Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific, and advancing American interests around the world,” he said.
— Gallagher says the United States urgently needs to better aid Taiwan to fight off possible attacks from China “before it is too late” as he praises the record increase in Taiwanese defense spending.
The Allouez Republican in a statement touting the southeast Asian nation’s 13.9 percent increase in defense spending said the U.S. should help facilitate that increased spending. The House Armed Services Committee member said America should finance Taiwan’s acquisition of defense weapons, expand joint training and provide security assistance to deter and block invasions from neighboring China. Gallagher over the past few years has warned of the growing threat Chinese military forces pose to Taiwan.
“This significant defense increase is an important signal that Taiwan is committed to defending its democracy,” he said. “It should be laser-focused on asymmetric capabilities that would block a CCP invasion. Now it is time for the US to do our part.”
— U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin this week introduced a bill aiming to increase access to overdose reversal drugs such as naloxone.
The Naloxone Education and Access Act would provide $10 million each year to encourage pharmacists and health care providers to dispense the drugs, fund community distribution programs and training, and to educate the public.
“This legislation is an important step forward to give communities the tools and resources they need to save lives,” Baldwin said.