Sen. Johnson's speech to CPAC

2011-02-11T12:22:00Z 2011-02-21T11:02:07Z Sen. Johnson's speech to CPAC Journal Times

Thank you Jim, for that kind introduction. I would also like to thank CPAC, not only for inviting me to speak here this morning, but for all you have done over the years to promote conservative principles and ideas. In order for us to succeed in pulling this country back from the brink, and reversing the damage that has been, and will be, caused by the liberal agenda, we will need to effectively communicate our message. We need to persuade and we need to win the argument. In the end, conservatives must stand united. Your activism and your involvement is crucial to this process.

Now I realize many (if not most of you) had no idea who I was prior to November 2nd...or even 5 minutes ago for that matter.

Since winning the election, I am frequently asked two questions: First: "How did that happen?" And second: "what made you decide to run?" After all, I had never sought or held any public office. I had no political aspirations. This is not my life's ambition ... not by a long shot. So let me try to explain.

Back in October of 2009, I was asked to speak at a Tea Party in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. As a businessman who had been running a manufacturing plant for the last 31 years, the organizers asked me to talk about the negative impact that government regulation had on business. I told them I would be happy to speak, but as important as the topic of government overregulation is, that wasn't what I wanted to talk about.

If you remember back then, we were in the middle of the debate over health care. In order to help get this monstrosity passed, the liberals were beginning to demagogue and demonize doctors. President Obama even went so far as to suggest that some doctors would unnecessarily take out a set of tonsils for a few extra bucks. They had crossed a line. I felt compelled to speak out

So I gave a speech defending the producers of America, particularly doctors. In the speech, I told the story of our first child, our daughter, Carey.

Carey was born with a very serious congenital heart defect called Transposition of the Great Arteries. Her Aorta and Pulmonary Artery were reversed. Only a very small hole in the upper chamber of her heart allowed any oxygen to flow to the rest of her body. Without immediate intervention, she would not have survived.

So she was rushed to Milwaukee Children's Hospital, where a wonderful man, Dr. John Thomas, was called into the hospital at 1:00 am in the morning to perform a procedure to keep her alive until she was old enough for corrective surgery. You'll notice, he came in at 1:00 am, that's what doctors do. They don't just work 9-5, they come in at any time, day or night, to save a life.

Eight months later, when her heart of the size of a small plum, another wonderful man, Dr. John Foker totally reconstructed the upper chamber of her heart. Just take a moment to think about the skill and dedicated training that required.

The day of the surgery, we arrived at the hospital at 6:00 am. Dr. Foker was already there. The surgery lasted more than 7 hours. When we left the hospital at 6:00 that evening, Dr. Foker was still there. According to Carey's nurses, he called in repeatedly that night, once at 3:00 o'clock in the morning just to check her progress. He was back in the hospital at 6:00 am the following morning to perform rounds and prepare for another lifesaving surgery.

You can see why I took such offense to the demagoguery...our daughter was saved by a group of medical professionals that were now targets of a coordinated liberal attack.

That was 27 years ago. Carey's heart now operates backwards, but she has led a perfectly normal life ever since. She was inspired by her doctors, and became a nurse herself in a neo natal intensive care unit and is studying to become a nurse practitioner. Now she is taking care of little babies, and providing inspiration and comfort to other parents like Jane and me.

This is a powerful example of the types of individuals that have made America great: doctors dedicating their lives to saving other lives. Instead of recognizing this, liberals were once again waging class warfare in order to pass a bill that would create greater dependency and increase their power over the rest of us.

It's a shame anyone would pit one group of Americans against another. Instead, we should encourage and incentivize all Americans to achieve their maximum potential. That's what propels an economy forward. It's a key ingredient to our nation's success.

Days and weeks after that speech, folks would come up to me, say they enjoyed it, and ask me: "Why don't you run for office?" My reply was pretty consistent: "I'm not that crazy."

But then, on Christmas Eve, in the middle of the night, in a tawdry display of backroom deals, and with a total disregard for the wishes of a majority of Americans, they passed Obamacare. I couldn't believe it.

I viewed the passage of this bill as the single greatest assault on our freedom in my lifetime. It is absolutely designed to lead to a government takeover of our entire health care system...1/6 of our economy. Does anyone here actually think that the federal government has any capability of doing this? (I didn't think so).

We don't have to theorize what the results will be. We can look to Britain and Canada. Obamacare will lead to rationing. It will lower the quality of care. And it will discourage the medical innovation we have come to expect in this country - the type of innovation that saved Carey's life, and the lives of millions of others around the world. By and large, it is America where medical miracles are created, and I knew those future miracles and the finest health care system in the world was at stake.

So I started to talk to people. By the end of April, I discovered that, in fact, I was that crazy. I stepped up to the plate and began my campaign to become a citizen legislator.

From the moment I decided to run for the U.S. Senate, I knew what I wanted my campaign to be about: freedom. The struggle for freedom continues. Fortunately, it will never end. Unfortunately, it will always be a struggle.

As we watch events unfold around the world, in Egypt and the Middle East; in China and North Korea; Russia and the breakaway Republics; in Cuba and Venezuela; in Somalia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, we see the yearning of people to be free. It should instill in all of us a greater appreciation for what we have, and for the idea and promise of America.

We are also witnessing the results of a variety of governmental systems. From ruthless dictatorships to free democracies and everything in between, we can see what has worked and what hasn't.

It doesn't take long to notice that the level of freedom in a country correlates very closely with that country's level of economic success and prosperity. And the amount of freedom allowed, correlates closely to the size, scope, and cost of government. The basic formula for success is clear. We must heed the lessons of history.

I'm 55 years old, I grew up in an America that valued hard work, that celebrated success. Remember that? Remember when we used to tell our kids to look up to doctors and other successful people, emulate them, study hard, work hard. This is America, you can be anything you want to be. There are no limits. Now, some are demonizing success.

What I have sadly witnessed over the course of my lifetime is a slow but steady drift, and I would argue over the last two years, a lurch, toward a culture of entitlement and dependency. This is not an America I recognize. It is not an America that will work.

I have a keen appreciation - I think everyone in this room has a keen appreciation - that over the span of human history, this 234 year old experiment we call America is something incredibly is exceptional...and it is being squandered. So if there is just one little phrase that explains why I decided to run for the US Senate, it is simply this: I fear we are losing America. I don't think I'm being overly dramatic, I don't think I'm overstating the case.

For decades we have been trading bits and pieces of our freedom for the false promise of economic security. And now the bill is coming due. Liberals have done an excellent job of convincing generations of Americans that they are entitled to benefits and that someone else will pick up the tab. The result has been devastating to our culture and to our society.

According to the Heritage Foundation, we have spent nearly $16 trillion on the War on Poverty, and yet poverty rates have not declined. Instead, our welfare system has created incentives that have caused out of wedlock birth rates to skyrocket. Our culture has coarsened, social pathologies have become common place, and our nation is rapidly heading toward bankruptcy.

The liberal solution is to spend more and tax more. They want more government, and they are certainly willing to sacrifice our freedom in their quest for more power over our lives. We simply can't afford this approach any longer.

Over the next couple of days, I'm sure you'll be hearing a lot of doomsday numbers. Pay attention, we need everyone to understand how urgent the problem is. As an accountant, I like to zero in on the most eye-popping figures that really tell the story.

Now I certainly wasn't happy when Republicans were spending 2, 3, and $400 billion more than we were taking in. But now over the last three years we've experienced $1.4, $1.3, and $1.5 trillion dollar deficits, and our nation's debt exceeds $14 trillion. That's about the size of the entire U.S. economy.

The Congressional Budget Office's latest projection shows us adding another $12 trillion to our debt over the next ten years (and that's assuming a rather rosy scenario). This is simply not sustainable. But of all the numbers I have seen, the two that really make the point, come from the U.S. Debt clock.

This website reports that our total unfunded liability, the amount we need today to cover our nation's future obligations is $112 trillion. It also reports that the entire asset base of the US (that includes Household, Corporate, and Small Business Assets) is $73 trillion. Let me repeat: $112 trillion of liabilities versus $73 trillion of assets. In other words, the amount that politicians have obligated our nation to spend exceeds total US assets by $39 trillion. That's a problem. That's a huge problem. It's also the definition of insolvency, of being bankrupt.


So how do we get out of this mess? As a manufacturer, I realize the first step in solving any problem is to identify the root cause. To me, a sluggish economy, high unemployment, anemic job creation, and huge deficits are severe symptoms of the problem, they are not the root cause. The ever-expanding size, scope and cost of government is. Not only does unrestrained government cost too much, it also intrudes into virtually every aspect of our lives...often with very negative consequences.

One very large example of this is provided by the Small Business Administration. The SBA has estimated that government regulation cost our economy $1.7 trillion just last year. This is a staggering amount of money (it is more than 10% of GDP), and it is money that is not available for consumption, business investment, or job creation.

The EPA in particular, is out of control. Not only do they want to starve our economy of energy by controlling carbon emissions, but now they want farmers to control dust from blowing off their farms (they call it fugitive dust...I am not making this up). And because milk contains animal oils, EPA wants to treat a milk spill like a toxic chemical spill, by requiring dairies to have emergency response and containment plans. This type of regulatory overreach will be incredibly harmful to economic growth and job creation.

So if the size, scope, and cost of government is the root cause, the solution is pretty obvious. Not easy, but obvious. We need to return to our Founding Fathers' vision of limited government: we need to start reducing its powers and dismantling its harmful effects. Most importantly, we need strong economic growth. There really are two components to the solution. A credible plan for spending restraint, and increasing revenue the old fashioned growing our economy (not raising rates). So how do we get our economy growing again?

If I could wave a magic wand, I would wipe the entire Obama agenda off the table and start from scratch. It's hard to overstate the uncertainty that has been injected into the economy by Obamacare, unprecedented deficit spending, and the failure to adequately address the financial crisis. My objective in running was not only to stop the Obama agenda, but to reverse it. Not for partisan political gain, but because of the damage it is causing to our economy and to our nation.

There is a great deal of money just sitting on the sidelines because there is no confidence on the part of consumers or businesses that government can be controlled. If we are able to produce a credible plan that demonstrates we are serious, it will help remove the uncertainty caused by the Obama agenda. As uncertainty recedes, economic activity will increase. The question is, do we have the political will and leadership to reverse course and start moving in the right direction?

I really wish I could stand up here and tell you that everything will be O.K. But I can't. From what I can tell, there are still politicians here in Washington that remain in a state of denial. I'm also afraid that too many Americans are willing to keep their heads in the sand and refuse to face the reality of the situation. Most people say they want to reduce the deficit and balance the budget, but too few will be ready to embrace the necessary solutions.

I am willing to work with anyone who is serious about addressing this financial crisis. I have also repeatedly guaranteed that I will never vote with my election in mind. That's not why I came here. I came to Washington to be an ally of those individuals that have the courage to propose and vote for real solutions. Solutions based on facts and figures, not political calculation.



Now that I'm here, I can see we need more allies. We need more citizen legislators who understand the gravity of the moment, and are willing to put their lives on hold to join this fight. People who share our reverence for the genius of our Founding Fathers, what they gave us, and what they hoped we would preserve. People who understand the wonder and power of freedom and the free market system. People who comprehend and fear the danger of an ever-expanding government. I stand ready to help anyone that is willing to answer this call.

I know it sounds dire, and we should be gravely concerned...but in America, there is always reason to hope.

When Ronald Reagan entered office, we had 7.5% unemployment, interest rates had topped 21%, and inflation stood at 13.5%. His principled policies ushered in two decades of peace and prosperity. We can learn much from his example. Working with a Democratic Congress, he enacted real tax reform and with a top tax rate of 28%, for a brief period of time, we were actually 72% free.

Ronald Reagan understood that a love of freedom is at the heart of America. It was true when this nation was founded, and it is true today. As he reminded us, freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We must remain vigilant.

We have all witnessed the finest among us, step up to the plate, travel half-way around world to defend, not only our freedom, but also the freedom of people whose culture and religion had given rise to our enemies. Their sacrifice and the sacrifice of their loved ones is awe inspiring.

These fine men and women are proof that the American spirit is alive. It may not be doing well in some quarters, it may be under attack, it may be imperiled. But it is alive. And it is our duty to make sure it not only survives for future generations, but that it thrives.

We are engaged in a fight for our fundamental freedom. It is not someone else's fight, this is our fight. And it is a fight that we absolutely must win.

So may God Bless our efforts, and may God continue to bless the Greatest Nation in the History of Mankind, America. Thank you


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