|The rising sun plays with the Di Suvero sculpture |
The Calling in Milwaukee
The overwhelming conclusion: Not really. Here’s the way Scientific American put it last year: “Many climate scientists agree that sunspots and solar wind could be playing a role in climate change, but the vast majority view it as very minimal and attribute Earth’s warming primarily to emissions from industrial activity — and they have thousands of peer-reviewed studies available to back up that claim.”
Yet, in his debates with Feingold, Johnson persists in his convenient belief that sunspots are the global warming culprit, rather than accept the inconvenient truth that, by emitting gasses that trap the sun’s heat, human activity is the actual villain. His persistence suggests a mind hostile to the scientific process – a suggestion reinforced by some of his other political notions.
Take this tax-and-spend thing. Johnson expresses the belief that extending President Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy would spur the economy. Again, not a bad hunch. The more of their dough billionaires keep, the more they can spend to create jobs. Common sense, right? Trouble is, this theory has actually been tested in practice, and with miserable results.
Despite the tax cuts, private-sector job growth was painfully slow during the Bush years and the economy ultimately crashed. And there was this other little thing: The budget surpluses Bush inherited from President Clinton turned into deficits. These pesky facts don’t deter Johnson, though. Note that the Oshkosh businessman is toeing the Republican Party line on taxes – an indication that the preference for theory over contrary facts is party-wide.
Johnson voices the bedrock Republican notion that government regulation is bad. Again, the theory that governmental red tape jams economic gears makes some sense on its face. A business has to take time out from producing goods or services to fill out governmental paperwork and to clear bureaucratic hurdles. But over the last several decades, government has in fact loosened regulations. Two recent calamities – America’s financial meltdown and the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – demonstrate spectacularly what happens when government rules or their enforcement are too lax. Johnson ignores these developments, which fail to back up his theory about the intrinsic evil of regulation.
Johnson set the tone at the start of his senatorial campaign by telling a whopper that has made it into the realm of The Big Lie, a falsehood repeated so many times that it eventually sounds true. The millionaire ran an ad in which he said government doesn’t create jobs – a statement that makes no sense whatever on its face, but that sounds legit nonetheless due to constant repetition on the political right. Were government merely to create a post of paper shuffler, it’s creating a job – real in the sense that the person who holds it gets real money, which would support a family, who would spend the money on goods and services and thereby help keep the economy humming.
Typical government workers do more than shuffle papers, of course. The services they perform boost the economy, providing the law and order that commerce needs to thrive, moving the mail and the parcels on which business depends, schooling the next generation of business leaders and workers, keeping contagious diseases at bay, maintaining licensing systems to help keep automobile traffic orderly, helping shops get back on their feet after natural disasters.
Also, government creates jobs though contracting out services and through economic development initiatives, which, as it turns out, have benefitted Johnson’s plastics firm.
Wisconsin seems on the verge of electing a senator who gives pet theories more weight than facts – specifically, the facts that made lies of the theories during the Bush years.