Tea Party Senator: Government Subsidies Are Communism (Unless They Make Me Rich)

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson — a Tea Party favorite who serves as a prominent surrogate for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign — raised eyebrows on Tuesday morning when he said on CNN’s “Starting Point” that investing in green energy makes America just like the Soviet Union.

“President Obama simply doesn’t understand that it’s the free enterprise systems, the private sector, the productive sector, not the government sector that creates long-term self-sustaining jobs,” Johnson told host Soledad O’Brien. “Take a look at the Soviet Union, Venezuela’s economic basket case, and is anybody moving to the island paradise of Cuba?”

“You’re surely not suggesting that the idea and the concept behind Solyndra and other green energies like Solyndra is comparable to the Soviet Union and Cuba, right?” O’Brien asked incredulously.

Johnson replied in the affirmative.

No, I am suggesting that, because when you take taxpayer money and you invest that into businesses, that’s the taxpayer money put at risk. And let’s face it, the lesson of the Soviet Union and other socialist nations is that governments are very poor allocators of capital. It’s an economic model that doesn’t work.

Aside from the obvious absurdity of claiming that investing in green energy will transform American into the country that brought us the Chernobyl disaster, Johnson ignores the fact that his candidate also invested state money in solar companies while he was governor of Massachusetts.

“Didn’t it work in Massachusetts?” O’Brien asked. “Isn’t that exactly what Governor Romney did in Massachusetts in green energy when he was the governor of Massachusetts?”

“Listen, the path we need to take this country on is with free enterprise system, the private sector that creates long term self-sustaining jobs and that’s exactly what Governor Romney would do as President Romney,” Johnson non-answered.

Video of the exchange is below, via Think Progress

Although Johnson claims that subsidizing green businesses is akin to communism, he had no problem voting to preserve multi-billion dollar tax subsidies for the oil industry. Of course, his support for Big Oil is hardly a surprise; Johnson owned up to $466,000 of stock in various oil companies when he ran for Senate, and donors from the oil industry have contributed $113,950 to him in the last six years.

Johnson also presumably wasn’t thinking of the Soviet Union when his own company, a plastics manufacturer called Pacur, received a $2.5 million loan from the city of Oshkosh — in the form of a government bond that charged below-market interest rates.

Apparently Johnson only thinks that government subsidies are communism if he’s not getting rich off of them.


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