HomeSocial Security‘Completely Out of Reach’: Ron Johnson’s Social Security and Health Care Threats Put Wisconsin Seniors at Risk – UpNorthNews
‘Completely Out of Reach’: Ron Johnson’s Social Security and Health Care Threats Put Wisconsin Seniors at Risk – UpNorthNews
September 14, 2022
Johnson, who is up for re-election in November, believes Social Security and health care should not be guaranteed and should instead be negotiated each year by Congress, meaning politicians can reduce funding for these programs or eliminate them altogether.
Judy Gatlin has worked hard and paid for Social Security and health care all her life. Like millions of other working-class Wisconsin residents, she did so with the promise that those benefits would be there to ensure her sense of security as she got older.
Now, after more than two decades working in the administrative support department at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Gatlin will receive her first Social Security check in October. But the 62-year-old retiree worries that her benefits and the promise of security she’s long counted on could be taken away by her own elected representative, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson.
Johnson, a Republican, has officially said he believes Social Security and health care should not be guaranteed — as they currently are — and should instead be negotiated each year by Congress.
Johnson, who is running for a third term in November, made his comments during a recent… interview on the Regular Joe Show, hosted by Joe Gigaanti. Speaking of the program, Johnson argued that mandatory programs like Social Security and Medicare should be reformed and fall under “discretionary spending” — meaning Congress could reduce funding for them or eliminate them altogether.
“What is mandatory are things like social security and health care. If you qualify for the right, you just get it no matter the cost,” Johnson said. “It goes on autopilot.”
Johnson claimed his proposal is to “solve problems” and prevent the programs from going bankrupt, but Wisconsinites like Gatlin are outraged by the idea.
Gatlin was able to retire early thanks to her union retirement and now serves as a district representative in Eau Claire County, a part-time, public service position for which she receives a small stipend. But she worries about what would happen to her if Social Security were put on the chopping block every year.
“I earned Social Security. To be earned. How can you be so arrogant to say that?” Gatlin told UpNorthNews in an interview. “It would cut my monthly income by more than half if I didn’t have my Social Security and I needed money for health insurance.”
Gatlin considers Johnson – whose net worth has doubled since entering the Senate, reaching nearly $40 million in 2018 — as a mouthpiece for elite billionaires and millionaires rather than an advocate for ordinary Wisconsinites like herself.
“Ron Johnson is filthy rich. He gave trillions of dollars in tax cuts to people involved [pass-through] companies that make millions and millions of dollars. They don’t know what it’s like to queue at the grocery store,” Gatlin said. “I’m angry. It’s like a slap in the face.”
More than 1.2 million seniors in Wisconsin rely on Social Security and Medicare to ensure their well-being as they age and to help them pay the rising cost of living — and in many cases, keep them out of poverty.
Milwaukee senior Mary Wacker is one of these seniors, and she also criticized Johnson for his proposal to jeopardize the programs.
“He has increased his wealth through some of his legislative decisions, which have been very personal out of self-interest, and he is now proposing policies that destroy important safety nets for working- and middle-class Americans,” Wacker said. “He’s totally out of touch with how our lives work.”
Wacker, a 72-year-old “mostly retired” leadership coach and consultant who is originally from Wauwatosa, said her life would be very different without Social Security and Medicare.
“I rely on Social Security to supplement my income and I’ve also had a number of hip replacements, so Medicare was very important to me,” Wacker said. “If I had to pay for those experiences out of pocket, I would probably be in a wheelchair.”
“We’ve poured our entire working lives into Social Security, and it’s terrifying to say it’s going to be something that’s a political football that is negotiated every year or two by the party in power regarding funding,” he said. Wacker added.
Johnson’s opponent in November, Democrat Mandela Barnes, has also hammered him on the issue.
“Self-serving, multi-millionaire Senator Ron Johnson wants to deprive working people of the social security and health care they deserve. Wisconsin residents pay Social Security through a lifetime of hard work, and they count on this program and Medicare, but Ron Johnson doesn’t care,” Barnes said in a statement last month.
Barnes pledged to protect Medicare and Social Security during a recent interview with Newswatch 12.
“We’re fighting to protect our hard-earned benefits, which our parents and grandparents have paid all their lives,” Barnes said. “We can do that by making sure the richest Americans pay their fair share of the system. We cannot allow social security to be cut.”
Barnes’ stance on the issues has earned him praise from both Gatlin and Wacker.
“I just believe he’s a person of the people,” Gatlin said. “He knows what it’s like to work, he’s just real, he’s not rich. He’s a family man and I’m sure he’s paid to his Social Security as well.
Wacker believes that, unlike Johnson, Barnes whole state and not just wealthier Wisconsinites.
Johnson’s comments on the Regular Joe Show aren’t the first time he’s talked about changes that could threaten Social Security and Medicare.
In the spring, Johnson said Florida Senator Rick Scott’s plan is to require a new authorization of every federal law every five years, including those for Medicare and Social Security.positive thing.”
Johnson has also previously referred to Social Security as a “ponzi scheme” and recently expressed support for an “innovative” idea to “locate” seniors out of retirement and back to work to fill staff shortages.
Wacker dismissed the idea, saying it further shows how disconnected Johnson is.
“The idea of fixing our system by removing the social safety net and then encouraging it” [seniors] to go out again and make that money again by working is really out of the way again,” she said. “It’s punitive and for a lot of people it would be the only option, which is horrible.”
During his interview with Gigaanti, Johnson said that “as long as things go on autopilot, we just keep piling up debt and pledging our children’s future, it’s this massive debt load.”
Johnson tried to blame the national debt on Democrats for spending too much, even as he himself helped push through the 2017 tax cut that disproportionately benefited corporations and billionaires and increased the federal deficit by nearly $2 trillion. That tax cut also particularly benefited three of Johnson’s donors, who are now spending more than $10 million to get him re-elected.
Both Gatlin and Wacker are looking forward to November when they plan to fight back against Johnson’s plans by casting their vote against him.
“We really need another senator,” Wacker said.
Gatlin wants to choose a civil servant who lifts people up instead of driving them into poverty.
“Social Security is one of the greatest programs that has ever happened,” she said. “We need to work to make it stronger for working people, so people can survive, so people can retire with dignity and have a certain quality of life.”