An Open Letter to Ron Johnson (R-WI)

Sen. Johnson,

I wish to express my frustration and outrage at your vote of “nay” during yesterday’s Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 1723. This measure would have (according to the Wall Street Journal) imposed a 0.5% surcharge on incomes over $1 million, in order to retain or rehire teachers and first responders.

As you know, our nation’s economy is in a perilous state. The wealthiest Americans can best afford to make a small sacrifice to help the rest of us keep our footing, or get back on our feet, as the case may be. I know you are a strong believer in private-sector job growth, but from one public-sector employee to another, I urge you to reconsider the importance of the work we both do.

I am a teacher, and I can tell you that the esprit de corps of our state’s schools has never been lower during the decade I have spent in it. Right now we need visionary leaders who will resist the ephemeral and fleeting winds of televised punditry, and take a stand for the greatest good of our nation. Sadly, your vote yesterday achieved the opposite result.

Those funds — and others like them on which you will surely be voting in the coming weeks — are needed not only for struggling families in Wisconsin and elsewhere, but also for the health of our economy as a whole. Private-sector businesses require many things to expand, but more than anything they need demand. A business will not add workers to its payroll if there is no demand for its products or services, right? The $35 billion in public funds you voted against could have been a powerful boost to local economies, spurring demand and creating the climate which allows private-sector employment to expand. So even by the measurements of a narrow free-market fundamentalist view of our economy, your vote yesterday was a mistake, don’t you think?

I encourage you to revisit your thinking on these matters. Please resist the rabid influence of Grover Norquist and other narrow-minded ideologues who put an abstracted and unrealistic premium on stagnant tax rates. Instead, consider the health of our nation’s economy from multiple perspectives, and cast future votes with an eye toward economic justice, wisely targeted government spending, and support for those who need it most. (Hint: Those making over $1 million are not included in that group.)

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter. I look forward to hearing from you.

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