Wisconsin Republican Senate hopeful Ron Johnson had a deer-in-headlights moment in a recent interview with the Green Bay Press Gazette.
Asked to explain his jobs plan, Johnson banged away at the GOP mantra: cutting spending, regulation, etc. That didn’t satisfy the editors.
“There’s no real jobs plan?” one interviewer asked.
“I would say bring fiscal discipline to the federal government,” Johnson replied. “We’ve got to curb spending.”
That didn’t satisfy his interviewers.
“So your jobs plan is to control spending. But what about the middle class?” the editor responded. “I mean, I hear you talking a lot about business, businesses. But I mean, what is your plan for the middle class?”
“We have to get the economy moving,” Johnson said, frozen.
“Isn’t that pretty simple though what you’re saying is just, you know, elect me, to go there and cut spending and everything will take care of itself.”
You can watch this section of the interview below. Streaming footage of the entire interview is available here. After the above exchange, Johnson made a historically flawed comparison between Ronald Reagan’s approach to the economic downturn in 1981-1982 and President Obama’s approach to the crisis he faced.
As Paul Krugman and others have explained, the Reagan-era recession was a different species than the one Obama faced. It was induced by the Fed, which jacked interest rates to bring down inflation. Home construction took a nosedive, driving the recession. Once the Fed cut rates again, the recovery began. In other words, Reagan’s ideas about economic policy had nothing to do with it.
The current slump was the result of a housing collapse and financial crisis, which created a giant demand gap. And you can’t cut interest rates that are already hovering near zero.
Recent polls indicate that Johnson’s opponent, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) has closed the multiple point gap Johnson once enjoyed. But the TPM Poll Average gives Johnson a 51.7-44.4 lead.
Late update: Aaaand just like that, the Press-Gazette endorses Feingold, citing Johnson’s “inability” to articulate plan to help the middle class.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.