Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc), a tea party favorite, insulted minimum wage workers at a recent constituent event, saying that "when you’re a good worker you don’t stay at minimum wage for long."
Johnson has a strong record supporting the one percent and opposing jobs-creating programs. He voted against the American Jobs Act. He also proposed a moratorium on all federal regulations until unemployment dropped to 7.7 percent. Most importantly, he was a vocal supporter of Gov. Scott Walker's attack on collective bargaining rights:
Johnson replied that the union measures were actually part of the budget problem so it made sense to have the collective bargaining issue "tied together" with the budget issues. "The whole collective bargaining issue," he said, "was important in terms of bringing fiscal sanity to the state." He reminded us, of course, that it was the state's Democrats that forced the policies to be separated because they fled the state. Johnson said it was "pretty disconcerting" to have Democrats claiming that it was Wisconsin's Republicans that were thwarting democracy. "It's "pretty disconcerting the level of mob rule and thuggery that's occurring in Wisconsin. We're getting word from state senators saying 'this isn't what democracy looks like,' accusing he Republicans of not being democratic, but the fact of the matter is, what doesn't look democratic to me is the mob rule. And the fact that they simply weren't back in Madison doing their job."
The full transcript of Johnson's comments:
Senator Ron Johnson: Bottom line: when you’re a good worker you don’t stay at minimum wage for long. Trust me on that. (Crowd laughs)
It’s not universal. It’s not universal, but trust me as an employer, as an employer I certainly didn’t want to lose good employees. And so you actually have a better marketplace. And so if your employer is not paying you good wages and you’re a good worker, you go look for other places. Now that’s hard to do, that’s hard to do when we have such high levels of unemployment. But again I would get back to we don’t have a very attractive place for business investment.
Tracey Pollock: Senator, have you ever lived off of minimum wage before? Do you have any idea what it’s like for a family to live off of minimum wage.
Johnson: My first…
Pollock: How old were you? You were 15? Did you have children?
Johnson: My first job was for a $1.45 an hour. And again I worked full time. And I think the most number of hours I worked was going to college, was 96 in a week plus taking full workload.
Constituent: How much did college cost when went?
Johnson: It was a lot cheaper
Constituent: And how much was your rent?
Johnson: I was able to live at my parents house. OK?
Pollock: So you actually didn’t have to support yourself off of minimum wage. Is that what you’re saying?
Johnson: No. But I supported myself after I got my education.
Johnson's rise to the Senate has been filled with questionable moments. He defeated Russ Feingold in 2010 by primarily self-financing his own campaign with money that he earned by running a company effectively owned by his wife's father. The company gave him a 'deferred compensation' payout that conveniently covered the amount of money he used to self-finance his election victory. He also received a significant amount of funding from recipients of TARP bailout money while running as an anti-bailout candidate. He so underpays workers at his company that some of them qualify for the state's low-income health care program.