Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate Race and Social Security

On Social Security the contrast between Wisconsin’s two candidates for the U.S. Senate could not be greater. Russ Feingold (D) and Ron Johnson (R) are polar opposites on what should be done with this highly successful and popular program.

Senator Ron Johnson has said Social Security is a “ponzi scheme.” Johnson, along with many reactionary Republicans, want to make Social Security voluntary and allow younger workers to invest their Social Security contributions in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. The article “Attacks on Social Security Continue in Wisconsin” addresses his remarks and the likely impact of his agenda on the financial security of all of us.

Since writing the article, I attended a “listening” event with former Senator Russ Feingold. He was at the Superior Senior Center Monday, July 11th to talk about Social Security and Medicare. It was a very informal event with Russ sitting down with about 30 people to listen to their concerns and respond to questions. The following is a summary of Russ’ remarks.

Russ listening to seniors

Russ began by emphasizing his desire to protect and expand Social Security. He said many seniors around Wisconsin are having financial difficulties. Cuts to Social Security would only make things worse for them. Many seniors rely heavily on Social Security for income. Inflation, increased medical cost, the high cost of drugs, and the 2008 stock market crash have all contributed to the problems.

Russ said he has three areas of disagreement with Johnson on Social Security and Medicare.


Social Security benefits should not be cut. He advocates for increasing benefits. Russ believes Social Security must remain a “public program” and should not be privatized. Johnson has supported legislation that included cuts to some Social Security benefits and would have raised the retirement age.

Medicare should also remain a public program. Russ opposes individual vouchers to buy your own Medicare coverage. Johnson supports converting to a voucher system.

Russ said controlling prescription drug costs is essential to seniors. Russ believes the best way to do this is to overturn the Republican imposed ban on negotiating drug prices. If the Federal government could negotiate prices with the big pharmaceutical companies “we could save $123 billion a year.” Johnson has consistently advocated “free market” solutions to all health care issues.

In responding to questions Russ remarked that drug cost savings could be found in reduced drug company advertising. The drug companies pay more for advertising than for new drug research and development. He also believes medical costs could be reduced by paying medical providers for “total care” rather than on a fee for service basis.

Russ has in the past been a strong supporter of a “single payer” national healthcare program. Responding to a question on the Affordable Care Act, he said working to improve on the gains from “Obamacare” were the best way to improve and expand health insurance coverage. Due to opposition from Republicans, advocating for single payer is not likely to succeed. Johnson has opposed the Affordable Care Act and stated that government health insurance is an assault on individual liberty.

Courtesy of Russ for Wisconsin

When it comes to Social Security, Medicare, and the Affordable Care Act it is crystal clear which candidate supports these programs and which one does not. Which agenda prevails in the legislative process could have a profound impact on your future financial security. It could have a profound impact on all of us and on Wisconsin’s economy.

If you think voting doesn’t matter…think again.