After Backing Tax Breaks For Big Oil, Sen. Johnson Tells Poor Kids To Tighten Belts

July 05, 2011 1:42 pm ET — Jamison Foser

Sen. Ron Johnson

This weekend's profile of freshman Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contains one of the clearest examples of Republican callousness you'll see all summer:

When a group from the Ho-Chunk Nation in Wisconsin came to the senator's office last month to discuss children's health programs, Johnson repeatedly steered the conversation back to belt-tightening, politely informing his guests that his "first task is to save our nation from bankruptcy," even though "people on my side of the aisle . . . get slaughtered" for trying to rein in spending.

Native Americans are among the nation's poorest demographic groups, and in dire need of improved health care. American Indian children are "at least twice as likely as white (8%), black (7%), or Asian (8%) children to be uninsured for health care," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. American Indian and Alaska Native adults, too, suffer from poor health: "in general compared with other groups, AIAN adults are more likely to have poorer health, unmet medical needs due to cost, diabetes, trouble hearing, activity limitations, and to have experienced feelings of psychological distress in the past 30 days. The AIAN adults are more likely to be current smokers and current drinkers compared with other adults."

But Sen. Johnson, a wealthy businessman who spent $9 million of his own money getting elected to the Senate — then had his plastics company pay him $10 million on his way out the door — thinks poor, sick children should tighten their belts for the greater good.

Yet when it comes to those with a bit more to offer — to both taxpayers and his campaign coffers — Johnson isn't so quick to call for sacrifice. In May, Johnson voted against closing tax loopholes that benefit the nation's biggest oil companies. The big five oil companies rake in about $90 billion in profits (profits, not revenues) each year, and Ron Johnson — who thinks sick and poor children should tighten their belts — voted to keep giving them billions of dollars in tax breaks each year.

Of course, sick children weren't the top contributor to Johnson's campaign. That was Koch Industries, the oil and gas giant that ranks as the second-largest private corporation in America.