ICYMI: The Wisconsin Examiner: Ron Johnson’s tax rebellion – Pushing austerity for the majority while reaping the benefits of his own tax loophole

Apr 14, 2022


April 14, 2022

Contact: Philip Shulman(

ICYMI: The Wisconsin Examiner: Ron Johnson’s tax rebellion – Pushing austerity for the majority while reaping the benefits of his own tax loophole

MADISON, Wis. – A new column in the Wisconsin Examiner breaks down Ron Johnson’s history of fighting to lower taxes for himself and the ultra-wealthy while trying to make working Wisconsinites pick up the tab. 

Key Points:

The Wisconsin Examiner: Ron Johnson’s tax rebellion

Pushing austerity for the majority while reaping the benefits of his own tax loophole

  • Wisconsin’s senior U.S. senator paid only $2,015 in state income tax in 2017, despite earning more than $450,000 that year. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Dan Bice, who first reported on Johnson’s teeny-weeny tax bill, pointed out that the multimillionaire’s 2017 Wisconsin tax payment was two dollars less than what a married couple filing jointly paid on a taxable income of $40,000. 
  • Johnson also recently confirmed that he personally benefited from the change in the tax code that he pushed through in 2017. Johnson cast the deciding vote for President Donald Trump’s tax code rewrite giving corporations tax cuts worth $1.4 billion — but only after he arm-twisted Trump and Congress into including special benefits for so-called “pass-through” corporations — companies like his own PACUR plastics firm — whose profits are distributed to their owners. 
  • A few months later, Johnson began the process of selling his company, reaping the benefits of the tax law change, which increased the value of pass-through companies and made him more money on the sale.
  • Johnson won’t say how much money Trump’s “big, beautiful tax cut,” was worth to him personally… when it comes to the pass-through clause Johnson personally shoehorned in, an analysis by Pro Publica of confidential tax records “reveal[s] that Johnson’s last-minute maneuver benefited two families more than almost any others in the country — both worth billions and both among the senator’s biggest donors.” Those two families are Liz and Dick Uihlien of Pleasant Prairie and Beloit billionaire Diane Hendricks, who donated a combined $20 million to groups backing Johnson’s 2016 re-election campaign. Between them, according to Pro Publica, they netted $215 million in deductions in 2018 alone thanks to Johnson’s tax stand.
  • Johnson makes no bones about whose interests he represents in the U.S. Senate. He voted against federal pandemic relief, wrote a letter asking Gov. Tony Evers to cut unemployment benefits on the grounds they make people too lazy to work, embraced outsourcing of good, union jobs from his hometown in Oshkosh —  saying “It’s not like we don’t have enough jobs here in Wisconsin” — and opposed the 2021 child tax credit for couples who made $150,000 or less and which the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimated would benefit 1.2 million children in Wisconsin. 
  • “In general,” Johnson explained in relation to anti-child tax credit position, “I don’t like to use the tax code for either economic or social engineering.” But Johnson is willing to do plenty of reverse engineering when it comes to lightening the tax burden on the rich and increasing taxes on the less wealthy.
  • In a Fox News interview he took a stand against progressive taxation, calling tax brackets that allow people with less money to pay less in taxes “absurd.” He endorsed “most of” a controversial 11-point plan by Rick Scott, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, that would raise taxes on the bottom half of Americans and open the door for cuts in Social Security and Medicare, calling it “a positive thing.” The poorest one-fifth of Americans would pay 34% of the total tax increase under the proposal, through an average tax hike of about $1,000, according to an analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, which also estimates that 32% of Wisconsinites would see their taxes go up under the proposal.
  • Johnson, an advocate of trickle-down economics, responded to that criticism last Friday in Medford, Wisconsin, by saying, “Now, did my business benefit? Sure. Did some of my donors’ businesses? Sure. When you give tax relief to everybody, everybody benefits.” But serious analysis of the 2017 tax cut shows just the opposite.
  • As Chye-Ching Huang of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities explained  in February 2019 testimony to Congress, the 2017 tax law Johnson helped craft exacerbated inequality, weakened revenue and encouraged “rampant tax avoidance and gaming.”
  • It also, contrary to the fiscally conservative posturing of Johnson and his fellow Republicans, blew a nearly $2 trillion hole in the deficit. Their answer is to raise taxes on people who can afford it least, while proposing to cut essential services for most people.
  • No wonder Johnson would rather sell you snake oil than talk about his most significant legislative achievement — making the rich more comfortable and sticking it to workers by making the tax code less fair.

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