Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:32 pm
Russ Feingold is the genuine article. He thinks for himself. He works with all people in the state. He is approachable. And he is a tightfisted penny pincher.
Labels don’t fit him. He does not walk lock step with his party. On social issues, such as choice, civil liberties and public schools, he is a progressive.
On specific economic issues, the ones that concern us as businesspeople, he has opposed his party’s leadership. He voted against NAFTA as well as the General Agreement of Tariffs and Trade. He voted against most favored nation trading status with the Peoples Republic of China. Save American Manufacturing Now (SAMnow), a business group, endorsed him.
To quote Fritz Reich, president of Reich Tool & Die in Menomonee Falls, "This is the first time in my life I’ve supported a Democrat. Feingold is the candidate most willing to level the manufacturing playing field with China and other countries taking our jobs."
Labels don’t matter. Feingold is attacked as being lax on taxes. Yet the Concord Coalition, a non-partisan watchdog group on taxes, applauded him as a "Deficit Hawk." Taxpayers for Common Sense called him a "Taxpayer Hero."
Pay as you go. Have a balanced budget. Get value for what you spend. That is his creed.
He introduced legislation to protect Social Security. He tried to get Congress to use fiscal responsibility to balance the budget and not hide the deficit by taking money from the Social Security Trust Fund.
No one likes taxes, but most of us want a vibrant economy. Then we have the higher income on which we have to pay. That makes sense.
Few of us believe that a deficit that our kids and grandchildren will pay off is good for business or our families in the long term. That is what being a deficit hawk is.
With Feingold, you don’t have to pay to play. During the Republican Primary, I found amusing the "discussion" that Russ Darrow and Tim Michels made contributions to Feingold. Certainly Feingold didn’t ask for any money. Darrow and Michels just felt that it was expected and that this is how you get access to a politician.
How sad. To get "access" to Feingold, all you need to do is to attend his "listening sessions." He does 72 a year, one in each of Wisconsin’s counties. Show up. Talk with him. He’ll listen. If he thinks you have a point, he’ll work with you. Feingold is like Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett or Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner. They want to help you if you can make a case.
I chair several cable and telecommunications commissions and have worked with Feingold and his office. My experiences have been positive.
One of our biggest business challenges today are soaring health care costs. Feingold has tried to get our fair share from the national Medicare system. One major reason why Wisconsin’s costs are higher per capita than Florida or Arizona is that our state is not getting our fair share.
Health care costs are difficult to control, and it makes us less competitive in the marketplace. But we need a real fix, not just gimmicks.
Feingold was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act. This legislation was rushed through. Few legislators read it before they voted on it. Another one of our representatives, Congressman Sensenbrenner, insisted that a "sunset provision" be added so that the law would need to be voted on again in five years. It took courage to do what both men did. This is what we want from our legislators. We do not want our representatives to jump lemming-like off a cliff or follow either party blindly.
When Russ Feingold gives his word, he sticks to it. He follows through. You might not like how he votes, but he explains his reasons in depth.
He works cooperatively with the other side. He has worked with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Orin Hatch (R-Utah). He and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) labored to reduce the direct influence of money on elected officials.
Feingold wants clean, efficient government. He thinks for himself. He is approachable. He is honest.
He is the genuine article.
Bob Chernow is a local businessman. He is a former River Hills trustee, the current chairman of the North Shore Cable Commission and Regional Telecommunications Commission and serves as a member of several foundations and commissions.