Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:32 pm
This contest should have been billed “big government vs. the free market.”
In one corner, we have the incumbent, Russ Feingold, a career politician with no private sector experience who thinks that government is the solution to every economic ill, real or imagined.
In the other corner is Tim Michels, a citizen politician (the kind envisioned by the founding fathers) and small businessman who developed his foundation in the private sector atmosphere of rugged self-reliance and competition.
To me the choice is clear. I will take the citizen politician with some real-life practical experience any day over someone who thinks your life would be better if only government had a greater role.
Issue #1 – Start with something as basic as private property. Tim Michels favors the total repeal of the death tax. Russ Feingold does not. Sure, Feingold will say he favors the repeal under certain circumstances (family farms, estates valued under $1 million, etc.) but this is one of those absolute issues. Either you respect the right of private property or you do not.
Russ Feingold believes the government should decide who and how much of an individual’s estate can be transferred tax-free, and Tim Michels believes in the fundamental right of an individual to transfer their personal property at death without penalty.
This issue affects all small businesses. History is replete with stories of companies that had to be sold or saddled with debt just to pay the death tax. The amount of money spent employing estate planners to avoid or reduce the pernicious death tax could certainly be spent more productively.
Issue #2 – Taxes. Russ Feingold either doesn’t know, or more likely doesn’t care, that most privately held companies are taxed at the individual level. Tim Michels knows because his family company is structured as a subchapter-S corporation. All profits flow to the individual stockholders, and they are responsible for paying the tax on the income.
Russ Feingold, in the name of fiscal responsibility, wants to return the top tax rate on individuals to 39 percent. Tim Michels has pledged to vote against any tax increase. When you hear Russ Feingold say he only wants to increase the tax on the top 1 percent of income earners, remember this: the top 1 percent already pay over 34 percent of the total income taxes and over two-thirds of the top 1 percent are individuals with flow-through income from sole proprietorships, partnerships or subchapter-S corporations, i.e. small businesses.
Russ Feingold wants to raise taxes on small businesses. Tim Michels does not.
Issue # 3 – Tort Reform. Russ Feingold wants American businesses to have a “level playing field” when competing against foreign competition. Sounds good, Russ, so let’s start with the trial lawyers and the burden they place on businesses. Health care costs are rising at double-digit rates. It is estimated that doctors practice $50 billion worth of defensive medicine every year.
These costs, along with the cost of malpractice insurance, are passed on to small businesses through higher premiums for health insurance. The simple fact is Russ Feingold will never vote for meaningful tort reform and Tim Michels will. Tim Michels understands the cost of health insurance and the burden it places on employers and employees. He has written the checks. Russ only talks about costs.
The contrast between Tim Michels and Russ Feingold is stark. It is important to step back from the fog of the campaign and look at the basic tenets of the candidates.
In Russ Feingold, you have a slick professional politician. His reelection Web site reads like the menu at Denny’s-something for everyone with lots of grants and government initiatives to spur economic progress and job growth. Feingold’s basic tenet is his belief that big government is the solution to every economic and social malady. He does not trust the private market.
Tim Michels approaches problems and solutions from an entirely different perspective. He is a product of the private sector. He understands that when governments offer grants and programs to certain groups it must first take the money from some other group. He believes in private enterprise and a non-intrusive government.
If you think more government and high taxes are the keys to economic success, then vote for Russ. However, if you, like I, believe that all our government needs to do to ensure our economic success in the world is to get out of the way, then Michels is your man.
Michael J. Fredrich is president of Manitowoc Custom Molding, LLC in Manitowoc.