Wisconsin is front and center in this year’s presidential election, but the state’s U.S. Senate race is just as pivotal. Incumbent Republican Senator Ron Johnson is up against Russ Feingold, in a race that could determine whether Democrats get control of the senate. And when it comes to the issues, Senator Johnson and Russ couldn’t be farther apart.
To put it simply, Senator Johnson is out of touch with Wisconsin. Though he is supposed to represent a state with a proud history of progressive senators, Ron Johnson has cast his lot with the likes of the Koch Brothers and Ted Cruz. And rather than listening and voting for the people of Wisconsin, Senator Johnson’s vote often goes to the highest bidder. On few issues is this more obvious than on college affordability, where Senator Johnson continues to stand against the interests of students.
On student loans, an issue that strikes close to home for thousands of Panther students, Senator Johnson has worked to stonewall any reform. He opposes legislation that would allow students to refinance their student loans – like you can for mortgages or car payments – which would save students thousands of dollars. He’s even called student loans “free money.” Tell that to the average Wisconsin student who in 2014 graduated with $28,000 in debt.
Sadly, Senator Johnson’s “free money” comment is just the tip of the iceberg. He recently suggested replacing college professors with documentaries, questioning why there should be teachers when the students could just watch a video. An outlandish idea that reminded Wisconsinites how out of touch Senator Johnson is with students and teachers alike. You’re much more likely to find Senator Johnson roaming the halls of cable network buildings than listening to students in college classrooms. Think about it — when’s the last time Senator Johnson visited UWM?
Higher education should be an option for anyone who is willing to work for it. But if Senator Johnson had his way, only those who are born into wealthy families would be able to attend college. Washington Republicans like Senator Johnson are working overtime to keep college financially out of reach for the middle and working families of Wisconsin. Johnson opposes even the idea of federal student loans. But that makes sense. Senator Johnson’s campaign isn’t financed by students, teachers, or the people giving whatever they can. He’s backed the Wall Street billionaires who couldn’t care less if kids are burdened with high-interest rates. Those are the voices Senator listens to, not Wisconsin’s students.
There’s too much at stake in this election to send Ron Johnson back to Washington. I am proud to say I’ll vote for Russ Feingold in November, and I would urge every student in Wisconsin to do the same. Russ is the real deal. He’s a proven leader who supports plans for debt free college so that all who are willing to work hard can afford a quality education.
*This piece was submitted to the UWM Post as an Op-ed story.