U.S. debt threatens future generations, senator says

Sen. Ron Johnson speaks April 5, 2013, at Xcel Energy in Eau Claire.

DURAND — The national debt has gotten too far out of hand, says U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson.

Johnson said he wants citizens to understand the full scope of the nation's debt during his visit to west-central Wisconsin Tuesday.

"We have to understand the depth of the problem," Johnson said, adding if the debt isn't addressed it will greatly harm future generations.

Johnson said government has gotten too large and too great a portion of the federal budget is renewed automatically each year.

"It's just on automatic pilot," he said.

Johnson has been traveling around the state during his time away from Washington, armed with a "depressing" PowerPoint presentation to help him make his case to Wisconsinites.

About 30 people attend the presentation in Durand.

He used the same PowerPoint in a presentation to the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce last month.

Asked about rapidly rising college debt during a question-and-answer session, Johnson said he'd like to see more for-profit colleges enter the market.

He said more competition in the market place would help.

Critics of for-profit colleges point to a senate committee report from last year that found for-profit schools tend to charge more than state universities and students who attended for-profit colleges defaulted on their loans at higher rates than students at public schools.

Johnson also said not all students should go to a four-year university, that other career options should also be considered.

Johnson also was asked about the recent revelation that Apple avoided paying billions in taxes to the U.S. last year.

"It's an easy issue to demagogue," Johnson said, adding he didn't want to hammer on business for legally avoiding taxes.

As for the current rift between old guard Republicans and newer members of the GOP in the Senate regarding on-going budget negotiations, Johnson said, "That's just kind of noise."

Swedien can be reached at 715-833-9214, 800-236-7077 or jon.swedien@ecpc.com.