Chicago — It's not out of place for an average U.S. senator to say that tax rationalization and fewer regulations would help plastics firms and other manufacturers.
But when Ron Johnson says it, he's drawing on the experience of the 31 years he spent in the plastics industry before going into politics.
Johnson, the second-term Republican senator from Wisconsin, spoke Oct. 12 at Global Plastics Summit 2017 in Chicago, an event hosted by the Plastics Industry Association and IHS Markit.
Johnson, former president of sheet extruder Pacur LLC of Oshkosh, Wis., urged attendees to defend their businesses and to work with trade associations to handle the complexity of Washington.
"To protect the free market system, you have to stay engaged and involved," he said.
Although the Republican-led Senate and House have had a rough start in the Trump administration, Johnson said he hoped that performance would improve. He said Congress "is missing people from the private sector" and has "too many career politicians."
Congress now is weighing a tax reform plan proposed by the president. "The No. 1 goal of tax reform is economic growth," Johnson said. "We have to rationalize taxes to be competitive with the rest of the world."
He added that, in addition to tax reform, the U.S. needs regulatory reform and "a functioning immigration system."
In an interview with Plastics News after his speech, Johnson said his plastics background has helped him in the Senate by allowing him to better understand the economy.
"I have an accounting background, but Congress has a lot of lawyers who have never run a business," he added. "I've had to develop a problem-solving process, and I know what regulations can do to a business and the harmful effects they can have."