Zerban, Hightower jab at GOP in rally
JANESVILLE Nothing takes the stress out of the last weekend of a presidential election season like a series of one-liners from a friendly man in a cowboy hat.
At least that looked to be the case Saturday morning as national progressive speaker and author Jim Hightower bantered with a crowd of 100 or so people at the United Auto Workers Local 95 Hall.
“I’m happier than a flea at a dog show to see all you Zerbanistas,” Hightower said while introducing Democrat Rob Zerban, the man running against Janesville Republican Paul Ryan for Ryan’s long-held 1st Congressional District seat.
Hightower said southern Wisconsin residents are lucky because Paul Ryan’s name will appear twice on ballots—in the congressional race and in the presidential race as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s running mate.
“You’re the luckiest people in America,” Hightower said. “Because you get to vote against Ryan right at the top of the ballot and then again just a couple spots down.”
Hightower spent his five minutes on stage taking jabs at the Republican Party for what he called its “nutty” economic policies that support corporations and wealthy Americans.
He said Ryan’s ideas about Medicare and Medicaid were particularly dangerous.
“I’d rather trust my last lamb chop to a coyote,” Hightower said.
Although Hightower’s tone was light, he reminded the audience there is a lot is at stake depending on the outcome of the election.
“It’s not Zerban’s race to win or lose,” he said. “It’s ours. This is not just about one more member of Congress or one congressional district. It’s about who will rule: the corporate elite or the American people.”
Zerban took the stage after Hightower and reminded southern Wisconsin voters how little they’ve seen of Ryan’s congressional campaign this fall. Ryan has focused more effort on the national campaign as vice president than he has his congressional campaign, Zerban said.
The crowd shouted in agreement.
“He’s never done anything for us!” one woman yelled.
In a mix of prepared and off-the-cuff remarks, Zerban said he thinks Ryan’s economic policy is dangerous for the American middle class. Among other things, Ryan doesn’t support the kinds of federal grants Zerban depended on to get a college degree, he said.
“If Paul Ryan’s budget would have been passed 30 years ago, I never would have gone to school,” Zerban said.
Like Hightower, Zerban jabbed at the Republican Party’s support of tax breaks for corporations.
“They want to build not a glass ceiling but a steel ceiling that no one will ever break through,” Zerban said.
Conservative goals are “antithetical to the American Dream,” Zerban said. “The American Dream is alive, but you have to work for it.”
One way to help more Americans join or stay in the middle class is by enacting the Affordable Care Act, often known as Obamacare.
Next to payroll, providing health care for 45 employees was his biggest expense as a small-business owner, Zerban said. Between 2000 and 2008, Zerban founded two businesses in the dining and catering industry. He has an associate degree in culinary arts.
The Affordable Care Act was “a good first step” toward supporting small businesses as economic drivers “so the economy can blossom again,” he said.