U.S. Rep.-elect Glenn Grothman says the government is bribing single parents to stay unemployed and unmarried.
That wording even seemed to catch interviewer Mike Gousha off guard on the Sunday broadcast of the statewide TV news program "UpFront with Mike Gousha."
In his run for Congress, the Republican state senator from Campbellsport said welfare reform would be his top priority in Washington, and in the interview broadcast Sunday, he said educating the public is a first step.
"So your viewers are aware, a single parent with a couple kids can easily get $35,000 a year in total benefits between the health care and the earned income credit and the FoodShare and the low-income housing and what have you," Grothman said. "And that's after taxes. How many people make $35,000 a year after taxes? Most people don't.
"When you look at that amount of money, which is in essence a bribe not to work that hard or a bribe not to marry someone with a full-time job, people immediately realize you have a problem. Then as soon as you realize you have a problem and something has to be done, then you look at the generosity of the benefits and see what you can do to pare them back."
Replied Gousha: "Bribe's a pretty strong word, don't you think?"
"Well, if you tell somebody you're going to get $35,000 if you don't get married and you're not going to get anything if you marry somebody making 50 grand a year, it's certainly a strong incentive not to raise children in wedlock," Grothman said.
Grothman, no stranger to political takes that could be considered outlandish, beat Democrat Mark Harris by 16 percentage points earlier this month for the 6th Congressional District seat being vacated by Republican Tom Petri.
In a campaign news release in June, Grothman said he would "introduce legislation in Congress to limit federal dollars for food stamps to only nutritional staples, and to free up federal regulations to allow states flexibility to be more restrictive on the various federal welfare programs they administer. Grothman also vowed to eliminate the tax credits for building low-income housing other than for senior housing."
In the interview broadcast Sunday, he said he thinks he can make progress on welfare reform in his first term in Washington.
"Maybe only a little dent with Barack Obama as president," he said, "but if we get a better president in two years I think we can make a big change."
On his way to Washington, Grothman has been labeled as "the kind of Republican bomb-thrower the halls of Congress doesn't need more of but will get in droves" and "a 59-year-old Tea Party firebrand who attracts headlines the way that character in 'Charlie Brown' draws dirt."
For his part, Grothman said he'll be a "constructive conservative" in Washington — "One of the more conservative people up there, particularly when it comes to government spending, certainly when it comes to welfare," he said. "But on the other hand, not somebody who votes no for the thrill of voting no. I expect to get a lot done."