The award, recently named in honor of Sam Johnson, was presented by Helen Johnson-Leipold, Sam's daughter and chairman and CEO of Johnson Outdoors and the Johnson Financial Group. "Dad would have been so pleased," she said. "Dad felt volunteerism represents that part of the human spirit that represents selflessness...and civic responsibility."
She cited Neubauer's involvement with Green Racine, which "sets a green example for other businesses," and his efforts "tackling the cycle of poverty" through service on the Racine County Workforce Development and Next Generation Now boards, as well as chairing the United Way steering committee overseeing the Advancing Family Assets initiative.
Neubauer returned the compliment, noting that there was nobody "more connected to sustainability" than Sam Johnson, who removed CFC's from SCJ products "because it was the right thing to do -- and it turned out to be good for business as well." He said he is proud to follow in the footsteps of Sam Johnson and his own father, Ralph Neubauer. The Advancing Family Assets program aims to bring at least 500 families out of poverty within the next ten years.
Others honored at the meeting included:
- Michael Aimone, president of the Village of Union Grove, who received the Leonard W. Ziolkowski Public Sector Award.
- James C. Small, a partner in Clifton Gunderson, receiving the Anthony J. DiCastri Private Sector Award.
- Fred Goettl, vice president of Jackson County Bank, the Lender of the Year Award.
"We can't tell which of those futures is ours ... but we can restore prosperity," he said, insisting he is "cautiously optimistic," despite the country "quickly reaching a tipping point with so many getting government benefits it will be impossible to reverse course."
Ryan called the round of government bailouts "crony capitalism, not market capitalism," adding that "free market enterprise is the most moral system there is."
But he said, "I don't want to be gloomy and doomy. I'm optimistic."
Ryan outlined some of the things he'd do differently:
He rejects the Administration's budget, and its $1.5 trillion tax increase: "I don't think that's helpful." Instead, he would "clean up loopholes and lower taxes on small businesses." He would reduce entitlements that he says will more than double tax rates by the time his young children are grown -- to 88% on the highest income, 66% on middle-income earners and 25% on the lowest.
The country also needs a plan to protect citizens' health and retirement "without bankrupting our children," he said. Health care in the U.S. now costs 2 1/2 times that in the rest of the world -- "and is not 2 1/2 times better. There's a lot of room to improve this."
Ryan's strongest prescription would change the way taxes are levied. Noting, "We've got to face up to the fact that globalization is here," he said the country must make products like CNH's tractors -- of which "5 of 10 go overseas" -- more saleable to the "97% of the world's consumers who do not live in this country." Ryan said the U.S. taxes corporations "much higher than our competitors do." Later, he added, "we've got to have tax laws that keep jobs in America."
"Let's take the tax off our exports, and tax imports," he said. That would level the playing field "and make our products more competitive. Our tax laws must jibe with international norms." The audience of 400 business leaders was with Ryan all the way, but this was his first applause line.
Ryan also criticized current fiscal policy, noting that the U.S. is now borrowing $2 trillion "and there's going to come a day when people stop buying our bonds." Without changes, he said, interest will become the largest item in the federal budget ... which will further raise interest rates. "The Federal Reserve is literally printing money to buy Treasury notes."
Still, Ryan tried to end on an upbeat note: "America has been down on its luck before, but Americans come back. That's why I am cautiously optimistic. Americans say, 'I'm going to do whatever it takes.' We are not going to let America die on our watch."