A top surrogate for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Tuesday said the United States was turning into the Soviet Union because the government had backed green energy technologies.

During an interview on CNN, host Soledad O'Brien told Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) that various fact-checking organizations had debunked Romney's claim that the Obama administration had "steered money to friends and family, to campaign contributors" by backing investments in companies like Solyndra, a failed solar panel manufacturer.

"Solyndra, it doesn't make the investment a good investment, still a half billion dollars of taxpayer money squandered," Johnson replied. "That's really the main problem here is that President [Barack] Obama simply doesn't understand that it's the free enterprise systems, the private sector, productive sector, not the government sector that creates long sustainable jobs. All of his efforts are towards growing government."

He added: "Take a look at the Soviet Union, Venezuela is economic basket case, is anyone moving to the island paradise of Cuba?"

"You're surely not suggesting that the idea and concept behind Solyndra and other green energies like Solyndra is comparable to the Soviet Union and Cuba, right?" O'Brien wondered.

"No, I am suggesting that," Johnson insisted. "When you take taxpayer money and you invest that into businesses, that's the taxpayer money put at risk. And let’s face it, the lesson of the Soviet Union and other socialist nations is that governments are very poor allocators of capital. It’s an economic model that doesn’t work."

"Didn't it work in Massachusetts?" O'Brien asked. "Isn't that exactly what Governor Romney did in Massachusetts in green energy when he was the governor of Massachusetts?"

"Listen, the path we need to take this country on is with free enterprise system, the private sector that creates long term self-sustaining jobs," the Wisconsin Republican replied, dodging the question. "And that's exactly what Governor Romney would do as President Romney. "

Watch this video from CNN's Starting Point, broadcast July 17, 2012.

(h/t: Think Progress)