Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Wisconsin Jobs worthwhile, but don’t count on Congress

State Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, recently proposed a bill to fix what has become our gravest national and state issue: skyrocketing unemployment.

On Sept. 8, Mason introduced The Wisconsin Jobs Initiative to the state Assembly, legislation he claims in a press release, “will help pay for a jobs program that will train [and] educate 40,000 Wisconsin workers.”

The plan would be funded with a 1 percent income tax increase on individuals making $1 million or more a year, which would generate about $145 million, Mason said.


Furthermore, a bill pending in the U.S. Congress would provide at least $135 million in matching funds, according to Mason. The federal portion is part of a bill President Obama proposed in mid-July, called the American Graduation Initiative, currently working its way through Congress.

Mason says he wants to see The Wisconsin Jobs Initiative passed this fall so Wisconsin can quickly access that money when federal legislation is passed.

On Tuesday, the Center on Wisconsin Strategy — a University of Wisconsin-based nonprofit organization — released a report revealing the bleak job market in Wisconsin. The report reveals Wisconsin’s unemployment rate has skyrocketed to 9 percent.

The initiative, then, could not be timelier. But while timely, the bill has a couple major flaws.

Problem one: Mason is banking on Congress passing Obama’s American Graduate Initiative, even though the outcome of that vote is still uncertain.

Obama says his initiative will pump $12 billion into community colleges nationwide and add five million new graduates by 2020. He also says his program would offer both training to millions of students who cannot afford four-year universities and opportunity to older workers who need new skills.

It’s a great plan. But once our country’s talk-a-big-game-but-do-nothing Congress gets involved with big issues, all progress halts. The old adage rings true: “All great ideas die on Capitol Hill.”

Members of the U.S. Congress are notorious for bickering back and forth, holding vitriolic press conferences and lashing out at one another through press releases. But at the end of the day, when it comes to helping those in need and being statesmen, Congress fails the citizens of this country repetitively.

Just look at the health care quagmire. Or electric cars. Or perpetually funding two failed wars. Or building high-speed rail lines. The list goes on and on. Put Congress in charge of passing worthwhile legislation and they will somehow screw things up.

Based on how things work in Congress, the passing of Obama’s American Graduate Initiative is far from a slam dunk, no matter how much merit the initiative has. In fact, based on the bitter partisan deliberations that have taken place this year, and particularly this summer on Capitol Hill, I’m not even sure it’s a fade-away jumper over Yao Ming.

And because of this, Mason is hoping and praying Congress does the right thing, because his

legislation is sunk if it doesn’t.

Assembly Minority Leader Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, hammered this point in a recent statement: “Crafting a plan that raises taxes and requires action from our dysfunctional U.S. Congress is misguided.”

Problem two: Where will the jobs come from? Will they be created out of thin air? Mason fails to explain how 40,000 jobs will magically appear. Mason owes the Wisconsin citizenry an explanation. Far too much money is involved.

I’m all for taxing the rich if the money will be redistributed in an intelligent way, but Mason fails to explain how rounding up the rich’s tax dollars will engender jobs in this time of economic peril. And until he does so, increased taxation of the wealthy — or anyone for that matter — cannot possibly be justified.

So, kudos to Mason for a worthy effort in tackling a pressing issue. It’s far better to propose a solution and bring a crucial statewide conversation to the Assembly than to sit back and watch the shit hit the fan while Wisconsin’s job market plummets and the economy unravels.

Yet, a more detailed and nuanced proposal — particularly one not reliant on our abysmal Congress first passing legislation before the real benefits kick in — would mean more than simply having a sympathetic legislator in the Assembly.

The Wisconsin Jobs Initiative is a great step in the right direction. Now it’s time for Mason’s colleagues to collaborate and craft something even better.

Steve Horn ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in political science and legal studies.

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