Sunday, December 13, 2009

The future, should you choose to accept it

isconsin Political Fix
not just another blog
December 13, 2009

By Bill Kraus

There was a well attended legislative hearing last week on a very large, very complicated, very important proposal. The name of the proposal is the Wisconsin C.O.R.E. Jobs Act. It deals with the next Wisconsin economy generally and what the state government could and should do to find and support what one witness called “the new normal.”

That description encapsulates the size and difficulty of what is being attempted. It dismisses the fantasy that says that, as this recession recedes, Wisconsin will return to normal.

That kind of normal in which our economy was driven by construction and automobiles is history. The new kind of normal is being visualized and invented in many mostly small ways by many people, but it is still not clear what it will look like or when it will arrive.

Part of the reason for the hearing was to get expert testimony and viewpoints from the smartest people in the room and state who are working their way through this maze.

The committees introducing C.O.R.E. are headed by Senator Julie Lassa and Representative Louis Molepske. This hearing gave the members of their committees a chance to express their views and recommendations on the concept generally and the specific ideas in it that a lot of people doing a lot of hard work have fashioned.

Those familiar with the committee-hearing process will not be surprised to learn that many legislators on these committees wandered from the subject at hand to criticize the current administration, deplore the sad state of the economy, or get a plug in for whatever is on the top of their personal agendas.

It did strike me that these side trips into ego-land indicated that a lot of legislators are still playing a hand in a game that is that is no longer being dealt. They didn’t seem to notice that there were no reporters in the room. Or that the audience for their wisdom was strictly limited, or, as another old journalistic hand once said, “If the press doesn’t cover it, it doesn’t exist.”

This is a small loss on the sideshows, but a grievous one for the future of C.O.R.E.

It would be amazing if the 14 main elements of C.O.R.E. repair the damage that has been done to our economy, but it seems to be a step in the direction of re-imagining and re-inventing our economy that is needed and of playing in particular to the enormous strengths of a 150 year investment in education and academic research.

Everyone in the hearing room who testified endorsed the effort.

Even the committee members who were critical mostly complained that it didn’t go far enough.

If all the gubernatorial wannabes don’t rush to Senator Lassa’s office for their transcript of the testimony and a personal copy of the paper prepared by David Ward’s NorthStar Economics company, they shouldn’t even go to the trouble of filing nomination papers.

This is the issue for 2010. This is the challenge for the century.

Or to steal from the less polite but more graphic way a long ago campaign advisor to a long ago president did in a previous millennium said it, “It’s about jobs, stupid.”

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