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A Question No Longer Asked

There once was a time when Wisconsin was the nation’s bell cow. Wherever Wisconsin went, the herd followed.

When major change came to America, it’s amazing how often Wisconsin led the way. First to establish kindergartens. First to set up a vocational, technical and adult education system. First to pass a law providing workplace injury compensation and first to create an unemployment compensation program. First to create primary elections to take the business of nominating candidates away from party bosses in smoke-filled rooms and put it in the hands of the people. First to base taxation on the ability to pay. First to ratify the amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving women the right to vote. First to pass a statewide gay rights law.

Social Security was invented here. Wisconsin’s Gaylord Nelson was the founder of Earth Day to raise environmental consciousness. Time and again, Wisconsin has blazed trails. The state even pioneered how to mark the route, establishing the first highway numbering system that was later adopted nationwide.

If our state’s history of being a bellwether foreshadowed what’s to unfold in the future, Wisconsin should be showing the way. We are not. Not for now anyway. It’s been many a year since we challenged each other with the question “what should Wisconsin be the first state in the nation to do?”

To get Wisconsin back to its groundbreaking ways, we need to regularly ask that question in our day and age.

With a bona fide, man-made climate crisis on our hands, I think it should be Wisconsin’s goal to be the first state in the nation fully powered by renewable energy. Winning this race is not only good for our health and the planet’s, it can be a godsend economically, what with the renewable energy sector creating jobs 12 times faster than the rest of the economy.

With so many workers watching their employment automated out of existence or their jobs moved overseas, I’d like to see Wisconsin become the first state in the nation to test the effectiveness of a universal basic income program providing financial stability and economic security to vulnerable workers while also creating an opportunity to move beyond old welfare programs that disincentivize work, trap people in poverty and stigmatize the poor.

With so many unable to afford decent health insurance and so many others a pink slip away from being unable to go to the doctor, and with so much money going to administrative overhead and health industry profit instead of medical care, I want Wisconsin to be the first state in the nation to make health care a right and guarantee access to high-quality medical services. If beholden national politicians won’t act on Medicare for All, Wisconsin should show the way with BadgerCare for All.

With corruption eating away at representative democracy and preventing these kinds of ideas from even being debated, I believe Wisconsin should be the first state in the nation to recriminalize bribery. Bribery was first outlawed in Wisconsin in 1897. State law should now be updated to define huge political donations as the bribes they are.

How about you? What should Wisconsin be the first state in the nation to do?

Mike McCabe

February 4, 2020

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