Virtual events target Superior and Kenosha for reviving manufacturing.
Wisconsin’s Democratic state and federal politicians praised presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s economic plan on Monday, saying it would provide much-needed jobs in the northwoods of Wisconsin and Minnesota and would reduce the country’s dependence on foreign products.
U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, along with state Rep. Nick Milroy, D- South Range, and local electrical and iron worker representatives, said Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan is aimed at creating more good-paying jobs and creating products in this country instead of relying on overseas businesses to do so.
The plan would create greater security for the U.S., the legislators said, while also helping boost a struggling economy that has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
“The only way we’re going to get back to a better place is to revitalize our economy,” said Milroy during a virtual meeting titled “Made in America — Superior” roundtable session.
A similar event featuring Baldwin, Klobuchar, Rep. Tod Ohnstad, D-Kenosha, and auto workers also took place Monday.
Wisconsin has a proud manufacturing history, Baldwin said, and continues to be a leader in producing such products as ships, bicycles, fire engines, and paper.
However, she said, those sectors and others have been adversely impacted by President Donald Trump’s trade tariffs with China and other nations that hampered businesses in the Badger State and across the country.
Instead of implementing policies that send manufacturing jobs overseas as has continued to happen under Trump’s leadership, Biden’s plan would keep those jobs here and would add more, Baldwin said.
Given the state’s existing paper mill industry, she questioned why the state couldn’t produce paper face makes and gowns, bolstering the state’s personal protection equipment supply while simultaneously adding jobs.
Personal protective equipment has been in short supply in Wisconsin and the rest of the country, even as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb. On Monday Wisconsin added another 507 cases, according to the state Department of Health Services, and positive cases of the virus in the state now total 61,061, with 998 deaths attributed to the illness.
Hospitals and other businesses often struggle to procure much-needed personal protective equipment, Baldwin said, and must rely on foreign producers, a challenge Wisconsin manufacturers could help alleviate.
“Wisconsin is a state that makes things,” Baldwin said. “There is no reason we shouldn’t be having some of those (personal protective equipment) items made here in Wisconsin … We would not be so dependent on overseas companies for everything we need to fight this pandemic.”
The pandemic has revealed fissures in an economy that already wasn’t working for many Americans under President Donald Trump’s administration, Baldwin said, calling Trump’s leadership during the pandemic an “abject failure.” His policies have benefited the wealthy, she said, while the middle class and those making less money have struggled.
“He promised to add jobs, but instead we have seen jobs leave this country,” Baldwin said of Trump. “This president wants to use policies that reward wealth rather than hard work.”
Trump has said his economic policies have benefited many Americans and led to historic wealth. He has pointed to the relative growth of Wall Street during his presidential tenure and record-low unemployment prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, Klobuchar said, under Trump’s leadership the gap between the wealthy and other Americans has grown, with a growing number of people struggling even before the pandemic damaged the economy. The wealth at the top of the economic ladder has not trickled down to the rest of society, she said.
“Our workers are getting hurt by (Trump’s) mismanagement,” she said. “Look, this guy said a bunch of stuff, and it just hasn’t been true.”
Many northern Wisconsin businesses have struggled because of policies enacted during the Trump administration, said Keith Musolf, organizer of Ironworkers Local 512 in northern Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota, and a St. Louis County, Minn., Board commissioner.
Many promises Trump made during his 2016 presidential campaign to increase manufacturing jobs haven’t been fulfilled, Musolf said, and have been made worse by the pandemic. The recent closures of the Verso Corp. paper mills in Duluth and Wisconsin Rapids, represent more lost jobs, he said.
Manufacturers “have struggled since the (Trump) trade tariffs that were implemented,” Musolf said, “and I think the Biden plan would help us.”