Editor’s note: Letters to the Editor and open letters reflect the opinions, concerns and views of University of Wisconsin-Madison students and community. As such, the information presented may or may not be accurate. Letters to the Editor and open letters do not reflect the editorial views or opinions of The Daily Cardinal.
The fast-approaching 2024 elections are set to be the most expensive electoral cycle in U.S. history, with $10 billion to be spent on TV ads alone. That’s a pretty hefty price tag when you consider all of the dire issues facing our country that desperately need resources and attention. Issues like rapid inflation, unlivable wages, a growing climate crisis, massive student loan debt, gun violence, attacks on our reproductive rights, destructive overseas wars, and so much more.
These are issues that the majority of Americans agree need to be addressed. However, there continues to be little to no action on any of them.
Students and young people should be demanding action on these issues from our leaders, because it is their futures that are the most at stake. Near campus, Madison’s lakes are blue, beautiful, and potentially unsafe to swim in. Never-ending runoff from Wisconsin’s massive agriculture industry causes Madison’s lakes to be constantly polluted with toxic chemicals, while residents see little to no government intervention. Madison residents will continue to see little action on the root causes of this pollution and agricultural runoff because Wisconsin’s massive agriculture industry spends millions of dollars lobbying the government to ensure they don’t have to keep Madison’s lakes clean.
Madison’s lakes are just one of many examples of big corporations and special interest groups spending billions of dollars lobbying the government, influencing policy to make it work in their best interests. These massive entities are spending billions of dollars to make the government actively ignore the best interests of the people it represents.
The silver lining is that UW-Madison students can do something about it. Since 1998, UW-Madison’s administration has spent nearly $10 million of our tuition money to influence lawmakers, with nearly $700,000 spent in 2022 alone. This puts UW-Madison on par with the multi-billion dollar corporations and specialized interest groups that actively work to make our democracy work against us. Our university is spending our tuition money to pass laws that are benefiting themselves, rather than the tens of thousands of students they are supposed to represent.
As individuals, no one has the leverage to fix this broken system. However, together, as a group of thousands of UW-Madison students, we have the ability to make real change. If we had a say in how our tuition money is spent, we could put the issues that we care about most at the forefront of our university’s political spending agenda. Through the university, we can better move our lawmakers to finally take action on our generation’s most pressing challenges. Our university has both the opportunity and responsibility to work with its students to ensure we have a government that prioritizes our needs.
Fortunately, there is an organization on campus who has made this their mission. Un-PAC is a non-partisan student organization with the goal of empowering America’s students and youth to take back their political power and make real change. By passing a set of Youth Power Reforms on campus, Un-PAC is seeking to make it easier and more accessible for students to vote, and give students the power we need to redefine this dysfunctional political landscape. This campaign is about our generation stepping up and owning our political, voting, and economic influence as students.
The reforms would cancel classes on Election Day, ensure there are polling locations right here on campus, and guarantee that our student body has a say over the university’s lobbying priorities. The plan would uphold UW-Madison as a beacon for youth power and more. 2024 is the year we stop relying on politicians to rescue us and step up to save ourselves.
You can learn more about Un-PAC at UW-Madison and the work we’re doing via Instagram @unpacwisconsin and sign the petition on our website!