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The Moore the merrier: A talk with Milwaukee’s congresswoman

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Rep. Gwen Moore (Wis-D) meets with The Marquette Tribune to discuss issues facing college students.

Rep. Gwen Moore (Wis-D) meets with The Marquette Tribune to discuss issues facing college students.

Rep. Gwen Moore (D), a ’73 Marquette graduate who represents the area covering Marquette’s campus in Congress, talked with the Marquette Tribune Thursday about health care, student loans and other issues affecting college students. Moore was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2004.

Marquette Tribune: The biggest story transitioning from 2013-14 is probably the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. How would you assess the rollout?

Gwen Moore: Clearly the rollout was a catastrophe, and I don’t think there is a lot of elaboration I can offer you. Certainly, I can’t offer any excuses, but what I will say is that I think that (the rollout) will be a dim memory when it is totally implemented. I think probably the rollout of Social Security or Medicare – or in my lifetime, Medicare part D’s rollout – was catastrophic. But when people start to inure the benefits, they’re going to really start to like it.

The largest number of folk that are uninsured are younger people and the enrollment rate for younger people has been very disappointing… That justifies, I think, what the president and the White House have done in terms of having the TV commercials and concerts and really doing a lot of outreach to young people. And I think we need to do more outreach to young people to let them know that this benefit is available.

MT: Is there anything else besides outreach to get more young people enrolled?

GM:  It just strikes me that it would be great that colleges and universities could be the kind of resource. I know they always advertise their on-campus health resources. Colleges would be a great place to do some outreach to young people, it would be very helpful.

MT: While nothing is for sure, it is likely that Democrats are still in the minority after the 2014 elections …

GM: Hey, remember that (Marquette basketball) Georgetown game? Twenty-eight seconds left, six points down …

MT: But how do you work across the aisle then? I’m guessing people are tired of a lot of partisan bickering.

GM: Young people are saying they don’t like partisan bickering … I think that as college students it’s not flattering to say “oh they’re confused and they don’t understand.” I mean, these are Marquette University students. They have the capacity to not be confused about the value of health care.

One has got to wonder if the Founding Fathers didn’t intend for health care to be a right. So when you start talking about the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, one has to wonder if one illness should suspend your ability to have a good fortune in your life … A person should not have to go into bankruptcy because of health care costs. And it can happen to young people. Young people here are one broken arm or (an Achilles’ tendon) injury away from being broke totally and completely having their credit jacked.

MT: You mention how we could just be an injury away from being broke. Another thing students worry about in that regard is student loan debt. There has been a lot of discussion about student loans the last couple years. Is there anything students can expect to hear on that subject in the coming year?

GM: This budget that was just put forward – and the president and Democrats certainly – we made Pell grants an entitlement, and it’s part of mandatory spending. This budget sort of restored funding for that. I think that that’s extremely important … In order to keep our economy afloat we’re going to have to rely on education in a way that we haven’t done in a few decades. And that means we can’t just have the trust fund kids do it. It means we’re going to have to reach back and get those kids who have dropped out because they didn’t have any money.

We’re gonna have to look at low income and minority communities … I was in the inner city youth. I lived at 14th and Highland and found my way to Marquette. And I like to think that I’m a contribution. I’ve given a little something something back to the community. Had I depended on my trust fund to get here, I’d never be here. Had I depended on my basketball skills, Al McGuire would have probably told me no thank you.

MT: A lot of soon-to-be graduating seniors might not yet have a job lined up and may be worried about their job prospects. What would you tell people graduating college right now about their job prospects?

GM: Be sure to graduate and get the degree because in the long run it pays off … Wisconsin still depends on manufacturing, but a lot of manufacturing has become much more technological. What I would advise people is to try to make sure that you don’t freak out so much that you avoid getting some hard technical skills to go along with it. Don’t shy away from getting some hard skills that you will have to offer a future employer.

I can remember back in the day – I’m 62 years old – I can remember being scared about going off into the job market. I’ve been on welfare, I had a baby, and one of the things that I learned is that I could do something that most people couldn’t do in the work world – I could write. I figured that out. I would tell an employer, “Hey, I could do something most of your executives can’t do. I can put a sentence together and have it make sense.” … I mean the thing is we’re only going to make it as a country if we’re being creative, innovative, being smarter than everyone else. So people cannot shy away.

MT: How do you maybe see those job prospects getting better for young people?

GM: You got your baby boomers, people like me, retiring. There are going to be plenty of opportunities for young people in health care, for example. Here is where the opportunities come in. A lot of us are going to be elderly. There’s opportunity. Ten thousand people a day retire. Those jobs are going to have to be filled, health care for those people, building elderly housing for those people. So there are opportunities that are going to exist in terms of replacing us, caring for us and providing health care for us.

MT: Finally, since you’ve mentioned Marquette a few times, what from your time here influenced your career, or what do you remember most?

GM: Coming to Marquette is one of the things that changed my life – it really did – and my life’s prospect. I was eighth of nine kids, poor. I was pregnant when I got out (of Marquette), and my horizons were opened with my education here, and I really got the Jesuit bug of social justice and the importance of giving back to the community. And I notice that about Marquette students. Marquette students are all over the world – they’re in Washington, D.C., they tutor kids in poor communities, and whether they are Democrats or Republicans, that sense of social justice is something that I think Marquette has made a mark.

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