With news that Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn was going to invest $10 billion and create as many as 13,000 new jobs, one would think such an announcement would have brought Badger State Republicans and Democrats together.
Instead, the news that one of Apple’s largest contractors was planning on setting up a 1,000 acre campus in southeast Wisconsin was met with hostility, criticism, or simply trying to throw shade on the news because of its potential benefits to Governor Scott Walker’s re-election chances.
At the heart of the criticism was an expected economic incentive package the state was going to give Foxconn for moving to Wisconsin. Said to be in the billions, it was quickly attacked as a “corporate giveaway,” “corporate welfare,” a bribe, or a con job.
Many critics didn’t even bother to wait for the announcement from the East Room of the White House on Wednesday, opting instead to release their venom on Twitter, in press releases, or comments to the press.
Leading the way was One Wisconsin Now’s executive director Scot Ross, who tweeted his disgust at what he called the media cheerleading for the deal.
It’s a good time to note the southeastern WI media’s unethical cheerleading for this Foxconn con job.
— Scot Ross (@rossacrosswi) July 26, 2017
In Wisconsin, the negotiations have turned political.
Democrats who are in the minority in that state’s legislature have been kept in the dark, two members of the budget-writing committee told the Associated Press. State Sen. Jon Erpenbach is worried that Wisconsin’s governor may make promises that require legislative approval, then blame lawmakers if they don’t go along because of the cost.
“It’s a balance between making sure taxpayers are protected and we’re not giving away the store for the political gain for Scott Walker,” Erpenbach said. “If it’s a deal for both sides, that’s great.”
“Wisconsin taxpayers should not be subsidizing private corporations at the expense of our children, schools, and roads. And despite Governor Walker’s alleged fiscal conservatism, the truth is that he is fine with spending money so long as it doesn’t go to you, the real hard-working taxpayers of our state. The Republican-controlled legislature and Governor Walker have consistently asked you to tighten your belt or have rejected other opportunities to create family sustaining jobs, but when a multinational corporation wants a multi-billion dollar handout, Governor Walker more than bends over backwards. All the while, our schools struggle to stay open, Main Street is littered with potholes, and huge numbers of Wisconsinites cannot even drink the water coming out of their taps. That’s not leadership” Anderson stated.
“It is with good reason that Wisconsinites are not yet willing to blindly put their faith, and money, in a feeble jobs promise. We’ve been deceived by Walker’s rose-tinted glasses before.”
“Since taking office, Walker has left a trail of broken promises. His pattern of deception has resulted in our hard-earned tax dollars being handed over to campaign donors and companies that outsource, as well as some of the biggest tax breaks going to the richest people in the state, some of whom have used tax loopholes to avoid paying any state income tax for years.”
“While I welcome new businesses to the state, I want to ensure any state-subsidized private sector jobs offer a living wage and safe working conditions. As we look to expand Wisconsin’s middle class, Democrats will continue to focus on boosting small businesses, strengthening workplace protections and encouraging more locally-grown start-up companies.
“Communities and small businesses that could be at a competitive disadvantage deserve full transparency when it comes to Gov. Walker’s proposed tax breaks for Taiwanese investors. I am cautious of committing taxpayers to decades of economic costs and liabilities.
“The bottom line is this company has a concerning track record of big announcements with little follow through. Given the lack of details, I’m skeptical about this announcement and we will have to see if there is a legislative appetite for a $1 to $3 billion corporate welfare package.”
Moore said in a statement Wednesday, July 26th that she “respectfully declined” the invitation. Moore says “my constituents have no interest in me entertaining the president’s desire to be used as a backdrop in his photo op.”
Instead of going to the White House, Moore and the rest of the Congressional Black Caucus held a “Twitter Townhall” on health care.
Others, like Chairwoman Martha Laning of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, tried to spin it to say that only their side had any role in getting Foxconn:
“I welcome new business and jobs to Wisconsin. After six years of seeing job creation promises go unfulfilled and watching major corporations shut down factories or move jobs elsewhere, it’s great to see Democrats like Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Rep. Mark Pocan encouraging new economic activity in the southeastern Wisconsin.
“Democrats are laser focused on expanding the middle class and giving every Wisconsinite the opportunity to succeed and achieve the American Dream. But in order to have an economy that works for all us – not just the millionaires and billionaires – state-subsidized private sector jobs need to be a good investment that offers a living wage and ensures safe working conditions.
Finally, there were those still steaming over the death of Obama’s high speed rail boondoggle and demanded that Democrats fight the Foxconn jobs as payback against Walker.
Dear Dems: 2009-10 Walker opposed thousands of jobs from high speed rail & stimulus package jobs & won by 125K votes.
— Scot Ross (@rossacrosswi) July 27, 2017
Are there legitimate concerns about the cost to taxpayers for landing the Foxconn plant? Yes, but the idea that this project will be any different other “corporate welfare cases” Wisconsin has had in recent years (Mercury Marine, any of the number of private-public partnerships done by the UW-Madison, and so on) isn’t likely to materialize. Already within hours of the announcement, reporters for the state Associated Press were details of what would be included in the incentive package; included the much worried-over tax credits.
Foxconn tax credits are tied to performance, no credits given if Foxconn fails to invest capital or create jobs
— Scott Bauer (@sbauerAP) July 26, 2017
While there is much to be accomplished before ground is broken on the proposed Foxconn plant (they don’t even have a site yet), there are certainly signs of progress (WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee reported last night, the company’s been approaching land owners to potentially buy their property for the past few weeks). All of which means there will be plenty of time for debate and to fight over the specifics.
In the meantime, set the politics aside and celebrate the good news – even if it’s just for one day.