Gov. Scott Walker has a track record of making big promises that he fails to keep.
As a candidate for governor in 2010, he promised to implement policies that would create 250,000 new jobs in his first term. After he was elected — with a massive boost from the out-of-state billionaires to whom he had pledged his truest loyalty — Walker immediately forgot about job creation and instead went to work attacking public schools, public services and public employees. He divided the state and stalled out the sort of meaningful growth that neighboring states such as Minnesota were experiencing.
As a candidate for governor in 2014, Walker promised to do better, to try to heal the divisions, and to finally get focused on a more-jobs and higher-wages agenda. After he was re-elected — with an even bigger boost from the out-of-state billionaires who imagined he might be their candidate for president — Walker immediately forgot about more jobs and higher wages and started attacking protections for workers (by backing a noxious “right to work” law that is really a “right to work for less” scheme) and higher education (with an attempt to assault the “Wisconsin Idea,” which links the work of the state’s great universities with the development and growth of our communities).
Now, after losing his bid to abandon Wisconsin and “go national” as a Republican presidential contender who ran to the right of Donald Trump, Walker is again a candidate for governor. And he is again making big promises. This time, his campaign scam is the Foxconn deal, which has the state promising almost $3 billion to a Taiwanese company if it invests in the state and creates jobs in southeast Wisconsin. In effect, Walker is trying to buy the jobs that he once promised to create with smart investments and policies.
The governor was so desperate to make some kind of deal with a big corporation that he entered into a crony-capitalist agreement with a firm that has a lousy record of keeping its job creation promises and that is in the forefront of replacing actual workers with robots. It is hard to imagine a worse company to bet on than Foxconn. But Walker has placed his bet — with taxpayer dollars.
The Foxconn deal is an admission of failure by Walker. Unfortunately, his failure will — because of shameful dereliction of duty by the majority of legislators in the state Assembly and state Senate — now cost every family in the state. The governor’s plan is to run for re-election on the promise that Foxconn will create thousands of jobs, and that related development will create tens of thousands of jobs. But that promise will prove to be as empty as the promises he made in 2010 and 2014.
At The Cap Times Idea Fest last weekend, Congressman Mark Pocan, D-town of Vermont, told the crowd that he believes the Foxconn scam will be the governor’s undoing. And we tend to agree. Yes, Walker will do his best to spin the fantasy that having taxpayers buy jobs is some kind of economic-development strategy. Yes, the billionaires will be back to try to buy the governorship for Walker once more. But this is such a bogus deal that, as Pocan suggests, people from across the political spectrum are going to see through it.
Already, Madison liberals and rural conservatives, as well as northern and western Wisconsinites who wonder why their regions of the state are being neglected, have objected. And those objections will grow as Wisconsinites learn more about how Walker promises to use their tax dollars. They will ask the question that state Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, asked at the Idea Fest: If Wisconsin has an extra $3 billion, couldn’t it be put to better use? By investing in education? By investing in infrastructure? By creating programs to help fund small businesses and farms that will stay in the state and make a long-term contribution to its economy?
When Walker looks at the voters of Wisconsin, he says to himself: “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
But we think Pocan and Shankland are right.
The phrase that comes to mind when we look at Wisconsin voters going into the 2018 election is: “Won’t get fooled again.” ￼