Here is what we know about the Foxconn fiasco that Scott Walker and Donald Trump celebrated last week:
Fact No. 1: Foxconn was initially supposed to cost Wisconsin taxpayers the outrageous sum of $3 billion.
Fact No. 2: Foxconn is now supposed to cost Wisconsin taxpayers as much as $4.5 billion — which, if you’re keeping track, is even more outrageous.
Fact No. 3: Foxconn's first Wisconsin factory, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “likely will be smaller than planned.”
Put the pieces together and it is surprising that the sign at the Foxconn groundbreaking event last Thursday wasn’t a message from the Taiwanese corporation reading: “Thank you, suckers.”
The Foxconn deal appears to be in a state of flux. But there is one constant: Every change adds up to Wisconsin paying more and getting less from an arrangement that never made much sense.
It is not just critics of Trump and Walker who are raising the alarm. The Wall Street Journal headlined its report last week with an ominous announcement: “As Foxconn Breaks Ground in Wisconsin, the Costs to Taxpayers Go Up.”
Walker’s apologists are still defending the deal as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to enter Wisconsin into the world’s high-tech economy” and — in the words of a breathless statement from the Republican Party of Walker, er, Wisconsin — an “opportunity to completely transform our state’s economy.” These are bizarrely out-of-touch statements, as they suggest that a clueless governor and his circle of sycophants are unaware that Wisconsin has, by many vital measures, already arrived at the cutting edge of the world’s high-tech economy.
Do they not know about globally recognized Wisconsin success stories, like that of Verona’s Epic Systems? Have they not read the recent Journal Sentinel report on how Wisconsin is gaining recognition as a hub for startup technology firms? “The most recent splash of publicity came when a national report by TechNet and the Progressive Policy Institute announced its list of 25 cities poised to add 1 million tech jobs in the next five years,” noted the paper. “Madison ranks 16th in the report, which is titled, ‘The Top 25 'Next in Tech' Cities Fostering Startup Growth.’”
That Walker’s team is seemingly ill-informed may explain why they are so easily duped. But it’s no excuse.
A number of Democratic gubernatorial candidates, including Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers and former state Rep. Kelda Roys, have been doing a good job of calling out the problems with the Foxconn deal. "Foxconn was one of the worst deals ever invented. Scott Walker paid way too much for subsidizing a private company in this state,” Evers said on the eve of the groundbreaking. “I'm pro-job, we have to have jobs in this state, but as far as the financial end of it, it was a complete disaster."
After the news dropped that Foxconn’s latest plans “will differ significantly, at least initially, from the original plans,” Roys called out the governor and his cronies for failing to understand the art of the deal. “There’s a reason contracts aren’t written on the back of a napkin,” argued the attorney and small-business owner. “It’s extremely troubling that Scott Walker is giving billions of dollars to a company that’s changing their end of the bargain on a whim. The recklessness of this deal proves it was designed to secure Walker’s re-election, not help the people of Wisconsin.”
That’s the bottom line. The Foxconn deal has always felt like a scheme to help secure the re-election of a governor who has repeatedly stumbled when it comes to job creation — not a serious proposal for the state’s future.
Roys also said: “Scott Walker should never have negotiated a contract and agreed to give billions to a company with a history of broken promises. At a time when Wisconsin small businesses and family farms are struggling, throwing $4.5 billion at a bad bet is the last thing our state needs. Wisconsinites deserve better from our governor.”
True enough, with the proviso that Wisconsin will not get anything better from this governor and his clown-car crew of “consultants.” The state could, however, get much better from the governor who replaces Scott Walker after the November election.
John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org and @NicholsUprising.
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