Aug 10, 2017

The Silence of the Fox

In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott
Walker's discredited claim
that 13,000 new jobs will
materialize with a $3 billion
public investment is meeting
with incredulity. Walker's 2018
campaign, Friends of Scott
Walker, is now pitching the
scheme dubbed the
Fox Con.

Boondoggle in the Badger State

Madison, Wisconsin — Led by public and legislative opposition, a ballyhooed announcement by Republicans that Foxconn will build a manufacturing plant in Wisconsin is meeting with skepticism.

The purported plan calls for some $3 billion in public subsidizing of a promised plant, the Republicans' posture is to not ask questions, rather rush through the enabling legislation by Sept 30 in a special legislative session.

A recent claim by Donald Trump that the Foxconn CEO told him off-the-record the Taiwanese company will invest $30 billion in the United States has brought silence from Foxconn.

From the Associated Press, a piece published one week ago notes, "Foxconn Technology Group is not saying whether it plans to invest $30 billion in the United States, as President Donald Trump claimed the company's leader told him 'off the record.'"

Meanwhile a public challenge by Madison Mayor Paul Soglin and the Madison Region Economic Partnership (MadREP) in submitting a proposal for Foxconn that would maintain environmental protections and be done "on our terms" has also met with silence from the Taiwanese company, (Mosiman, Wisconsin State Journal).

Reports the Wisconsin State Journal:

On Wednesday, Soglin again criticized the state’s consideration of giving Foxconn nearly $3 billion in refundable tax credits as part of an incentive package to lure the larger facility to the southeastern part of the state.

Such a large enticement could set expectations and standards for future arrangements, the mayor said, adding that if Foxconn builds in Madison, 'It’s going to be on our terms. It’s not going to be the kind of giveaway we’re seeing take place in state government.'

Meanwhile, a report by the Wisconsin Budget Project blasted the Foxconn scheme following similar thumbs-down analyses by major American business publications such as Bloomberg.

Notes Bloomberg in an August editorial on Foxconn in Wisconsin:

Such incentives [as $3 billion in public funds] are generally an awful way to lure jobs -- expensive, inefficient and fraught with unintended consequences. They can prompt costly bidding wars between states and impede other budget priorities. They have little effect on employment, growth or wages. They may induce unwise borrowing. Companies often come back again and again, as blackmailers tend to, seeking yet more blandishments. And nothing stops them from walking away when times get tough.

States are also apt to loosen the rules. Among other perks, Foxconn won’t need to obtain the state permits ordinarily required to discharge dredged material into local wetlands. Nor will it have to submit to standard environmental-impact studies. Such exceptions make for irrational public policy.

One might argue, as politicians often do, that even bad jobs underwritten by taxpayers are preferable to no jobs at all. But that’s wrongheaded: If those tax dollars were freed to find more productive uses, they’d boost efficiency and growth elsewhere in the economy -- and thus create more jobs.

Scam Alert

Across the country there are recognized red flags for phone and email scams.

One red flag is an expensive proposition that claims "You have to make up your mind right away," (City of Bloomington, Illinois). Walk away is the advice.

If Foxconn, Trump and Scott Walker keep promising 13,000 new jobs only we have to make up our minds right away and guarantee the Taiwanese company $3 billion by Sept 30, then walking away sounds like good advice.

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