Mark Belling: Not everyone is happy Foxconn is coming to Wisconsin
Democrats and the media rain on job-producing parade

 

July 26, 2017

Here’s how it works with the Democrats in Wisconsin and their sycophants in what passes for the state’s mainstream news media. If Foxconn had decided not to locate its manufacturing plant in Wisconsin and chose another state, Gov. Scott Walker would have been blasted for blowing the deal and being unable to bring in 10,000 jobs. On the other hand, now that Foxconn is announcing it is indeed going to build in Wisconsin, Walker will be ripped for giving away the store with too much “corporate welfare” in the form of tax breaks and other giveaways.

Walker was going to be blasted regardless of what Foxconn decided.

It’s already started. Evidently sensing that Wisconsin was the Foxconn front-runner, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel business columnist David Haynes is demanding that Walker not give “too much” to Foxconn, inanely writing that Foxconn’s benefit can’t be evaluated merely on the “number” of jobs that it creates, but on the “quality” of jobs. This outright bigotry against the value of blue-collar work notwithstanding, Haynes’ column is the first shot in the attempt by the left to declare a Foxconn win to actually be a loss.

You can hear it now: “Scott Walker gave hundreds of millions in tax breaks to the Chinese so they can create a bunch of low-wage non-union jobs that exploit workers.” And, “blah, blah and blah.” In fact you already are hearing it. Urbanmilwaukee.com columnist Bruce Murphy is already demonizing Foxconn, writing that the company is “infamous for poverty level wages and horrible working conditions with riots, worker suicides and violence” at a plant in China. Yikes! They’re going to build a sweatshop here. Cue Norma Rae.

But there was no guarantee Foxconn was coming here. There has been a major bidding war with other states trying to offer even sweeter sweetheart deals than ours. Michigan, another state whose voters threw out anti-business Democrats and replaced them with reform-minded Republicans, is fighting just as hard for Foxconn and may still get an additional facility. If Wisconsin had lost, the crowd that is planning to vilify Walker for giving away the store would have carved him up for not being able to close the deal.

This, too, is already going on. Democrats keep bringing up that “only” 185,000 new jobs have been created in the state since Walker became governor, not the 250,000 he promised. Radical Madison Mayor Paul Soglin is even lying that most of the new jobs are in Madison and that he deserves the credit, not Walker. But while we haven’t hit 250,000 yet, Foxconn would move us closer to Walker’s goal. Besides, at least under Walker the job numbers are going up, not down. Walker may not be at 250,000 yet, but at least he isn’t losing jobs like Jim Doyle and the Democrats.

Walker is running for a third term next year and landing Foxconn is a major coup, particularly when combined with the state’s remarkably low unemployment rate. The Democrats don’t want Walker to score yet another victory so they are trying to somehow make Foxconn a lose-lose situation for the governor. That is pathetic, yet predictable. What is even sadder is seeing the Democrats’ media water boys parroting this hypocritical double standard.

*** Tom Still of the Wisconsin Technology Council has correctly written that it is almost impossible for the state to “overpay” Foxconn with incentives. Foxconn can’t be looked at merely in the terms of the number of jobs it creates and their level of pay. All sorts of other businesses will boom as they serve Foxconn. When major businesses move in, they create economies of their own as other businesses start up and still others expand to service the Foxconns that move in. Any cost-benefit analysis of the Foxconn deal must consider the ripple effect of the economic expansion the company would produce.

In addition, Foxconn will pump even more life into the booming Interstate 94 corridor that runs from the Milwaukee airport to the Illinois state line. Amazon and Uline have already built four enormous facilities and Chewy.com is thinking about one. Foxconn would add to the momentum and occur at the expense of northern Illinois where I94 is stupidly set up with almost no freeway interchanges. All of this must be calculated in the “cost” of whatever is given to Foxconn.

This is how the game is played, like it or not. If we didn’t give Foxconn incentives, somebody else would have. Southern states have been pillaging the industrial Midwest with these tactics for years. China, India, Vietnam and other nations are even worse. Their subsidies are so over the top that the U.S. can’t match them dollar for yen (or whatever). We can pretend it’s still 1947 and Democrats may still think it is (Tom Barrett’s dopey trolley, continued alliances with the unions, etc.). In the world we actually live in, job-creating manufacturers are valued and must be lured.

*** But what about the charge that Foxconn creates grunt jobs from “yesterday’s” economy, as Bruce Murphy and David Haynes allege? Well, it’s partly true. But that is a good thing, not a bad thing. The American lower middle class has been crushed by the loss of low-skill manufacturing positions. Not everyone can be a software designer, electrical engineer, lawyer or website blogger. Unless we compete for jobs in the middle to lower tiers of the corporate pay scale, we are giving up on having a middle class in this country. The attack on “yesterday’s” economy is snobbish, bigoted and condescending. It is also stupid. Milwaukee and Racine continue to have persistent problems of underemployment because many workers lack skills for higher-end jobs. Many of the positions Foxconn will create will be perfect for these people.

Besides, Foxconn will have jobs across the economic spectrum. There’ll be managers, custodians, executives and shop workers. It is ridiculous to argue that all of those jobs should be exiled to China.

*** Nearly seven years ago, Walker declared, “Wisconsin is open for business.” This week’s Foxconn announcement shows how dramatic our turnaround has become. The only glum faces are those of Democrats and the media that loathe the fact that Walker is succeeding.

Mark Belling is the host of a daily WISN radio talk show. His column runs Wednesdays in The Freeman.