Dear resident of Hudson, River Falls, and beyond: Move to Minnesota. Now. If you fail to heed this warning, you will be paying for Gov. Scott Walker’s ineptitude for years to come.
As you may recall, the soon-to-be-ex governor once promised that by slashing everything from taxes to education funding, Wisconsin would become the roaring engine of the Upper Midwest.
It didn’t quite work out that way. Minnesota went the opposite direction, and now crushes its neighbor in nearly every meaningful economic category.
So last year, Walker threw a Hail Mary. With the encouragement of Dealmaker in Chief Donald Trump, Walker offered the country’s largest corporate welfare deal to Foxconn Technology Group, a Taiwanese manufacturer of display screens for Apple.
It’s now become the worst rich man’s welfare package in U.S. history. And with each new revelation, it just keeps getting worse.
Begin with the fact that, as corporate citizens go, Foxconn falls somewhere between Enron and Mussolini.
It’s being investigated for dumping toxic metals into Chinese rivers, and has been cited dozens of times for using underage labor. One factory’s working conditions were so bad that 18 employees jumped to their deaths in a single year.
Welcome to Wisconsin, boys. Will $4.5 billion make you comfortable?
That’s the estimated cost of the welfare package, which covers everything from job subsidies to road improvements. When all is said and done, every Wisconsin taxpayer is expected to kick in $1,800.
Initially, Foxconn promised to create some 13,000 jobs. But that estimate has been continually pared down since the deal was finished, now falling in the range of 3,000 to 10,000 – with no guarantees. Workers’ average pay will be about $50,000 annually. But those paychecks will funded by Mr. & Mrs. Wisconsin for years to come.
The Wisconsin Budget Project estimates that, at the very least, taxpayers will be covering the first four years of wages for every employee. On the high end, the subsidies could run as much as $587,000 per job – or the first 10 years of each worker’s earnings.
Translation: The state could have hired thousands of people to do more valuable work – like teaching, policing, nursing, etc. – and still saved money.
Instead, Walker’s plan means Wisconsin won’t break even on its bailout for more than 25 years. And since Foxconn can close the plant in as little as 10 years, there’s a very real chance that taxpayers could be funding an empty factory for decades to come.
But wait: It gets worse.
None of this factors in the additional millions for pollution cleanup. Foxconn has been repeatedly accused of dumping toxic metals into waterways near its other plants. And before he resigned in disgrace, Trump’s EPA chief Scott Pruitt exempted the Wisconsin facility from federal limits on air emissions. On the day it opens, it’s expected to immediately become the state’s largest polluter.
But the most glaring blunder was revealed last week. Wisconsin residents could end up bankrolling employees who don’t even work… in Wisconsin.
That’s the recent finding of the Fiscal Bureau, a nonpartisan arm of the state legislature. It discovered that taxpayers would be on the hook for funding Foxconn employees in other states, as long as their paychecks are run through the Wisconsin plant.
Republican lawmakers seem to sense they’ve created an exploding cigar in waiting. Earlier this month, before new Democratic Gov. Tony Evers takes office, they passed a bill ensuring that residents will be kept from knowing exactly where their money is going.
Instead of independently verifying that promised jobs are actually being created, Foxconn will simply be able to vouch for itself, and the money will start rolling in.