It Was Inevitable, But FoxConn, A Big Con Job, Just Called Off Its "Massive Investment" In Wisconsin
Wisconsin state Senator Chris Larson (and his two children) just bade farewell to their cases of COVID. I spoke to him yesterday and he sounded fine and fully recovered. I speak with him every few weeks because I'm trying as hard as I can to persuade him to run against Ron Johnson (or Ron Nicholson if Johnson decides against running) for the U.S. Senate seat that was once occupied, honorably, by Russ Feingold. Right now there are 3 declared Democratic candidates, all kind of middle-of-the-road and none of whom really stands for anything beyond standard Democratic Party careerism.
The reason I think that ultimately Larson will decide to run is that he's genuinely worried about new battlelines being drawn over the next decade for holding big tech companies accountable, putting a check on the power of Wall Street and the super rich, as we strive for the more equitable country he's been working towards. He understands what monopolies mean and how much energy has to be put into fighting them off and I think he knows that the Democrats running for the nomination-- as much as an improvement on Johnson that they would be-- aren't up to the task.
Because we used to talk about it when Scott Walker-- and then Trump-- were touting it so heavily, I asked Larson about yesterday's tacit admission that the whole Foxconn project was a great big scam. Remember when Republicans hungry for votes swore up and down the project would mean $10 billion invested into the state-- and the creation of 13,000 new jobs? Scott Walker ran for governor on it and then Trump used it as a huge talking point to persuade Wisconsin voters to help reelect him. By then most already knew Walker and Trump had been lying to them and both lost their reelection bids. Tony Evers beat Walker 1,324,307 (49.5%) to 1,295,080 (48.4%) and two years later Biden beat Trump 1,630,866 (49.5%) to 1,610,184 (48.8%).
Yesterday, CNBC reported that "Foxconn is drastically scaling back a planned $10 billion factory in Wisconsin, confirming its retreat from a project that Trump once called 'the eighth wonder of the world.' Under a deal with the state of Wisconsin announced on Tuesday, Foxconn will reduce its planned investment to $672 million from $10 billion and cut the number of new jobs to 1,454 from 13,000.
The Foxconn-Wisconsin deal was first announced to great fanfare at the White House in July 2017, with Trump boasting of it as an example of how his “America First” agenda could revive U.S. tech manufacturing.
...[I]ndustry executives, including some at Foxconn, were highly skeptical of the plan from the start, pointing out that none of the crucial suppliers needed for flat-panel display production were located anywhere near Wisconsin.
The plan faced local opposition too, with critics denouncing a taxpayer giveaway to a foreign company and provisions of the deal that granted extensive water rights and allowed for the acquisition and demolition of houses through eminent domain.
As of 2019, the village where the plant is located had paid just over $152 million for 132 properties to make way for Foxconn, plus $7.9 million in relocation costs, according to village records obtained by Wisconsin Public Radio and analyzed by Wisconsin Watch.
... The state will reduce the tax credits authorized for the project to $80 million from $2.85 billion.
The original Wisconsin package also included local tax incentives and road and highway investments by state and local governments, which brought total taxpayer-funded subsidies to more than $4 billion.
Foxconn noted that since 2017, it has invested $900 million in Wisconsin, including several different facilities in the state.
The state has already spent more than $200 million on road improvements, tax exemptions and grants to local governments for worker training and employment, according to the records obtained by Wisconsin Public Radio.
Larson told me that he's "not a big fan of these corporate extortion efforts, where basically a huge corporation comes in and asks for the sun, the sky and the moon and everything under it. Hopefully this new deal saves some money and FoxConn finally fulfills their obligation to Wisconsin but with a billion already spent, they've got a lot of work to do." Larson expanded on how he sees this kind of scam:
The FoxConn fiasco was the largest corporate giveaway in US history when it was announced in 2017. It was the brainchild of a handful of desperate politicians and a company that has a history of overpromising, underdelivering, and trying to con as much out of taxpayers as possible along the way. From the very beginning, many of us called FoxConn out for being more con than fox.
Every promise made surrounding this deal has since been broken. Sometimes, when found out for their deception, they'd proceed to double-down by making new promises that have predictably gone on to be broken. How about 6G instead of 10g? Or electric cars?! Or maybe even a data hub? Wouldn't you love Innovation Centers around the state? Here, how about we promise $100 million to partner with the UW system to quiet your concerns?
None of these things ever came true.
So it's no surprise that this new deal is being met with a heavy helping of skepticism from weary Wisconsinites.
We're hopeful that something good can come for the $1 billion that's already been spent by the state and local government but it truly remains to be seen. For most Wisconites, FoxConn has served more as a punchline than a possible factory line.
I try and be hopeful, but man, it would be really great if they started coming through on one of those promises some time or another. It's on FoxConn to prove itself before we start celebrating.