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Would Wisconsin Democrats Have Opposed Louisiana Purchase, Too?

August 1, 2017

The effort to land large and economically healthy businesses within our state is a most competitive undertaking.  Multiple states vied for the technology giant Foxconn, each offering incentive plans which included tax deals to sweeten the pot.  That is the reality of how public and private interests now need to work to ensure great strides are made for economic development.  While I have long been supportive of such undertakings, I readily admit my surprise when Lo and Behold Wisconsin landed this deal.

And not just any deal, either. The Foxconn development plan would be the largest green-field investment by a foreign-based company in our nation’s history.

With a $10 billion investment by Foxconn which will directly stimulate 13,000 jobs, with a large number of spin-off developments and jobs, means this is the powerhouse proposal Wisconsin needs.  While there are always hurdles and bumps in such planning the attempts by some to sour the good news should be kept in perspective.  There are always naysayers.

So I was not surprised about the negative comments which came from some members in my party.  To hear some of my fellow Democrats snort over the Foxconn deal makes me wonder how hard they want to be in the majority again in this state?  After all, packaging state resources into a powerful program to create jobs over a wide array of communities is the smartest thing to have emerged from our statehouse in a very long time.  And my party needs to get on board this plan and provide hearty support.

The seeming lack of awareness about spending money today for a larger and smarter pay-off in employment and tax revenues tomorrow seems lost on some legislators.  For too long other states were more than willing to make inroads where Wisconsin was hesitant to tread.  That was a damn shame.  And while I have many legitimate complaints about policy moves from Governor Walker I must say his work with this massive plan makes me smile.   This is exactly how state government needs to operate in the world in which we live.

I have not been shy about calling for Walker and other elected officials to respond to job growth needs in the state.  From December 2013 I penned the following.

There are prayers for jobless people in church on Sunday morning, and local talk shows deal with the political impact on those who are elected to make choices that spur job growth.  I am not sure there is any FDR type of politician in Wisconsin.  But if there were the mission would be clear.

This state needs someone with the ability to not only tackle the employment needs of the citizens, but also lift the spirit and hopes to again allow Wisconsinites the knowledge that things will again be better.  That jobs with living wages will be created and our communities can again be made whole.

I genuinely believe this is a plan that will not only create jobs, but lift spirits, and allow for a larger part of the state to also receive benefits from other investments.  For instance, I am heartened to learn the ways UW-Madison is seeking research relationships with Foxconn.  With that in mind, I would love to see this legislature also pass a meaningful venture capital bill to help seed the new ideas and small businesses that can be spun off from the Foxconn deal.  I do not wish to think small anymore when it comes to where we might head economically in our state.

While I am most confident this huge incentive plan can be marshaled to completion, I also know we need to design our incentive package smartly.  I am mighty concerned about the environmental impact that this business could have on our state. For instance, I am not pleased with the  possible discharge of production materials into the wetlands surrounding the company. I understand the need for a company to make profits but respect to our land, air, and water must not be disregarded.  There is no wiggle room for a cheap way out of making sure the environmental regulations of our state are not undermined.

With all the work and effort that Walker and his administration have already undertaken to get the state to this point with Foxconn makes me confident that true safeguards can be guaranteed in regard to environmental issues.   If Walker can achieve those standards with this massive job creation, and revenue producing venture his election in 2018 is all but assured.  This development proposal is that large–both to the state as a whole, and to the Governor’s political future.

There have been many reasons to take rhetorical slaps at Walker, and I have made many over the years at Caffeinated Politics.  But there is a time for politics, and then as I always say, there must be a time to do the work of governing.  So I must decry the tone that some have used about this deal.  I get the fact that at the statehouse partisanship is king, and logic is often left at the parking garage.   But after all that we have been through with employment woes, slack wages, and divisive government the time has come to take a breath, step up, and do the state’s business. 

15 Comments leave one →
  1. August 7, 2017 6:51 PM

    Jake, (thanks for reading and commenting)

    Two quick thoughts to your most recent comment, as dinner beckons.

    1) Our politics have been so pulled from both the left and the right that the middle way has all but disappeared and that undermines policy making and democracy, itself.

    2) The middle consensus way to policy making then allows all to share in the outcome and not allow for the fire-breathers to paint the outcome as something sinister.

    As a real-life issue look only to transportation projects and funding them. For decades both sides could see the policy reasons and the political win by working together to fund projects so everyone could go home and show progress. But the middle way has been supplanted by whatever we now wish to term the current mess.

  2. Jake formerly of the LP permalink
    August 7, 2017 5:47 PM

    Middle paths lose in campaigns, Greg. Honesty, integrity and forcefulness win.

    This is a bad deal, and Dems would be wise to say “HELL NO” to it. And yeah, I do have some WDS here. They are not to be trusted, and only a SUCKER would buy the garbage that he and his business oligarch friends are trying to sell on the Fox-con.

    There are much better ways to create jobs.

  3. August 4, 2017 10:43 AM

    Nonquixote,

    Just a quick response as I think readers to blogs should have the last word with comments, but your last line about Stockholm Syndrome requires a follow-up. I label myself—and have done so for decades–as a pragmatic liberal within the Democratic Party. I base my views on facts and ethics.

    I am under no illusions that one idea is perfect, or that a long series of refinements on any policy is not required to meet the needs of the citizenry. So when it comes to the larger issue here I want to be clear. I strongly support tax incentives and other inducements that are necessary to attract businesses. That has been a long-held belief of mine, It has been proven when done correctly that the costs of those incentives are partially or wholly offset by the additional tax revenue. That is a fact that cannot be denied in places around the nation. One may not agree with the concept of such undertakings but the success of such deals can not be dismissed. While some do not reward the unit of government in the manner it was hoped–in those cases where bad planning or economic forces weighed in–does not mean incentive packages for development in the large does not have merit.

    Exact Sciences is a private company I believe in based on what they have done for cancer research. I very much wanted to use TIF funds for their expansion in Madison when they made an effort to land a downtown operation a block away from the statehouse. While that effort did not come to fruition the stock of the company has been taking off and they now are vying for a place either in this city or neighboring Fitchburg.

    I read this week that Maine is offering incentives to lure bright, skilled people back to their state, which has hemorrhaged young people for decades. One of the avenues to combat such a worker drain is to have state governments use the tools they have, such as we are attempting here now, to prevent a further erosion of population. Furthermore these are the jobs of the future and the type of technology-driven ones that this state must gain if we are to increase wages and gain a more competitive stance with other states.

  4. nonquixote permalink
    August 3, 2017 11:39 PM

    Let me preface by saying I am a strong supporter of several WI legislators who happen to be Democrats. But the “party,” who, by visiting the DPW website, does from top to bottom, appear intuitively clueless or purposely so.

    “Red to Blue,” is the title slogan for what exactly? The need to change the national Dem leadership strategy from their wanna-be Trump-light fascists, to anything with even a hint of populist or progressive thought or intention? Pelosi just recently, “schooled” us on how we all must be capitalists first, after all. Don’t want her net worth to suffer now do we?

    So we get nothing but lip service to universal health care, while the, “public option,” keeps health insurers’ wallets flush, with little if any actual health care being delivered with that money. 100%, 24/7 Dem backing of health care for all is the only issue that will get the Dems the voter turnout needed to win any election in 2018. So, I’m in agreement with you that the Democratic party leaders are beyond reasoning with, Laning, Baldwin, Pocan are you listening?

    You have again expressed some wishes for a reality that appears nowhere in the Foxconn “deal,” to launder borrowed state money through the pockets of already wealthy private interests into GOP campaign coffers and have again offered not one fact about the, “deal,” that guarantees one promised job in WI. Performance obligations are nowhere to be found if you read the legislation being considered.

    The only other alternative to explain your position on Walker’s and Ryan’s re-election scheme here then would appear to be an undeniable and severe case of Stockholm Syndrome. That is all.

  5. August 3, 2017 10:38 PM

    Thank you, Richard. Your support in our city is meaningful.

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