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A newspaper photograph last June portrayed three guys in suits and ties shoveling dirt. They were Donald Trump, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and the chairman of Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics conglomerate.
They were doing a PR groundbreaking for Foxconn’s new plant that supposedly would hire thousands of blue-collar workers in Wisconsin to make flat-screen televisions. All three hailed the event as the start of a Made-in-the-USA manufacturing renaissance, but it was actually a corporate scam. Walker, who was up for re-election, was giving away a whopping $4 billion from his state’s taxpayers to lure Foxconn. Still, Trump hailed the deal as “the eighth wonder of the world.”
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Less than a year later, though – oops – it turns out the three had been shoveling BS. In January, Foxconn quietly backed away from its promise of all those factory jobs, declaring that “the global market environment… has changed…. In terms of TV, we have no place in the US.” Having already pocketed much of Walker’s bribe money, Foxconn was downsizing its project from a mass-production blue-collar factory to some sort of high-tech R&D operation.
It turns out that the Taiwanese giant has a history of reneging on its grandiose schemes, including failing to deliver on a Pennsylvania factory it promised in 2013. Still, Foxconn is right that the environment had changed – Walker was defeated in November, Wisconsinites are in an uproar over both his extravagant giveaway and the corporation’s backaway, the new Democratic governor is asking pointed questions, and Trump’s slaphappy zigzags on tariffs has roiled the whole high-tech market.
So, beware: When you see a picture of politicians shoveling the people’s tax dollars into corporate coffers, the only sure thing is that the people are being played for suckers.
“Trump Heralded a Big TV Factory in Wisconsin. Now It’s in Doubt.” The New York Times, January 31, 2019.
“No evidence that new governor harmed Foxconn deal,” Austin American Statesman, February 4, 2019.