Home / General / Paul Ryan, Serious Man of Conservative Principle (TM)

Paul Ryan, Serious Man of Conservative Principle (TM)


Above: a lightweight who loves corporate welfare and vicious assaults on the poor, and the President of the United States of America 


As you may recall, Paul Ryan’s House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would take health insurance away from 23 million people and make insurance worse for tens of millions more to pay for a massive upper-tax cut. But while he has no use for moochers who get sick without being rich, he is willing to advocate for the spending public money for a truly worthy cause, such as a massive economically inefficient giveaway to a Taiwanese corporation:

West Virginia governor Jim Justice, who just switched his party registration from Democratic (which was tenuous) to Republican, proposes that the federal government spend $4.5 billion a year to support his state’s coal industry. It is not only that Justice believes coal in general needs to be subsidized in relation to the cheaper, cleaner energy sources that are beating it out. He believes Appalachian coal in particular needs support vis-à-vis coal from the West. “The survivability of the Eastern coalfields is very, very iffy,” Justice says. “And if you lose the Eastern coalfields, you are putting the country at risk beyond belief.”

In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker is pushing a $3 billion package of state tax incentives, which could be paid out in straight cash, for Foxconn to build a plant in his state. Under the most generous assumptions, a study concludes, it would take the state 25 years to break even. The unemployment rate in Wisconsin is already 3.2 percent, and as Danielle Paquette points out, “Employers there already complain about having trouble finding workers.”

The plant would be located in Paul Ryan’s district, and the House Speaker has played an instrumental role both in wooing Foxconn and pleading with the state legislature to approve the massive cost. “Obviously I tell state lawmakers, let’s get this done,” he says.

And you could say why, since Foxconn Technology is pretty much the corporate manifestation of Ryan’s worldview:

The factory’s first death this year came on Jan. 23.

The body of a 19-year-old worker named Ma Xiangqian was found in front of his high-rise dormitory at 4:30 a.m. Police investigators concluded that he had leapt from a high floor, and they ruled it a suicide.

His family, including his 22-year-old sister who worked at the same company, Foxconn Technology, said he hated the job he had held only since November — an 11-hour overnight shift, seven nights a week, forging plastic and metal into electronics parts amid fumes and dust. Or at least that was Mr. Ma’s job until, after a run-in with his supervisor, he was demoted in December to cleaning toilets.

Mr. Ma’s pay stub shows that he worked 286 hours in the month before he died, including 112 hours of overtime, about three times the legal limit. For all of that, even with extra pay for overtime, he earned the equivalent of $1 an hour.

“The factory was always abusing my brother,” the sister, Ma Liqun, said tearfully last week.

Since Mr. Ma’s death, there have been 12 other suicides or suicide attempts — eight men and four women — on two Foxconn campuses in Shenzhen, where employees live and work. The factories here, with about 400,000 employees, make products for global companies like Apple, Dell and Hewlett-Packard.

Most of the other suicide cases fit a similar profile: ages 18 to 24, relatively new to the factory, and falling from a campus building.

They should find Scott Walker’s labor policies very congenial!

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  • howard

    i particularly like how gop politicians who believe it is a matter of principle not to “bail out” insurers by making risk corridor payments see no problem at all with flat out bribing corporations to make location decisions.

    • Tom Till

      Foxconn is a “maker” (even though they’ve got to rely on an army of moochers that cost $1 an hour) so helping them is will result in maker making more makeage.

      Insurance companies, on the other hand, decided to go all Kenyan anti-colonialist by agreeing to occasionally keep the odd moocher from dying or going bankrupt. Classic taker behavior.

      • Foxconn is a “maker” (even though they’ve got to rely on an army of moochers that cost $1 an hour) so bribery will help makers make more makeage

        What is Foxconn going to do when they go to Wisconsin, where they will have to pay the workers $2 an hour?

        • Hogan

          I’m thinking company store.

          • And company housing, and food, and water, and clothes…

            • Hogan

              Exactly. A Pullman for the 21st century.

            • DJ

              “St. Peter don’t you call me,
              ‘Cause I can’t go,
              I owe my soul to the company store.”

              • rea

                Actually a song about the gloriously happy profession of coal mining

                • DJ

                  And sadly ironic, given the suicides of Foxconn workers

                • pluky

                  Perhaps my tinfoil hat is on a little too tight, but I’m darkly suspicious about whether all these deaths are in fact suicide. Convenient way to get rid of HR problems.

            • Company oxygen?

      • Unemployed_Northeastern

        Obligatory reminder that as recently as a few years ago (and maybe still today, who knows), Facebook had a small army of third-party contractors in the developing world who did their content moderation for about $1/hour.

    • Hypersphrericalcow

      I think this is related to how middle-class people rage about “government handouts”, even though they have subsidized mortgages, healthcare, 401ks, etc. A direct payment and a tax break both look the same on the ledger, but the latter seems more psychologically invisible.

  • Karen

    Foxconn is simply reacting to the market by abusing its employees who could always exercise their rights of freely contracting by quitting ™ but of course Google firing a guy who made headlines by suggesting that women were inferior is an abuse of free speech!

    • Well, at least he told Freedomain Radio that he’s not a racist. So there’s that.

  • Bri2k

    3 BILLION dollars? I’d think it’d be a lot cheaper just to give those potential workers a universal basic income instead. At least then that money is going directly to citizens of the state and not to an overseas company.

    • McAllen

      Giving money to people? Sounds like communism to me. Real Americans support free market solutions, such as giving money to corporations.

    • Unemployed_Northeastern

      Three billion dollars for a factory where people sandwich different layers of TVs and Android phones together. It’s insane. Between city and state tax breaks, the total package to lure General Electric’s global headquarters to Boston was less than $150 million. And a lot of locals are upset that we gave them that much.

      • West

        Yup, and the stupidity of that $150M is partly ameliorated by the fact that a bunch of it was for transit projects (loosely defined) that were already in the works, and which the neighborhood that GE is moving to needs.

        I’m still pissed about it.

        And now GE has announced that they’re slowing down the HQ project, partly. Instead of 2 rehabs and 1 new building, they’re doing the rehabs and delaying the new building. No news on whether the tax breaks get delayed, too, but I’ve already made the obvious assumption.

        Edited to correct: that should have read “public works projects”, they weren’t all transit.

        • Unemployed_Northeastern

          Hopefully it won’t become a redux of Pfizer and New London…

          • West

            Well, at least GE / Boston aren’t using eminent domain to force out a bunch of homeowners like New London did for Pfizer (though I agree GE might add to the already intense pressures on artists in the Fort Point area). And I don’t realistically think GE would bail now. GE needs to be out of Fairfield CT more than Boston needs them in Boston, and GE has already relocated. They’ve been renting temp HQ and most of the senior staff slated for relocation to Boston have in fact already moved, which for most would entail selling homes in a cheaper area to buy in a more expensive area. So a Pfizer / New London redux doesn’t seem an apt comparison either on how the deal is structured or how much risk there is of them leaving.

            Having said that, I’d not be 100% shocked if GE left after a few years. Surprised, yes, shocked, no. But Boston has so much more going in economically than New London did back then, the impact wouldn’t be so severe. So even if GE did bail, it still wouldn’t be so much of a rug out from under.

            None of this is meant to read as a defense of GE, by the way. I’m just saying it’s hard to imagine that any one company could do to Boston what Pfizer did to New London, and I don’t foresee Boston doing to itself what New London did to itself on behalf of Pfizer (Boston has of course done such things to itself, but also seems to have gotten that out of its system long ago – fingers crossed).

            • Unemployed_Northeastern

              I was thinking more of how Pfizer moved out of New London the very month their property tax breaks ended. Of course it was weird that Pfizer had a truly gargantuan facility literally next door in Groton. But yeah, hopefully GE sticks around.

              • West

                I had forgotten about the Groton aspect. yeah, that should have been a clue, eh?

                • Unemployed_Northeastern

                  Yup. The New London Pfizer facility literally looked across the Thames River at a different Pfizer facility that spanned a few hundred acres.

      • Rob in CT

        Grrrrr… (I grew up right next to Fairfield).

        I’m not even sure that $150mil was the crucial bit. Boston is a serious city, with corresponding amenities. Fairfield, CT is a pretty nice place. It is not a city. The closest *real* city is NYC, ~75 miles away.

        Cities are hot again.

        • Unemployed_Northeastern

          Yup. GE made it pretty clear they wanted to be in the same ecosystem as MIT, Harvard, and metro Boston’s roaring startup and venture capital scene. My understanding is that 43 states and cities pitched tax packages at GE and Boston/MA’s was far from the most lucrative.

          • Rob in CT

            Yup. But of course our local Rs will shamelessly claim it was about taxes (as if MA taxes are appreciably lower than CT taxes anyway!).

            Putting aside the bullshit, this represents a huge problem for a state like CT.
            I’ve been trying to think of examples of cities roughly the size of Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport… and figure out which ones had success reinventing themselves. I remember a former commenter here talking about Lowell… ;) but 1 example isn’t all that helpful. Maybe there is a pattern. Maybe there isn’t. But our cities are small and they’re a mess. And this is a huge problem.

            • Unemployed_Northeastern

              Providence has done a fairly decent job, though I think that is helped no small amount by being an acceptable commuting distance from metro Boston and even the city itself. Lots of people are willing to put up with a commute from Providence to like the office parks of Norwood or Westborough or even Boston in exchange for living in a fairly hip, walkable city with much lower housing costs than eastern MA. It helps that there are commuter rail, Amtrak regional, and Amtrak Acela connections, too.

              Providence has its own employers too, of course – Textron, big BofA and Citizens Bank offices, Hasbro is around the corner, but I don’t think it’s appreciably different or better in that aspect than Hartford or New Haven (or even Springfield, which is home to arguably the largest company in Massachusetts: Mass Mutual).

              To a lesser extent, people are moving to some of the nicer homes in Worcester and commuting to various jobs on 495 or in Worcester’s small-but-growing biotech park around UMASS Med School.

              IMO, Connecticut’s problem at the most basic level is one of geography: it is a cask tapped at both ends. Boston is one tap, NYC the other. I stole that line, incidentally – I think it was initially applied to 19th century New Jersey in relation to NYC and Philly.

            • West

              And Lowell is solidly in Boston’s orbit and catching some spillover. Hartford does not seem to be in either NYC’s or Boston’s orbit, and also not big enough to create sufficient gravitational pull of its own.

              I see Aetna’s also leaving CT. Boston made a pitch for them, too, but they are going to NYC.

              Did you see the Slate article on CT losing these businesses?

              • Rob in CT

                Yeah, I read that Slate article. It made the argument about suburbs being on the out and cities being in and that being key to understand what was happening. I found it pretty convincing.

                That’s not to say that CT doesn’t have other problems. We do – the pension disaster is one of our own making.

              • Unemployed_Northeastern

                I think Salem is a better example than Lowell of “Boston satellite city that went from molding ex-industrial burg to burgeoning young professional and artsy hipster enclave.”

                • West

                  Absolutely. Lowell’s trying to be next up; we’ll see. I think they’re getting some traction, but yeah, they’re a couple decades behind Salem.

                • efgoldman

                  Lowell’s trying to be next up; we’ll see.

                  The two UMass campuses continue to expand, slowly.

                • Unemployed_Northeastern

                  And decades ahead of Lawrence.

                • Hogan

                  Also witches.

                • efgoldman

                  Also witches.

                  Right. They have a steady tourist business (House of the Seven Gables) which increases in the summer. Also all of the old waterfront towns (Gloucester, Salem, Plymouth) attract tourists.

                • Unemployed_Northeastern

                  And Newburyport, arguably the prettiest of them all.

    • Kevin

      And they’ll be paid back in 25 years! Note: Anyone who gives you a time horizon greater than 3 years is probably lying to you. Try giving future earnings projections to someone in 1992 for 25 years, lol, i wonder how well that would have gone!

      One I love to use to make the point about how quickly things change is home video. Blockbuster Video was founded in 1985. What do you think their 25 year horizon looked like! (crap…I grew up with that, makes me feel old. I saw the rise and fall of an entire business category in my short life, and it seemed so stable growing up).

      • Kevin

        Expanding on this – who thinks that in 25 years this place will have even a dozen factory workers, when most things will be automated? Makes the quarter century projection even more absurd.

        • Kevin

          And that’s still assuming that Foxconn actually creates the 13,000 jobs it claimed it might create, at the average wage — just shy of $54,000 — it promised to create them at. In fact, the plant is only expected to start with 3,000 jobs; the 13,000 figure is the maximum potential positions it could eventually offer. If the factory offers closer to 3,000 positions, the report notes, “the breakeven point would be well past 2044-45.”

          The authors of the report even seem somewhat skeptical of the best-case scenario happening. Foxconn is already investing heavily in automation, and there’s no guarantee it won’t do the same thing in Wisconsin. Nor is there any guarantee that Foxconn will remain such a manufacturing powerhouse. (Its current success relies heavily on the success of the iPhone.)


          Yeah, sure they are going to fill 13K factory jobs at $54K a year….that’s sooooo likely to happen! And of course, the note on Foxconn investing heavily in automation. What a great deal!

          • BigHank53

            I’m willing to believe that FoxConn will pay salaries commeasurate with the work: phones are both expensive and fiddly. You need decent eyes and steady hands, so you won’t be putting them together with a killer hangover on Monday. So definitely more than burger-flipping or schlepping boxes.

            But there’s no way in hell they’re going to pay an annual salary of $54k. That kind of money will buy you an electronics tech who’s got the skills to troubleshoot the phone down to the component level, not just screw the thing together.

            • Mellano

              Supposedly it’s average compensation at the plant including for health care, etc, and a substantial minority of employees will be engineer types making a lot more than the target. So it’s fair to expect any Janes and Joes on the assembly line won’t see paychecks anywhere close to that $54k.

  • Just one more in a long line of “let’s set ourselves up to be taken” by GOP lawmakers.
    about 10 years ago, Atlanta (or was it Alpharetta?) made a deal with a multinational to train new workers, provide tax breaks including no property or corporate taxes on their new plant, and cash payments to the company. The cherry on top? The city would cover all payroll taxes including federal, but the company could still take that money from workers’ checks as though the company was collecting and paying those taxes.
    At the end of it all, the deal fell apart and no jobs were created. But the company did pocket all the cash before walking away.

  • “The survivability of the Eastern coalfields is very, very iffy,” Justice says. “And if you lose the Eastern coalfields, you are putting the country at risk beyond belief.”

    Actually, digging the coal out of these fields and burning it is what is putting the country at risk beyond belief, you fucking idiot.

    • Yeah, I was wondering how that worked. Putting the country at risk of what, exactly? Are we falling behind other Third World countries in labor deaths per thousand hours worked?

      • Bloix

        Not clear how mothballing some mines equals losing the coalfields. The coalfields are there, mined or not. They don’t vaporize when a mine closes.

        • the gnomes will steal all the coal, if you turn the lights out

      • I think the country he is talking about is ‘coal country’, which is the only country that matters.

        • hellslittlestangel

          The dirty, filthy heartland.

        • BigHank53

          Coal country in WV is about a forty-minute drive from the capitol, and most ex-miners have a rifle or two around the place. Unless they already pawned it for more Oxycontin, of course.

      • slavdude

        But is it really about coal-mining jobs after all? AIUI, most coal-mining is automated now, so even if it were ramped up in Appalachia again, there’s no guarantee that the mining companies would bother with the overhead of actual employees.

        • Aaron Morrow

          Especially if no one stops fracking for natural gas.

    • aardvarkcheeselog

      I read that as “yes, it is beyond belief that losing the Eastern coalfields would put the country at risk.”

  • Jordan

    I’ve always wondered this, and so hopefully smarter people can enlighten me: whats the best federal approach (assuming ponies and all) to preventing these kinds of specific give-aways?

  • Joe Paulson

    Third in line.

    I’m rooting for President Hatch (if it happens pre-2019).

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    ” Ayn- I mean Mama- always told me the jam keeps best up on the higher shelves where the riffraff can’t get into it” — Paul Ryan

  • SatanicPanic

    “Mr. Ma’s pay stub shows that he worked 286 hours in the month before he died, including 112 hours of overtime, about three times the legal limit. For all of that, even with extra pay for overtime, he earned the equivalent of $1 an hour.”

    Jesus. now I want to throw this IPhone at someone.

  • Ladies and Gentlemen, behold! The Party Of Fiscal Responsibility!

    • rea

      They force everyone else to be fiscally responsible, while they throw a party. The Party of fisca responsibility!

  • AlexSaltzberg

    Say what you will about the tenets of publicly financed stadium deals, at least it’s an ethos.

    • Ithaqua

      Say what you will about the tenants of publicly financed stadium deals, at least they’re rich.

      • John F

        I regret that I have but two thumbs to give a thumbs up to your post.

  • efgoldman

    And of course we all remember that governor Snotty Walker turned down a railcar factory which pretty much guaranteed a few hundred good jobs because apparently his parents wouldn’t buy him a Lionel set when he was a kid, or something.

    • Rob in CT

      LGB or GTFO.

      Though, of course, that’s not buying American. Shame!

    • Mellano

      More than that, he shut down an ARRA grant of over $800 million for a high-speed rail line from Milwaukee to Madison. Because, wait for it:

      “The bottom line is, right now, I’ve seen no scenario where the taxpayers of the state of Wisconsin aren’t gonna be on the hook for millions of dollars. . . .And to me, unless there was an ironclad agreement that showed me otherwise, I’m not interested, and I think the majority of voters made that very clear in the election.

      • Aubergine

        Most of that $800 million came to us in Washington for improvements to the rail line between Seattle and Portland. More trains, faster and smoother track, fewer conflicts with freights. Thank you, Snotty Walker!

  • sanjait

    Loosely related: I just saw this WAPO report on a poll showing half of Republican voters would support postponing the 2020 election if Trump said it was necessary to prevent voter fraud. Seriously.


    Think the Paul Ryans and Mitch McConnells of the world would stand against this? I can’t imagine they would.

    • Remember how they thought tyrannical Obama would do something sneaky about getting a third election

  • Hypersphrericalcow

    Here’s a fun exercise: go to http://www.chicagotribune.com, and search for “Wisconsin”. You’ll find a couple articles about how the Foxconn deal is actually a net negative for the state, and an editorial titled:

    “The next Foxconn and Illinois: Here’s why Wisconsin will be the state growing more taxpayers”

    Oh, they will paying more tax, all right.

    ETA: Here’s the kicker from that editorial: “The final reason Foxconn picked Wisconsin over Illinois is the difference-maker: government cooperation and competence”.

    • Mellano

      A few years ago stories came out of the Tribune’s offices about a bunch of cigar-smoking former frat boys playing poker and catcalling women in Colonel McCormick’s boardroom while steering the newspaper straight from a private equity buyout into bankruptcy.

      If they don’t illustrate the current makeup of the Republican Party’s capitalist faction perfectly, I don’t know what does.

      • Hypersphrericalcow

        Don’t forget, “we took on crushing debt, so we need to sell off the Cubs, which is the only asset that makes any money!”

        • Mellano

          Oh God, I just realized they probably paved the way for the Cubs to win the World Series. And those numbskulls would take the same deal again every time.

          • Hypersphrericalcow

            Yup. They sold the team to people who didn’t just treat Wrigley Field as a money spigot, but actually cared about building a good team and winning games.

            Also: as a Chicagoan, I have a lot of things to say about Rahm Emmanuel, most it not very complimentary. But when the new Cubs owners tried to shake down the city for money to renovate Wrigley, he told them to go pound sand (probably in much more colorful language).

  • Funny how much like China the right wants to be. Have you heard Buchanan fish about how their gov works?

  • Michael Cain

    “The survivability of the Eastern coalfields is very, very iffy,” Justice says.

    I was writing something else this morning, and certainly came to the same conclusion. Three trends: (1) the Trump administration taking steps to increase western coal production and make it as cheap as possible; (2) several western states’ declining coal use based on decisions other than price; and (3) little spare capacity at West Coast ports’ coal terminals. The combination points to western coal taking market share from eastern coal. The Burlington Northern and Union Pacific must be dancing whatever happy dance railroads dance.

  • A. That caption’s a cheap shot.
    B. I only care because better would be: “Guess which is a lightweight who loves corporate welfare and vicious assaults on the poor” because the answer, now and forever, is “both”. Actually, all of the Republicans.

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