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!