Home / General / How Donald Trump and Scott Walker looted Wisconsin taxpayers to pay off Foxconn in exchange for nothing

How Donald Trump and Scott Walker looted Wisconsin taxpayers to pay off Foxconn in exchange for nothing

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Republicans don’t believe in “free markets” and they sure as shit don’t believe in carefully spending taxpayer money. They believe in upward wealth distribution, and if ordinary taxpayers can foot the bill all the better:

HOPES WERE HIGH among the employees who joined Foxconn’s Wisconsin project in the summer of 2018. In June, President Donald Trump had broken ground on an LCD factory he called “the eighth wonder of the world.” The scale of the promise was indeed enormous: a $10 billion investment from the Taiwanese electronics giant, a 20 million-square-foot manufacturing complex, and, most importantly, 13,000 jobs.

Which is why new recruits arriving at the 1960s office building Foxconn had purchased in downtown Milwaukee were surprised to discover they had to provide their own office supplies. “One of the largest companies in the world, and you have to bring your own pencil,” an employee recalls wondering. Maybe Foxconn was just moving too fast to be bothered with such details, they thought, as they brought their laptops from home and scavenged pencils left behind by the building’s previous tenants. They listened to the cries of co-workers trapped in the elevators that often broke, noted the water that occasionally leaked from the ceiling, and wondered when the building would be transformed into the gleaming North American headquarters an executive had promised.

The renovations never arrived. Neither did the factory, the tech campus, nor the thousands of jobs. Interviews with 19 employees and dozens of others involved with the project, as well as thousands of pages of public documents, reveal a project that has defaulted on almost every promise. The building Foxconn calls an LCD factory — about 1/20th the size of the original plan — is little more than an empty shell. In September, Foxconn received a permit to change its intended use from manufacturing to storage.

Even the handful of jobs the company claims to have created are less than real: many of them held by people with nothing to do, hired so the company could reach the number required for it to get tax subsidy payments from Wisconsin. Foxconn failed at that objective, too: last week, Wisconsin rejected the company’s subsidy application and found it had employed only 281 people eligible under the contract at the end of 2019. Many have since been laid off.

Foxconn did not return repeated requests for comment.

It’s not unusual for either the Trump administration or Foxconn to make announcements that prove hollow. But for Foxconn, the show went on — for two years, the company, aided by the vocal support of the Wisconsin GOP, worked to maintain an illusion of progress in front of a business venture that never made economic sense.

That illusion has had real costs. State and local governments spent at least $400 million, largely on land and infrastructure Foxconn will likely never need. Residents were pushed from their homes under threat of eminent domain and dozens of houses bulldozed to clear property Foxconn doesn’t know what to do with. And a recurring cycle of new recruits joined the project, eager to help it succeed, only to become trapped in a mirage.

The whole story is amazing. And the thing is that if there was some way Wisconsin Republicans and Supreme Court Republicans could collaborate to prevent a competitive multi-party election for governor they way they’ve prevented competitive multi-party elections for the legislature and Walker were still in power the grift would still be ongoing. At this point, I’m even beginning to wonder if infrastructure week is ever coming.

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