Dan O’Donnell dismantles Democrats’ unhinged opposition to the Foxconn Deal
July 25, 2018
Special Guest Perspective By Dan O’Donnell
It didn’t take a single word, just a show of hands to reveal just how unserious Wisconsin’s Democratic Party has become.
“Who on this stage would kill or stop the Foxconn deal?” moderator Mitch Teich asked the eight Democratic gubernatorial candidates in this month’s primary debate on the UW-Milwaukee campus.
Five hands shot proudly in the air. Five of the eight candidates—Matt Flynn, Paul Soglin, Kelda Helen Roys, Kathleen Vinehout, and Mike McCabe—indicated that, without giving it a second thought, they would kill the biggest financial boon Wisconsin has ever seen.
The other three candidates—frontrunner Tony Evers, Mahlon Mitchell, and Josh Pade—perhaps not wishing to appear quite as extreme, indicated that they would merely renegotiate the agreement. None would leave it as is.
And why would they? All it would do is fundamentally transform Wisconsin’s economy and return $18 of economic impact for every dollar the state spends over the life of the deal, but acknowledging that the deal is, has been, and will be a success for the state would be to acknowledge that Governor Walker deserves the lion’s share of the credit.
This refusal to give credit where credit is due and to oppose a deal merely for the sake of opposition is election year politics at its most craven and its most crazy.
And it seems to be largely centered on the irrational belief that Foxconn executives will somehow con Wisconsin into handing over taxpayer money and then skip town, possibly while whistling “76 Trombones.” Yet while Democrats keep screaming about Foxconn failing to live up to its promises, Foxconn keeps buying real estate across Wisconsin.
First it was a $14.5 million, seven-story building in downtown Milwaukee that will serve as the company’s North American headquarters employing more than 500 people. Then it was the Watermark Building in Green Bay that will be an innovation center and employ 200 more. Then it was an office building in Eau Claire that will be turned into a technology hub and employ 150 more. What does Foxconn have to buy next to show that it’s serious about Wisconsin, Lambeau Field?
As if the notion of a multinational corporation running off with a state’s money wasn’t ludicrous enough, Democrats desperate to find a reason to oppose a deal that will add $78 billion to Wisconsin’s gross domestic product over its lifetime also believe that the company will drain Lake Michigan.
No, seriously. That’s an actual concern for some Foxconn opponents. “Foxconn Will Drain 7 Million Gallons of Water Per Day from Lake Michigan to Make LCD Screens” screamed one of the more hysterical headlines. Given that 4.3 million gallons per day will be treated at the plant and then returned to the Lake Michigan water basin and the lake’s total volume measures in the quadrillions of gallons, it would take several hundred thousand years (at least) for Foxconn to drain it. In fact, the Wisconsin DNR determined that Foxconn’s water usage will account for just a 0.07% increase in the total amount of water withdrawn from Lake Michigan.
Still, the Foxconn deal must destroy Wisconsin’s environment in some way, right? After all, one of the most popular talking points in Democratic circles is that Walker’s deal somehow exempts the company from any environmental oversight and allows it to destroy wetlands with impunity as it builds its 20 million square foot plant in Mt. Pleasant. As a matter of fact, Foxconn will face even greater burdens on wetland replacement than do most companies. For them, state law requires 1.2 new acres of wetlands created for every acre filled in for a construction project. Under the Foxconn deal, the company must create two new acres of wetland for every acre it fills in.
Even if environmental concerns are overblown (and they most definitely are), Foxconn opponents can always rely on the assertion that the company won’t end up paying its workers nearly the $54,000 average salary that is being promised. This concern might be more credible if there wasn’t a simultaneous concern over where Foxconn will even find 13,000 qualified workers with both Wisconsin and the country as a whole hitting full employment. Simple market economics (in which Foxconn opponents might need a refresher course) dictate that when employees are scarce, employers must entice them to leave their current jobs. Since there is no better way to do that than by offering a higher salary, it is every bit as likely that average wages at the Foxconn plant will be higher than $54,000 per year.
Either the Democrats who oppose the Foxconn deal know all of this and still oppose the measure over pure political opportunism—making them disingenuous hacks—or they don’t know any of this and oppose the measure over sheer ignorance—making them unfit to lead this state. Either way, five of the eight gubernatorial candidates have already essentially disqualified themselves, while the other three who want to renegotiate don’t seem to be able to point to any substantive area in which Wisconsin could have gotten a better deal.
Really, their insistence that the deal is flawed is rooted in a fear that admitting it works for Wisconsin as constructed would be to admit that their potential opponent, Governor Walker, is working for Wisconsin; that he really has been instrumental in transforming this state’s economic climate into one desirable enough to lure major employers like Foxconn.
Now, by a show of hands, who really thinks any of these eight Democrats would fare any better?