Foxconn’s Wisconsin Plant Bad for Wetlands and Workers; Another Demonstration of the Race to the Bottom

 

Image result for foxconn nets installed

Foxconn: Worker-friendly enough to install anti-suicide nets

 

So, last week it was announced that Foxconn, which builds stuff for Apple when its employees aren’t killing themselves in China, was opening a plant right in Wisconsin’s 1st District, home of Paul Ryan. This was sort of a win for Trump, who is bringing back manufacturing, etc, and presented as a very good thing for Wisconsin workers.

This is a $10 billion investment, and it could actually go higher if you listen to the President.

President Donald Trump, who has suggested the deal would not have happened without his efforts, said he was told by Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou that the investment could be larger than $10 billion.

“He told me off the record, he thinks he may go to $30 billion,” Trump said at a small business event at the White House on Tuesday of Foxconn’s investment.

“I promised I wouldn’t tell,” Trump said to laughter.

Now, based on track record, this conversation almost certainly didn’t happen. We don’t expect Donald Trump to tell the truth. But still, $10 billion is a lot, and there could be thousands of jobs, both in the plant and in the auxiliary trades.

(There is also a great little part in Reuters: “Trump praised Foxconn chairman Terry Gou at a White House event, asserting: ‘If I didn’t get elected, he definitely wouldn’t be spending $10 billion … This is a great day for America.'” That’s…not praising Gou.)

Now, to be sure, there have been some caveats. For example, a lot of that $10 billion could be spent on automation. Gou wants to have 1 million robots “working” for his factories over the next decade. It will be looking for “automation savvy workers”, which doesn’t always mean the people in Janesville who lost jobs. With retraining, it might. And if Wisconsin invests in such programs, it could create jobs for the state.

But that means money, and all this Foxconn largesse doesn’t come cheap. For example, the state is giving Foxconn $3 billion in tax breaks. And there is some more. As the Journal-Sentinal puts it:

In return for building an industrial campus that could employ as many as 10,000 people in Wisconsin, Foxconn Technology Group almost surely will expect subsidies, tax breaks, job retraining promises, infrastructure improvements and other government incentives.

And it will expect them on a scale that by traditional standards would be staggering.

“They do this everywhere they go,” said Einar Tangen, a Beijing-based Chinese economic expert, echoing the views of many Asian experts. “They extract everything they can.”

They’re not kidding, either. One of the provisions in the bill to lure Foxconn in is fewer protections for the wetlands.

Environmental groups, including Midwest Environmental Advocates and the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, said the state’s proposal rolls back protections for wetlands, which act as natural filters for drinking water and wildlife habitats, and protect against flooding…

The draft bill allows Foxconn to discharge dredged or fill material into some wetlands without state permits. The legislation also would allow Foxconn to connect artificial bodies of water with natural waterways without state permits.

This is not great. But it is a perfect encapsulation of the Trump/Ryan/Walker anti-worker and anti-environmental plan.

Let’s review what we have here. A decimated industrial workforce building a factory for high-tech workers who don’t, at all, have to come from the area. They can move there from anywhere (and a recent theme of the President has been people moving to Wisconsin). An anti-environmental race to the bottom where workers move from state to state depending on which lowers restrictions enough to get medium-to-low paying jobs. This is another theme of Trump, who emphasized as much in a lunatic pre-inauguration press conference.

You can do anywhere — you’ve got a lot of states at play; a lot of competition. So it’s not like, oh, gee, I’m taking the competition away. You’ve got a lot of places you can move. And I don’t care, as along as it’s within the United States, the borders of the United States.

The theme is to let the states fight it out. Who can remove the most protection for workers? Who can remove the most environmental regulations? Who can destroy unions the fastest? Who can dive to the bottom of the barrel? This is what Walker has done to Wisconsin, and it is the quintessence of the Republican jobs plan.

It’s to create some jobs, yeah, but to remove any power workers might have. To make them fight over scraps. To have states compete against each other to be “pro-business”. You want us to keep our factory here? Well then get rid of child labor laws.

It isn’t a coincidence this is being built in Wisconsin. Walker has made it the petri dish of right-wing jobs’ programs, in which the workers are reduced to disposable numbers and any idea of duty to the community is laughably archaic. He loves overturning regulations in order to attract “jobs”, because that’s how people get turned into capital. And that is his driving motivation.

It’s Trump’s, too. All his talk of the white working class was, like everything else, a lie. The plant will be good for people in the short-term, maybe. And the environmentalists will be painted as inhibiting jobs, anti-worker, etc. It’s part of the long-running war to separate the two groups, a false choice proposed by greedy management. This is the new America. Looks a lot like the old one.

 

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Water Wednesday: Wisconsin’s Walker Woes and Things That Don’t Begin With W. Like Lake Erie

 

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I’m sure there’s a metaphor here somewhere, but my first thought is: whoa! A deer in Lake Erie? What the hell? Image (and explanation) from Cleveland Scene

A quick rundown of some top water stories, which remind us that while we can impact nature, we’re really not in charge. 

I realize that there is a weird-seeming contradiction in saying that we can bring great change to nature, but that we’re still at its mercy. But when we say “great change”, we don’t mean permanent. The earth will eventually repair itself, and time will smooth over our cataclysms. We just won’t be here. But you want the real image? Imagine a 7-yr-old jamming a hatpin into his mother’s ankle. He can do that, and cause great damage, but really, the storm will redound upon him.

So let’s start this week’s “hey, who cares about clean water?” news with Wisconsin.

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Ron Johnson, Climate Change, and The Most Republican Paragraph Ever

 

“I don’t really understand things.”

 

We haven’t talked much on the blog about Ron Johnson, Senator of Wisconsin. Wisconsin being literally near me, and dear to my heart, we’ve spent a lot of time on the destructive reign of Scott Walker, the intellectual horrorshow of Paul Ryan, and even some on the quisling nebbishness of Reince Priebus. They are sort of the Big 3 in the new era of Wisconsin politics: ruthless hyper-capitalists with zero respect for the state’s progressive traditions, who think any hint of community is communism. But we’ve ignored the Senator, who defeated the great Russ Feingold in the catastrophe of 2010.

That’s because he’s…well, he’s pretty dumb. He’s one of those “I’m good at business so let me screw over the poor” kind of guys. He was perfect for Wisconsin in 2010. Honestly, the most remarkable thing about him is that he’s the head of the Homeland Security Committee, which could be shorthand for just what a stupid and unserious party the Republicans really are. Anyway, he smuckered together some words today about global warming, and you’ll never guess: it’s a hoax.

“The whole climate change debate gives, and there are all kinds of quotes from adherents of and promoters of climate change, the reason they’re doing it is it’s such a great opportunity to control, you know, pretty much, government, and control your lives,” Johnson said Monday, onthe Glenn Klein Show on the WRJN radio show. “There’s an arrogance of power there that they’re utopians, that they really think they can create heaven on earth, and where it’s failed in the past, those people like Stalin and Chavez and the Castros, the nutcases in North Korea–by the way, if you want equal results, go to North Korea, you have equal misery.”

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Scott Walker’s Wisconsin: Where Teachers are Linebackers, and To The Rich Go The Spoils

 

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I’ve been lovingly making fun of this sign for years- really, you have all three?- but I don’t know if I ever noticed the “open for business”. Is that new. 

 

Here at Shooting Irrelevance, we’ve spent some time talking about what Scott Walker is doing to Wisconsin, because being a Chicago kid, we’ve spent a lot of time in Wisconsin. I love the state: love the people, love the food, love the drinking culture. I realized once it is the unpretentious south. You can’t see them writing a Huckabee-style book called God and Hot Ham Rolls. It’s a beautiful place where nature plays a deep role.

Underneath all that, or perhaps because of the cold winters and the need for community, is a fierce tradition of progressive populism. Wisconsin is our great labor state, or at least it was. That’s one of the tragedies of Scott Walker. He came in with the idea to ruin Wisconsin, to ruin the idea of Wisconsin. To literally change the Wisconsin Idea.

As we said once:

If you want to know everything base and venal about Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Republicans, remember that the literally wanted to edit the Wisconsin Idea to remove anything about the human spirit, and put in language about the state’s workforce needs.

The mission of the system is to develop human resources to meet the state’sworkforce needs, to discover and disseminate knowledge, to extendknowledge and its application beyond the boundaries of its campuses and toserve and stimulate society by developing develop in students heightened intellectual, cultural, and humane sensitivities, scientific, professional and technological expertise, and a sense of purpose. Inherent in this broad mission are methods of instruction, research, extended training and public service designed to educate people and improve the human condition. Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth.

(lines are Walkers’ proposed edits)

It’s this baseness, this venality, this reduction of the unaligned poor to gristle in a mill that is the heart of the modern conservative movement. Trump’s white nationalism is a part of it, of course, but when he is (hopefully soon) swept from the stage this will remain. It’s the main economic message. Most humans exist to make others rich. Money is the only power. It’s true materialism.

Walker confirmed this yesterday, when talking about school funding, and how the rich school should be able to hoard all the good teachers.

Walker said school districts can set pay based on performance and hire based on merit.

“It’s about putting the best and the brightest in the classroom,” Walker said. “If someone is an exceptional talent and wants to go into education, they can be rewarded for that.”

When asked whether he thought such incentive-driven salary programs would be a hindrance to allowing school districts to keep quality teachers, Walker compared teaching to being a player in the NFL.

“If the Green Bay Packers pay people to perform and if they perform well on their team, (the Packers) pay them to do that,” Walker said. “They don’t pay them for how many years they’ve been on the football team. They pay them whether or not they help (the Packers) win football games.”

And, you know, some schools are the Pack or the Pats, and some are the Rams. That’s just the way the market works. You have winners and Lions.

Walker was a joke during the Presidential campaign, but he didn’t disappear. He went back to his true love: ruining Wisconsin. Walkerism isn’t going away. White nationalism and “othering” will alwas be a driving force in the GOP, as presently constituted, but its fires might not always burn so bright. When that fire is embers this mentality, the desire to turn everything into commodity, including and especially people, will remain.

 

(Note: everytime I type “ruining Wisconsin”, and I’ve noticed this in gmail as well, it is underlined and says “did you mean to say ‘running'”.  Nope.)