Scott Walker - duh

The biennial state budget recently signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker demonstrates yet again what Wisconsin progressives have known for years: In Walker’s Wisconsin, some people matter a lot more than others.

The Wisconsinites who matter are rich, white, Republican donors. Since he took office in 2011, Walker has consistently showered them with largesse in the form of your tax dollars and your natural resources.

The state’s GOP leadership consistently pursues economic-development policies that benefit their wealthy corporate donors, particularly the ones who fund their political operations. For instance, that’s why the new budget includes such inexplicable items as a $4 million upgrade for a small airport near the luxury golf resort of a major Republican donor instead of much-needed funding on public education.

Walker ran on a promise of jobs and a better economy, then quickly went on to nix huge, promising projects that could have delivered both. Why? They involved taking federal tax dollars, and he wanted to show the Republican base that he was a good tea-party patriot by adopting the Reagan mantra “the government is the problem.”

That scenario has played out again and again during Walker’s tenure: He turns down federal tax dollars in order to groom his image as a conservative leader. Those decisions, in turn, create new burdens for Wisconsin taxpayers.

For example, Walker’s refusing Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act cost state taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, as the state absorbed the cost of health care for the poor — or at least some of the poor. Such is the price of Walker’s ideological zeal.

Comparing two economic development decisions confirms Walker’s demented fear of federal dollars and unrestrained bias toward the rich.

Talgo, meet Foxconn.

When Walker declined an $810-million federal grant for high-speed rail connecting Chicago and Milwaukee with Madison at the beginning of his first term, he forfeited all the attendant opportunities for new businesses and their workers.

His decision also meant the state reneged on its contract with Spanish train builder Talgo — a broken promise that cost taxpayers almost $10 million.

His stated excuse? He wanted to save taxpayers $7.5 million annually on train maintenance.

Fast forward to today — and to Foxconn.

Our dear leaders just approved the largest giveaway of state taxpayer dollars to a foreign corporation in U.S. history — $3 billion to the giant Taiwanese company Foxconn.

Yes, those same Wisconsin Republicans who turned down $810 million in federal taxpayer dollars to “save” $7.5 million per year have now put state taxpayers on the hook for a project so massive that its costs will not be paid off until 2045 — under the best-case scenario.

Perhaps they’re thinking of the possibilities that Foxconn presents to direct to Republican donors the massive construction and service contracts associated with the project. Maybe they want to take advantage of the state’s ability to sidestep environmental laws and worker-safety rules. (Foxconn’s treatment of workers has been condemned internationally by human rights groups.)

Those are two major differences between the two deals, but there are others to consider: The high-speed rail deal would have taken Wisconsin into the future of transportation at a time when the state can’t afford to maintain its existing transportation infrastructure.

Foxconn manufactures LCD displays — an older technology whose future is uncertain.

Walker — in turning down the $810 million for high-speed rail and in refusing Medicaid expansion — said the federal government was not a dependable partner; yet Foxconn is notorious for double-dealing and backstabbing its partners.

The state’s new budget reflects precisely the kind of thinking responsible for the Foxconn deal. Budget items that can be exploited by the wealthy are rife, while items that benefit the middle class and the poor are scant.

The evidence for this mindset is not anecdotal — it’s empirical. It’s clearly written into the Foxconn deal, and now the state budget as well.


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