Friday, December 18, 2020

Foxconn moves to the 'flexibility' zone from 'Wisconn Valley'

I call attention to the five-alarm word "flexibility" in this tell-all headline the Journal Sentinel placed on the news that Foxconn is 'willing' to forego some of the record-breaking subsidies Scott Walker and a compliant Legislature 


larded on the company - full archive, here - that's been busy bulldozing prime ag lands, local budgets and people's homes without creating a faint shadow of what was repeatedly underwritten and promised:

Foxconn willing to agree to fewer tax credits 'in exchange for flexibility'; new agreement 'within reach'

In a statement, Foxconn said the company “is optimistic that an amendment to the WEDC Agreement is within reach. In response to market conditions that were unforeseeable three years ago, Foxconn formally came to the table with WEDC in August 2020 with a desire to lower taxpayer liability in exchange for flexibility that continues to incentivize future business development and job creation in Wisconsin.”  

Because when you hear 'flexibility' - or its dreaded twin buzzword "certainty" from people whose doors are open to special interests and deal-making with your money - hold on for dear life, because "flexibility" is just a five-syllable camouflage for rewrite that changes history and buries accountability.

As plenty of people have discovered in the flexibility-free and flattened 'Wisconn Valley,' as Walker had called it before irony died there, too, reported The Verge in a signature piece

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....Foxconn would spend the next two years jumping from idea to idea — fish farms, exporting ice cream, storing boats — in an increasingly surreal search for some way to generate money from a doomed project....It has been a baffling ordeal for the people who thought they were building the Silicon Valley of the Midwest — “Wisconn Valley,” Walker called it...."

And before I forget, let's remember that the initial Foxconn announcement in 2017 that was followed by several more statewide through 2018 was choreographed with Walker's campaign in mind - 

*  In May, Walker toured the state announcing Foxconn contracts with Foxconn officials in tow.

*  Then Walker was at the Foxconn groundbreaking last month, a few hours after a huge-ticket GOP fundraiser in Milwaukee with Trump.

*  The next day, Walker and Foxconn bigwigs were in Green Bay announcing a Foxconn project there.

*  Now we learn that Walker will make an announcement in Eau Claire - - in a vote-rich, swing area where Walker has spent time very recently - - about another Foxconn project.

-  so I'd say he and the company had enjoyed a certain special flexibility that at least initially served both well. 

But taxpayers' and Mt. Pleasant residents interests? Not so much.

Now let me give you some earlier examples of this particular 'f' word:

* Take Walker's intention in 2012 through his corporately-obeisant DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp to enforce "flexibility" on people living in the watershed  he wanted to flatten and dig up for a destructive iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin that local opposition and an inflexibile water table ultimately blocked:

Open pit mine neighbors: Your 'flexibility' is demanded

This is the key to DNR Secretary and Scott Walker cheerleader Cathy Stepp's pro-mine and partisan argument:

It [the bill] does, however, recognize that the ore body is located where it is. As a result, some flexibility is needed to change the landscape to get at the ore deposit.

*  Speaking of the DNR, I also remember when Milwaukee-area building executive Matt Moroney opposed the adoption of the Great Lakes water management Compact because it didn't offer business enough flexibility. 

Scott Walker eventually named Moroney to the position of Deputy DNR Secretary, then to the Governor's staff and later to the Department of Administration as the state's point person on the Foxconn project.

Moroney's efforts to water down the Compact and to remake what is basically a water management and conservation agreement into more of an economic development document were not successful - - State Sen. Mary Lazich, (R-New Berlin), led a failed state's rights campaign against the Compact:  
Wrote Moroney: 

" The homebuilding industry does not believe the case has been made that it is necessary to manage the quantity of water being utilized from the Great Lakes to the extent that the compact does at this time. The compact is far too limiting in its standards and approval process for water use by straddling counties. Mr. Dahl, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, indicated in his presentation that the Army Corps does not even factor into its forecasting of lake levels the municipal use and other “minor” diversions. Such impacts are so trivial to other factors like evaporation and temperature. As a result, it is our belief that a little more flexibility for water diversions in states that border the Great Lakes is desirable for continued economic growth."

* And in 2018, when some tax credits echoing what Foxconn received were being debated and eventually directed Kimberly-Clark's way by Walker, I'd noted how company had used a similar gob of subsidies, and I included that in a list of other GOP 'flexibilities' and their ideological  outcomes in Wisconsin:

Give Walker extra credit for boosting the Trump tax cut which Kimberly-Clark said it was using to finance its plant closings

Chief Financial Officer Maria Henry said on a conference call that savings from the recent federal tax cut would help fund the cost reductions. It "provides us the flexibility" to do so, she said.

Which brings us back to that favorite Walker concept and cudgel - - "flexibility" - - seen when justifying the undermining of UW tenure to upending local controls and public employees' personal budgets under Act 10
And when opposing federal health care changes, a demand for gubernatorial "ultimate flexibility."

"I just still think there's some more work to be done," Walker told reporters. "Our ultimate goal as governors, certainly my goal, is to have ultimate flexibility." 

Or when he's after the right to drug-test the poor in exchange for food stamps as a "flexibility" necessity.

President Donald Trump’s administration “has indicated, throughout the administration, interest in working with states to provide flexibility,” Wisconsin Department of Health Services spokeswoman Julie Lund said. 

* Here's one more that shows how 'flexibility' is an all-purpose GOP sop to special interests, not the public's interests, writ large: 

A few years ago, former GOP state legislator and now Congressman (willing to throw out more than 200,000 of your ballots) Tom Tiffany endorsed yet 'flexibility' to help feed special-interest road-building

The GOP State Senator from Hazelhurst - - friend to iron mines and frac sand mines and foe of town and local resource and planning controls who has admitted that he recommended successfully the slashing of more than a dozen DNR science positions in the just-approved state budget -- has a July 31 e-update that highlights his winners and losers: 

"More flexibility has been established for road projects with the repeal of the "Complete Streets" statute. Communities will no longer be forced to build pedestrian paths if they believe them to be too costly of unnecessary."


Anonymous said...

Don't the need to be reclassified into the BOHICA Zone?

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Cathy Stepp, someone needs to remember to flush her out of the EPA before she can do more damage like she did with our Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. She was absolutely the "fox in the hen house." Her sole job has been to destroy these agencies from the inside. Cathy Stepp needs to go under the same rock as Scott Walker, and stay there. They have done so much damage to our fine state and country.

James Rowen said...

She did leave.