Employees Say Foxconn & Donald Trump's Wisconsin Factory Scam Was An Absurdist Hellscape
from the empty-promises dept
You might recall how the Wisconsin GOP, with Donald Trump and Paul Ryan at the head of the parade, struck what they claimed was an incredible deal with Foxconn to bring thousands of high-paying jobs to the state. Initially, the state promised Foxconn a $3 billion subsidy if the company invested $10 billion in a Wisconsin LCD panel plant that created 13,000 jobs. The amount of political hype the deal generated was utterly legendary, helping market Trump as a savvy dealmaker who’d be restoring technological greatness to the American Midwest.
Of course experts repeatedly warned that the deal was too good to be true, and likely would never recoup the taxpayer cost as structured. Those warnings were ignored. And unsurprisingly, as the subsidy grew fatter, the promised factory began to shrink further and further, to the point where it’s incredibly unlikely much of anything will be built at all. All now cold comfort to taxpayers who have already doled out a small fortune, or the local residents who had to move thanks to a factory that will likely never exist.
Last week, reports emerged that Wisconsin finally appears to be waking up to the scam, and would finally be blocking any more taxpayer subsidies from lining the company’s pockets. This week, The Verge (which has done a phenomenal job tracking this bottomless grift from the get-go) penned a great breakdown of the scam, which Trump initially called “the eighth wonder of the world.” Ultimately the project isn’t much of a project, much less a wonder of any real note:
“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.”
Great, cool. Of course doling out billions in taxpayer subsidies to giant corporations in exchange for fluff and nonsense (then pretending to be really concerned about balancing the budget) is kind of an American tradition. Just ask the telecom sector, which routinely gets a massive fortune in tax breaks and subsidies in exchange for jobs and broadband investment that repeatedly, almost-comically, never actually arrives. Promising the Earth, sea and sky in exchange for bupkis is kind of a national pastime at this point. That’s certainly the case in Wisconsin, where any meaningful employment was largely theatrical in nature:
“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.”
Effectively, the company hired just enough people to pretend to be hitting benchmarks. But with the whole thing effectively being a head fake, the few folks who were hired got to experience something that feels more at home in a Kafka-esque satirical comedy than actual reality:
“Soon, the office began to fill with people who had nothing to do. Many just sat in their cubicles watching Netflix and playing games on their phones. The reality of their situation became impossible to ignore. Multiple employees recall seeing people cry in the office. ?The best is when you?re in the elevator with somebody and then they just scream out of nowhere,? said an employee who experienced this several times. ?They?ve had enough, because things don?t make sense here.”
The whole thing is really worth reading, processing, and truly understanding on the off chance we might learn something. A year or so ago, the company routinely became indignant at the mere hint by The Verge that the deal was a farcical dud. Now the company won’t even offer a comment to the website’s inquiries. Meanwhile, taxpayers have doled out $400 million on land, equipment, and infrastructure that will never actually be needed. Numerous Wisconsinites were forced from their homes using eminent domain, and watched as their homes were subsequently bulldozed as part of a con they had to pay for.
You know, just another day in America.