On Buying “A pig in a poke”

Dear Editor:

My grandfathers, both farmers, were fond of the saying “Don’t buy a pig in a poke.”  In this case, a poke meant a bag or sack that made it impossible to tell the condition of its contents, and the pig was anything that could go bad.

In the last few days, Scott Walker has been canvassing the state for Foxconn, a Taiwanese company that he is wooing to settle in Wisconsin.  He has been saying that it could bring 13,000 high-end jobs to the state and might lure other companies of its kind to come here. And he has been presenting the billion-dollar incentives that the state would pay over ten years for its presence as the cost of doing business.  He wraps the deal in a colorful sack.

When we look inside the package, however, we find that the company mentions 3,000 jobs and the legislation to be considered by our Assembly contains no job numbers at all. We also find that along with the billion-dollar inducements, the state would agree to suspend environmental regulations for this deal.  And there is nothing to say that the company will stay in Wisconsin.

This must be some pig to cost taxpayers so much for so little! But in fact, Foxconn is a company that has a history of promising more than it delivers. Even if it did deliver, those jobs would cost taxpayers (the source of that billion dollars) between $230,000 and $1 million dollars a job!

This is a strange proposal coming from a Governor who refused to honor the contract for a high-speed rail between Madison and Milwaukee in 2010 (with jobs assured); refused to accept millions in federal tax dollars (already paid by us) for the Medicaid expansion; and recently tried to convince the legislature to borrow half-a-million dollars for transportation.

No matter how well this idea is packaged, it smells just like that pig in a poke.


Estella Lauter