Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Foxconn 2? $100 million+ Kimberly-Clark bailout needs to go down

To no one's surprise, Appleton-area Republicans have now formally introduced a bill that would give out tax dollars in an attempt to avoid over 600 layoffs that Kimberly-Clark is planning to impose by closing two facilities in the Fox Valley. So let's take a look at the bill, and see how this bailout package would work.

The bill gives Foxconn-levels of tax breaks for keeping jobs, allowing WEDC to give back 17% of Kimberly-Clark’s payroll costs, and a 15% writeoff for “significant capital expenditures” at the plants. But it only requires K-C to keep “93 percent of its full-time employees” at both the plant and the state and have those employees make at least $30,000.

Now from that, I can’t tell what that 93 percent figure is based on, but if I’m reading WEDC’s fiscal note correctly, it means that the 610 jobs that are supposed to go away with the two facility closings would be retained. And if that happens...
..WEDC could certify the business as eligible to earn approximately $6.7 and $7.8 million per year for up to 15 years.
So that’s somewhere between $100 million and $117 million for a Wisconsin manufacturer who is already seeing near-zero state tax levels due to the Manufacturers and Agriculture tax credit, and just got another massive tax break from the GOP’s tax bill that went through DC in December.

This is where I remind you that these layoffs are coming in spite of Kimberly-Clark pulling $812 million in profits in 2017, and I think it's also important to remember that Kimberly-Clark said the Piece of Shit tax bill in DC was the excuse they needed to layoff workers and grab EVEN MORE for the suits.
[CEO THomas J.] Falk added that the company restructuring would make it "leaner, stronger and faster."

But in the same announcement of plans to restructure the company, it announced that the Kimberly-Clark Board of Directors "approved a 3.1 percent increase in the company's quarterly dividend for 2018, which it says is the 46th consecutive annual dividend increase for shareholders," NPR reported. Falk also noted that Kimberly-Clark stated, "we returned $2.3 billion to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases."

How does the GOP tax plan play a role in all of this? The company stands to "net benefit" from the newly passed tax cuts, so much so that it will be able to pay for its "restructuring" plan, as Nathan Bomey of USA Today noted. To recap, last year's profits dipped, Trump and the GOP put forth a tax plan that provided relief to the company and now Kimberly-Clark is using that money to restructure.
If that’s how corporate America will act (and they will), why don’t we stop bowing down to Lord Business as an economic policy? Instead why not encourage good trade policies that make paper manufacturing a worthwhile job still to keep in America.

Our US Senator put it well when the layoffs were announced, before meeting with laid-off Kimberly-Clark workers last week. She asked K-C, "How many more tax breaks do you need?"

The scared Wisconsin GOP is trying to fast-track this Kimberly-Clark bailout, and a Public Hearing and Executive session was scheduled for this bill today (they usually wait a day between the two). I haven't seen anything on where it is from there, but my guess is that the GOP Assembly will try to jam it through in this bum-rush of a last week of session. And who cares if we have little money left to pay for it.

And the rushed nature and the waste of tax dollars are among the reasons that this proposed Kimberly-Clark bailout needs to go down. Maybe if the paper industry is in structural decline (and it probably is), the state should instead do more to help these laid-off workers with retraining, which will cost a fraction of the $7 million a year this tax giveaway would, and direct them into fields that are more sustainable with better wages.

Also, we should get rid of the wage-suppressing right-to-work (for less) mentality and related disrespect of workers that seems to permeate Wisconsin boardrooms these days. And we should recognize that giving away the state Treasury to corporations isn’t nearly as worthwhile and economically productive as investing in people and quality of life.

We need to worry a lot more about our supply of workers and having them be rewarded properly for their work. We also need to become a state that attracts people and businesses than we do in giving yet another handout to corporations that have already gotten more than enough, and keep letting us down. And that won't happen until we boot these GOP regressives who are trying to shove through yet another giveaway to big business at everyone else's expense.


  1. Wasn't $7.5 million also the highly inflated supposed State share of the annual operating costs for expanded Amtrak service? You know, the unacceptable! taxpayer burden! that Walker used as an excuse to turn down $810 million in Federal subsidies? No offense to the paper workers in the crowd, but it seems to me that better statewide rail service is a heck of a lot better use for taxpayers (those of us that are left) of $7.5 million a year than pouring it into the pockets of K-C's greedy executives and shareholders. If they're leaving anyway I say let 'em go.

    1. Yeah, funny what kind of expense Walker finds to be "unaffordable" vs what he finds to be "necessary." Absolutely pathetic.

      By the way, looks like this bill is slated to be part of the absurd last-day jam session in the Assembly tomorrow. We'll see where it goes, especially after Koch/Tea Party types wrote a column in Right Wisconsin opposing the K-C bailout today.