Being “pro-business” means creating conditions favorable to free-enterprise. This often means simplified regulatory rules, as well as low taxes across the board for individuals and businesses alike. Pro-business legislation is simple by its very nature because it requires very little from the government or the voter-taxpayers who put elected representatives into office. It is “hands-off” by definition, promising an absence of red tape, rather than the alternative of excessive and unreasonable state oversight of private transactions.
Encouraging private-sector investment in our state does indeed include the spending of state funds on infrastructure, such as roads, sewage, public transportation, and utilities. It might be extended to include investment in education, which produces a workforce qualified for employment in high-tech jobs. It certainly includes investment in our public services, including law enforcement and fire and emergency medical services, which serve to create safe neighborhoods where employees feel confident to move their families and plant their roots.
On the other hand, pro-business legislation does not include cash-handouts to private businesses. The nearly $3 billion approved by the Wisconsin State Senate as an incentive for Foxconn to invest in Wisconsin is completely unprecedented and is not in line with free-market ideals. The assumption that the “ends” (a hoped-for return on investment) justify the “means” (illiberal redistribution of taxpayer dollars to private businesses) smacks of technocracy at best and cronyism at worst. Most of all, it sets a bad precedent for encouraging future business to build in our state; will any business now be able to issue an ultimatum to our lawmakers, demanding cash before considering relocation?
Those who strive for free and open markets should see the Foxconn deal for what it is: big-government spending of public dollars, merely clothed in a façade of pro-business language. The Foxconn deal should have been encouraged to happen by itself through real pro-business legislation, including deregulation and investment in public services and infrastructure, not through the act of politicians negotiating cash-payouts behind closed doors. There are reasonable and responsible roles that government can and should play in promoting business development. The Foxconn deal is not an example of such a role.
Elected representatives need to be reminded that a commitment to business development in our state in no way, shape, or form gives them the right to spend our money on deals of this nature.