Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and challenger Mary Burke are having a dustup about the outsourcing by Trek Bicycle, Burke’s family business. As Jim Geraghty reports she was asked about “rumors in the media about you and Chinese employees and the minimum wage — is there any truth to that, or any story behind that?”
Here’s Burke’s answer, in its entirety: “I’d be happy to address that. Trek is the largest manufacturer of bicycles in the United States. Trek employs early 1,000 people in Wisconsin. In addition to $50 million in payroll in Wisconsin, by supporting millions of dollars in goods and services from all other Wisconsin businesses, small businesses across the state, its impact on the Wisconsin economy is incredible. so Trek is very proud to be a great Wisconsin employer, a great contributor to Wisconsin, it was founded nearly 40 years ago right there in Wisconsin, and it has grown to be a global company with its headquarters in Wisconsin.”
Her answer is a tidy evasion of the question and tells you the answer indirectly that indeed Trek is outsourcing to China at low wages. This presents a dilemma with political and economic dimensions for conservatives. The economics are easy: outsourcing is good. Even when outsourcing is caused by punitive tax laws it is good because it identifies the problem. As conservatives we want to be on the side of growth that outsourcing leads to.
The politics are different from the economics. Burke’s platform includes raising the minimum wage. She is a progressive who wants to insert government into business in all sorts of circumstances but has prospered and supported the freedom of Trek to outsource.
Sidebar: supported? How do you respond to the fact that she is not in operational control of Trek? She is on the board of directors of a private company. She has influence in Trek. The other choice is that her claim to fame as successful in business is false. End Sidebar
The connection of Burke to outsourcing does highlight the inconsistency of her behavior. Victor Davis Hanson has illustrated how cutthroat capitalist can still be politically correct. None of the people that Hanson describes, however, are running for office. The connection of Trek and outsourcing could be very effective in what is predicted to be a close race.
Let’s assume it is and Scott Walker is re-elected because of it. The question is: is one successful campaign worth this tactic? MWG says no. People will not remember that the campaign was about Burke’s special circumstances of economic freedom for her but not for everyone else. They will remember that a Republican said outsourcing is bad and our collective economic IQ will fall again. The cat is out of the bag and looking for somebody to bite in 2016.