Why Harley-Davidson Could Not Be the Excellent Experience for Scott Walker
For Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker, the Harley-Davidson bike is an emblem of American freedom, independence and his personal standing as a daily man. He rides a hog and has made the enduring machine a centerpiece of his marketing campaign, staging occasions at Harley dealerships and even invoking the model throughout his closing assertion in final week’s debate.
Whereas it could appear pure for a Wisconsin governor to tout the product of an organization headquartered in his state, there are ironies in Walker’s embrace. Harley’s success has been helped by two entities that the price range hawk has constructed his status battling: authorities and labor unions.
Since 2000, the bike producer has benefited from $54.5 million in native and state subsidies and greater than $2 billion in federal liquidity assist, in response to Good Jobs First, a gaggle in Washington that displays enterprise incentives.
“Harley is often held up as an American success story,” says Barry Burden, a political science professor on the College of Wisconsin in Madison. “There are people who buy those bikes over other brands because they’re American-made. There were unions involved and there was government assistance at various times. It hasn’t just been market forces that have made that happen.”
Harley has gained reward for working with its unions to make manufacturing extra environment friendly. That stands in distinction with Walker’s message that he “took on the unions and won.” The 2-term governor rose to nationwide prominence after confronting public-sector unions in Wisconsin, remodeling him right into a hero for a lot of conservatives.
Burden, who has intently adopted Walker’s profession, says it is “fair” to ask concerning the position unions and the federal government performed in maintaining Harley-Davidson financially wholesome and primarily based in Wisconsin, given the governor’s personal rocky labor relations and his often-stated aversion to authorities interventions within the market.
“Washington seems to think that success is measured by how many people are dependent on the government,” Walker stated in his July 13 marketing campaign announcement, held 15 miles west of Harley-Davidson’s company headquarters. “We measure success by just the opposite, by how many people are no longer dependent on the government.”
However for a time, Harley-Davidson and its staff had been not less than leaning on the federal government. On the peak of the monetary disaster in late 2008 and early 2009, the Federal Reserve additionally helped Harley by backstopping the industrial paper market.
Former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, in a 2011letter to members of Congress, highlighted the producer as a hit story, saying that one of many Fed’s packages to struggle the monetary disaster “provided support to businesses as diverse as Harley-Davidson and National Rural Utilities, when the usual market mechanism for their day-to-day funding completely dried up.”
In whole, the Fed offered greater than $2 billion in backing to Harley, in response to the Good Jobs First knowledge.
“It did not involve a loan from the U.S. government to Harley-Davidson or any other company,” firm spokeswoman Maripat Blankenheim stated in an announcement. “As one of many companies that issue commercial paper, Harley-Davidson was part of the program for less than four months.”
Harley-Davidson has additionally acquired thousands and thousands in state help. The overwhelming majority of these subsidies have come from Missouri, the place in 1998 the corporate opened a manufacturing unit after asking a number of states for financial improvement incentives presents.
The state has awarded Harley roughly $44 million, the Good Jobs First knowledge exhibits. A lot of it got here within the type of a discount in Harley’s state revenue tax legal responsibility, in alternate for assembly sure hiring and different targets.
In Wisconsin, the information exhibits $2.three million in help, all earlier than Walker took workplace. Not captured in that whole is $eight.three million in employee coaching and different credit made accessible when the corporate up to date and expanded product improvement and manufacturing amenities within the early 2000s, Blankenheim stated.
Former Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, Walker’s predecessor, later supplied Harley as much as $25 million in tax credit, in alternate for the corporate maintaining its Wisconsin factories open. These incentives had been supplied in 2010 after Harley staff ratified seven-year labor offers that included a wage freeze and job cuts. The corporate had earlier threatened to drag manufacturing out of the state, if it couldn’t get favorable contracts.
Days after Walker was first elected governor, Harley introduced that it might decline the nine-year tax credit score deal as a result of it won’t be capable to meet the entire state necessities.
Although the state help to Harley predated Walker’s time in workplace, the governor has proven a willingness to supply what a few of in his social gathering would possibly name “corporate welfare” for home-state firms.
On Wednesday, he signed a invoice that can present $250 million in public cash ($400 million, with curiosity) to pay for a brand new area for the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, and a controversial jobs company he created has awarded greater than $1 billion in financial incentives to Wisconsin firms since he took workplace in January 2011. That listing contains Kohl’s department shops, one other favourite purchasing cease and campaign-trail matter for the governor.
The proprietor of a 2003 Harley Street King, Walker began driving greater than a decade in the past as Milwaukee County govt. It is supplied him a option to join with a broad spectrum of voters who benefit from the machines, whereas additionally displaying a rebellious spirit that appeals to some.
Throughout his marketing campaign announcement week in July, he staged occasions at three Harley franchises and one other store that sells the bikes.
He burnished his everyman picture through the use of dealerships as backdrops for occasions in Nevada, South Carolina, New Hampshire and Iowa. On the time, one franchisee stated he would have felt awkward saying no, given the truth that Harley is predicated in Walker’s Wisconsin, despite the fact that the dealerships are independently owned and operated.
Walker, who owns a pockets and clothes labeled with the corporate’s insignia, has already ridden a motorbike in Iowa. He additionally plans to journey in New Hampshire and South Carolina, the 2 different states that host the primary three nominating contests.
“Governor Walker has fought for the last four years to retain and help create jobs in Wisconsin,” Walker marketing campaign spokeswoman AshLee Robust stated in an announcement. “He is proud to support home-grown Wisconsin companies like Harley-Davidson that help keep workers on the job and keep the state’s economy moving.”
Harley says it is flattered by all of Walker’s consideration, however that it would not wish to be drawn into the presidential race.
“He is passionate about our brand, like the millions of other loyal Harley-Davidson customers around the world,” Harley’s Blankenheim stated in an announcement. “Harley-Davidson Motor Company does not endorse any candidate and remains neutral in political campaigns.”
On the College of Wisconsin, Burden sees Walker’s bike driving as a bit of bit like former President Ronald Reagan driving horses.
“It’s a representation of an image and outlook on life: independence, the open road and rural America,” he stated. “You also can’t ask a candidate questions when he’s on his bike, but it makes photos and it’s a thing to do when you come to town.”