Everyone is a crony capitalist if it means losing Oscar Mayer

Doesn’t your heart melt to hear a small child squeal with delight? The young Squire did so when he encountered the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile at a parade on Main Street Sun Prairie in the 1950s. As I recall, Little Oscar — a former Munchkin from Watertown — tossed Wienermobile whistles from his fantastic carriage.

Our neighbor on the farm next door worked at “Oscars,” as it was called, providing income to keep his farm, a heritage from previous generations when 40 acres could support a family. When the First Squire needed quick cash he loaded a hog into the pickup truck and took it to Oscars. Oscar Mayer’s impending departure after 96 years leaves a void that spreads throughout the community — none so deep as among the 1,000 employees, especially the rank and file. Guessing most of the 250 execs are putting their Maple Bluff homes up for sale. Attention bargain hunters!

I’m sure Scott Walker and Paul Soglin take the loss personally, as well. They should. Neither did enough.

It’s unfortunate that the two are so antagonistic. Did Paul Soglin go to the governor and ask for help? The Madison economic development authority exercised due diligence in appointing a local Oscar exec to its board of directors, who himself was laid off. Now, that is a canary in the coal mine.

Hellz bellz, Jay Rath laid it all out when he wrote so presciently for the June 25 edition of Isthmus, “Goodbye, Oscar Mayer?

Rumors of Oscar Mayer’s departure bubble up every few years. The possibility now seems more likely than ever, as H.J. Heinz Co. prepares to merge with Kraft.

Even so, the downsized exec referenced earlier told the Wisconsin State Journal, “I don’t think wild horses could have kept Oscar Mayer in Madison, regardless whether anyone spoke to them or not.”

Excellent coverage by Madison’s daily newspaper: thorough, well sourced, and humanized. Especially noteworthy: detailing Iowa’s outreach to keep the plant in Davenport, the structural inefficiency of a seven-story manufacturing plant, and the industry analysis of the way new owners 3G Capital — out of Brazil, for gawd’s sake! — and Berkshire Hathaway do business.

Is Warren Buffett still a liberal hero to Emerald City Democrats?

Anyone remember how the left savaged Mitt Romney in 2012 for cutting jobs? Our … acquaintances … professed bewilderment at his explanation that it was necessary to cut jobs in order to save jobs. But that is exactly what Davenport, Iowa, is doing. They get a new plant and 475 jobs rather than lose their existing 1,400 jobs.

I want to hear from the purists — both left and right — who despise crony capitalism yet envy Iowa throwing $15 million at a multi-national conglomerate.



Drink the Kool Aid

I still remember Jerry Heigel, the first boss of Oscar Mayer from outside the family, remarking in amazement after being bought out by General Foods in 1981, “Anyone can put sugar in an envelope.” General Foods made Kool Aid. General Foods was in turn bought by Phillip Morris, which later acquired Kraft. Before Heinz merged with Kraft.

Consolidation of mature industries is a fact of economic life. Italy’s FIAT and Detroit’s Chrysler. The State Journal’s parent company bought out Pulitzer. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is part of the Gannett chain, a nephew of its flagship, USA Today. Budweiser of St. Louis was purchased by the brewers of Belgium’s Stella Artois, which also brews Mexico’s Corona. They’re now in talks to buy much of the European brands of South Africa’s SABMiller.

Those 40-acre farms and their little red barns? Engulfed by 4,000-acre farms with free-stall, confinement barns and automatic milkers.

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