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West MI Policy Forum Day 2012 – An Exercise in Class Warfare

September 12, 2012

This will be the first in several postings about the 2012 West Michigan Policy Forum in Grand Rapids.

First Morning Session

The West MI Policy Forum (WMPF) kicked off today at St. Cecelia in downtown Grand Rapids, where the area business class has once again come together to set an agenda of where they want the State of Michigan to go.

Like we reported in 2010, today’s forum is made up mostly of the elite sector of West Michigan society, people in their power suits listening to Chamber music as they gather to hear the comments of today’s speakers. Chair of the WMPF, Jared Rodriguez, welcomed those in attendance, although he was really reading a script on a teleprompter. Rodriguez walked the participants through the use of an ipad, which all of the conference attendees received. Rodriguez also noted that the MLive Media Group helped to creat the ipad app for the WMPF conference.

WMPF member Doug DeVos followed Rodriguez and provided the audience with a framework for the two – day event. DeVos stated that since 2008 the group has made progress, but wanted to make it clear that he wants everyone to re-commit to continue making progress. “This isn’t about business, this isn’t about money, this is about people,” DeVos said. “When we make progress everyone benefits. This is about people realizing who they are and improving their quality of life.” Such comments reflected from the get go that the leadership of the WMPF were going to use clear talking points to downplay their own personal and corporate interests and make everyone think that this is all about the public good.

DeVos said that there were really three themes that the two – day event would deal with. The first was that personal freedom is linked to economic freedom. DeVos went on to say, “we are the enabler of personal freedom.” The second theme was that they were interested in policy solutions and not politics.  The Amway President noted that there were several ballot proposals that, “were put forth by powerful groups that have slick marketing campaigns.” While DeVos wanted to frame this about policy and not politics, any discussion about the ballot initiatives is clearly about politics. The last theme he wanted people to think about was to implore those in attendance to “be courageous.” This writer has no idea what the hell that meant.

The first guest speaker to address the audience was Robert Genetski. Genetski promotes what he refers to as classical economic principles and is an expert with the conservative think tank and leading climate denier, the Heartland Institute. Genetski began by talking about where Michigan has been. Genetski believes that 4 years ago Michigan was at the bottom of the list in terms of where states rank economically. Genetski believes there have been some improvements since 2009, but that “living standards have gone down and the situation is bad.”

Genetski did state that the state budget is now solid and that the Michigan Business tax was replaced by a more “reasonable tax.”

Genettski then spoke to where Michigan is going. He focused on the upcoming National Election and emphasized that we need to embrace classical economic principles. The speaker said “prosperity depends on giving each individual maximum freedom over their lives.” This notion was supported with four fundamental principles. Genetski believes that if there are low tax rates, a free market, protection of property rights and a stable value for currency, then freedom can truly exist. He juxtaposed such ideas with current government spending, regulations and mandates, which Genetski believes are destroying the country.

For Michigan’s economy to thrive, Genetski believes that the state needs to lower the tax rate, reduce government spending and give workers the “freedom” to decide to join unions or not, which means he support Michigan being a Right to Work state.  He spent most of the time addressing Right to Work and said it is key for Michigan to truly thrive.

Genetski ended his comments by focusing on 3 ballot initiative that will be voted on in November in Michigan. Genetski says the Protect Our Jobs ballot initiative, should be renamed the give unions more power initiative. He said that the Home Health Care initiative should be renamed the Unionize Home Health Care and the Renewable Energy initiative should be labeled the, “Lets make our electric rates the highest in the country” initiative.

Genetski clear set the tone and made it clear that the West Michigan Policy Forum was committed to policies that will benefit the capitalist class and that electoral politics were central to their mission, despite Doug DeVos’ claim of policy, not politics.

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