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MLive and Forbes List of Richest People

March 12, 2010

Yesterday, MLive reported that Rich DeVos and Fred Meijer are once again on Forbes annual list of the world’s richest people. Grand Rapids Press reporter Troy Reimink posted the story and in typical fashion just mentions where Meijer and DeVos are on the Forbes list.

What is typical about this kind of reporting in West Michigan is that the reporting does not discuss how these men acquired their wealth and how they spend it. Both men are generally presented as wonderful philanthropists that we should all be grateful for.

However, both Meijer and DeVos have a history of anti-union/anti-worker practices. Meijer also has a track record of intimidating communities over tax and land-use issues when they want to build new stores, as was the case in Traverse City in 2007.

DeVos has a much longer track record of supporting pro-business and far right projects. He is one of the all-time biggest individual donors to the Republican Party and has made significant contributions to groups like Free Congress Foundation, Michigan Right to Life, Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council. DeVos also played a major role in shutting down William James and Thomas Jefferson colleges, which were part of Grand Valley State University and considered too radical for the Billionaire.

The Richest Men in the World

Press reporter Try Reimink also mentioned that the world’s richest man, according to Forbes is now Carlos Slim, a Mexican national. Reimink doesn’t give any information. Carlos Slim was a friend of former Mexican President Carlos Salinas and was the direct beneficiary of the privatization campaign that Salinas oversaw in the late 1980s/early 1990s. Slim was basically handed the national telephone system Tel-Mex and shortyly afterwards increased phone rates for the country. Slim also owns a huge chain of malls throughout Mexico as well.

Reimink mentions that Carlos Slim surpassed Bill Gates, who had been at the top of the list for several years and then ends with this sentence. “Donations to cheer up Gates can be made in care of his foundation.” It is hard to tell if Reimink is just joking by this statement, but either way his article omits anything about what Gates’ foundation is up to.

The Gates Foundation has been at the forefront of promoting the use of genetically modified agriculture in Africa in what some are calling the new Green Revolution. This new Green revolution is also seeing the Gates Foundation fund land grabs in places like Africa for the purpose of benefiting other multinational corporations. However, if one were relying on Grand Rapids Press reporters to provide the kind of analysis that goes beyond headlines, they would be easily disappointed.

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