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Free Enterprise Rally held in Grand Rapids today to “counter” the Occupy movement

December 7, 2011

Between 125 – 150 people gathered at the Calder Plaza today in Grand Rapids to support the principles of free enterprise.

According to the event organizer Tommy Brann, owner of the Brann’s Steakhouses, Free Enterprise is what made America the nation it is today. Brann began the event by reading off what he called Ten to Defend, 10 reasons why American Capitalism is so great. Here are the ten reasons:

  1. Creating jobs is a compassionate thing to do.
  2. Billions of dollars are paid by Free Enterprise when an entrepreneur owns a commercial building and pays property tax. (This helps local schools, police and Fire.)
  3. The employer and employee are the backbone of Free Enterprise. Three’s a crowd so Government can sometimes get in the way.
  4. Anyone with good work ethic and makes an honest effort can participate in Free Enterprise.
  5. Free Enterprise even provides for the unemployed. Businesses pay 100% of unemployment insurance.
  6. Michael Jordon, the best basketball player ever, is often applauded because of his skills. Successful business people should be applauded too. We don’t take away from Jordon’s accomplishments, please don’t take away our successful accomplishments.
  7. Free Enterprise is not free – participants work hard to create jobs and pay by spending long hours away from their families working to be sure they can meet a payroll.
  8. For every hour a person works in a Free Enterprise business a portion of their Social Security and Medicare taxes are paid by the business owner.
  9. When Steve Jobs was 24 years old he told his girlfriend he was going to become a millionaire someday. Free Enterprise is for dreamers – don’t take that dream away or America’s future will be a nightmare.
  10. After Steve Jobs died admirers laid flowers at his home. They respected him as a businessman and a participant in Free Enterprise.

To anyone who gives a few seconds to such a list, one can see that much of it is not true or doesn’t even make sense. Billions of dollars are paid by homeowners and working taxpayers in general. Tommy Brann didn’t say anything about government getting in the way to bail out the banks, to provide billions in corporate subsidies every year or the legislative push over the past 30 years to deregulate industry.

What do Michael Jordan’s skills have to do with business people? What would be more relevant is that Jordon would not take a stand against Nike’s sweatshop practices while he was marketing their shoes around the world. Likewise, businesses don’t want the public to scrutinize their practices, such as worker treatment, health/safety issues and environmental impact.

Also, what is obsession with Steve Jobs? Sure people are elated with Apple products, but we cannot forget that Jobs made millions off the labor of others, often in extremely exploitative conditions.

Brann was followed by four speakers, with a bit of music in between speakers. The first speaker was Tim Doyle, a local businessman who used to work for Tommy Brann and now owns several restaurants and a catering business in the area. Doyle talked about how Grand Rapids is the epicenter of Free Enterprise, with names like DeVos, Van Andel, Meijer and Seechia great visionaries.

The second speaker was Tim Doctor, a local radio talk show host. Doctor made numerous points that were so unsubstantiated. First, he said that no one gets into the 1% by force. Really, apparently Tim didn’t learn about US slavery and how many people and businesses made millions with that kind of force. His comment also ignores the numerous responses from both business and government to workers trying to organize for better pay, a 40 hour work week and workers compensation, which resulted in violent repression from both the private and public sector. One of the best books on this topic is Jeremy Brecher’s book Strike!

The third speaker was former State Representative Fulton Sheen. Sheen said that Free Enterprise built this country. He also said that the US government doesn’t produce anything and that if the US government was VISA they would have gone under years ago. Beyond the anti-government rhetoric, Sheen had nothing substantial to contribute to the rally.

The last speaker was Denny Gillem, another host of a local radio show, one that is hyper-patriotic and pro-US Military. Gillem seems to like speaking at pro-military and pro-Capitalist events, since he was a speaker at the pro-Israel rally this past summer in Grand Rapids.

Gillem said that it is fitting that today was the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, since the US won WWII because of Free Enterprise. He also said the US has a “Cowboy mentality and that is why we get things done.” Gillem ended his comments by saying, “we are here to occupy Grand Rapids for one hour and then get back to work, because that is what we do.”

It should also be mentioned that Grand Rapids City Commissioner Dave Shaffer and Kent County Commissioner Harold Voorhees were also present.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. permalink
    December 7, 2011 8:21 pm

    What a joke! Slavery is what made this country what it is today.

  2. permalink
    December 7, 2011 8:24 pm

    I probably should have read on before posting… You kind of covered that.

  3. Zachariah permalink
    December 7, 2011 10:56 pm

    Okay. So let’s follow through on that Micheal Jordan bit.

    Small businessman = Micheal Jordan = Woohoo
    Wall St Banker = Sammy Sosa (Performance enhancing drugs) = Boooo!

    …you gotta fight crazy with crazy.

  4. standingintherain permalink
    December 8, 2011 2:23 pm

    While the folks organizing this rally seem to have a serious lack of brain power, it is interesting that it was organized as a response to the “Occupy” protests that have spread from Wall Street to places like Grand Rapids. It shows how reactionary some segments of society are (most especially those with substantial power & capital) because capitalism isn’t even being challenged by the “Occupy” protests by-and-large. At best the protests seem to be aimed at a more “fair” capitalism (as if that is possible) and a more “accountable” government (again, unlikely given the way the U.S. government is structured and who it is structured for — the rich). The only declaration to come out of New York — while not speaking for the movement as a whole — was pretty tepid.

    It all kind of makes me wonder what would happen if the protests stepped it up a bit tactically and made it clear that capitalism has to go.


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