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The West MI Policy Forum’s ongoing war against the public sector

November 12, 2017

The West Michigan Policy Forum (WMPF) has only been around since 2008, yet its impact has been tremendous in terms of influencing state policy that attacks working people and benefits the capitalist class.

A creation of the of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, the has used its lobbying power over the past decade to promote neoliberal economic policies and austerity measures. The WMPF has been relentless in its war on working people, public sector employees, unions, public education and the privatization of government.

Since their founding, the WMPF has reduced the business tax in Michigan, pushed through Right to Work legislation, further privatized public education, diminished the power of local governments and taken away public teacher pensions.

Now the WMPF wants to eliminate public sector employee pensions, pensions that government employees fought for decades ago and pensions that those same employees are hoping to retire on.

Recently, the WMPF posted this message on their Facebook page. It states, “81 of 83 counties in Michigan have at least one local unit of government with a pension or other post-employment benefit plan that is less than 60 percent funded, the level typically considered critically underfunded.”

The Facebook post included a link to an article from MI Tech News. In that article, Anthony Randazzo is quoted as saying:

“This widespread problem with unfunded liabilities means that more and more revenue from today’s taxpayers is being consumed to cover these obligations, crowding out the ability for local governments to fund basic services, ensure police and fire departments are fully staffed, pay for road improvements, and provide public goods such as libraries and parks.”

In other words, what Randazzo is saying, is that public sector employee pensions are a burden on taxpayers and should be done away with.

Included within the article is a website, https://unfundedmichigan.org/, which provides data on each county in Michigan as it relates to the local government entities and where they stand on public sector employee benefits, specifically pensions. You can search each county, by clicking on the county for added data. Here is what the website is claiming in terms of the governments within Kent County and where they stand on pensions.

The website, https://unfundedmichigan.org/, is run by the Pension Integrity Project, which is part of the Reason Foundation. The Reason Foundation website states that their organization, advances a free society by developing, applying, and promoting libertarian principles, including individual liberty, free markets, and the rule of law.” The organization’s board of trustees is made up of folks from the financial sector, including David Koch, one of the infamous Koch brothers, that has been engaging in a war on the public sector for decades. 

According to Source Watch, the Reason Foundation is intertwined with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)  and the State Policy Network, which includes groups like the Acton Institute and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. The Reason Foundation was also one of the 32 organizations linked to the Fossil Fuel industry that was named in 2016 as one of the groups denying climate change

Thus, it seems clear that the West Michigan Policy Forum needs to be exposed for who they really are, but they need to be actively resisted for promoting policy that attacks the public sector and makes the private sector all that more powerful.

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