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Michigan’s Business Class has a plan for Economic Growth in the State, which means they have a plan to extract more wealth for themselves

April 2, 2018

On Saturday, the Business Leaders for Michigan (BLM) bought ad space on MLive to promote their “new” plan for Michigan’s economy. 

The reality is, that this is not a new plan and it is not really about boosting the economy of Michigan. In fact, there is no such thing as a state economy. States don’t have an economy, just like countries and cities don’t have an economy. What we have is Capitalism, which is an economic system that doesn’t recognize borders, is based on constant growth, exploitation of natural resources & human labor, along with increased profits for those who already have tremendous wealth.

All one has to do is look at who makes up the Business Leaders for Michigan, which can be found near the end of the 32-page economic plan they have devised. 

The Chairman of this group is none other than Blake Krueger, the CEO of Wolverine Worldwide. Wolverine Worldwide has clearly demonstrated that profits are more important than ecological sustainability and human health, now that the world knows how they have deliberately polluted large areas of northeast Kent County, putting thousands of people’s lives at risk. 

In addition to the Wolverine Worldwide CEO, there are representatives from GM, Chase Bank, DTE Energy, Dow Chemical, Whirlpool, Ford, Consumers Energy, Google and the CEO of Quicken Loans, Dan Gilbert. Gilbert, who also owns the Cleveland Cavaliers, has become Detroit’s equivalent to the DeVos Family. In a recent issue of the Jacobin Magazine, there is a solid article entitled, Opportunity Detroit

In the national folklore, it is Gilbert — Detroit’s “superhero,” according to the Atlantic — who helped Detroit escape its downward spiral by investing billions in the real estate market when other capitalists scorned it. He now owns at least ninety-five buildings in Detroit and wields immense influence over the city’s future. Even many of his critics admit that he’s had a positive impact. Sure, they say, he owns a huge chunk of downtown and enjoys incredible power over the local economy. But what would Detroit look like without him?

This is a false premise. The choice isn’t between billionaire-led investment and the destitution of the city. On the contrary: the revival spearheaded by people like Gilbert is made possible by, and depends upon, the poverty and dispossession of working-class Detroiters.

There is also substantial representation on the BLM, from names that we are very familiar with here in West Michigan. People like Doug DeVos, Steve Van Andel, Mark Bissell, Michael Jandernoa, John Kennedy, Matthew Hayworth and Hank Meijer. If you are familiar with our writing here at GRIID, you know we refer to these people are members of the West Michigan Power Structure. These white men (not surprising that they are men and white) are the wealthiest in the area, the are involved in groups like the West Michigan Policy Forum and they all contribute a ton of money to political candidates, in order to influence public policy that expands their wealth.

This plan to “improve Michigan’s economy,” uses phrases that are meant to sound creative, but in reality, it is meant to just continue the same old capitalist model that benefits a few at the expense of the majority.

The Plan – Decoded

The plan laid out by the Business Leaders for Michigan uses language that is somewhat vague and often deceptive. Here is a look at several of the major themes the group of rich, white men are promoting.

  • Stronger Job Growth – at first appearance this might seem like more jobs for people, but in reality it means creating a better business climate. A better business climate means lower taxes for businesses and the business class, greater public subsidies and less government regulation.
  • Improving Fiscal Management – is simply code for getting government to privatize more. One example the BLM cites is the recent legislation in Michigan which ended public sector employee pensions and shifting people’s retirement to the whim of the speculative market.
  • Competitive Tax Environment – is code for reducing taxes for businesses, especially larger businesses. It also means re-directing more public money into private hands.
  • Talent Pipeline at Risk – is code for we need to improve education to that these business leaders have a larger pool of future workers to chose from and who have the skills they need to insure greater profits for the businesses they own.
  • Automotive Past Can Build a Stronger Future – is code for GM and Ford wanting to continue to push the same old tired car culture on the rest of the world, instead of developing an efficient mass transit system that would decrease the use of fossil fuels.
  • Strategic Assets for Growth – is code for how to push certain industries and exploit more of the natural world, which they refer to as Natural Resources. In a Capitalist world, trees, water, soil, etc. are commodities for making profits.
  • Innovation Boosts Entrepreneurism – is code for pushing venture capitalism and competition. In other words, capitalists don’t believe in sharing knowledge and collective liberation, they believe in survival of the richest.

The rest of the report continues with more details on how to compete, invest and growth Michigan’s economy. Here is a chart that lays out their strategy:

Towards the end of “The Plan,” there is this statement in larger letters:

Based on the people and the companies that make up the Business Leaders for Michigan group, producing more of what the world needs would mean: 

Let’s be honest. This IS the kind of world that the Business Leaders for Michigan want. It will not benefit most of us. It will not give land back to Indigenous communities. It certainly won’t benefit black and latino communities. It will not benefit most immigrants. It will not promote environmental justice. It will not end poverty. It will not end mass incarceration. It will not end police violence.

This economic plan that the wealthiest has for us must be resisted. We can resist it with radical imagination, with cooperation, with mutual aid, with reparations, with love and with justice. We can imagine a better world, a different world and a world based on collective liberation. Another World is Possible.

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