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West MI Policy Forum speaker advocates for a neoliberal economic agenda: More privatization, undermining of unions and dismantling public education

October 30, 2018

Last Monday, the West Michigan Policy Forum posted the mot recent information about the content of the September conference. This post featured a link to another interview by Comcast Newsmakers, with Professor Tawni Hunt Ferrarini, who’s talk at the WMPF Summit focused on what she calls Understanding Michigan’s Fiscal Health. 

You can watch her entire lecture at this link, but we also found the powerpoint presentation that she gave from her own personal website. 

The lecture and accompanying slides are not terribly interesting. Ferrarini serves as a faculty scholar for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a right wing think tank that has been around for three decades and has received millions of dollars in contributions from  the Grand Rapids Power Structure, specifically the DeVos Family. 

The first 19 pages of her presentation makes it sound as if during the Granholm administration the state’s economy failed, while under the Snyder administration, Michigan’s economy has thrived. I would argue that under both administrations the economy primary benefited those who were well off, but that benefit has excelled under Snyder’s tenure as governor of Michigan.

The presentation because a bit more interesting around slide 20, when the Mackinac Center professor makes it clear what still needs to happen to make the state’s economy truly benefit the capitalist class. Ferrarini identifies four major fiscal challenges for the state, which underscores exactly why the West Michigan Policy Forum invited her to present in September.

  • Unfunded Liabilities
  • Transportation (roads)
  • Tax Credits
  • Education

These four challenges are the main current pillars of the neoliberal economic policy makers around the world, but especially in the US and Europe. Each of these four are part of the larger neoliberal policy framework that transfers massive amounts of public funding the the private sector, also known as austerity measures. In an excellent article over 20 years ago, Elizabeth Martinez and Arnoldo Garcia identify neoliberalism as consisting of 5 main points

  • The Rule of the Market
  • Cutting Public Expenditure for Social Services
  • Deregulation
  • Privatization
  • Eliminating the concept of the Public Good and replacing it with individual responsibility

In Professor Ferrarini’s presentation, she advocates for similar points, which she identifies as challenges, meaning they need to be improved on or they still need to be implemented.

In slide #22, we can see that Ferrarini wants to see pensions that were won and fought for by unions to be replaced with market-based 401k plans. She also promotes attacking pension at the state & local government level, along with public sector educators.

In the second major policy challenge of transportation/roads, Dr. Ferrarini essentially just cites a Mackinac Center report called Roads in Michigan

In the third challenge of tax credits, which does remove some tax credits to certain industries, but does nothing to adequately tax the larger private sector, which would result in billions of tax dollars that could provide a substantial safety net in Michigan.

The fourth and final challenge is education. This was a major focus of the West Michigan Policy Forum in September, where essentially the main thrust of the speakers, like Jeb Bush, was to adopt the same kinds of education policies that Betsy DeVos is now promoting in Washington.

What should be clear to anyone who has read any of the article we have written about the 2018 West Michigan Policy Forum or previous forums, is that these gatherings are critical to promoting and adopting the far right neoliberal economic and social agenda. Why the work of the West Michigan Policy Forum does not garner much attention from the progressive, liberal or lefts sectors is baffling to this writer, since what the WMPF advocates for at the state level in terms of policy, should be resisted by great urgency.

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