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MLive just can’t help but act as a stenographer for the DeVos family

November 27, 2019

On Monday, MLive posted a story with the following headline, DeVos family earns spot on Forbes’ list for donating $112 million

The article, like so many we have documented over the years, provides an unquestioning forum for the DeVos family and allows them, once again, to be seen as generous people.

The MLive article is based on a Forbes magazine list of the top 50 people who donate in the US. The DeVos family ranks 26th on the list, along with other members of the capitalist class, including Bill & Melinda Gates, the Walton family, Jeff Bezoz, Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Bloomberg, Warren Buffet, George Soros and Charles Koch.

The problem with such innocuous lists is that they never question:

  • How these people became so wealthy
  • These lists don’t make comparisons to how much money these people contribute to candidates or political parties
  • And they never question what role rich people’s philanthropy plays within a larger political, economic and social framework.

Members of the Capitalist class become disgustingly rich because they exploit other people’s labor. Sure, some of these people were born into wealth, but that hasn’t stopped them from buying politicians that provide massive subsidies for their companies and to get politicians they have bought to pass policies that create tax structures that benefit those with the most wealth.

The only two entities that received funds from the DeVos family foundations, mentioned in the MLive article, were Spectrum Hospital Foundation and Grand Valley State University in 2018. There is no exploration into why the various DeVos foundations contributed the amount of money they did and there is no questioning of what strategic role this money plays for the DeVos family.

If we go back and look at the examples of the Rockefeller family or Andrew Carnegie, when were some of the first foundations were created, we know from that history that their wealth was much more scrutinized, even when it was used for philanthropic purposes. (see Foundations and Public Policy (Joan Roelofs) and The Revolution Will Not Be Funded (edited by INCITE!)

Those who create foundations are not giving money away to be generous, their philanthropy is strategic. Those with wealth use philanthropy to either distract people from asking questions about why those with wealth are so wealthy or to fund projects that fit within their ideological framework. For instance, the DeVos foundation contribute to conservative christian groups that embrace their worldview, to social service agencies that focus on individual solutions to issues like poverty, and to organizations that do public policy work that serves the interests of the DeVos family, like the Acton Institute, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the American Enterprise Institute.

Therefore, to report on the DeVos family philanthropy without exploring the deeper implications of why the contribute does a disservice to the public and demonstrates how MLive will not challenge the DeVos family influence in West Michigan.

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