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Disaster Capitalism in Michigan: Part I – Americans For Prosperity

March 30, 2020

If people are familiar with Naomi Klein’s important book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, then people understand that the proponents of Neo-Liberal Capitalism are always seeking to capitalize on redirecting public money and public services to the private sector during a crisis.

Klein has already been talking about and warning us about how Disaster Capitalism will play out and already is playing out amidst the COVID 19 crisis

I want to look at how the proponents of Neo-Liberal Capitalism in Michigan are planning to use the current crisis to further advance their own interests, particularly through state policy.

In Part I, we want to look at the role that Americans for Prosperity Michigan are proponents of Disaster Capitalism.

On March 26th, the online independent news source, The Intercepted, posted an article entitled, Charles Koch Network Pushed $1 Billion Cut to CDC, Now Attacks Shelter in Place Policies for Harming Business. 

In that article, it mentions how the Koch created group, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), have were responsible for pushing funding cuts to the CDC and now are against Shelter in Place policies. The article states:

The Michigan chapter of AFP on Monday slammed Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order, which closed down fitness centers, nail salons, amusement parks, casinos, and other businesses deemed nonessential, calling it the “wrong approach for our state.”

Whitmer’s order, variations of which are being implemented by state and local governments nationwide, contains exceptions for critical industries such as grocery stores, pharmacies, health care providers, financial services, transportation, child care, hazardous materials, and energy.

“All businesses are essential — to the people who own them, the people who work in them, and the communities they serve,” said Annie Patnaude, the Michigan state director for AFP, in a statement responding to the order.

The full statement by Americans for Prosperity Michigan Chapter reads: 

“We are in the midst of an unprecedented health and economic crisis. However, a blanket shelter-in-place order is the wrong approach for our state. All businesses are essential — to the people who own them, the people who work in them, and the communities they serve.

“Entrepreneurship and human ingenuity will ultimately drive solutions to this global pandemic and create ways to get people what they need. Our policymakers should place a high priority on identifying ways to encourage innovation and not squelch it. We appreciate the example Governor Whitmer set when she took steps to remove excessive regulations in order to allow more people to  safely access the health care they need.

“It is critically important that any further actions to address this threat are targeted, limited in scope, and free from politics. We look forward to working with our policymakers to identify other ways to improve health without disastrous economic side effects.”

In other words, Americans for Prosperity Michigan are both outraged that the government could shut down businesses, plus they believe that entrepreneurship will “drive solutions to this global pandemic.

Americans for Prosperity has only been around since 2004, but the group has some 38 state chapters and has had a significant impact on both state and federal policy.

In Michigan, AFP was a major player in the effort to pass a Right to Work policy that was signed by Gov. Snyder in 2012. According to SourceWatch:

“Scott Hagerstrom, the Michigan director of AFP, stated the “Michigan passage of right-to-work legislation will be the shot heard around the world for workplace freedom. A victory over forced unionization in a union stronghold like Michigan would be an unprecedented win on par with Wisconsin that would pave the way for right to work in states across our nation.”

Americans for Prosperity have also worked to undermine the Affordable Care Act, have been a proponent of Climate Denial, and they were a major partner with the Republican Tea Party.

In Part II, we will look at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and their new partners that are pushing Disaster Capitalism policies in Michigan.

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