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Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Mackinac Center for Public Policy & West MI Policy Forum think 75% of businesses could re-open now throughout the state

April 20, 2020

Towards the end of last week, both Senator Mike Shirkey and Rep. Lee Chatfield, continued to push Gov. Whitmer on the need to re-open the economy in Michigan.

Last Monday, we reported on how Shirkey and Chatfield had expressed “frustration” with Gov. Whitmer over the extended stay-in-place order, that current goes on into the end of the month. We reported that Shirkey and Chatfield both were taking the position that re-opening the economy was more important than preventing people from contracting the COVID-19 virus and possibly dying.

Now Sen. Shirkey and Rep. Chatfield are continuing to push to let businesses re-open, this time with the support of powerful allies and with a “plan.”

Senator Mike Shirkey was doing a Q & A with the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce on Friday, plus the Michigan Chamber of Commerce posted their own news, with a headline that read, Senate Republicans and Whitmer Increase Focus on Economic Reopening. In that Michigan Chamber post, it stated:

The Michigan Chamber is encouraged by the Senate’s action and currently analyzing their proposal.  The Senate’s proposal, referred to as Open Michigan Safely, is summarized as “relying on measurable data points to serve as indicators of decreased risk. The proposal is structured in phases that outline conditions in the state, suggest safe business operations, and propose levels of citizen activity.”

On April 15, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce released a a set of guidelines for policymakers to create clear and consistent expectations for employers. These guidelines were crafted with the help of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which we also reported on last month, with their policy wish list during the crisis and their new partnership with the Great Lakes Education Project and the Michigan Freedom Fund. The guidelines that the Michigan Chamber and the Mackinac Center have released are rather basic, but also very vague. It is important to remember that the Mackinac Center was the main driving force behind Michigan’s Right to Work policy, plus they have a long history of undermining public sector unions and public education.

Meanwhile, the Senate Republican caucus has released their own set of guidelines, which is described in 5 phases. One thing that I find troubling about their plan is the lack of testing. The Senate Republican Caucus does mention testing, but only as something people could do. There is no plan for statewide testing and there is no clear plan for what to do if there another outbreak across the state. Also, it would seem that this commitment to re-open businesses doesn’t fully take into account the seriousness of the human loss of life across the country and across the state. In addition, there is no known cure for COVID-19, which seems like that should be a larger priority than businesses opening back up again.

Closer to home, the West Michigan Policy Forum (WMPF), which was created in 2008 to provide the business community with an opportunity to push their own state policies agenda, has affirmed the push by Senator Mike Shirkey and the Senate Republican Caucus. The WMPF stated on their Facebook page on April 16:

The principles offered by Senator Mike Shirkey today smartly allows for a regional and phased approach to safely reopening businesses and protecting employees as they go back to work. We must reject the false choice between work and safety, so these outlined principles rightly empower workers, protect customers and increase economic security. We applaud Senator Shirkey’s welcoming approach to further input by medical experts. We urge the governor, lawmakers and business leaders to further refine the appropriate and sensible proposal by Senator Shirkey to coalesce around one plan to protect both lives and livelihoods and provide a safe pathway to restart our economy.

The WMPF, then posted yesterday, a link to a Detroit News article, where West Michigan Policy Forum chair John Kennedy was interviewed. In that interview, Kennedy talks about how his business, Autocam, has continued to operate during the COVID-19 crisis and what precautions they are taking. However, Kennedy primarily responds to the plan that Sen. Mike Shirkey is pushing. One thing that Shirkey believes, and Kennedy agrees with, is that roughly 75% of businesses could re-open if they followed certain protocols. One thing that was not revealed in this interview with John Kennedy, is that Kennedy is the number one campaign contributor to Sen. Mike Shirkey since 2011

Again, it seems to this writer that there is still so much that we do not know about the virus, then add to that the lack of systemic testing and the fact that no cure has yet been developed, which leaves us very vulnerable to many people contracting and dying from the coronavirus. We know that the business community has a great deal of leverage with state policy makers, since they have been major campaign contributors and are always at the top of entities engaged in lobbying. The question for those of us who identify more with civil society is, should we have as much say as the capitalist class? Maybe we need to organize in such a way as to have more say than the capitalist class.

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