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West Michigan Policy Forum pays MLive to push their “re-open the economy” message

May 13, 2020

The West Michigan Policy Forum (WMPF), an entity that came out of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce in 2008, is an organization that creates and then lobbies for public policy that benefits the capitalist class. The WMPF’s leadership is also made up of members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure

Yesterday, the WMPF paid for space on MLive’s digital platform, with the headline, Michigan’s slow pandemic response: Sacrificing livelihoods without saving lives

The paid content from the WMPF presents the standard message about how businesses know what they are doing and can keep their employees safe, since their employees are their most important “assets.”

The WMPF’s paid content is critical of Gov. Whitmer and praises Senate Majority Leader’s Mike Shirkey, who, “announced a well-conceived, risk-based plan to reopen Michigan way back on April 16.” The same Mike Shirkey who was texting with organizers of the anti-lockdown protests on April 30th in Lansing

There are two main WMPF spokespersons that are cited in the paid content piece, John Kennedy and Jase Bolger. Kennedy, who is the CEO of Autocam, has been the number campaign contributor to Sen. Mike Shirkey, so it’s no surprise that the WMPF article gushes over Shirkey’s plan. 

The paid content also presents data on on COVID 19 cases and deaths, but the graphic they use is a bit misleading. They present a graph that has southeast Michigan, Michigan and West Michigan. A more honest and less confusing representation of the COVID 19 data is the interactive map, which shows cases and deaths per county across the state. The data also shows that in Michigan there are 4,674 daily cases confirmed. This is an unacceptably large number of new COVID 19 cases on a daily basis. How can the WMPF guarantee that opening more businesses won’t push those numbers higher?

Lastly, the paid for content attempts to provide other examples of states or countries that have opened their economies sooner than Michigan. The article refers to adjacent states, Ohio and Indiana, both of which have opened their economies sooner. Ohio, for example, will be opening bars and restaurants later this month. How is opening space where people gather, especially with alcohol as part of the equation? 

The paid content piece also uses Germany as a model that Michigan can learn from. This is a ridiculous comparison for many reasons. First, Germany doesn’t have a deeply divided political class, like Michigan does and German politics is not dominated by an unlimited amount of money that the business class can contribute to those running for office, unlike Michigan. Second, Germany has far superior social policies, from mass transit, to wages to a socialized health care system that doesn’t put profits before people. Germany takes care of its people better than the US and Michigan.

Lastly, the fact that the West Michigan Policy Forum is buying space on MLive’s digital platform, demonstrates how committed they are to pushing their capitalist messaging to the general public. We shouldn’t buy it, since the WMPF is fundamentally only interested in re-opening Michigan’s economy for the benefit of its members.

Graphic credit: Brett Colley

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