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What Kind of Change Do We really want to see in Michigan: Part III

November 16, 2022

In Part I, we covered Immigration Justice, Health Care for All, Housing Justice and Education Justice. Part II covered a list of demands dealing with Today, we will explore demands centered around the Prison Industrial Complex/Policing, Racial Justice, Environmental Justice and LGBTQ Justice. In today post, which is the last in the series, we will address Economic Justice, Foreign Policy & Michigan, along with Democracy demands, where we discuss the ways in which we need to change how we govern ourselves. 

“Since 1984, Republicans have used their control of the Michigan Senate to block things Michigan families need. No more.”   Michigan Senate Democrats statement after the 2022 elections

The Democratic Party now has control of the State House, the State Senate and the Governor’s seat, which is the first time this has happened since the early 1980s.

With the Democrats now being in the driver’s seat through at least the end of 2024, this seems like a great time to make the kinds of demands we want, in terms of policy change. The Blue wave has come to Michigan, and since the Democratic Party is the “party of the people”, then this seems like a perfect opportunity to create a list of policy demands that the Dems can pass in Michigan. If we can take seriously the above comment from the Michigan Senate Democrats, then it is crucial to ask what it is that families living in Michigan really need? 

It has been my experience over the past 40 years of doing organizing work, along with my read of US history, is that federal, state and local governments don’t generally make the necessary changes that people need. Governments must be pushed and pressured by organized movements of resistance, which is the essential message of Howard Zinn’s monumental book, A People’s History of the United States.

The following list of demands is based on movement politics that I have been involved in or movement politics that I have been following closely for the past 40 years. If you have additional ideas, then by all means send them along or create your own on a different platform, but let’s think creatively, let’s practice radical imagination and lets demand collective liberation. We will cover some of these demands in several postings, plus most of these issues intersect, so we will regularly refer back to other demands.

Economic Justice

For me, the long-term goal would be to dismantle the economic system of Capitalism, but it is not likely that governments will go along with that. It should always be the stated goal, but in the process of getting there, we can make demands. As part of the Poor People’s Campaign that the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Dr. King were involved in, they had developed an Economic Bill of Rights, which is something we could do today.

A Living Wage/Income for all – It is always hard to determine what a real living wage should be, but given the cost of living – rent, food, transportation, utilities, etc., we should demand that no one earn less than $30 an hour in Michigan, whether you have a job or not. Think of what this will mean to people currently making he minimum wage or just above. Making $30 an hour would triple their current income. Such a guaranteed income should be for life or until we dismantled Capitalism and create a better economic system based on cooperation.

We also need to radically alter the tax policy, to make the wealthiest people pay more taxes, along with businesses/corporations and for everyone else to pay less taxes, so they can keep more of the money they earn.

Michigan need to end the practice of giving subsidies and tax breaks to businesses who want to set up shop in Michigan or move their current location. The same thing goes for developers who always want subsidies or tax breaks or utilize Brownfield Development perks. 

Policy makers should remove the Right to Work status for Michigan and do everything to support, encourage and fight with workers wanting to unionize. 

We have already address many economic issues in Part I and Part II of this series, but another way we can afford to make sure that a guaranteed income for all is possible, would be to address the amount of money that is leaving Michigan every year to support the US Military Industrial Complex.

Foreign Policy and Michigan

US Foreign Policy impacts Michigan in numerous ways, even if we are not think about the connection. Millions of people are displaced from their countries on an annual basis, often because of US economic and military policies, which means they often end up in Michigan. 

Trade policies, like NAFTA and CAFTA have resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs in Michigan, since corporations are always seeking lower wages for workers.

Then there is the issue of US militarism. There are numerous US military installations in the State of Michigan, along with hundreds of corporations that are subsidized by public money through contracts with the Pentagon. 

However, the largest issue has to do with the sheer cost of US militarism. The US Military budget is the largest on the planet. In fact, the US Military budget is larger than the next 9 highest country military budgets, combined.

The National Priorities Project monitors US military spending and provides detailed breakdowns for the amount of money leaving each state to pay for US militarism abroad. According to the The National Priorities Project, the cost of the US Military Budget for 2021, which was $740 Billion, taxpayers in the state of Michigan are paying $19.35 billion of that total. Imagine if the people living in Michigan would get to decide on how to use $19.35 Billion for just one year. Many of the other policy demands we have addressed – Medicare for All, cancelling student debt, a guaranteed loving wage for everyone, mass transit, etc, could become a reality if the US Military budget was reduced. It is never a question of there not being enough funding for things like housing, health care, education, etc., but it is a matter of priorities. In the words of Dr. King, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

Michigan lawmakers would not only need to meet with federal officials on a regular basis, it would mean that Michigan members of the State government would have to lobby and demand a re-direction of US military funding to fund the basic needs of people living right here. 

Democracy Demands

One last aspect of the need for radical, structural change, would be to change how we are governed. As someone who embraces anarchism and anarchist principles, I inherently oppose representative democracy. I believe that each community could have their own autonomous ways of governing, such as adopting models like the Zapatistas or popular/general assemblies for each community. Another model is what the great writer and theorist Murray Bookchin called Libertarian municipalism. For Bookchin, Libertarian Municipalism is: 

The immediate goal of a libertarian municipalist agenda is not to exercise sudden and massive control by representatives and their bureaucratic agents over the existing economy; its immediate goal is to reopen a public sphere in flat opposition to statism, one that allows for maximum democracy in the literal sense of the term, and to create in embryonic form the institutions that can give power to a people generally. If this perspective can be initially achieved only by morally empowered assemblies on a limited scale, at least it will be a form of popular power that can, in time, expand locally and grow over wide regions. That its future is unforeseeable does not alter the fact that it development depends upon the growing consciousness of the people, not upon the growing power of the state–and how that consciousness, concretized in high democratic institutions, will develop may be an open issue but it will surely be a political adventure. 

It will certainly take time to adopt these forms of popular democracy, so in the means time there are some very easy things we can do to change the existing form of government and elections in Michigan.

  • Make Election Day a State Holiday, so people don’t have to go to work or do other things that make it difficult to vote.
  • Eliminate Citizen’s United, to reduce the the influence of money from the Capitalist Class, from corporations, Political Action Committees, and Dark Money groups, all of which are run by those in the Capitalist Class.
  • Give all political candidates free air time on TV and radio for 30 days prior to an election.
  • Eliminate campaign advertising on radio, TV and social media, in part because this is how the bulk of campaign contributions are used, but also because political advertising is inherently vague and deceptive. 
  • Institute a ranked-Choice voting system, which would provide people the opportunity to more accurately vote their conscience, and still allow people to vote for more than one candidate in a ranked system.
  • Once candidates are elected, there could be a government run or independent social media platform that would have a list of current proposed legislation, so that people can easily see what the State government is likely to vote on. There could also be a process called participatory democracy, which is similar to participatory budgeting. With participatory democracy, there would be an opportunity for people to vote directly on proposed legislation, rather than rely on representatives to make decisions for them. 

Now, my understanding of these issues, both the policy demands listed in this 3-part series, and the proposals to change the form of governance, would be met with tremendous resistance by both the Republicans and the Democrats. Both parties have a history of resisting more horizontal forms of democracy, even if party members may be open to them.

My read on history also informs me that all of the policy demands listed in the 3-part series are not likely to be adopted unless there is a significant grassroots movement(s) that would force the State Government in Lansing to heed the will of the people. This is exactly why I believe that popular social movements are essential to winning radical and structural changes to society, since it is through social movements that we learn how to create the kind of world we want to live in. El Otro Mundo es Posible!!!!

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