Open Letter to Rick Snyder: from a concerned customer

“The reinvention of Michigan must not leave anyone behind.”
– Rick Snyder (Inaugural Address, Jan. 1, 2011)

Dear Governor Snyder,

Michigan has a long history with big corporations, many which have recently come under severe scrutiny. My generation has watched as numerous corporations from Enron to GM have put their own interests first and have hurt many communities, families, and people in the process. What Michigan needs is not tax breaks and improvements for corporations, but rather improvements for communities of people who are the heart and soul of our state.

I’m not sure where your economic and development theories come from, but a “shock doctrine” just won’t work (just ask Jeff Sachs what the long-term benefits to the Bolivian economy were). There is no way that Michigan’s economic slate can be wiped clean for whatever changes you want to push. Economic development is never independent of history or social consequences. The success of neoliberal economics in further marginalizing populations that are already marginalized is appalling.

In the name of the economy, you have submitted a budget plan that not only further marginalizes populations in need, but also allows for a future of corporate control in our state (emergency financial managers). Taxing pensions of the elderly, cutting incentives for the middle class, slashing tax credits for the working poor, eliminating health benefits for same-sex partners, and crippling the powers of unions and public employees are all powerful representations of your social agenda being masked by your “economic” reforms. There will soon be 2 classes in Michigan, the wealthy and everyone else.

Time and again, in economic development models implemented in communities around the world the need is not for an environment where corporations can thrive, but rather an environment where communities can build and create. People need to be empowered to grow their own communities and create opportunities for collaboration. If you truly believe that Michigan needs an “era of innovation” then you need to look closer at policies that will have long-term impacts for the state.

One long-term impact that you should highly consider is supporting an ‘ideas economy’ through higher education. Young people are struggling enough as it is to graduate with the least amount of debt possible and then find a job (one likely not in Michigan). Adding a 15% cut to higher education funding (on top of 18% cuts since 2002) will cause young people to consider more options outside of Michigan and force universities to fire numerous faculty and employees. How will our universities remain “world class” with these cuts?

Writing as a young person born and raised in this great state, I am concerned with your chosen direction. Reinventing Michigan shouldn’t rely on failed economic models and policies of the past. Your campaign of hollow words paired with your short-sighted economic reforms demonstrates your lack of commitment to the State of Michigan and its people, who you are leaving behind in great numbers.

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