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.

water is a human right, why is it so elusive?

Privatizing water has taken the world by storm. How many people would rather pay for cases of bottled water than take it from their tap? How many communities are deprived of water because a corporation moves in to contain and sell their water? The situations are similar to what happens here in the US and what is happening across Africa. The greatest new commodity essential to life in the world is a bottle of water. This is no more evident in the US where we are so caught up in the corporate farce that we prefer the tastes of different waters – or so we think. Here is also comes with the idea that it is safer, cleaner, and healthier to drink bottled water as opposed to tap water. ABC news presented a special on the myths of bottled water. The leading expert, used by the bottled water companies, said that there was no reason to say either tap or bottled water was better than the other. The also conducted a taste test with NYC tap water and five other bottled waters, including the top selling, french Evian. Tap water ranked fairly high at #3 with a bottled water and Evian ranked at the very bottom as the least good tasting water sample.

What is wrong with this picture? In the US we would rather pay five dollars for a gallon of water than drink the great tap water that is virtually free? How can this happen when there is such a huge scarcity of water in the world. Over 1.1 billion people in the world do not have access to clean, safe water to drink. We are talking about any drinkable water at all – but we would rather complain about taste and healthiness. In 2002, the Copenhagen Consensus determined that it was a government’s responsibility to ensure the right to water for all citizens. Sadly this has not been the case in far too many developing countries. So if the public sector fails to ensure the right to water, can the private sector fill the gap?

From Reason Magazine: “Contractors often drive tankers to poor districts, selling water by the can, in which case the very poorest of the world’s inhabitants are already exposed to market forces but on very unfair terms, because water obtained like this is on average twelve times more expensive than water from regular water mains, and often still more expensive than that.” Many times whole water supply and treatment systems are sold to private corporations. However, well many times privatization creates a price increase for a minority of people already connected to an ineffective government water system, a greater number of people without access to water are served. There are plenty of examples to argue both for and against water privatization. In the long-term, as with most development policies, when privatization is implemented correctly with the majority of people in focus then it works as a positive. Many activists de-cry water privatization as an evil and it can be. The new fear is the great “corporate water grab.” Just as with oil, policies need to be created to make sure the needs of people are met, not just business interests. In many African countries it is too late and privatization has taken a negative toll on the poor’s ability to access water.

As far as bottled water, just stop buying it. This drives up the cost of water and its increased privatization as well as created more pollution. Re-use a water container and drink the beautiful water from your tap.