Windmillin'

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Where politics and faith dance in the shadow of the windmill.

True Religion

Mackinac on the Grand (our West Michigan Regional Policy Conference) opened with the official sermon from one Dr. Robert Genetski. As reported in The Press, he presented the old time religion: the problem Michigan is facing is due to no other reason than economic perfidy of Lansing, a failure to follow through on conservative economic principles.

And like any good preacher, he had the remedy for it as well, a swearing off of the bottle. Quit. Cold turkey.

“Tinkering around with this business tax is not going to send any significant message. Real action is to eliminate this tax entirely, sending a clear message to the rest of the world that we have changed our economic process here.”

Basically, he suggests that we burn down our own garage to prove we mean business — the act proves the purity of our intention. If this elevation of purity and creed over pragmatic engagement sounds vaguely familiar here in West Michigan, it should. This is the sectarian thought world. Generally around here we know enjoy the sects of a religious kind. The anti-tax creed of the economic radicals that so grips the Michigan Republican Party is only an economic version of the same. No one should be surprised that Dr. Genetski now lives in Allegan County.

But there was more to the true religion, Thursday.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Filed under: Economy, Michigan, , , , , , ,

A course for the future?

Thursday starts the two-day event, Mackinac on the Grand, aka The West Michigan Regional Policy Conference, sponsored by the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. Nominally the conference is to advance the cause of West Michigan in the halls of Lansing, to articulate an agenda, to schmooze and of course, to lobby. Underneath however, a second issue lurks: how will West Michigan and the Midwest broadly deal with the issue of globalization?

The question at hand is not West Michigan v. Detroit; our business climate against the auto-dominated east. Rather it is West Michigan’s place in the global economy. As Richard Longworth notes in Caught in the Middle (more on that later), the golden days of the Midwest are behind it. In this new era, there will be winners and losers, “dislocations of people and places” is how John Austin relates it.

The old heavy manufacturing model is dead and in its place rise new sources of value: business services, hospitals, universities, tourism, communications. (Interestingly, these are the same themes being picked up by Dan Scripps, candidate for MI-101).

But if the region stands to shine, it also shares in the general reaction of denial found throughout the Midwest. There remains the understandable longing for the now departed past, with its factories and flourishing farms, and of course its older form of politics. There is in all this the danger, too, of a defeatist attitude that finds itself content with being a “mediocre people living in mediocre cities” (Longworth, 48).

Throughout the executive summaries two themes play against each other: the old one of politics as usual, backward glancing, a politics (and policy) of denial; and a new one centered on the questions of what must we do to meet our future.

Who will win? The vote is Friday.

Tomorrow, we will look at each of the eight summaries individually.

Filed under: Michigan, , , , ,

A Path Ahead

One of the under-appreciated impacts of globalization is the emotional cost that hammers our communities. As Richard Longworth’s Caught in the Middle explains, our region has been ripped apart by the forces of globalization. The tight weave of industry and agriculture is now left rather tattered. With the loss of jobs comes the looming loss of opportunity and hope. So individuals, businesses, communities perhaps even religious communities can find themselves lapsing into a kind of depression. Maybe even despair.

Naturally in this swirl it is easy to practice the politics of denial (the Right’s “tax cut ’til we drop” is a case in point, but the left has their’s). Another outcome is the populism of the Christian right. And a third is the persistent tendency on all sides to a kind of magical thinking, the notion that if just have the right proposal, the right program then things will turn around (cf. Fair Tax, and our old friend Reform Michigan Government Now!). But the most damaging is that failure of vision, in Michelle Obama’s wonderful words last night,

All too often we settle for the world that is.

In globalization our dreams get circumscribed by our fears. At this corner the spiritual and the political jostle one another.

But for the moment we’ll stay with the political. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Michigan, , ,

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