GOP Leaders Have Ignored FPI Issue

May 27, 2003
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Where have they been? Where is Michigan GOP Chairwoman Betsy DeVos? Where are the GOP stalwarts who parade President George Bush and his cabinet members around Grand Rapids and who brag of the “connections”? We must assume the connections aren’t that good, or that Bush no longer needs the state of Michigan to win a re-election bid. The community devoted to free enterprise is noticeably — noticeably — absent as yet another federal bureaucracy directly undermines and dismantles the economy of the State of Michigan.

The Federal Prison Industries’ bureaubrats have certainly not hidden under any rocks. The agency boldly declares in its new annual report that it is certain to grow its two biggest industries — office furniture and automotive components — by double digits, while 13,000 to 15,000 office furniture workers in this part of the state alone are out of a job. And it is certain the FPI will use the despicable and unethical path exemplified last week as it blatantly stole the Steelcase bid, to the penny, to furnish the Federal Aviation Administration headquarters. The outright predatory practices used by FPI would land any other American business owner in court. Reform of FPI practices is pending in a House Judiciary subcommittee.

The cavalier attitude of the FPI is matched by DeVos’ incomprehensible and obvious decision to ignore the issue and fuel the elitist moniker many pin on the GOP.

During what has proven to be the greatest recession in the office furniture market’s history, FPI grew its furniture manufacturing from $74 million to $117 million by blatant unethical means. It expects to grow that industry by another 50 percent this year, while industry analysts predict another 3 percent to 5 percent private sector decline.

The Justice Department actually defines FPI as a “growth industry in America.” How is it that individuals sent to prison can be allowed to put law-abiding, tax-paying American workers out of a job? FPI plans to “grow” its automotive components business by 216 percent. FPI proudly proclaims that it will add another 17 new facilities to its roster of 111 factories that compete directly in fleet management, vehicular components and retrofit services, clothing and textiles, medical, military and institution apparel, warehouse shelving, security fencing, optical eyewear, custom fabricated industrial products, lockers and storage cabinets. The list is unending and so, too, is the economic impact of this hideous bureaucracy.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm and her “highly qualified” director of the Department of Labor, Economic Growth and Urban Development, David Hollister, also must be taken to task for their absence in weighing in on a matter that directly impacts this state’s major businesses and the state’s ability to pull out of an enormous budget deficit.

U.S. Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Holland, has long been exposing FPI practices and fighting to balance its activity with the private sector. His courageous voice last week from the floor of the House was heard across America.

It is to the shame of the “home team” that FPI practices have not been addressed long before last week’s public thievery.

Their silence cannot be defended as prison industries are hailed as a “growth industry in America.”           

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