A view of just how much politics changed in the last year was evident Wednesday morning at the Spokane Convention Center.
The revolutionaries - defined as those who want radical change - were inside. Mostly well-dressed and well-coiffed, they paid $25 for a bowl of Wheaties, some slightly green bananas and muffins to help re-elect freshman Rep. George Nethercutt.
One highlight of their morning was bidding up to $1,100 apiece for one of three footballs signed by former Seattle Seahawk turned Republican congressman, Steve Largent.
The defenders of the status quo were outside on the sidewalk, waving placards and chanting. They criticized Nethercutt and Largent for voting to cut federal programs from welfare to meat inspection to environmental regulations.
“Can’t afford a Ne-ther-cutt,” they chanted, as people attending the breakfast walked in and morning commuters drove past. “Can’t afford a business suit. Can’t afford a photo-op.”
The last line was a reference to a pre-breakfast event in which about 15 Nethercutt supporters paid $250 to have photographs taken with the former Seahawks wide receiver.
The two events raised about $13,000 for Nethercutt’s 1996 campaign fund.
Along with posing for pictures and autographing footballs and trading cards, Largent told the breakfast crowd of about 250 that Congress was trying to change welfare for the good of the people in the programs.
“We are decimating those families that we are desperately trying to help,” Largent said of the current programs.
Nethercutt, too, called for major changes in the welfare system that “stress the work ethic and stress the family ethic.”
Outside, protesters disputed this Republican view of the budget cuts. Demonstrator Adelina Gonzales suggested Congress cut military spending - which would increase under GOP plans rather than social programs.
“How about let’s tax those that can afford to pay their share, instead of giving out corporate welfare and tax cuts to the wealthy,” she said.
Nethercutt said some people believe any reduction in federal spending is too much.
“The people who are concerned about the cuts are some of the greatest beneficiaries of federal spending,” he said of the protesters.
Some food and nutrition programs will see increases in spending through a system of block grants given to states, he said.
Nethercutt said he’d be willing to sit down and talk about the budget cuts with the protesters. “Good,” Gonzales said, “that means we can call his office and get an appointment to talk with him.”
Late Wednesday, she and Nethercutt’s staff were trying to schedule a meeting.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo