The political war against “corporate welfare” made strange bedfellows Tuesday.
Environmentalists and citizen activists joined with constitutional conservatives, asking that some large government subsidies end.
“Our views on issues may vary, but tax-supported public welfare must go,” said Connie Smith, state director of United We Stand America, one of five groups appearing at a Spokane news conference.
Holding up a national report called “Green Scissors,” the groups branded as “polluter pork” programs for federal timber sales and mining rights and grazing fees for federal lands.
The report by 20 national lobbying groups led by Friends of the Earth calls for an end to a long list of federal energy, water and road projects and revisions to federal lands policies. The groups would also end government programs to promote U.S. products abroad.
Doug Orr, an economics professor at Eastern Washington University, argued it was inequitable for the government to cut welfare programs for poor people while keeping subsidies to businesses.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which bristles at the term “corporate welfare,” recently defended many government programs as vital for jobs.
“With efforts to balance the federal budget taking center stage in the 105th Congress, closer attention needs to be paid to programs that act as catalyst for more jobs and increased economic growth,” Willard Workman, chamber vice president, said last week.
Orr contended that the budget deficit and the nation’s economy would be better off if the subsidies were eliminated. A small portion of the money could be put into job training programs for displaced workers and the rest used to reduce the deficit, he suggested.
John Beal of the Washington Taxpayers Party said he believes all federal subsidies are unconstitutional.
“Funding for every program should be terminated,” Beal said. It shouldn’t be used for job training programs, or anything else, he added.
Some programs in the report, including the grazing fees and federal timber sales, have been criticized for years. Administrations for both parties have suggested changes, only to have them rejected by Congress.
The coalition of environmental groups and so-called budget hawks hope this year is different. Smith said corporate welfare will be a “make or break” issue for candidates seeking the support of the Reform Party, an outgrowth of United We Stand.
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