PAT BUCHANAN RISING: By the time candidates met to debate in New Hampshire last week, even Bob Dole was talking about corporate welfare and the social responsibilities of business. The climate was ripe, in other words, for renewed attention to what Ralph Nader has called "Aid to Dependent Corporations."
FIRST, MINNESOTA LEGISLATORS and lobbyists got on the bandwagon. On Wednesday, representatives from the Chamber of Commerce and the Minnesota Retail Merchants told a state Senate committee that they "agreed with the goals" of a bill (S.F. 1997) to require companies receiving state subsidies to pay at least a poverty-level wage (currently computed at $7.21 an hour for a family of four). The bill, pushed by the Minnesota Alliance for Progressive Action, passed 11-2 and is headed for the floor of the Senate. A companion measure (H.F. 2562) has passed the House International Trade and Economic Development Committee. But the legislation faces its most formidable hurdle at the desk of Gov. Arne Carlson, who this weekend signalled his ideas on mandated wage increases by saying he would probably veto a separate bill to increase the state minimum wage.
FINALLY, MINNESOTA CORPORA-
tions top the list of companies targeted by Nader's Corporate Welfare Project, which on Monday asked beneficiaries of the Export Enhancement Program (EEP) to wean themselves of federal assistance. The program essentially writes checks to agribiz firms so they can export U.S. commodities at below-cost prices; Minnetonka-based Cargill Inc. was the largest beneficiary in 1995, receiving some $1.3 billion or a full 18 percent of the program's total of more than $7 billion. Other familiar names on the EEP list include Pillsbury/Grand Met ($160 million); Mitsubishi International (whose American holding company is headquartered in Bloomington; it collected $115 million); International Multifoods ($33 million); Land O Lakes ($18 million); and more. The program has been targeted for cuts under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, but Nader says that's not enough, arguing that "failure to control corporate welfare as we know it makes a tragic mockery of the current debate on individual welfare."
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "It would be confusing to be driving on I-35 and then all of a sudden they have to know who Sinclair Lewis is."--Rep. Jim Rice, DFL-Mpls., warning of the possible public consequences of renaming state highways after notable Minnesotans.