B.J. King hardly fits the stereotype of a welfare recipient.
She drives a BMW, albeit an old one, and lives in a comfortable
house in Kirkwood.
But because King's filtration systems company borrowed about
$350,000 through a Small Business Administration guaranteed loan
program a year and a half ago, some members of Congress would brand
her a beneficiary of public aid.
Those lawmakers - an uncommon alliance of conservatives and
liberals - began their attack on "corporate welfare" last week by
using the appropriations process to cut or cancel spending for
programs that subsidize private enterprises.
One likely victim is the U.S. Bureau of Mines, which provides
statistical information and research that helps coal producers in
Illinois and lead producers in Missouri.
People who want to eliminate the bureau argue that big mining
companies - like Peabody Holding Co. and Zeigler Coal Holding Co.
in the St. Louis area - can finance those studies themselves.
Lawmakers also have taken aim at the Agriculture Department's
market promotion program, which picks up part of the advertising
bill for U.S. companies trying to sell food and farm products in
The market promotion program is on the "Dirty Dozen" list
issued last month by a coalition of interest groups from across the
One of their bigger, and more elusive, targets is the
Export-Import Bank. The bank provides low-cost financing or loan
guarantees to foreign buyers of American products, including the $2
billion in airliners Saudi Arabia just ordered from McDonnell
The groups that compiled the Dirty Dozen list contend that
scaling back or scrapping those programs could save as much as
$18.5 billion annually, money that could offset some of the deep
cuts already planned in public assistance, housing and food stamp
In challenging the new Republican leaders in Congress to apply
their smaller-government doctrine to economic programs as well as
to social programs, Labor Secretary Robert Reich labeled them a
second type of AFDC - Aid For Dependent Corporations.
Businesspeople in the St. Louis area who have taken part in
some of the endangered programs bristle at the suggestion that they
have profited at taxpayers' expense. They say the nation got more
than its money's worth.
"There's a tremendous benefit, to employment and the economy as
a whole," said King, who has built King Filtration Systems Inc. in
Creve Coeur from a struggling company with $200,000 in annual sales
to a successful one 20 times that size. The expansion - which
included a successful assault on the tough Japanese market - was
one reason that King Filtration was honored as the SBA's exporter
of the year for Missouri.
The company borrowed money through a government program that
subsidizes and guarantees bank loans. The loan paid for a bigger
headquarters and enabled King Filtration to hire three new workers;
the company is looking for two more.
King says she has seen little, if any, personal financial
benefit. She went without a paycheck for many years while expanding
the business. She relied on the income of her husband, Steven
Gissy, as an insurance broker to support their family.
Other companies in the St. Louis area that have received money
under federal programs being targeted by public-interest groups
include Ralston Purina Co., Pet Inc., Petrofsky's International
Inc. and Raskas Foods Inc.
Bagels And Cream Cheese
Petrofsky's International, which sells frozen bagel dough,
signed up for the Agriculture Department's program five years ago
as part of its push to develop new foreign markets, President Jerry
"I think it's phenomenal - I don't know if that's a strong
enough word," he said.
Thanks to the money and expertise the government provided, the
company now sells its dough in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore,
Australia, England and several other European countries. …