Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gephardt Would Penalize Firms for Massive Layoffs

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gephardt Would Penalize Firms for Massive Layoffs

Article excerpt

After watching Pat Buchanan tap a vein of anger, House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, D-Mo., on Tuesday moved to seize the issue of economic nationalism for Democrats by calling for more government protections for workers.

In a speech to a Washington research organization, Gephardt recommended tax penalties for company executives who orchestrate mass layoffs and a new system of "underemployment insurance" to help laid-off workers get back on their feet.

He also called for a government ban on doing business with companies that deny workers benefits and refuse to subscribe to a corporate code of conduct.

But a Republican leader offered a contrasting prescription for the economic anxiety of the middle class.

"I lay the blame for America's anxiety at the feet of this administration," House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, said in a speech to the Heritage Foundation. Armey said workers were victimized by a "Clinton crunch."

Armey said his party would push for tax cuts for families with children, a reduction in capital gains taxes, less government spending and fewer regulations. These and other measures, he said, will help workers "earn more and keep more of what (they) earn."

Gephardt asserted that the time had come for "a new, humanistic capitalism" in which government and business take more responsibility for the welfare of workers.

"This isn't just about economics, it's about values," Gephardt said. "When leading corporations rake in massive profits but shed productive employees, the only proper response is moral outrage. Until we create a climate in which that kind of short-sightedness is unacceptable, we can't hope for it to end.

"And if we allow Wall Street alone to dictate the behavior of corporations - even if they are run by good and decent people, as most of them are - we cannot be surprised when they put short-term profits ahead of people every time."

Gephardt delivered his speech at the Economic Strategy Institute, a research organization in Washington. It represented an effort to regain the upper hand in some of the economic issues and themes that he pioneered but that Buchanan has popularized in his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination. …

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