Gingrich in Iowa City calls for cuts to environmental and labor programs

BY IAN STEWART | JULY 12, 2011 7:20 AM

Zhongzhu Guo/The Daily Iowan
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GOP presidential-nomination hopeful Newt Gingrich lambasted several federal groups, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Labor Relations Board, which he called a “rogue operation,” during a speech on campus Monday.

Organized by the Family Leader, a conservative Christian group headed by former gubernatorial hopeful Bob Vander Plaats, the speech was part of a series organized to have Republican candidates address social issues.

But while Gingrich touched on ethical and religious questions — the focus of the Family Leader’s lecture series — he spoke strongly about his plans to rethink government offices in light of the current economic situation, something Natalie Ginty, the chairwoman of the Iowa Federation of College Republicans, said she supported.

“They do hamper on business, and they do hurt America,” she said. “The individual, the citizenry should be more important than the bureaucracy in Washington.”

Gingrich had some specific ideas about where that downsizing should occur.

“If they’re going to cut spending, start with the National Labor Relations Board,” he said. “It is … trying to destroy the American work system and killing jobs at Boeing in South Carolina in ways that are totally unconscionable in this kind of economy.”

Gingrich was referring to the board’s recent criticism of the aviation giant, which, according to the agency, moved production from Washington to South Carolina to punish its union workers.

Union issues have been at the forefront of the political debate in recent months, including in Iowa.

The Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, for example, group is planning a march on Saturday in Des Moines to protest what they call anti-union policies from Gov. Terry Branstad.

Dennis Roseman, the former head of the Johnson County Democratic Party, said the issue of unions is a highly political one.

“There’s a push by various factions in the Republican Party to basically destroy organized unions,” Roseman said. “Traditionally, the unions have had the support of the Democrats.”

Citing new electricity regulations established by theEPA Gingrich said such agencies are “killing manufacturing jobs.”

“These are agencies so out of touch with reality that we ought to save a lot of money [by cutting their funding],” he said.

But Gingrich, a former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, told the crowd of approximately 50 gathered in the IMU of what he sees as an opportunity for job creation and debt reduction.

“We ought to put into the debt-ceiling bill drilling offshore for oil and gas,” Gingrich said. “Every time we get a barrel of oil from the Gulf of Mexico, the federal government gets money.”

Roseman called that plan “ridiculous.”

“It’s totally poppycock to think that any change in that policy will have a change on anything in the near future,” he said. “It won’t get us gas in the near future, and it won’t get us jobs in the near future.”

“It’s not going to have the impact that he seems to be portraying.”

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