A coalition of consumer, public interest and civil rights groups yesterday criticized the Heritage Foundation agenda for the Reagan administration as a "blueprint for regression -- not reform."
In challenging almost all the major aspects of the findings in the foundation's "Mandate for Leadership, II," the coalition said that Heritage's recommendations would bring regulatory progress to a halt and weaken the federal government's role in ensuring the health, safety and civil rights of all Americans.
"Shifting responsibility from federal to state governments will hamper -- not improve -- the cleanup of hazardous waste sites, will discourage -- not bolster -- the enforcement of our civil rights laws, and will disrupt -- not balance -- the delivery of services to the needy," said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, a public interest group.
The coalition of five public interest groups said that the Heritage Foundation's recommendations would propose amendments to the Civil Rights Act of 1984 that would render it ineffective.
The coalition also said that the foundation's proposals would cut aid to the poor by having child nutrition programs rely on block grants instead of individual assistance, ignore the national consensus of the last 15 years that has led to cleaner air and water across the land, and undermine energy-conservation efforts that could save consumers as much as $200 billion a year.
"Heritage proposes removing regulations instituted to prevent harm and injury," Claybrook said. "They suggest that we rely instead on existing post-injury financial disincentives, such as product liability law, worker compensation insurance mechanisms, and state requirements to prod business to pay attention to health and safety in our work places and communities.
"In short," Claybrook went on, "the Heritage Foundation wants to wipe out the gains we have made in the last 20 years. They want to return to the 'good old days' when business could pollute or make unsafe products at will."
The Food Research and Action Center charged that Heritage's recommendation to move food programs to state optional block grants "would be disastrous" for federal efforts to feed hungry lower-income families.
"There has been a national nutrition standard since 1946," said a statement released by the center. "It is neither appropriate nor sound management to have 50 local nutritional standards if our goal is to protect and safeguard the health of all American children."