As House Speaker John Boehner today was busy getting his "asses" in line behind a horrific piece of budget legislation that would kill jobs and heighten the economic insecurity of millions of Americans, several hundred demonstrators gathered at the U.S. Capitol to demand an end to the right-wing obstinacy in the debt ceiling talks.
Speakers, who ranged from an unemployed military veteran to members of Congress, had a consistent message: We do not stand for balancing the federal budget on the backs of seniors, youth and low-income people, while millionaires and billionaires are not asked to sacrifice anything.
"I am continually shocked at how little politicians seem to care about how regular people like me are doing," said Tiffany Mellers, who has three children and remains unemployed a year after serving a tour of duty as an Army reservist in Iraq. "This can’t go on any longer. Struggling Americans like me are in every corner of the country and in every single congressional district and we are are finally saying, ‘Enough is enough.’
"Instead of balancing the budget on our backs, we are demanding our politicians come up with economic solutions that work for the middle class."
The rally was organized in roughly 24 hours by the Rebuild the Dream organization, working with MoveOn.org, the Campaign for America’s Future and several labor organizations. As the rally was being held, Boehner was struggling to get enough Republican votes to pass a proposal that would demand $900 billion in budget cuts in exchange for an increase in the debt ceiling of just a few months. The bill would force another request by the White House to increase the debt ceiling again, in the heat of the 2012 election campaign, presumably to set up partisan attacks over the debt ceiling increase on the campaign trail.
But as Sarita Gupta, the executive director of Jobs With Justice, pointed out at the rally, "At the root of what Congress is debating is not the debt ceiling or the national deficit. The root of the debate is whether the role of our government is to serve and protect working people, or is the role of our government to make it easier for corporations and Wall Street and the ultra rich to make swelling profits on the backs of our communities."
Gupta called on Congress to "save Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security; don’t default; and send Wall Street the bill for the nation’s deficit."
Gupta shared the story of Mary, "a wonderful elderly woman, who sat there and told me that she had to go back to work at Walmart after being retired, after having a full career, because all of her retirement benefits were on the chopping block. That’s just wrong. We shouldn’t have people who have been on retirement come off of retirement and go back to work because of the state of our economy."
"I’m going to tell you about a dream I have," said Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md. "I have a dream of an America that looks out for and protects our senior citizens. I have a dream of an America that looks out for our young people and says that every young person should have the ability to match their opportunity with their capacity. I believe in an America in which people get up in the morning and can go to a good job that pays them a good salary that provides benefits and that looks out for them in the long term and enables them to take care of themselves and their children."
She closed by saying, "We cannot allow America to default on its obligations, while we say to our Social Security recipients, women, our seniors, those who are on disabilities, children who have lost their parents, veterans, we are going to reach into your pocket instead of reaching into the deep pockets of those who have gotten away with everything. That’s not our America. That is not our dream."
"This is a people’s movement," said Van Jones, the organizer of the Rebuild the Dream movement. "If you love America, and you like the Tea Party, you join them. But if you love America, and you detest the kind of stuff that the Tea Party is doing, join us. If you love America, and you believe in America the beautiful, and you want to be with people who are defending that beauty from the clearcutters, and the oil spillers, and the mountaintop removers, you should join the American Dream movement … If you believe that we are one country, if you believe in e pluribus unum, if you believe that the worst thing that you can do to country that is as big and beautiful and diverse as America is to divide it against itself, if you believe that in a crisis Americans should turn to each other and not on each other, join the Aerican Dream movement."
The next action in the effort to resist the dream killers will take place Friday. There will be "rapid-response rallies" at targeted Senate offices around the country. The message continues to be a demand that conservatives in Congress stop holding our economy hostage in order to protect tax breaks for millionaires and corporations, and urge Congress not to make a debt deal that cuts Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. To get more information, visit this event site set up by MoveOn.org.