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Citizens Protest Looming 'Fiscal Cliff' Budget Cuts

For the past several weeks, clusters of citizens have been protesting the opportunistically named “fiscal cliff” budget cut talks. Even though the “fiscal cliff” is really more of a fiscal curb or fiscal slope, conservative lawmakers have seized upon the media-generated panic surrounding the doomsday January 1 cutoff date as an excuse to inflict further cuts and steer the conversation away from ending tax breaks for the one percent.

The push back from citizens began when activists from ACT UP protested the possible inclusion of cuts to AIDS funding during the negotiations. Activists arranged a table and chairs outside Senator John Kerry’s home in Boston as part of a mock Thanksgiving meal during which they put pill bottles on plates instead of food, saying they want Kerry to fight to fully fund AIDS programs during the negotiations.

The following week, three AIDS activists from Vocal-NY were arrested after they stripped naked in the outer office of House Speaker John Boehner.Naked AIDS activists, with painted slogans on their bodies, protest in the lobby of the Capitol Hill office of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday. Three women activists were arrested after refusing to put their clothes back on. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

“We wanted to strip away the rhetoric of the fiscal cliff,” the director, Sean Barry, told The Washington Post, adding that the cuts could leave tens of thousands without the ability to treat their disease.

In Tennessee, protesters say they are preparing to gather in downtown Jackson in order to support the Obama administration’s request to put pressure on Republicans.

“He asked us to be behind him, the same message that got him elected. He needs supporters,” said resident Alma Jones to an ABC affiliate.

The federal budget fight also has a local component for Tennessee residents, who have been watching their own state government wage a budget battle in the Capitol. Residents have written hundreds of letters to Congress, demanding a bill that extends tax cuts for the middle class and raises taxes on households that make more than $250,000 a year.

Anne Nesse, a former Democrate candidate for Idaho’s Senate District 4, delivered a letter to Senator Mike Crapo’s office as part of a nationwide move pushed by MoveOn.org to oppose the GOP’s effort to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and cut Social Security (which does not contribute to the deficit), Medicare and Medicaid.

Nesse wrote:

By a ratio of roughly 9 to 1: voters of all income levels here do not believe in “trickle down economics”. Voters here understand that unless the wealthy are actually creating jobs at which citizens can make a livable wage, that giving a tax cut to this group does NOT help our economy, or help to pay off our federal deficit that we owe primarily to ourselves in entitlements like medicare and social security.

In Maryland, activists protested Congressman Andy Harris.

“Andy Harris has never done a vote for the Eastern Shore,” said Carl Widell, regional leader for Organizing For America Eastern Shore. “He’s never done a vote for the Chesapeake Bay. He’s never done a vote for the middle class. He doesn’t live here, he doesn’t understand us [and] he doesn’t really represent us very well.”

Harris’ office responded with the tired “raising taxes on the wealthy stifles job creation” soundbite. Corporations have been enjoying tax breaks and exploiting tax loopholes for decades, and they’re still outsourcing labor and shutting down factories to ship operations overseas, so clearly tax cuts aren’t inspiring them to keep hiring American.

Protesters in Wisconsin lined the sidewalk outside Congressman Sean Duffy’s office last week in response to looming cuts. Wisconsin Action’s press release stated their action was meant to “send a clear message: put the middle class ahead of millionaires and end tax breaks for the top 2 percent.”

“I’m here today and I’ve been coming to Duffy since he got elected,” said protester Joel Lewis to WEAU. “I’m very concerned about the disparity of wealth in our country and I think a lot of the GOP’s policies have led to that over time.”

Duffy’s spokesman John Gentzel responded that the congressman has always supported “limiting deductions especially for higher income earned,” but “the Democrats have to put real, immediate spending cuts on the table, too.”

Over the weekend in New York, activists from labor, community, student and faith organisations called on the US House members to end tax cuts for the rich.

“We want a clear statement from US Representative Michael Grimm,” the Strong Economy For All Coalition, one of the groups involved in the protest, stated on its website. “Will you stand up for regular New Yorkers who need help? Or do you stand with the millionaires and billionaires?”

The Hill asked a “source close to the White House” if Obama will anger his base by compromising on “entitlements” and the source responded, “So what? He will do what’s best for the country, period. He did that with healthcare. He’ll do it again here.”

Group in Peoria, Illinois hangs a “fiscal cliff” protest banner over a highway:

Find out more about the CEOs lobbying for austerity cuts, while asking for a lower corporate tax rate. 

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