Grassroots organizers in Illinois intent on protecting key social programs erected a 'Durbinville' encampment in downtown Chicago on Thursday to call out Democrat Senator Dick Durbin for what they see as the most brutal kind of betrayal.
With the goal of ending Durbin's continued willingness to offer up cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and other social programs to Republicans in the name of "compromise" and under the guise of an invented debt crisis (known in Washington as the "fiscal cliff"), the organizers contend austerity is not the answer to the nation's financial problems.
Progressives hope the organizing in Chicago against Senator Durbin can be a model for how other states and cities can fight back against the push from Wall Street titans (and made possible by politicians and a pliant corporate media) to use a fabricated financial crisis to push through harsh cuts to public programs.
As Jacob Swenson, a Phd student at the University of Chicago and participant in today's demonstrations argued in a letter to the Sun-Times this week, "it’s clearly possible to balance the budget without cutting a cent from programs that move our communities forward."
Swenson explains the rally is designed to hold Durbin "morally accountable" and will call on him to stand with the nation's most vulnerable, "instead of championing the interests of corporations and the rich."
Durbin is a key figure in the ongoing budget negotiations, operating on behalf of the Obama administration in the Senate. Although Durbin and Obama continue to call for letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans expire in an effort to raise revenue, activists say the Democrats betray progressive values (not to mention sound economics) by insisting there must be $3-4 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade.
Organizers in Chicago argue that while voters decisively rejected GOP Congressman Paul Ryan’s plan for austerity on election day, Obama, Durbin and other powerful Democrats are betraying American voters by serving up a “Ryan-light” budget with deep cuts to programs that Americans hold dear, have paid for and desperately need.
The shantytown-style encampment—themed on Depression-era 'Hoovervilles'—has been organized by a Chicago area coalition of social service providers and grassroots community groups led by Make Wall Street Pay Illinois – whose members include IIRON, SOUL, Lakeview Action Coalition, Northside P.O.W.E.R. & Illinois Peoples Action. The group has been staging protests all week and providing free soup and bread each afternoon this week in a buildup to Thursday's afternoon rally.
"As part of the ongoing 'fiscal cliff' discussions," reads a Facebook page announcing the event, "Senator Durbin is negotiating behind our backs to gut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid – cuts that could create depression-era conditions for millions of Americans who’ve paid for and earned support from these vital programs."
The bread lines were designed, according to the group, to make visible "the hunger and suffering" that budget cuts will create in their communities.
The campaigners are calling on Senator Durbin to:
- Block the "debt ceiling sequester" cuts – say no to austerity
- Reject Simpson-Bowles or any other “Grand Bargain” that attempts to balance the budget on the backs of the poor, working people, the sick or the elderly – protect vital public programs, no cuts to Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid
- Block the extension of the Bush Tax Cuts for the top 2% – it’s time for the rich to start paying their fair share
- Support and fight for progressive sources of revenue – impose a Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street financial speculation, tax capital gains as normal income and close corporate tax loopholes
Live stream from "Durbinville":