Now that Congress is on vacation and members are back in their districts, people are desperately trying to give them the message that we need jobs, not cuts, and we need spending projects financed by the rich paying their fair share to get growth going again. Rallygoers in many districts sharpened that message by dropping off a copy of the Contract for the American Dream at their district office. In Chicago, Rep. Jan Schakowsky warmly greeted a gathering demanding a turn away from the austerity agenda by announcing her own jobs bill that would create 2.2 million jobs and lower the unemployment rate by 1.3%, down to a level not seen since 2009. Here's what we heard from someone who attended the rally:
Got back from an event with Rep. Jan Schakowsky where she talked about "The Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act." There were at least 100 people there and MoveOn was well represented by in terms of people and large signs (Jobs Not Cuts, and American Dream Signs). The vibe was very positive. Everyone seemed happy to have a piece of legislation/leader to rally around.
In North Carolina, people picketed freshman Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers.
About two dozen demonstrators said they wanted to persuade Ellmers to change her hawkish stance on the U.S. deficit. The nation has a jobs crisis, not a deficit crisis, they said, and more spending, such as a public works program to rebuild roads, bridges and schools, could create jobs.
"(We need) something like FDR did back in the 1930s, when he had his Works Progress (Administration) program," said Rohema Miah, a member of the liberal group MoveOn.org. "He put people back to work, and certainly we say we're not in a depression like the 1930s, so why can't we do it now?"
"They should be standing up saying, 'Tax the rich. Make them pay their fair share,'" demonstrator Agnes Batts said of Congress.
In Herndon, VA, protestors met with staffers for Republican Rep. Frank Wolf.
Did a honk + wave outside and then individuals told their story, then went inside and presented the staffers with the contract, told more individual stories to the staffers, and wrote our personal stories on an "American Dream" sign with the contract to leave for Wolf. At one point the staffer was like, "He isn't a tea partier! He's not that bad".
In Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Republican Rep. Lou Barletta refused to even look at the camera outside a breakfast with CEOs, so constituents conducted a quick interview with a cardboard version: In Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, protestors confronted freshman Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) about his lack of focus on job creation. Toomey, former president of Big Business boosters Club for Growth, was just named to the Super Committee that will likely hack away at essential federal programs.
Toomey's efforts weren't enough for Kevin Deely, a 10th-grade teacher at Easton Area High School. Deely estimated 6,000 teaching jobs have been eliminated statewide due to budget cuts.
“We know the key to fixing this economy is to make sure everyone is employed,” Deely told the group. “When you’re employed, you’re paying taxes. When you’re paying taxes, you’re paying Sen. Toomey’s salary.”
Also speaking at the protest was Joni Weinreich, of Allentown, who in 2008 was laid off from her job as a table worker at Tama Manufacturing. Her husband, Irv Weinreich, had been laid off twice from jobs at Cedar Brook Nursing Home in 2002 and later at Brookfield Apartments in 2009 when he was undergoing bypass surgery.
“Our jobs went overseas and that’s where most of them are going,” she told the group. “You just cut back on things you can’t afford. Toomey promised us jobs and he hasn’t delivered.”
Dan Haney, 52, of Philadelphia, said he was laid off in February from Express Scripts Mail Order Pharmacy, and Shawn Wygant, of Pittsburgh, said he was laid off in March from his job at Sodexo due to outsourcing. Both turned out to the protest to send a message to re-create jobs in Pennsylvania.
“I think it’s time the people stand up,” Wygant said. “I feel if I don’t stand up now, there won’t be jobs for the next generation.”
In the Twin Cities in Minnesota, Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum faced anger from voters who were upset that President Obama and Congressional Democrats seemed resigned to allowing cuts to necessary programs.
The crowd of about 150 was largely friendly and civil, but they were passionate about their opposition to the conservative policies flowing from the Republican-controlled Congress and what they consider an all-too-conciliatory White House.
John from St. Paul wanted to know why Obama has moved to the right. "Whose side is he on?" he asked. "What are progressives telling him?"
McCollum, who voted against the bill to raise the debt ceiling crafted by Obama and GOP congressional leaders, defended the president, contending he negotiated the best deal he could get. She did say, however, that Obama "could be clearer" about insisting that tax increases on the wealthy be part of future deficit-reduction legislation.
Another man who identified himself as a veteran and father of a military reservist told McCollum that U.S. troops are the only people paying dearly for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. "Bring them home!" he demanded, sparking a burst of cheers and applause.
"I agree with you. It's time to bring our troops home," McCollum responded.
In Loveland, CO, Republican Rep. Cory Gardner heard angry words from constituents at a town hall meeting.
About 300 or so packed a conference room at American Eagle Distributing this morning, with many having sharp comments either for or against the freshman congressman.
Some accused Gardner of attacking Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid while cozying up to corporations and huge oil companies during his first year in Congress.
"That's all you care about is defeating President Obama and that's it," said one woman.
In Syracuse, New York, locals protested outside Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle's office against her votes to cut Medicare and for the cuts in the default deal.
“Ann Marie Buerkle always talks about cutting taxes,” said one speaker, Gerald Lotierzo of Lysander. “We’re for taxing the millionaires and billionaires and the corporations. They’re paying practically nothing.”
Elsewhere in New York State, locals rallied outside Rep. Nan Hayworth's office in Somers. (Hayworth's office called the police on seniors protesting at her office just before the default deal in late July.)
Epstein said she showed up at an afternoon rally Monday outside Rep. Nan Hayworth's office here to protest the congresswoman's support for a Republican budget proposal she says puts Medicare in jeopardy.
"People under 55, she just threw them under the bus," Epstein, a retiree from Somers, said. "She didn't say that, but I'm reading between the lines. I'm afraid for my children and grandchildren."
Hayworth, R-Mount Kisco, was in Peekskill in the morning and not in the office.
"I'm really concerned that Nan Hayworth and her Republican colleagues believe we should be balancing the budget on the backs of the people who can least afford it," said Mel Tanzman of Mohegan Lake.
Expect to hear more anger over votes to put essential programs like Social Security and Medicare in danger throughout the month.