Tallahassee retirees and students rally to defend Medicare from ‘fiscal cliff’ budget cuts
Tallahassee, FL – The afternoon clouds were dark, but even the threat of rain couldn't stop students, retirees, and union members from taking a stand against federal budget cuts. About 35 people rallied outside of Republican Congressman Steve Southerland’s office here, Dec.10, demanding no cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security.
The protest was part of a national day of action called by the AFL-CIO and other trade unions in response to the so-called ‘fiscal cliff.’ If Congress does not act by Jan.1, 2013, they will trigger a set of austerity measures, budget cuts and tax increases.
Carrying signs that read, “Don’t cut my Medicare benefits,” and “No more tax cuts for the rich,” protesters listened to a short stack of speakers in the parking lot below Southerland’s office.
Republican lawmakers, like Southerland, have pushed for deep cuts to programs that support workers and retirees, like Medicare and Medicaid. President Barack Obama and the Democratic Senate have proposed a compromise that includes meager tax hikes for the richest 2%, coupled with cuts to Social Security and Medicare in the form of increasing the eligibility age.
Michael Sampson, a student at Florida State University, fired up the crowd with a passionate speech explaining how budget cuts by politicians benefit the rich at the expense of working people. He said, “We see the politicians of the 1% trying to balance the budget on the backs of the hardworking people who built this country. And it is a shame!”
The crowd erupted into cheers and chanted, “When Medicare is under attack, what do we do? Stand up! Fight back!”
Next, protesters heard from David Jacobsen, the President of the Northwest Florida AFSCME Retiree Council, which represents more than 600 retired workers.
“We want legislators to keep their hands off these programs,” said Jacobsen. Speaking to Republican proposals that would force working class retirees to pay crippling bills, he added, “Medicare should never, ever, ever be a voucher program. It should be available to young people the same way it is available to me now.”
After Jacobsen’s speech, the protesters marched upstairs to Southerland’s office chanting, “They say cut back, we say fight back!” The crowd packed inside the small office and asked Southerland’s staff to pass on their demands to the congressperson.
Taking video using an office cell phone, the staff recorded a message of retirees and students speaking out. The footage was sent directly to Southerland’s phone via text. The protesters then reconvened outside briefly to discuss future actions.
For more in depth analyses of the ‘fiscal cliff’ see: http://www.fightbacknews.org/2012/9/25/federal-government-course-austerity-2013