A small but passionate group tried to get passing motorists and pedestrians in downtown Akron to pause long enough from holiday activities Wednesday to think about Washington’s “fiscal cliff” negotiations.
The rally in front of the federal building drew 15 people to hear speeches, sing Christmas songs with alternate lyrics and march to Lock 3 Park.
“We’re asking the president and Congress not to throw people off the fiscal cliff,” said Greg Coleridge of the American Friends Service Committee.
Congress is debating how to reduce the federal debt. On the table are social and jobs programs, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and tax cuts set to expire.
Coleridge called on government to stop using people as “bargaining chips in some big political poker game.”
Instead of raising taxes on 98 percent of Americans, he said, a government serious about reducing debt could cut military spending, impose higher taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent and stop bailing out banks.
The Rev. Bruce Butcher, president of the Coalition of Concerned Clergy, Community Leaders and Citizens, said he’s concerned about the nation’s poorest people should taxes be raised and social programs cut in January.
“We hear all the rhetoric about the middle class, but what about poor folk,” he said. “If the middle class is going through these struggles, we can only imagine what the real poor are going through.”
Bill Crooks, president of the Tri-County Regional Labor Council, said the country could raise a significant amount toward the debt by letting the tax rate for the wealthiest Americans return to the 36.9 percent it was under President Clinton.
He suggested revenue could be raised by eliminating tax incentives on companies that send jobs overseas and imposing a 0.03 percent tax on Wall Street speculation, among other measures.
Crooks also told Congress to stop looking at Social Security as “it has never added a penny to the deficit.”
Several of those present held signs, including one that read: “Steal from the war to feed the poor.”
They sang several Christmas carols with lyrics changed to address their points, including these words sung to the standard God Rest Ye Merry, Gentleman.
“God bless you, very wealthy men, good news I have to tell. The market’s back, you’re making more each time you buy and sell.
“With layoffs more, your profits soar, you’re living rather well. O tidings of capital gains.”