"Don't throw any of us off the fiscal cliff," well-known local activist Carol Bailey declared Monday evening during a candlelight vigil outside Rep. Jerry McNerney's Stockton district office.
By "us," Bailey was referring to seniors, students, working men and women, middle-class homeowners, the homeless, the disabled, children, the unemployed -- pretty much 98 percent of the country.
Her message to McNerney, D-Stockton -- who did not make an appearance -- and the rest of Congress was this: As you decide the nation's critical fiscal direction for the next 10 years, don't cut benefits to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and put an end to the tax cuts for the nation's wealthiest 2 percent of taxpayers.
Bailey, with the California Alliance for Retired Americans, was joined by about 20 demonstrators from a coalition of labor, health care and political groups during a coordinated nationwide effort Monday -- the 64th anniversary of the International Day of Human Rights -- to show members of Congress that people in San Joaquin County have a vital stake in the decisions they make in the next 20 days.
"In one of the most prosperous countries in the world, everyone should be able to retire with health and dignity. I've worked hard and played by the rules my whole life to provide a good life for myself and my family. It's time for the richest 2 percent to pay their fair share," Bailey said.
Marcie Bayne, secretary-treasurer of the San Joaquin Central Labor Council, said "hundreds of thousands of Californians and working families in San Joaquin County shouldn't have to suffer because some in Congress insist on giving more tax breaks to the richest 2 percent. Our elected leaders need to create an economy that invests in good jobs, health care and education for all."
Mario D'Angeli, who heads the San Joaquin County chapter of MoveOn.org, said it's not just seniors and students who need to get the message out.
"People should make this one of their hobbies, do just a little study. It's happening everywhere around the world. It's very important, because we are in a real crisis, a national crisis, a world crisis. Those that have the money and power have the leadership, and it has really taken us backwards," D'Angeli said.
The demonstrators heard from an advocate for the so-called Robin Hood tax to raise revenue specifically for economic recovery. It has been referred to a House committee for consideration.
"HR6411, the Inclusive Prosperity Act, is a very tiny tax on Wall Street trades. It collects 50 cents on every $100 in stock trades," said Margo Praus, a registered nurse at San Joaquin General Hospital who is active with the California Nurses Association and National Nurses United.
"We shouldn't even have to be here defending these basic benefits," Praus said.
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