Progressive voices are being heard at Congressional town hall meetings throughout the country. Let’s keep it up! (More)
A couple of weeks ago, Winning Progressive urged its readers to attend town hall meetings that their Congresspeople traditionally hold during Congress’ August recess. These town hall meetings are a great opportunity for Congress, the media, and our neighbors to hear a strong progressive message of prioritizing job creation, asking the wealthy to pay their fair share, and protecting Medicare and Social Security.
The good news is that it is working. While not covered much by the national media, local media reports show that the American public has been using the August congressional recess to call on Congress to take action on a progressive agenda. In fact, there has been enough outcry at Congressional town halls that some Republican Congresspeople, such as Paul Ryan, have decided not to hold town hall meetings at all and to, instead, only accept questions at events that people must pay to attend.
Below are just a few examples of the progressive outcry being heard at town hall meetings throughout the country. If you know of other examples, please share them with us so that we can update this list. And click here to find the contact information for your Representative and Senators so that you can make your voice heard at town hall meetings that are still to be held. Finally, if your Representative or Senators are not holding town hall meetings, write a letter to your local newspaper editor asking why and urging Congress to focus on jobs, the wealthy paying their fair share, and protecting Medicare and Social Security.
Coverage of Progressives Speaking Up At Congressional Town Halls:
Freshman GOP Rep. Randy Hultgren from Illinois faced a crowd that had:
Homemade signs reading “Tax Wall Street millionaires” and “Jobs: So simple even a caveman knows it.” Others with signs and handouts urged him to support House Resolution 870, also known as the Humphrey-Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act.
Dean Edelman of Oswego quoted a recent opinion piece by Warren Buffett that appeared in The New York Times in which the billionaire urged Congress to “stop coddling” the country’s superwealthy citizens. “We have to be there for our veterans and our seniors. My question to you is, who are you fighting for, the working people?” Edelman asked. “Words don’t mean as much as actions.”
In New Hampshire, GOP Rep. Frank Guinta reportedly faced a “tough crowd”:
It was standing room only at Greenland Town Hall as Guinta fielded questions from several furious constituents, who wanted answers to questions on Social Security, the economy, tax codes and the cost of glossy, colored mailings attributed to the New Hampshire representative.
Jobs were on the minds of many, including John Cochrane, of Barrington, who has been out of work for 3½ years. “I need desperate help,” he said. “I want to be a good American again. I don’t want to be a second-class American.”
Many voiced concerns about tax breaks for corporations and America’s most wealthy. When asked why corporations like General Electric weren’t paying their “fair share,” Guinta said the problem lies with the tax code.
In New Jersey, GOP Rep. Jon Runyan faced questions on jobs:
After listening to Runyan speak for 40 minutes, however, David Rosenak, 66, a disabled veteran, was not buying it.
“The one chart you did not have up there is the distribution of wealth in this country, where 80 percent of all the people in this country own one percent of the wealth … and one percent of the people own 80 percent of the wealth,” Rosenak said.
He asked, what did the congressman plan to do to reduce unemployment?
Reforming the federal tax system is the number one issue in getting Americans back to work, Runyan said.
Businesses have the money to hire new employees but a fear of what new taxes will mean to their bottom line keeps them from spending that money, Runyan said.
“There’s people with capital out there, who are sitting on their wallets…They want to know what the rule of the game is for 10, 15 years,” the congressman said.
“The thing we need now are jobs, and don’t talk to me about taxes. Talk to me about investment, about infrastructure,” Rosenak explained, becoming visibly irritated.
Marianne P. Clemente, 65, of Barnegat, who is a member of the new “Democrats for Change of Ocean County,” pressed Runyan on a number of issues, including corporate subsidies.
“We have the second-highest corporate tax rate, yet so many of our corporations pay no taxes,” Clemente said. “Exxon gets oil subsidies and they report record profits. Why aren’t we going after those things?”
GOP Rep. Patrick McHenry in Pennsylvania was confronted with an “agitated” crowd:
Tempers flared more than once during the question-and-answer session as some town hall attendees questioned McHenry’s responses. Some people placed their heads in their hands while others crossed their arms before them. They demanded different answers and more action from the congressman. Others walked out. […]
“What do you propose to do that you haven’t done in the last couple years to bring back jobs, make the economy better?” Hillman asked the fourth-term U.S. congressman.
In Nebraska, GOP Rep. Terry Lee faced numerous questions about creating jobs and raising taxes on the wealthy:
Bill Meyers, 77, challenged Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., about his support of an “unreal” balanced budget amendment, and his support of a pledge, authored by anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, not to raise taxes. “Which takes precedence? Your constituents or Grover Norquist?”
“If you look at my record of raising taxes, you’ll see a big goose egg,” Terry said proudly.
“What about the wealthy?” shouted a man from the back of the room. A few boos echoed through the one-room Depression-era building.
. . . .
Omaha investor Warren Buffett provided MoveOn a talking point this week, writing in The New York Times that Congress should raise taxes on the very rich. In Buffett’s hometown, Terry’s constituents didn’t need talking points to invoke his name. “Even Warren Buffett says so!” shouted Scott Downing, 71, a retired math teacher.
. . . .
Pavielle Wuerfele, 27, a yoga instructor from Omaha, has been coming to Terry’s forums for years. Tuesday, she started with polite questions — about whether he supports spending for infrastructure and education — but got increasingly vocal and frustrated. “I know I got sassy,” she said later. “I felt he was being evasive.”
In Massachusetts, Sen. Scott Brown refuses to hold town hall meetings, so protesters greeted the Senator at a public appearance:
U.S. Sen. Scott Brown was confronted by protesters yelling “tax the rich” on Wednesday as he continued his statewide tour on creating jobs with a hike of the New England Scenic Trail in Amherst.
An exchange between Brown and Amy Mittelman of Amherst at the end of the hike illustrated the differences between the two sides.
Mittelman pressed Brown on the tax cuts for the highest-earning Americans adopted during the first term of President George W. Bush, which are due to expire at the end of 2012. She asked, “If we do nothing, they will expire and by my way of thinking that’s not a tax increase. What are your thoughts about that?”
Brown responded by saying that he was waiting on the newly formed joint committee on deficit reduction to come forward with a proposal before making up his mind. That did not satisfy Mittelman.
“I’m asking what you think right now,” Mittelman demanded.
“It’s very difficult to get into a hypothetical that’s not there,” Brown replied.
“They’re going to expire – can we just let them expire?” Mittelman asked, her voice rising.