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"Fiscal Cliff" Protesters Build Shantytown Outside Durbin's Office

Children eating at breadline outside Senator Durbin's office      Photo credit: Debbie Southorn
Children eating at breadline outside Senator Durbin's office Photo credit: Debbie Southorn
December 6, 2012

CHICAGO - Several faith and social justice groups are feeding hungry people and building a shanty town, like the ones from the Great Depression, outside Sen. Dick Durbin's office in downtown Chicago. They are protesting cuts in social programs that some in Congress say should be part of the "fiscal cliff" deal.

Debbie Southorn, program associate with the Chicago American Friends Service Committee, has been staffing a bread line there every day this week because she thinks it is unreasonable to ask older Illinoisans and people who can't find work to bear the brunt of more budget cuts. The ones who can afford to sacrifice are those who have benefitted from Bush era tax cuts, she says.

"We have money, but it's not in my grandma's Social Security check and it's not in my brother's unemployment benefits. The kind of money we need exists. It's in the pockets of the wealthy and corporations."

President Obama says he won't consider any cuts unless Republicans agree to raise taxes on the top 2 percent of Americans. Sen. Durbin has warned there may have to be some painful cuts. Pentagon officials have begun preparing for cuts that its spokesman says would be "devastating to our national defense," but Southorn disagrees.

"The cuts that would go through with sequestration are actually only cuts to projected growth. It's not like the Pentagon would suddenly be deflated and unable to operate."

In fact, a recent study by Sen. Tom Coburn found nearly $70 billion in cuts to what he says are wasteful programs, like military microbreweries and cooking shows, which would never touch combat teams, ships or fighter planes.

Chicago senior Sara Moore lives on less than $1,000 a month Social Security. She says she's been out at these protests because, after cutting her meds in half to save money and cutting her food budget, there's nothing left to cut.

"Lakeview pantry brings me food once a month. I can really stretch it because I'm good at that."

The protesters have not applied for a permit from the city. Some say they are willing to get arrested, if necessary, if the police try to force them to tear down their shantytown.

More information is available at " Coburn's study is at Department of Everything.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL