Dozens of clergy members will carry a golden calf symbolizing the idols of wealth and greed to Senator Richard Durbin’s office on Thursday, as a coalition of community groups demands that Durbin defend social programs – including Social Security and Medicare – in any post-election budget showdown.
So far Durbin has refused to sign a pledge – backed by Majority Leader Harry Reid and 28 other senators – promising to oppose cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
“Durbin is missing in action on this issue,” said Jacob Swenson of the Make Wall Street Pay coalition. The Illinois senator is assistant majority leader and the Obama administration’s closest ally in the Senate.
Led by the clerical procession, members of the coalition will march from the Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington, to Durbin’s office in the Federal Building, 230 S. Dearborn, at 10 a.m. on Thursday, November 8.
On Friday at 3 p.m., hundreds of clergy, students and others will rally at Pritzker Park, Van Buren and State, calling on Durbin to stand tough in budget negotiations.
Following the failure of Durbin’s “Gang of Six” to reach a budget compromise in the summer of 2011, Congress passed a measure establishing a supercommittee to breach the impasse, with the threat of $1.2 trillion in automatic “sequester” cuts to military and domestic spending if they failed. They failed, and the deadline to act under that measure looms.
Congress could just repeal sequestration and start over, Swenson said. The current impasse revolves around Democrats’ insistence on a mix of tax revenue and budget cuts to address the deficit, while Republicans oppose any tax increases whatsoever.
President Obama has to check his propensity for preemptive compromise and “play hardball,” said Swenson. Specifically, he said, Democrats can win if they are willing to allow the Bush tax cuts – all of them – to expire.
“We’d like to keep them in place for people earning under $250,000, but if you’re not willing to let them expire, you don’t have political leverage,” he said. “The Democrats haven’t taken the strong bargaining position they need to take.”
Durbin: raise retirement age
Obama has backed the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles commission, which Durbin supported, including raising the retirement age to 69 and reducing cost of living adjustments for Social Security; the plan would also lower the tax rate on top incomes.
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