As part of a national effort to advocate for investment in the future of America, dozens of local members from MoveOn.org assembled to express their concerns outside the downtown Saratoga Springs district office of U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, which prompted a counterprotest across the street.
The noon protest outside Gibson’s office on Broadway was one of many similar gatherings, including one outside the Albany office of U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, that were sparked by a series of recent budget cuts passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and the promise of additional cuts in next year’s fiscal budget.
“It was an attack on health care,” said Kristen Dart, 27, of Saratoga Springs, about cuts to Planned Parenthood that were approved by the House. She is worried about what this means for the services she receives from Planned Parenthood. “That’s my affordable health care,” she said.
The House of Representatives is targeting pennies compared to the money spent on national defense, said Dart. She rejected the idea that entitlement programs are an area of waste, arguing that people pay into programs like Social Security and deserve their benefits.
The message from Dart and her fellow protesters was that if budget cuts had to be made, they shouldn’t be placed on the back of the middle class and made at the expense of long-term investments like education.
Armed with a megaphone, members of the group took turns broadcasting their message, although it wasn’t loud enough to clearly reach the protesters across the street.
Those people on the corner of Broadway and Grove Street had gathered in support of Gibson and the fiscally conservative positions he has taken during his two months in office.
Shouting across the traffic on Broadway, Gibson supporters shared the concerns about the future held by anti-Gibson protesters across the street, but the two sides had very different ideas about which spending path would be dangerous.
Ed Brown, from Clifton Park, who carried a sign decrying wasteful spending on the federal level, said he had come out in the cold to spread a message of restrained spending because of his grandchildren.
“I’ve got five grandchildren and this government is literally destroying their future,” said Brown. “The youngest one isn’t even out of diapers and her future is what, 15 or 20 trillion dollars of debt?”
Even though he wasn’t overwhelmingly optimistic that politicians would be willing to make the hard political choices necessary to reverse the country’s budget woes, Brown said he couldn’t stay at home and do nothing.
“I don’t want to be sitting in an easy chair 20 years from now, saying I wish I had done something,” he said.
Brown’s concerns were echoed by Amy Standaert of Clifton Park, who displayed a sign that read “Cut Baby Cut,” as her three small children ran around her.
“They’re going to be paying off our debt for God knows how long,” said Standaert.
Back on the other side of the street, Thilo Ullmann, the chairman of the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee, said he showed up because he was worried about the direction of the country. Citing the growing strength of corporations and the danger to collective bargaining rights, Ullmann contended that there is an extremism on the rise that needs to be opposed.
“We need some real grass-roots democracy,” he said.
Ullmann said he and people like him are trying counterbalance the tea party movement that catapulted many Republicans into power in November.
“Whether it will have the energy of the tea party, we will see,” said Ullmann.
While the rally was focused on federal spending, people couldn’t help but comment on the ongoing budget battle in New York. Gibson supporter Brown said he was cautiously optimistic about the budget laid out by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and Gibson protester Ullmann voiced mild skepticism about the governor’s treatment of labor unions in the state.
There were also protests at Gibson’s district office in Kinderhook.
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