CHICAGO – Several hundred people, including many who were attending the national convention of USA Action, rallied in the State of Illinois Plaza here Sept. 14 to denounce the Bush administration’s giveaways to the rich and to demand help for people affected by Sept. 11 and the current recession.
USA Action President William McNary accused the rich and their political friends of taking advantage of Sept. 11 to legislate themselves massive subsidies.
“They want to back a truck up to the door of the Treasury Department,” he said, “and loot it for the benefit of billion-dollar corporations and millionaires, while the rest of us go without.”
Don Turner, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, denounced the Bush plan to give $75 billion in corporate tax cuts retroactive to 1986, with $1.2 billion going to IBM alone.
“This is the most obscene bit of work I’ve ever seen in the halls of Congress,” Turner said. That amount of money, he said, could create access to health care for all those who lack it, extend unemployment benefits for those laid off because of Sept. 11 and the current recession, provide tax cuts for lower income workers, and many other things.
A representative of Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees said his members have been particularly hard hit because of the combination of Sept. 11 and the general economic downturn that resulted in the loss of over 700 jobs at O’Hare Airrport, alone. “Bail us out first,” he said.
Rev. Jesse Jackson of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, said he supports government aid to the airline industry, but corporate leaders must realize we can’t bail out that industry one day and then see them lay off 150,000 workers the next day. “Any economic stimulus must be bottom up, not top down.”
Jackson and other speakers denounced moves to take away civil liberties, specifically the new USA-Patriot Act and the proposed military tribunals for alleged terrorists. Jackson reminded the crowd of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s attacks on the civil rights movement and on Dr. Martin Luther King, in particular, in warning that no turn to repression should be tolerated.
Heather Booth, vice president of USA Action, neatly summarized the upbeat, fighting tone of the rally. “The twin towers of freedom and justice still stand,” she said, “and will prevail because of what we do.”