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ATLANTA, Sept 10 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama's speech to Congress on healthcare reform has galvanized activists opposed to his proposals who plan a mass march on Washington on Saturday as the next step in their campaign. Groups that reject Obama's reform and seek limited government and lower taxes said that nothing they heard in Wednesday night's speech to a joint Congress session would deter them. Instead, it provided fresh fuel for their opposition to the government plans for the $2.5 trillion sector, in part on the grounds that it would raise the country's budget deficit -- a charge Obama denies. That opposition took the form of often rowdy town hall meetings over the summer and Saturday's march provides a new opportunity for the campaign to seize the agenda, they said. "Every group (going to the march) has its own agenda but we have a common agenda to get the country back," said Jack Staver, who leads a Tea Party Patriots group in northern Georgia and plans to attend the march. At least 20,000 people are expected for the march, said Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union, a conservative group. The event will gather groups including FreedomWorks, the National Taxpayers Union, the Tea Party Patriots and Smart Girl Politics, all of which rely on the Internet and social networking sites to communicate with members. The groups said they have seen a spike in membership and activism since a political fight over a big economic stimulus package passed by Congress in February, and again more recently over healthcare. "We are educating and motivating citizens to get involved in this debate through petitions, faxes, phone calls, personal visits," said Ron De Jong of the conservative Grassfire.org group. "Obama's speech has only galvanized our opposition." MARCH DAY AFTER 9/11 ANNIVERSARY But supporters of Obama said he succeeded during the speech in clarifying a series of gross distortions of his reform plans perpetuated by conservative opponents for political reasons. Marches on Washington are a potent symbol because of a 1963 civil rights march at which Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic "I Have a Dream" speech. Saturday also falls one day after the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Groups participating in the march said Obama's speech made little difference to their opposition plans. "There wasn't anything new in the speech except that it gave us new talking points," said Rebecca Wales of Smart Girl Politics, a conservative women's organization founded last year. For many conservatives, the stimulus package, Obama's energy reform bill and now healthcare reform evoke raw anger because they view them as fundamental violations of the way the United States should be governed. "He (Obama) is an out-and-out Communist," said Lynn Kartchner, who runs a gun shop in Douglas, Arizona. "He's a Socialist to the core and he doesn't really care who he has to steal from to get what he wants. What he wants is power. "He wants as many people as possible totally dependent on the government, just like the Soviet Union," Kartchner said. These activist groups share a common position with many Republican politicians as well as with lobby and industry groups opposed to Obama's healthcare plans. Many draw inspiration from conservative talk radio. Opposition to healthcare provides a focus for conservative energy but, in the longer term, several activists said they were focused on congressional elections in November 2010. Republicans lost ground in congressional elections in 2006 and 2008 but many conservatives believe public anger over healthcare reform proposals provides an opportunity to change that trend. (Additional reporting by Tim Gaynor in Arizona; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Bill Trott)
Click here to read the Sept. 11, 2009 article online. By Emily Bazar, USA TODAY Tens of thousands of conservative activists are preparing to descend on the nation's capital Saturday for a rowdy tea-party style protest, event planners say. About 30,000 have signed up on the event's website to attend the march and rally and oppose what they call excessive government spending, says Adam Brandon, spokesman for FreedomWorks, a group that supports lower taxes and less government. Former House majority leader, Republican Dick Armey, is the organization's chairman.
When the Democratic agenda stalled in July and it became clear that Congress would not vote on health care reform before the August recess, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) asserted that she was “not afraid of August. It’s just a month.” As Congress returns from recess this week, Pelosi and the Democratic leadership will be greeted by anxious members who got an earful from voters at town hall meetings. Far from the optimism Democrats felt after the past election, they are singing the old Hank Williams tune, “The roses have faded, there’s frost at my door. The birds in the morning don’t sing anymore.” If only former President George W. Bush was still around to blame. What happened? The United States has a national debt just under $12 trillion — and that is growing by roughly $4 billion a day. We are broke and on an unsustainable fiscal course. These numbers do not even fully reflect the catastrophic shortfall in our existing entitlement programs, which will come under increasing pressure as the baby boomers begin to retire. Both the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and the White House agree that President Barack Obama’s budget will add an additional $10 trillion in red ink during the next decade. Outside of the 10-year window, the budget projections only get worse. This reality fills Americans with anxiety as our fiscal health eerily resembles Argentina. Citizens ask themselves: How will we pay this debt down to manageable levels, and who will pick up the tab? Will debt be paid back through higher taxes, or will the government just turn on the printing presses and attempt to inflate itself out of this fiscal time bomb? As a nation, the time has come to live within our means, and that is the message concerned citizens delivered during the congressional monthlong recess. This is the anxiety that drove the tea parties in April and continued into the town halls. In light of the fact that we cannot cover our existing commitments to Medicare, where are we going to get the money for a new health care entitlement, as proposed in H.R. 3200? The administration and Congress are playing a shell game with the true cost of the program, claiming that over a 10-year period it is only an additional $1 trillion in spending. But when you read the details, the true cost after the first 10 years of full implementation brings the price tag much higher, to more than $2.4 trillion, according to the Senate Budget Committee. And to pay for the plan, Democrats are proposing $500 billion in Medicare cuts. But these cuts are being sold as “savings.” On one hand, supporters of H.R. 3200 claim that Medicare is more efficient than private insurers, but on the other hand, they claim there is $500 billion in fat to be trimmed that will not harm seniors’ care. Which is it? Americans are concerned the bill will have the long-term consequence of phasing out private health insurance, forcing citizens to reveal confidential financial and health records to some government bureaucracy and failing to address the core issue of cost.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators are expected to descend upon the nation's capital next weekend to voice their concerns about what they call Congress' "nonstop tax-and-spend agenda" in the first-ever Taxpayer March on D.C. The three-day event will begin Thursday morning at the D.C. Armory in Southeast Washington and is expected to end Saturday with a march from Freedom Plaza down Pennsylvania Avenue to a rally on the U.S. Capitol steps. Participants can attend workshops and lobby their congressmen while attending rallies on health care and the economy.
John Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader, showed up half an hour late for his weekly news conference on Thursday, but he had a good excuse: He had been trying to persuade Joe Wilson to apologize on the floor of the House for shouting "You lie!" at President Obama during his address to Congress. Democratic leaders even delayed a vote to give Boehner time to sway his colleague, but it was a fool's errand. Wilson, in truth, just wasn't that sorry.
Republican leaders fired up hundreds conservative activists outside the Capitol today, reveling in the opposition to President Barack Obama and promising that their efforts were just the beginning of a conservative renewal that would hit its peak in November 2010. But their man of the hour, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), was a no show. Wilson was expected to attend to the rally, sponsored by the activist group FreedomWorks, but decided to take a lower profile amid the media frenzy surrounding his “you lie!” charge at Obama last night. The crowd, however, used Wilson’s words, creating a chorus at several points chanting “You lie! You lie! You lie!” House Republicans who did show up stoked the crowd. “Was that an August or what?” Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said to wild cheers. “The only thing better than August is going to be next November.” About 800 activists gathered for the rally, which was sponsored by FreedomWorks a small-government organization that helped to stir up a conservative frenzy that spilled over on angry town hall meetings last month. Coming the day after Obama’s dramatic joint address to Congress, the group was trying to gin up opposition to a government health insurance option and other spending plans. House Minority Leader John Boehner and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor praised attendees for their efforts, and urged them to keep up the fight in the months to come. “The American people can stop this nonsense in Washington,” Boehner said to whoops. “It’s going to take the involvement of the American people to say, ‘Enough is enough.’” “We’ve got a situation where we’ve got to speak up, we’ve got to speak up for America,” said Cantor. Activists also celebrated the downfall of former Obama green jobs czar Van Jones, who was forced to resign last week after conservatives, led by talk show host Glenn Beck, criticized Jones for flirting with a September 11 conspiracy group. “No more czars! No more czars! No more czars!” the crowd chanted. Attendees, many of whom railed against Obama’s health care reform push, carried signs reading, “Who owns your body? You or your government?” and “Liberty or Death, don’t tread on me.” But the rally, just two days before FreedomWorks’ scheduled “March on Washington,” was largely meant as a call to arms for conservatives ahead of the 2010 campaign season. “Remember what Ronald Reagan said, ‘You ain’t seen nothin’ yet,’” said former Rep. Dick Armey, who heads up FreedomWorks. “We’re going to take back Congress in 2010 and we’re going to take back this country in 2012,” House GOP Conference Chairman Mike Pence declared to hoots of approval. Democrats have called FreedomWorks an Astroturf group, charging that it has been funded by corporate interests. But the conservatives today fired back. “I don’t care what they call you. I call you patriots,” said Pence.
President Obama's supporters hope to recapture the energy of last year's triumphant election campaign in a bid to regain control of the health-care debate, planning more than 2,000 house parties, rallies and town hall meetings across the country over the next two weeks. The initiative began Wednesday with a rally at a labor hall in Phoenix that featured the Obama sunrise logo and placards that became fixtures of the 2008 presidential campaign.
A demonstration against government spending and “socialized health care” planned for Sept. 12 in Washington could become “the largest gathering of fiscal conservatives ever,” organizers said on Thursday. Among the sponsors of the march is FreedomWorks, a conservative advocacy group that was instrumental in fueling opposition to a health care overhaul at town hall-style meetings this summer. The National Taxpayers Union and the Tea Party Patriots are also major sponsors. The groups began building momentum earlier this year with opposition to President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus plan and bank bailouts. Over the summer, their opposition to big government spending found an outlet at the health-care town halls. Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, said that the groups had started planning the protest and obtaining permits last February, realizing that Congress would be returning to Washington this month and taking up major legislation, including health care. “Health care has always been one of our primary focuses, and we guessed right about the timing,” he said in an interview. “It is emblematic of this broader theme about spending money we don’t have and the government getting involved in things it has had no success on.” Asked if Medicare was not a success, Mr. Kibbe said it was underfunded, broken and financially unsustainable. Organizers said in a conference call that they expected tens of thousands of people at the march but could not predict a number because many demonstrators planned to come on their own. They also said that the crowds were not being “ginned up.” “All we’ve done is create the space for these guys to show up,” Mr. Kibbe said. “If they aren’t angry enough to pay their own way, we couldn’t gin it up.” Andrew Moylan of National Taxpayers Union said that his group had been around for 40 years and only now were thousands of new people responding to the movement. “The story of this is that it’s not just conservatives anymore, who were always concerned about this,” he said. “It’s the story of the disaffected moderates who have had it up to here with the actions in Washington.” Adam Brandon, a spokesman for FreedomWorks, predicted this would be the largest gathering ever of fiscal conservatives, distinct from the social conservatives who have organized major events around issues like abortion and gun rights. Fiscal conservatives, he said, had never really gathered in groups of more than a couple of thousand. “This is the beginning of a big tent on our side,” he said.