Saturday, May 25, 2013
AUGUSTA — On one side of the State House, Terry Perfetto listened to Americans for Prosperity hammer President Barack Obama for his economic policies.
Staff photo by Andy Molloy ANNIVERSARY: Members of Occupy Augusta picket Monday in front of the State House in Augusta on the first anniversary of the movement.
Staff photo by Andy Molloy TOUR: Maine State Director for Americans for Prosperity speaks with Maine State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin Monday during the conservative group's bus tour through Augusta.
On the other, Lew Kingsbury of Occupy Augusta stood with about a dozen people holding signs to protest corporate greed and to mark the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
National political discord made its way to the capitol Monday, and while the protesters came from different ideological perspectives, they all expressed disappointment with the current state of affairs.
Carol Weston, a former Republican state legislator who works for Americans for Prosperity, organized a three-stop tour featuring a massive bus decorated with bullet points and the slogan “Obama’s Failing Agenda Tour.” She talked about the $16 trillion federal deficit, which breaks down to $51,000 for “every man, woman and child.”
“We know that the policies the president has put in place are failing,” she said. “We feel it in our pocketbooks, in our homes and we feel it when we see our children who don’t have the jobs.”
Perfetto and about 35 others listened and clapped as Weston criticized Obama for unemployment, debt and health care reform. A resident of Gardiner, Perfetto wore a T-shirt that said: “10 years ago, we had Steve Jobs, Bob Hope and Johnny Cash. Now we have Obama, no Jobs, no Hope and no Cash.”
State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin, who said he was on his lunch break while speaking at the event, said federal debt hurts businesses because they are in constant fear of a tax hike to pay off the deficit.
“If you’re a business owner, you are scared to death of $16 trillion in debt,” he said.
Maine Democratic Party chairman Ben Grant said blame for the deficit belongs with past Republican presidents, not Obama.
“If we can solve the jobs problem in the country, which the president has gone a long way in doing, the deficit will be helped,” he said. “The president’s priority is putting people back to work.”
After Poliquin’s speech, Perfetto said the struggling economy has hurt her personally. Three out of four people in her family lost their jobs during the recession.
“I’m going to try to help people that are more conservative fiscally to do the things that need to be done to turn this state and this country around,” she said.
In New York on Monday, hundreds of protesters marked the one-year anniversary of the Occupy movement by chanting and clogging the streets, according the Associated Press. More than 100 were arrested, but the turnout was far fewer than expected.
In Augusta, the protesters waived signs and chanted. One sign read: “People who rob banks go to prison. Bankers who rob people should go to prison too!!”
Kingsbury, of Pittston, said they recently protested at Colby College to show their opposition to Bob Diamond, a 1973 Colby graduate and chairman of the college’s board of trustees who was at the center of an interest rate-fixing scandal this summer for his role as then-chief executive officer of the British bank Barclays.
Occupy Augusta has also protested Gov. Paul LePage’s “draconian cuts to the welfare safety net,” plans to build an east-west highway across northern Maine, the involvement of the American Legislative Exchange Council in state legislation and spending by the Koch brothers, founders of Americans for Prosperity, Kingsbury said.
The Augusta occupiers lived in Capitol Park for nearly two months last fall before they were required to break camp. While the movement has changed, the driving force behind it has not, Kingsbury said.
“You can expect to see Occupy Augusta protesting any time people’s rights are violated,” he said.