By JOE LoTEMPLIO
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Concerns about what impact the pending “fiscal cliff” might have on government programs and the economy drove some local citizens to the streets Monday.
“We are concerned about being pushed over this fiscal cliff, and that is why we have to speak up,” Mary Alice Shemo said.
Shemo was one of about two dozen people who showed up at noon Monday outside Congressman Bill Owens’s office on Durkee Street in downtown Plattsburgh to let people know about the issue.
She and others also rallied outside Owens’s office at a candlelight vigil from 4 to 6 p.m. with the same concerns.
“This is a showdown between two sides, and they are going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg by slowing down the economy,” Shemo said.
“But they won’t believe they killed that golden goose until they see the autopsy.”
If Congress does not reach an agreement by the end of this year, terms of the Budget Control Act of 2011 will automatically go into effect.
Concerns are that the lack of a deal will lead to a dramatic hit on the economy. Experts predict a recession could occur and that unemployment will rise.
One of the key components of the fiscal cliff is whether to allow the Bush tax cuts of 2001-03 to expire. There is also concern that programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will be curtailed.
David Curry, one of the organizers of Monday’s rallies, said those benefits should not be touched.
“These are benefits that people pay taxes on. They are not entitlements. They are something we’ve earned,” he said.
Jim King said he is concerned that President Barack Obama might give in to Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner and that those programs might be cut.
“We might be better off going over the cliff,” King said. “At least those programs won’t be cut.”
King said that any cuts to Social Security could be devastating to a lot of people.
“There are a significant amount of people on Social Security, and a 2-percent cut would affect millions,” he said.
Darlene Waldron said that if Congress members had to rely on Social Security to live, they might act differently.
“I think everybody, including Congress, should be treated the same,” Waldron said.
Owens (D-New York) was not at his office on Monday, but he issued a statement saying he is hopeful a deal can be worked out.
“We simply cannot afford to allow political games to push us over the cliff,” he said. “It is my hope that leadership in Congress and the White House will work together to strike a responsible balance between cuts and revenue to get our fiscal house in order.”
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) said she wants to protect the middle class.
“Sen. Gillibrand’s priority is protecting middle-class families and growing our economy,” spokeswoman Bethany Lesser said.
“Sen. Gillibrand strongly believes that we should extend middle-class tax cuts for hard-working Americans and let the Bush tax cuts for the top 2 percent income bracket expire so we can continue to rebuild our middle class and get serious about reducing our nation’s debt.”
Congressman Chris Gibson (R-New York) said going over the cliff is unacceptable.
Gibson supports the Cooper LaTourette budget proposal, which he voted for in April. The proposal closes loopholes and deductions that do not advance the economy or help hard-working Americans, said spokeswoman Stephanie Valle.
The plan also commits to $4 trillion in spending reductions over the next decade, done in a careful, thoughtful manner, to get the economy growing and return to fiscally responsible spending levels, Valle said.
Curry, who was representing the Northeast Central Labor Council, said it is important for Congress to listen to the people who have taken to the streets.
“We want to remind them that their constituents depend on these benefits and they need to be aware of this, and that’s why we are out here.”
Email Joe LoTemplio: firstname.lastname@example.org