Harrisburg Tea Party protests ongoing bailout
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HARRISBURG -- Several hundred people gathered on the Capitol steps yesterday to protest the "B word" -- the ongoing bailout, by the federal government, of mismanaged banks, poorly run auto makers, homeowners who can't pay their mortgages and state officials who can't control their spending.
The event, organized by the Commonwealth Foundation, a politically conservative group, and two local radio talk show hosts, was called the "Harrisburg Tea Party."
"These are people who believe in limited federal and state government, but who think government has overstepped its limited role in our lives," said foundation President Matthew Brouillette.
Speakers and participants denounced both Republicans, such as former President George Bush and U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, and Democrats, such as President Barack Obama and Gov. Ed Rendell.
They disliked Mr. Bush's action last fall to give federal money to banks that made poisonous home loans. They also criticized Mr. Obama for spending additional billions of taxpayer dollars to prop up General Motors and Chrysler, to help overleveraged homeowners trying to avoid foreclosure and to help deficit-ridden states with his $787 billion economic stimulus program.
People held signs reading "No More Bailouts, No More Obama Stimulus," "My Grandchildren Aren't Even Born Yet but They're in Debt," and "Honk If You're Paying My Mortgage."
Joan Martin of Middletown, who brandished a "When Will the Spending Madness End?" sign, said she'd never been to a political rally before. But she said she doesn't like what's happening in Washington, with billions of taxpayer dollars going to bail out foolish decisions by bankers and car makers.
"I don't want my children and grandchildren stuck paying off a federal debt that's out of control," she said.
Elliott Lanser came from Pottstown, more than an hour away, with his teenage son Josh.
"We are digging ourselves deeper into debt," he said. "It'll be impossible to pay it back. It's ridiculous."
The crowd was tough on Mr. Specter for being one of only three Republicans who voted for the Obama stimulus package. He's running for re-election in 2010 and former GOP Congressman Pat Toomey, who almost beat him in 2004, may run again.
"Vote for Pat Toomey," said state Sen. Mike Folmer, a conservative Republican from Lebanon who in 2006 ousted an incumbent Republican who had supported the 2005 legislative pay raise.
This "tea party'' and several others held in cities such as Philadelphia, Chicago and Washington, D.C. are loosely patterned after the famous Boston Tea Party of 1773, where Bostonians protested the English government's taxes by dumping tea into Boston harbor. While these events don't actually feature cannisters of tea being dumped into a body of water, some protesters yesterday did have tea bags dangling from hats or eyeglasses.
The protest traces its start to a live, on-camera rant by CNBC newsman Rick Santelli in Chicago three weeks ago, which has been widely circulated and replayed online. Mr. Santelli complained about the federal government making taxpayers pay for the practices of some banks and homeowners who bought houses they couldn't afford.
Mr. Brouillette urged the Harrisburg crowd to become "10-minute citizens,'' meaning to "take 10 minutes, six days a week, and learn about the issues, and then call politicians, or e-mail them, or call talk radio, or write letters to the editor and make your voice heard.
"This rally today is the beginning, not the end, of our efforts."
First Published March 8, 2009 12:00 am