Government shutdown hits home: Protesters urge Johnson to help end D.C. stalemate

By: Bill Conrad, Plano Star Courier

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Washington, October 11, 2013 | comments


Jack Cooper, a World War II veteran, led his thoughts on potential Medicare cuts be known outside the office of U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson.

A small group of North Texans who are upset with the current political climate in Washington voiced their concerns Thursday afternoon outside the Plano office of U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson.

Johnson was in Washington and therefore could not meet with the protesters, but his staff received a letter on his behalf that detailed the protesters' thoughts on why Republicans are responsible for the shutdown and why the government should resume full operations immediately.

"The president must protect the office of the president and will not negotiate under a threat of destroying the government and our economy," said the letter, which was signed by protest organizer Larry Hamilton. "The tea party cannot be allowed to destroy our government and our economy with this economic terrorism."

Hamilton said he understands the need to reduce spending but felt the way the Republicans are going about it is more detrimental than helpful.

"We don't like the notion of intimidation where they will shut down the government unless you do what they say," Hamilton said. "That is just not the American way."

In an emailed statement, Johnson denied that Republicans were at fault for the shutdown. He noted that the Republican-controlled House has voted four times to keep the government open, only to have the Democratic-controlled Senate reject each of the plans.

"Since then, we have continued to offer numerous reasonable solutions to reopen critical portions of the government -- which all but one have been rejected," Johnson said. "The American people expect the president and Congress to sit down, work out their differences and find a responsible way forward."

Johnson said the real problem in Washington is government spending and that must be addressed now, not in the future.

"My hope is that the president uses [Thursday's] meeting with several House Republicans as an opportunity to tackle the real problem plaguing our country: Washington's out-of-control spending," Johnson said. "Now is the time to end the bad habits, cut up the credit cards and start paying down the debt. American families have tightened their belts for far too long; Washington has got to do the same."

Several of the protesters outside Johnson's office held signs urging Johnson not to use cuts to Social Security or Medicare as a way to balance the budget or reduce government spending. One of the protesters was Jack Cooper, a 93-year-old World War II veteran who was accompanied by his wife, Susan. The Coopers not only want to keep their current benefits, they said they feel changes must be made to the system to ensure beneficiaries are fully taken care of.

"We paid for Social Security and Medicare so they belong to us," Susan said. "Politicians have no right to touch what belongs to us. We do get a cost-of-living adjustment of a few dollars each year, but that doesn't begin to make up for the increase in our health insurance premiums, dental insurance and prescription drug costs. It doesn't even offset the increases."

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