Protesters call Ryan's budget 'immoral'
JANESVILLE A dozen protesters on Wednesday waged a quiet fight against poverty and an "immoral, draconian" federal budget penned by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan.
Led by the Rev. David Andert, pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Janesville, a somber group of local clergy and residents met outside Ryan's office in downtown Janesville.
They were armed with a basket of bread and smelt—and a message the demonstrators said was spiritual, yet apolitical.
"All members of society have a special obligation to the poor and vulnerable," said Mike Coogan, a member of Nativity of Mary Catholic Parish in Janesville.
Coogan was addressing demonstrators who held signs with slogans such as "healthcare, not warfare" and "prosperity, not austerity."
The group sought a meeting at Ryan's office Wednesday to present the lawmaker's staff with a basket of bread and fish—a biblical symbol of prosperity and wealth multiplied.
They had turned out to decry measures in Ryan's 2014 federal budget they say would hamper Medicare, the federal food stamp program and gut college student loan programs.
The group didn't attack any specific provisions of Ryan's budget, which faces an upcoming vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. The demonstrators said they want the president and congress to question fiscal austerity.
Andert warned that 60 percent of the cuts in Ryan's budget are aimed at federal programs that benefit the poor and low to moderate income earners. He said Ryan could instead spread out the pain of cuts by closing tax loopholes for the wealthy.
Coogan said he came to the demonstration to talk about morality, not politics.
"I think it's important to have a moral perspective on seemingly what is a political and economic debate," he said.
Ryan was not in Janesville Wednesday, but in a statement emailed to The Gazette, he said the country needs tax reform so families can again save and invest money.
He said his budget is aimed at pulling the country from a debt threat that would be a "moral failure" to ignore.
Ryan called for all members of the social and political spectrum to lay down their arms and respect each other's differing opinions.
"Civil public dialogue goes to the heart of solidarity, because it doesn't divide society into classes. It builds up the common good of all."