News Transcript

Protesters Expected When Bush Appears In Freehold

News Transcript — Wednesday, April 2, 2008

BY JENNIFER KOHLHEPP
Staff Writer

Hundreds of protesters chanted, "Bring the troops home, end the war now" as President GeorgeW. Bush touched down in Freehold aboard Marine One last week.

Local individuals and families joined New Jersey Citizen Action (NJCA), Democracy For America, the Coalition For Peace Action, the Solidarity Singers and Democratic Congressman Frank Pallone (D-6) from 1-3 p.m. on March 28 to oppose Bush and his policies in a rally at 300 HallsMill Road.At that time, the president visited Novadebt Consumer Credit Counseling, located 150 yards away from the protest, to speak on the foreclosure crisis in America.

Although protesters credited Bush for talking about credit counseling for American families, they said the president caused the current economic slowdown with tax cuts for the wealthy and the war in Iraq. They also said Bush's fiscal policy has created an economic climate without money to start new businesses or to create new jobs.

NJCA organizer Jim Walsh said, "It is unfathomable that our president continues to seek funding for an immoral and unjustifiable war that we can't win whenAmerican families are suffering. It is unconscionable that the president is bailing out Wall Street and leaving American families on the curb."

Walsh said that rather than helping millions of families in crisis, Bush's administration has invested $230 billion in bailing out banks, including a $30 billion bailout package for investment bank Bear Stearns.

Pallone said the American government needs to stop the war in order to start spending money to prop up the housing market and keep families in their homes during the real estate housing crisis and economic slow down.

"We need to get out of Iraq now," Pallone said.

Fourth District candidate for Congress Josh Zeitz said the administration has failed its citizens.

"They turned a blind eye as gas prices, food prices and the cost of education and health care went through the roof - choosing instead to focus on tax cuts for the very rich. Their inaction, coupled with a war we can't afford, has stretched many to the breaking point- and now we're watching the consequences play out across America."

Zeitz said central New Jersey used to be a place where those who worked could provide for their families, pay their mortgages, send their kids to good schools and afford health care.

"When I look around now, I can see that isn't the case," he said. "Some are worried they might lose their homes. Others can't afford basic medical treatment. Most say they just can't afford to live in New Jersey any longer."

The Rev. Robert Moore, of Coalition for Peace Action, said Bush's policies are a disservice for most of the human family.

Moore led a chant, "Five years too many, get out of Iraq now," before stating, "Iraqi lives are just as precious as American lives" and noting that the Iraq war has led to the deaths of an estimated 1 million innocent Iraqi citizens.

"God is weeping over this," Moore said.

Moore said current spending on the Iraq war totals $500 billion.

"It is shameful," he said. "We spend $720 million per day, one-half million per minute, $8,300 per second," Moore said.

He called for Bush to stop the war and invest money in the American people.

Sue Smith, ofMiddletown, said the war helps inequality between the rich and the poor to grow. She and her friend Barb Dillon, of FairHaven, said they believe Bush's economic stimulus package will not work because people will use their $600 checks to pay off debts, rather than to reinvigorate the economy.

Millstone resident John Olsen said historically, no economic stimulus package has been successful. He said people don't care about how much they're getting from the government when they can't get or keep a job and can't pay their bills or pay down their debt.

Olsen said that the money being spent on the Iraq war should be spent on America's infrastructure and on "New Deal programs."

"We're seeing bridges collapsing, our national parks deteriorating," he said. "We're becoming a Third World country, if you ask me."

He added, "We're the only industrialized country that doesn't have national health care, and we seem proud of it."

Freehold's Adam Miller, 21, said he doesn't completely agree with how Bush is handling the country's economic recession but is glad the president has addressed the problem with an economic stimulus package to stave off a financial meltdown.

Miller, a Bush and Iraq war supporter, carried a sign stating, "Democrats for genocide. 150,000 Kurds, 150,000 marshArabs, 1 million Iranians. Out of Iraq. How many more will die?"

Miller said, "If you leave Iraq right now, what happens is a massive bloodbath. We need to stay there and finish our responsibilities."

To the contrary, says Ellen Norman, of Monroe Township, who has a son serving in Iraq. She wants the war to end now.

"I very strongly believe the troops should be brought home and that there should be peace," she said.

Norman said she does not believe Bush will start taking troops out of Iraq before he leaves office. Her friend Betty Kletter, of Monroe Township, added, "He promised not to."

Some protesters like Patricia Kuc, of Wrightstown, want Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney impeached for starting the war in Iraq, among other reasons.

When asked if she thought that would ever happen, she said, "No, unfortunately not, because the Republicans and the Democrats all play to the same tune."

Kuc said she would like Bush and Cheney impeached for "tearing up our Constitution, creating an illegal war of aggression against people who didn't do anything to us and abandoning all of our civil rights."

"We're going to be living in a fascist country very soon," she said. "The powers that [Bush] has instilled in himself will go on to the next president and we will be in big trouble."

Kuc said the people need to intervene now before problems escalate.

Joe Melillo, of Trenton, said he's working with a local group to lobby for Dennis Kucinich's legislation to impeach Bush and Cheney for invading and occupying Iraq for the benefit of oil companies and for crimes against the Constitution, such as tapping phones and torturing people.

Melillo called the momentum behind the legislation "soft."

"The Democratic leadership caresmore about the election," he said.

Melillo said he worries that Bush and Cheney have made it easier for a future president "to commit even worse crimes."

"I think the Democratic candidates for president would change things but not as much as I would like to see," he said.

Despite the large turnout at the rally on such short notice (organizers learned of the president's visit to Freehold on March 26), Andrew Coleman, of Spring Lake Heights and the Bus for Change, said there should have been a million protesters present.

"More people are interested in 'American Idol' than in what the government's doing," he said.

Kuc attributed the low turnout of protesters to citizens shrugging off their civic duties.

"I think if you don't keep informed, you don't have to make decisions," she said. "I think most people have their heads in the sand."

Walsh said the public should immediately intervene to ensure that the government does not allowmounting foreclosures to drive the economy into a sustained recession. He said the NJCA is working with the National Community Reinvestment Coalition to pass amajor housing initiative called the Homeowners Emergency Loan Program or HELP Now. The program would purchase loans from securitized pools at a steep discount and apply the discount to the outstanding loan amounts, allowing for substantial loanmodifications or refinancing. The plan uses federal funds as a recoverable advance.

"Most loan modifications that have been made public to date have been shortterm repayment adjustments that do not create long-term homeownership affordability," Walsh said.

According to Walsh, the Mortgage BankersAssociation found last year that 40 percent of foreclosures on subprime adjustable rate mortgages, in the third quarter, were loans that had already undergone a modification.

"Still there are more than 2 million homeowners facing foreclosure in the next year," he said.

Walsh said the underlying problem is massive foreclosures caused by deceptive loan products to families.

"In order to invest in a strong future, we need to end the war in Iraq and stop investing in the Wall Street tycoons who are profiting from the housing crisis and the war," he said.

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