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COLUMN

Happytown

The feds give a royal two fingers to Medicaid privatization, the Dems shout down Dan Webster and not all chambers are full of secrets

Photo: , License: N/A, Created: 2003:02:05 15:01:49


Many in the crowd called bullshit on the charts, however, echoing Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein's criticism of the budget. "Ryan's savings all come from cuts, and at least two-thirds of them come from programs serving the poor," Klein writes. "The wealthy, meanwhile, would see their taxes lowered, and the Defense Department would escape unscathed." Thus, when Webster unveiled the "Foreign Owners of Our Debt" chart, which portrayed the Chinese flag peering ominously from its oversized slice of the peonage pie, one heckler shouted: "We don't care who you borrow from to pay for tax breaks for the wealthy!"

There were some shots flung the other way as well by those either supportive of Webster or frustrated with the general lack of civility. "This is mob rule!" one man shouted. No matter. The word "bullshit" arrived at minute seven, "liar" was employed at minute eight and two police officers 
slowly crept closer to the stage as the event ground on. At some point, Adam Lucier, a home-schooled 10-year-old sitting in quite possibly the best class ever, leaned over to Happytown and said: "I wouldn't be surprised if someone 
got tased." Bro!

To some, liberals' crashing of the party was just them giving conservatives a taste of their own medicine, as the fracas was reminiscent of former Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson's health care town hall meeting in August 2009. Then, Grayson defended Obama's Affordable Care Act (what Webster repeatedly called "ObamaCare"), and scores of protestors massed outside of the building, shouting at Grayson and each other; police cars were employed to block off streets near the building.

Of course, Webster is a much different political animal, and the soft-spoken man coated with a fine layer of sweat was inaudible for most of his presentation. When the intra-crowd shouting got loud enough, Webster silently watched the melee with a gaze that reminded Happytown eerily of George W. Bush.

Still, a couple hecklers muscled in more than the requisite half-sentence to Webster, such as Wanda Ramos, an office clerk who held the floor with a loud tirade about the cost of the war in Afghanistan. "Something overtook me," she told Happytown, adding that she hadn't planned on the outburst beforehand. "What I'm seeing on that chart is me. He's talking about me, and he's going to cut me off from having something."

It was unclear what portion of the heckling crowd at the town hall consisted of professional activists, but a carefully scripted protest two days later at Winter Garden City Hall ­- where Webster's district office is located - left far less doubt in that regard. About 15 members of the nonprofit political activism group Organize Now stood outside of the building wearing white makeup smudged with fake blood, alleging that under Webster and his Republican cohorts, we Americans would "work til we die." "Social Security belongs to the people who have worked hard all their lives and contributed to the program," read the group's political director, Mike Cantone. "It does not belong to politicians in Washington who want to use it as a piggy bank to fund tax cuts for the rich and bailouts for Wall Street."

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