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Minnesota Protest Demands:

Undo the Welfare Cuts, Tax the Rich

by Mick Kelly |
February 4, 2004
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St Paul, MN - Braving one of the worst blizzards in recent memory, low-income people converged on the state capitol, Feb 2, to demand that lawmakers undo the cuts to public assistance. Organized by the twin cities-based Welfare Rights Committee and the statewide MN Welfare Rights Coalition, more than one hundred low-income people told Minnesota politicians that it's time to tax the rich and meet the needs of the poor. The rally was timed to coincide with the opening day of the state legislature.

On a day when a lot of folks were staying home, a busload of poor people from the Lake Superior port city of Duluth traveled more than 120 miles to participate.

"We are here today, on these cold Capitol steps to tell all these cold-hearted politicians that they must undo every cut to poor and working people! We are here to say, make the rich pay!" proclaimed Darnella Wade of the Welfare Rights Committee

Indicting Minnesota's Governor Pawlenty for last years cuts to welfare, Wade continued; "Instead of taxing the rich, Pawlenty and politicians cut over $2 billion dollars from the Health and Human Services programs. Instead of taxing the rich, they pushed tens of thousands of Minnesota children into homelessness, hunger or deeper poverty. Instead of taxing the rich, they cut jobs, carried out wage freezes and cut health care Instead of taxing the rich, politicians set Minnesota on a path of devastating destruction, where those of us with the least are forced to pay the most!"

Last year politicians opted to balance the budget on the backs of poor and working people. Over the coming months the Welfare Rights Committee will be fighting to undo the $125 cut to families with a member on SSI, to undo the $50 cut to families in subsidized housing, repeal the family cap, and to reverse the cuts to health care and childcare.

The Welfare Rights Committee will also be fighting a Wisconsin-style welfare program, the Diversionary Work Program - DWP. Wisconsin carried out some the country's most extreme attacks on welfare. As a result, Bush appointed Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson to his cabinet, making him responsible for federal welfare programs. "To us, DWP, means Die Within Poverty," says a Welfare Rights Committee statement.

Legislation that links undoing the welfare cuts directly with closing corporate tax loopholes will be introduced. The Welfare Rights Committee was instrumental in getting the bill to the drafting table.

Amidst applause and chants, Kim Hosmer told the opening day rally, "It is clear that Governor Pawlenty and his right-wing racist regime are trying to turn our state into a playground for the rich elite. They want this to be a state where the rich white man rules and the rest of us are forced to work for dirt wages, to live in substandard housing, to have no access to health care or to be kicked into the street. In their minds, poor and working people exist only to make them richer! We are here to say: Only in your dreams Pawlenty."