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Occupy group stages protest outside of legislator’s home

6th August 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Mason Harrison
Contributing Writer

Funding for hospitals and Medicaid in Louisiana has been cut to the bone in the latest round of financial belt-tightening enacted by the governor and his fiscally conservative allies in the Legislature. State House majority leader, Rep. Anthony Ligi, has helped to spearhead Gov. Bobby Jindal’s various spending cuts and is now the target of the same protest movement that gripped the nation last summer advocating for increased economic fairness for the poor.

Organizers linked to the group Occupy NOLA, an off-shoot of the better known Occupy Wall Street movement, and other social justice advocates gathered outside of Ligi’s Metairie home July 27 to “say tax the rich to fund our schools and health care, don’t kill the people,” according to a press release announcing the protest. The multi-million dollar cuts to Medicaid and the state’s hospital system for the poor “will literally kill people,” the activists assert, and blast Ligi for being Jindal’s “chief political ally.”

Jindal, aided by Republicans who control both chambers of the Legislature, has constricted spending on everything from higher education to the government’s payroll for state workers, and has sought to outsource to private companies as much of the state’s functions as possible.

Occupy NOLA and its allies call the change in the way the state does business a systematic “dismantling [of] the public services that Louisiana’s working class communities rely on” and argue against the “privatizing and destroying [of] our public schools, hospitals, and other public services and handing them over to private corporations to make money.”

Jindal and others in the Legislature have witnessed push-back before on the conservative plan to drastically reduce government spending. The governor’s recent decision to refuse an influx of federal dollars to help pay for the state’s expansion of its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act led members of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus to denounce the governor.

But Jindal and the state’s Republicans remain unflappable and continue to advance a conservative agenda despite assertions by their political opponents that the state’s spending cuts “should not and do not have to happen,” according to the release. “There is money to fund a first rate healthcare system for all of us,” the Occupy group states, “but this requires taxing the top one percent.”

The debate over taxing the rich to help fund services for the poor and working-class has quickly become part of the national dialogue as leading political figures, including President Barack Obama and GOP contender Mitt Romney, trade barbs ahead of ballot contests in November in a discussion that has largely been reduced to charges and counter-charges of class warfare.

In New Orleans, and around the country, the Occupy Movement has all but fizzled and activists have altered their focus to state and local issues in an effort to keep the movement alive. But no matter where the Occupiers are involved, the movement’s message has remained the same – tax the rich. It’s an idea voters in Louisiana and nationwide will vote up or down this fall.

This article was originally published in the August 6, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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