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VOL. 35 | NO. 29 | Friday, July 22, 2011




Tennessee protesters urge Congress to act on debt

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FRANKLIN (AP) — Protesters in Franklin said on Tuesday that lawmakers in Washington are "holding America hostage" as they argue over increasing the nation's borrowing limit.

President Barack Obama and Republican lawmakers are at an impasse in negotiations to raise the nation's $14.3 trillion borrowing limit. The federal government is at risk of defaulting on its debt after Aug. 2 if an agreement isn't reached by then.

About 30 people braved hot weather to attend a protest in front of Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn's office in downtown Franklin. The protest was organized by the Williamson County Democratic Party and timed to correspond with similar events at congressional offices around the state and the country.

Many chanted "raise the debt ceiling," while others waved signs reading "Holding America Hostage" and "Save the American Dream."

Linda Lee is a 65-year-old teacher. She said she's afraid because she'll soon be eligible for Social Security, and she's uncertain how it would be affected if the debt ceiling isn't raised.

"My mother ... would not be able to make it if she didn't have hers (Social Security)," Lee said. "It's a scary time. I've got our country in my prayers."

Larry Reid said he doesn't believe lawmakers fully understand the repercussions of a default.

"Other countries are going to be dragged down if the United States defaults on its debts," said the 63-year-old combat veteran. "It's very sad. Why would somebody want the United States to fail?"

For Republicans, the timing provides crucial leverage to force Democrats and the president to cut spending in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, expensive benefit programs that Democrats have long protected, despite escalating costs.

Lee said party affiliation doesn't matter because every American citizen will be affected if lawmakers don't reach a compromise by the August deadline.

"If they don't get together ... we're going to suffer," she said.

Earlier this month, Moody's Investors Service placed the federal government's triple-A credit rating under review for a possible downgrade. If there is a default, Moody's has warned that it probably will lower the triple-A credit ratings of five states, including Tennessee.

A triple-A rating is the highest for debt and tells investors an institutional borrower presents a minimal credit risk.

In Nashville on Tuesday, the Tennessee State Employees Association announced a study aimed at rooting out wasteful spending in state government.

"We believe that our citizens want an efficiently-run government in which their tax dollars are being spent wisely," said Robert O'Connell, the group's executive director. "State employees that work in the trenches have good ideas of how to save money in state government, instead of laying off workers and eliminating services."

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