ANCHORAGE - Bonnie Hunsaker, of Anchorage, awoke on tax day with a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. Her nausea was caused by having to pay $23,308 in taxes.
She was joined by hundreds of Alaskans on Wednesday in a nationwide protest calling on people to remember the Boston Tea Party and rebel against wrongheaded government spending.
Flash points among the protests were the $787 billion economic stimulus package Congress passed earlier this year and the bailouts of banks and automobile companies.
Protesters outside the downtown Anchorage federal building enthusiastically chanted "No more spending" and broke out into spontaneous recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance, while cars honked and truckers drove past blasting their air horns in support.
"Big business should not be bailing out bad business," said Dave McDermott, a 27-year-old government employee from Palmer with a masters degree in business from the University of Phoenix.
McDermott, holding a sign that read "Government Accountability Now" said his goal is to become a small business owner but he doubts in the current economic climate that he could find a bank willing to lend him the needed $200,000 in startup costs.
"Ultimately, I would like to have my own little Irish pub," he said. "At this point, it's a dream."
Hunsaker, 65, of Anchorage, was part owner with her husband of a small construction company before they retired and got hit with a huge tax bill this year. She stood on the street with a sign that read "Stop Spending My Money" with a black plastic ball and chain and the word "debt" painted on it in white.
"We retired, got rid of our company that we had and then paid the piper," she said.
It's not like they didn't pay taxes all along. They did, she said.
But she said if you are a big company and failing, the federal government bails you out. Not so with small businesses, Hunsaker said.
"I think it is ridiculous, these bailouts," she said.
Her friend, Becky Earhart, 56, stood next to her. She and her husband own a roofing company and paid $40,000 in taxes in December. That tax is passed on to customers, the same as businesses everywhere, she said. And with the economy in such bad shape and the tax burden becoming heavier on everyone, Earhart worries people won't be able to afford even the necessities.
"Literally, they will not be able to keep a roof over their heads," she said.
Many of the protesters expressed disgust at the federal bailout money.
Patrick Lighthart, a 56-year-old federal employee from Wasilla, said when the failing banks were bailed out because of the sub-prime mortgage mess a lot of that money went to overseas banking institutions.
"Why should we have to pay for somebody else's greed?" he asked.
"Let them fail," said 40-year-old Jennifer Morberg, a stay-at-home mother carrying a sign that read "Born Free Taxed 2 Death."
"None of this makes sense," said her friend, Marsha Watson, a 36-year-old mother of four young girls. "You can't get out of debt by creating more debt. I've tried that. It doesn't work."
Josee Blewett, 14, of Anchorage said she joined the protest with her mother because she doesn't like all the "stupid things" the federal government is spending money on. She's afraid her generation will never get out from under the debt load.
"I heard someone say with the amount of debt I would be in is thousand dollar bills stacked to the moon," Blewett said.