WASHINGTON -- Cynthia Dalton has no health insurance, no home and has been unemployed for five years. She was taken in to live with her family, but her three children, all college graduates, cannot find work in their fields either. At this point, she said she feels like the country's problems are under-reported, and has little reason to trust politicians on either side of the aisle.
"They tell us it's 9-point-something percent unemployed, well you can bet it's more like 25 percent," Dalton told The Huffington Post. "There are so many people out of work."
Dalton lives in Missouri, but came to be part of the Stop the Machine rally in Washington, D.C., that started Thursday and has continued into the weekend alongside the Occupy DC protest. Like her, hundreds of the protesters gathering in the nation's capital for the past week have come from out of town -- sometimes from halfway across the country -- to express their frustration.
Groups from Minnesota and Wisconsin put up banners to identify themselves. Women whose children have died in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars held homemade flags with their child's name and birthplace imprinted on it. A soldier told HuffPost he came all the way from Alaska.
For Dalton, she said she continued to work odd jobs since losing her position as a database developer. Unable to find comparable employment, she's taken an array of other jobs including work for lower pay as a home-care giver and an inn-keeper.
But the country's economic plight is not a recent phenomenon, Dalton asserted. "I think this trend has been going on at least a decade," she said. Her list of grievances included the money being spent on the wars overseas, and the major corporations like General Electric who do not pay taxes and have moved jobs out of the country.
The sentiment from out-of-towners in Washington was that politicians inside the Beltway were losing touch with the problems in America.
Camile Gaines, who came from New Jersey, called the summer debating the deficit a "big smokescreen."
"Our lifestyles are changing," Gaines said. "We can't even get a chance to have the American dream when people have lost their homes, they don't have health care, we've lost our jobs. Our children are going to suffer. I'm a grandmother; I'm here for my grandchildren. I could be home doing something else but I feel this is so important, I'm here for the next generation."
Gaines waved a sign expressing her feeling that money should be redirected from the wars to investments in public education and social programs.
People at the Stop the Machine rally told HuffPost they felt aligned with the Occupy Wall Street movement, yet had different ideas of where to shift the money to.
"We need to be investing money to bring back jobs. People are going homeless; people are desperate," Gaines said.
Tyler Hess, a student at the University of Kentucky, said although his hometown of Lexington is a conservative area, OccupyLexington has been going on outside of a Chase bank since late September.
Hess said he traveled to the Stop the Machine rally and to Occupy DC to pick up ideas.
"I want to treat it somewhat as a spectator for the moment to learn from the organizers, to learn how they put all the various [protests] together and then go back to my hometown and implement what I learned at a local level," Hess said.
Hess admitted it's hard to express the goals of the rallies in a few words, because so many viewpoints were being represented.
"People are understanding that this isn't about singular demands," Hess said. "This is really a people-based movement, forming general assemblies to discuss the issues and understand what it's going to take for what I see as facilitating a structural change."
With issues like climate change and free trade, Hess said they aren't things that can be addressed by "a policy or a quick law."
But he said he was encouraged to see protests happening at his home in Lexington, especially as he said it's rather unprecedented to see a populist movement taking hold there.
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