Alan Grayson's Journal
Member since: Sat May 22, 2010, 01:02 PM
Number of posts: 385
Number of posts: 385
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If he were President right now, Richard Nixon would absolutely adore today's National Security Agency. Nixon would be able to snoop, shadow and spy at will. He could read your e-mail; see what you've googled; check out your browsing history; find out whom you called, who called you, when you spoke and for how long; and know where you are at every moment, because of that GPS chip in your phone.
And he wouldn't have to offer that lame, barefaced excuse that there was a Communist hiding under your bed. No, all he'd have to say is that there is a terrorist hiding under your bed.
(Maybe you need a bed that's closer to the floor. But then you'd have to watch out for the rats.)
When I was a kid, I sure didn't trust Tricky Dick. But as I grew up, I realized that the problem went well beyond The Trickmeister. He was simply exploiting spytech to its fullest. I learned that President Eisenhower had spied on Eleanor Roosevelt, that J. Edgar Hoover had recorded Martin Luther King Jr.'s private conversations, and that Lyndon Johnson had enlisted the FBI's assistance during his 1964 campaign. For almost a century, the federal government has used surveillance to keep tabs on civil rights, environmentalist, and antiwar activism. Spying on us: it's the one thing that Republicans and Democrats seem to agree on. It's bipartisan. It's as American as apple spy.
That's one reason why the revelations over the past few days of near-universal government surveillance are so disturbing. Microsoft, Google, Apple – they're all in on it. Former NSA official William Binney has said that we are "on a slippery slope to a totalitarian state." I don't know what's worse: that I'm not sure he's right, or that I'm not sure he's wrong.
Fortunately, I'm a Member of Congress, so I can do something about it. And you are likely an American citizen and voter, which means that you can help.
I'm introducing a bill that I call the "Mind Your Own Business Act". This bill prohibits our government from spying on us, or collecting data on us, unless there's probable cause that you have committed or you will commit an act of terrorism or similar criminal offense.
I submitted this provision as an amendment to the House Rules Committee today. I am attempting to attach it to the National Defense Authorization Act, which will come up for a vote in the House later this week. Sign your name here to show your support for the Mind Your Own Business Act:
You'd have to be nuts to think that it's necessary to inquire into the personal web browsing habits, telephone calls and physical location of 320 million Americans in order to keep us safe. What's next – are we going to try to prevent hijackings by all flying naked?
Are we going to ban forks and knives? And if so, then how will we eat spaghetti?
Mass indiscriminate surveillance is a necessary ingredient in tyranny. It's also an utterly inefficient means to protect us. Osama Bin Laden routinely sent e-mails for years, completely evading the NSA. Here's how he did it (pay attention, would-be terrorists): He wrote up e-mails, saved them on a $10 thumb drive, and had some lackey send them from a web cafe in Pakistan. Maybe the reason why the NSA couldn't find Osama Bin Laden's e-mails was that they were too busy spying on everyone else in the world. They're the gang that couldn't snoop straight.
Ben Franklin said that "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." Leaving aside those quirky initial caps, I agree wholeheartedly.
We didn't give up our constitutional rights 150 years ago, when 1,000,000 heavily armed soldiers rose up in rebellion. Those rebs had cannon, the nuclear weapon of the 19th century. Why should we give up our constitutional rights when a small number of barely armed men on the other side of the world, garbed in sheets, try to threaten us?
We have preserved our freedom and our rights for the past half-century, with over 10,000 nuclear warheads pointed right at us – enough to kill all of us even if we were like cats, and had nine lives. Why should we forsake our freedom and our rights now?
This is not North Korea. This is not Maoist China. This is not East Germany. This is the United States of America. If we put the word "Freedom" on our stamps, then we should put it in our lives, too.
For God's sake, we are not cattle. We Are Human Beings!
You're innocent until you're proven guilty, and therefore you ought to be un-snooped until you do something wrong. Let's force the NSA to stop snooping -- join me:
Rep. Alan Grayson
"Everybody knows the scene is dead.
There's gonna be a meter on your bed.
That will disclose
What everybody knows."
-Leonard Cohen, "Everybody Knows" (1988).
P.S. Please, please, please forward this to your friends, and urge them to sign the petition.
Posted by Alan Grayson | Tue Jun 11, 2013, 08:36 PM (235 replies)
One of the interesting things about this Congressjob is that at any given moment, there are three or four different things to do. What one has to show for one's time in Congress is, more than anything else, a question of time management.
Last Wednesday posed an interesting choice for me. I was invited, like all Members of Congress, to the Radio/TV Correspondents Association annual dinner. This is a spectacular opportunity to "network with" (i.e., suck up to) major figures in the national news media, like network news anchors, national radio show hosts and White House correspondents.
To make the dinner extra-special, Emeril Lagasse, a world-famous chef, prepared a unique New Orleans-inspired menu. It featured olive and goat cheese hors d'oeuvres, fried oysters, Creole shrimp and stuffed quail.
I didn't go. I had something else that I needed to do.
Also on Wednesday night was the annual Bipartisan Congressional Baseball Outing. (As President Obama would say, "Baseball is not a Democratic game. It's not a Republican game. It's an American game!!" <<wild cheers>> ) Members of Congress were invited to go see the game between the Washington Nationals and the New York Mets. Congressional staffers were to sing the national anthem, but I wanted to go anyway. (Just kidding, Congressional staffers. You know I love you.) I have a great deal of fondness for the Amazin' Mets, going back to the Tom Seaver/Jerry Koosman era, when Nolan Ryan was a fifth starter with a very wild arm. I used to watch Mets games on a 21" black-and-white TV screen, on Channel 9, WOR-TV. (Note to my children: "TV" is something that people used to watch before there was Netflix and YouTube.) If I had gone, I would have been one of the few people in the ballpark to enjoy that game, since the Mets won by a score of 10-1.
I couldn't make it. I was too busy doing something else.
On Wednesday night, there also was a four-alarm fire three blocks from my office in the Cannon House Office Building. Having grown up in New York City, I know that nothing draws a good crowd like a fire.
I was in the Capitol Building the whole time, so I didn't see it. Plus I have an alibi.
So what was I doing all night on Wednesday? Passing three amendments in the Homeland Security appropriations bill:
An amendment prohibiting federal contract awards to contractors that commit numerous crimes;
An amendment requiring Homeland Security to respect our constitutional rights under the 1st, 2nd and 4th Amendments (think racial profiling); and
An amendment prohibiting Homeland Security from acquiring and using military or weaponized drones in the United States. (Hats off to Rep. Rush Holt, who came up with this amendment but couldn't offer it on Wednesday – not because he was at a dinner or a ballgame, but because he was at Senator Lautenberg's funeral.)
To get these amendments passed, I had to sit down with the House Parliamentarian, and make sure that they would not be ruled "out of order" on procedural grounds (as many are). Then I had to discuss the amendments individually with Democratic and Republican Members and staffers – a very dicey game, because the Republicans have enough votes to vote down any amendment at will. (And, duh, I'm a Democrat.) Then I just had to sit, and wait.
Until we reached the part of the bill when I could offer my amendments, and it was my turn to offer those amendments.
So I could have spent Wednesday night in gastronomical paradise, or being honored at a ballgame between two teams that I love. But instead, I did my job as a lawmaker, which is to make laws. To make the world a better place.
Isn't that what you deserve?
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Mon Jun 10, 2013, 06:37 PM (22 replies)
How is that crazy proposal to cut Social Security benefits?
Food for worms. Kicked the bucket. Bought the farm. Six feet under. Dead dead dead.
What do I mean?
On April 5, the New York Times ran this disturbing headline:
"Obama Budget to Include Cuts to Programs in Hopes of Deal"
But here are some more recent headlines:
Red-State Democrats Buck Obama On Social Security Cuts, Huffington Post
Ryan Sees No 'Grand Bargain' on Budget, Wall Street Journal
Republicans Sean Duffy, Phil Gingrey Oppose Obama's Social Security Cut, Huffington Post
Richard Trumka: The 'grand bargain' is a dead end, The Cap Times
Deficit Deal Even Less Likely, Wall Street Journal
No Push for a Grand Bargain on the Deficit?, Fox Business News
And who led the charge? Moi, as John Kerry would say. Consider this quote from the lead article in the New York Times on April 10, just after Obama's budget was released:
"The A.F.L.-C.I.O. president, Richard Trumka, in a blistering statement, called the proposed changes "wrong and indefensible." An e-mail from Representative Alan Grayson, a liberal from Florida, was headlined "President’s Budget Breaks Promise to Seniors."
But this proposal, like Dracula, will come back from the dead. Wall Street is always hungry for money, and the Social Security Trust Fund has a lot of it. For now, though, we've beaten them.
How did we do it?
We organized. We called. We e-mailed. We got an army of more than three million people together to say no. With one voice. We got more than 45 Democratic Members of Congress to commit that they would not vote for legislation that includes these cuts. Real Democrats, not squishy, sort of, kind of, Democrats. Then we began to peel off Republicans.
But we need more than a stop sign. We need a green light towards a better life for all Americans.
Over the course of the next month or so, I'm going to be laying out an agenda for real Democrats. Not half a loaf, but a loaf and a half.
Get excited. True Blue Democrats -- we are coming.
Congressman Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Wed Jun 5, 2013, 02:11 PM (7 replies)
This week, House Republicans are putting forward a bill called the "Northern Route Approval Act." This bill overrides the President's authority to make decisions on the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Whatever you think about the Keystone Pipeline, this bill is blatantly unconstitutional. The Constitution provides for a legislative branch, which creates legislation -- laws of general application. It also provides for an executive branch, which executes the laws. This is known as the separation of powers. The bill that the Republicans are putting forward is a clear violation of this principle.
The bill does one more thing: it bestows special favors on a foreign oil company, TransCanada. It lets the corporation build the Keystone XL pipeline without going through normal government approval processes, and even gives TransCanada a free right-of-way worth millions of dollars. House Republicans have said they want to get rid of Congressional earmarks. Yet here they are, bestowing an earmark anyway.
I challenged the Republicans on these points. I made two arguments, and put forward what is known as a "privileged resolution" outlining them. One, the House cannot vote on a bill that is unconstitutional. And two, under the House Rules that the Republicans insisted on, the House cannot vote on a bill that is a clear earmark. Contrary to the House Rules, the Chairman ruled this privileged resolution "out of order."
I'm no longer going to let the Republicans get away with claiming that they care about the Constitution when they trample all over it. And if they are going to cry about earmarks, they are going to have to justify why they want to bestow a special earmark on a foreign oil company.
I've linked my letter to Speaker Boehner here.
No more free passes.
It's time to fight back.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Wed May 22, 2013, 02:26 PM (1 replies)
Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the first publication of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” King was jailed for campaigning against racial segregation in Birmingham, in violation of an injunction against anyone “parading, demonstrating, boycotting, trespassing and picketing.” His letter was written on the margins of a newspaper, scraps of paper that another prisoner gave to him, and then a legal pad that his attorney left behind. It has been an inspiration to millions of people; I am one of them. Here are some excerpts:
MY DEAR FELLOW CLERGYMEN: . . . .
I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly....
We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we stiff creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dark of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Fu town is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you go forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness" then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience....
But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ..." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime---the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists....
I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham, and all over the nation, because the goal of America freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America's destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation-and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands....
One day the South will recognize its real heroes. There will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. There will be the old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy-two-year-old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: "My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest." There will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience' sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
Never before have I written so long a letter. I'm afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?...
Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.
Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Posted by Alan Grayson | Sat May 18, 2013, 12:25 PM (6 replies)
If you have received my e-mails for a while, you know that I sometimes refer to you all, affectionately, as "Alan's Army." You are passionate, smart and dedicated. But last week you were something else: Amazing.
I told you about a proposed partnership between multinational corporations and their sellout tools in government (a/k/a the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). The TTIP features "investor-state" dispute resolution, which invites huge corporations to file lawsuits to prevent government actions that they just don't like, such as health and safety regulations. Similar trade agreements have allowed the World Trade Organization to strike down country-of-origin meat labels, dolphin-safe tuna labels and limits on candy-flavored cigarettes marketed to kids.
I asked you to send your thoughts to the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), who will help decide whether to enter into this corrupt abridgement of American sovereignty.
Alan's Army responded – and how! In all, 9,625 of us submitted comments. Let me tell you how our response stacks up. Before we got involved, the USTR received only 113 comments in 88 days – many from corporate lobbyists. We added almost 100 times that amount, in a little more than 24 hours. Again, amazing.
Now, let's make our voices heard again. Tomorrow the House Ways and Means Committee, the committee with jurisdiction over trade, will hold a hearing on the TTIP. I plan to deliver a letter to the Committee expressing my disdain for this betrayal, and more specifically, that 30-pieces-of-silver investor-state dispute resolution clause. You can join me.
Click here to sign my letter opposing the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
I would love to have 10,000 citizen soldiers of the Alan's Army on board. You did it once. Can you do it again?
And please, share this with your friends. We want ourArmy to grow.
Rep. Alan Grayson
P.S. Some of you responded with eloquence. Others with anger. And a few of you were just plain nasty (and you know how much I enjoy that). Here are a few of my favorite comments:
As Thomas Jefferson put it, "I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country." – Paul from Sharon, MA
Posted by Alan Grayson | Wed May 15, 2013, 07:58 PM (5 replies)
As the quest for a so-called "grand bargain" to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits "in exchange for" modest tax increases on the rich lurches forward, we thought that you might enjoy this brief moment of clarity from a recent national TV interview with Congressman Alan Grayson:
John Fugelsang: You posted . . . that the President's offer, essentially to cut Social Security benefits for seniors, does break a promise to America's seniors. Some Republicans, of course, seem to like that. So, will Democrats support it, or will they support cuts to other social programs?
Congressman Alan Grayson: Well, the President specifically said in September 2008 that he would not change the formula for calculating the cost-of-living adjustment. That take $1,000 a year out of the pockets of 90-year-olds. As for whether the Democrats will support it, I don't know, but I know they shouldn't.We've lined up 35 Democrats here in the House already who say, in the "Grayson-Takano Letter," that they will vote against any cuts in Social Security, or Medicare, or Medicaid benefits.
John: So let me ask you, is it worth keeping the sequester cuts and foregoing any new revenues, in return for keeping Social Security as it is?
Alan: That's not a choice that we should ever have to make.Social Security is not responsible for the deficit. The Social Security Fund has $1.9 trillion in it. It's the largest sovereign wealth fund in the entire world. The Social Security Fund has been operating at a surplus now ever since the fund was founded, ever since the program was founded.We are 25 years away from anything resembling a problem of any kind with the Social Security system. In the next quarter of a century, under current law, the beneficiaries can get all that they're entitled to. I don't understand why we're fretting over what might or might not happen in the year 2037, when we have 25 million Americans who are looking for full-time jobs .
John: Well as you know, here on Viewpoint, we don't like to call these programs 'entitlements'--we call them 'earned benefits'. But is there no compromise to be had for the President, unless he offers something like that up?
Alan: That's just not the way you negotiate. The President has offered something up, in return for nothing. There's no sign that the Republicans have any interest in making any sort of deal with the President, and even if they did, we're not talking about things that are commensurate with each other. You can't equate cutting Social Security benefits, cutting Medicare benefits -- breaking the promise that we Americans have made to ourselves, the covenant that we make to ourselves -- you can't equate that with having millionaires and billionaires and multinational corporations finally pay their fair share of taxes.
John: With over 80% of the Bush tax cuts made permanent, I would add. So, let me ask you then, sir, for President Obama, is this an elaborate piece of political theater? Is he taking a page out of Dick Morris' playbook for Bill Clinton by triangulating against House Democrats on this issue? So he can put himself in the middle of the political spectrum, where they say most voters live?
Alan: He may think so, but he's making a terrible mistake.This is not a 'Sister Souljah' moment for the President. In fact, the President, I believe, is soon going to find through public polling that this is a terrible mistake.90% of Democrats and 80% of the Republicans are against this specific proposal. If you're talking more generally about cuts in benefits, you find that 80% of the Democrats and 65% of the Republicans are against this kind of proposal. This doesn't make any sense, either from a policy point of view, or a moral point of view, or even a political point of view. In fact,the President is putting at risk all the progress that we've made in identifying the Republican Party as the party in favor of cuts for Medicare and Social Security benefits, and the Democratic Party as the party that will protect the public from the Republicans.
Click here to see the video, or to show your support for our Congressman With Guts.
Posted by Alan Grayson | Tue May 14, 2013, 01:13 PM (2 replies)
How to protect Social Security, in two easy steps:
Step One: enlist an army. We've done that – 3,000,000 people have signed petitions demanding "No Cuts" to Social Security and Medicare benefits.
Step Two: bring the politicians face-to-face with our army. Here's how:
I've set up a website where you can help me get every Member of Congress on the record about Social Security and veterans benefit cuts. Go to www.CitizenWhip.com, and I'll show you how to ask your Member of Congress what he or she thinks. Then, after a few days, I'll ask you to tell us what he or she said in response. We'll collect all of the responses in one place, and then we'll know which Members of Congress are for and against these cuts. And by Election Day on Nov. 4, 2014, so will their voters.
The polling on Social Security is very clear -- voters like it just the way it is. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Southern voters like it. Northern voters like it. Democratic voters like it. Republican voters like it.
Social Security is like birthday cake. Everyone likes birthday cake.
For years, certain Members of Congress have been quietly telling their Wall Street paymasters they will cut Social Security benefits, and divert that money to Wall Street. They've been hiding this from their voters, many of whom have no idea that their Social Security benefits are being threatened. It's time to "out" these would-be Judas Members of Congress, by forcing every Member to state publicly his or her position on these important questions.
What's your Member of Congress's position on Social Security and veterans benefit cuts? Help us all find out.
One thing that's neat about this project is that by participating, you will learn a little bit about what it's like actually to be a Member of Congress. In Congress, a "whip" counts the votes for or against something. For instance, I'm the "Regional Whip" for House Democrats in Florida and Georgia. Typically, a whip is a member of a legislature, but in this case, it's you. A citizen. You're the whip. That's the reason why our site is called "Citizen Whip."
If we can make this work, we'll have a new relationship between citizens and Congress. Citizens won't just vote, call and e-mail. They'll also whip.
So, let's get your Member of Congress on the record. Click here:
Welcome to the Grayson Citizen Whip Team. This is just the beginning, and you're part of it.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Mon May 13, 2013, 02:06 PM (11 replies)
I'm trying my best. But there is a limit to what I can accomplish when there are 232 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives (a/k/a “the Comatose Caucus”) and only 201 Democrats.
If we're going to win more votes, and pass more good bills, then we need more Democrats. Democracy is like that.
Tomorrow, there is a special election in South Carolina to replace Tim Scott, who was the last remaining African-American Republican in the House. (There are 42 African-American Democrats in the House.) The Republican nominee is former Governor Sanford. The Democratic nominee is Elizabeth Colbert Busch. Despite the fact that President Obama lost this district last year by 18 points, in the latest poll, the two candidates are only one point apart.
I'm not going to make fun of Governor Sanford. That's just too easy.
Nor am I going to ask you to support Colbert Busch because her brother is Stephen Colbert of the Comedy Central Channel. By the same token, I will not ask you to support Warren Beatty for Congress just because his sister is Shirley MacLaine. Same thing with Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez. Also Peter Graves and James Arness. And Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine.
I could ask you to support Colbert Busch because, according to one report, she is pro-choice, she backs marriage equality, and she supports immigration reform. So I could ask you to support her without feeling my gorge rise. But I won't do it for that reason alone.
No, I'm going to ask you to support her campaign because the last thing that we need in the U.S. House of Representatives right now is another Republican. And the thing that we do need is more Democrats. Seventeen more Democrats, to be exact.
We've established a contribution page to help her campaign. Click here, etc., etc. Let's take back the House.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Mon May 6, 2013, 04:55 PM (9 replies)
Our subject today is Congressman Grayson's recent bold statement that Medicare should cover glasses, hearing aids and dental work, because, as he put it, "most seniors have eyes, ears and teeth." But before we get to that, we just want to remind you that today is the last day to qualify for a chance to join Alan at Disney World next month by contributing $25 or more to his re-election campaign. We now return to our regularly scheduled commercial programming.
A couple of weeks ago, key progressive officials joined a conference call with grassroots leaders about how to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from Republican benefit cuts like the so-called "chained CPI." Earlier this week, we shared Congressman Grayson's statement on that call with you. Now, here is some of the Q&A:
Adam : We have a question from William Packson's e-mail , in Congressman Grayson's home state. He says:
"I am receiving $11,208 per year , out of which I must pay medical bills, rent, food, utilities, transportation, and prescriptions. As it is, there is not enough to pay for all necessities. What is Congress planning on doing to the cost of living adjustments?"
Congressman, would you like to take that first?
Alan: Well, sure. Unfortunately, there are Members of Congress, who are called Republicans, who are planning cuts to cost of living adjustments. The "chained CPI" is fakery that will recalculate the cost of living adjustments – basically with the idea that if the cost of gasoline doubles, that doesn't represent a doubling in the cost of living, because some people will have to walk to work, not being able to afford gasoline. So they put more shoe leather into the calculation, and less gas. It's just cheating. I laid this out in an email I sent around, in a blog post a few weeks ago. they are just trying to baffle us with "you-know-what." It's not fair. It doesn't fully reflect the increase of the cost of living. And it's a shame, because as the caller points out, right now the money you get from Social Security isn't even enough to raise you above the poverty level. We are not giving our seniors enough to live above the poverty level. Imagine what it would be like if they got less. (And I'm saying "less" in some real sense.) So I think it's unconscionable.
I don't know exactly why Republicans feel the same way about cutting Social Security and Medicare like the way a moth feels about a flame. I don't understand that, but we have to deal with it.
The Sequester is in danger of becoming the latest excuse for giving rein to this desire to hurt old people, hurt poor people, hurt sick people -- and we just can't allow it. We've got a system that accurately assesses cost of living increases, and we have to protect it from attacks by the other side. . . .
Peter King : Okay. Thank you very much. I'm actually based out of Orlando, which is Congressman Grayson's home state. And you know this is obviously a very partisan position, and the message here is very much Democrats versus Republicans. . . . s there anything here that you would be willing to compromise at all? I mean Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid are all really broad programs. And there is arguably a lot of waste in some of these programs. Just wondering to see if there is anything you could move an inch or a foot on here, to get rolling? . . .
Alan: Well first, it used to be that there was consensus on this. It used to be that Democrats and Republicans agreed that there should not be cuts to benefits for Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare – and that's changed. People used to regard Social Security as the "third rail" in American politics. You've probably heard that phrase before. But now, Republicans are not only touching the third rail, they are dancing on it. And that's unfortunate. You know, Reagan used to say 'I didn't leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me.' I think there are probably a lot of Republicans in the country, particularly seniors, who are scratching their heads and saying, 'I didn't leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left me.' By this unquenchable thirst right now to hurt the needy. To hurt seniors, poor people, people who need medical care and just want to see a doctor when they are sick. It's not consistent with the original conception of Republicanism, of conservatism. We are trying to conserve these programs -- you'd think that "conservatives" would be with us.
But to get to your question, I will tell you this: I think you can eliminate fraud . You can eliminate waste, you can eliminate abuse – and in no sense would you break this promise. This is a promise that is very clear. It's that we are going to "vote against any and every <u>cut against Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security <u>benefits." Benefits – that's what the recipients actually see. If they're in Medicare and they go to a doctor that means there are major procedures that are covered, and those are not going to change.
If we can eliminate or reduce waste, fraud and abuse of these programs, that doesn't change their benefits. If we can run the program more efficiently, that doesn't change their benefits. If we change the payment plan, the Social Security tax, the Medicare tax, that doesn't change the benefits. If we change what doctors get paid for procedures, that doesn't change the benefits, either. It's what the recipients see .
You know, we can't ask people to pay into these programs year after year, decade after decade, and then when it's their turn, we say to them, "Well, you know, the law was that you had to be sixty-five , but now you have to seventy-two." That's not fair. It wouldn't be fair if the private entity did it. It wouldn't be fair if the government did it, either.
So the answer to your question is 'yes.' Of course you can make changes to the program, and then make the program better. I'd like to see Medicare cover eyewear. I'd like to see it cover hearing aids. I'd like to see it cover dental work. As far as I know, most seniors have eyes, ears and teeth. Laughs.] I think these things should be covered. I'd like to move in that direction. That would improve these programs. But in terms of cutting benefits, no – that's not fair.
Isn't it about time that someone said that we should be perfecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, not cutting them? Well, someone just did.
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Posted by Alan Grayson | Mon Apr 1, 2013, 09:07 PM (38 replies)