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Alan Grayson

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Member since: Sat May 22, 2010, 01:02 PM
Number of posts: 363

Journal Archives

Why Unions Are Different

When I was elected to Congress in 2008, I asked to join the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). Why? Because I was a government employee. The AFGE negotiates benefits for government employees, including me. If I were going to benefit from that, I felt that I should pay my dues. I'm not the "free rider" type.

I was told that this was an unusual request. In fact, no one could remember any Member of Congress making that request before. That didn't bother me in the least. I joined the AFGE, and paid my dues.

There is another, deeper reason why I wanted to join the union: I don't see a lot of other organizations fighting for the common good.

After I was elected again in November, I was inundated with correspondence from all sorts of groups who wanted me to do something for them. Not for us. For them. Gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme. Now, to be fair, some of these requests were for worthwhile causes. More were not. Either way, it was "gimme."

With one exception.

Here is a letter that I received from Joseph Hansen, the President of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW):

Congratulations on your election to the 113th Congress.

The American people spoke loud and clear on Election Day.

They want a Congress that works for all Americans, not just a wealthy few.

They want a Congress that fights for Main Street, not Wall Street.

They want a Congress that helps create good-paying jobs that can support a family.

They want a Congress that balances the budget responsibly, by asking millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share while protecting programs like Social Security and Medicare.

They want a Congress that protects the rights of workers, women, and minorities.

Most of all, they want a Congress that works with President Obama to give more families access to the American Dream.

I look forward to working with you toward that end.

Sincerely, Joseph T. Hansen.

Amen to that, brother. Yes, President Hansen, I look forward to working with you toward that end.

You see what's missing from this UFCW letter? Gimme, gimme, gimme.

On the letterhead of the UFCW's stationery is the motto, "A VOICE for working America." That's something that I would be proud to have on my stationery, too.

This is a time of hyper-partisan warfare, when selfishness parades itself as a virtue. But amidst all that smoke there are still some of us – the UFCW, me – who can discern the bare outlines of something called "the common good." The common good -- that's our flag. And that's why unions are different.

And the rocket's red glare,
The bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night,
That our flag was still there.


Congressman Alan Grayson

If you would like a chance to join Congressman Alan Grayson for breakfast on Inauguration Day, please contribute $25 or more to his campaign by midnight tomorrow, or send an e-mail to inauguration@graysonforcongress.com.

"They'd Rather Have No Government Than Good Government"

Right from Day One of the new Congress, Congressman Alan Grayson has been saying what needs to be said, and fighting for what's right. Here is an MSNBC interview of Alan from a few days ago, regarding the agenda in Congress:

Craig Melvin: President Obama is saying that he does not want to negotiate over the debt ceiling, and says he will not negotiate over the debt ceiling. From the looks of things, it could be the next big fight in Washington. Joining me now is a man who has never backed away from a fight: Congressman Alan Grayson, Florida Democrat. Congressman, always good to see you.

Congressman Alan Grayson: Thanks.

Craig: You are back in Congress after losing your seat in 2010.  First of all, how does it feel being back?

Alan: Oh, it's great. It's great to be back in the saddle again, and we had the greatest comeback in the history of the House of Representatives. We won by 25 points.

Craig: We've talked about the debt ceiling over the past week or so, and I want to read you something that John Cornyn wrote. This is an op-ed from Senator John Cornyn. This is what he wrote about how things could go down here in the next month or so: "It may be necessary to partially shut down the government in order to secure the long-term fiscal well-being of our country rather than plod along the path of Greece, Italy and Spain."  Pat Toomey said almost the same thing on "Morning Joe" this past week. Are we headed for a government shutdown in the next few months?

Alan: If the Republicans are crazy enough to want to do that, it's possible that they'll be able to pull that off. It's a very divided party on the other side—divided between the far right wing and the extreme right wing. The extreme right wing wants to shut down the government because they just don't like government at all. They'd rather have no government than even good government. So it's a possibility.

Craig: Does the extreme right wing of the GOP still yield that much power?

Alan: Well, sure. From what I can see, their caucus is divided almost equally between the corporate shills and the Tea Party. That's what passes for diversity on the other side of the aisle. The Tea Party represents a good hundred votes on the other side.

Craig: Republicans of course would argue that we just passed this fiscal cliff deal, and we should note th no spending cuts. The national debt is now more than $16 trillion and the Democrats, a lot of them aren't wild about the idea of making cuts to entitlements. How does that work?

Alan: Listen, if they were serious about reducing the debt then they would be serious about taxing people who have money. It seems the only people that the Right Wing is willing to tax are the people without money. The people with money are those whom they regard as untouchable. If they'd do that, they'll reduce the deficit, just as we did during the Clinton Administration. The Clinton Administration ran three or four different surpluses, one after another, because the income tax rate was high enough to pay for the needs of the government and the needs of the people.  But look at what they want to do instead: they want to cut Social Security benefits and they want to cut Medicare benefits. And those are the parts we actually make a profit on. The Social Security Administration has run a profit every single year since it was created. Medicare also runs a profit each year. It doesn't make any sense. They're basically trying to cut those programs because of some sadistic attitude toward old folks.

Craig: The President has indicated he might be willing to cut Medicare, and also willing to make an adjustment to the cost of living calculations used with Social Security.

Alan: Well, no. I think you have to be very specific when talking about this. What the President has generally indicated is to make these programs more efficient. I don't think the President has come out in favor of actual benefit cuts. These are two fundamentally different things. We're all interested in making the programs more efficient, at least people on our side of the aisle are. We're not interested in cutting the benefits.

Craig: There are so many issues still outstanding from the 112th Congress that you guys have to deal with. The sequester, of course, that's coming up March 1st, the Farm Bill, the Violence Against Women Act, and even more aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy.  Make a prediction for us, if you can.  What, if anything, is going to get done with the 113th Congress at the helm?

Alan: Well, the Congress will deal with the crises as they come up, but remember that a lot of these crises are artificial crises. Some of them are created specifically for the purpose of trying to get things done that could never get done by the will of the people through the regular order. Naomi Klein has written about this in the book, "The Shock Doctrine." What we've seen is a series of artificial crises in order to steal from the Middle Class.

Craig: Again, going back to a prediction for what's going to be the first or even the second order of business. Are we talking about immigration? Are we talking about gun control? What might we be looking at here for the next six months?

Alan: Oh, I think we'll have to deal first with the sequester, a completely artificial contrivance created by the Republicans to cut Social Security benefits and Medicare benefits. That's what's coming up first and right after that, possibly right before that, depending on Tim Geithner's private calculations, we'll have to deal with the debt limit.

Craig: How real is the concern among Congressional Democrats that as you crawl from crisis to crisis that it prevents the Administration from advancing any sort of long-range policies with regards to immigration or energy or climate change, or even gun control?

Alan: I don't think it should. I think that the Administration has enormous powers under existing law. For instance, the Administration probably could institute large parts of the Cap and Trade bill, which passed the House but not the Senate when I was in Congress, through regulation, through rulemaking. The President actually did institute a large part of what would have been our bill on immigration, the Dream Act, through administrative action. The President has a lot of power, and he should use it to solve the country's problems.

Craig: How would you characterize your last stint in Congress? How would you characterize that compared to this upcoming stint?

Alan: Well, we did a lot of good for a lot of people, particularly in our district, and I think they'll be able to do it again. A lot of the best things that we did for people in our district had nothing to do with votes on the Floor . The job creates opportunities to do good things, and we'll do our best.

Craig: We certainly hope. We certainly hope that you will do your best and that your colleagues will also fall in line and do yours as well. Do come back again—I always enjoy our conversations and congrats to you.

Alan: Thank you.

Congressman Alan Grayson – telling it like it is. If you would like a chance to join Congressman Grayson for breakfast on Inauguration Day in Washington, DC, on January 21st, please contribute $25 or more to our campaign] by Tuesday night. (Or you can send an e-mail to inauguration@graysonforcongress.com.)

"Legislative Terrorism"

Right from Day One of the new Congress, Congressman Alan Grayson has been saying what needs to be said, and fighting for what's right.  Here is an MSNBC interview of Alan, on the day that he was sworn into office again:

Rev. Al Sharpton: Today we welcome back a new Congress. We welcomed in a new Congress in Washington, and with it a new number of battles. We know the Right is coming.  On the debt ceiling. On Medicare.  On Social Security.  They're ready to fight. So now, more than ever, the Democrats need strong voices -- Progressives who are willing to fight for causes they believe in. Who aren't afraid to land a political punch. Look out Republicans -- Heeeeeee's baaaaaack!

—video of Congressman Grayson's "Don't Get Sick" floor speech—

Congressman Alan Grayson: The Republican's Healthcare Plan for America:  Don't get sick. That's right. Don't. Get. Sick. If you have insurance, don't get sick. If you don't have insurance, don't get sick. If you're sick, don't get sick. Just don't get sick.

—video of Congressman Grayson floor speech on unemployment—

Alan: Let's give three million Americans a working wage.  An honest day's pay for an honest day's work. They will spend it on the things they need to do to stay alive. Instead of the alternative, the Republican-favored alternative, which is to have them lose their jobs, keep unemployed, and move into their cars.

—video of Congressman Grayson floor speech on Republican opposition to Barack Obama—

Alan: If Barack Obama were somehow able to cure hunger in the world, the Republicans would blame him for overpopulation. Understand that if Barack Obama has a BLT sandwich for lunch tomorrow, they will try to ban bacon.

—end video montage—

Rev. Al: Joining me now is the man himself, Congressman Alan Grayson, Democrat from Florida.  He was reelected this past year, and was sworn in today as a part of the 113th Congress.  Congressman Grayson, congratulations, and thanks for being here.

Alan: Thank you. As Steven Tyler would say, I'm back in the saddle again.

Rev. Al: (laughter) I imagine the Republicans didn't exactly roll out the red carpet for you today.

Alan: No, but that's okay. I think we're going to have to find some way to get along with each other, I guess. But time will tell.

Rev. Al: Now, talking about getting along. They've already said they are willing to hold the debt ceiling hostage. That's quite a reversal from a few years ago. Listen to this:

—C-SPAN video of Congressman Paul Ryan in January 2011—

Congressman Ryan: Does…will the debt ceiling be raised? Or does it have to be raised? Yeah. You can't not raise the debt ceiling. Default is the unworkable solution. Obviously you cannot default.

—CNN video of Senator Lindsey Graham in January 2011—

Senator Graham: Well, let me tell you what will happen if we don't lift the death ceiling—debt ceiling, excuse me. Financial collapse, and calamity throughout the world. That's not lost upon me.

—Fox News Sunday video of Speaker John Boehner in January 2011—

Speaker Boehner: That would be a financial disaster not only for our country but for the worldwide economy.

Interviewer: So, defaulting, on the full faith and credit, is unacceptable?

Speaker Boehner: I, uh, don't think, uh . . . I don't think it's even a question that's on the table.
<p align="center" style="text-align: center">—end video montage—

Rev. Al: So, were they kidding then, or are they kidding now? Why the big change, Congressman, and how do we deal with it?

Alan: Well, they changed their minds because they see that it's a device for them to extract concessions they would otherwise never be able to accomplish. That's why.  It's legislative terrorism. They're using the debt ceiling as a means to cut Social Security benefits, cut Medicare benefits, cut unemployment insurance, cut anything of any use to any ordinary human being in this country, simply because they want more money for tax cuts for the rich.

Rev. Al:
Legislative terrorism. Holding the economy hostage, I would take from that.  Mr. Boehner, the Speaker, reportedly told the GOP that he's done negotiating one-on-one with President Obama. What do you make of that?

Alan: Well, look, Boehner is a chief with no Indians. We saw it again today.  When he reached the end of the roll call, he didn't have enough votes to be Speaker. You need 218 votes to be Speaker. When everybody had already voted, he was at 216.  They had to drag Bachmann in for her vote. He ended up voting for himself, which he didn't do the first time around. Then he managed to eke out a two-vote victory in a House where he has 25, well, sorry, 18 extra votes now.  And that shows how weak he is.  He's a weak, weak man, a weak Speaker, and therefore, he can't negotiate with the President because the President can actually make commitments, make decisions. can say, "When you send me a bill, I'll sign it." What can Boehner say? Nothing.

Rev. Al: So, you led the charge against the GOP tax cuts in 2010. Let me play for people what you did.

—video of Congressman Grayson's floor speech on tax cuts—

Alan: Every single year for the next ten years, the Republican tax plan is to give millionaires enough money for a Mercedes Benz. They can buy a bottle of wine from 1787 every year, for the next decade.  Thank you, Republican Party. Here's something else they can do—they can buy 20,000 jars of their favorite mustard, Grey Poupon.

Here's an idea. Let's take that $100 billion, and give 3 million Americans a job.

—end video—

Rev. Al: Now, that was you fighting in 2010 against tax cuts for the rich. Now that they've made some concessions on taxes, do you think that they'll be easier to negotiate with on revenue?

Alan: No.  And frankly, let me use a term that you may have heard once or twice in New York.  I'm tired of their mishegoss. They keep nattering over and over about debt-deficit-deficit-deficit-debt-debt-debt-deficit-deficit. But when it comes time to actually do something about it, meaning tax increases for people who actually have money they can pay to the government, somehow that's beyond the pale. They want to tax the poor, who have no money, instead of taxing the rich, who have all the money.  It just doesn't make any sense, and I think people are starting to see through it.

Rev. Al: "Mishegoss." Didn't make my side of Brooklyn, but I'll use it. Congressman Alan Grayson, thanks for your time tonight, and good luck.

Alan: Thank you, Reverend.

Congressman Alan Grayson – telling it like it is.  If you would like a chance to join Congressman Grayson for breakfast on Inauguration Day in Washington, DC, on January 21st, please contribute $25 or more to our campaign by Tuesday night.  (Or you can send an e-mail to inauguration@graysonforcongress.com.)

Pancakes? French Toast? Bacon & Eggs?

There is this thing going on in Washington, D.C., on January 21st.  Maybe you've heard about it.  The President's Inauguration.  Last time, four years ago, it drew almost two million people.

That's at noon.  On the same day, earlier, there will be another major event – I'll be eating breakfast.
Would you like to join me?]

We will invite two of our supporters – one from the Orlando area, and one from anywhere in the United States – to join us.  We will choose them from among the supporters who contribute $25 or more to our campaign between now and 11:59 pm EDT on the night of Tuesday, Jan. 15.  (Or you can send an e-mail to inauguration@graysonforcongress.com.)  If you make two or more qualifying contributions, that will count as two or more entries.  We will notify the winners on Wednesday, and provide transportation and accommodation.  Void where prohibited, subject to change, blah, blah, blah.

Now think about this.  Unless you're on some kind of lunch/dinner diet, you know that you're going to have breakfast that day.  So why not have breakfast with me?  I promise to chew quietly, dab the corners of my mouth with the napkin when needed, and use the small fork before the large fork.

And then there is that other thing at noon, which our winners can see because they will be in D.C.

So what do you say?  If you are just salivating at the thought of a good breakfast, and that other thing, then go to https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/breakfastwithgrayson.


Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Wed Jan 9, 2013, 03:59 PM (7 replies)

It’s Too Late, Baby, Now It’s Too Late

It’s too late.

What’s too late? Avoiding the fiscal cliff? The world ending on Dec. 21, 2012? You winning the $942 million 2012 Spanish Christmas lottery? April showers bringing May flowers?

Quite possibly. But that’s not what we’re talking about.

It’s too late for you to give a Christmas gift to our campaign. Or Chanukah gelt. Or Kwanzaa bucks. It’s just too late.

But don’t fret. It is not too late for you to make a New Years Day contribution to our campaign. And we would be grateful for that, because we still have bills left over from the November election. So please. We don’t want to start off 2013 in debt, like . . . like . . . like, well, the federal government, for instance.

Please send some dollars our way to make it a Happy New Year for us, our oh-so-patient creditors, and perhaps even yourself, knowing that you have given a boost to the campaign of someone who will make a difference. Someone who will fight for the things that you care about. Someone who will say the things that everyone is thinking, but no one else is saying. Our Congressman With Guts, Alan Grayson.

Contribute today. When you do, we feel the earth move, under our feet.

You have only 72 hours. Surely, it doesn’t take that long to click here. After that, it’s too late.

“It’s too late, baby, now it’s too late,
Though we really did try to make it.
Something inside has died, and I can’t hide,
And I just can’t fake it.”

- Carole King, “It’s Too Late” (1971).

Legislation Constipation

Here are what I modestly and humbly refer to as “Grayson’s Laws of Legislating”: (1) Vote for what you’re in favor of. (2) Vote for what you can live with, if you must do that to get what you need. What we’ve been seeing in the House of Representatives lately have been massive and pervasive violations of Grayson’s Laws of Legislating. Instead of “I’ll vote for X because it’s right,” or “You don’t like X and I don’t like Y, but I’ll vote for X and Y if you vote for X and Y,” instead it’s “If I don’t get Z, I ain’t votin’ on nothin’.” And that’s the problem.

Let’s take one very pertinent example: the impeding tax increases on taxpayers making less than $250,000 a year. I don’t know a single Member of the House, Democratic or Republican, who has said on the record that he or she is in favor of raising taxes, starting next Tuesday, on taxpayers making less than $250,000 a year. Let’s suppose that you crafted a one-sentence bill reading as follows: “There shall be no income tax rate increases for the 2013 tax year on taxpayers making less than $250,000 a year.” Let’s suppose that you then administered sodium pentathol to every Member of Congress. Let’s suppose that you then had a vote on that bill. Obviously, it would pass the House by 435 to 0, or something close to that. Followed immediately by unanimous passage by the Senate, and the President’s signature.

(Here is another entertaining thought experiment: Just for fun, administer sodium pentathol to Rush Limbaugh, too. You’d have three hours of total silence on the airwaves.)

So anyway, in the case of “no income tax rate increases for everyone but the rich,” Grayson’s First Law of Legislating is sufficient. Everyone’s in favor of it, so everyone votes for it. Done.

It turns out that many, many components of the so-called “fiscal cliff” could be resolved quite simply by applying Grayson’s First Law of Legislating. I think it’s fair to say that a majority of the Members of Congress, right or wrong, are in favor of raising the debt ceiling before the government’s borrowing capacity is exhausted. I think it’s fair to say that a majority of the Members of Congress, right or wrong, are against a 27% cut in Medicare payments to doctors, starting next week. I think it’s fair to say that a majority of the Members of Congress, right or wrong, are against an 8% cut in air traffic control on Jan. 1. If you had single votes, up or down, on 90% of the components of the “fiscal cliff,” the outcome would not be in doubt.

And as for the remaining 10%, then you’ve got Grayson’s Second Law of Legislating to apply. I really, really don’t want to see unemployment insurance benefits cut off for millions of unemployed workers, seven days after Christmas. Maybe Rep. Skullinrear (R-Tea Party) doesn’t care. But Rep. Skullinrear really, really doesn’t want to see a 12% cut in defense spending from sequestration next week. I may not share Rep. Skullinrear’s morbid preoccupation with blowing stuff up. Nevertheless, his morbid preoccupation with blowing stuff up, together with my odd aversion to seeing families living in cars, gives the two of us something to talk about.

Mick Jagger, that eminent political scholar, had it all figured out more than forty years ago. You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find – you just might find -- that you get what you need.

But in the House, that’s not what we’re seeing at all. Instead, we see what might be called the “Young John McCain” Law of Legislating. Senator John McCain has written that when he was a toddler, he sometimes got so furious that he held his breath until he passed out.

Now John Boehner is doing it. Boehner is holding his breath until America passes out.

It’s been ten months since the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board coined the term “fiscal cliff” when he called attention to the “massive fiscal cliff of large spending cuts and tax increases” that will go into effect less than a week from now. Ten months. But in all of that time, there has been nothing in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives even remotely resembling a line-by-line vote on whether each one of those spending cuts and tax increases, individually, is good or bad. Just John Boehner holding his breath until the Democrats “agree” to extending tax breaks for the rich, and cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits.

It’s the worst case of legislation constipation that I’ve ever seen. But that’s what happens – what ought to happen -- when the folks in charge say over and over again, “I’m in favor of X, but I won’t vote for X, or even allow a vote for X, unless I get Y.”

We’re going to need some kind of patch to get through this. But I hope that the Powers That Be learn from this mistake. Slice it all into little pieces, and then vote each piece up or down. It works. And it’s a lot more practical than hoping that John Boehner, or Barack Obama, pulls a rabbit out of his hat.


Alan Grayson

Oh, you can't always get what you want.
Oh, you can't always get what you want.
Oh, you can't always get what you want.
But if you try sometimes,
You just might find, you just might find,
You get what you need.

- The Rolling Stones, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (1969).

The “Chained CPI” Cut – “If You Can’t Dazzle Them With Brilliance . . .”

Let me get right to the point. I'm against the proposed "chained CPI" cut in Social Security because it substantially undermines the protection against inflation that Social Security recipients enjoy under current law. The existing cost of living adjustment ("COLA") already understates actual increases in the "cost of living"; the chained CPI would exacerbate the problem.

I understand that the vast majority of Americans -- including, quite possibly, most people reading this - have no burning desire to learn anything about the chained CPI. It has, however, become a major part of the "fiscal cliff" negotiations, and so it has become one of those things that people have to learn about, for their own protection.

Where we are now in the fiscal cliff negotiations is that Speaker Boehner is talking about reducing the federal deficit in the exact same way that Governor Romney did - Boehner says that he wants to, but he won't tell us how. President Obama, boxed in by the poll-driven sense that he must-must-must propose something "balanced," is "balancing" the reduction of tax breaks for the rich against the reduction of the protection that seniors have against inflation. On the merits, however, reducing that protection is undeserved, unwise and unfair.

Social Security benefits are automatically adjusted each year to reflect increases in the cost of living, as determined by the consumer price index (CPI). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates the CPI each month.

Here is how the "chained CPI" would change things: Let's say that the cost of gasoline tripled, from $3.33 per gallon to $10 per gallon. Most people would call that a 200% increase in the price of gas. That's how it would be calculated under the CPI today. Under the chained CPI, however, it would be calculated at less than 200%, because some people couldn't afford to pay $10 a gallon. They would drive less. They might have to take the bus to work. They might take a "staycation" instead of a vacation.

Because a tripling in the price of gas basically makes everyone poorer, and thus less able to buy gas, the chained CPI doesn't count that as a 200% increase. It reduces the percentage increase in proportion to the amount of gas that people can no longer afford to buy.

In fact, the bigger the price increase (and the poorer people get), the bigger the gap between the actual price increase and the chained CPI adjustment. This effect starts off small, and barely noticeable, but then as time goes by, it swells like a blister. In fact, it swells from $1.4 billion in the first year to $22 billion in the tenth year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. So the chained CPI is inflation protection that, by design, inflation itself erodes. Ain't that just grand?

To make things worse about the chained CPI, there is no evidence that the existing CPI is somehow overpaying seniors. On the contrary, as John Williams has pointed out at Shadowstats.com, if the Government simply calculated the CPI today in the same manner as it did through 1990, then every year, the CPI increase would be approximately 3% higher. If the Government calculated the CPI today in the same manner that it did before 1980, then every year, the CPI increase would be approximately 7% higher. That's the sort of thing that happens when you pretend (as the CPI now does) that a computer with a CPU that is twice as fast is the same as a computer that costs half as much.

And let's be honest: you know plenty of Social Security recipients. Have you seen any of them driving a brand-new Lexus, thanks to a COLA increase?

The political proponents of the chained CPI are hoping that you don't understand it. Because when you do understand it, you won't support it. We should be doing more to protect seniors against inflation, not less.

The chained CPI calls to mind something that W.C. Fields once said: "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with . . . " With the chained CPI.


Alan Grayson

"And time goes by, so slowly,
And time can do so much.
Are you still mine?"

- The Righteous Brothers, "Unchained Melody" (1965).

“The Taxpayers Are Getting Fed Up”

The Middle Class feels squeezed, and a lot of people are angry. They are told to be angry about Social Security and Medicare benefits, but the truth is that both Social Security and Medicare operate at a profit. They are told to be angry about state employee pay and benefits, but virtually all states already have a balanced budget. Maybe they should direct their anger toward companies that fail to pay a living wage, requiring the taxpayers to make up the difference. Here is what Congressman Alan Grayson (D-Orlando) said on Cenk Uygur’s national TV show about that, recently, while explaining why he joined protesting Walmart workers on Thanksgiving:

CENK: And Congressman Alan Grayson from Florida is joining us now. Congressman, it’s great to have you with us. First of all, how angry was your family when you didn’t join them for Thanksgiving dinner?

ALAN: {Laughter.} They’re used to making sacrifices, in my case. They’ve been doing it for years.

CENK: Okay. All right, in all seriousness, what were you doing there? Why did you want to go and give these people turkey sandwiches? What was the real objective?

ALAN: We handed out bags to the workers who had to work. They didn’t want to work -- they had to work, on Thanksgiving night, and couldn’t be with their families. The bags had three things inside: a turkey sandwich, because it was Thanksgiving; a bag of chips; and a letter informing them of their right to organize.

CENK: All right, now what do you think here? Walmart says, “Hey listen, these strikes were no big deal. Only about fifty people walked out.” Now there are reports that that’s just not true. “But you know, we’re just perfectly lovely to our employees. I don’t know what you guys are complaining about.” How do you respond to that?

ALAN: Well, it’s ridiculous. As you pointed out, the average associate at Walmart makes less than $9 an hour. I don’t know how anybody these days can afford their rent, afford their food, afford their health coverage, afford their transportation costs just to get to work, when they’re making only $9 an hour or less.

And who ends up paying for it? It’s the taxpayer. . . . The taxpayer pays the earned income credit. The taxpayer pays for Medicaid. The taxpayer pays for the unemployment insurance when they cut their hours down. And the taxpayers pay for other forms of public assistance like food stamps. I think that the taxpayer is getting fed up paying for all these things when, in fact, Walmart could give every single employee it’s got, even the CEO, a 30% raise, and Walmart would still be profitable.

CENK: Now Congressman Grayson, you’re going back in to Congress now. Is there anything you can do about it legislatively, or is it just simply political and economic pressure on Walmart to be more decent to their workers?

ALAN: Well one thing we’ve already done is in the Affordable Care Act. We have a mandate that the employer is supposed to provide health coverage, or pay the difference. And I think that’s going to make a big difference in the lives of these Walmart workers. But that’s just the start. I don’t think that Walmart should, in effect, be the largest recipient of public assistance in the country. In state after state after state, Walmart employees represent the largest group of Medicaid recipients, the largest group of food stamp recipients, and the taxpayers shouldn’t have to bear that burden. It should be Walmart. So we’re going to take that burden and put it where it belongs, on Walmart.

CENK: So that’s really interesting. And I want the audience to understand this. It’s really fascinating because Walmart, as Congressman Grayson is saying there, winds up becoming the biggest taker of government subsidies in some of these programs. But the six heirs to the Walmart fortune have more money that 40 percent of the country combined. That is amazing.

Congressman Grayson, the liberal think tank Demos came up with this idea. They said, “Look, if you just increase wages to $25,000 a year for the average Walmart worker . . . that would increase costs to us of $20 per year for the customer, right?" Twenty dollars per year doesn’t seem like a lot for the average customer. And then, here are the results. Do you know what it would do? It would lift 1,500,000 people out of poverty, create 100,000 new jobs, and give a $13.5 billion (gross domestic product) boost. Now what do you make of those numbers? Is that a deal that you think the American people are willing to take, if it costs an extra $20 a year to have these people make a decent wage, and possibly improve the economy?

ALAN: Listen, I think those numbers are mostly right, but I think the numbers are actually different from that. According to the numbers that I’ve seen, as I said before, every Walmart employee could get that raise to $25,000 a year, every single one of them, and Walmart would still be profitable, without raising prices.

Look, Walmart already charges people as much as they possibly can. That’s the nature of being in business. But what they do is give their employees as little as they possibly can. They exploit them and keep them in the dark, without benefits and without knowledge of the right to unionize. The difference is what they call “profit.” And Walmart is hugely, hugely profitable.

So I don’t think customers are going to end up paying any more at all; not a penny more. What’s simply going to happen is that Walmart is going to make a little bit less profit.

CENK: All right, Congressman Grayson. Good to have a progressive fighter back in Congress. Thank you for joining us, and back at Walmart, and sticking up for people as well. Thank you so much.

ALAN: You’re welcome.

Ask yourself this: who else among our so-called Representatives is standing up for the working poor? Who else is helping to make the right to organize something real? Isn’t it about time that you showed your support again for a Congressman With Guts? It’s not hard – just click on that CONTRIBUTE link below.


“We Want the Working Poor to Have a Better Life”

Following the Thanksgiving protests at Walmart, CNN invited Congressman Alan Grayson on the air to explain what they were all about. Here is what he said:

CNN’S CAROL COSTELLO: Here in the United States, the protest against Walmart goes on. And you can count Representative-Elect Alan Grayson with standing with the company’s workers. He joins us now live. Welcome.

ALAN GRAYSON: Thank you.

COSTELLO: You attended a walkout at a Walmart in Orlando on Black Friday, and you showed your solidarity the night before by delivering bagged meals to Walmart employees who had to work on Thanksgiving, and that caused Walmart to call the cops. So tell us what happened.

GRAYSON: Well, we went to Walmart to hand out Thanksgiving dinners to them because they had to work on their Thanksgiving. They couldn’t be with their families. So we brought a bag; the bag had three things in it. A turkey sandwich, because it was Thanksgiving. A bag of chips. And a letter explaining to them their rights to organize.

COSTELLO: So the cops were called? What did the cops do when they arrived? Tell us about that.

GRAYSON: Well, it was the security staff. Walmart always has security staff around. Once they saw that we were handing out the bags, they objected to that, asked us to leave, and we left. The security staff simply escorted us, as they often do. But the important thing is we showed the workers, first of all, what their rights are, because Walmart tries to keep them in the dark. And we showed them that they’re not alone, that people actually care. That we want the working poor to have a better life in America.

COSTELLO: You posted a letter on your Facebook page and you wrote this: “Walmart accounts for more than 10% of all the retail sales in the United States. It is the largest private employer in the world, with more than two million employees. And even though those employees comprise barely ten percent of its cost of doing business, Walmart exploits them mercilessly. Now Walmart employees are starting to organize, starting to fight back.” I had a conversation at dinner last night with someone who says, “Hey if you don’t like working at Walmart, get another job.”

GRAYSON: Well listen, all the people who have those kinds of jobs suffer from the fact that we have 8% unemployment. But we all suffer from the fact that Walmart underpays its employees.] The average associate at Walmart makes barely $1,200 a month. That’s $1,200 a month. Could you live on $1,200 a month? I couldn’t.

And the fact is that they don’t (live solely on that), because the taxpayers end up subsidizing them. Because Walmart underpays them, the taxpayers end up paying for their Medicaid. Because Walmart underpays them, the taxpayers end up paying for their food stamps. In fact, each Walmart associate costs the taxpayers over $1,000, and it is time to end that. Walmart needs to pay for its own employees, and give them a living wage.

The minimum wage needs to be higher. Walmart and other employers need to pick up the tab on health insurance and health coverage for their own employees, and stop handing that tab off to the taxpayers.

COSTELLO: When many of those protests happened on Black Friday, we noticed that not a lot of workers comprised the big crowds. It was mostly union people, community leaders, and a few Walmart workers. Some might say that really the unions are behind this, the employees aren’t behind this so much.

GRAYSON: Well, in fact, at one Walmart not too long ago, 200 Walmart employees walked out, and shut down the store. But the Walmart employees in general are afraid. They’re being intimidated. They’re being told in many cases, “If you even talk about a union, you’ll be fired.” Here in Orlando, one of the employees who talked about a union was fired. He came back a few days later just to talk to his former employees, his former staff, his former colleagues, and they led him off the premises in handcuffs, in a way that everyone else could see. So these employees are being intimidated. They want to help. They want to join. They want to make their lives better, but Walmart is doing everything it can to prevent that.

COSTELLO: Well, frankly it seems like Walmart is winning. It had one of its biggest Black Fridays ever. It didn’t stop people from shopping, these protests.

GRAYSON: The protests are not meant to stop people from shopping. The protests are meant to inform workers of their rights to organize under the law and under the Constitution. And to make sure that they understand that they’re not alone, and they will be protected if they exercise their rights. It’s not meant to raise prices. It’s not meant to interfere with shopping. It’s meant to organize people who desperately need to be organized, to make a better life for themselves.

COSTELLO: Representative-Elect Alan Grayson, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

GRAYSON: Thank you too.

Ask yourself this: who else among our so-called Representatives is standing up for the working poor? Who else is helping to make the right to organize something real? Isn’t it about time that you showed your support again for a Congressman With Guts? It’s not hard – just click on that CONTRIBUTE button below.

Victory, In Your Own Words

I have always said that we have the best supporters. After Election Day, you proved it. Literally thousands of supporters have reached out to us, to offer congratulations and best wishes. I wish that I could share with you what everyone said, but this is an e-mail, not a Vulcan mind-meld. So here are a beautiful few:


This is some of the best news in the entire 2012 election -- Mr. Grayson, you're a man of grit, humor, intelligence and above all, integrity. - Betsy

You are the only one telling truth to power. - Barry

No one is always right. But you sure sock it to 'em. Stay well and safe. We need your voice. - John

May you be one of the few who go to Washington, and continue speaking your mind (like that's ever going to stop). Remember the people who are counting on you. - Bonnie

You have sensitivity, a stiff back, intelligence, guts and grit. You’re my kind of Congressman. - Bill

You did more than kick ass ... you obliterated your opponent. Maybe you should check on him to see if he's OK .... - Tom

I do not live in your district but you are my favorite Representative. I may have to move!! – Ron

Congratulations on your win. That was the best $25 bucks I have ever spent. - Charlie

I was walking on clouds today. I sincerely hope this is the start of your forty-year tenure in American politics!!! GO ALAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Dude, you're a god, what can I say? - George

Great win for us, the working class! - Rick

My heart skipped a beat when I saw your name in the "win" column last night. - Barbara

Congratulations, Alan. I am so happy for you and us. I live in Oregon and contributed to your campaign, because we are all connected. - Georgia

Much of the momentum that got so many Democrats elected this time around is due in a very large part to your tireless efforts. My prayers are with you tonight. So are my thanks. – Clay

My hard work making phone calls and knocking on doors has paid off in your re-election to Congress. - Donald

Congratulations Alan! You were the only congressman we could afford to spend our very limited funds supporting, but truly believed the House needed you back! - Harriet & John

I am an 88-year-old man living on retirement. I was not able to donate to many contests – I had to choose carefully. So I chose two with the meager funds I could spare. One was Alan Grayson. The other was Elizabeth Warren. The United States has won again, on both counts. - Russell

I have lost everything and am on Social Security so I am not able to give as much as I could before, but I will watch your career and support you. My very best to you, and your future in Congress. Our country is so fortunate to again have you back as one of the crew members of the "Ship of State". - Kathy

Even though, at age 87 and living on a widow's SS stipend, I was unable to contribute money to your campaign, I contacted everyone I knew in your district to tell them what an outstanding citizen they had running for Congress. I waited up much after President Obama's victory to see if you had won, and I think I woke up my nearest senior living apartment neighbors with my "Whoopees”! I am so proud that you are representing our state as one of the few in Congress who is fearless, intelligent and dedicated to doing what is necessary to take our nation properly into the 21st Century. The Creator has blessed us with you. – Emily

Every candidate I donated to WON! If that is not a sign from Heaven, I do not know what is!! Now I wish I had dug deeper and donated more to more candidates for the House! Maybe I could have single-handedly retired Michelle Bachman, or Steve King!! Another $60, at $3 apiece, might have delivered the House back to the Dems. I will try to do better next time! - Mary


And then there was this:

You are a Rock Star w/Huge Balls – unsigned

Thank you all.


Rep. Alan Grayson
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