Alan Grayson's Journal
Member since: Sat May 22, 2010, 01:02 PM
Number of posts: 428
Number of posts: 428
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One of the more frustrating elements of the debate about Obamacare is that the Right Wing has dictated the terms of that debate.
Resolved: Does American Want Socialized Medicine?
While the Obamacare legislation was being legislated, the debate was about "socialized medicine." As if. Obamacare is no more a government takeover of healthcare than air traffic control is a government takeover of the skies. Or traffic lights are a government takeover of the roads. (Although the Post Office is, in fact, a government takeover of the mail. Cue to Tea Partiers blowing up their own mailboxes.)
Resolved: Is Obamacare Unconstitutional?
Then there was that interminable debate about whether Obamacare is constitutional. Let me get this straight: are you telling me that it is constitutional for the Government to draft your rear-end and ship you to Vietnam to serve as cannon fodder, but somehow it isn't constitutional for the Government to make you pay for your own emergency-room care? Oh, come on! If it's constitutional for the Government to put you in prison if you fail to buy car insurance, then surely it's constitutional for the Government to make you pay a fee if you fail to buy health insurance.
Resolved: Isn't the Obamacare Website Absolutely Sucktastic?
And now the Tea Partiers are shedding crocodile tears over the Obamacare website. The website that they tried to repeal, on 40+ different occasions. The website that went live on the very day that they shut down the federal government. Because, you know, they get really upset if there is any delay in people obtaining Obamacare coverage, since they don't want anyone ever to have it.
Why? Why did the Right Wing go to such lengths to dictate the Obamacare debate? Because if you're obsessing over government takeovers, and constitutionality, and a website, then you aren't ever talking about:
-- closing the "donut hole" in prescription drug coverage for seniors;
-- extending coverage and care to 40 million people with preexisting conditions;
-- prohibiting insurance companies from literally pulling the plug on patients whose care becomes too expensive;
-- allowing young adults up to the age of 26 to remain on their parents' health insurance policies;
-- eliminating deductibles and copayments for ordinary care for seniors;
-- mandating refunds for seniors who are overcharged under the Medicare Advantage program;
-- eliminating useless and predatory "junk" coverage;
-- prohibiting overcharging on the basis of gender;
-- preventing employers who don't offer insurance coverage from making employers who do offer coverage feel like suckers and fools;
-- extending Medicaid to the working poor; and
-- paying over one-third of the cost of small businesses providing employee healthcare.
Funny, but I don't remember the Republicans ever arguing for the repeal of any of those specific provisions, just the "Obamacare" bogeyman.
Regardless, the autumn Tea Party blitzkrieg to repeal Obamacare really came down to an element of Obamacare that has received little or no mention, except when I mentioned it: the "affordability credits." The government-mandated discounts on health insurance, which generally see to it that you don't have to pay more than 11 percent of your income for health insurance. The discounts that the Kaiser Foundation says will save families who buy their own insurance an average of $2,700 each year. (Actually, to be specific, Kaiser found that 48% who purchase their own insurance will qualify for the affordability credits, and for them, the discounts will save a stunning $5,500 each year.)
That's what I'm talking about.
Tea Party Republicans were determined no, engrossed no, bent -- no, obsessed no, consumed no, possessed by demons, with the urgent compulsion to prevent the affordability credits from ever going into effect. Because then, you know, people could afford insurance, which means that they would get the healthcare that they need to stay healthy and alive. As opposed to the Tea Party chant at one of the Republican Presidential debates "Let them die! Let them die!"
You don't have to take my word for it. A right-wing columnist in a right-wing newspaper (Byron York of the Washington Examiner) wrote this very revealing statement last July, just before the Tea Party repeal efforts went nuclear:
"The White House knows that once those payments begin, repealing Obamacare will no longer be an abstract question of removing legislation not yet in effect. Instead, it will be a very real matter of taking money away from people. It's very, very hard to do that."
So if you were wondering why the Tea Party went so far as to shut down the Government, and threaten default on the national debt, just to prevent one single aspect of one single government program from being implemented, now you know why.
Look, if you ask people who don't have health insurance why they don't have it, 90% say that it's because they can't afford it. Which leaves two options:
1. Make it affordable.
2. Tell them to go to hell.
Obamacare represents the first option. Maniacal efforts to repeal Obamacare represent the second option.
And now, as of January 1, 2014, America is going with the first option. That's America's New Year's Resolution: "Heal the sick."
I feel good about that.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Thu Jan 9, 2014, 02:04 PM (5 replies)
A month ago, at the Florida Democratic Party Convention, Congressman Alan Grayson gave this moving speech on the Democratic Party's strategy for 2014:
Let me tell you what our strategy is, what the strategy of the Democratic Party will be, for next year. Reach into your pocket. Take out a coin, any coin, and you'll see our strategy for next year.
Every coin in America says this: "E Pluribus Unum" out of many, one.
Look to the person to one side of you. Go ahead. He or she is not exactly the same as you, unless you happen to be twins.
Look to the person on the other side of you. Again, not exactly the same as you.
Out of many, one. That is our strategy. Because the Democratic Party is not the White Party, nor is it the Black Party. The Democratic Party is not the Straight Party, nor is it the Gay Party. The Democratic Party is not the Party of Men, nor is it the Party of Women. The Democratic Party is not the Party of English Speakers, nor is it the Party of Spanish Speakers.
The Democratic Party is the Party of All.
Now there are still, even at this point in the year 2013, people who hate the ones who are different from them.
Hate them; despise them; abhor them.
They're still in our midst. There are people who think our differences are something to overcome.
I disagree. I don't think our differences are something to be tolerated. I think our differences are something to be cherished.
The things that make us special are not the things that make us the same. They are the things that make us different from each other. And we should cherish those things.
And that is our secret going into the 2014 election. And in the 2014 election, because we are the Party of Everyone, we will take back the U.S. House of Representatives. We will take back the Governor's mansion, and we will turn this State blue.
We will set a new standard for public life and for private life a standard where we enjoy our differences. Not where we hate each other, not where we fear each other, but where we say to each other on -- our left and on our right, on both sides of us (go ahead, turn to the person next to you): "I respect you; I admire you; I love you."
Thank you very much.
To see the video of Alan's poignant speech, or to contribute to our campaign to help us cherish our differences, click here.
Posted by Alan Grayson | Tue Jan 7, 2014, 10:16 PM (0 replies)
A few weeks ago, the Republicans unveiled their 2014 agenda, and it was . . . nothing.
I kid you not. Here is how it was reported in Politico:
"Last Thursday, a group of House Republicans filed into Majority Leader Eric Cantor's Capitol office suite and received a blank piece of paper labeled 'Agenda 2014.' . . . A Republican aide . . . said . . . 'The problem is we don't know where we are headed . . . .'"
Many people saw the absence of an agenda as a problem. I think that it understates the problem. My concern is that the Republicans don't know where to go, not that they don't know how to get there.
To give you an idea of where they seem to think we should go, here are some actual bills that were actually introduced by actual Republicans last year:
-- a bill to allow the states to nullify any federal law (didn't we settle that in 1865?);
-- a bill to require every high school student to read Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (mandatory libertarian indoctrination -- oh, the irony . . . .);
-- a bill to prohibit lap dancing and jello wrestling (which contained fascinating definitions of the terms "nudity" and "sexual device");
-- a bill establishing a state religion (not Islam, that's for sure); and
-- a bill authorizing restaurants, hotels, hair salons and other businesses to deny service to gay customers.
If you're trying to do stuff like that, then doing nothing is a massive improvement.
But more importantly, you just can't do nothing about nothing. You're always doing nothing about something. When the Republicans say that they have no agenda for 2014, then in effect, they're saying this:
"We're going to do nothing about the 20 million Americans who can't find full-time work."
"We're going to do nothing about the fact that America now has the highest inequality of wealth in history."
"We're going to do nothing about the fact that our military expenditures are roughly equal to that of every other country combined, even though we face no conceivable threat of invasion, and we spend approximately $50 billion spying largely on ourselves."
"We're going to do nothing about the fact that the United States has run a trade deficit of at least $350,000,000,000.00 every single year since 2000, with no end in sight."
"We're going to do nothing about the fact that the Arctic ice cap is disappearing, the release of methane greenhouse gas from tundra is snowballing ('snowballing' - hah!), and global temperatures may rise by 10 degrees by the end of the century."
"We're going to do nothing about the fact that there are so many corporate income tax loopholes that corporate tax revenue is at its lowest in 50 years."
"We're going to do nothing about the fact that according to some tests, American students have the lowest math scores in the entire world."
"We're going to do nothing about the fact that 434 out of 435 House Members and 99 out of 100 Senators raised most of their campaign funds from big donors (the only exceptions being Sen. Sanders (I-VT) and moi)."
"We're going to nothing about the fact that the federal minimum wage buys less today than it did in 1968, and the bottom 20% has a far lower household income today than it did in 1999."
"After we repeal Obamacare, we're going to do nothing about the 50 million Americans who can't see a doctor when they're sick." (The Republican healthcare plan: Don't Get Sick. And if you do get sick, Die Quickly.)
So it may seem that the Republicans are doing nothing about nothing. But they're actually doing nothing about everything. Whatever the problems we face, their infantile solution is always the same: close your eyes, and it will go away. Close your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears, and repeat "La-la-la-la-la-la-la."
Will that work? No. All of these problems have solutions, but none of them is going to solve itself.
That's our job.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Sat Jan 4, 2014, 06:44 PM (36 replies)
You may be wondering why you have been receiving all of these solicitations on December 31, 2013, when the next election date is November 4, 2014. Well, I can't speak for anyone else, but I can tell you why I'm asking for your help today. I'm asking because our campaign starts next week.
I admit that we do things a little differently from most candidates. One very successful elected official once gave me this advice: "Do nothing but fundraising until the last month before the election, and then spend everything on 30-second ads."
That's not the way that we do it. We call voters. We knock on doors. We collect petition signatures. We hand out campaign literature. We sign up absentee voters. We help people get to the polls.
And it all starts next week. The first week of January.
In Florida, you can buy your way onto a Congressional ballot, for around $10,000. Or you can collect several thousand voter petitions. In each of my last three House races, my opponent wrote a check to get on the ballot. We, in contrast, collected the necessary voter signatures. And then doubled that amount. Because every signature to put you on the ballot is a sure vote in November.
Last time, we started sending out our door-to-door campaign canvassers in March. This time, we're not waiting until March. It takes a long, long time to reach out to 700,000 people individually. We're sending out our folks starting next week, when the weather in Orlando is cooler, and there are more voters at home.
If we reach out to our voters in January, February and March, it doesn't matter what kind of stupid nonsense the Koch Brothers try to stick in their ears in October. They're ours.
So I could tell you that our Federal Election Commission fundraising period ends tonight, and we have to show good numbers to strike fear into the hearts of our opponents, and . . . whatever. But that's not what I'm saying to you. I'm saying that we need your help now, because:
It's Showtime. Our campaign is about to begin.
And now you may understand why we have been emphasizing monthly contributions as much as we have. We love our volunteers, but we can't get many volunteers to slog through 90-degree heat in Orlando in mid-August. We pay our full-time canvassers. And we're not going to have to pay them only in January. We're going to have to pay them each month between now and the 2014 election. The campaign needs you to pay us, so that we can pay them. Starting next week.
Let's put this in perspective. Think of all of the times that you've seen a filthy negative ad on TV, and said to yourself, "God, I hate that type of campaigning." Well, here is one campaign that reaches out to the voters, eye-to-eye, hand-to-hand, just like candidates used to.
We need your help and we deserve it. Please contribute today, and make it monthly if you can.
Let's show all those other suckers how it's done.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Tue Dec 31, 2013, 06:24 PM (2 replies)
This is so weird that I can barely believe it myself, but it's true. Right-wingers are contacting lobbyists yes, lobbyists! and directing them not to support my reelection campaign. Which is why I need your support before our year-end deadline today.
Lobbyists and I are not, shall we say, the best of friends, but I am on speaking terms with a few of them. In the past few weeks, three of them have contacted me, and told me that they have received lots of calls and e-mails from right-wing groups, urging the lobbyists to withhold their contributions from our campaign. From what we've been able to discern, these lobbyists are just three out of many who have been contacted. Evidently, this is an organized, nationwide campaign.
This bizarre ploy appears to be orchestrated by Ben Shapiro, the Editor-In-Chief of a psycho right-wing website grandiosely named "TruthRevolt" (presumably, because its readers find the truth to be revolting). The irony of that website name is palpable, because Shapiro seems to lack even a nodding acquaintance with the truth. On the contrary, Shapiro seems to be allergic to the truth. Shapiro has called President Obama a Muslim, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a lesbian, Obama Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emanuel a "kapo" (that was the name for Jews who collaborated with Nazis in the concentration camps), and Adolf Hitler a "left-winger." Just for fun, Shapiro added that Arabs like to "live in open sewage." Also, that Defense Secretary Hagel accepted campaign contributions from a group called "Friends of Hamas," which like so many things in Shapiro's head -- actually doesn't exist.
Shapiro's website says that its "mission" is to "devastate the funding bases" of "leftists." Which is exactly what he is trying to do to us.
After launching vicious, lying attacks against President Obama, Secretary Clinton, Secretary Hagel and Chief of Staff Emanuel, now, Shapiro and his Tea Party wing-nut pals are coming after me.
But in the strangest way that I can think of by lining up lobbyists not to support our campaign. Come to think of it, though, if I were a Republican, that would put a real hurt on me. If I were a corporate Democrat, that would put a real hurt on me. In fact, if I were one of the 434 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives - out of a total of 435 - who had received most of his contributions in the last election from lobbyists, corporate PACs, millionaires, billionaires and other big donors, then that would put a real hurt on me.
But I'm not. Instead, I'm the only Member of the U.S. House of Representatives THE ONLY ONE who raised most of the money for his last House campaign from contributors who gave $200 or less.
And now I need your help today, before our year-end Federal Election Commission deadline. Because if you don't help, then who will? Surely not the lobbyists.
Isn't it nice to have at least one Member of Congress who is unbossed, and unbought?
Well, if that's the way you like it, then you're going to have to show your support today. Because if the other side is literally lining up the lobbyists against me, a year before the election, then you can be sure that as soon as it's 2014, all hell will break lose.
I would like to give these right-wing creeps the one-finger salute. I'd like to shoot them the bird. I'd like to throw the unicorn at them. I'd like to flip them all off. I want them to understand that they can whine to their lobbyist pals all day long, but the real power behind this campaign is not lobbyists, it's you.
So please contribute to our campaign before the year-end deadline, and contribute generously. Or just accept that our government is now of the lobbyists, by the lobbyists, and for the lobbyists.
The decision is yours.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Tue Dec 31, 2013, 12:30 PM (4 replies)
I am a second-term Member of Congress. I am not Minority Leader, Minority Whip, or Chair of the House Democratic Caucus. I am not a ranking Democratic Member of any House Committee or Subcommittee. I do not hold any position with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Despite my seeming insignificance, however, a lot of extreme right-wingers seem desperate utterly desperate - to remove me from office.
Take Col. Allen West, for instance. West said recently, on Fox News, that he "prays" for my defeat in 2014. And take Fox News's host Bill O'Reilly. In the same interview, Bill O'Reilly predicted that I will lose in 2014.
Who is Allen West? While serving in Iraq, West had his soldiers arrest an Iraqi police officer, and beat the living daylights out of him. Then, for good measure, West took out his own gun, and shot it right next to the Iraqi police officer's ear. West was convicted of violating the Military Code of Conduct, fined $5000, and ushered out of the U.S. Army.
West somehow parlayed that experience into a seat in Congress, proving that there is fine, fine line between fame and infamy. During West's one term in Congress, he:
-- denounced Democrats as "chicken men,"
-- said that "about 78 to 81" Democratic Congressman are "members of the Communist Party,"
-- characterized Obama supporters as "a threat to the gene pool,"
-- called Rep. Keith Ellison the "antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established" simply because Ellison is Muslim, and
-- called Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the head of the Democratic National Committee, "the most vile, unprofessional, and despicable member of the US House of Representatives."
Allen West then lost the 2012 election, and I won, which represents the most massive upgrade in "Allens" in U.S. history.
After the election, Fox News hired West as a paid bloviator. To justify paying West, Fox puts him in front of a camera from time to time. A few weeks ago, West appeared on Bill O'Lie-ly's show sorry, Bill O'Reilly's show. I don't have to tell you much about Bill O'Reilly Sen. Al Franken wrote a whole book about him, entitled "Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them."
So anyway, by way of introduction, O'Reilly went off on a bizarre tirade about me, calling me "crazy," "unbalanced," and "the most extreme Democrat in Congress." It's hard to tease any sort of coherent message out of what O'Reilly was saying, but he seemed to be very, very upset that "the unions love" me, and that I'm a "liberal man."
O'Reilly asked West about my prospects in the 2014 election. West said that I have "a pretty good challenger coming up against in this next 2014 cycle." Referring to me, O'Reilly said: "He is going to lose next November. He is going to lose. I predict it now." West responded that West "prays" for my defeat.
One hopes that West's prayers will be no more effective in 2014 than they were in 2012, when West lost his own reelection campaign. My guess is that God, like a lot of people, stopped listening to Allen West a long time ago.
And yet . . . . Here we are, still almost a year before the 2014 election, and the Right Wing's "big guns" already are assailing me, and assailing me viciously. Yesterday, I told you about Mike Huckabee's attack on me. Today, it's Bill O'Reilly and Allen West. They want so bad to beat us.
Tomorrow is our FEC report cut-off date. We are under attack. It's time for us to circle the wagons, and return fire. I need your help, and I need it now. We need to hire canvassers, collect petitions, set up phone banks and hand out campaign literature right away. Every dollar counts. Our deadline is midnight tomorrow. Please contribute today.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Mon Dec 30, 2013, 05:56 PM (15 replies)
Mike Huckabee is attacking me. And also attacking you.
Based on his bizarre beliefs and his appalling record, former Gov. Mike Huckabee ought to be some light-weight fringe figure, relegated to fifth place in any four-person race. But hes not. Public Policy Polling places Mike Huckabee in a statistical tie with Sen. Ted Cruz for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination, just a few points behind Gov. Chris Christie. So it means something when Mike Huckabee attacks someone like me, and he attacks someone like you.
I don't want to be immodest, but I often hear from people like you that I'm saying what youre thinking, but no one else is saying. I'm not trying to glorify myself; thats just something that I hear a lot.
Well, Mike Huckabee heard about it, too, and this is what he said, on national radio:
If Alan Grayson is saying the things that you are thinking, then you need some serious psychiatric assistance, and you need it right now. It is something that cannot wait until next week. You need to go to a hospital immediately and check in, because if youre thinking what he's saying, then you are one sick puppy. You need some real help. I would call it an acute emergency, not something that is a mild disorder.
Don't think that I'm making this up. We have a recording.
Perhaps this rings a bell. In the Soviet Union, political opponents of the regime were accused of mental illness. If you read prohibited books, you were deemed crazy. If you participated in demonstrations, you were deemed crazy. If you attempted to leave the Soviet Union, you were deemed crazy. The "mentally ill" were placed in long-term psychiatric incarceration, often in Siberia, without a trial. In fact, documents from the time demonstrate that the Soviet Union consciously exploited and misused psychiatry to crush dissent.
Here's something ironic: If you expressed religious beliefs in the Soviet Union, you were deemed crazy, and you were incarcerated. Mike Huckabee wears his religion on his sleeve. For that, in the Soviet Union, he would have been locked up in a mental institution for life. But Huckabee sees nothing wrong in suggesting that maybe you should be locked up for agreeing with me.
So what does this mean? It means this: If the #2 candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination is attacking me, and you, in such gross personal terms, almost a year before my election, then it's going to be a long, tough year and I need your help.
Perhaps you are offended that Mike Huckabee would call you crazy because you agree with me. If so, then do something about it contribute to our reelection campaign today, before the end of our reporting period on Tuesday.
Perhaps you are offended that Mike Huckabee would call me crazy, simply because I go to battle each day for justice, equality and peace. If so, then do something about it contribute to our reelection campaign today, before the end of our reporting period on Tuesday.
Since the end of the quarter is approaching, you may see a lot of requests for contributions in the next few days. I suspect, though, that this is the only one that you will see asking for your response to a direct personal attack on the candidate and on you.
And you know why this is happening. Slate magazine identified me as the "most effective Member of Congress." I dont just talk about progressive values; I implement them. I get stuff done. Which means that as far as Mike Huckabee and the Tea Party are concerned, I must be destroyed.
We are under attack. Its time for us to circle the wagons, and return fire. I need your help, and I need it now. Every dollar counts; contribute today.
Rep. Alan Grayson
P.S. As I've said before, the best way to help our campaign is to make monthly contributions. So please click here to contribute $20.14 each month. Help us fight back.
Posted by Alan Grayson | Sat Dec 28, 2013, 02:41 PM (12 replies)
I know, I know. The 2014 election is still almost a year away. But the national Republican Party already is attacking me, and I need your help.
The Washington Post recently reported that the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is "targeting" me, and 18 other House Democrats. Why? Because we voted for healthcare reform in 2010. The headline of the article was "'Keep Your Health Plan Act' Spells Trouble For Dozens of Democrats."
The NRCC did, in fact, carry out this threat under the snide heading, "If You Don't Like Your Democratic Representative, You Don't Have To Keep Them (sic)." (The NRCC seems to have been infected by the same bad-grammar/bad-spelling bug that runs rampant among teabaggers.) The NRCC then pretentiously informed Florida voters that "In 2014, They Get to Press the Restart Button." (Oh, God, it's a reset button, not a restart button. Can't these GOP tools get anything right?)
The Republicans then excoriated me for voting for ObamaCare and then . . . wait for it . . . against repealing it! So, scandalously, the charge against me is that I was for ObamaCare before I was for it. As U2 used to say, "I stand accused of the things I've said." ("When Love Comes to Town" (1989) ed.)
And here is the clincher the Republicans say that these actions make me an "ObamaCare co-conspirator." Woooooooooo.
Listen, you don't have to put me in a hypnotic trance to get me to admit that I support universal, comprehensive and affordable healthcare for every American. Call me crazy if you want, but I believe that all Americans should be able to see doctors when they are sick, and get the care that they need to stay healthy and alive. I prefer that position to the Republican healthcare plan: "Don't get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly."
But here's the thing: We're nowhere near the 2014 election, and yet already, the Republican Party is on the warpath, whacking at me. Shades of 2010, when they called me their #1 target, and spent more than $1 million to defeat me.
So I have to ask you would you please help? Would you please give us the resources that we need to defeat their lies with our truth? Would you please contribute to our campaign? $25 or $35 or $50 can make a big difference, and every dollar counts.
As I explained a few weeks ago, the best way that you can do that is to become a "sustainer," making monthly contributions to our campaign. But even if it's just this once, please give what you can give. Please.
Don't let them threaten me. Don't even let them bust my chops, and try to silence us. Our work is too important for that. You know it, and I'm counting on you.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Fri Dec 6, 2013, 10:39 PM (36 replies)
It hurts me to say this, but I recognize that I'm not the only one who says things that are worth listening to. So, from time to time, I'm going to turn over this "bully pulpit" to someone else. Today, I turn it over to someone who knows a thing or two about pulpits, Pope Francis. A week ago, he released his first apostolic exhortation, called "The Joy of the Gospel." I respectfully request that you take a few moments to read an excerpt from it, below. I found it fascinating, and I think that you will, too.
No to an economy of exclusion
Just as the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say "thou shalt not" to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.
Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a "throw-away" culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society's underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the "exploited" but the outcast, the "leftovers".
In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naοve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people's pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else's responsibility, and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.
No to the new idolatry of money
One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Exodus 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise, in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.
While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies, and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.
No to a financial system which rules rather than serves
Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God. Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision. It is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person. In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response which is outside the categories of the marketplace. When these latter are absolutized, God can only be seen as uncontrollable, unmanageable, even dangerous, since he calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom from all forms of enslavement. Ethics a non-ideological ethics would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social order. With this in mind, I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: "Not to share one's wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs". (Saint John Chrysostom, De Lazaro Concio, II, 6: PG 48, 992D.)
A financial reform open to such ethical considerations would require a vigorous change of approach on the part of political leaders. I urge them to face this challenge with determination and an eye to the future, while not ignoring, of course, the specifics of each case. Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and to the return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favors human beings.
No to the inequality which spawns violence . . . .
Today's economic mechanisms promote inordinate consumption, yet it is evident that unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves doubly damaging to the social fabric. Inequality eventually engenders a violence which recourse to arms cannot and never will be able to resolve. It serves only to offer false hopes to those clamoring for heightened security, even though nowadays we know that weapons and violence, rather than providing solutions, create new and more serious conflicts. Some simply content themselves with blaming the poor and the poorer countries themselves for their troubles; indulging in unwarranted generalizations, they claim that the solution is an "education" that would tranquilize them, making them tame and harmless. All this becomes even more exasperating for the marginalized in the light of the widespread and deeply rooted corruption found in many countries in their governments, businesses and institutions whatever the political ideology of their leaders.
To which I simply wish to add:
Rep. Alan Grayson
P.S. For more on this, please visit us at CongressmanWithGuts.com.
Posted by Alan Grayson | Thu Dec 5, 2013, 05:05 PM (9 replies)
According to the D.C. playbook, when I was elected to minority party in the U.S. House of Representatives last year, I was supposed to divide my time equally between:
1. Twiddling my thumbs, and
2. Bringing my hands together in prayer praying that the House Democrats would win the 2014 election.
Well, I tossed out that playbook. And you and I are writing a different playbook based on action. We are paying attention, working hard, and getting good things done.
A few weeks ago, I discovered a novel way for you and me, together, to help prevent any more Wall Street bailouts.
Federal bank regulators have proposed new rules that would require huge Wall Street banks (those deemed "too big to fail") to keep an extra $89 billion on hand, to cover unforeseen losses. The regulators asked for public comments. And boy, did we ever comment.
All I had to do was let you know about it, and the responses came pouring into our website, NoBankWelfare.com. Here are some examples:
"One bailout was one too many." Kathleen in Nevada
"Lost all my hard-earned money in 2008. Don't want a replay." Turia in Oregon
"STOP THE GLUTTONY!!" Steven in Florida
All told, more than 100,000 of us submitted comments, which I then delivered to the federal regulators. Amazing! As far as we know, that's the largest number of comments these bank regulators have ever received. For that, we should all feel very proud.
But I am also a little shocked. Why? Because I was the first Member of Congress to undertake any sort of meaningful action on this. And I don't even sit on the House Financial Services Committee, which conducts oversight on the banks. (Although under the Tea Party Republicans, "oversee" generally means "overlook.")
In any case, you and I, working together, put a big hurt on the big banks. They squealed like stuck pigs. In their comments to the regulators, the suits on Wall Street used twenty-dollar words like "excessive" and "highly arbitrary" to condemn the proposed commonsense requirements. They complained that the rules would put them at a disadvantage against other banks. Oh, poor, poor Wall Street banks! We feel so sorry for you! Show us your booboo, and we will kiss it and make you feel better.
And after that, I respectfully would ask the big banks on Wall Street please to explain to us what they've done to prevent a replay of 2008, when they wiped out one-fifth of the entire wealth of this nation, accumulated over two centuries, in only 18 months. Lots of just plain folks lost their jobs, their savings and their homes, while Wall Street bankers laughed all the way to the bank their bank.
Politics is a team sport, and that's the way it was here. I want to thank the progressive groups who joined in this effort: the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), CREDO Action and Progressives United. We are all in this together, fighting to prevent any more big bank bailouts, and make Wall Street clean up its own messes. Thank you.
If you think that ending taxpayer bailouts is time well spent, please consider chipping in $25 to my campaign, or whatever you can afford. I'll use it not only to beat the Republicans in 2014, but also for campaigns like this, where we can fight and beat Big Greed.
And if you really like these kinds of collective efforts, then please become a Grayson sustainer, where you contribute monthly and automatically.
Regardless, you can count on this: The People, united, will never be defeated.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Sun Dec 1, 2013, 01:11 PM (13 replies)