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Alan Grayson

Profile Information

Member since: Sat May 22, 2010, 01:02 PM
Number of posts: 394

Journal Archives

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.

Courage,

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.

Courage,

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.
https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/graysonsupportswalmartstrikers?refcode=Dec11DU

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.

Contribute

“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.
https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/workingpoorbetterlife?refcode=Dec08DU

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.
https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/workingpoorbetterlife?refcode=Dec08DU

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.
https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/workingpoorbetterlife?refcode=Dec08DU

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.
https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/workingpoorbetterlife?refcode=Dec08DU

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.
https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/workingpoorbetterlife?refcode=Dec08DU

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.
https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/workingpoorbetterlife?refcode=Dec08DU

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.
https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/workingpoorbetterlife?refcode=Dec08DU

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:

CONGRATULATIONS REPRESENTATIVE GRAYSON!!!!!!!! "THE SPINE" OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY HAS RETURNED!!!! – Donnell

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

YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY – Fred

And then there was this:

You are a Rock Star w/Huge Balls – unsigned

Thank you all.

Courage,

Rep. Alan Grayson

My Thanksgiving – A Turkey Sandwich at WalMart

I did not spend Thanksgiving evening with my wife and my five children. I spent it, instead, handing out turkey sandwiches to workers in WalMart. And showing my support for one brave soul who walked off the job in protest against exploitation.

WalMart “associates” make an average of just more than $10 an hour. That means that if they manage to get a full 40 hours a week – and many don’t – they get paid $1,700 a month, before taxes. Somehow, that is supposed to pay for their food, shelter, clothing and medical care, and that of their children. Quite a trick.

In state after state, the largest group of Medicaid recipients is WalMart employees. I’m sure that the same thing is true of food stamp recipients. Each WalMart “associate” costs the taxpayers an average of more than $1,000 in public assistance.

How underpaid are WalMart employees? This underpaid: if every one of them got a 30% raise, WalMart would still be profitable.

WalMart employees in the United States are not unionized. WalMart has used every trick in the book to prevent its employees from organizing. In 2005, in Canada, WalMart closed a store that had voted to go union. Recently, in Orlando, WalMart fired an employee who had just talked about unionizing. When he came back into the store, many days afterward, to say hello to his former colleagues, they handcuffed him.

It’s time to do something about this.

So on Thanksgiving, knowing that WalMart employees were missing dinner with their families, we walked into the local WalMart and handed out dinner to them. We gave them a paper bag that had three things in it: (a) a turkey sandwich, (b) a bag of chips, and (c) a letter explaining their right to organize.

There were two points to this. One was to inform the workers of their rights. And the other was to demonstrate to them, vividly, that they are not alone.

The WalMart manager had the police escort us out of the building. For handing out sandwiches. And for showing WalMart employees that they are not alone.

One brave “associate,” who had had enough of this mistreatment, walked out with us. Which is her right, under the law, to protest WalMart’s unfair labor practices. In fact, a while back, 200 employees walked out of a WalMart store, all at the same time. That really shook up the bosses.

By the way, she made sure that she finished serving her customer before she left. She’s that kind of person. WalMart actually could use a few more like her.

I showed my support. I gave her a hug.

And so it begins. WalMart accounts for more than ten percent of all of 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.

Who will win? I don’t know. But I do know whose side I’m on. And I know that I’m not alone.

Courage,

Rep. Alan Grayson

"Let's Stop Stealing From the Poor. They Have No Money Left."

Last week, Alan Grayson joined former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer on Spitzer’s national TV show “Viewpoint.” The subject was priorities for the new Congress. Here is what they said:

ELIOT: Democratic Congressman-Elect Alan Grayson, newly elected in Florida’s redrawn 9th Congressional District, joins me now. Congressman, many thanks for your time. {Your speech on the Republican healthcare plan, “don’t get sick,”} was one of the most memorable moments in a memorable healthcare debate. It sent ripples through the “chattering class,” as we refer to it. Those insiders who think they know everything. They said, “Man, who is this guy?” It is great to see and hear your voice back in Washington. You will unsettle and ruffle a few feathers. So congratulations. What is number one on your agenda?

ALAN GRAYSON: To make John Boehner cry. {Laughter.} That’s so easy.

ELIOT: Congressman, that’s too easy for you. Come on, I want you to pick something harder than that.

ALAN: Oh, how about full employment? Or universal healthcare? What about that?

ELIOT: All right. Look, you are going to go to Washington to push a progressive agenda. How comfortable are you that after {the election} the President understands that this is now a time for a grand agenda, not just a “grand bargain”?

ALAN: It remains to be seen. It’s just too early to say. I couldn’t tell from watching the campaign. I couldn’t tell from his {victory} speech. I just don’t know. I don’t know if the President is going to try to fight for the Middle Class, fight to make America more equal, fight for the 99%, or whether the President is just going to try to play checkers with the other side, and see how that works out.

ELIOT: There is enormous pressure, even though the public doesn’t appreciate this, enormous pressure within the Beltway to reach a compromise, to play nice, and not to say things that sometimes need to be said, but are not comfortable for people to hear. And so, I sense, and the reason I am so excited about your going back to Washington is that you will push the White House, and hold them accountable if they cave too quickly. What should the President’s first offer to John Boehner be?

ALAN: Or if they cave {at all}. Wait a minute. Why talk about caving at all? The Democrats won the election. And I’ll tell you this -- I’m upset by the idea that we would try to make our fiscal policy somehow more sound at the expense of our seniors. I don’t understand why we want to do that. Why are we taking from the people who have nothing, in order to feed the rich? I just don’t get that. I don’t understand why. I’m against cuts in benefits for Social Security -- period. I’m against cuts in benefits in Medicare -- period. We’re just going to find another way to solve the deficit problem. We have to, because it is not fair to the seniors. We’re not going to throw Grandma from the train, as long as I’m going to have anything to say about it.
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ELIOT: Which means that you are going to propose, you and those who agree with you (and I’m one of them) a tax policy, a tax plan that will take us in a more progressive direction, that will close the loopholes. Will you actually lay out for the White House, you and colleagues say, “Here in the Progressive Caucus, here is the plan, the alternative plan that will get us where we need to go?” And when would you do that for us?

ALAN: Yes, every year the Progressive Caucus has proposed an alternative budget. This goes back for a long, long time. And the alternative budget is based, in part, upon progressive taxation: The idea that Mitt Romney should not be paying less in taxes than the secretary who works for Warren Buffet or anybody else. The idea that the rich should pay their fair share. . . .We {should} go back to the principle that a dollar is a dollar, and just because you are rich and you get it through capital gains doesn’t mean you get some sort of special tax break, or if you get it through qualified dividends you get some special tax break. If we go back to the {common} sense that a dollar is a dollar, that they’re all green, {so} let’s tax them equally, that itself would go substantially to reduce the deficit. That tax break alone is over $100 billion a year.
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ELIOT: Well the notion of saying, as you just did, capital gains income is the same thing as ordinary income, taxing them in an equal way, it was actually in Simpson-Bowles, {but} of course people want to ignore that. And a critical report just came out from the Congressional Research Service saying that the premise of the entire Republican tax policy, which is that lowering tax rates on capital increases investment, is wrong. And it seems to me if you argue that point to the public, they will understand that what you’re proposing is the right way to go, both on equity grounds and on economic development grounds.

ALAN: Yes, and let’s stop stealing from the poor. They just don’t have any money left.
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ELIOT: I think that after what has been going on recently, that’s certainly the case. Is there some irony that you appreciate that Allen West lost and you won? Do you see this as the shift in the tectonic plates of politics?

ALAN: It’s a massive upgrade in Alans. That’s how I see it. Possibly the greatest upgrade in Alans that humanity has ever seen.
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ELIOT: Well it’s a good thing you and he aren’t going to have desks right next to each other. I think maybe he would disagree with you. But I’ll leave that since he’s now out and you are in, and let’s hope it continues that way. But it is kind of remarkable because the Tea Party got a thumping that nobody could have predicted two years ago. What do you think happened in the public that led to this?

ALAN: Well, I think there has been some abating in the public’s willingness to listen to nonsense from the Koch Brothers, and the health insurance companies, and Karl Rove, and all these people who gin up all these fancy ads that mean nothing. I think that, unfortunately, the public has reached a point where it simply doesn’t believe what it sees on TV and therefore, their so-called magic is not working any longer. But I think on a deeper level, what it means is this: The reason why the party is over for the Tea Party is that they couldn’t come up with any solutions to any problems. Here it is, more than three years later since I made that {“don’t get sick”} speech, and it is still true that as far as the Tea Party is concerned, if you don’t have health insurance, then as far as they’re concerned if you get sick, you’re out of luck. You know, just don’t get sick. That was true then, and it’s true now. Whether you are talking about employment, you’re talking about education, you’re talking about benefits, you’re talking about anything that actually matters in people’s lives, healthcare, housing, {etc.}, they’ve got no answers to anything. So of course they are going to fail. That’s a political dead end. They’re ignoring the voters, so sooner or later the voters are going to ignore them.
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ELIOT: Congressman, I think that’s exactly right. What the Republicans found so problematic about that speech you gave on the Floor was its accuracy. You lanced the boil of their policies through the simplicity of how you articulated it. All I can say is that it is wonderful to have you back. Congratulations on your win. Democratic Congressman-Elect Alan Grayson of Florida, we look forward to having you on this show in months ahead.

ALAN: Thank you, thank you very much.

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"This is An Artificial Crisis, to Steal From the Middle Class"

A few days ago, Alan Grayson was back on national TV with Cenk Uygur, host of “The Young Turks,” talking about the so-called “fiscal cliff.” Here is what they said:

CENK UYGUR: What’s unacceptable is how Washington continues to screw the Middle Class over. Now a guy who has been fighting against that is Representative Alan Grayson. He’s a former congressman and a future congressman because he just got elected to Florida’s (9th) District in Orlando. Congressman Grayson, (it’s) great to have you here. First of all, talk to me about the “Grand Bargain.” As it is currently structured, are you in favor of it or against it?

ALAN GRAYSON: I’m entirely against it. Look, Naomi Klein wrote a whole book about this, called The Shock Doctrine. This is an artificial shock. It’s being induced in order to be able to justify policies you could not possibly justify on their merits, and I think that people are getting very frustrated about this. The polls clearly show that over three quarters of the population doesn’t want any cuts in benefits in Social Security, or any cuts in benefits for Medicare, in order to be able to reduce the deficit. What they want, a majority, want cuts in the defense budget, and they want an end to the war in Afghanistan to reduce the deficit. And instead what we are seeing is this artificial creation (of a crisis), right after we saw a real crisis. We saw a real crisis in Hurricane Sandy, and that’s what a real crisis looks like. An artificial crisis is being instituted to steal from us, to steal from the Middle Class, and to steal from people in need.
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CENK: It’s so refreshing to hear a Democratic Congressman actually say that. https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/artificialcrisis?refcode=Nov14DU

So now, unfortunately, not only do you have the Republicans against you, it appears that you’ve got the Administration against you. They can’t wait to do this Grand Bargain. So how in the world do progressive Democrats fight back to make sure it doesn’t happen?

ALAN: Well, first we have to make sure people understand there is a third choice. We can’t have the Republican Party saying, “We want to strip away your Medicare and your Social Security,” like they do in the Ryan Budget, which they all voted for and which passed the House, and then have the Democratic Party say, “Have half.” That doesn’t work. There’s got to be a third alternative. Somebody has to say, “No, that’s just not the way we are going to do this. We’re not going to strip money from the people in need. We’re not going to throw Grandma from the train. We’re just not going to do it.”
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What you’re going to see is that this will become a litmus test. This will become a litmus test in the Democratic Party, in the same way that favoring tax cuts for the rich has become a litmus test for the Republican Party. Anybody who votes for cuts in Social Security and cuts in Medicare can expect a primary in the year 2014.
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CENK: That would be terrific. Now, as you go into this Congress, and unfortunately you are going to get there after the lame duck session, where they might cut this Grand Bargain. How much of a fighting squad do you have with you? How many progressives can stand up and actually say that? Is it a large enough block to actually throw a roadblock into what’s happening?

ALAN: Yes, but it shouldn’t come to that. The Democratic Party should be united. We are the Party that created Social Security. We are the Party that created Medicare. We should stand behind it. We should protect it. It’s amazingly popular among the voters. Why should we shoot ourselves in the head by saying we’re going to end these programs, we’re going to cut back these programs, when we created them and the voters love them?
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CENK: It is such a good question. Unfortunately there is no good answer for that, except for the fact that, of course, a lot of the Democratic Party establishment also takes money from corporations, and the rich and the powerful, and so no matter what the election says, the rich and the powerful including the defense contractors wind up winning anyway. We hope that you can be successful in your fight back on the policy issues. And, as always, thank you so much for joining us Congressman Grayson.

ALAN: Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure. Thank you.

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"If You Make the Voters Your Enemy, They Will Fight Back."

On the day after Election Day, Alan Grayson was back on national TV with Joy Behar, host of "Say Anything." Here is what they said:

JOY BEHAR: My first guest is returning to Congress after beating his opponent by 25 points last night in Florida. Wait, did I read that right? It's Florida. Are we sure he didn't beat the other guy by 25 votes? No? Oh, I read that right. Okay then, please welcome from Florida's 9th District, Congressman Alan Grayson. Thank you for joining me, Congressman. It's lovely to have you here. Congratulations on your win.

ALAN GRAYSON: Thank you. According to the House Historian, it's the biggest turnaround, the biggest comeback in the history of the U.S. House of Representatives.

JOY: It's a beautiful thing.

ALAN: I'm proud.

JOY: How good does it feel to know that Obama gets a second term? I know I'm elated about it. Are you?

ALAN: It gives us a chance to make some progress on solving our problems. I think that if Mitt Romney had been elected, it would have been all over. You would have seen no progress on employment, no progress on healthcare, no progress on housing, no progress on education, just giant steps backwards. So now we have a chance to go - as the President said - "forward."

JOY: It's funny because the Republicans I spoke to, a couple of Republicans I spoke to today were like, "Everything stays the same now, nothing changes." And yet you are saying everything will change.

ALAN: Well, I don't know. I'll tell you this: as much as I can do, things are going to change. We have big problems that need to be solved. We have 25 million people in this country who are looking for full-time work and can't find it. We need full employment. We have 50 million people in this country who can't see a doctor when they are sick. We need universal healthcare. There are all these problems that need to be solved. The fact that the cast of characters may not have changed much is irrelevant. What matters most are, "What are people's needs," and "What are you going to do about them?"

JOY: I was a little worried about the popular vote last night. But Romney ended up losing by almost 3 million. Is that enough to shut the Republicans up now about the popular vote, or are they gonna just kvetch about it still?

ALAN: No, he'll always be the President from Kenya, there's nothing to do about that. They just have this demented desire to try to discount his very existence as a human being. The reason why they're obsessed with his birth certificate is that they wanted to pretend that he wasn't even there, that he was never born, and that's not going to change. It didn't change the first time and it's not going to change the second time. But people now recognize that America wants to move forward. We have to address our real problems. People want justice, they want equality, and they want peace. And only the Democratic Party has any idea about how to deliver on that.

JOY: I agree with that. I want to talk to you, though, about voting in Florida, your state. Let me play a clip of what Vice President Al Gore said last night right here on Current about long lines in Florida, and about voter suppression. Let's watch it.

AL GORE: It is a strategy that is a direct descendant of the racist, Jim Crow tactics that were used in the wake of the Civil War to prevent black people from voting. It's more sophisticated now. It's dressed up in different kinds of language, but it is un-American. It is wrong. It is a disgrace to this country, and there ought to be a bipartisan movement to say, "Enough of this."

JOY: Your response, Congressman? Anything to respond to that?

ALAN: I think it's even worse than that, and far more dangerous. What the Republicans are doing is different from what they normally do. They normally try to vilify groups that can't fight back. They vilify the undocumented because they can't vote, so they can't retaliate. They vilify pregnant teenagers because they can't vote either. Here, they're vilifying the voters. They're attacking the voters. They're pissing the voters off, and that's a very dangerous thing for elected officials to do anywhere.

We had lines as long as six hours here in Central Florida to vote, and it was simply because the Republicans wanted it that way. It's because Rick Scott wanted it that way. It's because the Republican super-majorities in Tallahassee wanted it that way. If you make voters your enemy, the voters know that, and they are going to fight back.

JOY: Well it seems as though it is easier to register for a gun in Florida than it is to register to vote. Something has to be done. It's still up in the air, isn't it, Florida, at the time that we are speaking?

ALAN: Well, it's close, but the President is ahead by a significant margin. What matters here is that the Republicans have established themselves in the voters' minds as the anti-voting party. And it's a very short step to go from the anti-voting party to be the anti-voter party. People now recognize in a very fundamental, direct way that the Republicans do not have their interests at heart. If they won't let you vote, that means they're not going to do anything else for you either.

JOY: Tell me something. What is your prediction for the Tea Party? Because they seem to have taken a bit of a hit, not necessarily in Congress, but just generally. Do you think that they're done, or will they come roaring back? What do you think about that?

ALAN: I think the Tea Party is dead, because they would never talk about solutions to people's problems. You know, what people want to hear about is full employment. They want to hear about universal health care. They want hear about an end to discrimination. They want to hear about progressive, fair taxation for everybody. They want to hear about peace. They want to hear about the things that matter in their lives. Whether it is education or housing or healthcare or jobs, the Tea Party never had an answer for that. As I've said before, the Tea Party's answer when you didn't have health coverage, when you couldn't see a doctor when you're sick, was, "Don't get sick."

JOY: Right.

ALAN: And time and time again, whatever the issue was, it was always the same. They want to talk about some kind of nonsensical fabric that fills only their own heads and no one else's, and not deal with the real problems in people's lives. And that's a dead end. In politics, that's a dead end. You can't ignore the voters and expect support. You can't ignore the problems that people face that are too big for them to solve individually, and expect the voters are going to rally around you. The Tea Party was a Koch Brothers' construct right from the beginning, and now the construct has collapsed, like a house of cards.

JOY: Do you think the Koch Brothers will collapse?

ALAN: Well, you know, I think that their idea that they could manipulate 312 million people to do their bidding for them, that idea is collapsing. People are waking up. Their tools, the Koch Brothers tools, are basically lies repeated endlessly on TV. That tool is becoming ineffective. We're paying a price for it, because now people don't believe what they see on TV, and that's unfortunate. But the fact is the Koch Brothers have proven that you can't fool all the people all the time.

JOY: Thank you. Thank you, Abe Lincoln. Thank you, Alan Grayson. It's really a pleasure to speak to you, and congratulations again on your win.

ALAN: Thank you very much.

To see the video, or to support our campaign, click here.

"I'm back.
I'm back in the saddle again.
I'm riding, I'm loading up my pistol.
I'm riding, I really got a fistful.
I'm riding, I'm shining up my saddle.
I'm riding, this snake is gonna rattle."


- Aerosmith, "Back in the Saddle" (1976).
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