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Death by Dogma: Charlene Dill Didn’t Have to Die
19 April 2014 - 8:20am
The Ryan Budget: How I Spent My Weekend
7 April 2014 - 6:56pm
Money, Money, Everywhere
5 April 2014 - 9:41pm
Koch Bros. Attack: Grayson = Obama = Liar
30 March 2014 - 8:15pm
Cokie Roberts Attacks: This Is How DC Works
29 March 2014 - 3:59pm
Death by Dogma: Charlene Dill Didn’t Have to Die
19 April 2014 - 8:20am

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. . . Except That They're Driving the Working Poor Over the Cliff

Republican-controlled States are refusing to take free federal money to expand Medicaid health care coverage to the working poor. My State, Florida, is one of them. The consequences of this callous GOP decision are grave. In a column for the Tampa Bay Times last week, I explained how grave they were for Charlene Dill – they put her in her grave. Please take a moment to read my piece, entitled “The price of ideology: a woman's life.”

I believe that every Floridian who is sick should be able to see a doctor. Every person should get the necessary care to stay healthy and alive. Sadly, not every Floridian can afford health care.

One of my constituents, Charlene Dill, could not afford it. Last month, at 32, Charlene died of heart disease, leaving her three young children behind.

This young mother didn't have to die.

Charlene knew she had a heart problem, but she couldn't afford the medications and frequent visits to the doctor. She worked three jobs but earned only $11,000 last year. With only $11,000 to feed her three children, keep a roof over their heads and pay the property taxes on her trailer, Charlene couldn't afford standard health coverage. And because she made more than $5,400, she was not eligible for free or reduced-cost coverage under Florida Medicaid.

Floridians with annual incomes between $5,400 and $11,400 are stuck in the "Medicaid expansion gap." Charlene Dill was one of an estimated 1 million uninsured Floridians who fell into that gap. It cost Charlene her life.

When Congress passed Obamacare, it included a provision to expand Medicaid coverage to the working poor, like Charlene. States expanding Medicaid would receive the full cost of that coverage from the federal government for three years, and then 90 percent of the cost after that. The U.S. Supreme Court determined that states could drop that expansion after the first three years, without penalty, and pay nothing.

The federal government committed more than $50 billion to fund Florida's Medicaid expansion. You might think that our cash-strapped state would be clamoring for money to provide health care to the sick and poor. But you would be wrong. Republican ideologues in the Legislature refused the money. And now, Charlene Dill is gone.

Florida has the second highest rate of uninsured individuals in the nation. Twenty percent of our state has no coverage. When these people get sick, they go to the emergency room. Emergency rooms cannot provide long-term care, manage chronic health conditions or provide lifesaving treatments on a one-off basis.

Charlene could never get the care from one single visit to the emergency room that she needed to stay alive. And she won't be the only one. One study estimates that approximately 1,158 to 2,221 Floridians will die each year as a result of Republicans' stubborn refusal to expand Medicaid.

Even if you leave aside the obvious moral merit of providing health care to nearly 1 million Floridians, the GOP's refusal to expand Medicaid defies any economic sense. Florida's forfeiture of tens of billions of federal dollars means that our federal tax dollars will instead pay for health coverage for the working poor in New York, California and other states that expanded Medicaid. But our own residents will receive nothing. That's a high price to pay for the GOP's blind adherence to ideology.

The rejection of Medicaid funding is only the latest instance of our GOP state legislators putting party politics ahead of what's good for Florida. Their intractable opposition to the President has led them repeatedly to turn down federal aid with no strings attached — money that is urgently needed in central Florida.

In 2011, GOP lawmakers attempted to block $8.3 million in federal aid to allow the Osceola County Health Department to expand its community health centers. Why? Because they didn't like Obamacare.

Lawmakers also turned down $2.1 million over a five-year period to help elderly and disabled nursing home patients regain independence and move back home — again, because they didn't like Obamacare. (Ironically, the same legislators so morally opposed to accepting any money from Obamacare made an exception for $2.6 million in funding for "abstinence-only" sex education.)

Republican legislators argue that accepting funds from a bill that they opposed would be politically "inconsistent." But what is more important, saving face or saving lives?

To Republican lawmakers in Tallahassee, on behalf of all of Florida, I have one request of you: Choose life. Expand Medicaid. Take the money. And spare 1 million Floridians from suffering, from sickness and from death.

Charlene Dill: R.I.P.

The Ryan Budget: How I Spent My Weekend
7 April 2014 - 6:56pm

The Ryan Budget Resolution was circulated to Members of Congress at 7 p.m. on Friday. It’s 100+ pages. Amendments were due at noon today, i.e., Monday. That’s the new normal in the GOP House – accomplish nothing, and do it quickly.

Hypothetically, if you wanted to distill every form of right-wing economic lunacy into a 100-page document, then hypothetically, it would be the Ryan Budget. It’s all in there, and I had to cuddle up with it this weekend. Tax cuts for the rich, the so-called “job creators.” Tax cuts for multinational corporations, the other so-called “job creators.” (Why don’t they ever call them by their real name: the “job exporters”?) Cuts in middle-class tax benefits, like the deduction for pension benefits and IRAs, to pay for this. (Robin Hood in reverse.) Cuts in Medicaid and food stamps, because, you know, the Republicans want to make millions of sick, hungry poor people more self-reliant. A legal requirement to force the President to propose legislation to cut Social Security benefits and/or raise Social Security taxes, to make Obama do the Republicans’ dirty work for them. Big jumps in student loan interest rates. And massive increases in military expenditures.

Republican “ideas” – don’t they just stink? Don’t they just stink out loud? Like with a bullhorn – that loud?

And bear in mind that this is not some Monty Python proposal, put forth by the People’s Front of Judea, or even the Judean People’s Front. No, this is a resolution written by the gentleman who might be Vice President today, if Mitt Romney weren’t such a fop.

The weather was very nice in Central Florida this weekend. I could have spent the time at the beach. But duty called, so instead I read though that compendium of cruelty, that syllabus of stupidity, that oeuvre of offal, that digest of dreck.

(“So how do you really feel about it, Alan?”)

And then got to work. Before the noon deadline today, I introduced eight amendments to the Ryan Budget Resolution. Here they are:

(1) “Nothing in this resolution shall be construed to mandate, support or require any reduction in Social Security or Medicare benefits.” (Last year, I delivered to Speaker Boehner’s office almost 3,000,000 signatures on a petition saying this; let’s see whether he listened.)

(2) For Medicare, rather than defending from benefit cuts only “those in or near retirement,” I would protect “everyone.” (Yes, everyone – including you.)

(3) For Social Security, rather than requiring the President to introduce legislation to cut benefits, I would require him to introduce legislation NOT to cut benefits.

(4) Rather than increasing student loan interest rates, I would cut them until they are no higher than what Wall Street pays for loans from the Federal Reserve. (Thank you, Senator Elizabeth Warren, for this proposal.)

(5) The Ryan Budget Resolution has a sentence regarding so-called “free trade” that says, “The idea that global expansion [meaning outsourcing] tends to hollow out US operations is incorrect.” I would change “incorrect” to “correct” – possibly the shortest amendment in history (only two letters!).

(6) As between men and women, equal pay for equal work.

(7) Prohibiting the destruction of middle-class tax breaks like exclusion of employer healthcare coverage from income, the deductibility of pensions and IRAs, etc., for the purpose of lowering tax rates on the rich.

(8) Instead of cramming more and more cash down the gaping maw of the military-industrial complex, we change federal spending priorities in order to achieve full employment. (For instance, a million dollars spent on a bridge creates roughly four times as many U.S. jobs as a million dollars spent on the military – and after it’s spent, we have a bridge.)

So, that’s how I spent my weekend. House of Cards will just have to wait. (So please, no spoilers in your comments.)

Thanks to gerrymandering and Big Money, my party, the Democratic Party, is a minority in the U.S. House of Representatives. Even though my party received 1.5 million more votes in the last election, there are 235 Republicans and only 200 Democrats in the House. The Rules Committee decides on which amendments the House votes. Thanks to internal gerrymandering, the GOP outnumber the Democrats on that committee by 9 to 4. So there is a good chance that none of my amendments will ever come to a House vote.

So what? At least I did my job. As Dylan Thomas would say, I will not go gently into that good night. I will rage, rage, against the dying of the light.

I’m willing to fight for Social Security, Medicare, student loans, U.S. jobs, equal pay, progressive taxation and full employment. I know that a lot of people are counting on me to do just that.

Including you.

Courage,

Rep. Alan Grayson

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

- Dylan Thomas, “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” (1951).

Money, Money, Everywhere
5 April 2014 - 9:41pm

Before we say anything else, we want to say thanks to the thousands of supporters who contributed to our campaign last week. And if you aren’t one of them, don’t worry; we’ll still take your contribution -- with a smile. Just click on that CONTRIBUTE button on the bottom of this page.

This op-ed written by Congressman Alan Grayson was featured by In These Times last month. Read it and share it with your friends and family.

I read a number of finance-industry newsletters. I want to share with you a recent excerpt from one of them. Here it is:


$1,265,836,000,000.

This is the amount of cash that S&P 500 companies (excluding banks and other financial institutions) are currently sitting on. As of the beginning of the third quarter, the largest U.S. companies collectively held $1.27 trillion. That’s about 13.5 percent more than this time last year.

Where is this cash coming from? Well, borrowing accounts for some of it. But mostly, it’s that companies are simply generating cash faster than they are spending it.

Companies sitting on cash — the financial newsletter thinks that this is great news! Spectacular news! How nice — for them.

Here is more great news for Big Business: Corporations have been largely excused from paying taxes. The Government Accountability Office found earlier this year that the average effective tax rate on U.S. corporations is only 12.6 percent of their income. That’s low enough to make Mitt Romney jealous. Hooray, say the financial newsletters! More spectacular news!

In fact, the corporate income tax has been performing a magical disappearing act for decades. In 1952, corporate income tax revenues totaled 6 percent of GDP. The average during our enormous post-war economic expansion, between 1945 and 1970, was more than 4 percent of GDP. Since then, in every year, it has been less than 3 percent. In 1983, Reagan’s tax breaks knocked corporate income tax revenue as a percentage of GDP all the way down to 1 percent. It returned to that pitifully low level in the first year of the Obama administration, and it has remained below 2 percent. No wonder the corporate cash pile keeps growing and growing and growing.

But what about the non-corporate entities in America? How are those bags of flesh and bones known as “human beings” faring?

Well, 11 million of us are unemployed and more than 7 million of us have part-time jobs, but can’t find full-time work. And in the past 10 years, the U.S. labor force participation rate has shrunk by 3 percent. Among those who are fortunate enough to find work, the average pay is a whopping $24 an hour. According to a University of Michigan report, around 1 in 5 households in America has a negative net worth — they owe more than they own. In addition, 48 million Americans have no health coverage, and 48 million rely on food stamps to stave off hunger.

Don’t expect the next generation of red, white and blue meat-bags to do much better. One fifth of all American children live in households trying to survive on less than $2,000 a month. Many of these children go to bed hungry; is it any wonder that our schools are producing students whose math scores, by one measure, are among the worst in the world?

A Tale of Two Cities, the novel by Charles Dickens, begins with the famous words, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” In America today, it is the best of times for multinational corporations and their CEOs. But for ordinary people, it’s pretty bad, and getting worse.

For non-corporeal entities, times are good. For flesh and bone, bad.

Legal fictions, good. Mothers, fathers, sons, daughters — all bad.

I submit to you that there is a connection between those two things, a connection generally known as “cause and effect.” There are several such connections, in fact.

First, inequality causes poverty through simple arithmetic. If the richest 1% is taking half of everything, the highest in our history, but also the highest in any industrialized country.

According to the CIA World Factbook, our Gini coefficient — a statistical measure of income inequality — places us between Venezuela and Uruguay, with far more inequality than every major European or East Asian nation. Our inequality is surpassed largely by a bunch of African countries.

Second, inequality causes poverty through economic mismanagement. As that finance newsletter proudly states, huge corporations don’t spend their money; they just sock it away. And the same thing is true of rich people, and banks, and multi-national corporations. The 400 individuals on the Forbes 400 list alone have accumulated more than $2 trillion in wealth, the great majority of which remains in their pockets year after year. We are ending up with enormous pools of cash that have been drained from the real economy, and are not reinvested in it.

We have a national economy with a maximum possible economic output of $16 trillion each year, but much of it ends up in deep pockets with no holes, just sitting there. This creates a massive and chronic shortage in “aggregate demand,” a problem that John Maynard Keynes accurately described 75 years ago. If we allow demand to fall short, then unemployment explodes. Hence we paper over the evaporation of all that money from aggregate demand with federal deficits, “quantitative easing” and enormous personal debt.

But it doesn’t matter, because the existence of all those people without jobs — what Marx called a “reserve army of the unemployed” — still fuels poverty by decimating wages. Desperate people bid down the price of labor simply to survive. Average wages, adjusted for inflation, haven’t increased since the 1970s. America is becoming a nation of cheap labor. And the notion that in such circumstances, burgeoning business profits somehow will magically increase wages and create jobs is delusional. They haven’t, and they won’t.

The misconception that the so-called job creators will deploy corporate profits to take risks, to reinvest, to expand and, ultimately, to employ more people is a right-wing pipe dream. They might be doing that in China; they sure aren’t doing that in America. Businesses see labor simply as a cost. Business tries to reduce that cost as much as possible, in order to boost profits as much as possible. Business is not in the business of creating jobs. Business is in the business of maximizing profit. Business hires labor only when it can make a profit from that labor. If any business could eliminate its labor force entirely, it would. And many actually do just that, through subcontracting, outsourcing, offshoring and other measures that reduce compensation or eradicate the labor force.

So please forgive me if, when I read in a financial newsletter that giant corporations are “sitting on” $1,265,836,000,000 “in cash,” I don’t feel like breaking out the champagne. I see it as a funeral pyre for the American Middle Class.

A system that taxes Warren Buffett’s secretary at a higher rate than Warren Buffett stokes the flames of that funeral pyre. A system that provides for corporate tax loopholes that are as large as corporate tax revenue stokes the flames of that funeral pyre. We create that system, and it’s breaking us, from within.

Those are the facts. The Sturm und Drang that you see on the evening news is a desperate effort to avoid those facts. And the deep, deep question in our political system today is this: Are we going to do anything about it?

Koch Bros. Attack: Grayson = Obama = Liar
30 March 2014 - 8:15pm

The Koch Brothers are continuing to run dirty attack ads against me in my district. No surprise there; they’ve been doing it since November. If there is a surprise, it’s how brazen and mendacious those Koch Brothers ads have become. Let me boil down their current ad campaign for you:

Grayson = Obama = Liar

Support our campaign today, and help us beat back these disgusting attack ads.

President Obama isn’t on the ballot this year. And when he was on the ballot, he won more votes than any American in history – twice. But the Koch Brothers think that they can defeat me by dragging President Obama through the mud, and me with him.

The anti-Grayson ads begin by claiming that President Obama told “the lie of the year,” and that I “backed him up.” They’re referring – in their usual abusive fashion – to the fact that President Obama said that if you like your current insurance, then you can keep it under Obamacare. Which actually is true – unless your insurance company refuses to renew it. It’s not Obamacare that’s ending the coverage, it’s the insurance companies. Personally, I’d love to see a law that requires health insurance companies to renew policies. Unfortunately, Obamacare is not that law. The GOP prevented such a law, claiming that that would be “socialism.” So what has happened is:

(1) Republicans blocked and attacked a law that would require insurance companies to renew policies;
(2) Obamacare undertook to make health insurance universal, comprehensive and affordable, without the provision the GOP blocked;
(3) Because President Obama undertook this effort, the Koch Brothers now label him the Liar of the Year; and
(4) I get taken along for the same ride.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Koch Brothers ads. Please help our campaign, and give us what we need to fight back.

But wait – it gets worse. The Koch Brothers attack ad also complains that “healthcare costs [are] up.” Yes, last year, healthcare costs rose, by the lowest amount on record. Furthermore, the Koch Brothers complain that “help [for] the uninsured” is “not working.” Yes – because Republicans in the Florida State Legislature prohibited the expansion of Medicaid to over one million Floridians, even though it would have cost the state nothing.

Don’t you just hate sick, lying ads like these Koch Brothers ads? Well, let’s do something about it.

Campaigns are all about communications. What the voters see and hear. And the biggest propaganda megaphone in America is spewing out lie after lie against me. That’s why I need your help.

I need to counter their lies with our truth. I need to counter their subterfuge with our facts. I need to counter their evil with our righteousness.

You can watch silently as the world drowns in Koch Brothers fibs, fables, fictions, fabrications, forgeries and falsehoods. Or you can help our campaign beat them back.

Beat the lies. Contribute to our campaign today.

Courage,

Rep. Alan Grayson

Cokie Roberts Attacks: This Is How DC Works
29 March 2014 - 3:59pm

Recently, ABC infohack Cokie Roberts, doyenne of the D.C. Establishment, attacked me in her nationally syndicated column. Why? Because I dared to speak the truth about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a so-called "free trade agreement" that has lobbyists and Washington insiders alike clamoring to stuff their pockets with corrupt corporate cash. And because I dared to speak the truth about “Fast Track,” legislation whose sole purpose is to cram TPP and other corporate rip-offs down our throats.

By attacking me, Cokie Roberts unintentionally has provided a fascinating case study in how Washington, D.C. really works. Her attack on me was really an attack on the American middle class. Her attack on me was an attack on you.

Let’s look at the facts. Our corporatized “free trade” policy has been an abject failure. It began with NAFTA, which impoverished workers in both the United States and abroad, solely for the benefit of wealthy corporate special interests. So has every “free trade” deal since. For the past dozen years, every year, the United States has run the largest trade deficits of any country, anywhere in the world, at any time in history. Since NAFTA went into effect, our trade deficits total $10,000,000,000,000.00, or one-sixth of our national net worth. We are buying foreign goods and assets, putting foreigners to work. Instead of buying our goods and services, they are buying our assets, driving us deeper and deeper into debt. We lose – twice.

For five years now, our so-called “Trade Representative” has conspired in secret with multinational corporations to give away our sovereignty, refusing even our elected representatives access to negotiations. “Fast Track” legislation simply is a ploy to jam the resulting surrender to multinational corporations through Congress, without hearings, without mark-ups, without amendments and even without significant debate. The real problem today is our towering trade deficit, and both “Fast Track” and TPP would make that worse.

But that’s not how Cokie Roberts, the daughter of two Members of Congress and a consummate Washington insider, sees it. She quoted some of what I’ve said, and then she said: “Liberal ideologues like Grayson are flat-out wrong.”

Let’s take a look at the evidence that Cokie Roberts offers to try to prove that she’s right and I’m wrong. She touts the fact that the United States exports $2 trillion in goods and services each year. While she ignores the fact that the United States has been importing nearly $3 trillion in goods and services each year. (Note to Cokie: three is more than two.) She touts the “fact” that trade supposedly “supports” almost 10 million jobs in the United States. While she ignores the fact that imports cost us even more jobs; in fact, we’ve lost five million manufacturing jobs to “free trade” during the past two decades.

Are you disgusted by this crooked and underhanded attack by Cokie Roberts? Do you oppose “free trade” giveaways? If so, please pledge $10 per month to our campaign now, to “honor” of the “almost 10 million jobs” that Cokie Roberts claims "free trade agreements" support in the imaginary world that she lives in.

To top it all off, Cokie Roberts then quoted this vapid and inane remark by the U.S. Trade Representative: "Trade is critical to America's prosperity." It would be far more accurate to say that trade is critical to the prosperity of America’s lobbyists. Lobbyists like Cokie Roberts’s brother, for instance.

And now we get to the heart of the matter, today’s lesson in how Washington, D.C. works – for people like Cokie Roberts. And her brother.

Why is Cokie Roberts ignoring the trade deficit, that 800-billion-pound gorilla in the room? Could it possibly be because her brother’s law firm represents a slew of multinational corporations and foreign governments who stand to benefit from the TPP? In just the Middle East, that firm’s client list includes Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait. That was good enough for Cokie’s brother’s firm to take in a whopping $40 million in lobbying fees in 2013 alone.

Cokie’s brother’s firm has represented scads of multinational corporations who just can't get enough of "free trade agreements." Last year alone, Goldman Sachs poured $480,000 into the coffers of that firm. Citigroup tossed in another $300,000. And Halliburton and Exxon Mobil shelled out tens of thousands of dollars, too.

(If you question whether Cokie Roberts would bend over backwards to help her brother’s lobbying firm, then consider this: Dianna Ortiz is an American nun who was tortured and raped by the Guatemalan junta. Cokie Roberts’s brother’s law firm represented the Guatemalan junta. Cokie Roberts claimed on the air, with no basis whatsoever, that Ortiz had fabricated her story. Ortiz then proved it in court, and won a $5 million judgment.)

Cokie Roberts's attack against me is designed to discredit not only me, but also to discredit the concerns of ordinary Americans -- like you -- in order to protect the Washington elite: corporate lobbyists, corrupt insiders, millionaires and billionaires, multinational corporations, big banks, the Halliburtons and Exxon Mobils of the world, and other economic aristocrats who would benefit from these "free trade" giveaways. In short, the people who think that they own us.

The D.C. Establishment doesn’t know what to do about me, because I am unbossed and unbought. Lobbyists don't like me, because I stand against their "free trade" giveaways, their bailouts, their no-bid contracts and their tax breaks. Billionaires fund my opponents' campaigns. Not mine.

If you don't like the TPP and other "free trade" giveaways, then invest in our campaign right now. If you don't like multinational corporations who try to buy laws that benefit them, then invest in our campaign now.

Washington's corporate elite relies on people like Cokie Robert to attack people like me, because I'm speaking for people like you. If you think that Cokie Roberts is wrong, that the way that the Washington, D.C. elite do business is wrong, then invest in our campaign now. With only $10 or $25 or $50 from you, every month, I can afford to keep standing up for us.

Monday marks our Federal Election Commission report cut-off date. We are under attack. And when I say “we,” I don’t just mean “me.” I mean that the American middle class is under attack. I mean that you’re under attack. When I say “we,” I mean you and me.

We are fighting for justice, equality, and peace. We are paying attention, we are working hard, and we are getting things done. And because of that, I am under attack. I need your help, and I need it today. Every dollar counts. Our deadline is midnight on Monday. Please contribute today.

Courage,

Rep. Alan Grayson

Candidate for Congress (D-FL)

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