Recently, Congressman Alan Grayson joined former MSNBC anchor David Shuster on his current TV show, “Take Action News.” The subject: our "No Cuts" campaign to protect Social Security and Medicare.
From Politico to the New York Times to the Huffington Post to Stars and Stripes, the media has been covering our "No-Cuts.com" petition and letter. We've also been picking up supporters on Capitol Hill - 29 members of Congress have signed, and we're just getting started.
So sign our petition at http://www.no-cuts.com.
If you've already signed it, forward this email to your friends, family, or anyone you know who has paid for Social Security and Medicare. You can forward it by clicking here.
And now, here's Alan Grayson and David Shuster, talking about the politics of the issue, and why this matters to all of us.
David Shuster: Welcome back to "Take Action News"... We're going to talk with Congressman Alan Grayson. He has not exactly become a favorite of the Democratic Leadership in the House, because Congressman Grayson has had the audacity to somehow say, "Wait a second. We're not going to allow any cuts to Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits." He sent a letter to President Obama as such. It's gotten twenty signatories in the House. Congressman Grayson, welcome to the program.
Congressman Alan Grayson: Thank you. Thanks for having me on.
David: So what exactly has been the reaction from House [Democratic Leader] Nancy Pelosi and others? Do they tell you to turn it down? What are they asking you to do?
Alan: No, they never tell me to tone anything down. They understand that sometimes we need people on our side who are going to push and push and push, just to get anything done.
David: What's been the reaction from other Members? What -- are they intrigued? Are they -- I'm sort of wondering, the twenty that have signed on, what have they said?
Alan: They understand the need for it. Look, the other side is constantly trying to pound Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid into oblivion. If you speak to them -- and you usually have to speak to them "off the record" to get an honest answer -- but if you speak to them, many of the Republicans in the House will tell you that they regard these programs as unconstitutional. They think the government should be doing nothing but defending the country, and anything beyond that is just -- in their view -- unconstitutional and deeply wrong. If you go all the way back to the time of the creation of Social Security, you can find really horrible public statements by Herbert Hoover, among other people, saying that Social Security will undermine the "moral fiber" of the country, and so on and so forth. It's been that way for eighty years; it's not going to change anytime soon. We have to stand up to them. There are some things you just can't compromise on. You have to stand for something. And I think Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are three magnificent programs, created by Democrats, which have done so much good in this country, to lift the poor, the sick, and the elderly, out of poverty in this country. And to create a middle class that has some degree of safety, and can actually enjoy life. These are programs worth defending against the other side's attacks. There's no compromise between life and death. There's no compromise between right and wrong. These programs are about life and death. They are about right and wrong.
David: I want to ask you about a story our own Daniel Marans reported on earlier. That is that one of the advocates for making changes to Social Security (which would essentially be cuts) is former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell... He's used his analyst platform on MSNBC to argue for these changes. At the same time, neither he nor MSNBC (a place where I used to work), have disclosed that he works for "Fix the Debt." He's getting paid by that front group. Is that a problem?
Alan: Yes, but the deeper problem is that our people—the people who count on us -- our people, whom we represent, who support us, who have knocked on doors for us, who make telephone calls for us, who contribute to our campaigns—those people are starting to feel betrayed. It isn't expecting too much in expecting Democrats -- real Democrats, people who are elected with a "DEM" next to their names, true-blue Democrats -- those people are going to stand up and protect the things that we need. You see that the Republicans don't have any hesitation defending multi-national corporations, defending millionaires and billionaires, and doing it right up to the hilt, according to party line. Why can't we help and represent and be loyal to the people in need on our side, who are depending on us for some scrap of dignity in their lives?
David: We're talking to Congressman Alan Grayson. He represents a district that includes portions of Orlando. Congressman, I want to give my Executive Producer, Daniel Marans (he's been following this issue and other issues on Social Security), the opportunity to jump in here.
Daniel Marans: Congressman, thanks for joining us, we really appreciate it. Congressman, if the President gets what he wants and gets a grand bargain that includes "chained CPI," something that would cut Social Security when Social Security recipients are most vulnerable, in late old age or after years of disability -- what is the future? How can Progressives stop it? What is the future of retirement security and where do we go from there?
Alan: The way that Progressives can help to stop it is to show their force—show their numbers—and have their voices heard. We did a petition, this "No Cuts" petition, which says that we, the people who are signing this position, are against any cuts in benefits to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The first time that we did this petition, almost two years ago, we got a hundred thousand people to sign it. And now, having announced it again only barely a week ago, we're already up over 30,000. People can go to the website no-cuts.com if they want to show that they're behind us. Show that there is strength in numbers. And the fact is that we now have 24 people in the House -- all Democrats, by the way -- 24 Members of the House who have signed onto our letter: Saying that we will vote against -- not just "oppose" or anything ambiguous or wishy-washy like that, but we will vote AGAINST – [all] cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits. That shows the way. You know, we still live in a democracy. It's still a functioning democracy, particularly on our side of the aisle. If we hold our Members accountable the same way the Tea Party holds the other side accountable, I think we can make a lot of progress.
Daniel: Congressman, you know, I'm thinking about these petitions and maybe that's a good first step, but I think we need to escalate this to the level that the environmentalists have escalated the Keystone Pipeline. And I think that activists, not necessarily Members of Congress, but outside activists need to be willing to get arrested, in acts of civil disobedience. We're talking about, as you said, life and death. Hundreds of thousands of seniors could be driven into poverty, and obviously many other people. And of course, there's the slippery slope of what this means for economic security in the country, more broadly down the line. I think that we need to take this eventually to acts of civil disobedience -- getting arrested at the Capitol and the White House. And doing things just to stop this at all costs. Would you eventually, if it came to that, would you support that?
Alan: Listen, it will come to that if they actually go through with cuts. If they go through with cuts, you'll see people pouring into the streets. Pouring into the streets of Washington, D.C. and every other capitol, state capitol, and every major city in the country. This is going to be intolerable for people. This is, in fact, a matter of life and death in their own lives. And what's the point? The Social Security Administration has almost $2,000,000,000,000 in the bank. Two trillion dollars. This is a program that has operated at a profit virtually every single year since it started eighty years ago. Under current law, under current assumptions, under current projections, it's a system that can pay out every single benefit required under current law for the next twenty-five years. Minor tweaks would make that "forever." And Medicaid is not fundamentally different from that. And Medicare is not fundamentally different from that. . . .
Daniel: One of the things I mentioned earlier when I was talking, when I was introducing you, was that you have a background in capitalism. Is that fair to say? You're a successful businessperson. You opened up businesses in China, if I'm not mistaken [actually, that's not correct – ed.], among other things, and had a very successful career as a lawyer. What message do you have to people who think that somehow there's a conflict between being a strong Democrat and believing that we need a strong Social Security and social insurance system in this country? And strong checks on the Wall Street banks, and strong regulation of all of our industries? [Is] there a conflict with that and free enterprise and entrepreneurship? What is your advice to the young entrepreneur who feels that liberal values conflict with his own?
Alan: Well first of all, I am a successful businessman. I started a company that went public, and dramatically reduced the cost of international calls for people here in the United States. My company was the largest provider of international phone service to Hispanic-Americans in the country. In any case, what I find is that many of these so-called-businessmen are, in fact, economic illiterates. We've known for eighty years, since John Maynard Keynes wrote a book about it, that one of the primary functions of any national government is to make sure that aggregate demand is equal to aggregate supply. And the fundamental problem we've had -- and by the way, I worked as an economist for four years but you don't have to be an economist to be able to understand this basic principle -- the fundamental problem that we've had for the past five years in this country is that we have a 14-trillion-dollar economy with 13 trillion dollars of aggregate demand. And the government has had to make up the difference. We need progressive taxation, because otherwise we end up with pools of capital that get larger and larger, and literally spoil over time, draining aggregate demand. You need regulation. As an investor, I benefit from this personally and so does everybody else who is an investor. You need regulation in securities markets in order to see that people are not cheated. You obviously need banking regulation, something that's been understood since the Italian Renaissance. You need banking regulation because otherwise the bad money drives out the good money -- Gresham's Law. And [without regulation], banks that end up teetering on the edge of insolvency and then finally going under are the ones that beat out the banks that have adequate capital.
Daniel: Congressman, that's such a great point that it's just such basic business and good business practice to want these regulations. But we're going to have to leave it there. Congressman Alan Grayson, thank you so much for joining us on Take Action News, on behalf of the entire Take Action News Team.
There it is -- bold, principled, unequivocal and articulate. No dodging, dallying, dawdling, dithering, dancing, digressing or ducking. Two hundred pounds of truth, in a ten-pound bag. Show your support for a real leader – click on that CONTRIBUTE button below.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 22, 2013
GRAYSON: FIERCE DEFENDER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, MEDICARE AND MEDICAID
Support for “No Cuts” Pledge Growing Rapidly
(WASHINGTON) – Congressman Alan Grayson (D-Orlando) has pledged to vote against any cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits, and he is urging his colleagues to stand with him. In a letter to President Obama, Grayson says he will oppose all efforts to slash benefits, raise the retirement age, or cut cost of living adjustments.
“Look, I think it’s time we draw a line in the sand and say no,” Grayson explained. “No cuts. Period. There is absolutely no reason Congress should tear the social safety net protecting our nation’s most vulnerable individuals, especially while Republicans refuse to ask giant corporations and the mega-rich to pay their fair share. We should not be talking about cutting programs like Social Security; we should be talking about expanding them.”
Grayson’s pledge in the letter, and at no-cuts.com, comes on the heels of the unmasking of the “Campaign to Fix the Debt.” The right-wing propaganda, which dovetails off of a new plan by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, uses the looming sequester and national debt as justification to gut entitlements. The Nation describes Fix the Debt as “a fearmongering campaign to convince Americans that the deficits the United States has run throughout its history have suddenly metastasized into ‘a cancer that will destroy this country from within.’”
“Both the new Simpson-Bowles plan and the so-called ‘Fix the Debt’ plan treat seniors as the enemy. Seniors are not the enemy. The enemies of seniors are the enemy,” Grayson said.
Twenty-one Members of Congress have signed on to Grayson’s letter, promising to fight for the benefits their constituents earned and need. Current signers include Reps. Brown, Cartwright, Conyers, DeFazio, Ellison, Faleomavaega, Green, Grijalva, Gutierrez, Hastings, Kaptur, Lee, McGovern, Nadler, Napolitano, Nolan, Serrano, Takano, Velazquez and Waters.
Grayson’s letter has also earned the endorsement of many groups fighting for middle-class Americans, including: Social Security Works, The National Nurses United, Democracy for America, Credo Action, MoveOn.org Civic Action, Bold Progressives, the Strengthen Social Security Coalition, Progressive Democrats of America, Working Families Party, Rebuild the Dream, Progressives United, and United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America.
Stand with Alan Grayson. Demand no cuts.
The Right Wing is bent on making voting as difficult as possible. You've heard a lot of people complaining about it. Well, we're doing something about it.
Here in Florida, where the Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the Governor's Mansion, the Right Wing is field-testing every means known to mankind to discourage voting. They have criminalized voter registration; even the League of Women Voters gave up on it. They have purged the voter rolls in express violation of the Voting Rights Act; Governor Scott basically said, "so sue me." They cut early voting days in half , because so many African-Americans were voting that way. Their extremist voter ID laws place the burden on the voter to provide his identity to their satisfaction. They have made election administration completely partisan; do you remember that the head of the 2000 Bush campaign in Florida was in charge of counting the votes? They have created artificial shortages of voting machines in heavily Democratic precincts. They have excluded convicts from voting, and made it virtually impossible for them to restore their constitutional rights. They have even set up roadblocks between voters and polling places on Election Day.
A few days ago, Current TV invited Alan Grayson on the air, to discuss Governor Rick Scott’s plan to reject federal money to provide healthcare to the poor. Here is what they said:
After Half a Century of Fighting for Justice.
There is a general impression, on the part of many, that the Sixties was a decade-long haze of drugs and free love. I can't really say, since I was born in 1958. I know one person, however, who certainly did not experience it that way. That person is Congressman John Lewis.
John Lewis was one of the original 13 Freedom Riders, who challenged racial segregation on the buses in the South. He also was the Chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.
In 1961 and 1962, Lewis was arrested. Twenty-four times.
The term “campaign” doesn’t describe what a good campaign really is. I don’t know of any single word that does describe it, but the term “collective endeavor” comes close. A good campaign represents the joint effort of many people: making phone calls, putting out yard signs, knocking on doors, contributing money, and . . .
Artwork. At least in our campaign.
A while back, I invited our supporters to submit artwork to the campaign. A contest, with a prize of $500 for the winning image. I told you that you could vote on some of the submissions.
What Matters in Government, and in Life.
In his recent appearance on Current TV, Alan Grayson discussed the Republicans' "Fast and Furious" investigation, healthcare policy, and Republican vs. Democratic priorities: