"Plus ca change, plus la meme chose." The more things change, the more they stay the same. We took a look recently at a national TV interview with Congressman Alan Grayson that was aired several months ago. The news then was the same as the news now. The same debate over Obamacare. The same debate over raising the minimum wage. The same debate over what to do about domestic surveillance. The same debate over GOP obstructionism. We wish that we could say that all of those problems have been solved. But they haven't. So let's share with you what Congressman Grayson had to say about them. Then we'll cross our fingers and hope that this new session of Congress can be far more productive than the last one was.
John Fugelsang: Well, Florida Representative Alan Grayson is a member of the Progressive Caucus as well as the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and we've been honored to have him as a frequent guest of this program. He joins us this evening from Orlando. . . . [John asked Alan some questions about the NSA.]
Rep. Alan Grayson: Well, I think the intelligence community desperately wants to change the subject away from the fact that they've been spying on every American who has a telephone. Every time you call anyone, every time I call anyone, the NSA [National Security Agency] gets information about that call. There's also been very extensive reporting about [NSA spying on] e-mails, about logging on and off your computer, about Google searches, and all in the name of protecting us from foreign attack. I'm glad that they NSA does its job well with regard to deterring or avoiding or defeating foreign attacks. That does not in any way justify the pervasive spying on Americans . . . .
John: Is it going to work, Congressman? Do you think that this will put public fears of intrusive government spying on Americans to rest because this will give us the illusion, or at least the impression, that our government is doing this purely to protect Americans?
Alan: Listen, Americans are relatively intelligent people, and I don't think you can fool them to that degree. No one could possibly believe that the NSA should get a report of every time they call their pizzeria and ask for a pepperoni deep-dish pizza, and somehow that's meant to protect them from Al Qaeda. That doesn't make any sense at all, but that's the system we live under right now, thanks to this pervasive violation of the Fourth Amendment and the U.S. Constitution, and that has to end.
John: Well, then, let me turn to signs of a different kind of unrest here at home. Thousands of fast-food workers, as you know, walked off the job this past week in protest over the federal minimum wage. They want it to double from $7.25 to $15 an hour. Congressman, what do you think the minimum wage should be raised to?
Alan: Well, we've introduced legislation to bring it up to $10.50 an hour. That would actually put it back where it was in terms of purchasing power in 1968. We call that the "Catching Up to 1968 Act."
Alan: And in fact if you look around the world, it's pathetic to see how far our labor standards have fallen behind [those of] other countries. I want America to be Number 1 -- not Number 1 in number of foreign countries occupied, or Number 1 in number of people incarcerated. I want America to be Number 1 in wages. I want America to be Number 1 in benefits. I want America to be Number 1 in healthcare, in life expectancy. And what we see, over and over again, is that it's not the case. In Australia, which has 5% unemployment, they have a $16 per hour minimum wage. In Germany, people routinely, as a matter of law, get up to six weeks off each year. And they get 44 days of paid sick leave. Germany's not impoverished by that; they're strengthened by that. I think we need to make the same sort of steps here in America to improve the working conditions of the people who work.
John: I think Germany providing Medicare, their version of Medicare for everybody who makes under $100,000 has something to do with that of course.
Alan: Germany has had universal healthcare for a century.
Alan: And we're still arguing about it here in the United States.
John: A hundred years after Teddy Roosevelt ran for it on the Progressive ticket.
Alan: That's right.
John: But it seems like pushback's the only thing we're getting from our Republican friends in Congress these days. I don't have to tell you this, but I'll tell our viewers: of the 447 House votes this session, 40 of them, roughly 10%, were GOP attempts to defund Obamacare. I would call that theater, except I lived near Broadway. Theater creates jobs. Of course Obamacare is not the GOP's only obsession. They voted twelve times to defund embattled lobbying group ACORN, even though it doesn't exist anymore. This is like spitting in the wind, over and over again. Congressman, why bother? What do these guys say to you? I know they're friends; do you shake them and say, "What are you doing here?"
Alan: It's worse than spitting in the wind. If you spit in the wind, you don't hit anybody. What they're doing is spitting on poor people. They're spitting on sick people. They're spitting on needy people. They're bent on making sure that people who are sick cannot see a doctor, and get the care they need to stay healthy or stay alive. That is their cause. That is what they're dedicated to this year. They say that they're willing to actually bring down the U.S. government, much like an anarchist would, much like a terrorist would want to, for the sake of preventing Americans from seeing a doctor when they're sick. That is so twisted I can't even begin to describe it.
John: But can they be reasoned with, sir, when the cameras are off? I have to believe that these Republicans aren't all malice-based. Some of them may be trying to stay on message, but some must realize how much this is hurting the very people they're sworn to protect.
Alan: No. In fact, they are drenched in their own mishegoss [lunacy]. They listen to their crazy media day in and day out, and they hear the same lies, and it's a giant echo chamber that has nothing to do with Planet Earth any longer. They believe that Obamacare actually will increase the deficit, when it decreases the deficit. They believe Obamacare will take away people's insurance, when it doesn't take away people's insurance. They believe Obamacare is a government takeover, a single-payer system. It's not a single-payer system. My God! You know, we'd have to make this interview two hours at least if I'm going to recount all the lies that are stuck inside their skulls.
John: Well, as you know, we cover them relentlessly here, Alan. And I don't want to call them stupid; that's offensive. I call them "Imbecile-Americans." But before I go, I want to ask, what have your constituents been saying to you? You're home now. You're in Florida. What are people there concerned about?
Alan: Well, they want healthcare, I'll you that. Florida has the third-highest rate of uninsured people in the country. It's 20% [uninsured] for the state overall. It's 40% [uninsured] for Latinos, and my district is [nearly] 40% Latino. So we have people in Central Florida who are desperate to get [health]care – people who are dying of cancer, people who have all sorts of terrible diseases. The Governor, of course, has shut all the free healthcare clinics in this entire state for the sake of his business, Solantic, being expanded. And on and on it goes. So people here want healthcare. They want education for their children, because they understand that it's the only way their children's lives will be any better than theirs. And they want jobs, jobs, jobs. We have focused on and made great efforts to bring in every stray federal dollar that we possibly could into this district, in order to be able to promote the economy and get some kind of recovery going, in an area where 80% of the families who own houses have a mortgage that's worth more than the value of their house. They're underwater, and they feel like they're drowning. That's what I'm hearing from people here in Central Florida.
John: It's insane. I want to thank Congressman Alan Grayson for joining us here on Viewpoint. It's always a pleasure, sir, thank you for coming here and thank you for your service to the American people.
Alan: Thank you for a wonderful show that has elevated discourse about politics to an amazing degree, and thank you for your service.
John: Well, it's an honor to have you say that.
Here is our New Year's Resolution: how about if we actually solve some of these problems? So that we can get past these issues, and take a shot at some harder ones, like economic inequality, structural unemployment, regressive taxation, the trade deficit, immigration reform and climate change? Wouldn't that be nice? But either way, it's great to have like Congressman Grayson who will push-push-push to get good things done for people. To see the video, or to show your support, just click right here.
One of the more frustrating elements of the debate about Obamacare is that the Right Wing has dictated the terms of that debate.
Resolved: Does American Want Socialized Medicine?
While the Obamacare legislation was being legislated, the debate was about "socialized medicine." As if. Obamacare is no more a government takeover of healthcare than air traffic control is a government takeover of the skies. Or traffic lights are a government takeover of the roads. (Although the Post Office is, in fact, a government takeover of the mail. Cue to Tea Partiers blowing up their own mailboxes.)
Resolved: Is Obamacare Unconstitional?
Then there was that interminable debate about whether Obamacare is constitutional. Let me get this straight: are you telling me that it is constitutional for the Government to draft your rear-end and ship you to Vietnam to serve as cannon fodder, but somehow it isn't constitutional for the Government to make you pay for your own emergency-room care? Oh, come on! If it's constitutional for the Government to put you in prison if you fail to buy car insurance, then surely it's constitutional for the Government to make you pay a fee if you fail to buy health insurance.
Resolved: Isn't the Obamacare Website Absolutely Sucktastic?
And now the Tea Partiers are shedding crocodile tears over the Obamacare website. The website that they tried to repeal, on 40+ different occasions. The website that went live on the very day that they shut down the federal government. Because, you know, they get really upset if there is any delay in people obtaining Obamacare coverage, since they don't want anyone ever to have it.
Why? Why did the Right Wing go to such lengths to dictate the Obamacare debate? Because if you're obsessing over government takeovers, and constitutionality, and a website, then you aren't ever taking about:
- closing the "donut hole" in prescription drug coverage for seniors;
- extending coverage and care to 40 million people with preexisting conditions;
- prohibiting insurance companies from literally pulling the plug on patients whose care becomes too expensive;
- allowing young adults up to the age of 26 to remain on their parents' health insurance policies;
- eliminating deductibles and copayments for ordinary care for seniors;
- mandating refunds for seniors who are overcharged under the Medicare Advantage program;
- eliminating useless and predatory "junk" coverage;
- prohibiting overcharging on the basis of gender;
- preventing employers who don't offer insurance coverage from making employers who do offer coverage feel like suckers and fools;
- extending Medicaid to the working poor; and
- paying over one-third of the cost of small businesses providing employee healthcare.
Funny, but I don't remember the Republicans ever arguing for the repeal of any of those specific provisions, just the "Obamacare" bogeyman.
Regardless, the autumn Tea Party blitzkrieg to repeal Obamacare really came down to an element of Obamacare that has received little or no mention, except when I mentioned it: the "affordability credits." The government-mandated discounts on health insurance, which generally see to it that you don't have to pay more than 11 percent of your income for health insurance. The discounts that the Kaiser Foundation says will save families who buy their own insurance an average of $2,700 each year. (Actually, to be specific, Kaiser found that 48% who purchase their own insurance will qualify for the affordability credits, and for them, the discounts will save a stunning $5,500 each year.)
Tea Party Republicans were determined – no, engrossed – no, bent -- no, obsessed – no, consumed – no, possessed by demons, with the urgent compulsion to prevent the affordability credits from ever going into effect. Because then, you know, people could afford insurance, which means that they would get the healthcare that they need to stay healthy and alive. As opposed to the Tea Party chant at one of the Republican Presidential debates – "Let them die! Let them die!"
You don't have to take my word for it. A right-wing columnist in a right-wing newspaper (Byron York of the Washington Examiner) wrote this very revealing statement last July, just before the Tea Party repeal efforts went nuclear:
"The White House knows that once those payments begin, repealing Obamacare will no longer be an abstract question of removing legislation not yet in effect. Instead, it will be a very real matter of taking money away from people. It's very, very hard to do that."
So if you were wondering why the Tea Party went so far as to shut down the Government, and threaten default on the national debt, just to prevent one single aspect of one single government program from being implemented, now you know why.
Look, if you ask people who don't have health insurance why they don't have it, 90% say that it's because they can't afford it. Which leaves two options:
- Make it affordable.
- Tell them to go to hell.
Obamacare represents the first option. Maniacal efforts to repeal Obamacare represent the second option.
And now, as of January 1, 2014, America is going with the first option. That's America's New Year's Resolution: "Heal the sick."
Rep. Alan Grayson
Dear America: I hate to say "I told you so." But I told you so.
I said, waaaaaaay back in 2010, that anyone who wants Medicare coverage should be able to buy it. I was right. And I'm still right.
If you agree, then congratulations -- you're right, too.
Think about it: Has anyone ever complained about being canceled by Medicare? No.
Has anyone ever complained that the Medicare website crashed? No.
Has anyone ever complained that Medicare refused him coverage? No.
Has anyone ever complained that Medicare cut him off when his care got too expensive? No.
Has anyone ever whined that Medicare is socialism? Well, yes. In 1961, Ronald Reagan said that Medicare would bring on a socialist dictatorship. As if.
The real problem that we have is not that some website doesn't work. The real problem is not that Obamacare somehow is compelling employers to drop health coverage (because it’s not). The real problem is not that some insurance companies are canceling some policies – when has that ever not happened?
Here are the real problems:
- A lot of Americans can't afford health insurance.
- In many areas of the country, the health insurance companies and the hospitals are monopolies or duopolies, and they control the market.
- The health insurance companies charge as much as they can, they provide as little care as they can get away with, and they call the difference "profit." They have a conflict of interest with you. They make more money by denying you the care that you need to stay healthy, or even alive.
But there is a solution to these problems. In fact, some Americans have an excellent healthcare system, which is overwhelmingly popular. It provides care from Point Barrow, Alaska, to Key West, Florida, and from sea to shining sea. It's cheap and efficient – 97% of the cost goes directly into providing care. We've invested billions of dollars to make it comprehensive and universal. You may have heard of this healthcare system -- it's called "Medicare."
And, weirdly, we open it only to seniors and the disabled. It's as if we were to say that the minimum age to drive on interstate highways were 65 years old. It's as if we were to say that only seniors could go to public school.
What would it cost for everyone else? I'm glad you asked. According to the experts, for full coverage, including the prescription drug benefit, Medicare would cost barely $100 a month for children, and less than $500 a month for people in their sixties. Which is much less than my coverage costs -- and, I would venture to say, probably yours, too (unless you're on it already).
Which is why, back in 2010, I introduced a simple, four-page bill, the 'Medicare You Can Buy Into Act.' The bill allows Americans to buy into Medicare at cost. If you want Medicare, and you pay for it, you've got it. Period. End of story.
I signed up more than 80 co-sponsors in the House, in two weeks.
Poll after poll found that a "public option" like this was very popular with the public, too. Politifact did a survey of surveys, and found that in 28 polls, the average result was 57 percent in favor, and 38 percent against – despite massive negative propaganda spewed out by the Chamber of Commerce.
Unfortunately, the Affordable Care Act passed without a Medicare buy-in, or any public option. King Lieberman (D-Aetna) vetoed it. That kept private insurance companies exclusively in charge of health coverage for people under 65. We can all see how well that's turned out. These large and profitable corporations have cancelled policies and raised rates at will. They are demanding the power to continue to discriminate against women, to deny coverage to people with existing illnesses, and to pull the plug – literally – on anyone whose coverage becomes too expensive.
And is it really their fault? "No one can serve two masters." (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13.) We are asking the health insurance companies to serve two masters: patients, and profit. They can't do it. No one can.
But the health insurance companies have demonstrated that they are good at one thing – fooling voters. They spent $2 million against me in 2010 in the Great Democratic Apocalypse, and they got rid of me.
Temporarily. And now, I'm back.
So after I won reelection last year, one of the first bills that I introduced was that same old four-page bill, the 'Medicare You Can Buy Into Act' (H.R. 500). Because we need it. Me and you. We need it.
If we open up Medicare to everyone who can pay for it, private insurance premiums will drop, because health insurance companies with local monopolies will face much-needed competition. And, to compete, those companies will have to offer better policies -- policies with more comprehensive coverage, with a broader network, and better service.
Now that's what I call true health care reform. That's what I'm talking about.
We want a public option. We need a public option. And that public option already exists - we just need to open it up, to all Americans.
Here is our cheer: "I want Medicare. You want Medicare. We all want Medicare."
Let's make it happen. Sign the petition today: WeWantMedicare.com.
It is never too late to do the right thing.
L'chaim – To Life,
Rep. Alan Grayson
"The greatest wealth is health." – Virgil
P.S. Since lobbyists own Washington, D.C., only a movement, a committed corps of can-do citizens, can achieve a public option. If you want to be part of that movement, then you need to demand a public option, and ask your friends, family and co-workers to do the same. Start by sharing this with your friends by e-mail, and on Facebook and Twitter.
What a strange world we live in. Obamacare makes it possible for young working people and students in their twenties to get health coverage under their parents' policies, or under Medicaid expansion (in those States where a Republican governor hasn't prevented it), or enjoy large discounts called "affordability credits" on their health insurance plans. For some reason, this offends the billionaire Koch Brothers. So the Koch Brothers have been running ads suggesting that young people will be . . . wait for it . . . raped (!!!) if they sign up for health insurance.
As if that weren't weird enough, the Koch Brothers have been hosting beer parties and dance parties on college campuses across America, asking participants to pledge that they will not sign up for health coverage!
Our champion for universal healthcare, Congressman Alan Grayson, was invited on national TV recently to discuss this. His advice: "Drink their beer, eat their pizza, and then sign up for care." Here is the interview:
Rev. Al Sharpton: Joining me now is Congressman Alan Grayson, Democrat from Florida. Thank you for being here tonight, Congressman.
Congressman Alan Grayson: Thank you.
Rev. Al: You know, it is pretty unseemly for the billionaire [Koch] Brothers [to be] spending money so that people won't have health insurance.
Alan: It's unscrupulous and sadistic. Here in Florida, more than a million people are not getting health insurance that the federal government would pay for entirely – one hundred cents on the dollar -- simply because the Tallahassee Republicans and Governor Scott won't go along with it. We pay our taxes to Washington, D.C., we would get this coverage in return, and they're preventing that from happening. So one million Floridians are going to go without health coverage this year, next year, and the year after, and a certain number of them are going to die because of that. The Koch Brothers are responsible. The Republicans are responsible. They all have blood on their hands.
Al: But you know what is interesting, Congressman? Ten Republican governors have caved on the Medicaid expansion. In fact, today, we're learning that Governor Kasich in Ohio has won his fight to bypass the state's Republican legislature to expand Medicaid. The Koch Brothers are still fighting this, but aren't more and more states seeing that expanding Medicaid is the way to go?
Alan: Well, you‘d have to be a fool to think otherwise. We're talking here about the poorest of the working poor. That's what this expansion covers – it's for people who make less [money] than the poverty level, and who have no children, so they don't qualify under current Medicaid standards in most states. They still have to work, and they simply can't afford the coverage any other way. If you ask people, "Why don't you have coverage?" 90% of them say, "Because we can't afford it." So here, the federal government is stepping in and eliminating the discrimination that exists between child couples and childless couples, to treat everyone the same, and yet these Republicans have to insinuate themselves and prevent five million people from getting the coverage that they deserve.
Al: You know, Koch-sponsored organizations are also hosting – listen to this, they're going further – hosting events for college students on college campuses to get young people to reject the Affordable Care Act. They host pizza parties, dance parties with DJs – they hand out beer koozies that say "Opt Out." They even have a fake Obamacare "draft card" burning. I mean, they're going all out to turn young people off of something that young people really need.
Alan: Well, my advice to them is to drink their beer, eat their pizza, and then sign up for the care. Because in many cases this care costs less than a hundred dollars a month. It's less than my cable bill. And they need it. If they get in a motorcycle accident, or a car accident, as so many young people do, they're going to need that coverage, and they'll be glad that they did.
Al: This is really billionaires versus poor people. And in fact, President Obama recently called out billionaires like the Koch Brothers. Watch this.
--begin clip of President Barack Obama--
President Barack Obama: Some of the Tea Party's biggest donors, some of the wealthiest men in America, are funding an ad campaign trying to convince young people not to buy healthcare at all. I mean, think about it. These are billionaires, several times over – you know they've got good healthcare.
--end clip of President Barack Obama--
Al: Now, to be fair, they're not only spending their money in this area, Congressman. They reportedly own two million acres of land in Northern Alberta. If the Keystone Pipeline is expanded, the Koch Brothers stand to make $100 billion in profits. Isn't it exactly this wealth that makes it possible for them to have such enormous influence over issues that benefit them?
Alan: Well, that's exactly why they have such enormous influence over the Tea Party and the Republican Party. Because the Republican Party's creed these days is, let's take every tax break, let's take every bailout, let's take every permit like the Keystone [Pipeline] permit, let's take every government contract, and put it up to the highest bidder. Not for the public, not for the Treasury, but for their own coffers, for their own campaign contributions. And that's the way they do business. From [Republican House Majority Leader] Eric Cantor on down.
Al: Congressman Alan Grayson, thank you. And one last note, we reached out to the Koch Brothers on this story, but they declined to comment.
Congressman Alan Grayson – speaking out forcefully for universal, comprehensive and affordable healthcare. And calling out those who stand in the way. Click here to see the video, or to contribute to the Grayson campaign. Or both.
P.S. The 2014 election is precisely one year from now. So please show your support.
Our subject today is Congressman Grayson's recent bold statement that Medicare should cover glasses, hearing aids and dental work, because, as he put it, "most seniors have eyes, ears and teeth." But before we get to that, we just want to remind you that today is the last day to qualify for a chance to join Alan at Disney World next month by contributing $25 or more to his re-election campaign. We now return to our regularly scheduled commercial programming.
A couple of weeks ago, key progressive officials joined a conference call with grassroots leaders about how to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from Republican benefit cuts like the so-called "chained CPI." Earlier this week, we shared Congressman Grayson's statement on that call with you. Now, here is some of the Q&A:
Adam [PCCC]: We have a question from William Packson's e-mail [address], in Congressman Grayson's home state. He says:
"I am receiving $11,208 per year [in Social Security], out of which I must pay medical bills, rent, food, utilities, transportation, and prescriptions. As it is, there is not enough to pay for all necessities. What is Congress planning on doing to the cost of living adjustments?"
Congressman, would you like to take that first?
Alan: Well, sure. Unfortunately, there are Members of Congress, who are called Republicans, who are planning cuts to cost of living adjustments. The "chained CPI" is fakery that will recalculate the cost of living adjustments – basically with the idea that if the cost of gasoline doubles, that [somehow] doesn't represent a doubling in the cost of living, because some people will have to walk to work, not being able to afford gasoline. So they put more shoe leather into the calculation, and less gas. It's just cheating. I laid this out in an email I sent around, in a blog post a few weeks ago. [As I said,] they are just trying to baffle us with "you-know-what." It's not fair. It doesn't fully reflect the increase of the cost of living. And it's a shame, because as the caller points out, right now the money you get from Social Security isn't even enough to raise you above the poverty level. We are not giving our seniors enough to live above the poverty level. Imagine what it would be like if they got less. (And I'm saying "less" in some real sense.) So I think it's unconscionable.
I don't know exactly why Republicans feel the same way about cutting Social Security and Medicare like the way a moth feels about a flame. I don't understand that, but we have to deal with it.
The Sequester is in danger of becoming the latest excuse for giving rein to this desire to hurt old people, hurt poor people, hurt sick people -- and we just can't allow it. We've got a system that accurately assesses cost of living increases, and we have to protect it from attacks by the other side. . . .
Peter King [CBS News]: Okay. Thank you very much. I'm actually based out of Orlando, which is Congressman Grayson's home state. And you know this is obviously a very partisan position, and the message here is very much Democrats versus Republicans. . . . [I]s there anything here that you would be willing to compromise [on] at all? I mean Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid are all really broad programs. And there is arguably a lot of waste in some of these programs. Just wondering to see if there is anything you could move an inch or a foot on here, to get rolling? . . .
Alan: Well first, it used to be that there was consensus on this. It used to be that Democrats and Republicans agreed that there should not be cuts to benefits for Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare – and that's changed. People used to regard Social Security as the "third rail" in American politics. You've probably heard that phrase before. [The "third rail" is the subway rail that carries electricity, and can electrocute you.] But now, Republicans are not only touching the third rail, they are dancing on it. And that's unfortunate. You know, Reagan used to say 'I didn't leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me.' I think there are probably a lot of Republicans in the country, particularly seniors, who are scratching their heads and saying, 'I didn't leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left me.' By this unquenchable thirst right now to hurt the needy. To hurt seniors, poor people, people who need medical care and just want to see a doctor when they are sick. It's not consistent with the original conception of Republicanism, of conservatism. We are trying to conserve these programs -- you'd think that "conservatives" would be with us.
But to get to your question, I will tell you this: I think you can eliminate fraud [without breaking the "No Cuts" pledge]. You can eliminate waste, you can eliminate abuse – and in no sense would you break this promise. This is a promise that is very clear. It's that we are going to "vote against any and every cut against Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits." Benefits – that's what the recipients actually see. If they're in Medicare and they go to a doctor that means there are major procedures that are covered, and those are not going to change.
If we can eliminate or reduce waste, fraud and abuse of these programs, that doesn't change their benefits. If we can run the program more efficiently, that doesn't change their benefits. If we change the [taxation] payment plan, the Social Security tax, the Medicare tax, that doesn't change the benefits. If we change what doctors get paid for procedures, that [change] doesn't change the benefits, either. It's what the recipients see [that matters].
You know, we can't ask people to pay into these programs year after year, decade after decade, and then when it's their turn, we say to them, "Well, you know, the law was that you had to be sixty-five [to qualify], but now you have to seventy-two." That's not fair. It wouldn't be fair if the private entity did it. It wouldn't be fair if the government did it, either.
So the answer to your question is 'yes.' Of course you can make changes [that are not benefit cuts] to the program, and then make the program better. I'd like to see Medicare cover eyewear. I'd like to see it cover hearing aids. I'd like to see it cover dental work. As far as I know, most seniors have eyes, ears and teeth. [Laughs.] I think these things should be covered. I'd like to move in that direction. That would improve these programs. But in terms of cutting benefits, no – that's not fair.
Isn't it about time that someone said that we should be perfecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, not cutting them? Well, someone just did.
If you would like a chance to join that special someone in Orlando, then please click here. Last chance, last dance, last romance.
Before we get down to business, just a brief reminder: if you would like a chance to join Congressman Grayson at Disney World, then click here and contribute $25 or more to his reelection campaign today
Evidence mounts each day that The Powers That Be in Washington are looking to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits. A couple of weeks ago, some key progressive leaders joined a conference call hosted by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), to discuss how to protect and defend Social Security and Medicare. Here is what Congressman Grayson had to say:
Adam Green: Hey folks, thank you so much for joining [us]. This is Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. And I want to welcome you to our briefing today. In the midst of this sequester, we have great Progressives talking about their positions on the [Social Security and Medicare] cuts. . . . So without further ado, we are very proud to first turn things over to one of our bold, Progressive heroes, Congressman Grayson.
Congressman Alan Grayson: Yes. Thank you. Thanks very much. When we first put this ["No-Cuts.com"] letter together, I thought hard about the promise that it makes. And let me read it to you verbatim:
"We are writing to the President to let you know that we will vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits -- including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need."
I gave it a lot of thought before I signed off on this letter, as to whether I really meant it, whether that was my "red line." I tried to think about all the different possibilities that might come up, the things that might go into a bill that would cut [benefits], what would be appealing to me. Honestly, I thought, 'What if they had said they were going to end the war in Afghanistan? '[in a bill that would cut Social Security] -- that's something very important to me. But I realized in the end that I had nothing. I couldn't think of a single thing that could be put into a bill that would make me willing to break our promise to our constituents, for something they earned and so badly need. They paid for it. They need it. They want it. They deserve it. It's that simple.
And I understand the difficulty that many people may have in this Congress, in predicting what might come up and making a commitment, making up their minds. A lot of people always want to keep their options open. But I think this is a fair test. This is a fair test.
This is a fair test of your commitment to basic principles, because a cut to Social Security benefits, Medicare benefits, Medicaid benefits is cheating old people, cheating poor people, cheating sick people. That's what it comes down to. It's taking something away from them that they need it to live – something they've earned themselves. And I can't do it. So I'm happy to say to the President, to you all, and to anybody else that listens: I won't do it. I just won't. I'm not going to use my vote to hurt people who are that needy and that deserving. I won't do it.
And I'm apparently not the only who feels this way, because even though we have had this [No-Cuts.com] letter just out now for a couple of weeks, before today we had 25 Members of Congress who had signed on to this letter. Today, there are two more. We have been joined by Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts and William Lacy Clay of Missouri. And there will be more to come, because first of all, it's right, and secondly, it's good politics. And that has become clear to me more and more, as I talk to people.
If you promise that you won't raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires and multinational corporations, that shows whom you really represent. And if you say that you won't cut benefits for old people, sick people, poor people, that shows whom you care about, too.
These programs are the greatest accomplishments of the Democratic Party and the Progressive Movement for the past 80 years. They are things that every other country with an advanced economy takes for granted. Every other [advanced] country has universal healthcare. Every other [advanced] country has old-age pensions – every single one of them. And there is no reason I can think of why we have to be different -- particularly when you consider the Social Security trust fund has almost $2 trillion in net worth.
So that's what it comes down to. I want their party, the other party, to be known as the party that only cares for millionaires, billionaires and multinational corporations -- and they prove it through their pledge. I want our party, our movement, to be known about the party that cares about poor people, needy people, sick people, who have earned the benefits that they deserve to get.
And that's a clear line I want the American people to see. It's something that I feel in my heart. And I also feel that it's great politics, because people deserve a choice. You know, you can't reach a point in this country where the only choice you get it is between Diet Coke and Coke Zero. That's not good enough. We need people to be able to choose. And choose for real. There needs to be a clear line, clear difference, when they cast their vote. They need to know who they're voting for and why. And I think this is the best possible example – this makes it all clear.
I can go into my next election next year – and twenty-six other Democrats can go into their next election next year – knowing that we have provided certain amount of clarity about what is at stake for the people when they vote in our districts: You are either for The People or against them. And we've shown what side we're on.
Which leaves us with an interesting question: Whose side are you on? Congressman Grayson is on your side. Will you show that you're on his side, by contributing to his re-election campaign before the end of the quarter? Two lucky supporters will join Congressman Grayson at Disney World. But every single supporter will have shown . . .