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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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