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Alan Grayson Tells It Like It Is
Posted on Jul 21, 2011
Truthdig Radio airs every Wednesday at 2 p.m. in Los Angeles on 90.7 KPFK. If you can’t listen live, starting on Wednesday nights look for the podcast and transcript of each week’s show right here on Truthdig.
This week on Truthdig Radio in collaboration with KPFK: Alan Grayson tells us why he’s running again for Congress; wild-man cartoonist Mr. Fish discusses his new book; a couple of holy men talk about biblical ignorance; and Truthdig editor-in-chief Robert Scheer talks about President Obama’s rejection of Elizabeth Warren.
Alan Grayson discusses why he’s running again for Congress
An interview with wild-man cartoonist Mr. Fish
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Robert Scheer on his latest column (Obama turning away from Elizabeth Warren)
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Peter Scheer: Welcome to Truthdig Radio, a collaboration of Truthdig.com and KPFK Los Angeles. I’m Truthdig Managing Editor Peter Scheer. This week we have wild-man cartoonist Mr. Fish; a couple of holy men talk about biblical ignorance; and we’re waiting on a call from Alan Grayson. But until then, we are joined by Truthdig Editor—my boss—Robert Scheer, who’s here to talk about his latest column and the development that we’ve just had of Obama turning away from Elizabeth Warren to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that she was helping to set up for the administration. That bureau is under assault by various forces including Wall Street, which would like to see it watered down, diminished and go away. And once again Obama has sided with the pressure from the banks, or yielded to the pressure from the banks, to go away from our favorite choice to run that organization, because she has been too critical of the very people who have brought us to our economic knees. Robert Scheer, welcome to Truthdig Radio.
Robert Scheer: Hi. And you’re talking about Elizabeth Warren, of course. …
Peter Scheer: Yes, Elizabeth Warren. … Actually, we’re going to come back to this in a minute. We are joined by Rep. Alan Grayson, or former Rep. Alan Grayson, of the United States Congress, who would like once again to enter the Congress to represent the good people of Orlando. Welcome to Truthdig Radio.
Alan Grayson: Thanks. It’s great to be on radio free L.A.
Peter Scheer: Yes. So I’m a big fan, I should just, in full disclosure, just say. And mainly because, like a lot of other people, because you are known for speaking your mind and for bringing that to politics, for saying things that need to be said. Things like, about the Democrats’ approach to the Republicans: “I think appeasement doesn’t work, and we need to be tough,” which you said in a recent TPM interview. You’d like to bring that style of politics back to Congress. Is that right?
Alan Grayson: Yeah. I mean, listen: If I’m not going to speak my mind, whose mind would I speak, right?
Peter Scheer: Yeah. [Laughter] Well, why aren’t there more representatives in Congress—and especially in the House where you should, one would think, have a little bit more liberty—why aren’t there people saying the truth?
Alan Grayson: Last year I said that the two-party system was devolving into the “lazies and the crazies.” And I think if anything, it’s gotten worse; on “The Ed Show” last week, I said it was the “meanies and the weenies.” [Laughter] That’s where we are right now, you know. We’ve got people who want to strip away Social Security, strip away Medicare, strip away Medicaid; and then we’ve got other people who want to compromise with them.
Peter Scheer: You said recently—well, you were quoting yourself—you said, “It’s exactly like I said: the Republican health care plan: Don’t get sick. The Republican unemployment plan: Go find a job. The Republican homelessness plan: Move in with your relatives. They have no answers to anything.” Do the Democrats have better answers?
Alan Grayson: Yeah. You know, honestly, if you try to solve a problem there is some decent chance that you might actually do it. And that’s what the Republicans seem to forget. We have 23 million people in this country who can’t find a full-time job right now. The Republicans aren’t even interested in solving that problem. All they’re interested in doing is increasing corporate welfare, and basically bribing companies in the vain hope they might actually create some jobs. That hasn’t worked for three years now. We’ve got 50 million people in this country who can’t see a doctor when they’re sick; they don’t have health coverage. What do the Republicans plan to do for them—tort reform? I mean, they’re not even taking a stab at this stuff.
In the case of the Democrats, you know, the Democratic plan is pretty clear: We need to rebuild America; we need to spend money on rebuilding our schools, our bridges, our highways; all this public infrastructure that we have that’s falling into decay, literally into decay—so the highway in Minneapolis literally falling into decay. In the case of people losing their homes, we instituted a plan here in Orlando that required the banks to go into mandatory mediation with the homeowners before they could take the homes away. And we had housing counselors; I used my earmark money to have housing counselors here locally that actually would sit down with people, go through their situation, and find some way to save their homes. We brought in a group called NACA, which organized to coordinate with all the banks and have refinancing fairs all over the country. We dropped foreclosures here in Orlando from 3,000 a month to 1,500 a month in a very short time.
There are solutions to problems if you actually try to solve these problems. Even the so-called deficit problem—the so-called deficit problem could be solved overnight if we simply brought the troops home, and that’s costing us about $200 billion a year. Right now, you could not only reduce the deficit, but you could make everyone’s first $35,000 of income tax-free, if you simply brought the troops home. Sure, there’s answers to problems; but you have to actually try.
Peter Scheer: You were really good on the financial industry when you were in Congress. We had the news this week that, as expected, Elizabeth Warren will not be posted to the job that she wanted, to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that she’s been setting up. We have a guy, who seems to be a good guy, nominated instead to lead it. But is this just another cave to the banks from—hasn’t Obama just been bad on the banks? I mean, I don’t want to get you into trouble, but you know, where’s the good news here? The mortgage renegotiation hasn’t really panned out; his administration is filled with people from Wall Street; and here we have the one sort of hero of the left cast aside in this latest decision.
Alan Grayson: It’s sad. It’s very sad. I think Dick Durbin said it best last year—he’s a senator from Illinois—he said “Wall Street owns the Senate.” And that’s not the only part of the government that it seems to own. We have our economic policies determined by Wall Street; we have our foreign policy determined by the military-industrial complex; we have our energy policy determined by big oil. Is it any surprise that we’re in the crapper?
Peter Scheer: Yeah. Well, so why do you want to get back into politics? I mean, like you said, you can do a lot of good, but you have to deal with a lot of—a lot of crap.
Alan Grayson: Well, you know, the fact is, I don’t see a lot of other people who are trying to do what I’m trying to do. I’ve got a good life; I’ve got five children who are in school, they’re school age; I was the only member of Congress to have five children in school. I didn’t really enjoy going back and forth to Washington, D.C.; I’m actually kind of allergic to it. But we accomplished a great deal that helped people in the district and people nationwide. I mean, right now, this second, if you have a pre-existing condition of any kind, even cancer, and you haven’t had health insurance for six months, you can sign up for a federal program and get coverage in Florida for $374 a month. That was impossible—impossible—six months ago. And that’s because of what we did in Congress, because I fought for a health care program that would actually try to cover the 50 million people in this country who have no coverage.
And I know what that’s like; I mean, you know, my wife had a stroke a few years ago; the insurance companies won’t go anywhere near her. There’s a lot of people who are like that, not just her; there’s a lot of people who are in exactly that situation, and now they can get coverage. We have over 40,000 people in this country who die every year because they don’t have health care coverage. That’s a lot of people. There were over 100 in my district alone. Now all those people have, at least, a fighting chance; and I think that’s a tremendous accomplishment … people say is it worth it, I don’t know … I don’t really think about is it worth it to me personally; I had a good life before, I’ll always have a good life, for as long as I’m alive. You know, life presents all sorts of opportunities to you. And I do seize the day.
But I didn’t see any way to do the kind of good that I was able to accomplish when I was in Congress—I didn’t see, and I don’t see any way to do that outside of Congress. Some people can, you know; Howard Dean ran for president, lost, dusted himself off, and became chairman of the Democratic Party. And he did a lot of good; he basically laid the foundation for our taking back the House and the Senate and the presidency. So it’s not to say that it can’t be done, but I think there was plenty of unfinished business when I left Congress, and I’d like to do it again. And a lot of people seem to feel the same way; I mean, within 48 hours over 2,000 people had come to our website, CongressmanWithGuts.com, and made a contribution. Those are people who are putting their money where my mouth is, and I appreciate that. I get calls all the time from people; I described some of them in the email that I sent out explaining why I was running again. A woman called me a couple weeks before I announced, and she told me that her husband was in the hospital; he was a veteran, but the Veterans Administration wouldn’t cover his problems; he had multiple organ failure; and he had a pre-existing condition; he’d had problems going back to when he was 30, and now he was in his mid-50s, 56. And I said I’m concerned by what you’re saying, but I don’t know exactly what I can do to help you; I’m no longer in Congress. And she said, what we want you to do, my husband and I, is we want you to run again.
Peter Scheer: So, you were savaged in the last campaign for some negative advertising. Do you have any regrets over that?
Alan Grayson: Well, let’s look at the advertising that was run against me, OK?
Peter Scheer: OK.
Alan Grayson: The sewer money advertising that was run against me by special interests and lobbyists, who didn’t even have to give their names. They said Alan Grayson is a liar, Alan Grayson’s a loudmouth, Alan Grayson’s a national embarrassment, Alan Grayson is a dog, and Alan Grayson is an evil clown. They actually had somebody who sort of looked a little bit like me dressed up like a clown, walking around on the screen for 28 seconds before the disclosure. You know, honestly, I don’t think … [Laughter, inaudible] should be complaining about my ads, OK? According to Politico, 20 percent of all the negative ads from the lobbyists in the entire country ran against me.
Peter Scheer: Wow.
Alan Grayson: I represented one-third of 1 percent of the population of America, and they dumped 20 percent of all of their ugly sewer money … to make me look bad.
Peter Scheer: Why do you think … why did they target you?
Alan Grayson: Because they couldn’t buy me.
Peter Scheer: Hmm.
Alan Grayson: And so if they can’t buy you, they try to destroy you.
Peter Scheer: So, who tried to buy you? I mean, did you get pressure from Wall Street, from other places?
Alan Grayson: Well, of course. But …
Peter Scheer: Is that just routine in Congress?
Alan Grayson: … business expenditures provided health insurance companies and big polluters. The health insurance companies were very disturbed that I introduced legislation [HR 4789] to let anybody buy into Medicare at cost: If you can afford it, if you want it, then you’ve got it. It was a four-page bill, and I got 80 co-sponsors in a week for that bill. And they saw that it was moving, so they had to get rid of me. They spent over a million dollars just by themselves.
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