What Makes Us Progressivesby Alan Grayson on Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 4:14pm
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Yesterday, we gave you excerpts from the beginning of Alan Grayson’s keynote speech, at the first meeting of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida. Today, we’ll give you the second part of that one-two punch. For those who want to see it, here is the clip. The subject was “What It Means to Be a Progressive”:
What makes people care [about each other] is the human spirit. It is actually hard-wired into us.
And that is fundamentally why we [progressives], in the end, will win. Because we have a conception of what it means to be a human being that’s right. We are not just atoms bouncing off each other in a void. We’re not just selfish automatons, the way that Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity would have you think. No, we are people, and we do care about each other. We are progressives. And as a result of that, we actually think about, care about, and want to do something about the real problems in people’s lives.
Now, in the past few weeks, I’ve been shaking things up a little bit, by pointing out on national TV, on HBO and MSNBC and elsewhere, that we have 50 million people in this country who can’t see a doctor when they’re sick. We have 24 million people in this country who can’t find full-time work. We have 47 million people in this country who need the government’s help to feed themselves. And we have 15 million families in this country who actually owe more on their mortgage than the value of their home.
These are things that you will never hear Republicans talk about. But we do, because we care. That’s why we do talk about that.
I pointed out that the United States now has the fifth most-unequal distribution of wealth in the entire world. The fifth most-unequal distribution of wealth in the entire world! And frankly, it’s not working out that well in Zimbabwe either.
And that we are drowning in debt, and becoming debt slaves. Slaves to our debt. We wake up every morning, do our best to pay all of our bills, and end up a little further behind every single day. That’s the truth of the matter.
And these are things that you will never hear Republicans talking about, because they’re much more interested in seeing the President’s birth certificate. They’re much more interested in deciding whether the President is a communist or a fascist. They can’t make up their minds [about that].
And by the way, I went through the same thing. Fox News used to have these long debates about, is Grayson a liar, or is he just crazy? Which one is it?
They become obsessed, obsessed with these questions that have nothing to do with the fundamental values and needs in our lives. If, in fact, Sean Hannity invited debate tomorrow on whether Joe Biden is a Smurf, that would be the central preoccupation of the right wing for the next three weeks. (By the way, he’s not.)
So we’re different, because we actually concentrate on the things that matter in people’s lives. And not only that, but we actually have solutions for those problems.
Again, this is a fundamental difference, because if you don’t know what the problem is, you’re going to have a really hard time solving it. And that’s why I feel that they’re so far off base, because every single Republican candidate for president, every single one, if you ask them, “What’s the fundamental problem facing this country?”, they will all give you the same answer. Their answer is that rich people don’t have enough money. They think that’s the problem. So we have to give them more tax cuts, more subsidies, more government contracts, more this, more that, in the vain hope that they will give some of it back to us.
It doesn’t work that way. It just doesn’t work that way.
And the only possible exception is Mitt Romney. He actually probably does know better than that, but he realizes that he can’t say anything different, because then he wouldn’t get the nomination and he wouldn’t be President. Honestly, I think that if you administered sodium pentothal to Mitt Romney, truth serum to Mitt Romney, he would just go silent, and say nothing.
So listen, I think that if you know the problem, that’s the first step in actually finding the solution. And we do have solutions.
I used to take a lot of backtalk from the Republicans, because I would point out that they’ve got nothing, and they criticized me for pointing that out. And I’d say: “Look, it’s not my fault that you got nothing. Go get something.”
But when you think about it, you realize that, what is the Republicans jobs program? We heard it actually from Herman Cain last week. The job program that he suggested for the 24 million Americans who don’t have a job was, “go get one.” If one person doesn’t have a job, okay, that person can get a job. But if 24 million people don’t have a job, it’s going to be a little bit crowded [at the unemployment office, when you] fill out a job application.
The economy has been fundamentally mismanaged, and the result of that is that we have what Karl Marx called “a reserve army of unemployed.” (And by the way, I am probably the only candidate for Congress this year whom you will hear quoting Karl Marx.) He pointed out that if you reach a point that there are so many unemployed, it doesn’t just affect the unemployed, it affects the employed. Because the employed are always worried about losing their jobs, and in fact, can be replaced by someone who is cheaper and more desperate then they are. If you are making twelve dollars an hour and there are unemployed people who have to work for eight to survive, then your employer will get rid of you, and replace you with somebody who is willing to work -- who has to work -- for eight dollars an hour. And that’s fine with Republicans, because they say if you are making eight dollars an hour, it’s because you want to make eight dollars an hour. That’s actually what you want in your heart. It’s okay with them.
What is the Republican plan for health care? I think you all know my answer to that. “Don’t get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly.”
I haven’t heard it yet, but I’m pretty sure I know what the Republican plan for hunger is. It’s “Soylent Green.” That’s actually a two-fer. It solves two problems at once. It’s a two-fer: hunger and Social Security.
So look, our [Progressive] answers are simple. We realize that we spent $157 billion last year on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thank God at least one of them is coming to an end soon. Do the math. You could create five million jobs [with that money], five million jobs doing useful things, taking care of seniors, taking care of children, fixing our infrastructure, the bridges, the schools and so on. I mean, we still have children here in Orlando who go to school in trailers. My own children, who go to public school, they were in trailers until this year. We have all these things that we could be doing. I think that it’s better to have those five million people actually doing useful things for all of us, than sitting at home, waiting to lose their homes, and [then] living in their cars. It’s a very simple choice, and the answer of the Republicans is always the same. It’s “do nothing. The problem will solve itself in some mysterious, magical manner.” They think that the Invisible Hand is the answer to everything; the wonder of the marketplace. I have never seen the Invisible Hand change a diaper. I’ve never seen that.
So we should put these people back to work. I will give you another example. We spent over $90 billion last year extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich. Again, do the math. That is three million people that we could have employed at $30,000 a year doing the things that needed to be done, and keeping them from falling out of the middle class, and into the gutter.
Just those two things, those two things put together, you’ve got eight million jobs. You [would] cut the unemployment rate from nine percent to four percent, which is where it ought to be, or lower. Just those two little things that we could change -- called “Peace,” and an end to tax breaks for the filthy rich.