Why The Grayson-Takano Letter Is So Important
Yesterday, Obama announced that his next Office of Management and Budget director, a cabinet level position, would be Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the Wal-Mart Foundation. He said he expects her to help the country find a "way forward" as the Cantor-Ryan sequestration plan—$85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts-- kicks in. "Eventually," he said, "a lot of people are going to feel some pain." And if anyone knows how to spread around a lot of pain, it's a WalMart executive. Keep in mind only around a third of the country backs the Republican position on sequester (according to a poll released by CBS this morning.)
Sunday, Nelson Schwartz, writing in the NY Times, looked at how the shallow economic recovery isn't lifting all boats-- just Big Business yachts, like the SS WalMart.
With the Dow Jones industrial average flirting with a record high, the split between American workers and the companies that employ them is widening and could worsen in the next few months as federal budget cuts take hold.Downward pressure on wages has been as intense as one would normally expect under a Republican president. Isn't that strange? Obama and Boehner are busy trying to blame each other for the Sequester-- when Boehner isn't also trying to take credit for it-- but the fact of the matter is that they're both to blame. And it serves, if inelegantly, the goals of both Obama and his corporate wing of the Democratic Party and Boehner and his mess of a GOP. Just look at who opposed the Sequester bill from day one (at the link in the last sentence). It was voted on in August 2011 and progressives like Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Donna Edwards (D-MD), Ed Markey (D-MA), Mike Tierney (D-MA), Judy Chu (D-CA), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Bruce Braley (D-IA), John Conyers (D-MI), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Xavier Becerra (D-CA) and Jim McDermott (D-WA) voted against it-- as did some libertarian-oriented Republicans like Ron Paul (R-TX), Walter Jones (R-NC), Raul Labrador (R-ID) and Justin Amash (R-MI). But the Republican leadership and their entire Establishment pushed the bill through and the Obamabots and corporate Democrats in Congress went along. If they all knew it would be so bad, why did they vote for it?
That gulf helps explain why stock markets are thriving even as the economy is barely growing and unemployment remains stubbornly high.
With millions still out of work, companies face little pressure to raise salaries, while productivity gains allow them to increase sales without adding workers.
“So far in this recovery, corporations have captured an unusually high share of the income gains,” said Ethan Harris, co-head of global economics at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “The U.S. corporate sector is in a lot better health than the overall economy. And until we get a full recovery in the labor market, this will persist.”
The result has been a golden age for corporate profits, especially among multinational giants that are also benefiting from faster growth in emerging economies like China and India.
Is it possible that the political elites want to make it so painful that the public will accept the dreadful Simpson-Bowles Grand Bargain scenario? I think so-- and that's why the letter sent around Congress by Alan Grayson and Mark Takano. It states flatly-- no wiggle-room-- 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.” These are the signatories to this very bold, very line-in-the-sand letter:
• Alan Grayson (D-FL)This is the gold standard for Members of Congress willing to put their own careers on the line to protect working families. Don't look for House caucus leaders like Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Joe Crowley, Steny Hoyer or Steve Israel on a list like this. They have very different considerations than just what's best for the millions of working families at the backbone of American prosperity. It's especially important because Boehner is being pressured from the right for more and deeper cuts and because Obama is looking for a way to keep the amount of cuts but to redistribute them more to his own liking. The fatal flaw-- and it is proving very fatal throughout Europe-- is that the government should be working on growth and stimulating job creation, not obsessing over already shrinking budget deficits in the middle of a severe economic crisis for working people. Chuck Todd didn't go as far as saying Obama and Boehner are collaborating on this, just that they have a truce that will lead to the Grand Bargain everyone in the Village-- like Todd, of course-- is praying for.
• Mark Takano (D-CA)
• Corrine Brown (D-FL)
• Matt Cartwright (D-PA)
• Kathy Castor (D-FL)
• John Conyers (D-MI)
• Danny Davis (D-IL)
• Peter DeFazio (D-OR)
• Keith Ellison (D-MN)
• Gene Green (D-TX)
• Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)
• Luis Gutierrez (D-IL)
• Alcee Hastings (D-FL)
• Marcy Kaptur (D-OH)
• Barbara Lee (D-CA)
• Ed Markey (D-MA)
• Jim McGovern (D-MA)
• Jerry Nadler (D-NY)
• Grace Napolitano (D-CA)
• Rick Nolan (D-MN)
• Jose Serrano (D-NY)
• Nydia Velázquez (D-NY)
• Maxine Waters (D-CA)
And if everyone gets a break and if the sequester cuts do have impact in the next few months, count us as ones who are a bit optimistic that a Grand Bargain on the budget could be reached in September. Yes, we know that a Grand Bargain has been harder to find than the Loch Ness Monster. But here’s how it could happen: After some breathing room, after both parties let their budget processes play out, and after evidence that the U.S. economy has been negatively impacted by the sequester, both sides could determine that a Grand Bargain is in their interest-- Republicans decide they really, really want entitlement reforms and are willing to put up some additional revenue; Democrats decide they really, really want additional revenue and are willing to put up additional entitlement reform. And in September, the president and Democrats will have this response when Boehner and Republicans say, “The president got his tax increases.” They’ll be able to say, “The Republicans got their spending cuts.”And that's where a strategy like the one from the Grayson-Takano letter comes into play. It exempts cuts to the threadbare programs that most directly impact the people in the most need, the ones with the least clout inside the Beltway. To have a stalwart progressive, like Ed Markey (D-MA), who's in a tough primary battle with ConservaDem Stephen Lynch, sign the Grayson-Takano letter is a real mark of political courage. In fact, Blue America is starting a page to encourage people to show their gratitude to Grayson, Takano and to fearless progressives like Markey. Lynch, of course, has refused to sign the letter. The new ActBlue page is right here. Please visit it.
UPDATE FROM GRAYSON:
I like how succinctly he can explain it. "With the Norquist pledge, the Republicans have lined up on the side of millionaires, billionaires and multinational corporations. With our No Cuts pledge, we are lined up on the side of seniors, sick people, and poor people. We are comforting the afflicted, and they are comforting the comfortable.