Exclusive: Grayson says GOP ‘taking the whole country hostage’
WASHINGTON – With a government shutdown less than 12 hours away, progressive firebrand and former Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) on Friday afternoon compared the budget negotiations to the showdown that occurred last December over tax cuts.
“Once again, the Republican Party leadership in Washington is taking the whole country hostage,” Grayson told Raw Story in an interview. “They did it four months ago when they said nobody could have tax cuts unless we have tax cuts for the rich. And now they’re doing it again, saying nobody can have government unless government’s basic roles are rewritten to their liking.”
“This is what happens when you placate people who operate that way. They keep doing it.”
The sticking point in the ongoing negotiations Friday afternoon was a policy rider blocking federal funding for Planned Parenthood, although Republicans disputed reports that a deal on budget cut levels had been reached. The final level is projected to be in the range of $34 to $42 billion in spending reductions.
According to Grayson, however, the cuts would be a bad idea. “We’re cutting the wrong things,” he said. “Nobody says we should be cutting…cancer research, air traffic control, fraud prosecutions and criminal prosecutions. It doesn’t make any sense.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) went back and forth Friday trading barbs in press conferences, each side blaming the other for the failure to strike a budget deal before midnight when government funding runs out. Both agreed, however, the cuts ought to be made in order to try and balance the budget.
Again, Grayson had a different idea.
“I don’t believe the country can afford a balanced budget right now,” he said. “Basic economics tell you that we need fiscal policy and monetary policy to help the country recover… Deficit spending is necessary to create enough aggregate demand to keep people working. The only way you can avoid it is by completely restructuring the economy.”
The former one-term congressman, who lost re-election in November, recalled that a Republican president “handed President Obama a structural deficit of $1.4 trillion dollars. And by cutting taxes for the rich Republicans have created a situation where the economy can no longer function without a deficit. So now it’s almost inevitable.”
Will Grayson, who’s reviled by conservatives but continues to enjoy strong support among liberals, consider running for office again? “We’ll see. If that’s what people want,” he said, speaking of his days in the House with fond memories. “There is an enormous opportunity every single day to do something good for other people, and it’s hard to find another job like that.”