Live Chat: Blue America Welcomes Back Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ)

Blue America is always appreciative that Congressman Raúl Grijalva makes time to stop by for a monthly Blue America chat. This week he -- along with two other Blue America-backed progressives, Alan Grayson and Mary Jo Kilroy -- sent a letter to

Blue America is always appreciative that Congressman Raúl Grijalva makes time to stop by for a monthly Blue America chat. This week he -- along with two other Blue America-backed progressives, Alan Grayson and Mary Jo Kilroy -- sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi requesting that she schedule a vote on extending the Bush-era tax cuts to the middle class while sunsetting provisions that benefit the richest 3% of Americans. Before we repair to the C&L comments forum for our Q&A with Congressman Grijalva, let me share that letter:

Dear Madam Speaker:

Last decade, President Bush rammed through Congress a multi-billion dollar give-away for the wealthiest Americans on the backs of our nation's middle-class. In the process, the aforementioned Bush tax cuts eviscerated an unprecedented budget surplus and weakened our nation's fiscal health. As the Bush tax cuts are set to expire, we respectfully urge you to bring to the floor, before Congress adjourns in October, a vote on President Obama's recently proposed tax plan: permanent tax cuts for the middle-class while allowing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Americans to expire, using any additional revenue to close our budget deficit.

We must show the American people that our Democratic Majority stands for them-- people who have worked hard, played by the rules and depend on these tax breaks to make ends meet. We also need to get serious about cutting our budget deficit by allowing the Bush tax cuts for the rich to expire.

Some have argued that the Bush tax cuts help to stimulate the economy, or that allowing these cuts to expire would hurt our nation's small businesses. This is flat out wrong. According to a recent report by the Center for American Progress, the economy boasted 132 million jobs in June 2001, the month that the first of the Bush tax cuts was signed into law. By June 2004, there were just 131.4 million jobs-- a decrease of 600,000 jobs. Furthermore, a recent report from the Tax Policy Center states that, "Roughly 97 percent of small businesses would not be affected at all by increases in the top two tax rates."

Rather, extending the Bush tax cuts will result in an $830 billion give-away for the nation's wealthiest Americans, significantly increasing government debt, the interest on which will be paid by our nation's middle-class for years to come. This astronomical sum could instead be used to close our budget deficit.

It is critical that we pass the Obama middle-class tax cuts-- not providing an even greater lift for the wealthiest Americans who don't need it.

Congressman Grijalva's leadership on tax fairness and on protecting Social Security is what Digby, Amato and I asked him to come over and speak with us about today. He told us he is skeptical about the legitimacy of President Obama's "deficit commission" (what Digby dubbed "The Cat Food Commission").

"The commission," he told us yesterday, "has lost its legitimacy, thanks to Alan Simpson's and other members' comments. There is open hostility toward Social Security, and the intention seems to be to pit the middle class against Social Security recipients. The question now is why Social Security is even on the table and why the commission is being considered the be-all, end-all of fiscal policy, which is actually the role of Congress."

We asked him what it's going to take to get the message through to those who sit on that commission that cuts to Social Security are a non-starter for Congress and the American public... and how are you going to get there? His answer:

"A majority of Congress has to say it won't support Social Security cuts regardless of other suggestions that may be more attractive. Public sentiment is strongly against cuts and raising the retirement age, and I think all progressives have to do is keep the pressure on as long as possible for our colleagues to realize there isn't a single real reason -- political, social or economic -- to make these unnecessary and unpopular changes. The commission itself may never get the message, but that's not what counts the most. We need to stand strong in the House, and we will."

Raúl's in a tough reelection battle in the Inferno State. If you'd like to make sure one of Congress' only unwavering progressive leaders stays on post, please consider helping him at Blue America's One America page.

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