by David Safier
On Thursday, December 8, as the Take Back the Capitol marchers were gathered in the park on the other side of the Capitol Building, I sat down with Rep. Raúl Grijalva in his office in the Longworth House Office Building. I set an audio recorder between us, and we spoke for half an hour.
I had planned to pull out excerpts and put them all in one post, but as I transcribed the interview, I found I couldn't edit Grijalva's words without taking away from what he had to say. So I decided to present a reasonably unedited transcript of his words (a luxury the online media can indulge it while the print media has to worry about column inches), dividing the interview into four posts, one for each topic. I smoothed out some phrases for continuity, occasionally added a word or phrase in brackets for clarity, and removed a few tangential discussions. Otherwise, this is what Grijalva said.
The four topics are: Extending the payroll tax cut; The Occupy movement and the Take Back the Capitol events; Recent revelations about Arpaio' failure to investigate 400 sex-crime cases; and Grijalva's run for reelection.
I'll try to get the three other topics posted before the end of the day.
The Grijalva interview, Part 1: Extending the Payroll Tax Cut
The payroll tax is a good mechanism to try to keep some disposable income in the hands of middle class folk and working folk, and I support that. I wish there was another means to do it other than taking it out of the Social Security contribution. It concerns me. I believe this is intended by the administration to be a one shot deal, and we’re going to replace it, but if this becomes a permanent pattern, then we’re taking from Social Security and potentially leaving a gap. With all the attacks on Social Security from the Republican majority here, this is not a good time to expose weaknesses.
One of the things we suggested is to go ahead and scrap the cap on Social Security, so people with higher incomes would pay the same as other people. Just take the cap off completely, the same percentage for everyone. Right now [the cap] stops us from being able to tax beyond a certain level. That would bring so much revenue into the trust fund and really stabilize Social Security.
Having said all that, I support [extending] the payroll tax [cut]. I think there is a central opposition to the legislation in the Republican Party, but politically, they’re having a really hard time explaining why they don’t want to generate revenue out of the high end, the millionaires, why they don’t want the Bush tax cuts to expire, why they want a tax holiday for corporations to bring their money from overseas back here. They’re pushing those points but then opposing a payroll tax deduction for the middle class. That’s a hard political sell. They’re dancing around it. They’re coming up with some machinations, like, let’s put on means testing for Social Security and Medicare, which would be destructive. Let’s put the pipeline in. They’re putting Christmas tree ornaments on this very simple legislation: extend unemployment benefits, and extend the payroll tax cut. The President said today, if you send me that kind of legislation, with pipelines, I’m going to veto it.
It’s a clean tax break. It’s an extension of a tax break we’ve given before, that the Republicans supported the last time around. I think it would be good for the economy, and it will certainly be good for families to get a grand plus into their pocketbooks for a year.
So I support it. I wish there was a better pay-for, but given the choices, this is the way to go.