ORLANDO – The deal that President Obama is finalizing to extend the Bush-era tax cuts is likely to pick up solid Republican support, but it could be a tougher sell for members of the president’s own party.
That’s almost certain to include U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, who has spent the past month ridiculing the notion that the richest Americans need a tax break, or that giving them more money will help boost a sagging economy.
“What will the rich do with it?” Grayson said. “They’ll keep it in their pockets. If they could make money by hiring people, they would have already. The top 10 percent already has 90 percent of the assets in the United States.”
Grayson was among the Democrats defeated in last month’s congressional elections, a huge Republican sweep that brought the GOP 63 seats in Congress.
In the week following the election, Grayson said he was still hopeful that President Obama would remain faithful to his early pledge to allow tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to expire this year.
“I think the Democrats are waiting to see what Obama decides to do,” Grayson said. “What he’s done so far is ask the Republicans to sit down with him, and they haven’t done that yet. It’s just a question of Democrats waiting for their leader to lead.”
The best way to lead, Grayson said, would be to attack Republicans for supporting tax cuts for Americans who don’t need the money and are unlikely to spend it in ways that boost the economy. Last month, Grayson took to the House floor to denounce the Republican plan for tax cuts, citing studies by the group Citizens for Tax Justice which showed that tax breaks for the top 1 percent of wage earners amount to $83,347 a year per person. What is the average multimillionaire likely to do with that money, Grayson asked?
“They can buy an $83,000 Mercedes Benz E-Class,” he said. “They can buy this gorgeous Hermies handbag, a Birkin, for $61,800. They can buy this bottle of Chateua d’Yauem wine from 1787 for $56,588. They can buy a bottle of wine from 1787 every year for the next 20 years.”
And, having shown photographs of these products, Grayson then added, ”Thank you, Republicans.”
He didn’t stop there, however. The Orlando congressman had planned a much lengthier list of possible sales for the top 1 percent.
“They can buy 800 cigars,” he said. “Think about that – it’s one for the morning and one for the evening. Then they can light their cigars with $100 bills.”
The tax break would enable the rich to buy three tickets to the most expensive suite at the Super Bowl, Grayson added – and he wasn’t finished.
“They can go to the top of Mount Everest,” he said. “That costs only $65,000. A luxury trip with someone holding your bag all the way up. There’s just one thing – don’t fall down.”
If they happen to be fans of the West Coast, he added, “They can enjoy two nights at the Hugh Hefner Sky Villa in Las Vegas for $80,000. I’m not sure that’s the best use of $100 billion a year in tax money.”
A better use of the money, Grayson said, would be to create jobs to help bring down the nation’s 9.8 percent unemployment rate. He said the money being spent on tax cuts for the top 1 percent could instead be used to create millions of public works jobs paying $30,000 each.
“Let’s give 300 million Americans a job,” he said. “I favor jobs, not tax cuts for the rich.”
After giving the speech, Grayson said a broadcast version on YouTube attracted 7,000 comments in one night.
“The calls are coming,” he said. “I don’t know if that will continue after I leave office, but obviously it’s resonating with people.”
Grayson said he thinks the speech scored big with fellow progressives who wanted President Obama to stick by his pledge to let the Bush tax cuts expire for the richest Americans.
“What it tells me,” Grayson said, “is people on our side very much want someone to speak out and tell the truth. I haven’t changed. The fact that we ended up with 7,000 comments suggests there’s an audience for a Democrat with guts.”