By Yaël Ossowski | Florida Watchdog
ST. PETERSBURG — A quick glance at former Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson’s professional record and one would guess he’d hold fiscally conservative sympathies.
As a former private-sector economist and telecommunications executive, Grayson made millions of dollars providing goods and services and creating jobs, accumulating a level of wealth which ranked him as the 11th richest member of Congress in 2010, according to Roll Call.
He voted against two different debt ceiling increases during his first few months in Congress, voicing concerns over rampant federal spending.
“We need to live within our means. We need to eliminate wasteful spending. If we did those two simple things, we would not need to raise the debt limit,” Grayson wrote in a statement in 2010.
Unlike his record would suggest, Grayson became known as a progressive firebrand, making his reputation by disparaging his Republican opponents’ views on health care and Social Security and arguing for an increased role of government into the lives of citizens.
And that’s what he’ll run on in his quest to represent Florida’s District 9, a newly configured district with a population of almost 40 percent Hispanic voters.
Grayson was elected to represent central Florida’s 8th District in 2008, but lost his re-election bid in 2010 to former Republican state Rep. Daniel Webster, by a margin of more than 18 percentage points.
In recent media reports and public debates, Grayson has used his particular style to attack those who oppose the largest one-time tax increase in recent memory, the “fiscal cliff” brought on by the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans and $50 billion in military sequestration cuts at the end of this year.
Grayson was quick to share his thoughts to his nearly 46,000 fans on Facebook.
“The fiscal cliff is the Orwellian propaganda term that refers to spending cuts and tax increases that automatically come into effect at the end of this year,” he wrote on his Facebook page on Sept. 12, later chiding those opposed to repealing the “Bush tax cuts for the rich.”
When questioned by an audience member at the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida debate on Sept. 17 in Orlando, Grayson seemed hesitant to give any specific examples on just how much a taxpayer should be required to pay each year to the government in taxes.
“I can’t give you a number because it’s a concept, not a number. The answer is that it should be high enough to balance the budget when the economy is healthy,” said Grayson. “But I see no reason why it should be 75 percent.”
His opponent, Republican author and talk show host Todd Long, of Winter Park, was quick to play to the questioner’s concerns.
“No more than one-third. The purpose of government is to secure your God-given rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness,” said Long. “Not to determine who gets what and all that.”
The audience applauded Long’s remarks and remained cold to Grayson throughout the rest of the debate.
In 2010, when the idea of extending or eliminating the Bush-era tax cuts was debated, Grayson played with the idea that wealthier Americans would be much better off with the tax cut.
He explained that another tax cut could allow the richest Americans, the “high and mighty,” according to Grayson, to purchase a new Mercedes-Benz each year for the rest of their lives and $50,000 bottles of wine every year for a decade.
“They could buy 800 luxury cigars and light each one with a $100 bill and afford to do this twice a day,” said Grayson. “Thank you Republican Party.”
Grayson’s campaign office did not return requests for comment.
Voters in District 9 will decide between Grayson and Long on Nov. 6.
Yaël Ossowski is Florida Bureau Chief for Watchdog.org. Contact him at Yael@FloridaWatchdog.org.
— Yaël (@YaelOss) September 10, 2012