Tom Periello Speaks to Activists

Former Congressman Tom Periello (D VA-5), President and CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, spoke to a gathering of activists at Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia.

In conversation before the meeting, participants discussed natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania and its environmental issues.

Periello addressed the activists, “I know all of you are community leaders, and you have various outlets where you can be heard. we not only want to give Pennsylvania-specific (statistics) about this election, but also the methodology behind them.”

More after the jump.
Periello said the his background “was in grassroots organizing, and then started working on conflict resolution, peace negotiations in West Africa, Afghanistan and other countries, which naturally led to a run for Congress in 2008. I ran in a very conservative district in central and southern Virginia, and I had the crazy idea that we’d win more voters by actually being stronger among progressives rather than trying to be Republican-lite.”

After winning narrowly, Periello said, “I was proud to vote for health care twice, for the (economic) stimulus, DREAM Act, etc. In the terrible year for Democrats of 2010, we lost by only three points when we should have lost by seventeen.” Piriello’s career, he said, “is what has attracted me so much to the Center for American Progress. We believe fact should still matter, even though we know how manipulated information is today. By having stronger, bolder ideas as progressives, we actually convert more people, than by cutting a good idea in half.”

Warning against overconfidence and complacency because Obama is ahead of Romney in the polls,  Periello said,

As someone who lived through the 2010 election, in a Citizens United era, anything is possible. There’s a billion dollars on the conservative side, and it’s not just about them wanting Mitt Romney elected. They actually actively want to de-legitimize the concept of clean energy, they want to de-legitimize the idea of Medicare as a guaranteed benefit, there are deeper ideological fights  that are being fought here.  We’re here today, not just because we care about this election,  but we care about what happens the day after the election. We want to see a conversation over the next forty-five to fifty days that helps inform the debate about financial issues and energy.

Periello showed charts that summarized what he called

the core economic, kitchen-table arguments of this campaign. There are a lot of things you simply can’t quantify…when you talk about treating LGBT brothers and sisters as less than fully human, you can’t put a dollar figure on that. When you talk about 2.1 million women just in Pennsylvania alone who have guaranteed pre-preventative care under Obamacare, it’s hard to put a dollar figure on that. When you have 191 thousand kids in Pennsylvania with pre-existing conditions who cannot be discriminated against under laws that are already active, (and) who are able to stay on their family plans-there are deep issue as to who we are as a people, who we want to treat our neighbors, what it means to consider redefining rape and outlawing contraception, or at least saying that your boss has some right to decide your access to it.

Periello pointed out the Romney tax plan to raise taxes on lower income families by $2,000 a year, along with five trillion dollars in tax cuts aimed at high-income people. “He has been extremely specific about this,” said Periello.

Romney, added Periello, has also been specific in his spending plan, which includes defense, Social Security, Medicare, veterans benefits, education, transportation, student grants, among others. “Romney says he wants to cut overall spending,” said Periello, “then he says, ‘We’re going to keep Social Security and Medicare constant for ten years.’ (Romney) says he wants to increase defense spending by two trillion dollars a year,” which means “everything  else has to be cut by forty percent in order to reach that target.” Periello raised the question, “What if Romney is lying, what if he’s not fully telling the truth?”

Discussing how Pennsylvania would be affected by the Romney cuts, Periello said,

Over the next decade, that means $118 billion less in federal investment in the state, or about $12 billion a year over the next decade. Either that $12 billion has to be replaced in local and state spending, in which case you’re raising taxes again, or significant benefit cuts, on things like education, Pell Grants, veterans’ benefits, federal aviation, local airports shutting down, a lot of things that people depend on, in addition to Medicaid. You might say, ‘He’s not going to go after veterans,’ then everything else has to be cut by sixty percent.

There’s a reason he wants to be vague about this. Most of these are things voters actually like, and are glad we’re investing in, like public health and safety.


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