Democratic Perspective recently had the opportunity to speak with Congressman Raúl Grijalva of Tucson. Grijalva is representative for the 7th District in southern Arizona and co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He serves on the House Committee on Natural Resources, and he is a strong advocate for mining reform and other environmental causes.
We began the interview by asking the Congressman about the Republican bills to allow uranium mining in the Grand Canyon. He replied by saying, “Paul Gosar introduced the bill in the House. Kyl and McCain have introduced a similar bill in the Senate. They are contradicting science and the people of northern Arizona and Coconino County. The tribes are in strict opposition of the mining. Public comment is overwhelmingly in favor of withdrawing more than a million acres from potential mining. The Grand Canyon is an icon, a special place.”
When asked what people can do about the proposed mining, Grijalva said, “The new majority’s mantra was that elections have consequences. We need to let them know there’s a reckoning coming.”
“There’s considerable opposition to mining on federal lands,” he continued, “But it doesn’t seem to matter. The laws are being written by the mining companies. Rosemont Mining would dump tailings on forest lands. Resolution Mining would pollute groundwater. And they would pay no royalties. The copper would be exported. And the return to taxpayers is zero. The gas and oil industry pays 5 percent for extraction from federal lands. But mining pays nothing.”
Moving to another issue, we asked the Congressman about Social Security and Medicare. “The endurance of Social Security is solid,” he responded. “But Congress can do more. Lifting the salary cap for those who make the most would raise $1.2 trillion. Saying that the program is unsustainable is a red herring. Same with Medicare. The voucher system is a giveaway to private insurance. These are not money-saving proposals. They’re part of the ‘Government is bad’ philosophy.”
The Congressman encourages people to speak up in defense of the so-called entitlements. “The best advocates for Social Security are recipients,” he said. “It has always been a third rail of politics. I hope that continues in 2012. People don’t have pensions anymore. They need these programs. Americans have always felt a shared responsibility. Let’s hope it continues,” he concluded.