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As a part of my Meet the Candidate Series, I sat down and talked with Congressman Jim McGovern.
Jim McGovern has earned a national reputation as a tireless advocate for his district and as a champion for food security, human rights, campaign finance reform, social justice and peace. Born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts, Jim is the son of two successful small business owners, Walter and Mindy. Both his sisters are teachers in the Worcester Public Schools. Jim is married to Lisa Murray McGovern and they have a son, Patrick and a daughter, Molly.
Since his first election to Congress in 1996, Jim has consistently delivered millions of dollars for jobs, vital local and regional projects, small businesses, public safety, regional and mass transportation projects, and affordable housing throughout his district and Massachusetts. Currently, Jim serves as the Chair of the powerful House Rules Committee, and a member of the House Agriculture Committee. In those roles, Jim has secured millions of dollars in federal grants and assistance for Massachusetts. Jim is also co-chair of both the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and the House Hunger Caucus.
Before his election to Congress, Jim spent 14 years working as a senior aide for the late U.S. Representative John Joseph Moakley (D-South Boston). In 1989, Moakley tapped Jim to lead the investigation into the murders of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter. The investigation ultimately led to a seminal change in U.S. foreign policy towards El Salvador when it determined that the Salvadoran military was implicated in the murders. That landmark determination led to future military aid from the U.S. being conditioned on an improved human rights record. Jim’s time in El Salvador strengthened his personal and political beliefs.
In Congress, Jim has authored important legislation to increase Pell Grant funding to allow more students access to higher education; to provide funds to preserve open space in urban and suburban communities; and to give tax credits to employers who pay the salaries of their employees who are called up to active duty in the Guard and Reserves.
A strong proponent of healthcare reform, his legislative efforts included reducing the cost of home health care, giving patients the dignity to be cared for in their own homes with the help of medical professionals.
Jim voted against the initial authorization of force in Iraq in 2002 and has been among the most prominent Congressional voices on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Jim introduced a bipartisan, bicameral bill calling for a flexible timetable for withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan as a matter of national security and fiscal responsibility.
Jim has also taken a leadership role in the fight against hunger at home and abroad, successfully expanding the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, which helps alleviate child hunger and poverty by providing nutritious meals to children in schools in the world’s poorest countries. Every year, Jim walks 43 miles throughout the Pioneer Valley to raise awareness of hunger in our community and to raise funds for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.
Jim is one of the leading voices in Congress fighting to overturn Citizens United, and has become one of the main advocates in the fight against corporate personhood.
Jim earned his Bachelor of Arts (‘81) and Masters of Public Administration (‘84) degrees from The American University, working his way through college by serving as an aide in the office of U.S. Senator George McGovern (D-SD). He went on to manage Senator McGovern’s 1984 Presidential campaign in Massachusetts, and delivered his nomination speech during the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco.
Connect with Congressman Jim McGovern
- Facebook – @McGovernForCongress
- Instagram – @jimmcgovernma
- Twitter – @mcgovernma
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Transcript – Please note, this Transcript is AI Generated. It has not had the discerning ears of a real human to edit it, as such, there are bound to be a few errors
Jim McGovern 0:00
One of my passions in Congress has been about ending hunger in this country. We live in the richest country in the history of the world. And yet there are 35 million of our fellow citizens who don’t know where the next meal is gonna come from.
Jimmy Tingle 0:14
Hello, everybody, welcome to another episode of the Jimmy tingle show. I am Jimmy, it is excellent to be here today with you. I want to thank you all for joining us. You guys have been loyal listeners. And we really appreciate it. Our numbers are growing. And we love that. So I right now I want to bring up a very special guest. He has agreed to join us take time out of his busy schedule and the United States Congress. Please welcome to the show the one and only Congressman Jim McGovern. Happy to be with you. Good to see you again, my friend. Thanks so much for joining us. I know you’ve been busy as anything done in Washington. I know you’ve just been working on this huge hunger program. Tell us about this hunger program?
Jim McGovern 0:57
Well, you know, you know, one of my passions, it says in Congress has been about ending hunger in this country, we live in the richest country in the history of the world. And yet, there are 35 million of our fellow citizens who don’t know where the next meal is gonna come from. And in 1969, the White House actually did a conference on this topic. And out of that came the WIC program, the women’s infants and children’s program, and the modern day food stamp program, more focused on child nutrition, even labeling, so that we we go shopping, we know what we’re buying, and we can tell whether it’s good for us or not. And then we started to make progress toward ending hunger, and then in the 1980s. And since then we have, you know, started to backslide. And again, 10s of millions of our fellow citizens are hungry, and we can do something about it. It’s a solvable problem. And I tried to get the Obama administration to do another White House Conference, and they did some good stuff. But we didn’t get to the point where they did a conference. And then we have four years of Trump and I said, forget about it. And then when Biden won, we started to reach out to him even before he was sworn in. And to his credit, he and the vice president hosted this conference. And it was really magnificent. I mean, it was about laying out a strategy. So we could actually end hunger in this country. And we could end diet related diseases, and we could promote better access to nutrition for everybody. And we talked about things like universal free school meals for all of our children. We talked about enhancing the SNAP program, and we talked about medically tailored meals and that food is medicine. You know, my grandmother used to say to me all the time, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. It would annoy me. I wish she was still alive. So I can say you’re right, right. I mean, I mean, our healthcare system is divorced from nutrition, and food, our education system is we need to rethink this. And this conference, is a first big step toward doing that.
Jimmy Tingle 2:51
Great. Are there actual funds allocated towards this effort?
Jim McGovern 2:55
Yeah, so there are existing funds that the administration has access to, that they’re going to need to spend down. And, and there are some things that they can do by, you know, doing some regulatory changes, Congress is going to have to do more, you know, we reached out to the private sector, they were 8.5 billion, that’s billion with a B billion dollars worth of commitments toward achieving this goal. But there’s a role for states, there’s a role for cities and towns, there’s a role for everybody, right? The nonprofit world, the faith based community, we all have a role. But what we have lacked in this country is actually a plan. Because if you want to talk about an issue like hunger, you come to Congress, well, if you want to talk about snap at the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, you go to the Agriculture Committee, if you want to talk about school meals, you got to go to the Education and Labor Committee. Or if you want to talk about food, medicine, you have to go to the Energy and Commerce always it means committee. But if the Agriculture Committee did a hearing on food is medicine, Energy and Commerce, always it means would be pissed. So we, you know, we were siloed. And this is a way to break down the silos, not just in Congress, but within the administration. Let’s all come together. And let’s just do this. And by the way, this is you know, if we do this, right, we improve the quality of life for people. But if you’re not moved by that if you if you really don’t care about helping people, and all you care about is the bottom line, you ought to join with us in this effort, because hunger cost an awful lot of money. Kids who go to school hungry, don’t learn work, who should go to work hungry, are less productive. And we have a ton of avoidable health care costs associated with hunger and lack of nutrition from diabetes, to heart disease to high blood pressure, I go right down the list. So, you know, this is a this is a time to think big and bold and we could do something. And again, I’m grateful to the President to the Vice President, to Dr. Susan Rice, who is the head of the President’s domestic policy council who helped put all this together. It was an incredible day and And I’m really excited about what we what we can get done. That’s wonderful.
Jimmy Tingle 5:03
Jim, tell me, you’ve been leading on the hunger issue for many, many years since I’ve known you. We go back. You’ve been in Congress since 1996. I think I go back at least that far with you. And I remember used to work for Joe Moakley. Where does this passion for solving the hunger issue come from? On a personal level with you?
Jim McGovern 5:23
Well, actually, before I worked with Jim Oakley, I worked for Senator George McGovern, no relation, great last name, but I worked my way through college and his Senate office at a paid internship. And he was the head of a select committee on nutrition and human needs. And he did hearings about food insecurity, and hunger and lack of access to nutrition, all around the country. And I got to sit in on a lot of those. And he worked. His you know, McGovern was a liberal Democrat, he worked very closely with Bob Dole, conservative Republican. And they introduced and passed some of the most consequential anti hunger pro nutrition legislation ever in our history. And so I learned a lot about that from them. And then when I got elected to Congress, you know, people will come to my office who are looking for food. My sisters are school teachers and Western, they told me about kids coming to school hungry. And when they provided meals, on Fridays, they were looking for meals to bring home for the weekend, because they didn’t have any food. I’ve been to emergency rooms, all throughout Massachusetts, where you have senior citizens who are in the emergency room, because they’re taking their medication on an empty stomach when they’re supposed to take it with a meal, but they can’t afford their medication, their food and their heat and their rent. So look, you know, we are blessed with agricultural abundance. This is hunger is a political condition we have everything we need. What we have lacked is the political will. And the point of this effort, this conference is to just, you know, get that political will let’s, let’s create this movement. Let’s do something big and bold. Again, the last conference on this topic was in 1969, that was a time we still thought big, that was the year we lead somebody on the moon. And all these years, since, you know, we have put this issue on the back burner. And you know, as we speak, over 35 million of our fellow citizens don’t know where their next meal is gonna cover and we need to do better.
Jimmy Tingle 7:26
Great. Well, thank you for doing that, Jim. And it’s great that you’re trying to bring all these disparate groups together is everybody’s on the same page to get anything done on a national level on a scale like that everybody has to be on the same page, sort of like when John F. Kennedy said, we’re gonna go to the moon, they put the resources at it, and they got to the moon. So kudos to you. And thank you for doing that. My next question is, and, of course, you’re working with the Biden administration closely. How do you think the Biden administration is doing? And how do you think the message in is going to be for the midterms coming up?
Jim McGovern 8:03
I think they’re doing great in a lot of areas, we’ve accomplished an awful lot. We passed the American rescue package to get more shots in people’s arms to help get us out of this COVID crisis. We helped save small businesses, we provided assistance to cities and towns that were going to go bankrupt, but they didn’t get any help. We passed the biggest infrastructure bill in the history of our country. I mean, I did a Google search of all the structurally deficient bridges in my congressional district, and you’re lucky, I’m alive to be able to talk to you. I mean, it is unbelievable, right? We could fix them now. And we can fix our roads and our water and our sewer systems. Massachusetts is getting over $12 million. In additional assistance above and beyond what we normally get for the federal government for infrastructure to deal with this, these challenges. You know, we passed the inflation Reduction Act only to, you know, deal with the issue of inflation to lower costs, we gave Medicare the ability to negotiate lower prescription drug prices for our seniors, we, for our seniors, we kept the out of pocket monthly expenses on insulin buy, you know, to $35 It’s a big deal. And we put forward the biggest investment to combat climate change ever, is huge, to help us make transitions to cleaner energy to electric vehicles, to retrofit buildings and homes with better insulation. I mean, it’s really quite incredible. And, you know, it’s sometimes we don’t focus on the good. It’s not here to focus in on, you know, the challenges that we have, and we have challenges. Maybe we have this crazy man in Russia, Vladimir Putin launching a war against Ukraine and screwing up the world’s food supply because Ukraine is the breadbasket of the world. And so we’re having trouble getting food out of there. You know, gas prices go up, go down, they may go up again. Who knows? But that even that tells us why we need to be grateful that we pass this huge investment to promote green energy. The bottom line is we all gotta take a deep breath, acknowledge all the good things that we’re doing. Understand, we’re coming out of a pandemic, and things like inflation are global. It’s not Joe Biden’s fault. He’s responsible for helping to dig us out of this crisis that we’ve been faced with, what is it that we can do to solve problems, not just complain about them?
Jimmy Tingle 10:30
How do you think he’s doing with foreign policy? Do you think the former president would have been able to unite NATO against Putin?
Jim McGovern 10:40
Yeah, I mean, look at Trump wanted to do away with NATO. He wanted to get out of NATO. Trump would have, you know, handed Putin, Ukraine, don’t forget Trump’s output was, you know, wonderful. And I think maybe it was because he was grateful for all of the Russian interference in the 2016 election, you know, to, to beat up on Hillary Clinton and say that Donald Trump was great. But the bottom line is Donald Trump cares about one thing, and one thing only, and that’s himself and care about anything, anybody didn’t care about any country. It’s all about him how he enriches himself and his family. And quite frankly, he is somebody who, if he had gotten reelected, would have moved this country, our country, away from democracy and more toward authoritarianism. And I know, he’s still a threat. He is still, you know, putting out there these crazy conspiracy theories, and bracing Q anon. And what is really hard for me to believe, is that so many Republicans in Congress, people who I think are pretty thoughtful, but are so afraid of him, that they go along to get along with the people that bother me, or that people I know, know better. And who just are too afraid to stand up and say, This is nuts. You know, this is just wrong. I mean, I have people who were on the floor with me on January 6, who are afraid to criticize those who attacked not only our capital, but our democracy on that day, you know, when I was I was in the Speaker’s chair, I took over from Speaker Pelosi that day, so I, I saw everything. And privately, they’ll tell you, Oh, no, no, this is awful, awful, awful that Trump is, you know, in another world, but when the cameras are on, and the microphones are in front of their face, I mean, they just, they, they, they they reinforce this big lie, and they continue to, you know, embrace these crazy conspiracy theories. And I’m hoping that these midterms, again, go against history, and that Democrats can hold the House and the Senate, because I’m going to tell you very honestly, I think if the Republicans were to take over the House of Representatives, it’s tantamount to turning the keys of government over to the insurrectionist. I’m really worried and empowers the most extreme, the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party. If they lose, then it will force the Republicans to reevaluate who they are. And they’ll go back to being the Mitt Romney’s or the Barry Goldwater’s and whether John Boehner is or whatever, and they’ll move away from Q anon and all this other crazy stuff.
Jimmy Tingle 13:28
Jim, how would you suggest people get involved? If they are persuaded that the Democrats would be a better group to run Congress? How would you suggest that people help that become a reality or remain a reality?
Jim McGovern 13:46
Well, I mean, depending on where you’re from, I mean, get involved in the campaign. And if you’re living in the state where your congressional representative is safe, then look to a neighboring state. You know, you we all have relatives and other states. We all have friends and people who are in our wedding parties, and we went to college with a dice with, let’s reach out to them, tell them to get involved. If you want to know what races you need to focus on, go to the D Triple C that’s the Democratic Congressional Campaign, committee D triple c.org and look up, you know, what the status of the races are in your state? Or where you’re or states that you’re near? If you’re a Massachusetts, you know what, take a weekend go up and volunteer for Chris Pappas or any customer up in New Hampshire or Maggie has and is running for re election to the Senate. You know, we have a race in Rhode Island. You know, that is an important race to be involved with. I mean, I could go on and on and on. Please
Jimmy Tingle 14:41
tell people because especially the people in Massachusetts, I know a lot of people want to help they’re not always sure how to do it. See as you’re recommending the D triple c.org
Jim McGovern 14:51
Right, and then look up the races and think well, you may have some influence. Look, none of us want to wake up the day after election. Come and say that and see that we lost, but know that we could have done more. I mean, I tell people all the time that what’s at stake is not just the usual stuff like, you know, economic policy and foreign policy and environmental policy stuff we fight about all the time. What is at stake, literally, is the future of our democracy. I mean, I am really worried that we are going to lose our democracy, we came so close on January 6, we set came so close. And you know, the people who right now want to run the Congress, are the people who are giving comfort to those who attack the Capitol, giving comfort to those who promote Q anon conspiracy theories online. And look, this is real. And there’s nothing that says that our democracy or Democratic Republic has to remain, there’s nothing that guarantees it. And it’s amazing that we look over history. The reason why we’ve kind of it stayed intact, is because people on both sides were sensible and rational, that precedent played a role that there were some some lines that nobody dared to cross, that’s all gone. Now. Donald Trump has crossed every line, the insurrection is across every line, I mean, we are in a whole different category. But this is the moment to stop them. And if we don’t I really, really fear for the future of this country. And again, I’m, I’m a liberal Democrat. You know, I have a lot of respect for over the years for some really conservative Republicans. You know, I’ve always felt that you don’t have to agree on everything to agree on something. And that’s something we agree on, we got to get done, and we could fight about the rest of this stuff. But this is no longer even about that. This is about whether the system that we have, where people matter stays in place. And so go to the D triple c.org, figure out what the campaigns are in your community or nearby states. But just get involved. This is an all hands on deck moment where we have to we have to push
Jimmy Tingle 17:00
back. So there are races up in New Hampshire. There’s Maggie Hasson, there’s Chris Pappas, there’s any customer you set up in New Hampshire, all those races need help. They need funds, they need people knocking on doors, making the wrong
Jim McGovern 17:13
car race in Rhode Island as candidates last name was magaziner, who’s running to replace Jim Landry van and he’s got a Republican challenger that is, you know, a fairly popular Mayor there. But but here’s the deal. To anybody who’s thinking about voting for a Republican in this upcoming election, let me just say this. It doesn’t matter at this moment, whether they’re, you know, extreme Magga, or they’re more moderate, because the bottom line is electing a Republican to the House or the Senate, just the mere elevation of electing them to a seat a giving control to the Republicans means that the agenda that they’ve all been talking about, including a national ban on abortion, can move forward, reversing the investments we’ve made in climate change, undercutting some of the key provisions in the infrastructure bill or the American rescue act, reclaiming important funds that have gone to communities to deal with the public health crisis. All that’s in jeopardy. The Republicans have a very, very radical agenda that they have outlined. And if you give them a majority in Congress, they then have the ability to bring all that to the floor of the House and Senate, vote on it. And then we’re going to have to live with the consequences. So now is the time to step up and to fight back.
Jimmy Tingle 18:38
Right, January 6, gets all the headlines, understandably, and rightfully so. But January 5, January 5, was the day that Stacey Abrams and the Democrats rallied in Georgia, they got the first African American senator in the history of Georgia, they got the first Jewish American senator in the history of Georgia. And they did that and it was a huge upset, but they did it not with rhetoric, they did it with knocking on doors, making phone calls, door to door retail politics, calling people donating and getting involved. So that’s got to be the call to action as we approach the midterms, get involved, do something for the team, if that’s your persuasion, if you’re a Republican, do something for the Republicans and say a prayer for both sides, say a prayer for both sides. And if you want to help Jim McGovern, you go to Jim mcgovern.com. Is that right?
Jim McGovern 19:33
That’s correct. Generally gov.com
And we’d love all the help we can get. So but thank you, but I think the important message here is we all gotta get out and vote, and we have to do more than vote. We have to be active in these campaigns. And if we do that, on November 8, we’ll have a good day and the future of the country will be bright.
Jimmy Tingle 19:52
And even if it doesn’t go okay, I know you’ll still be in there. You’ll still be swinging on behalf of hunger on in terms of Justice in terms of peace, I know you’ll still be swaying them because you have since 1996. And we so appreciate you. You make us proud here in Massachusetts jail. I love.
Jim McGovern 20:09
Thank you very much.
Jimmy Tingle 20:11
Thank you so much and continued success. Thank you for joining us today. This has been a humor for humanity production. Our mission is your mission humor for humanity at Jimmy tingle.com Thank you