Guest: Maxine Waters, Chris Hayes, Jonathan Alter, Margaret Carlson
High: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
And still the bankers spend our money on themselves. Bonuses in a time of bailout—bad? Then don‘t call them bonuses.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JAMES GORMAN, MORGAN STANLEY: There will be a retention award.
Please do not call it a bonus. It is not a bonus. It is an award.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Gorman of Morgan Stanley.
But other bankers grovel at the Barney Frank hearing. “We understand taxpayers are angry,” Lewis of B of A. “I promise a very good return on the investment,” Kelly of Bank of New York Mellon. “We did not adjust quickly enough to this new world,” Pandit of Citigroup.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BARNEY FRANK, (D) HOUSE FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE: If you want to give back the money, we will take it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The conference takes the deal on the stim—what‘s in, what‘s out, will it work?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DANIEL INOUYE, (D) HAWAII: We are a superpower. If we go down, there will be chaos in this globe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And still the Republicans obstruct, lying that the stimulus is a secret deal that builds Frisbee parks.
Bushed: It‘s not true. Ben & Jerry‘s is not naming an ice cream after him. Therefore, there will not be “Abu Grape” nor “WMD-licious.”
Worsts: Congressman Austria of Ohio says the Great Depression was caused by FDR, even though it started in 1929 and he didn‘t become president until 1933.
And—House whip Eric Cantor gets whopped by his own press aide. When asked for a comment by a political news outfit, never send a satirical video, no matter how funny you think it might be, that requires 14 bleeps before you can play to the public.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: There‘s a union out there called AFSCME and they‘re busting their (BLEEP) doing a lot of (BLEEP) work you take for granted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: All that and more—now (BLEEP) on COUNTDOWN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: We pick up your (BLEEP) garbage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN (on camera): Good evening, from New York.
Before the nation‘s biggest bankers answered even one question this morning on Capitol Hill, about how they have spent those taxpayer-funded bailout dollars, they had yet another outrage to address. Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: The attorney general of New York State, alerting the House Financial Committee of the early findings of his investigation, accusing Merrill Lynch of secretly and prematurely handing out more than $3.5 billion in bonuses just before the bank merged with Bank of America. All paid for with help from your taxpayer dollars.
The economic mess that President Obama inherited from the Bush administration thus moving today from criminal or from critical to criminal. And the CEOs of the eight banks that have taken more than half of the TARP money already handed out, hauled before Congress today for what passes for oversight, the chairman of the committee, Barney Frank, throwing and opening a question to any executive who would dare answer it, a question he first asked on this news hour: Why do you need to be bribed with bonuses in order to do your job?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANK: Why do you need bonuses? Can‘t we just give you a good salary or give yourselves a good salary—you are in charge of that—and do the job? This notion you need special incentive to do the right thing troubles people. Anyone wants to answer, please go ahead.
JOHN MACK, MORGAN STANLEY: We all grew out of small partnerships. It was historical. Morgan Stanley did not go public in 1986. When I joined the firm, there were 325 people and probably 20 partners. They took very low salaries and at the end of that, you got a bonus if the firm did well. And without question, given the kind of risks that we take today, the global nature of our business and the size of our business, all that has to be looked at again.
To answer your question specifically, at least at my level and I think my colleagues here would say the same, we love what we do. If you gave me no bonus in the best year, I would still be here.
FRANK: I thank you. And I will not—and I appreciate that answer. I know it‘s not—and I thank you very much. And so, it does seem to me, if there weren‘t bonuses, we‘d still get our money‘s worth. So I will not bill you for my services as an efficiency consultant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis targeted with the question about the timing of those Merrill Lynch bonuses. His answer—it did not happen on my watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEN LEWIS, BANK OF AMERICA: First of all, I do know that we urged the Merrill Lynch executives that were involved in this compensation issue to reduce the bonuses substantially, particularly at the top. I will remind you, though, that they were a public company until the first of this year. They had a separate board, separate compensation committee and we had no authority to tell them what to do, just urge them what to do.
Nobody on my management team received any incentives. Nobody on my management team has a contract or a golden parachute or severance. And then, finally, we pay our bonuses on February 15th of the following year. So, major changes will be made but we could not make them until we owned the company.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And shut off your iPhone or your BlackBerry before you testify.
Nearly every member of the committee having received their own bonuses in a sense, contributions associated with these financial institutions during the 2008 election cycle totaled $1.8 million, 18 of the lawmakers with their own personal funds invested in the companies. That might help to explain why some questions seemed to be stronger than others, meaning—that some answers were patently obvious.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CHARLIE WILSON, (D) OHIO: Why do some banks turn their backs and say, “I don‘t want anymore TARP funds. I don‘t want any TARP funds. I don‘t want to live with the problems of government money, of taxpayers‘ money”? What is the rational there? Could you help me with that?
LEWIS: Yes. The reason is that they don‘t want the government involved in their business. Simple as that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: In one—in one notable exchange, California Congresswoman Maxine Waters is asking whether after receiving bailout money, any of the banks raised credit card rates on consumers. Mr. Bank of America, among the captains of the universe, is admitting that they did.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEWIS: First of all, I feel more like “corporal of the universe” not “captain of the universe” at the moment. But .
REP. MAXINE WATERS, (D) FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE: Did you increase your credit card interest rate?
LEWIS: In 2008, we increased rates on 9 percent of our customers.
WATERS: OK, thank you very much. Anyone else increase credit card rates after you received TARP money? Anyone else? If so, would you just raise your hand? Thank you.
You sent out the letters that I‘m trying to describe, saying that you have the authority to do that. Did any of you reduce the amount of credit that was available to credit card holders because they shopped at certain stores? Just raise your hand if you did. None of you did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Congresswoman Waters join us now from Washington.
Thanks for some of your time tonight.
WATERS: You‘re welcome, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Did the hearings reveal to you anything you didn‘t know already? What did you learn, if anything, here today?
WATERS: Well, I was more interested in trying to understand whether or not they really got it and that they understood that the American taxpayers were basically bailing them out. And they had a responsibility to unfreeze the credit. They had a responsibility to say to those American taxpayers, who are putting money into their banks, that they would make money available to them for their basic everyday needs.
We have citizens who are trying to get loans for cars, mortgages, to pay for their student‘s college fees, et cetera. And they don‘t seem to know that the very people that have given them the money, who are knocking on their doors asking for credit, should not be turned down. And I was trying to really figure out—what did they know? What did they understand? What did they expect was going to happen in the future?
The thing I got out of it today was—we put them before the public. We had transparency on a number of these issues. I forced them to have—to tell that they are increasing the interest rate on credit cards even after the taxpayers have given them this bailout money.
OLBERMANN: So, answer your own question there. I mean, Mr. Pandit from Citigroup said, “We need to do a better job of acknowledging and embracing the new realities.” Was that an indication some of them got it or did you sense this was largely still a performance on their part?
WATERS: No. I think that we are getting through. I think they hated the idea of having to come before these mere mortals today to confess that they have not done what we expected them to do. Don‘t forget—these are very, very rich men who are not accustomed to answering to anybody. As a matter of fact, they are more accustomed to having influence in the Congress of the United States because all of the money they put into politicians.
So, this was not comfortable for them. I don‘t think they want to be back here. And I do expect that there are going to be some changes. We‘ve got to keep after them though. They don‘t give in easily. But I think we‘ve got them on the run.
OLBERMANN: So, you raise a point that is—that is probably closer to the heart to most Americans than the headlines that had been about the corporate jets and the bonuses, the question of credit card rates and what it‘s actually doing to the online consumers. But let me ask you about those sort of big-ticket horror stories, the bonus money, the bailout money that essentially turns into bonus money for the jets and all the rest of that.
Is there anything that can be tangibly done to make sure that future bailout money does not get redirected into the pockets of these already rich men?
WATERS: Oh, absolutely. As a matter of fact, we have $350 billion more in bailout, the TARP money, that‘s going to be released pretty soon. And Secretary Geithner was on television last night, speaking to the public about what is going to happen with that money.
Now, there was some disappointment that he didn‘t give a lot of details. He just kind of talked in generalities, but we fully expect that the package that they bring to the Congress of the United States will have more details in it and we have more details to suggest to them.
OLBERMANN: The detail that comes out of that letter from the attorney
general of New York, Mr. Cuomo, that Bank of America was apparently—he
believes at least as a result of the initial investigation he‘s conducted -
was apparently complicit in awarding those bonuses out before, essentially to beat the merger, the beat the oversight.
WATERS: I believe that, too. I didn‘t like Mr. Lewis‘ answer today. I thought he skirted the question a bit. But I think it‘s becoming clear that he knew about those bonuses, prior to signing off on the deal. That he was aware that they were going to give them out earlier than normal, and I don‘t think he‘s going to be able to get away with that. I think this investigation is going to unveil the facts.
OLBERMANN: Is that best left to the attorney general of one state or is that your purview?
WATERS: Well, actually, you know, I was reminded today that we set public policy, we‘re not the cops. We don‘t have the ability to basically put him in jail. But I‘m glad that the attorney general of New York is opening this all up and this may force the attorney general of the United States to have to get more involved.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, Congresswoman, Senator Snowe of Maine said today, she thinks that that executive pay cap that the president wanted, first 400,000, now half a million, is likely to be left out of the final version of the stimulus. Are you OK with that?
WATERS: No. I‘m not OK with it. I‘m not OK with the fact that anybody would think that somehow, we don‘t have the duty or the responsibility to deal with the outrageous pay and bonuses that they get. And it should be in the stimulus. If it‘s not in the stimulus, it should be in the TARP. If it‘s not, those of us who believe that we should regulate a lot better than we are doing are going to keep up our efforts to get it done.
OLBERMANN: Congresswoman Maxine Waters—as always, it‘s been very illuminating. Thanks for some of your time tonight.
WATERS: You‘re so welcome. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Fortunately, at, for instance, Morgan Stanley, there will be no more of those bonuses to angry up the hoi polloi like us. No more taking the bailout money and handing it over to the very executives who dunderheaded this crash of the economy in the first place. No, Morgan Stanley is out of the bonus business. They are now called “retention awards.”
OLBERMANN: Yes, can‘t get anything past these bailed out bankers. The public reacts violently to company bonuses? Change the name. Quote, “There will be a retention award. Please do not call it a bonus. It is not a bonus. It is an award.” A major award. The tide rises against the “let them eat cake crowd.”
In Worsts: Ohio actually elected a congressman who thinks Franklin Delano Roosevelt caused the Great Depression. And later in Bushed: No Ben & Jerry‘s will not—contrary to what the Internet says—be making a George Bush ice cream called wiretap-yolka.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Ever since the president announced the planned cap on executive pay and bonuses a week, there was one outstanding question: How would the bailed out banks manage to get around those rules?
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: We have an answer, by using the simple corporate tactic known as rebranding. As the CEOs of eight bailed out banks headed to the Hill today, “Huffington Post” obtained audio of a conference call between two would-be or soon-to-be merged bailout recipients: Morgan Stanley and Citigroup‘s Smith Barney.
On the call, the co-president of Morgan Stanley can be clearly heard promising executives and financiers in both companies extra money based on cash earned mainly before the financial crisis, just don‘t call it a B-O-N-U-S.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GORMAN: So, decisions we have made. Number one, there will be a retention award. Please do not call it a bonus. It is not a bonus. It is an award. And it recognizes the importance of keeping our team in place as we go through this integration.
Some of you have been asking, will we be doing it, when will we be it, can we do it. So, we will be providing a retention award.
Decision number two, the award will be based on ‘08 full year production. I think I can hear you clapping from here in New York, but I‘m not sure about it. But you should be clapping because, frankly, that is a very generous and thoughtful decision. It was the right thing to do to give you that certainty that it would be based off ‘08. ‘09 is a very difficult year, we understand that.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Banned (ph) meeting, item one.
And Morgan Stanley is defending the planned retentions by saying the money will not come from the government bailout funds and that such retentions are necessary to keep their financial talent.
We‘re joined now by Chris Hayes, the Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine, contributor to the new book “Meltdown: How Greed and Corruption Shattered Our Financial System and How We Can Recover.”
Chris, thanks for your time tonight.
CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So, if bonuses create bad press, call them retention awards. How can anybody in any money-making business be this tone deaf on the second try?
HAYES: Well, you know, I think that when you‘re in a business in which the entirety of what you do is generally obscured behind a cloak of complexity and you‘re generally dealing with people that are in the same kind of insular culture that you‘re in, you lose sight of how things are publicly perceived. And I think we are seeing the way that the culture of Wall Street has grown really kind of morbidly inbred and that they‘ve lost any kind of connection to how this might look outside of the small universe of finance.
OLBERMANN: Did this chucklehead from Morgan Stanley manage to undo whatever damage control the CEOs at the Barney Frank hearing might have made today?
HAYES: Well, yes. I think he went a long way towards it. Look—I was at the hearing today and it really was feeder. I mean, you know, they were there—it reminded of that old, the first President Bush‘s campaign message where he said, “Message, I care,” right? I mean, they were there basically to tell people, “We care. We get it.”
But it was very clear if you listen to them that they understood that the public is angry, but they don‘t understand why the public is angry. And so, I think that there is a real kind of shallowness to the contrition that we are seeing from these folks. And I think that it‘s going to be very easy to undo because I don‘t think it‘s particularly deeply felt.
OLBERMANN: They don‘t like our ties.
Hypocrisy in Congress is not exactly something brand-new this week or this century or this millennium, but there was a lot of grandstanding on oversight today also from a lot of people who really did not do their oversight when it was not coast-to-coast news every night.
OLBERMANN: Can we have maybe a congressional hearing in which those elected officials get called to account just as the CEOs were today?
HAYES: Well, that would be something. That is not going to happen. What is a possibility and something that Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont has been pushing is some kind of investigative committee that looks at what led us to the crisis. And people keep saying, “Well, we shouldn‘t look back.”
But the fact of the matter is, untangling exactly what went wrong is a huge part of figuring out how we solve things. And I think there is a reluctance to do that because so many of the parties the people on Wall Street, the people in Washington, the regulators, there are so many people that—so many that contributed to this whole thing blowing up that there is a tremendous broadly-shared reluctance to actually dig in at a granular level to exactly what went wrong.
OLBERMANN: And you contributed now to this new book about how we can get out of this. Are there practical things that can be done to these bankers without throwing the apparently, perpetually fragile banking system into this horrific spiral that will kill us all and salt the earth until the seventh son of the seventh son?
HAYES: Well, yes, there are. Look, I mean, first of all, moral suasion, and naming and shaming is not going work, OK? So, the president can say what he wants about how shameful the bonuses are, and you can drag them out in front of a congressional hearing to browbeat them. But at the end of the day, they‘re going to keep giving retention awards, bonuses as long as they can get away with it.
So, you actually need to statutorily restrict executive compensation in a tough and thoughtful way. Number two is, a friend of mine at a hedge fund sent me an e-mail and he said, “Look, the first step of AA is admitting you have a problem.” And the first step to cleaning up this mess is admitting that most of our major banks, five, six, seven biggest banks are probably insolvent. And until we look at squarely in the face, we‘re still going to be just dragging through like they did in Japan and we can have real negative consequences from that.
OLBERMANN: Banned meeting, item 12th, euphemism of bonuses.
OLBERMANN: Chris Hayes of “The Nation”—thank you, Chris, good night.
HAYES: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Yesterday, we learned getting hit by fireworks that‘s supposed to be good for business in Taiwan. Today, we learned getting hit not by fireworks but by molten iron is good for ails you in China.
And in Worsts, speaking of molten, Billo the clown throws a stock price stone while living in the Newscorp glass house.
All ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Bests in a moment. I‘m sorry for the typo. Mindlessly parroting the propaganda? No, we‘re happy we did that.
First, on this date in 1957, the National Hockey League Players Association was formed. As a reminder of the subjugated positions athletes once held, superstar Ted Lindsay was elected the union‘s first president whereupon his team, the perennially successful Detroit Red Wings traded him to the perpetually doormat Chicago Blackhawks and planted fictitious quotes from him in newspapers trashing his ex-teammates.
Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin in Nanquan, China, where the folk art has blowed up apparently. It‘s the annual Chinese lantern festival where if you are not careful, you might be hit with molten iron. Just bring your used pots and pans, melt them down to liquefy, pour the results into a bowl, and presto, have some instant fun. The villager-farmers get the honors of subjecting a thousand of their closest friends and neighbors to extreme danger using, of course, wooden spoons to hurl iron against the old town wall. The ritual began about 500 years ago as a cheaper alternative to fireworks.
Let‘s allow village elder, Mr. Wong Fu (ph) to weigh in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): As long as you are not afraid to die, it‘s OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Nice hat. It‘s sure like “Football Night America,” I get it.
And to Japan, where just in time for Valentine‘s Day comes this newborn bull born with a white patch of fur on his forehead shaped like a heart. Volunteers are being furiously sought to take care of the baby bull before the calf is sold to a butcher. Rest assure that if this little guy is not granted an 11th hour stay, his heart will go on and the annals of Oddball, along with our other favorite fried with a cardiac-shaped mutation, heart puppy.
OLBERMANN: Segueing nicely, Republican senators and Democratic senators agreeing on the stimulus, making the Republican congressman making stuff out about the stimulus seems stranger than ever. And it was a long forgotten spoof of the union AFSCME, long forgotten until Congressman Eric Cantor‘s office wound up apologizing for it today. These stories ahead.
But, first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s Top Three Best Persons in the World.
Number three: Best place to shoot yourself. Steve Tapp of Thornton, Colorado is reaching into his pocket to pay for lunch at a cafeteria when he instead hit his weapon and shot himself in the thigh. The cafeteria was in Good Samaritan Medical Center. He was seen immediately.
Number two: Best lie. And the Mannity insisting there are earmarks in the stimulus package, pressed for proof by a doubtful Greta van Susteren, he said, “I got five pages” and proceeded to talk about money going to a Frisbee park, a Frisbee golf course.”
There is no Frisbee park nor a Frisbee golf course in the stimulus package. In fact, there is language specifically prohibiting stimulus money for being spent on both community parks and golf courses. Sean Hannity only skims most of what he supposedly reads.
Number one: Best half-butted apology. Jon Scott of fixed news today admitting that his error-riddled report yesterday that we told you about, on the history of the stimulus package, was, quote, “prompted by a news release from the Senate Republican Communications Center.” He then apologized for repeating a typo included in that news release. He did not apologize for reading bare-faced propaganda as news.
He apologized for the typo. He is a typo.
OLBERMANN: Moments after Senate Majority Leader Reid stepped to the microphones today to announce agreement between the House and Senate on the massive economic recovery package, the stock market moved up, indicating important bell weather approval from the short sighted groupthink Jacks who got us here.
Our third story tonight, both Houses of Congress, both controlled by Democrats, agreeing on economic stimulus. It takes a little from each house, a little from each party to come up with something very close to exactly what President Obama wanted. The president effectively owning the entire 789 billion dollar package, with 90 billion for state Medicaid, 54 bill to fill state budget gaps, mostly on education, another 11 billion for special ed and 150 billion for infrastructure.
Mr. Obama predicting the creation or preservation of 3.5 million jobs now, a claim that Republicans, especially House Republican Leader John Boehner rejected today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, MINORITY LEADER: We need a bill that creates jobs and we need to have that bill actually create jobs and do it now. But I‘ve got to tell you, from everything that I‘m hearing about the so-called deal, I‘m very disappointed. Very disappointed because it won‘t do what the American people expect that it will do, and that is create and preserve jobs in our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Earlier today, President Obama spoke at a Virginia construction project. And if we are to believe Mr. Boehner, he failed to offer any evidence that passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment plan will create or preserve jobs in our country. Brian, could you play that clip of Mr. Obama, where he can‘t come up with any evidence that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan will get companies to rehire some of their former employees?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Caterpillar, which manufactures the machines used in this project, has announced some 20,000 layoffs in the last few weeks. Today, the chairman and CEO of Caterpillar said that if the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan passes, his company would be able to rehire some of those employees.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Republicans opposing the plan, even though its 276 billion in tax cuts vastly overshadows its infrastructure spending, despite the fact that relentless Bush tax cuts failed to prevent this crisis, failed with last year‘s tax cut stimulus to prevent last years stunning job losses and failed with the tax cut stimulus of ‘03/‘04 to create a single one of his promised 1.4 million jobs. And opposing the plan despite brusque, no nonsense warnings, like this one today from a senator who saw the Great Depression and the worst of war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DANIEL INOUYE (D), HAWAII: We do not have the luxury of time. We must expeditiously face the facts and pass this measure. To delay this any further would lead to consequences that could be horrendous. And if we delay this, it could lead to a crisis worse than the Great Depression, because today we‘re much more than just a nation. We‘re a superpower. If we go down, there will be chaos in this globe. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: With me now, MSNBC political analyst Jonathan Alter, also, of course, senior editor at “Newsweek Magazine.” Good evening, John.
JONATHAN ALTER, “NEWSWEEK”: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The votes and the presidential signature apparently formalities at this point. What should we think of the package itself in its more or less final form?
ALTER: Necessary but not sufficient. There‘s more to be done to avert a depression. This was clearly essential as a first step. Look, it is a big, sloppy compromise. It‘s not the bill that you or I or anybody else might have designed. It is not particularly imaginative. But a lot of this is just to help people who are in trouble. I think we have kind of lost sight of that.
This country is in bad shape. On my way to the studio tonight, I passed through Times Square. It is empty. Restaurants are empty. To stand there and do nothing is the height of irresponsibility.
OLBERMANN: Just from the cynical political point of view, what are Republicans gaining by opposing it? Is the premise that if it works, they can say well, it was unnecessary and our plans would have worked anyway? Will they have to prove a fantasy? Is that the only way this could carve out correctly for them unless there is a depression?
ALTER: They are betting on the 30 percent chance, as Joe Biden put it, that it is not going to work. Then they can say, I told you so. It didn‘t do any good. Really, I think their main point here is they are trying to avoid a primary challenge. Look, the first duty of every member of Congress in his or her mind is to get re-elected. And what these Republican members fear more than anything else is somebody to their right who says, see, Joe Schmo is just a big government liberal, even though he claims he is a Republican. Then they mount a primary challenge.
In primaries you get sometimes like nine, 10 percent turnout. So a few wing nuts, a few extremists can actually determine the primary. These members know that. The risk of facing an expensive primary challenge is bigger than the risk that they might get knocked out of what is usually a safe Republican district by a Democrat in a fall election.
OLBERMANN: What do we think the president got back into this in conference that he could not get past those three Republicans in the Senate? What did he have to sacrifice that he can now reclaim and put back in?
ALTER: Well, he got back in more aid to states, which is critical. A lot of this bill is a governor‘s bill. They are required by their state constitutions to balance their budgets. And they were going to have to lay off thousands and thousands of people. The Senate cut out a lot of that aid. He got that back in. Mostly what he had to give up was he cut the tax cut, the middle tax cut from 1,000 for every family to 800 or 500 dollars to 400 dollars for individuals.
That was something where he compromised a little bit. I think from their perspective, it was worth it to get back in what they considered to be more important and more stimulative measures.
OLBERMANN: Reading the tea leaves of the reaction to this from Wall Street today, are we supposed to believe that the necessary psychological impact on the market will also accompany this? In other words, is it going to get people pumping money through the system again? Is the confidence going to be established along with the nearly 800 billion?
ALTER: I don‘t think so. They have to unclog the arteries and fix Geithner‘s plan and make it more compelling. One thing that‘s very interesting about the Obama administration, they are not keeping score by how the market reacts. They are playing a longer game. It can be very misleading to play everything tactically based on how the stock market might react. You have to figure out what is going to work and worry less about the day-to-day fluctuations.
OLBERMANN: OK. I‘ll do it that way, too. Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek” and MSNBC. Thanks for coming in, John.
ALTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: At least one victim of the Bush economy will not have to wait for any economic stimulus, at least not for her most pressing need. At yesterday at the town hall, Henrietta Hughes told the president she and her family, her son, need a home. Her son lost his job in 2003. Florida State Rep Nick Thompson has since offered to let Ms. Hughes live in a vacant home that his family owns. Vacant homes, that we‘ve got.
No matter how funny you think it is, never answer a reporter‘s question by sending a video with more than 12 swear words in it.
In worsts, did you know Franklin Roosevelt caused the Great Depression? It‘s true.
And when Rachel Maddow joins you at the top of the hour, her special guest, after he grilled the CEOs, Congressman Barney Frank.
But first, because they may be gone but their deeds outlive them, the headlines lingering from the previous administration‘s 50 running scandals, Still Bushed.
Number three, deregulation-gate. Stewart Parnell, owner of Peanut Corporation of America, the ground zero of the fatal salmonella outbreak, refused to testify to Congress today. And a baseball player named Miguel Tejada has to face charges of not telling the House the truth about steroids. Shortly after Parnell did not speak, a lab employee from his plant testified that they found salmonella at the company three years ago and nobody did anything about it. And Parnell‘s e-mails were then released by the committee. In one, he pleaded with the Food and Drug Administration to, despite the salmonella, let him, quote, turn the raw peanuts on the floor into money.
Number two, sarcasm-gate. Sadly, the e-mail you have gotten is not true. Yes, Ben & Jerry‘s ice cream did create a new flavor at the home office in honor of the new president called Yes Pecan. But, no, it‘s not asking customers to help name a new flavor after Mr. Bush. Thus, none of the suggestions on that e-mail are actually being considered as new flavors at Ben & Jerry‘s: Abu Grape, Nutin‘ Accomplished, Iraqi Road, Wire Tapioca, Impeached Cobbler or Impeach Mint, Housing Crunch or Credit Crunch, Chunky Monkey in Chief, George Bush Doesn‘t Care About Dark Chocolate, WMD-Licious, Heck of a Job Brownie, Grape Depression, or, my favorite, I broke the Law and Am Responsible for the Deaths of Thousands with Nuts.
And number one, leak-gate. Karl Rove is still talking. The creator of the impermanent Republican majority, the possessor of the math that did not add up, telling an audience at Loyola Marymount University in L.A. that government leaks to the media can cause serious harm and newspapers should not run them. And he never did. Quote, “the Bush White House was criticized for being tight lipped. We didn‘t leak. Secrecy and confidentiality are necessary for every government, especially when you‘re at war,” he scolded.
So why didn‘t you practice that? You guys leaked like hell. You and your minions leaked the name of a CIA op, ironically one devoted to countering weapons of mass destruction, while you were starting up a war supposedly designed neutralize weapons of mass destruction. By the way, the quote/unquote leak you‘re still whining about, the “New York Times” revealing that you and your fellow future convicts had arranged to illegally eavesdrop on many, most or all Americans, and maybe some people who might have had tangential connections to terrorism, maybe, that leak came from somewhere in your government, Karl.
So stop spraining your arm patting yourself on your back, because somebody among you realized that what you were doing, infiltrating the communications of Americans, violating the privacy of Americans, gaining secret information to use against Americans, and causing fear and anxiety to grow among Americans—somebody realized that doing that, Karl, was you doing the same things to Americans that the terrorists want to do to Americans.
OLBERMANN: If House Whip Eric Cantor is the future of the Republican party, it is time to register as a Wig or possibly a Bull Moose. How Cantor winds up having to apologize for an ancient video mocking a civil service union. That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Brian Deer. He wrote the “Times of London” report that Dr. Andrew Wakefield had alleged altered key research linking the measles, mumps and rubella triple vaccine to autism in children, which earned Dr. Wakefield a spot on this list yesterday. The “Times of London” did not bother to mention that the British investigation into whether or not Wakefield did that was as a result of a complaint by Brian Deer. The guy who wrote the article about the investigation never mentioned that he was the individual who precipitated the investigation. The truth about the doctor‘s research may be in doubt here, but not Deer‘s vast conflict of interest, nor the “Times of London‘s” journalistic malfeasance.
The paper is owned by Rupert Murdoch. It‘s my bad for forgetting that. Incidentally, a correction on Murdoch. We have quoted several times the transcript of a News Corp conference call provided by the usually reliable financial website called SeakingAlpha.com, in which the News Corp boss was quoted as saying, “we have never been a company that tolerates facts.” It turns out SeekingAlpha.com got it wrong. Murdoch, in fact, said “we have never been a company that tolerates fat.” SeekingAlpha.com has yet to correct or apologize for its mistake, so we will. Henceforth, we will stick exclusively to the transcripts from ShiverMeTimbers.com.
The silver tonight, Bill-O the clown, back to his obsession with my boss, a way of taking a shot at me. “In 2001, legendary GE boss Jack Welsh retired and Jeffrey Immelt took over. On his watch, GE stock has declined an astounding 75 percent, down more than 30 percent since the first of this year. I predicted GE would hit 10 dollars a share and last week it almost did. Immelt still has his job, even as millions of stock holders are getting hammered.”
Oh, Bill, didn‘t Rupert call you again and tell you to skip the stock quotes for a while? News Corp, the parent company of Bill-O‘s Fixed News, announced it lost six billion 400 million dollars in the last quarter of last year, and it predicted a 30 percent drop in profits for the first half of this year, double Wall Street‘s estimate. News Corp‘s stock closed at 7.19 a share today, down about 66 percent from where it was last year.
So Bill, you are saying the CEO of any company losing that much stock value that quickly should be fired? Rupert for you, line one.
But our winner, new Republican Congressman Steve Austria of Ohio. Does that ever get confusing? He criticized the stimulus plan by taking a none too well thought out GOP talking point a little too seriously. Quote, “When President Franklin Roosevelt did this, he put our country into a Great Depression. He tried to borrow and spend. He tried to use the Keynesian approach and our country ended up in a Great Depression. That‘s just history.”
Not American history, of course. The Great Depression followed the stock market crash of 1929. Roosevelt became president in March 1933. When FDR took office, unemployment was at 25 percent. Four years later, the Keynesian approach had reduced unemployment to 10 percent. The only Great Depression at the moment is the one between Congressman Austria‘s ears. Congressman Steve Austria, what a great name for a Republican, today‘s worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: It is a saying as old as the Internets themselves: don‘t put anything in an e-mail you wouldn‘t want your mother to read aloud. In our number one story, to the spokesman for the House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, don‘t respond to reporters‘ questions about comments from your boss by sending a link to a foul mouthed web video that presents union members as foul-mouthed slobs.
Representative Cantor, who is leading the GOP effort to block the president‘s economic recovery bill, was recently the target of TV and radio ads by the labor backed and Democratic friendly Americans United for Change and the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, also known as AFSCME. The website “Politico” asked Mr. Cantor‘s office for a response to the ads, which single out legislators who voted against the president‘s bill.
This morning, “Politico” got a response from Mr. Brad Dayspring (ph), Eric Cantor‘s press secretary. The e-mail read, “you can post this as my response.” Enclosed was a link to a web parody of an old AFSCME public service announcement. The mock ad features a guy who sounds like Pauly Walnuts describing the union and cursing a blue streak as he does so. So “Politico,” following his instructions, posted the dirty web clip in a post entitled “Cantor‘s F‘ing Response.” Here is that response, heavily bleeped for your freaking protection, scounge (ph).
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, find a way to work the mines instead of sitting around with your (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Look around. There‘s a union out there called AFSCME and they‘re busting their (EXPLETIVE DELETED) doing a lot of (EXPLETIVE DELETED) work you take for granted. For example, we pick up your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) garbage. We‘ve got balls out there who keep your kids from getting run over by some (EXPLETIVE DELETED). We dug up the holes in the road, so you don‘t (EXPLETIVE DELETED) up your car. We push around a lot of little old ladies from Florida.
We‘re out there zapping rats and roaches and making sure your kids don‘t drink (EXPLETIVE DELETED) from no (EXPLETIVE DELETED) water fountains. We‘re (EXPLETIVE DELETED) AFSCME, amalgamated federal—hey I don‘t what the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) means. All I know is we‘re hard working, tax paying people like you. And we don‘t take (EXPLETIVE DELETED) from nobody. You got that (EXPLETIVE DELETED)?
AFSCME, the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) union that works for you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Joining me now, Margaret Carlson, political columnist for “Bloomberg News” and Washington editor for “The Week Magazine.” Good evening, Margaret.
MARGARET CARLSON, “BLOOMBERG NEWS”: You said “The Week” like Pauly Walnuts.
OLBERMANN: I know I did. It was sort of intentional.
CARLSON: You can‘t get out of character.
OLBERMANN: No. It brings out the Bronx in me. That‘s where I‘m from. So listen, Mr. Dayspring has apologized. He said this was a joke. Congressman Cantor hasn‘t said anything. Do you think he needs to?
CARLSON: In general, when the spokesperson takes the fall, that is because the Congressman is not going to get close to it. Or maybe he‘d give the classic Congressional politicians‘ response, which is if I offended anyone, any of you really overly sensitive people out there, you wussies, I‘m sorry.
But I doubt he is even going to do that. He doesn‘t want it to go probably another day. What happens with people like Eric Cantor, they don‘t know that the game has changed a bit and it is not really funny anymore. It is just not funny when people are really losing their jobs and their houses are foreclosed and they don‘t have any place to go. There are things you can‘t make jokes about.
OLBERMANN: To that point, the head of AFSCME now, as opposed to the 1970‘s version we saw there, said that “Eric Cantor may think the greatest economic crisis in 70 years is a joke, but we don‘t. He should talk to people in Virginia who are losing their jobs, health care and homes.” Obviously, he just lost—I don‘t know that he necessarily had much union support, but he probably added union support to whoever is going to run against him in two years. Is there some damage control to this?
CARLSON: You know, when Chip Saltsman, the Republican from Tennessee, did something similar—remember, he thought it was a joke. What a sense of humor these Republicans have. He sent out a video which he didn‘t produce, but which he sent out to members of the Republican party, asking for their votes. It was like a gift. He later said, well, you know—he hemmed and hawed, not a full fledged apology, but kind of one. Hey, by the way, he had to dropout—at the very last minute, he dropped out of the voting.
Eric Cantor might not see this as a problem until he is closer to the voters. Right this minute, he might think he gets by with it. It will depend how an opponent uses it.
OLBERMANN: If I remember correctly, that ad was an actual ad, and what we just heard was a retrack, as they say, somebody coming in and doing a different, more colorful version of the narration. But, you know—
CARLSON: The Rod Blagojevich version.
OLBERMANN: That‘s excellent. That‘s what, in fact, Rod Blagojevich did before he went into politics. Beyond the 14 bleeps, the thing again emphasizes, while it is part of a political controversy, how the members of that union really do a lot of the heavy lifting in the country, that many people like Eric Cantor refuse to acknowledge. In an ironic way, is this going to help Americans figure out that little irony that we saw last November, that the party that uses Joe the Plumber as its poster boy was actually out there ridiculing Joe the Plumber today?
CARLSON: Yes, well, It can bite you. I watched this today, Keith, when my computer wouldn‘t play the voice. And I thought, hey, this is really good. This really makes a point. Then I heard the other version, which is more amusing than course. I have only heard it with expletives deleted. You live by the sword, you die by the sword. Joe the Plumber turned out not to be who he was put forward to be for purposes of John McCain‘s campaign and became an embarrassment. This will, if this gets legs or if it comes back during Eric Cantor‘s campaign, it will just be an embarrassment to him.
OLBERMANN: Also, if Mr. Cantor ever tries to get any votes out of the Metropolitan New York area, he‘s in serious doo-doo, as we say here. Margaret Carlson of “Bloomberg News” and “The Week,” many thanks.
CARLSON: Thanks, Keith. Good night.
OLBERMANN: Good night. I got to say scounge.
That is COUNTDOWN for this the 2,104th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann of the Bronx, good night and good luck.
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