The Ed Show
July 22, 2009 - 6 PM
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Guests: Jay Rockefeller, John Barrasso, Barbara Boxer, Joe Sestak, Sen. Sherrod Brown, Jamal Simmons, John Feehery, Laura Flanders, Valerie Jarrett, Jack Layton
ED SCHULTZ, HOST: I'm Ed Schultz. This is THE ED SHOW.
SCHULTZ: Good evening, Americans.
Live from the nation's capital, it's THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.
A top insurance company bags nearly $1 billion in profit for one quarter. Executives are raking it in and the American families are paying for it.
I want to know what politician is willing to defend this system. I'll put Senators Rockefeller, Boxer and Barrasso on the hot seat with that one tonight.
The Canadians north of the border are sick of Republicans trash-talking them. A top political leader in Canada is going to tell me what it's really like to be healthy north of the border and have universal health care. It's in my playbook.
Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Ed Rendell aren't pulling their punches with Joe Sestak. I think Specter is starting to feel the heat. Congressman Joe Sestak, who's going to challenge him in a primary, is going to be joining me tonight on the program.
Plus, "Psycho Talk."
All that and a great panel.
Folks, get your cell phones ready, because we want to know what you think about the Democrats and big insurance. Who's going to stand up to them?
Coming up. But first, it's tonight's "OpEd."
A big press conference tonight. This may be President Obama's biggest moment on health care.
This is, I would say, a make news night. And sometimes the news just falls flat in your lap.
The timing couldn't be better for the president to remind the American people that the insurance industry needs some serious reform. UnitedHealthcare served approximately 70 million people in 2008. The company posted a gross profit of $18.5 billion.
Now in 2009, UnitedHealthcare had a second quarter profit of $859 million. Those are, I guess you could say, an average American family would call that something like oil-like profits, staggering anyone who would be against health care reform.
Now, we're talking about, folks, 155 percent increase in profits for the second quarter in 2009? And the folks in the front office want you to know they're doing pretty well.
The president and CEO hauled in $9.4 million in salary. The CFO took in $3.8 million. And the executive vice president of that company pulled in $12.3 million in salary. All of those numbers in 2008.
Again, UnitedHealthcare grossed a profit of $18.5 billion in 2008.
The projected revenue for the company in 2009, this year, is $87 billion.
When does the word "obscene" come into play? I want the Blue Dog Democrats to stand up who are against reform and giving President Obama all this smoke, stand up tonight and defend this kind of financial assault on the consumer this country.
All of this underscores a recent report recently released by the Inspector General's Office documenting the abuses in the insurance industry. There shouldn't be a Democrat in the Congress who opposes complete reform when you see these numbers. This is the most-I think the most ammunition that the Obama administration, Obama White House has had for a public option throughout this entire debate.
Now, these numbers really are outrageous. How do you go from $18.5 billion in gross profit to $87 billion in revenue?
Tonight, I think the president needs to address this directly. UnitedHealthcare insures 70 million people in this country. That's about a quarter of the American people who have insurance.
Now, last week on this program we told you about a report by the Inspector General's Office that went to the Commerce Committee chairman's office, Senator Jay Rockefeller. I think these numbers really validate that report, and the senator from West Virginia, he is, of course, a member of the Senate Finance Committee and also the chairman of the Subcommittee on Health Care.
Senator, good to have you with us tonight.
What's your response when you see one of the major insurance providers of health insurance in this country post a 155 percent increase in profits in what is supposed to be a big recession that's taking place in this country?
SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), WEST VIRGINIA: It's twofold. One is absolute disgust, horror. It's a complete aberration of the capitalist system.
And then secondly, greed and lying. And what we found in this report, which is what you're referring to, Ed, was they have been doing that. And we proved it.
And, in fact, they sat down before a grand jury in New York State and they were threatened with fraud because that's what they committed. And it's all documented in there, frankly. I mean, it's the scamming of the American people. And they agreed to pay $350 million.
I mean, the insurance industry is making off and nobody knows much about them. We do in the Commerce Committee. We're going to follow them.
The public option will nail them. And you and I are for that. And because, you know, they'll just simply say compete with us, we don't have to make any money.
SCHULTZ: Senator, is this the most ammunition the Obama White House has had to advocate in their own party for a public option? I mean, if these numbers don't turn the conservatives Democrats around, I don't know what's going to do it.
What do you think?.
ROCKEFELLER: I think that some of the conservative Democrats are turning around, both with respect to-certainly with respect to MedPAC, which I feel equally strongly about. And to a lesser extent about public options.
But remember, we're just beginning here. And I want the American people, the people who are listening to my voice, to relax just a little bit.
I mean, this is not the Normandy invasion. We're going to figure it out. It's very complicated.
We're going to get there, Ed. We're going to get there.
SCHULTZ: Are you going to get there before the August recess? And with that, would you support the president if he were to come out and say, I don't think we should have a recess or vacation, let's work through this and get this done?
What do you think?
ROCKEFELLER: Oh, yes. No, absolutely.
I mean, my August is available to the people of West Virginia because they pay me. And it used to be that we always worked up until December 22nd. I don't know what happened about that.
SCHULTZ: So you would stay in Washington?
ROCKEFELLER: Of course I would. Of course I would. Look, I've been working on health care my whole life.
SCHULTZ: So, Senator, does a report like this, these kind of numbers, bring us any closer to reform? I mean, how much more ammunition does the Congress need?
You've got your inspector general's report. You've got gross profits that are out of whack. You've got 4.5 million people just last year that found out that they didn't have insurance. I mean, what-if this doesn't push us over the cliff, I don't know what will.
ROCKEFELLER: Well, I think this will, but I think what you're going to see in the president's press conference tonight is the president really linking, as he should, health care and the American economy. They are one and the same. If we solve health care, we're going to make a big improvement in the American economy.
We're spending all of our time fighting. Don't worry about that.
We're going to work it out.
SCHULTZ: Senator Rockefeller, good to have you with us tonight.
ROCKEFELLER: Thank you, my friend.
SCHULTZ: And I hope the president-you bet. I hope the president goes after this. I hope he brings this to the light of the American people.
He's going to have the spotlight on him big time tonight when it comes to health care. This is going to be his focus. And I don't think there's any doubt that he could really gin up a great deal of support across the country when the American people see this is exactly what one of the major insurers is doing to the consumers.
Joining me now is Senator John Barrasso, who's on the other side of this issue. He's also a doctor and has a show.
Senator Barrasso, good to have you with us tonight.
SEN. JOHN BARRASSO ®, WYOMING: Great to be back with you, Ed.
SCHULTZ: What do you make of-how do you defend a company that's gouging the American people like this? Does this call for reform, in your opinion?
BARRASSO: You know, there ought to be insurance reform in the health care bills debating in the Senate and the House right now. There is very little health insurance reform in those bills. That's the problem, Ed.
I like what the president says. What I don't like are the words that are printed in the bills.
And, you know, the president, when he was in the Senate, voted against allowing people to buy insurance across state lines. He voted against allowing people to write off the cost of their health care if they didn't get insurance through work. He voted against small businesses when he was a Senator, against small businesses being able to get together and combine and negotiate and get their rates down.
We need insurance reform. We need health care reform. We need a bipartisan program to get that reform, Ed.
SCHULTZ: All right.
Talking about this bipartisan thing, a development today in the Senate Finance Committee, this coalition of the willing. Senator Orrin Hatch has walked out of that committee saying that he can't support anything they're talking about.
How big of a step back is this, in your opinion, in getting a bipartisan agreement? Not that I'm for that, but your opinion on getting that and Orrin Hatch stepping away from it?
BARRASSO: I'm not aware of that, but I am aware that every Tuesday morning over the last several months, about 16 senators sit down in a bipartisan way. I'm part of that group-eight Republicans, eight Democrats. The senator from your area, Minnesota, Al Franken, has started to participate in those meetings the last couple of weeks.
We are looking for a bipartisan solution to cover more people. But when the Mayo Clinic comes out, as they did this week, and say the president's proposal, the House proposal, costs too much, will cover too few people, would be bad for the health of the American people and actually makes matters worse, that says that the president's words aren't matching up with the bill that the country is looking at.
You asked Senator Rockefeller if he was ready to stay here all the way through August. I'm ready to work for the people of Wyoming all through August, but the people of Wyoming want to read this bill, they want to see this bill.
You talk about the show "The Senate Doctors." We're getting e-mails, twitters, we're hearing from Facebook.
BARRASSO: And they're saying we want to see what's in the bill. Don't vote on that bill until the people of America get a chance to read it, Ed.
SCHULTZ: I totally agree. Well, you know what? I understand they (ph) didn't read the Patriot Act, so, I mean, there's a pattern here. And I don't think it takes that long to read 1,000 pages in a bill and then debate it.
And I'm glad that you'll stay in Washington until we get this thing done, because I haven't heard-I haven't had one elected official tell me on this program that, no, I want to go home. So I hope the president tonight asks the leadership to hold everybody in the Congress.
BARRASSO: What I said is people have a right to visit with their legislators at home before they vote.
SCHULTZ: Oh, come on, Senator.
BARRASSO: The people have an absolutely right and an expectation...
SCHULTZ: Senator, please.
BARRASSO: ... to talk to their elected representatives before they cast a vote that's going to affect everybody's life and one-sixth of the economy of this great country, Ed.
SCHULTZ: All right. Senator, please. If the people in Washington haven't figured out what the people in the heartland want when it comes to health care, then there is a serious disconnect.
BARRASSO: They don't want this bill.
SCHULTZ: This has got...
BARRASSO: They don't want this bill, Ed.
SCHULTZ: Oh, yes. Well, actually, it's got a public option. I do want it, and I wish you would go along with it.
BARRASSO: You do, but the people across the country are expressing significant doubts.
SCHULTZ: No, they're not. No they're not, Senator.
BARRASSO: They say the cost is too high. We like what the president is proposing in words when he speaks, but not what's in this bill.
SCHULTZ: All right.
Well, it's got a public option in there, and it deals with pre-existing conditions. And that's what the American people want. And they also want real reform.
Now, on this network a few days ago, you were on with Senator Coburn. And Senator Coburn said that we have the best health care system in the world.
Do you agree with that?
BARRASSO: I think in many parts of our health care system, it is the best in the world, but we need absolute improvement. There's a lot more we need to do to help people, to make sure we have a health system instead of a sickness system. And Ed, right now we still have a sickness system in this country, not a health system.
And again, do you think that the Congress should address the gross profits that this company has put forward in the second quarter of 155 percent increase? Can you defend that?
BARRASSO: I'm telling you that insurance reform needs to be a part of health care reform, but it's not being done in these bills.
SCHULTZ: And what is that? But what reform are we talking about that would reel in profit like that so the American people don't have double-digit increases in their health care premiums? I mean, that's what we're looking at.
BARRASSO: Competition that allows people to buy insurance across state lines. President Obama voted against it when he was in the Senate.
Opportunities for small businesses to group together, to get better deals. President Obama, when he was in the Senate, voted against that.
The ability for people to get a tax deduction if they're buying their insurance individually. President Obama was not in favor of that either.
So, there are a number of things we can do for health care reform, Ed, but I don't see them in the 1,000-page proposal that we're looking at now in Congress.
SCHULTZ: OK. Well, that's what you want, and I respect you for that.
So, a public option is out of the question for the Republicans, correct?
BARRASSO: Well, it is for me. I think that that leads to a government takeover of health care here, Ed.
SCHULTZ: There's no takeover here, Senator. Come on now. That's a right wing bullet point that's put out by Frank Luntz, and it's worn out. And you know that no one is going to take over anything. It's going to give the American people an option.
I really appreciate your time tonight, Senator. Good to have you with us. We just agree to disagree.
BARRASSO: Government medicine has never worked. It's not going to work now, Ed. Hey, thanks for having me.
SCHULTZ: Well, the VA system works well, and so does Medicare.
BARRASSO: Well, I've worked in those VA hospitals for a number of years in my residency training, and that's not where I would want to go for my health care.
SCHULTZ: OK. Well, that's a personal-but you have health care insurance, Senator. There's 50 million people in this country that would love to have that kind of access, and they don't have it. And that's the key.
BARRASSO: And they need a lot of choices. I get 15 programs to choose from, and none of them is a government option. They're all private choices.
SCHULTZ: I believe you work for the government, don't you?
BARRASSO: That's why none of these-no, I have Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
SCHULTZ: And I believe Senator Grassley told somebody to go get a job with the federal government.
Senator, good to have you with us.
BARRASSO: Well, I was practicing medicine, the people that were working for me, the nurses and the secretaries, they had better insurance than what my staff and what I have right now.
SCHULTZ: All right. Senator, good to have you with us. We'll visit again.
BARRASSO: Thanks, Ed.
SCHULTZ: For more, I want to go to another senator. And that is Senator Barbara Boxer from California.
I just don't see how these kinds of profits can be posted, and then the American people not respond to them. And I also think that for these senators and congressmen and women to go home and say that, well, we've got to hear what the constituents think, didn't we just have an election? The American people have already decided what they want, and now it's up to the Congress to act on it.
Senator Barbara Boxer, thanks for your time tonight.
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Sure.
SCHULTZ: Can you respond-what do you want the president to say tonight? What do you think he has to do, Senator?
BOXER: I think he just has to reiterate what he's told us for so many months, and now more than a year, which is what he campaigned on, that the status quo is unacceptable when it comes to health care. We see what's happening. The insurance companies are making so much money and the price of insurance premiums is going up so high, that a new study shows if we do nothing, if we follow the lead of Senator Barrasso and the Republicans who are just going after this president, if we do nothing, it means that the average family will be spending between 40 and 50 percent of their income on insurance for health.
That's unsustainable. It cannot continue. And the status quo has got to go. It has to go.
SCHULTZ: Senator, do your constituents in California, do they want a public option? Could you vote on that tonight if that was in the bill?
BOXER: Of course. We need to have a way to keep these insurance companies honest. There are several ways to do it.
I think the best way to do it is to have a public option, a public interest option, where there is no federal funds put into it. It just competes with the others. And we'll see what happens. And what will happen is the premiums will go down for America's families.
BOXER: And you know what else is important? Quality.
People-you know, you hear Senator Barrasso talk about-and Senator Coburn-the best health care in the world. I have a piece of paper here. I'm just going to consult it.
The U.S. ranks 24th among 30 industrialized nations for longevity. That's life expectancy. We're near the bottom. And we know that we rank 29th in the world in infant mortality.
So we don't have the best system in the world. We can do so much better with prevention and making sure that health care is accessible, affordable. Insure those millions of Americans who walk into the emergency room very sick because they have no insurance.
We know what we have to do.
BOXER: I'm not afraid of this. I'm not afraid of these people demagoguing. But Ed, listen, Jim DeMint, my colleague from South Carolina said it. It was on tape. We know it.
They said health care will be this president's Waterloo, it will break him. That is what they are about.
It saddens me to say it. They're not all that way. We have a few who are working, but that's where we are.
SCHULTZ: That's exactly where we are.
Senator Boxer, good to have you with us tonight.
SCHULTZ: And I think the president has to respond to that.
SCHULTZ: A lot of people are going to be watching tonight in masses. Now is the time. Senator Barbara Boxer of California.Folks, I want to know what you think, so get your cell phones out. Will the Democrats cave to big insurance lobby? Text "A" for yes, "B" for no, to 622639. That's 622639. We'll bring you results later on in the show. Coming up, a new Democrat. Arlen Specter being challenged by Joe Sestak. He's joining us when we come back here on THE ED SHOW.Stay with us.
SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.
We've got ourselves a competition. Congressman Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania is going to challenge Senator Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary in 2010.
Today we got the latest numbers on the Senate race in Pennsylvania. Specter still leads Sestak in the polls 55-23, but Specter is at a 17-year low when it comes to his approval ratings.
Joining us now is Congressman Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania.
Joe, nice to meet you. We've had you on the program a lot.
REP. JOE SESTAK (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Good to see you, Ed.
SCHULTZ: The 23 percent number, does it bother you?
SESTAK: Not at all. I mean, I feel like Ned Lamont. Remember, he was 40 points down before he took...
SCHULTZ: Can you beat Arlen Specter?
SESTAK: Oh, without a question. Here's why.
Remember what that poll said. And I just finished the tour in three weeks, and all 67 counties in Pennsylvania saw the same thing.
Seventy percent of the people say we can't make our decision yet on Joe. We don't know him. I'd have a group of 50 or 40 people at the end of that, and they say, you know, we do have a choice now that's credible.
SCHULTZ: What do you make about of some of the comments that have come some Democratic leaders? Like, Ed Rendell said you'd get killed if you do this. You know, you politically don't have a chance to succeed here. And the president at one time came out and said that he would support Arlen Specter.
What do you think?
SESTAK: If people only did things because the odds favored them, if politicians only did things because the odds favored them, we wouldn't have a one-term senator in the White House or then-mayor of Philadelphia, Ed Rendell, wouldn't be governor today. No. Audacity is absolutely...
SCHULTZ: OK. It's all about health care right now, Congressman.
Arlen Specter takes as much or more money as anybody else from big medical. What do you say to that?
SESTAK: Well, I think that there should be no impact upon anyone in Congress at this moment of any special interest group. My gosh, one-sixth of all Americans have no health care, and one-fourth of them lose their health care one or two months every year.
If there's ever a time to take care of working families, that everyone should be covered, like my daughter when she had her brain tumor, it is now. We shouldn't even leave here in Washington, D.C., until this bill is done.
SCHULTZ: So you're willing to stay here until it's done?
SESTAK: Oh, in a heartbeat.
SESTAK: I voted years ago to stay here for the FISA bill.
SCHULTZ: OK . Well, so far, I haven't had anybody in the Congress, in the House or the Senate, say that they ought to go home. So I hope the president takes that lead tonight.
SCHULTZ: All right.
Quickly now, two big issues in Pennsylvania, public option and Employee Free Choice Act. Are you for both of those?
SESTAK: Absolutely. Here's why.
Without a public option, how are you going to have competition in Pennsylvania when two insurance companies have 70 percent of all the private health care plans? That's what we used to call a monopoly.
And EFCA, just look at the facts. Thirty-two percent of all workers who try to unionize are fired or intimidated. And then, once they get to that right to have a contract, 42 percent of them never get to a contract.
There's mischief being done. We need to fix this. .
SCHULTZ: Congressman, good to have you on tonight. Thanks for coming over.
SESTAK: Thanks for having me, Ed.
SCHULTZ: Thanks so much.
Coming up next on THE ED SHOW, it's "Psycho Talk." A news anchor gets swayed by the birthers, saying our president may have a document problem?
It's next in "Psycho Talk."
Stay with us right here on THE ED SHOW.
SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.
In "Psycho Talk" tonight, Lou Dobbs? Yes. He has officially joined the right wing conspiracy theory crazies.
Speaking on his radio show, which not very many people listen to, Dobbs actually promotes the fringe birthers movement. He questions whether President Obama is an American citizen and repeatedly says the president needs to "produce a birth certificate."
Dobbs goes as far as to suggest President Obama may be undocumented.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
LOU DOBBS, "THE LOU DOBBS SHOW": Should he produce his birth certificate, the long form, the real deal? Should he be a little more forthcoming?
What's the deal? What is the deal here?
I'm starting to think we have a document issue. Do you suppose he's -
no, I won't even use the word "undocumented." It wouldn't be right.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: Oh, these people must be thick. Can you view-yes, you can. You can view the president's birth certificate yourself. It's posted online by FactCheck.org.
Dobbs calls the document peculiar. He wants a "long form birth certificate" to prove Obama's citizenship?
Lou Dobbs, Liz Cheney, the Republican congresswoman who was sponsoring a bill requiring future candidates to present original birth certificates, all they are doing is basically fueling the right wing nut jobs in this country and basically giving them a platform.
For Lou Dobbs to wonder if President Obama is "undocumented," there's only one thing, and that's fringe "Psycho Talk." .
SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW. President Obama is going to take his case for health care reform to the American people tonight, answering tough questions at a prime time news conference. I really hope the president comes out swinging against the insurance industry. Just today, United Healthcare posted an obscene profit. They're up 155 percent in a recession. They're not looking for any kind of change or competition.
The monster has more than one head in this situation. It's the insurance companies, hospital interests and big pharma. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio has been fighting the big drug companies as part of the work on the Senate Health Committee. Senator, what do you make of this most recent news today that United Health care comes up with a profit up 155 percent for the second quarter. What are the American people supposed to think about that?
SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Every time we hear news like that, every time we see what the costs of these biologics, 20,000, 30,000, 50,000 dollars a year for cancer treatment or rheumatoid arthritis, anytime we see these huge costs, basically fleecing the system, gaming the system like that, it's one more reason the public demands real health care reform. No pre-existing condition in the insurance industry. That's why people want a public plan, because they know we need to write better rules for the insurance industry, but you've got to keep them honest with a public option.
That's why we wrote it the way we did. That's why it's so important.
Today just proves it again.
SCHULTZ: Senator, what do the people of Ohio want to hear President Obama say tonight? What does he have to do, in your opinion strategically, to get this public option and to get this thing going in the right direction? What do the people of Ohio want to hear?
BROWN: I think people want to hear him directly first. No more comments from people in Washington filtered through the drug industry and the insurance industry and other medical interests. They want to really hear what the president has to say about this plan. People want reassurance that if they have insurance they're happy with, they can keep it. They want to know that insurance companies and drug companies are going to start playing by the rules.
They want to know there's a public option to keep them honest. They want to know that we're going to restrain costs, so that these-particularly for small business and for people out of pocket. So these costs just don't basically ruin companies and ruin lives. And that's happened way too often.
I was on the floor today, Ed, talking about some people from Summit County, Ohio, and from Bryant, Ohio, and from other places, and how it really does ruin lives when they've got to make a choice between taking their medicine. One gentleman wrote me that they don't have enough money and good enough insurance for both of them. They both have serious medical problems, husband and wife, and they might have to lose. What kind of health care system allows that in a country this rich?
SCHULTZ: Senator, some news late this afternoon is that Max Baucus, the chairman of the Finance Committee, has told President Obama, given him a timetable, but he won't tell the media what that timetable is. What have you heard and what does that signal that kind of language is being used. What do you think?
BROWN: Well, I think we may not have-we may not vote on the bill. The Health Committee is done. We were done two weeks ago. We put a good bill out there. The Finance Committee has to move, too. They haven't yet. We may not vote on it before the first week of August. One of two things; we either stay here through August --
SCHULTZ: Are you for that? Are you for staying here?
BROWN: Of course I am. Nothing's more-I've been in politics a long time, 14 years in the House, now three years in the Senate. Nothing is close to as important-except my vote against the Iraq war, nothing is nearly as important, anything I've done or any of my colleagues have done, but to pass this health care bill. If we come in the first week of September, I'm OK on that too. But we need to stay on the timetable so the president gets this bill on his desk in either October or the first week of November.
We shouldn't let it slide beyond that. That's how they always do it. The drug companies, the insurance companies, the medical interest, their goal is delay, slow down, delay. That's how they killed it during Roosevelt time, during Truman's time. That's how they killed it during the Clinton attempts at health care reform. That's how they always do it.
SCHULTZ: Senator, good to have you with us tonight. Sherrod Brown from Ohio here on THE ED SHOW.
For more, let's bring in our panel tonight. You bet, buddy.
Laura Flanders is the author of "Blue Grit" and the host of GritTV.org. Jamal Simmons with us tonight, Democratic strategist. And John Feehery, Republican strategist, with us tonight.
Let's talk about what the president's got cooking tonight. Jamal, what does the president have to do tonight? He's been visible a lot lately. Nine out of the last ten appearance, he's been talking about health care. And now press conference. What does it mean?
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, the White House has clearly stepped up their game in selling this on behalf of the president. I think he's done three network appearances, going on "Nightline" I think later this week. From what I understand, he'll connect this a little bit to the 14,000 people who are losing their health care every day. He's going to talk about cost. He's going to talk about quality.
He's going to talk about some of the real-and choice, and the fact that we've got to get this done, because the costs are killing us. People are going to be able to maintain the care they have, but also keep the quality.
SCHULTZ: John Feehery, doesn't it give the president a lot of ammunition when one of the health care providers in this country reports a quarterly profit up 155 percent from a year ago. Now I'm a profit guy. I'm in a couple of businesses. I know all about profit. But 155 percent, doesn't that take us down the road of yes, it is a monopoly. Doesn't this help the president's case?
JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: From a strategic sense, I don't think Republicans should be in a process of any way defending the insurance companies, because that's-that's not good politics. On the other hand, I do believe that profits are part of the game, and you don't want these companies to go bankrupt because you're trying to get them to have more people or offer to more people.
I do think you need to be hard on the insurance companies. You need to make sure that they don't drop coverage. They get to have preexisting conditions. People have to be covered. They can't take lawyers and throw people off insurance. There's a lot of ways that happens, and I think it's outrageous. Insurance companies have to be more careful in how they increase their premiums. This kind of stuff hurts them.
SCHULTZ: Laura Flanders, it would seem to me that the liberals in this country would be screaming from the top of every building now that United Healthcare is throwing out these kinds of numbers in the wake-in the middle of this big debate that's going on as to whether we should have a public option or not, to give insurance industry some competition. What do you think?
LAURA FLANDERS, "GRIT TV": Call me one of those screamers. You're hearing a little psycho-babble here, in the sense that as long as we have a for-profit health care system, we are going to have profit making at the center of our system of health insurance provision. We're talking about the profits that are made by the health care company this week. They don't make those profits except by doing one thing, which is denying health care. That's the business that they're in.
So what I wish the president was doing tonight was fighting as hard for a public interest driven, non-profit, public single-payer program, driving as hard for that as he drove for troops to Afghanistan. Unfortunately, that's not what's happening. We're going for a proposal that keeps the profits in there. And I'm afraid we're going to hear a lot of reassurance that not too much will change. I think a lot should be changing, and unfortunately a bit more than is likely to change under this proposal.
SCHULTZ: All right, panel, stay with us, because I want to get your response to Jim DeMint. He said this morning on "The Today Show" that he's not going to be taking back his comment about President Obama, that being his Waterloo, this issue.
Also coming up, the righties love to bring up Canada when they talk about health care. The people of Canada are getting pretty sick and tired of their system being trashed by American Republicans. A Canadian political leader, who we found, by the way, alive and well, will respond next in the playbook. Stay with us here on THE ED SHOW.
SCHULTZ: In my playbook tonight, Republicans want you to really be afraid about health care reform. They have no solution, so fear is their only strategy to defeat President Obama's plan. They keep on saying that we're going to end up like the system they have north of the border in Canada, which, according to the GOP, is socialized medicine, and something we should be afraid of. Here's a sample of that right wing fear mongering.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL ®, MINORITY LEADER: I had a friend of mine in Florida who called up recently and said he just lost a friend of his in Canada because the government decided he was too old for a certain kind of procedure.
REP. PAUL BROUN ®, GEORGIA: That's exactly what's going on in Canada and Great Britain today. They don't have the appreciation of life as we do in our society.
REP. STEVE KING ®, IOWA: They're going to save money by rationing care, getting you in a long line. Places like Canada, United Kingdom and Europe, people die when they're in line.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: And, of course, this just in, no with one in the United States dies at all. This has been a familiar Republican refrain lately. You've seen some of it land in Psycho Talk here on THE ED SHOW. Not only is it crazy and wrong, it's offensive to our neighbors north of the border, who actually have a pretty darn good health care system, and they're really sick and tired of these GOP attacks.
Joining me now live from Toronto is the leader of Canada's New Democrats, Jack Layton. Mr. Layton, good to have you with us tonight here on THE ED SHOW on MSNBC. What is your response to the basic tone that has been presented by the antis of a public option in the United States, and the way they're using your system to really be the boogie man in all of this? What are your thoughts on this.
JACK LAYTON, LEADER, CANADA'S NEW DEMOCRATS: Well, Ed, first, thanks for the opportunity to set the record straight, because the fact is this Republican insurance industry-driven campaign to try to prevent a public option from coming forward in the United States actually reminds us of a battle we went through 50 years ago, when it was actually our party, the New Democratic Party, with a leader who has been voted the greatest Canadian, by the way, even though he's long since left us, Tommy Douglas, fought and led a movement to make sure that everybody could get access to health care.
SCHULTZ: But Mr. Layton, the American people want to know if they are lies. Are these lies that you are hearing south of the boarder?
LAYTON: Yes, it's absolutely not true. If you've got a life-threatening condition of any sort here in Canada, you're going to be given top priority. And the first thing the nurse is going to check is your pulse, not whether you've got a line of credit, or whether you have health care coverage from one of these big insurance companies that are doing awfully well, as you mentioned earlier in the show, with their profits.
I can see why they don't want to see reform. But here in Canada, we felt everybody should be able to get access to health care. And the World Health Organization has said that our health care system is one of the better ones in the world.
SCHULTZ: And Canadians are happy for the most part? Can you give me
a number, 50, 60, 70, 80 percent? Is there a number available? That are --
LAYTON: Well, 85 percent, 85 percent. And I'll tell you, not even the most right wing conservative party in our country anywhere would come forward and suggest that we dismantle the system of health care we've got in Canada. There would be an uprising in this country. People like to know that if they have to go to the hospital, they get care first. They're not asked for their credit card. They're not attacked by lawyers and lawsuits.
SCHULTZ: And what about these stories that a lot of Canadians leave Canada to come down to the United States for health care because it's so bad in Canada. Address that for us.
LAYTON: If that were true, there would be an awful lot of Canadians in the waiting room in Detroit, coming across from Windsor. It just doesn't happen. Sure, there are some people who have a certain clinic they like or a certain doctor they like. There's a tradition of going back and forth across the border, and sometimes that fits under the plan. And it's natural.
I mean, we're big countries that are side by side. But the vast majority of Canadians are very happy with our health care system right now.
SCHULTZ: Mr. Layton, tell us, are you going to go on some type of truth-telling mission in the United States to straighten the record out.
LAYTON: I think it's important. I was down in Washington a couple of months ago to underline the truth about the Canadian system. And we're going to keep that message coming. And I'll be doing some more of that traveling myself.
SCHULTZ: I look forward to meeting you, Mr. Layton. I appreciate your time here on MSNBC tonight. Thanks so much.
LAYTON: Good luck to all of you.
SCHULTZ: Absolutely. Thank you. Coming up, the Republicans are stepping up their attacks on President Obama ahead of tonight's press conference. I think the president needs to come out swinging. But I'm a little worried about what I heard from the White House budget director today. I hope they're not getting cold feet. I'll talk with senior adviser Valerie Jarrett about that next on THE ED SHOW. Stay with us.
SCHULTZ: President Obama holding a prime time news conference here in Washington tonight. For more on that, joining me now is senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, a long-time confidant of the president. Valerie, good to have you on tonight.
I get a sense here in the nation's capital today that this is a big press conference and the president is going to make a big pitch for his case. Tell us about that.
VALERIE JARRETT, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, you know, the president always looks forward to these prime time press conferences. It gives him a chance to speak directly to the American people. The issue of health care is one that he feels very passionately about. He's been working hard on it. We've made a lot more progress than we've made over the last ten years.
We're close. I think it's important with all of the swirl that's going around for him to take a step back and really explain to everybody why this is so important and why it's important that we pass it now.
SCHULTZ: Valerie, has the president considered asking the Congress to stay through August to get this deal done?
JARRETT: You know, it hasn't come to that yet. As you know, this is a work in progress. We've been meeting around the clock. Everybody's working hard. And I think he's optimistic that we can get there. I think it's premature to ask Congress to stay later. We're taking it one day at a time.
SCHULTZ: Core Democrats want the president to come out and be aggressive tonight. Do you think he'll do that? What's the plan?
JARRETT: Yes, I think he's feeling pretty aggressive. This is an issue that's near and dear to his heart. If you remember that the president's mother died, and on her death bed she was struggling with a pre-existing condition and trying to figure out her insurance. There are so many people worried about the security and stability of the health care system. And he's fighting on behalf of those people.
So yes, he's going to be passionate this evening.
SCHULTZ: Is the president going to guarantee the American people that there will be a public option or he won't sign it?
JARRETT: I don't think it's a matter of giving ultimatums. That's not the purpose of this evening. What he wants to do is to frame the issue very clearly. You know, Ed, that he cares passionately about the public plan. He thinks it will provide competition. It's a way of making the insurance companies have to compete against this public plan. And that's something that he's been very clear from the beginning that he wants. And so he will make that point if asked this evening.
SCHULTZ: And the news today, United Healthcare posting 155 percent increase in profit in the second quarter. Does that make news at the White House?
JARRETT: Well, I think what we have learned in this process is that there are lots of inefficiencies in the process. There's a lot of waste. There's a lot of red tape. And there's a lot of action that doesn't really help people have better health care. And the president keeps his eye on the ball. What he's interested in is making sure that people have good, affordable health care. And everyone is going to have to give, including the insurance companies.
SCHULTZ: Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to the president, appreciate your time on THE ED SHOW tonight.
JARRETT: My pleasure, Ed. Good to see you.
SCHULTZ: Good to see you. For more on this, let go back to our panel tonight. Laura Flanders, Jamal Simmons and John Feehery. Is the president, John, going to address some of the negative comments that have been coming from the Republicans? Would it be smart for him to do that? His audience here tonight is going to be much greater than it would be at any other time. The comment about DeMint, also the comments from Mitch McConnell, what about that?
FEEHERY: My prediction is he will. Mostly because it's a press conference. He's going to be asked those questions. He's going to have to respond. I'm sure he's already practiced that. The fact of the matter is this is a kind of a game. We're not sure, because it's a press conference, how it's going to play out. We're not sure what the press is going to ask him, but I'll bet you they'll ask him about that.
SCHULTZ: Does he have to make news tonight?
SIMMONS: I think the fact that he's doing this entire week is making news. The Republicans have shown what they want to do is play politics with this. DeMint's comments about breaking the president, this is going to be his Waterloo, all that stuff; Americans don't want that. They want someone who's going to break down the insurance companies and health care bills so they can afford it going forward.
SCHULTZ: Laura, you know, I sense from my national radio show that a lot of Americans who supported this president are ready for him to put a line in the sand, and tell the Republicans if you don't want to come on board, we're going to try to get this thing done without you. What about that?
FLANDERS: I think you're absolutely right. I was going to use the exact same term, line in the sand. The president has to got to draw it here and he hasn't gotten anything to lose. He's been having town hall meetings around the country, listening from the same people you and I hear from. There's high approval ratings for a public plan. People want a plan that will put health care at the center, instead of profits.
The GOP I think has the danger of coming out looking like the party that will spend billions of dollars on bombs and bullets and bailing out bank, and won't put any change in place to roll back some of these profits for the private insurers.
SCHULTZ: What about that John?
FEEHERY: As someone who has been involved in the legislative process for many years, I would say that drawing a line in the sand right as these members are trying to negotiate a deal is a bad thing, and will hurt the president in getting a bill ultimately.
SCHULTZ: You've got Max Baucus saying, Jamal, that the president is not helping us. Now we hear late this afternoon that he's told the president about a date. It seems to me the president ought to spend some political capital on this and say, this is what we're going to do. This is what the American people voted for.
SIMMONS: He's button-holing these congressman and senators right now. He spent three hours with the Blue Dog Democrats, really trying to get them to a point where they're going to stick with Nancy Pelosi, and get this plan done. Already, three out of five of the committees that it has to go through in the Congress.
I think they're going to get there before this recess starts. And he's just going to push them across that line.
SCHULTZ: And let's rapid fire this quickly. Laura Flanders, does he have to address the job numbers tonight to keep the confidence of the American people up?
FLANDERS: I think the job numbers are one thing, but let's talk about numbers that you've talked about, about profit numbers for the private insurance, while they're cutting people off health care. United Healthcare 10 percent down in the actual plans they're drawing up, even as they're drawing up these incredible profits and CEO salaries.
SCHULTZ: John, what about the job numbers?
FEEHERY: It's killing them. The job numbers are killing them. That's why people are losing confidence in this president. And the poll numbers show that.
SCHULTZ: Jamal, is this a pep talk tonight?
SIMMONS: I think you're going to see a little bit of a pep talk. But really we've got to get this health care bill done, because the longer we delay, the more likely it is it won't get passed.
SCHULTZ: Earlier in the show, I asked you what you thought; will the Democrats cave to the big insurance lobby? We've got an answer, ED SHOW first, an even split; 50 percent say yes, 50 percent say no. It must have been a heck of a question.
I'm Ed Schultz. I'm heading over to the White House right now for the president's newser. You can watch us at 8:00 Eastern time here on MSNBC. We'll be back with a post game show edition of THE ED SHOW 11:00 Eastern. Up next is "HARDBALL," right here on MSNBC. We'll see you tonight at 11:00 Eastern.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.