Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET, Monday, February 21st, 2011
Read the transcript from the Monday 6 p.m. hour
Guests: Lena Taylor, Lee Fang, Ed Rendell, Heidi Harris, Jane Hamsher,
CENK UYGUR, HOST: All right. We‘ve got a standoff in Wisconsin. It‘s the protesters versus Governor Walker. Walker is expected to have a press conference any minute now and we‘ll have that live for you.
And one of the Democratic state senators who left the state joins me tonight. And here‘s what this is all about—the rich versus the middle class.
An exclusive report links the billionaire Koch brothers to Governor Walker. Surprise, surprise. We have the reporter who broke the story. He joins us tonight.
And Republicans tailor their cuts to help campaign donors. Of course. I‘ll show you exactly how they‘re helping their friends on Wall Street and how they‘re helping big oil.
Plus, Sarah Palin‘s secrets revealed. Her former aide is exposing everything, from Palin hating her job to coordinating attacks with Fox News surrogates. All the details tonight.
But we start tonight with Wisconsin. Thousands of protesters turned out in Madison again today, on the seventh day of demonstrations against Governor Scott Walker and his attempt to bust the unions.
Now, they were entertained by rocker Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine, who showed up for an acoustic performance in support of the unions. Good for him.
Inside the capitol building though, legislators still appear to be at an impasse tonight. The 14 state Democrats who remained out of the state, they intend to stay there until the governor agrees to talk. But so far, he‘s standing his ground. That‘s what Republicans do.
The only hint of movement comes from a compromise proposal put forward by a moderate Republican state senator. His plan would take away union bargaining rights for the next two years and then restore them afterwards.
Now, I don‘t love that plan. It‘s the typical, come on, give us another two years and maybe we‘ll get to the Democratic ideas later. But Governor Walker flatly rejected the idea this morning anyway.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Could you support a compromise like that?
GOV. SCOTT WALKER ®, WISCONSIN: No, because, again, the reason we‘re in this problem in the first place—
TODD: So you will veto? You will veto that bill? You would veto that bill?
WALKER: It will never get to me. It will never get to me, because other than that one state senator, all the rest of the Republicans are firmly behind our proposal. All the other members of the majority that we need to pass in the assembly are behind us, because they recognize what I‘ve been saying all along—you cannot have a short-term fix.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: So of course he won‘t compromise. They never compromise!
Does he expect the Democratic state senators to compromise? Of course.
They have to do that right away.
And he‘s demanding they return to Wisconsin immediately. How dare they disregard his orders? He‘s the one and only governor of Wisconsin.
Look, you know, it‘s a democracy. I don‘t know if you know that, Governor Walker.
Now, of course, tensions are running high throughout Wisconsin. Friday evening, Republicans in the state legislature voted on a budget bill before the Democrats could even make it to the chamber. They‘re taking the vote, the Democrats aren‘t even there. They‘re like, ha ha. We got you.
Now, when they arrived on the floor and realized what had happened, the Democrats erupted in anger.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You took an oath of office. I don‘t know if you take it seriously or if you just think that now that we have a governor that wants to be a government of one you can do whatever you like. Well, you can‘t.
Honest to God, what is wrong with you? Are you really that eager to shut down this process, to strip people of their basic worker rights?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you want to know why there are 35,000 people here, look at yourself in the mirror! And how about a little respect, at least to your colleagues?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Man, they were worked up.
You go get them!
Now, Democrats actually ultimately came out on that particular vote because the Republicans agreed to revisit the bill, but the Republican majority is still standing firm on the main issue.
Now, one of the reasons is, of course, who‘s paying them. Are you ready for this? It turns out it‘s big business. Did you know that?
In a couple minutes, we‘ll tell you why one of the governor‘s biggest campaign contributors, he‘s—why they‘ve got everything to do with it and why they might be affecting his decision to attack the unions. So that‘s coming up in a little bit.
But first, let me bring up one of the Democrats who is standing up to Governor Walker, Wisconsin State Senator Lena Taylor.
Great to have you here. I understand you‘re still at an undisclosed location. If you disclose it, does that mean that the Wisconsin cops will invade Illinois?
LENA TAYLOR (D), WISCONSIN STATE SENATOR: No, they don‘t have the authority to come to us in Illinois. But I am in an undisclosed location, and happy to be in Illinois so that I can make sure that Wisconsin workers get an opportunity to be heard by their governor.
UYGUR: All right. Now, is there any chance that the Democrats will accept a compromise put forward by the Republican legislators saying, hey, you know, for two years, no negotiations for unions, but afterwards we‘ll revisit the issue?
TAYLOR: I think what it symbolizes is that there are Republicans who are not comfortable with the overreaching that Governor Walker has done, and that, really, there needs to be an opportunity for them to be at the table.
And Governor walker asked for that. When we went to do the contracts in late December, Governor Walker asked for an opportunity to be able to negotiate and go to the table with them. We‘re just asking him to do that, do his job.
UYGUR: So the government is going to come up in just a minute here, but do you think this is all political? Because obviously the unions that support the firefighters and police, he wound up exempting from this bill. Do you think that‘s what this is about?
TAYLOR: You know, I would say it is. First of all, the only unions that were exempt, as you stated, were the ones that endorsed him. In addition to that, he said this was for our budget and we needed to do this in order to repair our budget.
Well, let‘s be clear. All the concessions that he wanted have been provided. They were provided by the teachers union before he even did his budget repair bill, and it‘s been provided again, reinforced again, by all the municipality workers and the correction officers and that group.
UYGUR: So how do we get out of this mess? How do you get back into Wisconsin? What‘s the end game here? How do we get out of it?
TAYLOR: You know what? It‘s right in front of the governor.
All he has to do is meet them at the bargaining table. All he has to do is sit down and talk with the workers of Wisconsin and be willing to give them his workers‘ rights.
And the reality is, is that if he does that, it‘s not going to prevent him from having all the other items that he wanted. He wants them to pay more in health care, more in pension. We agree, they need to pay more. We‘re at a fiscal state where we need them to do that, and they‘re willing to do that. But taking away their rights, we had to stand up to say enough is enough, you‘ve overreached and you‘ve gone too far.
UYGUR: All right. Thank you so much.
Now here‘s Governor Walker. Let‘s listen to him.
WALKER: Today we‘re going to talk a little bit about the budget overall, a little bit more about the state Senate, and those who are ready to work and those who are ready to not. And then a little bit about our timelines.
Now, first off, I want to talk very specifically about the fact that what we‘re proposing in this budget adjustment bill is really about our commitment to the future, and if we fail to make that commitment, we‘re ultimately going to have to deal with the consequences not only ourselves, but the consequences we‘ll pass on to our children and their children into the future. And so this is an incredibly important moment in our state‘s history.
For us, it‘s about a combination of things. Certainly, it‘s about balancing the budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2011, which faces a shortfall, although the budget reforms that we include in terms of wage and benefit are only a small portion of that. I‘m going to touch on that in just a moment.
On top of that, it‘s probably of even greater importance that we pass the budget repair bill more than just for this fiscal year, but because it sets the table for ensuring that we‘re able to balance the $3.6 billion budget deficit we face going into the next buy-in.
And third, it‘s important we do that because on top of that, we need to make sure that as part of doing that, we give our local governments the tools they need to balance their budget in light of the fact that there‘s going to be less stated. Like nearly every other state across the country that‘s facing a deficit, we‘re going to be looking at reductions in state aid to local governments, but unlike those other states that are cutting funds for schools, for the university systems, for other local governments, we‘re ultimately pushing forward with this plan to make sure that those local governments have the tools to accommodate for those reductions to state aid without hurting their core services.
A couple of things I want to touch on as part of that.
First off, I want to make it clear—I‘ve said this all along, but I want to repeat this because it‘s worth noting. I have a great respect for the more than 300,000 state and local government employees who work here in the state of Wisconsin. They‘re good, decent, hardworking people, they‘re professionals, the vast majority of whom for the past week and a half have come to work each and every day, done the job they‘re paid to do, and continue to be professional public servants. And I thank them for that. And I know the vast majority of them are going to continue to do that.
I have also acknowledged along the way that you can hear them out there. There are protesters here each and every day, and they have every right to be heard. At least those from Wisconsin. I know increasingly, there are more and more from outside of the state, but for those from Wisconsin, they have every right to be heard.
But I also want to make it clear, particularly to those union leaders coming in from outside of the state of Wisconsin, that when given the choice to stand with them or to stand with the millions of hardworking taxpayers all across Wisconsin, many of whom are paying much more for health care, retirement benefits than the modest amount we‘re asking for in this proposal, I‘m going to stand with the hardworking taxpayers of Wisconsin. That‘s what this debate is all about.
A couple of things have come up over the weekend I want to address. One was, interestingly enough, over the weekend a couple of the statewide union leaders suggested that the 5 and 7 percent we‘re asking for for pension and health care benefits might be acceptable. That‘s an interesting development, because, of course, a week ago, they were saying that that was unacceptable because their members couldn‘t afford to pay for that.
Now, it‘s equally as interesting, because some of those same leaders tried to cram through last December a series of state contracts before we got into office, but after the elections. So it‘s interesting to see how their logic changes day by day depending on what the moment is.
The reality is that‘s not acceptable for us, because this is about balancing our budget not only today, but balancing our budgets at both the state and the local governments for years to come. If you don‘t make the changes we‘re proposing for collective bargaining in this budget repair bill, you make it very difficult for local governments in particular to balance their budgets in the years to come. And I‘ll give you one good example.
There‘s many of them out there. I know, because I used to be a county official, and I saw it day in and day out, but I‘ll give you a good example of their schools.
Many of our schools in the state of Wisconsin, because of collective bargaining and the contracts that come from that, are required to buy their insurance for health care through the WEA Trust. That‘s the state teacher union health care system, health care plan. And the WEA Trust is the mark that they are required to hit as part of their contracts.
Well, ultimately, if we were to change that by removing the collective bargaining requirement because of the changes we‘re proposing in our budget repair bill, we believe the approximate amount of savings would be $68 million for school districts all across the state of Wisconsin that don‘t currently have that option of not buying the WEA Trust.
That‘s real money. That‘s money that goes beyond the savings --
UYGUR: All right. That‘s Governor Walker stating pretty much the same case that he has been stating throughout, that he‘s not going to budge, and why collective bargaining is so terrible for the state of Wisconsin.
Let me bring back Wisconsin State Senator Lena Taylor and get your reaction to this speech.
He says that collective bargaining costs the state a lot of money. Is that right or wrong?
TAYLOR: You know, I‘m not going to disagree that the concept of negotiating with workers often brings tremendous costs. Let‘s say education in particular and our correction system are two of the top spenders in our state‘s budget. I get that.
I also get that we need to be able to negotiate and have terms that we can come up with quickly. But suggesting that it‘s collective bargaining that makes it the cost for us, that‘s not correct.
UYGUR: So what is your sticking point? I mean, he seems to be saying he wants everything. Right? He wants the pay cut. He said, oh, it‘s a new thing, that they‘ve agreed to the pay cut. My reading of the news was that it was not new at all, that they had said that fairly early on. And he wants the collective bargaining taken away.
What would make you come back and say, all right, look, that‘s a compromise I can live with?
TAYLOR: Let‘s say this—collective bargaining gave us weekends, it gave us eight-hour workdays. All of those things are very important pieces. And so we need to continue to be able to make sure that our teachers, for example, since that‘s the example he brought up, that they‘re able to talk about their working conditions.
In Milwaukee in particular, in our school district, teachers are teaching with 30 and 40 children in their classroom. If teachers aren‘t able to come to the table and to talk about that, then they could end up with 50 and 60 children in their classroom. And the quality of education will prevent us from being able to have the kind of economic engine we need in Wisconsin so that we can compete globally.
I respect that our governor is not someone who really cares about education, but it is something that we need to prioritize as a state. And it‘s something that we‘ve always prioritized as a state. Even when we were in our hardest fiscal times, we‘ve always prioritized education.
Teachers know about that. And they know about what‘s needed in the classroom, and they should be able to give input at the table. And I don‘t disagree that we need to sit down and say what can we do to tighten up how we negotiate? We can do that.
We can tighten up what issues can they talk about. But the governor has to come to the table to get those suggestions. And he shouldn‘t be doing it through press conferences. He should meet them at the bargaining table.
UYGUR: Right. Well, we‘re going to talk about his priorities in the next segment, because I find them questionable.
But State Senator Lena Taylor in Illinois, thank you joining us. And we hope one day we can join you in Wisconsin.
All right. Now, Governor Scott Walker, of course, just blasted out-of-state players for getting involved in Wisconsin politic, but he didn‘t feel that way when the Koch brothers helped to get him elected. I‘m going to explain all that to you, what his motivations are, who paid him and why he‘s doing this, when we come back.
UYGUR: Now let‘s talk about what Governor Scott Walker‘s motivations are in Wisconsin. Is it to help the average Wisconsin voter, or is it to help his campaign contributors? Gee, I wonder.
So first, Sarah Palin jumped in, pretending to be on the side of the average working person in Wisconsin, while actually, of course, being completely on the opposite side. This is what she wrote on Facebook:
“Union brothers and sisters, this is the wrong fight at the wrong time.”
Brothers and sisters who? What? Your brothers and sisters? How are they your brothers and sisters? Please spare me.
Then she also wrote, “Real solidarity means everyone being willing to sacrifice and carry our share of the burden.” Really? What share of the burden are the rich bearing? Are they taking a hit here? All I saw was cuts for the working guys and the average guys in Wisconsin.
You know what the businesses in Wisconsin are going to get? A $67 million tax cut over the next two years. We‘re sharing the burden.
Now, speaking of not sharing the burden and making sure that the rich always benefit from Republican proposals, here comes the Koch brothers. Koch Industries was Scott Walker‘s fourth largest donor during his 2010 campaign. They donated $43,000 to his election effort.
Gee, I wonder what they want. And now Governor Walker is running with the union-busting budget bill which was pushed by the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council.
Gee, what a coincidence. They pay him to bust the budgets, and he says right as soon as he comes in, you know what? I‘ve got a genius idea. Why don‘t I bust the budgets?
But the Koch brothers I‘m sure care about the average worker, right? Well, it turns out in 2009, Koch Industries slashed jobs at plants across the country, including cutting 25 percent of the workforce in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Now, meanwhile, the Koch brothers‘ joint net worth increased by $11 billion in the same year. Oh, we just had to cut all those workers, because otherwise we would have only made $10 billion, and we couldn‘t have that. The workers had to be slashed.
Now, what was that about shared sacrifice, Sarah? Did the Koch brothers share any sacrifice?
Now, of course another Koch-funded group, Americans for Prosperity, has joined the Wisconsin budget battle. Would you believe it? They‘re backing the governor‘s union-busting agenda. Who could have figured?
They‘ve started the Web site, StandWithWalker.com. Gee, I wonder how all this is connected?
Now, for more, let me bring in Lee Fang. He broke the story for ThinkProgress.org. He joins me now.
Lee, talk to me about the Koch brothers. Is this them trying to get payback for all the money that they invested in Walker and other politicians?
LEE FANG, THINKPROGRESS.ORG: Well, sure. You know, the Koch brothers and Governor Walker share the same kind of perverse supply side ideology where you basically soak the middle class and the poor to reward the rich.
As you mentioned, Koch Industries has been slashing jobs, thousands of them, all over the country, including in Wisconsin, at the same time they‘ve basically given themselves, the two top executives, Charles and David, an extra $11 billion just in the last two years. That‘s pretty similar to Governor Walker, who‘s basically given a huge tax cut to businesses in Wisconsin while, at the same time, only asking nurses and teachers to sacrifice.
UYGUR: All right. Now that the protests have begun, how are the Koch brothers involved in the counter-protests in Madison?
FANG: Well, as you mentioned, they started this Web site, StandWithWalker, basically, you know, not only saying that we should end collective bargaining rights for public employees, but also private employees, and that this really radical drive by Governor Walker should be expanded across the country.
And, you know, in the past two years, they have a group called Fight Back Wisconsin and Americans for Prosperity. They‘ve been busing people around, hosting Tea Parties. They‘ve brought in Walker to help campaign for him. Then this past Saturday, they bused in Tea Partiers and people like “Joe the Plumber”—you know, faux populists—to support him.
UYGUR: So they bus these guys in and say—and you just heard the governor, by the way. He‘s complaining about people coming in from out of state. Are the Koch brothers local to Wisconsin? Is “Joe the Plumber” local to Wisconsin? Are any of the people they bused in local to Wisconsin?
FANG: Well, they had Andrew Breitbart and Herman Cain, definitely not Wisconsinites, but the Koch brothers do own a lot of companies in Wisconsin. They have a set of power plants, pipelines, lumber mills.
And interestingly enough, hidden in this budget bill—you know, we‘re talking about collective bargaining rights, but Governor Walker also has a line item that allows him to sell off Wisconsin power plants basically with no-bid contracts. So it‘s possible there could be a quid pro quo later this year.
UYGUR: Yes, I‘m looking forward to that as well.
So let me get this right. They get lower taxes. Who knows what they‘re going to get in no-bid contracts later. If you‘re looking for actually stopping pollution in Wisconsin, I don‘t think Governor Walker is going to be your guy.
But is the ultimate goal here not just Wisconsin, but throughout the country, to go after not just public unions, but private unions, so the Koch brothers will play less to their workers throughout the country?
FANG: No, it‘s actually much bigger than that. You know, the Koch brothers want to maximize their political power. That‘s why they fund the Tea Party movement. That‘s why they financed this junket for federal judges program. That‘s why they financed dozens of think tans and so-called libertarian nonprofits.
You know, this is much bigger than just Wisconsin. They want to crush the labor movement.
They know if there‘s no labor movement, they have no real opponents.
So, in 2012 and 2014 and so forth, they‘re basically unstoppable.
You know, I interviewed David Koch, one of the executives at Koch Industries. And he said this is just the beginning. He plans to expand this campaign in coming years.
UYGUR: Yes, that sounds lovely. And I actually saw that interview, and he said at some point, “The average guy like me.”
FANG: That‘s right.
UYGUR: The average billionaire like you? Come on. Who are you kidding? Apparently, the whole state of Wisconsin.
All right. Lee Fang, thanks for your time tonight. We really appreciate it. Good report on that.
FANG: Thanks for having me.
UYGUR: All right. Now, “I hate this damn job.” That‘s what Sarah Palin allegedly e-mailed an aide while she was governor. The former aide is revealing how they worked from rigged polls to how they used Fox.
We‘ll tell you all of their secrets.
And should President Obama do more to stand with workers protesting in Wisconsin? I think so. Former governor Ed Rendell weighs in next.
UYGUR: Now let‘s talk about the politics of what‘s happening in Wisconsin. Where do the national parties stand on this? And how about the president? Where is he?
Well, in an interview with a Milwaukee TV station on Thursday, President Obama stood up for unions‘ collective bargaining rights.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some of what I heard coming out of Wisconsin where you‘re just making it harder for public employees to collective bargain generally seems like more of an assault on unions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: All right. Good. Saying it‘s an assault on unions. He‘s getting into the game., I like that.
But it turns out on “Meet the Press” this weekend, by the way, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham responded to Obama‘s comment, and he said it was “very inappropriate” for the president to get involved in this controversy.
Is it inappropriate? Why is it inappropriate? He‘s the president. Those are people that are protesting in Wisconsin who happen to be on his die.
Who cares what Graham thinks? But unfortunately it turns out the White House cares.
“The New York Times” explained that recently. Here—I‘ll give you the exact quote.
They said, “Over the weekend, the White House and Democratic Party officials pushed back against criticism from Republicans that Mr. Obama and his political network were meddling in the Wisconsin dispute. Administration officials said Sunday the White House had done nothing to encourage demonstrations in Wisconsin.”
But why? Why did you do nothing to encourage the demonstrations in Wisconsin? Why are you so proud of that?
Any little criticism by the right, and they‘re like, no, no, no it wasn‘t us, it wasn‘t us. We would never support the workers.
They run from every fight. Get in there. And if you weren‘t so sure about that interpretation or the “New York Times” report, well, here‘s Dan Pfeiffer. White House communications director, he says, quote, “This is a Wisconsin story, not a Washington one. False game claims of White House involvement or attempts to distract from the organic grassroots opposition that is happening in Wisconsin.” It‘s not a Washington plan. Please, please, it‘s not our plan, we would never support the workers‘ unions. Oh my God, they would call us liberals. We wouldn‘t do that, no, no, never us.
By the way, if you‘re a member, Obama also froze civilian federal employees‘ salaries for two years. So, you know what? He‘s got no rights against the complaints. If we want to look at, at that way, why is he doing it? Because he wants to of course, as a guy, who‘s also wanted to do, spending cuts. Why could you more spending cuts in the Republicans? Watch. And when the unions are protesting or the workers are protesting in Wisconsin, I won‘t stand up for them at all. I‘ll leave that hanging in the wind. And because God forbids, Senator Graham should say, I‘m inappropriate. Get in the fight. Get in the fight. You‘re our president, meddling, you‘re our president! Get in the fight. But he‘s not going to do it. God forbid they should call him a progressive or say that he doesn‘t cut spending enough or that he should in favor of the average working guy or the unions. Those guys all voted for you. Where are you?
Well, let me bring in Ed Rendell. Of course, he‘s the former Pennsylvania governor. He‘s now an NBC News political analyst. Governor Rendell, as usual, let me ask you, am I being too tough on the president? Or is this a pretty good time to say, I‘m on the size of the average guy, I‘m on the side of the working guy?
ED RENDELL, NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Cenk, I think you‘re both right and wrong. I think you‘re right, the president started out very good on Thursday, and he should have come out with a strong statement saying, look, no one should take away collective bargaining rights. Those are rights that have made the middle class in this country what it is today. And they should be sacrosanct. He should have been strong as he could have been in that. And he started out well on Thursday. And he shouldn‘t have backed away from that. But he shouldn‘t inject himself in Wisconsin or Pennsylvania or any of the state where is this is going to happen. In 44 states, have deficits. And similar fights are going to be played out in all of those states.
The reason why is we don‘t want this to be about President Obama. We want it to be about the policemen, the firemen, the nurses, the EMTs, the men and women who plow the snow off the roads in Wisconsin. That‘s what we wanted to be focused on because they‘re the people who can engender real sympathy. We don‘t want this to be about political, ideological battle. We want it to be about ordinary working people essentially getting the short end of the stick. I mean, think about it. Look, the union—and this is stunning. The union was willing to do the concessions necessary, additional pain on pensions and health care benefits. That‘s a responsible stand by the union.
That‘s all the governor should have asked for. And I heard Governor Walker, Cenk say, and you may have heard him say this, this is what we campaigned on, and that‘s why we won the election and the people expect us to do this. Well, that‘s not correct. You never campaigned governor, saying you were going to get rid of collective bargaining in Wisconsin. And, in fact, polls show a majority of people and one poll, a very significant majority of people don‘t want you to do it. So that‘s a bad excuse. This is union busting. You have every right to go after cost cutting because we need it. And your point Cenk is right, we should balance it. But you don‘t have the right to try to bust unions. That‘s not what people voted for you for.
UYGUR: Governor Rendell, when he says he campaigned on it, he probably means I campaigned on it with the Koch brothers. When they—
$43,000, I promised that during the campaign.
.bust the unions.
RENDELL: Right. But he never said—he never said in a debate, and if you don‘t elect me governor, I‘m going to get collective bargaining out of the state of Wisconsin. Ironically, the state which started collective bargaining.
UYGUR: Right. You know, Governor, actually, he just spoke. You know, we were carrying it. He came around to make a point about the 14 state senators that have left. I want to roll that for you and get that reaction. Let‘s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. SCOTT WALKER ®, WISCONSIN: For those 14 Senate Democrats, you had your time. Now it‘s time to come home. You asked for time for the public to understand what‘s in the bill. This is unprecedented terms of mode of attention. Now, I don‘t think you can find a single person at least in the state of Wisconsin who couldn‘t tell you they‘re aware of what‘s going on with this bill and what the debate is all about. The time is up, it‘s time for them to come back and participate in democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: All right. How do you react to that?
RENDELL: Well, again, he‘s putting up straw men. The governor tried to ram this bill through. He never negotiated with the unions in the first place. Never sat down and said look, what can we do here? Number one. Number two, they tried to ram this bill through. The senators have every right to stop this process. And if the only way they can stop it is being out of state, that‘s OK. And look, collective bargaining isn‘t the root of the problem. They‘re trying to say that municipalities and cities won‘t be able to cut costs themselves unless we get rid of collective bargaining. That‘s baloney, Cenk. I‘m not superman, but when I became mayor of the city of Philadelphia, we faced the worst deficit in the history of the city of Philadelphia.
And we took our benefits from 58 cents on the dollar, which was the highest in the city by far, no one was close to it in the private sector, no other public sector, down to 37 cents. But I did it through collective bargaining. We took our case to the people, the people supported us, there was a momentary strike and then the union finally gave in. And when I became governor of Pennsylvania, our workers did not pay anything—made no contribution to their health plan. They now pay three percent of their salaries. We won that through the collective bargaining process. And that‘s what a good public official should do. Don‘t be afraid of collective bargaining, go and make your point to the public. Because when you‘re dealing with the public unions, the public is the arbiter of the last resort.
UYGUR: Right. Governor, I‘ve got to come back to President Obama for one second here. Look, my issue is here first of all, if he showed up, imagine how energized would be. You say, look, it make it more political, but look, those are the guys who work for him, who, you know, busted their ass for him, who voted for him. Imagine if the president shows up, what a statement that would be. And does it matter to make these ideas a battle of ideas for one side to say, hey, we‘re going to cut, we‘re going to cut, we‘re going to cut. And other side, the largely reboot for the president to come out and say, look, there‘s point behind having unions and here‘s why we have them and here‘s why collective bargaining is important.
RENDELL: I agree with that. But I don‘t think he should have showed up. I think he should have made that point, and as you said, he got off to reach start on Thursday, and I think, he should have followed that momentum through. But he shouldn‘t come to Madison any more than maybe next month, he shouldn‘t come to Harrisburg or the week after that to Springfield or Sacramento or whatever. He can‘t inject himself into 44 different state fights. He should make a small.
UYGUR: But this is a big one. This is a big one.
RENDELL: This is a big one. But in my judgment, the way you win this battle is to focus on your neighbors. And everyone who works in the private sector has a neighbor who‘s a nurse, who‘s a policeman, who‘s a fireman, who‘s an EMT. And those are the people that the ordinary folks in Wisconsin are going to wind up siding with. They‘re not going to wind up siding with a governor who as you point out, is being unfair because there isn‘t shared sacrifice. How in the lord‘s name can you ask for cuts like this and at the same time reduce business taxes?
RENDELL: You know, there‘s a time for reducing taxes, but it isn‘t now.
UYGUR: Exactly right. That‘s exactly right.
RENDELL: And you make that point. And that‘s the point we should be making in Wisconsin. You‘re doing all this on the backs of these people. And public workers aren‘t your enemy. Look, I‘ve negotiated with public workers, I‘ve been in public life for 33 years. And those negotiations are tough, but I know the vast majority of public workers are terrific. They work hard, they care about their state, they care about their city. And they have families that care about the same things that ordinary folks care about.
UYGUR: Of course. They‘re regular citizens like everybody else.
UYGUR: Dehumanizing them is crazy. All right.
RENDELL: If you want to demonize leadership, demonize leadership, but don‘t demonize the ordinary rank and file policemen and firemen. One of the policemen I saw on the Ed Schultz show made the point that after 9/11, everybody said what heroes they were, but that didn‘t last very long, did it?
UYGUR: Yes. It appears that it hasn‘t lasted very long in Wisconsin, that‘s for sure.
UYGUR: Governor Rendell, thank you so much, we really appreciate your time.
RENDELL: Thanks, Cenk. Thanks very much.
UYGUR: All right. Now up next, the House Republicans passed $61 billion in cuts. Of course, that‘s all they ever do. But it has nothing to do with balancing the budget. It has about one thing—paying back corporate friends. We‘ll show you exactly how. And then Jane Hamsher and Heidi Harris step into our first ever cage match tonight. Come on, that‘s got to be fun. You don‘t want to miss that.
UYGUR: The Republicans in the House just passed the budget with $61 billion in cuts. So what did they cut? Let‘s take a look. First, it cuts $3 billion from the environmental protection agency. That‘s one-third of their total budget. We‘ll get into why they did that in a second. It also cuts $57 million from the Commodities Futures Trading Commission. That‘s one-third of that organizations budget. Of course, they‘re the cops on Wall Street and apparently some of the robbers on Wall Street don‘t want those cops. And by the way, they also cut $25 million from the budget of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Again, they don‘t want cops on Wall Street. Gee, I wonder why. And their proposal also cuts $285 million from the IRS.
Now, if IRS can‘t do enforcement, what do you think is going to happen to the guys in the Cayman Islands that are doing all those tax havens? They‘re going to keep all those tax havens in the Cayman Islands because there‘s no enforcement. OpenSecrets.org reports that the oil and gas industry spent $25 million in the midterm elections. Let‘s put that into context, 23 percent went to the Democrats, 76 percent went to the Republicans. Gee, I wonder if that money was so that they would cut the EPA. Well, it turns out the biggest industry donor, Koch industries, which contributed $1.7 million, on nearly all of that went to the GOP, of course.
Now, let‘s find out why. The Los Angeles Times recently reported, quote, “The Koch‘s oil refineries and chemical plants stand to pay millions to reduce air pollution under currently proposed EPA regulations.” So, if they cut the EPA regulations and they don‘t have money for enforcement, guess who wins? Will you look at that? It‘s the Koch Brothers, wonderful coincidences that you get from campaign donations.” All right, now, let‘s do it. Let‘s do our first ever cage match. Come on, it‘s no way that is a fun.
In the left corner, Jane, the fire start to Hamsher. The founder of Fire Dog Lake, get the fire started. And in the right corner, Heidi “Vegas” Harris. She‘s from Las Vegas.
And she‘s a conservative talk radio show host there, of course. All right. Heidi, you‘ve seen my intro there. Obviously, I think they take the campaign donations in, they do the favors for those guys who gave the donations. How do you respond to that?
HEIDI HARRIS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Oh, I can look at the left and see all the donations they got from the unions and how they‘re defending the unions and how they know what the unions take any cuts. So, you could say that about both sides.
UYGUR: So, generally, you agree?
HARRIS: No, I don‘t generally agree. I think there are lots of donations made by certain groups to certain politicians, they believe well, of course, look out for their interest, but I‘m not upset about these cuts. The Republicans said, they were going to cut. And they‘re cutting a lot of things I‘m not thrilled about, like PBS, I mean, I don‘t want them cut things like that. Some of the other things, I don‘t think we need. The IRS who needs more IRS agent. I don‘t think we do. And by the way, when it comes to Wall Street, there are a lot of people on Wall Street who are not thrilled about these cuts to the SEC. So, it‘s not only Wall Street who will take advantage. There are people on Wall Street who don‘t want to see this happen.
UYGUR: Jane, what do you think? Might it have something to do with the donors and the Republicans have made these cuts specifically for?
JANE HAMSHER, FIREDOGLAKE.COM: Well, you know, I don‘t think this is so much a matter of right and left, it‘s a matter of people versus the oligarchs. I mean, we‘re watching, what‘s happening in the United States today, it‘s very similar to what‘s happened in Russia with the oligarchs. When they were selling off the airports to, you know, all of these public assets to these oligarchs for pennies on the dollar. That the public had tremendous investment in. And that‘s the situation we‘re being forced into. This is the natural consequence of this draconian budget, you know, the tax cuts that we‘ve had over the past few months. You know, it does have consequences, and now we‘re seeing them. And it‘s amazing to me that people will defend, you know, oh, that‘s just how politics is done. No, these people are stealing and they‘re defunding the cops. As you say, Cenk, the people who hold them responsible. And that‘s not a right or a left thing. That‘s a rich persons versus a poor person, an outsider person, an insider, a middle class versus an oligarch problem, not right left.
HARRIS: No. I don‘t see it all that way. When it comes to the SEC, a lot of people want to spend more money on Dodd/Frank and more regulation. And ultimately, when you look at the housing crisis that put most of us in the situation we‘re in now, with our investments, with our homes, things like that, that all became as a result of course political correctness, trying to get everybody with a pulse into homeownership. The banks were pressured to loan anybody money under any conditions. And that‘s what they did. So, they built specially out here in Las Vegas, house after house after house. People had no business buying, so, you want to talk about more regulation. Dodd Frank is not going to help. The SEC is not going to help. If the government is still pushing people through political correctness to socially engineer the housing market. So, we kind of go back to that.
HAMSHER: The banks are the ones who wanted those bills to get passed for—people. They wanted, they got bailed out. Are you kidding me? That‘s just really, that‘s completely ignorant of what happened.
They wanted all of these regulations to be drop, so they could loan to anybody. And they paid not a cent. Mozilo is not even going to get penalized. He‘s not even—he paid what? $6.5 million, that‘s a bank paid.
UYGUR: Heidi, hold on, before you get in there, Heidi, hold on. Let me ask you something, Heidi, OK?
UYGUR: I mean, to Jane‘s point, the bankers made billions of dollars, Mozilo made hundreds of millions personally.
UYGUR: You think the government made him do that? Or did he voluntarily do that?
HARRIS: No, that‘s not true. Angelo Mozilo of course, as you know, also pushed for this. He wanted everybody to live the American dream. So, believe me, I‘m not letting.
HAMSHER: No, he wanted to rip everybody off.
HARRIS: That‘s not ripping everybody off. You want to have sell houses to people, and you want to make the money from the interest, how is that ripping people off?
HAMSHER: Because he wanted to sell it to people who weren‘t qualified to do it. And so, he wanted to have all regulations taken out of it. And then he wanted to be bailed out by the U.S. government, that‘s a scam.
HARRIS: But there‘s a lot of greed to go around. There‘s greed on the part of people who buy houses they have no business buying, just because someone tells them they can and.
HAMSHER: That has nothing to do.
HARRIS: Yes, it does.
HAMSHER: .with the regulations that they bribed people into dropping.
HARRIS: Yes, but in one point, you have responsibility.
UYGUR: All right. We have to end it right there. That was a great cage match. I really enjoyed it. We agree that there‘s a lot of greed to go around. And it‘s funny when the politicians get money from the people, some of the people who are greedy. They wind up doing their bidding. Fascinating how that works. Jane Hamsher, Heidi Harris, thank you both.
We appreciate it.
UYGUR: All right. Now up next, I hate this damn job. That‘s what Sarah Palin reportedly said about being governor of Alaska, before she quit. More details, next.
UYGUR: Happy president‘s day, everyone. We don‘t celebrate it enough. Now, don‘t miss Chris Matthews‘ special tonight “President of the World: The Bill Clinton Phenomenon.” That‘s 10:00 p.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC.
UYGUR: Now for some Palin news, a leaked unfinished manuscript by a former top aide to Sarah Palin is shedding light into her carefully thought out rationale for quitting as governor of Alaska. I‘m being sarcastic. Keep in mind that Palin quit less than three years into her four-year term. Why? According to Frank Billy (ph), Palin said in an e-mail that explained everything. Quote, “I hate this damn job.” So, there you have it, that‘s her well thought idea. Bailey‘s man script and remember, he was a top aide to Palin, he was an insider. Also alleges that in 2006, Palin broke state election law by coordinating with the Republican Government Association.
That‘s something that candidates are not allowed to do by law. Billy also claims that Palin would become obsessed with nigh minor slights. Take exact revenge. Billy says, Palin‘s team would go after opponent‘s full force. And I love this part, deploying FOX News surrogates—I thought they were doing real news over there. Hell, that‘s weird. Go straight to Op-Ed, -- blogs, and opinion polls that according to Billy, Palin‘s people had rigged. Nice work, Sarah.
All right. Now, some serious news is coming up next. Hundreds are dead in Libya. The government violence is escalating. Qaddafi‘s son is promising rivers of blood. So, why is the White House so quiet on this? We‘ll have those questions ahead.
UYGUR: Muammar Gadhafi is on the ropes in Libya today. Amazing story. Let me tell you the latest, at least 233 people have been killed and Libyan Jets are apparently reportedly firing on protesters. Al Jazeera reports some high level military leaders have fled to Malta after refusing orders to bomb protesters and they‘ve taken their jets with them. Libyan ambassadors to the Arab League in India have resigned in protests. The Libyan ambassador of the U.N. culprit Gadhafi to be tried for war crimes. And that is after Qaddafi‘s son Saif al-Islam Gadhafi said this in a television address yesterday, quote, “We will fight until the last man, the last woman, the last bullet.” He also talked about rivers of blood and now we find out that Benghazi, the second largest city in Libya has fallen to the people that are on the side of getting rid of Gadhafi.
Joining me now is Hisham Melhem, our Washington Bureau chief. First of all, this is amazing. How is he losing so much government support and so much military support so quickly?
HISHAM MELHEM, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: You‘re right. The regime of Gadhafi is teetering. A large section of the eastern part of the country, Benghazi, Albeita (ph), and other cities now are under the rebellion, the control of the rebellion. The army officers are defecting the members of the diplomatic core are defecting and worse of all for him. Now, the rebellion is reaching Tripoli, which is supposed to be the base of the regime. And now, we have the civilian and I think, it‘s not surprising that more army officers will jump off the ship now that it‘s sinking. And I think there is a role now for the United States and the European Union in particular to play a role, to hasten the departure of this regime. Any call for this regime, to engage the opposition in a dialogue for reform is the height of folly. This regime which has been fitting Libya as the private of Gadhafi cannot reform from within.
UYGUR: No question. That‘s what I want to ask you about. It seems like so far, we‘ve been kind of lukewarm, saying we‘re looking for reform, we think Qaddafi‘s son speech, that‘s crazy talk. Finally, Hillary Clinton came out today and said, the bloodshed has to stop but it the U.S. not engaging enough, if not, why not?
MELHEM: Well, definitely, the perception in the region and among the Libyans, and these are the questions that I‘ve been getting for the last 48 hours, from people in the region, why the American lukewarm position. And obviously in fairness to the administration, the administration says, we don‘t know much about the situation. We don‘t have enough people on the ground, enough people on the ground. We don‘t know much about the opposition. That may be true, but I think just to condemn violence in general and not to condemn the violence perpetrated by the regime itself, not to threaten to go to the Security Council, to seek powerful revolutions or even to threaten boycott of Libya‘s oil industry. If we don‘t go in that direction, the United States will be seen as standing on the wrong side of history. The president did the right thing in the last few weeks, siding with the yearning of the young people of the Middle East for empowerment, for dignity, for democratic reform. And I think we should not be behind the curve when it comes to Libya.
UYGUR: Exactly right. We‘ve got to leave it right there. All right.
Hisham Melhem, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
MELHEM: Thank you.
UYGUR: We‘ve got to be on the side of the protesters again here.
Thanks for watching everybody. “HARDBALL” starts right now.
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