Guests: Alex Vizzier, Jordan Taylor, Matt Taibbi, Michael Greenberger, Joe
Conway, Peter Barca, John Nichols
ED SCHULTZ, HOST: Good evening, Americans. And welcome to THE ED SHOW.
We are live tonight at Maury High School in Norfolk, Virginia.
This is a great middle class of America right here in Norfolk, Virginia. This is the school that I went to. I‘m so proud to be here tonight.
These folks are middle class Americans. They sit behind me tonight watching this program. They‘re going to communicate with us later. I think that they are the fabric of this community. But, of course, this is my high school, why wouldn‘t I say that?
It‘s a privilege to be here. It was a privilege to attend this school, a public school. I also had the privilege to learn from talented public school teachers.
And in the argument that‘s taking place in this country right now, there is one political party that wants you to think that these folks, they‘re the problem. They‘re the reason why this country is having a hard time balancing its budget. That is not the case.
This is the story that is taking place all over America. This is ground zero.
Well, ground zero is in Madison, Wisconsin—Madison, Wisconsin, where the governor, he took a union-busting bill and put it out and made it law of the land today. He is about to sign it. I think he is going to do it tomorrow so he can get exactly one more day of press coverage.
The Wisconsin assembly forced it through late this afternoon and Walker vowed to sign it. The governor says this is a victory for the middle class.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. SCOTT WALKER ®, WISCONSIN: That‘s what this bill is about. It‘s about reform. It‘s about making sure we can put people to work, we can save jobs, and ultimately balance our budget in a way that protects the middle class here in Wisconsin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: Walker is dead wrong. This is one of the biggest attacks on the middle class we‘ve seen in decades.
The people of Wisconsin are furious at the way this governor and his cronies pulled this off. The gallery in the assembly erupted as the Republicans after they passed this bill.
Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: The Republicans had to be escorted out by state troopers after the vote. Protesters even gathered around the governor‘s office in Madison.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: The whole world is watching! The whole world is watching! The whole world is watching! The whole world is watching! The world is watching is watching! The whole world is watching! The whole world is watching!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: The world is watching this power grab. This country is watching it intently.
At this hour, protesters are planning their biggest rally to date for Saturday. Minority Leader Barca and local unions are planning lawsuits over the way the Republicans rammed this bill through. The recall petitions are growing larger by the minute and the public employee unions are even started to use the word “strike.”
The president of the Madison Firefighters Union will join me momentarily on this program to talk about that possibility.
And you know what I think? I think Governor Walker actually wants strike. It would give him the chance to fire strikers just like his hero Ronald Reagan did back in the ‘80s. Scott Walker feels like he is in the driver‘s seat right now.
But I can tell you this is far from over. My message to the people of Wisconsin: nothing is lost until you give up.
Get your cell phones out. I want to know what you think about this issue tonight. Tonight‘s text question: Should Wisconsin public workers go on strike? Text “A” for yes, text “B” for no to 622639, or go to our new blog at Ed.MSNBC.com. I‘ll bring you the results later on in the show.
Joining me now is Joe Conway. He is the president of the Madison Firefighters Union.
Joe, good to have you with us tonight here on THE ED SHOW. I appreciate your time. I know it‘s been a very stressful day for you there in Madison.
What actions are you and your union taking against Scott Walker tonight?
JOE CONWAY, MADISON FIREFIGHTERS UNION: Oh, it‘s a tough day for the working middle class in Wisconsin, Ed. And, you know, just like Governor Walker has created these tools for this budget shortfall that he‘s creating for all municipalities, we‘re using tools, too—the recall elections, economic transparency, and, of course, the talk of a general strike. And it‘s something we don‘t want to do but maybe it‘s something we have to do.
SCHULTZ: Well, if those actions don‘t work that you‘re talking about early on, the protests, because when the governor signs this, it‘s the law. You can protest all you want.
SCHULTZ: You can motivate people to go through the recall process, but the fact is, is that this will be the law. Do you think this law will resonate and be so strong with people that they would actually strike? Would you advocate that?
CONWAY: Well, you know, a strike is the trump card as Jim Cavanaugh from the South Central Federation of Labor said.
We got to work on it. We got to put everything into place. We got to make sure that emergency operations are in place. And it takes a lot of coordination.
The general strikes that happened in Ontario in 1976, ‘77 and ‘78, that‘s pretty similar to what happened here in Wisconsin. And so, we got to take those lessons learned back from the ‘70s in Ontario, 1935 in Minneapolis and San Francisco that created the National Labor Relations Act.
We got a lot of education and learning to do. And if we do put this into place, we got to make sure it‘s effective and I think our people are ready.
SCHULTZ: Joe, Republicans put a provision on page 16 of this Senate bill that gives Governor Walker the power to fire striking public workers during a state of an emergency. The question comes up: what is an emergency?
Well, the governor could actually declare that our finances in the state of Wisconsin are a public emergency. Will this make unions think twice before they go on strike? Your thoughts on that.
CONWAY: You know, we‘re fighting for our lives here. And, you know, the governor has violated the laws in Wisconsin. I don‘t—I don‘t think that our workers are afraid of him.
And if we have to go out, we‘ll go out. But we‘re going to do it in a fashion that protects our workers. We may do city by city, general strikes. We may do general strikes throughout the state, maybe isolated incidences.
But, again, it takes a lot of planning. It takes a lot of coordination. And all the unions have to work together with the public. It‘s not going to be just union members that have been walking out—
SCHULTZ: Yes, you‘re right. It won‘t be just union members walking out. It will be workers all over the state of Wisconsin.
CONWAY: Absolutely. We got a lot of support.
SCHULTZ: Now, given the governor‘s track record—yes, given his track record, do you think that he will fire public workers if they do strike? Do you think he‘ll pull a Ronald Reagan?
CONWAY: Absolutely. I wouldn‘t put anything past this governor. He‘s a vicious person. I mean, we‘ve seen it the way that he ramrodded this bill through the Senate, the assembly. He really doesn‘t care about the working men and women in Wisconsin.
So, we got to protect ourselves. The economic transparency, we got to know where the money is being spent from these corporations that have, you know, given Walker this free rein in Wisconsin. Our members shouldn‘t be spending money in places that have used against us.
And so, we want to inform them. You know, the M&I Banks, the Kwik Trips, companies like that—that‘s one of our tools to help combat this oppressive governor.
SCHULTZ: Thank you, Joe Conway. I appreciate your time.
CONWAY: Thank you, Ed.
SCHULTZ: You were a firefighter and, of course, not a part of the collective bargaining issue in the state of Wisconsin. But because you care for workers, that is why all the firefighters and police officers are involved in this as well.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca offered an amendment to have the Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald removed when the debate started today. The amendment failed on a party line vote as expected. Barca also filed a complaint over the way the Republicans pushed this bill through both chambers.
Minority Leader Barca, he joins us right now on THE ED SHOW tonight.
Mr. Barca, good to have you with us. Why do you think that you can get this law over—
STATE REP. PETER BARCA (D), WISCONSIN: Good evening, Ed.
SCHULTZ: You bet. Why do you think you can get this law overturned?
BARCA: Well, Ed, clearly, they violated the open meetings laws of Wisconsin. In Wisconsin, we treat those very seriously in Wisconsin. I‘ve always been so proud of our state and our reputation for clean, open, and honest government, and I think the courts are going to look very carefully at this, and I think they‘re going to realize that these laws were broken.
SCHULTZ: Well, if the laws—OK, right. The legal fight is going to take sometime. When this is signed by the governor, collective bargaining is gone and the only way that you‘re going to be able to turn that around is go through the recall, get the majority back, put it back on the table.
This is going to be a long process—a long, drawn out process. The only recourse you have right now is to go strike, which isn‘t going to do anything other than get media attention, and the only thing you can do is strike. Do—would you advocate as the minority leader in the assembly that public workers and other workers not show up for work because of this law?
BARCA: Well, that‘s not for us. That‘s for workers to decide for themselves.
But our fight will continue. They‘re going to continue in the courts, Ed. We‘re going to continue at the ballot box. There‘s an election here on April 5th where we warm up. May 3rd, the governor‘s top aide, Secretary Huebsch‘s (ph) seat is in play in La Crosse. We expect to have a very good chance of winning that seat, which I think will send shivers through the spines of Republicans.
And then there will be recall elections after that. It will bring the fight to legislative bodies and we will not give up. This fight has only just begun, Ed.
SCHULTZ: Mr. Barca, good to have you with us. I appreciate your time so much on THE ED SHOW.
This is—this is one of the stories that we have covered for the last month that has really grabbed my soul. Of all the years in broadcasting, I have never seen community divided like the state of Wisconsin. When we were in Wisconsin I was touched by the emotion of the people and how there was at such a fever pitch. There was such a strong feeling about defeating this.
Well, they did not defeat it. The senators—they may have gone to Illinois but the Senate passed it. The assembly passed it. And now, the governor is going to sign it into law to take away and overturn 50 years of collective bargaining in the place, in the state of Wisconsin where labor was born in this country.
And if you think we aren‘t living in turbulent times, if you think we aren‘t living in changing times, you can just look at this story and think again.
Remember to answer tonight‘s question there at the bottom of the screen. I want to know what you think.
SCHULTZ (voice-over): The war on teachers goes national. Students in Madison organize a walkout. And here in Virginia, the budget crunch may cost some teachers their jobs.
Tonight‘s “Take Down”: Tucker Carlson‘s attack on Wisconsin‘s public workers. It‘s just not true.
TUCKER CARLSON, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: They make more than you do. They won‘t even consider taking any kind of cut in the face of the worst recession in our life times, and they expect you to pay for it.
SCHULTZ: And Wall Street driving up gas prices. Tonight, Matt Taibbi on how Wall Street does it and what the president needs to do about it.
SCHULTZ: Be sure to check out our new blog at Ed.MSNBC.com. There, you‘re going to find links to WeGotEd.com, my radio show, Twitter and Facebook.
Coming up: John Nichols of “The Nation” on an historic day in Madison.
You‘re watching THE ED SHOW live from Norfolk, Virginia, my hometown and my high school, Maury High School.
We‘re going to be right back. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you doing out of school today?
OWEN STARCK, HAMILTON MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENT, MADISON: Well, all the 8th grade and a lot of 7th grade, we devised a walkout to support our teachers. So, we left during second hour, about 9:00 we walked out of West High School and we walked down the capitol. We‘ve been here all day to support our teachers, supporting our—
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: That was a student today showing up in protest in solidarity with the teachers in Madison, Wisconsin.
Welcome back to THE ED SHOW in Norfolk, Virginia, tonight. I‘m proud to be back where I grew up and went to school here at Maury High School with the faculty and the students from my old high school. We‘ll visit them later this evening.
Back in Madison today, students organized walkouts to protest Governor Scott Walker‘s budget repair bill. Less collective bargaining rights for teachers means these kids, these students and all the 800,000 public school students of Wisconsin, they‘re basically losing out.
Two Madison high school students have started a Facebook page calling for a nationwide student walkout tomorrow at 2:00 to show solidarity with Wisconsin workers.
“The Nation‘s” John Nichols tonight is telling us that well over 100,000 protesters might show up in Madison this weekend.
Joining me now, outside the capitol, is John Nichols of “The Nation” magazine.
John, great to have you with us tonight.
Another historic day in your home state. When will the governor sign this bill? He said that he was going to sign it at record legal pace tonight, but that didn‘t happen. Is he trying to get another day‘s worth of news coverage out of this? What‘s going on?
JOHN NICHOLS, THE NATION MAGAZINE: Actually, Ed, I think you may be trying to talk to a couple constitutional lawyers to figure out whether he could sign it without getting in trouble.
The fact of the matter is, this bill was passed with a massive amount of legislative irregularity and some of what looks like illegality. You‘ve had guests on talking about that already, but my suspicion is—in fact, my expectation is, the governor is huddling with his lawyers to figure out whether he should put the pen to this thing.
SCHULTZ: So you view this as the governor thinking he may not be on solid legal ground tonight. So, where does the legal fighting from here? When you‘ve got an attorney general who has accepted a petition from the assembly leader, but the attorney general is a Republican.
I mean, this—Johnny, this has got politics written all over it.
What about it?
NICHOLS: Well, look, there‘s—look, Ed, you‘re exactly right.
There‘s politics all over this thing.
But the fact to the matter is, that our state constitution rests responsibility for oversight of wrongdoing in the capitol with the Dane County district attorney. And that‘s the district attorney from this area in Madison. So, there could be actions brought from here.
And I want to also tell you that labor lawyers have a stake in this as well. If this law was passed illegally, when they ask for an injunction from the judge what they can say is, look, you have to stop the implementation of this law because it was not passed according to the rules, laws, and regulations of the state of Wisconsin.
SCHULTZ: John Nichols, doesn‘t this underscore that what the
Democrats did by leaving the state and the law being where it is right now
doesn‘t this really guarantee the recalls? I mean, in the long run, isn‘t this good for the Democrats to have this? Because if they get the power back, they can always reverse this law.
The fact of the matter is if they want to get the Republicans out of there they need people motivated. And what the governor is about to do is going to give them all the motivation in the world for the recalls, don‘t you think?
NICHOLS: You‘re absolutely right, Ed. And, look, ultimately, Governor Walker is going to sign this bill. He has shown a determination to sign this bill no matter what and to move it forward.
And when he does, I think reality is going to set in for an awfully lot of Wisconsinites. Not just union workers but people from across this state, that their governor was so determined to commit a political act that he didn‘t even consider the impact on the state. That‘s going to be a driving force for this recall.
Ed, I have to tell you, across this state, people are passing petitions tonight. There are carpenters and farmers, small business owners, and union members who are out in every town in a district that has a vulnerable Republican, moving those petitions. And this weekend, with literally tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people out across the state, that‘s going to be—that‘s going to give the numbers and the energy to get those signatures.
I‘m going to bet you come Monday morning that many of these senators are actually at that point of being ripe for recall. And this recall process moves quickly, Ed. It‘s not going to take forever to put these votes to the people.
When that happens, we look at the possibility of the shift in control of the state Senate and the restoration of a system of checks and balances in Wisconsin.
SCHULTZ: John Nichols, I want to ask you one more question. If we can go back to that fake phone call that the Koch brother was involved in, with the governor—the governor talked about protesters and the national media going away. Is that going to happen?
NICHOLS: Well, look, the fact of the matter is the protesters have proven today that they‘re not going away. It was a pretty rough night last night. You can imagine if people said, well, we just can‘t fight the power.
Instead, this morning, they came by tens, by hundreds, by thousands. By midday today, it was easily more than 10,000, perhaps as many as 15,000 people on the square here in Madison. Not organized by anyone, just grassroots citizens who came out just like the Minutemen in 1776.
NICHOLS: Coming to their capitol to petition for the redress of grievances.
SCHULTZ: John Nichols, Washington correspondent of “The Nation”—great to have you with us tonight as always great reporting.
NICHOLS: Thank you.
SCHULTZ: Republicans say slashing funding for schools saves money. That‘s because our students end up paying the price. Coming up, I‘ll talk to a teacher and a student right here at Maury High School in Norfolk, Virginia.
And in “The Take Down” tonight, Tucker Carlson tells us exactly what he thinks of the working class in America. Don‘t look so shocked when you hear it. That‘s next.
SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW. It‘s time for “The Take Down.”
And it looks like Tucker Carlson took the silver spoon out of his mouth long enough to lie about unions. “Media Matters” pointed out Tucker‘s attack on Wisconsin public sector workers last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Here‘s my view of the political effective and true argument: they make more than you do, right, these public sector employees. They can never be fired. Their benefits are things you can‘t even imagine. And, by the way, they won‘t even consider taking any kind of cut in the face of the worst recession in our life times and they expect you to pay for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: Did I hear that correctly? Tucker says public sector workers in Wisconsin make more than private sector workers?
Well, as we‘ve shown repeatedly on this program, Wisconsin‘s public sector workers make less than their private sector counterparts.
Well, here they are. By level of education—on average, the public workers make 4.8 percent less. Tucker says the unions won‘t take any cuts?
Well, wait a minute, “The New York Times” reported that union leaders agreed to health insurance and retirement benefit concessions. That would mean an additional salary deferment of 5.8 percent and a 6.6 percent increase in health care costs. Not a good deal.
Tucker also says Wisconsin public workers can never be fired? It seems he forgot about the 12,000 state and local workers Governor Walker said that he would fire if the budget bill wasn‘t passed.
Tucker‘s dishonest union-bashing fit right in on FOX. Check out the victory party on “FOX and Friends” this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
STEVE DOOCY, FOX NEWS: Well, the Republicans came up with a plan, they said, “Let‘s take the money stuff out of it and then we can vote on it.” And they did and they did and it passed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are claiming now it‘s a violation of Wisconsin‘s open meeting law because they only got two hours notice.
DOOCY: Well, too bad. They left their jobs three weeks ago and then the Republicans gave them a chance, gave them a chance. Come on back.
ERIC BOLLING, FBN: I was in the car fist-pumping. That‘s fantastic what they did there.
DOOCY: The Republicans did—
BOLLING: Yes, it was great.
DOOCY: -- they strip the financial stuff out and moved it on.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
SCHULTZ: You would think Tucker Carlson would have more sense about union workers than those morning jackals (ph) on FOX. After all, Tucker was a card-carrying after union member when he worked here at MSNBC. The union gave him the ability to earn a competitive salary with benefits which is just what public employees in Wisconsin want.
The difference is the average teacher salary in Wisconsin is $46,000 a year. I‘m guessing that‘s quite a bit less than the salary your union secured for you, Tucker.
And that‘s “The Take Down” tonight on THE ED SHOW.
It‘s not just union bashing. America‘s rich are also picking your pocket every time you fill up at the gas tank. Matt Taibbi, Wall Street‘s worst nightmare, is standing by to join us tonight.
And it‘s happening in schools all across this country. Norfolk, Virginia is no exception. Coming up, I‘ll visit with some Maury High School‘s brightest students and we‘ll talk about the real life impact of state budget cuts not only here, but around the country. Stay with us.
SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW. All across America, our students and teachers are being asked to do more with less. That seems to be going around this country. Doesn‘t it?
Here in my hometown in Norfolk, Virginia, things simply are no different. Norfolk public schools serve 31,000 students, but after Republican Governor Bob McDonnell cut state education funding it‘s been difficult to make ends meet, just about every district in the state.
Last year, the school district here had to lay up nearly 400 of the men and women who helped Norfolk students get their education that they need. And there‘s no relief in sight. This year, Norfolk schools are facing a 20 million dollar shortfall.
And that budget gap is threatening over 200 jobs. So if you think it‘s just Wisconsin, if you think it‘s Indiana, Ohio, New Jersey, Texas, Florida, it‘s here. It‘s in our backyard, where I grew up in Norfolk, Virginia. It‘s everywhere.
We are at a crossroads in this country when it comes to asking ourselves the question and making a determination as to which direction we take. What do we think of public education? Do we really value it? Is it an American value?
I gave a commentary on this program last week about my mother who was a teacher at Granby High School, an English teacher. I described what her life was like and I said at the time, I was going to come back to Norfolk and go to my school, Maury High School.
And I said to the audience on this show, you know, I bet I‘m going to find some teachers that are dedicated. Now, my mother, of course, came from a different generation. But the profession hasn‘t changed. The people haven‘t changed.
So I ask you, America. Why have we changed? Why do we view public education so different today than ten years ago or 20 years ago or when my mother was a teacher?
Are we changing as a country? We must be. We must be changing as a country. Our priority list has shifted. We now bicker over paying teachers 50,000 dollars a year. We now vilify teachers when we say that they have health care.
Oh, by the way, they‘re part-time. They get three months off. We don‘t report the fact that many of them have to invest in their own career to keep their accreditation, to get more degrees, to advance themselves. There is no government loan for that. There‘s no government handout.
Wall Street got that. Our teachers don‘t. They have to dig into their pocket and do it.
I am very, very heart warmed tonight because I found exactly what I knew I was going to find here at Maury High School. Whereas the generation my mother taught in has long gone, there are still teachers who care. There is still an institution named Maury High School that produces graduates year after year at a very high rate.
There are still programs that help kids make decisions. You know, when I was going to school here, the Vietnam War was raging. There were protests here just outside the wall at Maury High School, just like we saw on this broadcast tonight, how there were kids in Wisconsin who were protesting as well.
The subject matter was different, but the passion and the concern and the love of country and the love of community, it‘s the same.
But we‘ve changed. We think public education is something we can make as a bargaining chip in a negotiation. We can use teachers as political pawns. We can vilify what they do. We can demean their health care and their pension and we can make them out to be lazy.
That infuriates me and it should infuriate you if you care about your community. I ask you as an American tonight to pay close attention to these next two people that I‘m going to interview, because they‘re no different from the people in your community.
Joining me tonight is Alex Vizzier. She is a teacher here at Maury High School. Nice to have you with us.
ALEX VIZZIER, MAURY HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER: Thank you for having me.
SCHULTZ: Am I wrong?
VIZZIER: No. Not at all. I think you definitely spoke the truth. I knew going into this profession that it was going to be difficult. My mother is a teacher. She‘s been a teacher for almost 30 years. And I saw the dedication she put into teaching, so I knew that I would have to do the same thing.
And some people may say we start at 7:30 and we get out at 2:00, but really I‘m usually here until 6:00 p.m. I tutor kids until 4:00 p.m. almost every single day. I coach. I take kids to some events on the weekends.
I put my life into this job. It‘s a very, very long day. I love this profession. I love the school. But it‘s hard. It‘s a lot of hard work. And I wish people wouldn‘t under-value the profession.
SCHULTZ: Why do you do it? What is it about teaching? What is the reward?
VIZZIER: Oh, I love the kids. When you see them—I‘m an English teacher and I‘m a public speaking teacher. When I see them have success in terms of writing clearly, in terms of becoming better readers, in terms of becoming better communicators, it just makes me so happy.
I love working with students one-on-one. I love that individual attention that—you know, where I can work with them and really see their minds working. I truly believe—one thing I love about Maury is we have students from all different types of walks of life, every sort of background.
And I believe that every one of those children can be successful, every single one. So that‘s the reason I do it.
SCHULTZ: How do you feel about like, for instance, the story today in this district. The Norfolk Education Foundation has launched a fund raising drive to help close the budget gap. Does that worry you?
VIZZIER: The budget in general worries me, especially in terms of cutting teachers. We have so many dedicated teachers at this school. And when I say that I‘m here until 6:00, I‘m not the only one. There are a lot of other teachers who are staying back with me. It‘s a nice little party, as you might say.
We‘re all grading papers and doing everything under the sun to help our students succeed. So I am extremely concerned about the budget cuts, especially in terms of teachers. We really do not need to cut people who are in love with this profession, who are not making 100,000 dollars a year, because there are some really intelligent and talented teachers at this school.
SCHULTZ: And the student with us tonight, Jordan Taylor. Jordan, good to have you with us.
JORDAN TAYLOR, MAURY HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: Thank you, sir.
SCHULTZ: Describe the teachers here at Maury High School.
TAYLOR: The teachers are very, very dedicated. You can tell that they love what they do, and that every day they wake up, they want to inspire and help other students learn how to basically handle life and other basic things that we need.
SCHULTZ: Can you tell us a teacher that has had an influence on you?
TAYLOR: Well, Mr. Feather is my orchestra teacher. He helped—he just basically helped me with my high school—basically my high school walk and allowed me to become a better person through music, which also allowed me to transfer that into my academic career, which allowed me to become more studious and just become a better student all around.
SCHULTZ: They‘re there to help you when you need it?
TAYLOR: Yes, sir.
SCHULTZ: And they don‘t turn away from you when you need it?
TAYLOR: Not at all.
SCHULTZ: It‘s almost like they‘re on your schedule.
TAYLOR: Yeah, it is. Yeah. And I think that‘s what‘s so special about, you know, not only this place, but also around America as far as teachers, that they really care. And, you know, although they may say school ends at 2:00, they do continue to help and try to do their best to help us succeed, you know, far beyond the time constraints of 7:30 to 2:00.
It‘s kind of a wonderful thing to have people that care that much, you know.
SCHULTZ: I have a couple of my high school buddies here tonight. Do you think the kids today are smarter than when we were at school? You don‘t have to answer that. There is no grade for that.
Jordan Taylor, you‘re terrific. Alex Vizzier, thank you for joining us tonight.
VIZZIER: Thank you.
SCHULTZ: You speak for millions of teachers across this country.
VIZZIER: Thank you, Mr. Schultz.
SCHULTZ: Thanks to everyone here at Norfolk. We‘re going to keep the conversation going after the show tonight with a special live webcast on Ed.MSNBC.com.
But first, I want to ask you one more question. Let me hear from all of you if I may. Do you want a chunk of your money out of your paycheck to go into Wall Street every time you gas up your car? Is that what you want? Is that where you want your dollars to go?
SCHULTZ: I didn‘t think so. Stay with us. We‘ll find out just how all of that works next on THE ED SHOW.
SCHULTZ: One week ago tonight, I announced our series about Wall Street‘s assault on working Americans driving up prices on pretty much everything by speculating on the price of gas and food. The business media, well, they know it‘s true. And they‘ve been reporting on it this week.
But as we predicted, Republicans are blaming President Obama for not drilling enough for oil, even though production is at an eight-year high and supplies, get this, are at an 18-year high. So we‘ve been asking, where are the Democrats on this issue? Why aren‘t they talking about Wall Street‘s role in all of this when it comes to gas prices, and how Republicans really should be helping them out?
Well, today House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi stepped up, put out a statement on this issue. She said, “Wall Street speculators are playing a large role in benefiting—in and benefiting from spiking prices. And the GOP, so be it, spending bill slashes funding for the CFTC, the agency with the oversight over the commodity markets.”
And just tonight, the president announced a news conference tomorrow on energy prices. Is he ready to take up the fight against Wall Street and the Republicans? We will definitely be watching. Interesting timing.
Right now, we are joined by Matt Taibbi of “Rolling Stone” magazine and the author of “Griftopia,” as well as Michael Greenberger, the former director of trading and markets at the CFTC, and now the director of the Center for Health and Homeland Security at the University of Maryland.
Thanks to both of you for joining us tonight. Matt, let me start with you, if I may. Supply and demand used to drive up gas prices. And companies that needed gas used the futures market to keep costs stable. How did Wall Street change all of that?
MATT TAIBBI, “ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE”: Well, the short version of that is that after the Depression, laws were passed that tightly controlled the amount of speculative activity in the commodities market. There were two different types of participants on the commodities markets.
And Professor Greenberger can correct me if I‘m wrong about this, but there were physical consumers and producers of commodities, which are called physical hedgers, and there were speculators. And they kept prices wedded to real supply and demand by making sure that most of the people on the markets were physical hedgers.
In the early ‘90s, a series of Wall Street companies that were engaged in commodity speculation quietly applied to the government for exemptions that allowed speculators to be treated as physical hedgers. So the result of that was that there was suddenly this huge influx of speculative money on the markets.
And just to show you how much of an influx there was, as of 2003, there was less than 30 billion dollars a year of speculative money on the commodities markets. Last year, there was 350 billion dollars.
So there‘s been this explosion of speculation. And all of that money is what they call long money, which means that they‘re betting on the price to go up. And that has an effect on prices.
SCHULTZ: Professor Greenberger, the president is holding a news conference on these high prices tomorrow. Where is the White House on Wall Street‘s role in all of this, as Matt just mentioned?
MICHAEL GREENBERGER, FMR. CFTC DIRECTOR OF TRADING AND MARKETS: I
must say, President Obama in June of 2008, when he was running for president, was front and center on this issue, called out speculators when gasoline was over four dollars that summer, and endorsed very strong legislation.
Since January 26th, oil prices have gone up almost 25 percent. There has not been a word from the White House about the input that Wall Street, the banks we saved with our tax dollars after they wrecked the economy—their influence on inflating these prices.
The additional money doesn‘t go to production. It‘s a casino gambling situation. It goes right into the pockets of Wall Street. No new production. I hope the president recalls his statement of June, 2008, and calls Wall Street out on this.
SCHULTZ: Well, professor, I think that you have pointed out in a very indirect manner, if I may, where the president was on the campaign trail and where he is right now. And the American people I think are waiting for the president to step up.
Matt, why hasn‘t the White House made Wall Street an issue on gas prices and food prices? It‘s very clear where they‘re going. It is very clear the escalation that the American consumers are putting up with right now. We are headed to four dollars a gallon gas. And some say it‘s going to go beyond that.
How can President Obama and the White House be slow on this issue?
TAIBBI: Well, I don‘t think this is any big mystery. You know, if you look at Barack Obama‘s number one private campaign contributor was Goldman Sachs, which is one of the two major companies that is engaged in commodity index speculation. Morgan Stanley, which is another major contributor of his, was the other.
You know, both the Democrats and the Republicans both receive an enormous amount of money from the industries that benefit from commodity speculation. But the flip side of it is that the public doesn‘t understand this issue, so there is really no political downside to doing the wrong thing here.
There‘s a lot of political risk to reform, because they‘re going to take that hit from their campaign contributors. But there is no up-side politically because the public doesn‘t get it.
SCHULTZ: If the public did get it, it would be a huge political problem for the president. That‘s what I would say on this issue. Professor, a trade publication called the “Gartman Letter” estimates Wall Street is adding 15 dollars a barrel to the price. Is that possible? Would it be that high?
GREENBERGER: In my view, that‘s a conservative estimate. I remember in June of 2008, when it was 130 dollars, and there were congressional hearings. I was asked how much could it be reduced if speculation was stopped, and I said 25 percent.
The price ultimately went to 147 dollars. The Senate Democrats and House Democrats intervened and threatened legislation. It went from 147 dollars a barrel to 30 dollars a barrel by January, 2009.
If you get on top of this speculation—and believe me, if gas goes over four dollars and reaches 4.50, the American people are flat on their back. They cannot with stand gas and food prices going through the roof like this.
The president and Congress will hear about it. In 2008, there was a sufficient bipartisan coalition trying to fix this thing. But they‘re quiet right now. We have got to alert these people when you‘re putting gas into your car, a good percentage of that is going into a Wall Street banker‘s pocket to buy a new house in the Hamptons or a Park Avenue apartment.
The American people must be heard on this.
SCHULTZ: OK. Matt Taibbi and Professor Michael Greenberger, thanks for joining us tonight. I appreciate your time. We‘ll see what the president has to say tomorrow at his press conference. I think it is a defining moment for America‘s economy.
I‘ll have some final thoughts I want to share with you from Maury High School here in Norfolk, Virginia, in just a moment. Stay with us.
SCHULTZ: Thank you for joining us here tonight on THE ED SHOW. Tonight in our text survey, I asked should Wisconsin public workers go on strike? Seventy percent of you said yes; 30 percent of you said no.
I‘d like to thank the administration here at Maury High School and all of the people who have participated in this. I certainly appreciate the opportunity to come back to my high school and do THE ED SHOW.
And I also want to say to my football buddies, you know, it was a great run for four years here at Maury High School. We had a great team. We were 44 and four. And tonight when we got together, when it was all over, we were really undefeated.
That‘s THE ED SHOW. I‘m Ed Schultz. We will continue our discussion tonight, streaming live at Ed.MSNBC.com.
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