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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, Mrach 9th, 2011

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Jon Erpenbach, Michael Moore

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Lawrence.  Thanks very much for that.

And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.

You know, today was already an incredibly crowded day of news.  As Lawrence mentioned, we have filmmaker Michael Moore scheduled to be with us tonight.

But we need to begin with breaking news from Madison—breaking news from Madison , Wisconsin, which, of course, has been the center of American news for the past three weeks at least.

Tonight, the Republicans in Wisconsin state Senate appear to have invented a new nuclear option for passing legislation with no notice, and no quorum, and no debate.  They invented that new nuclear option today, and then they detonated it today.

After Republican Governor Scott Walker admitted yesterday that he would negotiate with Democrats on his union-stripping bill, after a Republican source tells NBC News that the governor said to Republicans in the legislature today that he was willing to compromise on union-stripping, after public support for the governor and union-stripping measure started low and then cratered from there, after weeks and weeks of large demonstrations in Wisconsin against the governor and the Republican plan, including some very, very large demonstrations, and the Republican response to that of locking down the state capitol—after all of that, Republicans in Wisconsin state Senate tonight tried to pull a rabbit out of a hat.

The way Democrats stopped the bill, remember, they left the state—they denied the Republicans the quorum needed to convene to pass the union-stripping bill.  The Wisconsin rules are that no bill with fiscal implications can be considered without a certain number of senators present.  Republicans needed at least one Democrat to show up to the Senate in order to meet that numerical threshold.  Democrats fled the state so that quorum could not be reached, so the bill could not be voted on.

Then tonight, with no warning, Republicans announced that they took everything budget related out of what they were calling the budget bill, leaving only the union-stripping provisions.  Republicans, of course, had insisted that union-stripping was a fiscal issue, but tonight, in order to try to pull this rabbit out of a hat, they decided it wasn‘t a fiscal issue any more, and that, therefore, they no longer needed that pesky quorum—and with no warning, convened a conference committee—Democrats say in violation of the state‘s Open Meeting Law.

The last minute conference committee passed that union-stripping bill.  Here‘s what this looked like.  This is absolutely nuts.  Watch this.


ST. SEN. SCOTT FITZGERALD ®, WISCONSIN:  I have consulted with the legislative counsel, the legislative reference bureau, and the legislative fiscal bureau, and have been advised that this proposal would not trigger the special quorum requirement in Article 8, Section 8 of the Wisconsin Constitution.  At this time, I would move to adopt—

ST. PETER BARCA (D), WISCONSIN:  Excuse me, Mr. Chairman.  Excuse me, Mr. Chairman.  Mr. Chairman, excuse me, I have a question about Open Meetings Rule being violated.  We were not given two hours notice.


BARCA:  I have like a 24-hour notice here from Attorney General Van Hollen.


FITZGERALD:  Representative Barca, let me—discussion.  Let me recognize you.  Discussion.  Go ahead.

BARCA:  Thank you very much.  First of all, Mr. Chairman, most importantly before we even get started, obviously I wanted to have a summary from our Director Lane (ph), so I understand what‘s in your -- 

FITZGERALD:  It‘s the same bill you debated for 60 hours.

BARCA:  Oh, there‘s nothing different?

FITZGERALD:  No, they just removed items from it.

BARCA:  You removed, what?

FITZGERALD:  We removed items.  Nothing new.

BARCA:  We can‘t get a description of what‘s removed?

FITZGERALD:  There‘s nothing new.

BARCA:  Yu said things were removed, Mr. Chairman.  I want to know what‘s removed.  And it seems to me that the body that—our community should know what we are voting on.  I don‘t know what was removed.  I need to know that.  So, I do want a description from Director Lane.

Secondly, I have a couple of motions I would like to make as amendments to this.

FITZGERALD:  No motions.  No motions.

BARCA:  Clearly, conference committees do have an opportunity for people to amend a bill.

FITZGERALD:  No, there‘s no options.

BARCA:  So, I want to be able to present those.  But before we get into that, I want to say that this is a violation of Open Meetings Law.  It is required—I got a memo here from our current attorney general, not a past one, the current one.

August of 2010.  The attorney (ph), “No Wisconsin court decision will allow meetings unless you have good cause to provide less than 24 hours notice of a meeting.  The provision like all other provisions of Open Meetings Laws must be construed in favor of providing the public with the full information—

FITZGERALD:  Representative Barca -- 


BARCA:  No.  No.  Listen, if there‘s any doubt as to whether good cause exists, the governmental body should provide 24 hours notice.  This is clearly a violation of Open Meetings Law.  If you can shut your people down, it is improper to move forward while this is a violation of Open Meetings Law.  Do not allow amendment, and that is wrong.

Now, I—Mr. Chairman, this is a violation of law!  This is not just a rule, it is the law.


BARCA:  No, Mr. Chairman, this is a violation of the Open Meetings Law.  It requires 24 hours notice.




MADDOW:  Including that weird music thing at the end, that‘s how we all saw it.  That was the Wisconsin legislative coverage service, wrapping up with that tidy little music after the Democratic assembly leader is shouting that the meeting that he is in is illegal, is a violation of the state‘s Open Meeting Law.  He‘s saying that as they decide that they‘re just going to call the roll over him and he‘s saying, this is illegal, this is illegal, this is illegal.  They are saying, aye, aye, aye, and we are adjourned—and then a little musical interlude.

After that bizarre scene in that hastily convened conference meeting, Republicans essentially ran to the Senate, and immediately convened the state Senate, again with no Democrats present, with no quorum, they passed the bill immediately, 18-1, and then they immediately adjourned, took moments.

If Republicans legally have this option of doing it this way, did they not have this option of doing it this way all along?  Why didn‘t they use it before?  It‘s not like Republicans were debating this thing on the merits all along.

Remember, they tried to arrest the Senate Democrats.  They took over the Senate Democrats‘ offices.  They were threatening to send private security, essentially bounty hunters after the Democrats.  They were taking their parking places.

But all along, they could have just done this anytime they wanted to and they just decided to do it tonight?  Where did they find this rabbit?  And what hat did they pull it out of.

Democratic leadership in the legislature says the Republican‘s actions tonight were as illegal as they were surprising, that the Republicans never used this option for getting their way before, because this option does not legally exist.  Democrats say they are contacting the state‘s attorney general to try to block tonight‘s actions.

The shouts of protesters could be heard outside that dark conference room as the Republicans suddenly convened, suddenly voted and suddenly adjourned.

After Republicans lost the public debate on this issue, after Democrats and the anti-union-stripping protesters won the public debate on this issue, after Wisconsin took to the streets and Democratic senators held out and they won on the substance, after that most important result really was nailed down and finalized, Republicans tried to find a desperate way to ram it through anyway tonight, after they lost—after they lost the argument.

Protesters are reassembling in Madison, at the capitol right now.

Joining us now is State Senator Jon Erpenbach, one of Wisconsin‘s 14 Democratic state senators who remain outside the state.

Senator Erpenbach, what is your understanding of what the Republicans just did tonight?

ST. SEN. JON ERPENBACH (D), WISCONSIN:  Well, obviously, what they did is they certainly violated Open Meeting Laws in the state of Wisconsin, and what Representative Barca, the assembly Democratic leader, had in his hands was something from a Republican attorney general in the state of Wisconsin.  So, odds are this probably will end up in court.

But in the meantime, what they did was they took out everything they said was non-fiscal, even though they‘ve been saying the collective bargaining language was fiscal all along, which is why they didn‘t do this early on.  And they passed it in the course of a few seconds on the Senate floor.

So, you‘re talking about five or six decades‘ worth of workers rights just stomped out in a matter of minutes in the state Senate.  So, obviously, we‘re very upset about this.  We actually suggested that they kind of break up the non-fiscal stuff, which is what we suggested in the beginning, but they said they couldn‘t with collective bargaining because it was fiscal.  But, apparently, now, it‘s not fiscal.

So, I got to believe they have a huge explanation when it comes to everybody in the state of Wisconsin.  Obviously, they‘ve been lying about this all along, and they need to be up front and honest as to why they did what they did.

Rachel, they never once did they say it was about union-busting.  Never once said it was going after collective bargaining.  They said it was about balancing the budget.  Well, guess what?  They still don‘t have a balanced budget, but they did it anyway.  So, their motives are real clear.

MADDOW:  In terms of what you just said about this ending up in court—as you and other Democrats seek potential legal redress here, is your intent to roll this back, stop it, repeal what they have done, nullify it?  What do you think you can do legally from this point forward?

ERPENBACH:  Well, I obviously think attorneys are going to be looking at it right now, and I got to believe that if we don‘t, somebody certainly will take the legislature to court over this if at all possible.

Again, we have Open Meeting Laws in the state of Wisconsin.  We have them for a reason—reason being that we post it so people can know exactly what‘s going on.

You heard what Representative Barca was saying at the table tonight.  He hadn‘t even seen the bill.  He hasn‘t been briefed.  And all Senator Fitzgerald would say is you debated it, we‘ve just taken stuff out.

Well, what stuff have you taken out?  And why have you taken that stuff out?

Obviously, the questions weren‘t answered.  Senator Fitzgerald didn‘t want to answer any questions.  He called the roll and walked out of the room.

And couple minutes later, the bill is in the state assembly.  And they‘re going to be dealing with it tomorrow.  So, obviously, lawyers are going to be taking a look at this.  And my guess is it will end up in court.

MADDOW:  In terms of this as a strategic maneuver.  I describe it as a rabbit being pulled out of a hat—previously unidentified rabbit, previously unidentified hat.


MADDOW:  Do you feel like they could have done this all along and they knew they could have done this all along, and they just decided to spring it on you?  Or is what you‘re saying is that this was an illegal action—they know it won‘t stand and that‘s why they didn‘t do it until they were this desperate?

ERPENBACH:  Well, it was illegal on the open meetings front.  There‘s no doubt about that.  And yes, they pulled a rabbit out.  But I‘m not certain they pulled it out of their hat—let me be clear on that.

They could have done this from the very beginning.  It was something we suggested because we had said that this is not a fiscal item.  They insisted up and down the state of Wisconsin that it is, in fact, a fiscal item.

And then, obviously, they changed their mind at the last second, which obviously gets that whole trust issue between Governor Walker and the Senate Republicans.  So, this might have been a legal way to go about it, had they gone for the proper channels when it comes to open meetings, and they didn‘t do that.

MADDOW:  In terms of what happens next—I know that there was some con stern agency that once it became clear that the Republicans were going to do this tonight, some Democrat senators may race back to try to stop this in some way.

Will the Democratic senators now still stay out of the state?  Is there any consensus yet among you 14 as to what the appropriate steps are?

ERPENBACH:  It‘s good question.  As it stands right now, we‘re staying out of the state for one simple reason—we don‘t trust the Senate Republicans.  We tried to negotiate.  We tried to reach out every single day.

We don‘t trust Governor Walker.  We tried to negotiate with him and tried to reach out every single day.

Obviously, what the Senate Republicans did tonight—we are all ashamed that they did it, the entire state of Wisconsin are ashamed of those actions tonight.  But we‘re not going to go back because there are still a lot of games they can play.  If we were to go back before this passes the assembly or even before it becomes state law, for example, they could call us into special session which we are in now.  They could call the house, they could lock us in, they could bring up the whole thing again, and reinsert the language all over and make us vote immediately.

So, again, it comes to an issue of trust, obviously, with the Senate Republicans.  So, no, we‘re going to sit tight here for awhile.

MADDOW:  Are all 14 sitting going to sit tight?  Is there unanimity among you 14 on this?

ERPENBACH:  Yes, there is.

MADDOW:  Wisconsin state senator, Democrat Jon Erpenbach—thanks for your time and helping us sort this out tonight.  I imagine we will still be in touch in coming days.

ERPENBACH:  All right.  We‘ll talk to you soon.  Thank you.

MADDOW:  Thank you.

All right.  This is obviously a huge night in the course of this Wisconsin story.  And Wisconsin story was and is and will continue to be a major national story with implications for every state in the Union.  You want some evidence?  Karl Rove, remember him?  Karl Rove and his undisclosed billionaire club funders have entered the fray on the Wisconsin story as of today.

Filmmaker Michael Moore was in Madison this past weekend.  He is here in the studio with me tonight.

Please stay tuned.


MADDOW:  Much more on tonight‘s Republican last ditch desperation move in Wisconsin with Michael Moore live in the studio just ahead.  Please stay with us.


MADDOW:  It was September of 2008.  It was just before the presidential election of 2008.  The nation was completely preoccupied in partisan political participation, right?  And at being spectators to the election, spectators to that fall‘s big dramatic political contest.

In terms of pure entertainment value, that billion dollars we spend on elections now, we get our money‘s worth.

But in September of 2008, just six weeks before the election, the Republican ticket unexpectedly suspended its campaign, remember?  And we as a nation collectively stopped talking about politics, and why is that?  It‘s because the big Wall Street firm Lehman Brothers went like this.

That was September of 2008.  Lehman Brothers collapsed.

And then the proverbial dominos started to fall.  Power house investment banking firm Merrill Lynch came face to face with extinction before it was saved at the last minute by Bank of America.  Insurance giant AIG continued is teeter on the brink of bankruptcy.

The U.S. stock market took a historic nose dive.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeting like a rock falling through water, at one point losing 777 points in one day, biggest points loss ever.  Wall Street melted down.  They melted down because a relatively small number of people who controlled a great deal of money did very irresponsible things with that money—irresponsible things they were allowed to get away with because so many of the rules had been taken away, rules that were originally put in place to prevent Wall Street from creating a massive public risk in order to chase private gain.  Those rules were taken away.

Lehman Brothers disappeared.  Bear Stearns disappeared.  Merrill Lynch disappeared.  Investment banking essentially disappeared in America as an industry.

The U.S. government still under the leadership of George W. Bush at the time then stepped in to take dramatic action to try to save the economy.  This is not a partisan thing.  It was done under George W. Bush, but John McCain and Barack Obama both supported it.  Sarah Palin even supported it.

John Boehner not only supported it, he cried on the floor of the House of Representatives as he implored his fellow Republicans to support it.  I am not making fun of him, it‘s true, he cried.

The government acted to save what could be saved of Wall Street, but the damage was really done to the national economy.  That financial catastrophe caused the Great Recession.

Again, Lehman Brothers collapsed September of 2008.  Look what happened to jobs thereafter.

I believe that the government stepping in to stop the catastrophe probably prevented this becoming a Great Depression, rather than Great Recession.  That is what I believe.  I recognize it is totally arguable and I‘m happy to have that argument.

But regardless, we did get a Great Recession out of the financial system collapse.  Unemployment numbers became unsustainably horrific.  Even as jobs started to come back, even as the economy has returned to positive growth, the unemployment rate is still atrocious.

The Great Recession and high unemployment have meant not just human misery, but continued bad economic consequences—people not making an income are not paying income taxes.  People who are not buying things are not paying sales taxes.  Strain on tax revenues that fund local services is coupled with a strain on local services providing to a population that is now more needy because it‘s in much worse economic shape.

State budget deficits around the country are bad and they are bad because of the Great Recession—which remember started at a specific time, the fall of 2008.  And it started for a specific reason.  It happened because of Wall Street.

But, you know, for all of the pain that Wall Street caused this country with the financial catastrophe, for all of the pain we are still in because of what they did, Wall Street right now is doing awesome.  They not only did not go away, they are not only back, but they are back and bigger than ever.  I mean: “A,” nobody went to jail, but “B,” they are getting paid.

It‘s supposed to be my confetti gun.  Very sad.  Well, that‘s it. 

Sort of what it‘s been like actually in terms of payoff.  Yes.  That‘s it.

Last year, Wall Street pay including bonuses hit a record high.  The record they broke in 2010 was the record they set the year before in 2009.

The whole idea of reregulating Wall Street, reestablishing the old rules so they can‘t do this again, that is still a great idea.  But what passed ultimately got dramatically watered down—thanks to senators like Scott Brown of Massachusetts.  During a three-week period that Wall Street reform was debated in Congress last year, Scott Brown took in $140,000 from banks and investment firms.  He then made good on their investment by dismantling key provisions in the Wall Street reform bill.  “Forbes” magazine took to calling him the Scott Brown speed bump.

But what ultimately survived in that Wall Street reform bill, the “don‘t let the financial catastrophe happen again” bill, the implementation of new regulations has been in part—large part defunded in the House Republicans‘ budget bill.  So yes, Wall Street totally destroyed our world.  We are all still living in the rubble.  But Wall Street‘s world has never been better or richer.

So, if you are a Wall Street titan of finance guy, it has been an awesome few years for you—since you almost destroyed the world.

If you are not a Wall Street titan of finances guy, though, this has been a tough few years and it is about to get a lot tougher.  There is not much of an American middle class left in economic terms.

Over the last decade or so, the top 1 percent have seen their income gains skyrocket while everybody else‘s remained pretty much flat.  We‘ve had economic growth in this country, there‘s been money made, it‘s just not made by anybody who‘s not already rich.

And the institution that more than any other made it possible for America to have a middle class in the first place, that institution is under attack like it hasn‘t been since the days of armed Pinkerton shooting at strikers.

It appears to us right now that 17 states have, in some form or another, legislative attacks on union rights on their agenda.  From Idaho where the legislature voted yesterday to strip union rights from public school teachers, to Michigan where the state Senate today passed a bill that would let the governor declare a financial emergency anywhere in the state and let his administration appoint someone to unilaterally nullify unions, nullify contracts, nullify a town government entirely if they want.

In Idaho, and in Michigan, and in New Hampshire, and Hawaii, and Montana, and Alaska, and West Virginia, on and on, Republicans are pushing these union-stripping bills.  Why are they doing this all at once?  Did they plan this?  They coordinate this at one of those Republican conferences?

They‘re pushing to strip union rights, not just to get concessions on pay and benefits.  Union rights themselves don‘t have any fiscal impact at all.  But yet, they‘re all pursuing it, all at once, in all these different parts of the country.

Is it just a coincidence that they all just have the same bad fiscally irrelevant idea at the same time that they all wanted to get away with under the guise of budget crisis?

What we do know, what‘s turning out to be the great surprise story of 2011 is that what the Republicans are doing has engendered a giant and previously unimaginable pushback.

In Wisconsin, the pushback was so sustained and so strong that this the union-stripping fight had stretched out to 23 days.  And each day, frankly, continues to be more dramatic than the last.

In Michigan, the protests against union-stripping, town government nullification bill provoked what were reportedly the largest protests ever at the Michigan state capitol.

In Indiana, potentially 20,000 people are expected to protest union-stripping there tomorrow.  It‘s Indiana Democrats in the state assembly who are out of state in exile there.

“Indianapolis Star” columnist Matthey Tully traveled to a roadside hotel where the Indiana assembly Democrats have set up temporary shop.  The way those Democrats described this fight is a real window into how important this pushback is for the country, how important it is for the future of the Democratic Party.

Representative Mary Ann Sullivan of Indianapolis saying, quote, “The whole experience—I don‘t know how to explain it, it‘s been very powerful.”

Representative Scott Pelath of Michigan City saying, quote, “They tapped into something that brings us together.  This is about our core principles.”

Representative Bill Crawford of Indianapolis saying, quote, “It has the appearance of a movement as opposed to a typical political battle.”

It is a movement.  That‘s why none of these protests are one day things.  That‘s why national Democrats are going to have to get their head around this sooner rather than later.

The dragon that‘s been awakened here is the Democrat Party‘s base, which the Democratic Party has been ignoring for a really long time.

But the whole reason the Democratic Party exists is because it is supposed to stand up for people that have to work for a living.  And when people that have to work for a living are directly attacked like they are being attacked right now with all of these Republican measures around all of these states around the country—I mean, people knew they were down, but now, they are being kicked when they‘re down.

When people get attacked like that, they fight back, and they are expecting the Democratic Party to stand with them.  They are demanding that Democrats stand with them.  They are cheering Democrats on as heroes when Democrats do rise to the occasion.  See Wisconsin.

The Democratic Party has a base and a reason for being, and that‘s why what has happened in Madison has been so riveting.  You know, and Indianapolis, and Boise, and Lansing, and Columbus, and everywhere else this is happening.

But there is another side to this fight.  Republicans, of course, didn‘t run saying they were going to do this stuff.  Remember when Scott Walker in Wisconsin kept trying to convince everybody that he campaigned on stripping collective bargaining rights and nobody should be surprised about it?  He in fact never said that in his campaign that he was going to strip union rights in the way he has.

And there‘s a reason he didn‘t say it in the campaign.  It is a tremendously unpopular idea.

A “Bloomberg News” poll out today reveals massive support for public employees and for their right to collectively bargain.  Look at this -- 72 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of public employees -- 72 percent.  Sixty-four percent think they should have the right to collectively bargain for their wages.

This is what Naomi Klein, author of the “The Shock Doctrine” was talking about in the show last night.  The stuff they are doing to attack people‘s pensions and their union rights take as many resources as they can -- as many resources that they control away from people who work for a living and give it away to businesses—this is not popular stuff.  These are not popular proposals.

For each of the following types of work, for each of the following types of work, please tell me if you think a union is or is not appropriate.

Firefighters?  Yes, 72 percent.  Police officers?  Yes, 70 percent. 

Nurses?  Yes, 62 percent.  Prison guards?  Yes, 63 percent.  Teachers? 

Teachers?  Yes, 66 percent.

That‘s what Americans think about this fight.  Taking away unions from these people by force is a very, very unpopular idea.

So, how do you get away with it anyway if it‘s so unpopular?  Frankly, you need some political cover.  Will somebody please call the billionaires?

Seventy percent of the country may be against you on this you guys, but you only need a couple of billionaires to balance that out in terms of P.R., right?

Karl Rove runs a group called American Crossroads.  Other than becoming a FOX News celebrity, this is what he has done with his life since he left the White House.  Most of the funding he gets for Crossroads comes from a very small group of billionaires.  His Crossroads group also has a group called Crossroads GPS, which Mr. Rove was very proud to pronounce, does not have to tell you who gives them money.  I have a guess.

It is the undisclosed donor part of that club which is spending kazillions of dollars to run ads that try to provide some political cover for those Republicans in Wisconsin—some political cover for the really unpopular thing that all of these Republicans are doing.  The ad says ominously that unionized government workers get paid 42 percent more than nonunionized workers.  That appears to be totally made up, but it has advantage of making it sound like the real people sucking us all dry are those public school teachers.  Snowplow driving, he is drinking your milk shake.

This is an expensive ad.  They obviously spent a lot of money, focus-grouping all of the slogans and the mean-looking pictures of Obama, I get how they work.

But there is one really awkward thing about this ad, though.  The big money shot in this ad—forgive me, that‘s what it is—what they freeze on at the end of the ad, the part you‘re really supposed to remember.  Look at what the slogan is.  You‘ve had enough.

You‘ve had enough?  Aren‘t these supposed to say we‘ve had enough?

Generally, these are like “Let‘s stand up against the man, we‘re all on this together, we‘ve had enough.”  But, you know, if you are the undisclosed donors part of Karl Rove‘s billionaire‘s club, you can‘t really say, “We‘ve had enough,” because nobody knows who you are.  Literally, the “we” behind this ad is undisclosed.

It is a cruel joke that they call themselves GPS when we explicitly are not allowed to know the global positioning of the people who are giving them their money.

It is a small, anonymous “we” here—a small, anonymous, apparently wealthy “we” on side.  And it is America on the other.

Who wins?


MADDOW:  No matter what you are hearing, what‘s going on in the states now is not about the budget.  Wisconsin, Ohio, everywhere—it is not about the budget.

Here‘s an example of how you know that.  The bill that passed today in Michigan would let the governor there declare a fiscal emergency in any town.  It would let the governor install an emergency manager who could dissolve unions, dissolve contracts, dissolve the whole town and it‘s government and all its elected officials.

Here‘s the giant burning sign in the sky that that radical proposal is not about the budget.  Democrats in Michigan proposed amending that bill -- amending that we nullify your town bill.  They proposed amending it so that this emergency manager person who gets to take over your town couldn‘t be paid more than the governor.  The amendment said this emergency de facto dictator appointed because of supposed fiscal crisis can‘t be paid more than $159,000, since that‘s what the governor gets paid.  Fiscal emergency, right?

Republicans said no to that.  Republicans said no to that salary restriction.  They voted that amendment down, in the name of fiscal crisis, naturally.  It‘s not about the budget.

Michael Moore joins us in a moment.


MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER:  You have aroused a sleeping giant known as the working people of the United States of America.




MADDOW:  I mentioned at the top of the show that given tonight‘s events, tonight‘s dramatic events, tonight‘s Republican desperation move in Wisconsin to pass this union-stripping bill despite not having a quorum, I mentioned at the top of the show that protesters in Wisconsin were reconvening at the state capitol.  We have just gotten in footage of what is happening at the state capitol in Madison right now.  Let‘s roll what we have.


MADDOW:  We just got that footage in from the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin.

Joining us now in studio is award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore, fresh off his own very well-received barn-burning speech in Madison this weekend.

Michael, thank you for being here.

MOORE:  Thanks for having me.

And I just want to say anybody who lives within driving distance of Madison, Wisconsin, right now, should make their way to the capitol.  I would—I would love to see thousands of people there right now, there—in that capitol building, in that rotunda, out on the lawn, whatever it takes.

I mean, really, this is really—this is war.  This is a class war that‘s been leveled against the working people of this country and at some point, people are going to just have to stand up and say, nonviolently, “This is enough.  We are not taking it any more.”

And I think these actions that happened today in Wisconsin and in Michigan where the governor, and the Senate today in Michigan, the House has already passed a version of this bill, they‘re going to get together now hopefully that‘s their plan, and the governor will sign it.

And they are stripping the democratic rights of the people of the state of Michigan.  They literally, at this point, the governor can dissolve a town, the elected officials of the town.

A month ago if you or I on this show had said, you know, what, we think—Rachel, and I think the government should have the ability to remove the elected mayor and city council of any town it feels like and put in one guy in charge of the town, what do you think would have been written or said about us?

The fact they think they can get away with this—I mean, you said it all in the last segment there.  What happened three years ago in 2008, what happened is that they realized that they could get away with murder.

They realize that they could loot the treasury.  They could play with people‘s pension funds on Wall Street, they could destroy the economy, they could essentially do what they could to eliminate the middle class and there would be no response from the people.  There would be no revolt.  People would just take it and people took it.

People have been taking this now for about 30 years, ever since Reagan fired the air traffic controllers and we should have stopped them then.  We shouldn‘t have those crossed the picket lines.  People shouldn‘t have flown those planes.

And once they saw they could get away with that 30 years ago, bit by bit by bit, right up until 2008, that was the big enchilada for them, and they got away with it.  People didn‘t do anything about it.  None of them went to jail.  None of them are in jail for this theft.

And so, it comes now 2011 -- hey, why don‘t we just vote to take away people‘s Democratic rights?  We can just eliminate the mayor of a town.  We can just dissolve a school district.

We can—in Wisconsin, we could just take away the right of working people to sit down and talk across the table about things that are a concern to them.  They think they can get away with this.  They honestly think they can get away with this.  And I don‘t think they will get away with it.

And I hope that tomorrow, people in Michigan or in Lansing rotunda packing that place, on Friday afternoon, the students—I just read this on the Internet—the students in Madison, Wisconsin, are calling for it not only in Wisconsin but nationwide student walkout of high schoolers.  Last hour of school, 2:00 in the afternoon, wherever 2:00 is in your time zone, you walk out of that school and call the local media, blog about it, and take pictures, and get everybody organized.

There‘s going to be a massive student walkout Friday afternoon.

Tomorrow in Indiana, 20,000 people you mentioned there—hopefully more—at the state capitol.

This has to continue day after day after day, and these governors are going to have to step down.  They‘re going to be recalled.  They‘re going to be impeached.  They have broken the law.  There‘s no way they can get away with this.

MADDOW:  How does it make a difference for people to protest?  How does it make a difference that students walkout tonight in Madison?  How does it translate into making a difference?

MOORE:  It‘s already made—look at the change—these little polls you cited.  Just in one month, the public opinion of the governor of Wisconsin, of the legislature, of support for unions and their rights, everything has turned in favor of the working people, and it‘s been because the people in Madison, the people of Wisconsin have stood up and have been there every single day.

And they helped to turn people around on this.  The American people have woken up.  I think this is—I mean, I said in the speech there on Saturday, 400 Americans now have amassed more wealth than 50 percent of the American households combined.  Four hundred people have more than 155 million people combined!

Is that—I‘m sorry, that‘s not the country I live in.  I refuse to participate in this.  And I‘m going to do my part, whatever I can, to get the word out and get people involved.

These protests do matter.  In fact, this is one of the few times I can say that in my lifetime, actually going to a demonstration really has made a difference.  And people have got to come out of their homes tomorrow in Lansing, in Madison, in Indianapolis.  And across the weekend, they are planning a huge rally in Madison on Saturday afternoon.  And this is going to continue on in the other states.

MADDOW:  I have a theory why protests feel more effective and seem to be more effective on this issue than they have on every other issue that you and I have ever observed or participated in demonstrations in the last 20 years—and I think that is because of the political dribbleness (ph) of what it is they are trying to do.

It‘s important that these guys—to recognize that these guys didn‘t campaign on stripping collective bargaining rights.  They may have demonized unions, they may have talked about downsizing government, they may have talked about some of these things, but they didn‘t campaign on dissolving towns by fiat.

The reason they didn‘t is because they are unpopular.  They are justifying them saying this is a crisis.  But all it takes is some political pushback against that, it collapses—it seems to me it collapses very easily.

MOORE:  Yes, and information.  You and others have provided this information.  We‘re not broke.  Wisconsin isn‘t broke.  America isn‘t broke.

We have trillions of dollars in our economy.  The problem is that the money isn‘t where it needs to be.  Those 400 people, the upper 1 percent, their allies—took that money out of circulation.  They took that money and it‘s not there any more, and they are not being taxed appropriately.  And that‘s why that money isn‘t there.

There‘s a revenue problem, that‘s all it is.  It‘s not because there‘s debt.  There‘s always debt.

If you make car payments, you‘re in debt.  That doesn‘t mean you‘re broke.  Wisconsin isn‘t broke.  America isn‘t broke.

The money is just not in the people‘s hands, it‘s in the hands of the rich—the rich who committed these crimes back on Wall Street and got away with it.

And that‘s—you know, I just—I just have these—I brought these, Rachel, this is my prop for the night.  It‘s not a confetti.

MADDOW:  Can we have a wide shot of what Mr. Moore has brought with him?

MOORE:  I brought these with me.  I‘d like—I‘d like—anybody that works on Wall Street, anybody that works for one of the banks, just take a look at this, OK?  Because this is what‘s—this is what‘s coming.  This is what‘s coming for you, because the people aren‘t going to take it any more.

The people are going to demand justice.  They‘re going to demand that your ass is in jail.  You have taken the money, we want the money back.

You have taken our jobs overseas, we want those jobs back.  Those are a national resource.  Those are not yours to do with as you please.  They affect all of us as society.

We have a right to those jobs.  We have a right to that money that used to belong to the people of this country.  A million people evicted from homes, foreclosured this year.  Another million expected this year.

How many—I just wonder again, if I can, just address the Wall Streeters and banksters out there—how many more people do you think you can throw out of their homes before they do revolt?  How long do you think this is going to go on?

MADDOW:  We will be right back with filmmaker Michael Moore.



MOORE:  For three weeks you have stood in the cold.

CROWD:  Yes.

MOORE:  Slept on the floor.


MOORE:  Skipped out of town to Illinois.


MOORE:  Whatever it took, you‘ve done it!  And one thing is certain

Madison is only the beginning!



MOORE:  You have aroused a sleeping giant known as the working people of the United States of America!

Your message—your message has inspired people in all 50 states. 

And that message is: we have had it!  We have had it!

CROWD:  We have had it!  We have had it!  We have had it!


MADDOW:  Michael Moore speaking to, on the order of 50,000 people in Madison this weekend.

Joining us again now in the studio is award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore.

When you were saying we have had it—are you talking about Wisconsin or you‘re talking about the country?

MOORE:  Ooh, the country.  I think that this Madison movement has turned into a mad nation.  I mean, I really—I think that this is—I mean, there‘s demonstrations, like you said, in Boise.  I mean, there are places all over the country where this is going on.  And I‘m very heartened by this.

The people I saw there at this demonstration were not the typical people you see at demonstrations.  A lot of people mentioned to me this is the first time they‘d ever been to a rally.  It—they‘ve really overplayed their hand here.

And, you know, the irony of all these things that happened today, on this day, on March 9th, 78 years ago today, Franklin Roosevelt began a New Deal.  This is the first day of Congress in 1933, and they began the first -- debating the first bill that became—so, this is known as the birthday today of the New Deal.

The fact that this is going on at this time—and I noticed, too, when you showed your map of the states, it‘s mostly all Northern states because they‘ve already—the Republican Party especially has controlled pretty much the South for the better part of the last few decades.  And now, they‘re trying to take that philosophy and claim these Northern states.  And they will win.  They will win if people don‘t stand up.

The good news is that they are really just tools, the Republicans, for this upper 1 percent that has all the loot.  The good news is that there‘s a lot more of us than there are of them.


MOORE:  So thank God for this great country and this democracy.  And our Constitution that still says it‘s one person, one vote.  And there will always be more of us than them.  But if we don‘t act, they will take it away.  They will absolutely take it away.

And—you know, I just—right now, I‘m betting on the people.  I just—everything I‘ve seen and what I think we‘re going to see over the next few days—I mean, right now, I just heard during the—during the commercial break, they‘re in the streets in Madison, Wisconsin, right now.


MOORE:  They‘re in the streets.  They will be in the streets of Lansing tomorrow.  They will be in the streets of Indianapolis.  The students will be in the streets on Friday afternoon across the country.

This thing is—you couldn‘t organize something like this.  The guy

the rally I went to, and I just kind of showed up.  I wrote that speech in the middle of the night Friday night, and I just thought, you know, I don‘t have anything to do today.  I just get down on a plane, I just flew to Madison—


MADDOW:  They‘ll have me.

MOORE:  Yes, and the thing—well, I‘ll just hold a sign, you know? 

But I‘m just going to see if they‘ll let me read this speech.

And this rally, they hadn‘t planned a big rally that day.  A guy on Facebook, 36 hours earlier, had put it out there—hey, let‘s get together anyway because we‘re not having a big rally until the following Saturday.  Let‘s just do this.  And almost 50,000 people showed up out of nowhere.


MOORE:  Not knowing even that I was going to be there.  And it has this whole sort of, can I say Egyptian feel to it?  It‘s just so grassroots.  It‘s so from—and it‘s scaring a lot of people in power.  And it should.

MADDOW:  Michael Moore, award-winning filmmaker, and a man who‘s been generous with his time for this show.  Thank you for being here.

MOORE:  No, thank you.  Thank—keep putting that information out there.  It‘s so vital.

You hear things on this show that you just don‘t hear elsewhere. 

And thank God for Ed Schultz, I just want to say that.

MADDOW:  Yes, God bless Ed.  Yes.

MOORE:  For being out there right at the beginning on this.

MADDOW:  I should mention, Ed Schultz, of course, was among the first people in the news media to identify the story in Wisconsin as a huge deal.  He has covered the story like nobody else.  He is must-watch television tonight.  I think he‘s got a number of the Democratic state senators on tonight.  He‘s going to make news tonight in terms of their response.

MOORE:  But does he have props like you and I have?

MADDOW:  But does he have Michael Moore‘s handcuffs?

MOORE:  Or your confetti blower right there.

MADDOW:  My broken confetti gun?  I‘m going to work on this in the break.  I got  to fix this before I go to the NRA convention.

MOORE:  Ed doesn‘t need any of this.  Ed‘s just coming after them all by lonesome.

MADDOW:  We‘ll be right back.  It‘s THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW here on



MADDOW:  The biggest news in the country is the action early this evening in the state Senate in Wisconsin, where Republicans appear to have invented a new nuclear option to pass a stand-alone measure which stripped the state‘s public employees of most of their collective bargaining rights.  Expect this story to propel forward quickly tomorrow.

The stand-alone union-busting bill stripped out of the budget was passed by the state Senate without a quorum in the absence of the 14 Senate Democrats.  The measure now moves—theoretically at least—to the state assembly where it could be voted on in the next 24 hours.

Democrats say tonight‘s actions in Wisconsin were illegal.  They are moving to stop what happened.

Reporting in social media accounts from Wisconsin in the immediate aftermath of the Senate vote tonight indicates that protesters are already assembling at the capitol.  We‘ve seen some of that footage tonight.  Given every bit of public polling about collective bargaining rights recently and the public reaction to what Republicans have tried to do, it is reasonable to predict that tomorrow will be a very noisy, very crowded day in Madison, Wisconsin.

There‘s much more to report and analyze tonight, which is more than enough reason to stay tuned for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.  It starts right now.  Good night.



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