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Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET, Thursday June 2, 2011

Read the transcript from the Thursday 6 p.m. hour

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Guests: Richard Wolffe, David Corn, Shushannah Walshe, John Feehery, Ryan

Grim, Jane Hamsher, David Cay Johnston

CENK UYGUR, HOST:  Good evening, everybody.  I‘m Cenk Uygur. 

Sarah Palin stole Mitt Romney‘s spotlight and ruined his big day today.  And that‘s our lead story tonight. 

This is a day that Romney had been waiting for.  He pressed his clothes, packed his bags, and was ready for the first day of his campaign.  This is the day he would announce his campaign for president. 

Then Sarah Palin came along and took his lunch money.  Now he doesn‘t feel so good. 

Romney has been planning this moment since he dropped out of the last campaign in February of 2008, and the setting was in New Hampshire.  It was exquisitely stage-managed. 

American flag?  Check.  White shingled barn?  Check.  A 12-year-old boy leading the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance?  Check. 

A publicity-crazed one-woman wrecking ball smashing their little party to smithereens?  Check? 

Sarah Palin threw Romney under a bus today, rolling into New Hampshire, gobbling up all the media attention, and claiming it was all just a wild coincidence. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN ®, FMR. VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think it‘s exciting for him.  I think that‘s great.  Coincidental that we are in the same territory at the same time, but more power to Mitt as he announced his campaign, and best of luck to him. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  I love that coincidence.  You have to give her credit, though. 

Look, she doesn‘t play by the rules.  Other candidates usually let the person announcing do their thing on the first day, but not Sarah.  “Sarah Barracuda” is coming for Romney. 

Look, she even took a shot at Romney‘s Achilles‘ heel, his Romneycare program. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  Any mandate that‘s coming from government is not a good thing, so obviously—and I‘m not the only one to say so, but there will be more the explanation coming from former Governor Romney on his support for government mandates.  Mandates coming from a governing body, it‘s tough for a lot of us independent Americans to accept because we have great faith in the private sector. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  Ouch!  She came with a smile and a hammer. 

Meanwhile, Romney was forced to grin and bear it and pretend that, gosh, it was just peachy that Palin was raining all over his parade. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What do you think about Sarah Palin in the state today? 

MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  That‘s terrific.  New Hampshire is action central today. 

Let‘s see, where do we go?  There‘s one right there.  Terrific.  Thank you. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  Yes, yes, it‘s just fine!  It‘s great she‘s here!  Oh, I didn‘t even know that! 

Fantastic!  Who‘s next?  Who wants the food?  Who‘s next? 

Man, he did not like how it went down today. 

Look, whether Palin is running or not, today she seemed to be representing the id of the Republican Party, which at a deep primal level does not want Mitt Romney to be the nominee, even if conventional wisdom is that he has the best chance of beating President Obama among the Republicans.  They sense an inescapable phoniness from him, and they‘re right. 

But Sarah Palin might be the most ironic person to deliver that message. 

All right, now let‘s talk about it a little bit more.  Let‘s bring in our campaign crew: the distinguished David Corn, Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones,” and MSNBC political analyst.  Also with us, MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe, who, by the way, is also distinguished. 

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, thank you. 

(LAUGHTER)

UYGUR:  And Shushannah Walshe, “Newsweek” contributor and co-author of “Sarah From Alaska.”  She was chasing Palin around on the bus tour earlier this year. 

All right.  Let‘s get started.

First of all, David, any chance that this was a coincidence from Palin, or did she mean to slight Romney in the biggest possible way? 

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I don‘t know.  Do you believe in magic ponies? 

This is a tour that started down here in Washington a week ago, less than a week ago.  There was a lot of flexibility, it seemed. 

Shushannah can tell you that sometimes, they said they were going to place A, they went to place B.  She could have stayed in Boston overnight.  She could have maybe waited one day before crossing that border into the live free or die state. 

And once she was there, she could have also decided not to talk about mandates for one day, and she could have just been gracious and said, hey, it‘s Mitt‘s day.  You know, I‘m here, but I‘m not going to say anything about his plan in New Hampshire—in Massachusetts.  There‘s plenty of time to talk about that down the road. 

She made a lot of decisions that she didn‘t have to make. 

UYGUR:  All right.  Well, you know, I want to talk about his—I‘m sorry, her PAC money for a second there, because she‘s apparently using SarahPAC to pay for this bus tour. 

And Richard, she‘s brought in $5.7 million in that PAC, and she has apparently only given $570,000 to other Republican candidates, ostensibly the reason for the PAC.  But that‘s only 10 percent.  So she‘s somehow sucking up 90 percent of the money coming in. 

Is this kosher, to pay for this trip which she sometimes paints as a family vacation through SarahPAC? 

WOLFFE:  Well, I don‘t know that she‘s spending $5 million on this bus tour.  It really doesn‘t cost that much.  And clearly, some of that PAC money can legitimately be used to fund the central figure and her political activities. 

But the phony thing here is that this is somehow a family vacation and isn‘t really a political run-around, especially that she‘s not running for president.  What kind of bus tour goes to New Hampshire anyway? 

She is running.  It‘s clear she doesn‘t like Mitt Romney.  She doesn‘t want anyone else to get the kind of attention that you get on announcement day. 

And there‘s a question there, I guess, whether your PAC can fund your

presidential exploration work, but, you know, the election laws have been -

have got so many holes in it.  That‘s why there are so many election lawyers in Washington, D.C.  It really is, you know, a paper tiger. 

UYGUR:  Right.  And to be clear, the $5.7 million goes to a lot of things, including staffing, et cetera.  Certainly not just the bus tour. 

CORN:  But the important thing is, as long as she doesn‘t say she‘s a presidential candidate, she can use that money for anything, including paying her own mortgage or taking a salary.  Once she says she‘s a presidential candidate, then tighter rules come into play and she can‘t take the millions and use it for family vacations and personal matters. 

UYGUR:  Right.

And Shushannah?

SHUSHANNAH WALSHE, CONTRIBUTOR “NEWSWEEK”:  And Cenk, what‘s interesting about her PAC is when she rolled it out when she first announced it—and now this is a couple of years ago—she said it was going to pay for travel.  And really, it didn‘t make a lot of headlines then. 

You know that usually PACs are to fund other candidates with similar values and ideals.  She said right then that it would pay for that sometimes, but mostly it would be to pay for her travel.  So it raised some eyebrows then, but really didn‘t get the kind of headlines at that time.  I was pretty surprised by it. 

UYGUR:  Right.  And Shushannah, let me stay with you for a second. 

WALSHE:  Sure.

UYGUR:  Because before we‘ve talked a lot about how Sarah Palin might not be serious, et cetera.  Now a lot of the insiders say, well, look, she hasn‘t talked to any of the GOP operatives, she hasn‘t tried to get any endorsements.  That‘s why she‘s not going to run. 

But what she did today made me think, hey, maybe she really doesn‘t play by the rules and doesn‘t give a damn about those things, and it made me think for the first time she might actually run.  And let me just give you one more poll before I get your thought on it. 

Look, of course outside of the GOP she‘s wildly unpopular.  She‘s at a 59 percent disapproval rating.  But within the GOP she‘s got a 67 percent favorable rating. 

So, is it possible she runs, and is it possible she wins given what she‘s doing today? 

WALSHE:  Well, I definitely think that she‘s running.  I said it from the beginning.  I still stick with that.  I think she‘s definitely running.

I think the bus tour is a great example.  I mean, yes, is it not a family vacation even though the kids are there?  Stops like New Hampshire and South Carolina show it. 

And really, she‘s loving it.  She‘s loving being with all the cameras, but also—today was game on for Sarah Palin.  She loved—not only did she go after Romney, she went after Tim Pawlenty as well, and she is loving it. 

I mean, she‘s absolutely running.  And one note—I can‘t really talk so much about it because it‘s embargoed—but I was able to get a sneak peek of the movie about her, “Undefeated,” and there is no way after her watching it, which she has done, that she‘s going to say, I‘m not running. 

UYGUR:  Wow, that‘s very definitive.  I like that kind of strong talk. 

WALSHE:  I mean, watch me be wrong, but I‘m sticking with that. 

(LAUGHTER)

UYGUR:  Well, no, no, I like strength either way. 

So, David and Richard, just real quick on that, then, do you guys agree?  Do you think she‘s going to run?  And can she win? 

WOLFFE:  She can win the nomination.  And, yes, I think she‘s running. 

We discussed this a couple of days ago, and journalists were saying, well, it‘s so badly organized, and she‘s not doing it the conventional way.  Therefore, she‘s not really running.

It doesn‘t matter.  She talked to the press today.  What were all those audio recorders out there for?  She‘s very effective at getting her message out, and she has real popularity that could easily in a multi-candidate field take her to the nomination with 25 percent, 30 percent of the vote. 

CORN:  I agree that she could probably have—of all the candidates out there, have the best chance of running an unconventional campaign that has a chance of succeeding.  You know, Iowa might be more difficult because it‘s a caucus state.  But at the same time, I think that if she wants to stay a presidential tease, while other candidates, Mitt Romney, are putting their money down and getting into the race, the ante goes up for her.

So she has to do things that are more and more like a possible candidate.  So I still think it‘s quite possible that at the end of the day, she‘s not going to run, and this is all about making her still the king maker, the queen maker, the Sarah Palin ink brand.  This is all good for business, whether or not she runs. 

UYGUR:  Right.  Well, look, I‘ve got to be honest with you, I wanted to talk about Mitt Romney today, and look at what she did.  She just absolutely stole the show by coming in here the way she did.  She‘s amazing. 

All right.  So on to Mitt Romney, finally. 

I think Mitt Romney‘s biggest problem might not be Sarah Palin, but Mitt Romney.  God, how many flip-flops has this guy gone through?  Let me read a quick list for you guys.

We‘ve got health care mandate.  He was for it and then he‘s kind of against it on a national level.  He was for the bank bailouts, now he‘s against them.  He was for the stimulus, now he‘s against them.  Auto bailouts, abortion rights, and the list goes on an don.  We literally ran out of room in that graphic that we were showing you guys. 

So, Richard, what‘s the most egregious of those flip-flops, and what do you think hurts him the most? 

WOLFFE:  Well, the most egregious is what he tried to talk about today, which is about the economy.  You know, if you‘re going to have a narrative—he‘s right, by the way, to go after the president on the president‘s weak spot.  It‘s definitely the economy, it‘s the job situation.  But if you‘re going to go after him, you cannot do the flip-flop on the bank bailout. 

I mean, it‘s just really hard when the bailout actually worked.  It may still be pretty unpopular among a number of people, especially people who don‘t really understand what happened, but the money came back into the administration and jobs were saved, especially in the auto industry. 

You know, there were good sections of what he did today, especially when he got personal talking about his father.  As soon as he drifted off topic, when he got on to foreign policy, he had to say, oh, the president is hesitant and indecisive, but I give him credit for getting bin Laden.  He just doesn‘t make sense. 

UYGUR:  Yes.  And the auto bailout, I mean, that was such an unbelievable flip-flop, because that seems to have totally worked.  Whatever you think of the financial bailout—and that‘s why even Mitt came around saying, oh, it was my idea. 

I‘m like, your idea?  Are you kidding me?  You said it was a travesty. 

But the DNC is hitting them on this.  Let me show you guys an ad real quick and get your reaction. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY:  When government is trying to bail out banks, we have every good reason to be alarmed and to speak our mind. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY:  We were going to be in a free-fall that would cause the collapse of not just a few banks on Wall Street, but banks all over the country, killing not only a few jobs, but all the jobs in this country.  That‘s what we were facing.  And the TARP program kept that from occurring. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY:  I think a stimulus program is needed.  I‘d move quickly. 

These are unusual times. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY:  What the president created with his $780-plus billion stimulus plan was something that grew government but did not grow the private economy. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  You know, David, everybody gets it.  This guy is unbelievable slippery.  But having said that, with all the money that he had, with all the momentum that he had, all the poll numbers that he had, it looked like he‘s the clear front runner.  But as you look at things like that, you begin to think, is he really—can he make it out of the primary? 

I mean, I think there‘s so many Republicans who look at that and go, oh, I don‘t like that guy. 

CORN:  Well, of course he can make it out of the primaries.  And if there‘s high unemployment, any Republican will have a chance. 

There was a line in his speech today that caught my eye, if I can read it here.  It‘s very short. 

He said, “We are only inches away from ceasing the free market economy.” 

Wait a second.  Does he really believe that Obama is on the verge of collectivism here in the United States?  To me, this was sort of like throwing red meat to the Tea Party folks. 

There is no way that Mitt Romney actually believes those words.  Corporate profits are soaring.  As you talked about, the automakers are doing well.  Until yesterday, the stock market has been great. 

We are not close to the free market economy ceasing existence in the United States.  And yet he said that with a straight face. 

So he‘s going to have trouble just—not so much even on flip-flops.  I think on presenting authenticity.  Candidates who say what they believe, whether it‘s true or not, tend to connect better than those who say things that they really don‘t believe. 

WOLFFE:  There was another great line in there where he said, “If you want to create jobs, it helps if you‘ve had one,” as if being a venture capitalist is somehow more worthy of being a lawyer.  I mean, what is he, a man of the people, that he actually goes out and digs in the coal mine or something? 

CORN:  And Bain Capital took over a lot of companies and there were tremendous job losses.

UYGUR:  Right.

CORN:  So he has to worry about that, too. 

UYGUR:  Right.  And there‘s no question he has a terrible authenticity problem. 

Shushannah, a last real quick question here.  Look, obviously, he can make it out primary.  I agree with David on that. 

WALSHE:  Me too. 

UYGUR:  But is he still a frontrunner in your opinion? 

WALSHE:  I think that, really, with so many people entering and still deciding whether they‘re going to enter, and all the problems that Romney does have, I think that we really can‘t really call him a frontrunner still.  Yes, he‘s well known, he‘s in it, he‘s going for it.  But I think it‘s meaningless at this point to say that. 

One point on his authenticity.  I completely agree with David that that is probably his biggest problem.  But when he was talking about his health care reform, it was interesting that he wants to defend his actions in Massachusetts instead of flip-flopping on it.  So I think he recognizes that that‘s going to be his biggest problem. 

UYGUR:  All right.

David Corn, Richard Wolffe, Shushannah Walshe, thank you all so much for joining us this evening. 

WALSHE:  Thank you.

CORN:  Thanks.

WOLFFE:  Thanks, Cenk.

UYGUR:  All right, guys.  We‘ll see you soon. 

All right.  When we come back, it‘s the Democrats‘ turn to meet with the president.  Will they fight for progressive values?  Are those even on the table? 

Well, we‘re going to discuss that later in the program. 

And Speaker Boehner likes to ask the question, where are the jobs?  But could he be holding the economy hostage on purpose?  The “Power Panel” will discuss why the Republicans might not want unemployment to go down. 

And Congressman Anthony Weiner says he is done talking about the picture scandal, but Eric Cantor isn‘t.  What he says is completely over the line and hypocritical.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UYGUR:  House Democrats took their turn at the White House today talking about the budget, and they made sure that the president knew their number one issue. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER:  I demonstrated the determination that we all have to reduce the deficit while preserving Medicare. 

REP. STENY HOYER (D), MINORITY WHIP:  Making sure that Medicare is strengthened and preserved. 

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA:  We must preserve Medicare. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Preservation of Medicare. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  Gee, were they clear enough?  I think so.  Yes, I got it—

Medicare. 

And look, they‘re not the only ones who want to preserve Medicare, of course.  The latest poll numbers show just how unpopular the Ryan plan is. 

Here we go again, the millionth poll in a row.  Fifty-eight percent of Americans oppose the plan.  Even conservatives don‘t like it.  More than half of them say they are against the plan. 

So who is this in fact serving?  It appears nobody. 

And Democrats aren‘t letting Republicans run away from their Ryancare votes either, because they know how hard it hurts them.  So check out this new ad from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  If I didn‘t have Medicare, doctors‘ bills could wipe me out.  When Congressman Charlie Bass voted to end Medicare, that was an attack on New Hampshire families just like mine. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  So it sounds like Democrats are committed to preserving Medicare, and certainly progressives are, as you saw in that ad.  So why have Democratic leaders like Steny Hoyer said that Medicare cuts are still “on the table” during these budget talks? 

The big question going forward, will Democrats take a stand to protect one of the most successful government programs in history, or will they let the Republicans needlessly win on a losing issue? 

Of course there‘s one plan that balances the budget and saves Medicare.  It‘s called the Progressive Caucus Plan.

It protects Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  It makes cuts to our massive defense budget, which is incredibly bloated and filled with pork.  And it also raises taxes, but focused primarily on making sure that the richest Americans bear their share of the burden. 

And what‘s best?  It balances the budget by 2021.  That‘s a decade earlier than the Ryan plan. 

So, I‘ve got to ask, as the progressive folks and some of the other Democrats talked to the president today, did they bring this up?  Did they say, hey, wait a minute, why are we only talking about the Ryan plan?  Why aren‘t we talking about the Obama White House plan, which is also much more conservative than that progressive plan? 

The one that balances the budget best is the Progressive Caucus one.  And by the way, on issue after issue, it is by far the most popular with the American people.

Raising taxes on millionaires?  Over 80 percent of the American people love that plan.  Preserving Medicare?  Americans love that plan.  Cutting the pork out of the defense budget?  Americans love that plan. 

So why don‘t we talk about that one? 

All right.  My view on that is very clear. 

Ahead, Governor Rick Scott of Florida was one of the biggest bashers of President Obama‘s stimulus.  So why did he keep $370 million of it?  Wait until you see his response.  It‘s perfect for our “Con Job of the Day.” 

And we told you “Mr. Fiscal Responsibility,” Chris Christie, taking a state helicopter to his son‘s baseball game, that that was a bad idea.  Well, now we have a great update on that tonight. 

And Eric Cantor has the nerve to speak out on Anthony Weiner‘s picture scandal—so-called scandal.  Who is he to talk about the congressman‘s personal life?  Uh-oh. 

That drama on the “Power Panel” tonight. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UYGUR:  And now for our “Con Job of the Day,” we have Florida Governor Rick Scott talking a big game about turning down money from the stimulus plan while he secretly gobbles up all the federal money he can get his hands on.  Of course. 

Slamming the stimulus is, of course, one of Scott‘s signature moves. 

He refused $2.4 billion in stimulus funds for a high-speed rail project. 

And here‘s how he described President Obama and the stimulus last year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK SCOTT ®, FLORIDA:  His belief that big government works, it doesn‘t.  It‘s killing jobs.  The stimulus is a disaster. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  But Scott doesn‘t seem to think that the stimulus money is such a disaster when it winds up in his pocket.  “The Miami Herald” reports nearly $370 million in stimulus funds somehow wound up in Governor Scott‘s budget. 

Gee, I wonder how that happened? 

That money will go toward prosecuting mortgage fraud, making electronic hospital records, fighting wildfires, prosecuting gangs, and a number of other programs. 

Look, that‘s all good, of course.  But that‘s why everyone thought he should have taken the money in the first place. 

Instead, he pretended to fight against it, and then funded his budget with it anyway.  So when a “Miami Herald” reporter asked him about that, he squirmed, he shifted, and he tried to run away from the topic. 

It was fun.  Let‘s watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So if the stimulus money helps create jobs, then it‘s OK? 

SCOTT:  I think it‘s a mistake.  I think that‘s taxpayer money. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But you OK‘d it.  I mean, you let the—

SCOTT:  You have to give me a little more detail on exactly which one and I can go through each line. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  So Scott needs more details to answer questions about the stimulus money in his budget. 

Why?  Have you not read your own budget?  Did you miss the $370 million federal handout you put in there?  Did that slip your attention? 

Please.  What a fraud.  Scott‘s claim to hate the stimulus while he uses a huge chunk to balance his own budget is our “Con Job of the Day.” 

And tonight we have a special “Con Job” update.  It‘s our first one. 

It‘s fun for everybody.

Now, we told you last night New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took a state-funded helicopter ride to his son‘s high school baseball game.  Yesterday, Christie‘s office said he didn‘t use the helicopter often and wouldn‘t pay for the flight, but today Christie completely reversed course. 

He says he‘ll reimburse New Jersey for the cost of the ride because it‘s become a distraction, according to him.  And Christie‘s spokeswoman says he‘ll bay $2,100 to cover all of his personal flights on the chopper, and that the state GOP is also chipping in. 

So our “Con Job” segment can claim its first victory.  Did it have anything to do with us?  Who knows?  But hey, it‘s cable news.  We declare victory. 

All right.  Either way, at least the taxpayers of New Jersey got their money back, and of course that‘s what matters. 

All right.  We‘ll be back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UYGUR:  Welcome back to the show, everybody. 

Joining me now is our power, power, Power Panel.  God, that‘s powerful.  All right.  They‘re of course here to discuss the big stories of the day.  With me is Jane Hamsher, founder and publisher of Firedoglake.com.  Also with us, senior congressional correspondent for the Huffington Post, Ryan Grim.  And out of the right corner here comes republican strategist John Feehery. 

All right, guys, first question for you tonight, what more can he do?  Once again today, Representative Anthony Weiner addressed reporters over his twitter controversy. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK:  Make it very clear I did not send a picture, that my twitter account had been hacked.  This prank has apparently been successful.  But after hours, almost 11 hours of answering questions, any that anyone wanted to put, today I‘m going to have to get back to work doing the job I‘m paid to do.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  John, I‘m going to start with you.  I‘ve got a host of questions.  One, do you believe that he was hacked?  Two, what is the so-called problem here?  And then the number three, come on, isn‘t this enough? I mean, what do we want from the guy?

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Yes.  Those are all good questions, Cenk.  You know, I don‘t really care about this issue this much.  I much more care about the debt crisis, what‘s going on, and getting to a plan to fix Medicare but, you know, we‘re going to talk about Weiner gate.  Because that‘s everyone wants to talk about.  You know, I think the first thing he could do from pr 101, get all the facts out, get them out quickly, tell it succinctly, make sure you know all the answers.  I don‘t think he‘s done that.  I think he‘s made things even worse.  I think he probably did get hacked is my guess. 

But, you know, he couldn‘t answer the basic question, was it a picture of him or not?  He should know the answer to that question.  I don‘t think anyone believes that he doesn‘t know the answer to that question.  And I think that‘s the big problem.  You know, in the big scheme of things, you know, I don‘t think this is going to change the world.  I think that people, and much like with Eliot Spitzer, you know, people like to gang up on Anthony Weiner because he‘s Anthony Weiner.  So, there‘s an element of that.  But, you know, I would like to see this story go away and get on to the bigger issues.  That‘s my own personal opinion.  

UYGUR:  Look, here, here, I wish everyone would stop talking about it.  But Ryan, I mean, that‘s the problem here, right?  Every little details coming out.  Now Breitbart is saying hey, the guy who might have leaked it, you know, he wants to question him.  I mean, is there great irony in that comment?  And look, it leads to the larger issue, Ryan, which is if somebody hacks into your account and does this do you, are all congressmen and senators acceptable to this?  And do you have to answer questions for weeks on end about it?

RYAN GRIM, “THE HUFFINGTON POST”:  You know, apparently it is pretty easy to produce the kind of hack that might have led to this.  So anybody is pretty much vulnerable to this.  And especially members of Congress, because, you know, a lot of these folks are more than 60 years old.  Weiner doesn‘t have this excuse, but a lot of these folks are getting up there and are pretty new to the internet and so might be susceptible to different types of phishing scam that would get their passwords out to their twitter accounts, you know, to their e-mail account even, and that would quickly enable somebody to pull a little stunt like this.  There are also, you know, probably quick technical ways that something like this could have been done.  But, you know, like John said, the last 24 hours have been textbook of how not to respond to this.  

UYGUR:  Well, you know, look, now the Republicans have joined in and that‘s part of the problem.  Now they made it bigger, right?  Because Eric Cantor comes in and he had something to say.  Let‘s actually watch that for you guys.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER:  The American people are right in saying that they don‘t have tolerance for this repeated kind of activity going on surrounding their elected leaders. 

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN:  Right.

CANTOR:  I just think, again, think about his wife.  I mean, I‘m really saddened for his wife.  And I think they have only been married a short time. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  I mean you‘re bringing his wife into it.  Almost everybody at this point thinks that he was hacked in some way or another and then, Jane, he‘s talking about elected leaders.  How about David Vitter?  How about Larry Craig?  How about Mark Foley?  How about Chris Lee?  I go down the list.  And Weiner didn‘t even do anything wrong.  

JANE HAMSHER, FOUNDER, FIREDOGLAKE.COM:  Well, you know, I think you did hit the nail on the head when you said Andrew, the words Andrew Breitbart.  If he is now the gold standard for news, if we‘ve got, you know, in Congress right now, they have a resolution to disapprove of the war in Libya, that they won‘t let onto the floor because they think it would pass.  But we are now going into day four of Weiner gate.  I mean, if Andrew Breitbart is, you know, can generate a four-day media frenzy, then maybe Jon Stewart should be able to too.  He said, he‘s a personal friend of Anthony Weiner‘s and there‘s no way that that could be a photo of him because he‘s not that big.  So, if we‘re going into day four, I think somebody is going to have to take out a tape measure. 

UYGUR:  All right.  And look, I want to talk about it one more time to lay it to rest because it is nonsense and it drives me crazy to see other people talking about it like it‘s a legitimate issue.  So, we‘re done with it, OK. 

Now, next question.  Is the GOP trashing the economy?  Now, this is a fun question.  The fact is high unemployment would help the GOP beat President Obama in 2012.  And no American president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has won a second term in office when unemployment rate has been above 7.2 percent.  So, is the GOP purposely trying to hamper job growth by proposing draconian spending cuts in an effort to take back the White House? 

Now, John, I know you‘re going to find that to be a controversial question, but do you concede that if unemployment was high, the republican candidate in 2012 would certainly benefit?

FEEHERY:  I find it rather silly because you‘re talking about the House Republicans control the chamber.  And they have their own careers on the line.  They certainly want to see unemployment go down.  They want to see the economy grow.  They want to go back to their constituents and give them a good reason to vote for them again.  They certainly don‘t want to see the economy crash because that‘s bad for their own political futures.  And they‘re not—they‘re not, you know, trying to win it for another candidate.  They care about their own political futures.  So, and I think that they‘re trying to cut spending because I think they honestly believe, and I agree  with them, that by cutting spending, by getting the government spending under control and the government under control, you will grow the economy.  And I think if that is their strategy.  They have a different philosophy.  The idea that they‘re trying to trash the economy to bring down President Obama, I think is somewhat ridiculous.  

GRIM:  Yes.  I think John‘s right.  I think that they honestly—or this is the House Republicans,  and especially the ones that have come in, the few dozen—the 80-plus that have come in, in this last year.  They honestly do believe that by cutting spending, that that somehow is going to lead to growth in the economy.  There‘s no reason to think that‘s even remotely true.  I mean, there‘s just nothing to that.  Borrowing costs right now are at historic lows.  So the idea that government spending is crowding out other investment, you know, would have to have some facts behind it to be believed.  And one fact you‘d look at are interest rates.  You know, is it crowding out borrowing.  And it‘s not.  And they have nothing else to point to.  I‘d be curious, John, you know, how is it that if you cut spending and layoff federal workers and state workers that grows the economy?  I‘m genuinely, you know, curious.  

FEEHERY:  I think what Republicans would say is scale back—you let the private sector flourish.  You get back—cut back on some of these silly regulations that small businesses flourish.  

(CROSSTALK)

GRIM:  Corporate profits are at record highs, though.  I mean, how much more can the private sector flourish?

FEEHERY:  But the small businesses are still under—we‘re talking about small businesses.  Small businesses are really the ones that. 

GRIM:  No, no, no, we‘re talking about large businesses.  No, no, the large businesses get the most amount of advantage there.  

FEEHERY:  Most jobs come from small businesses.  You‘ve got to get the government off their backs so that they can flourish.  

UYGUR:  It‘s funny how the big businesses wind up getting huge breaks for what is supposed to help small business.  They‘re sitting on $1.6 trillion and not doing a damn thing with it.  Now, look, Jane, Ryan might be right about the 80 guys that just came in.  They seem genuinely earnest and you know, look, you might disagree and I disagree with a lot of what they say.  But I believe that they are earnest to some degree, right or wrong, right?  But all republican hands, they know that if you cut spending in the middle of, you know, tough economic times, you‘re not going to create jobs, you‘re going to cost jobs.  To me I think that they are eating that up.  

HAMSHER:  But that seems to be the conventional wisdom across the political spectrum right now.  Everybody is an austerity freak.  And you‘re absolutely right.  Ryan is absolutely right.  And that, you know, there is no jobs program out there.  There‘s nobody who has the courage to stay right now to be adult in the conversation, and say, we need to have a jobs program to put people back to work.  And the thing that we should be doing, the last thing that we should be doing is cutting state budgets and firing people.  That it will only make the problem worse.  So, you know, it‘s not just the 80 people who have come in, it seems to be everybody.  And they‘re saying it whether they believe it or not because that‘s where conventional wisdom is baked these days.  

UYGUR:  John, John, hold on.  Let me ask you a specific question about that, right? 

FEEHERY:  Sure.

UYGUR:  I mean, it goes towards to what Jane and what Ryan were saying.  So, look, there has been no jobs bills whatsoever.  And the idea that if we just give more and more and more to corporations and hope that they create jobs, they already have all that $1.6 trillion sitting there and they‘re not creating the jobs.  How in the world would that work?  Do you really believe that would create jobs?

FEEHERY:  Well, what we need is, we need a pro-growth agenda, there‘s no doubt about that.  We need to get, lower the corporate tax rate.  We need to give small businesses a chance to flourish and thrive.  And we really do need to get government off the back of small businesses so that we can create jobs. 

(CROSSTALK)

Government jobs—government jobs are not going to grow us out of the economy.  Only the private sector will do that.  And we do need a pro-growth agenda.  You know, Democrats talk about raising taxes.  We shouldn‘t raise taxes.  That‘s the silliest way to get the economy going.  And the fact of the matter is we‘re not going to raise taxes with Republicans. 

GRIM:  John, very specifically though.  How does cutting federal and state spending, how does laying off federal and state workers?  How does that help small businesses?  All right.  Honestly, how does that help a small business if there‘s less government money in the economy?

FEEHERY:  Getting rid of inefficient government and getting rid of inefficient and stupid regulations. 

GRIM:  We‘re not talking about—we can have the regulation argument, that‘s fine, we can have the regulation argument a separate time. 

FEEHERY:  Sure, and we should.

GRIM:  You know, that was probably decided in the fall of ‘08, but never mind.  What about the spending argument?  How does government spending hurt a small business, especially small businesses that sell a lot of things to state, local and federal governments?  I mean, how does that hurt—how does it hurt a small business to have the government spending money?

FEEHERY:  There‘s a couple of ways.  First of all, the states are going bankrupt.  And so are—and so is the federal government.  So, you‘ve got to cut spending there.  And the other thing is, if you keep taxes low and cut taxes, you will get more capital into the private sector and it will grow jobs.  I mean, that‘s what‘s happened with Ronald Reagan.  I think it‘s going to happen this time. 

GRIM:  Right.

UYGUR:  I‘m not sure that answered Ryan‘s question.  But unfortunately we‘re out of time.  And I‘ve got to tell you, John, look, taxes are at a 60-year low.  We‘re going to talk about that in the next segment.  And we cut taxes to the bone under Bush and it didn‘t help our economy at all.  It really, really hurt our economy.  You‘re telling me to cut taxes more to stimulate the economy?  We tried that for eight long years and it was a disaster.  But I‘m sorry, I‘m getting the last word on that, panel, sorry, guys.  But thank you for the conversation.  As always, we loved it.  Jane Hamsher, Ryan Grim, John Feehery.  All right.  We‘ll see you guys next time.

FEEHERY:  Thank you.

GRIM:  Thanks.  

UYGUR:  All right.  And when we come back, John Boehner and the Republicans want President Obama to get serious about the budget, but they are a joke when it comes to the tax debate.  Like I said, we‘re going to fact check them when we come back.                             

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UYGUR:  You know, the Republicans always say, hey, we don‘t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.  Well, they are dead wrong, completely and utterly wrong.  When we come back, the numbers don‘t lie.  You don‘t want to miss this.                                  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UYGUR:  Today we had another verbal taunt from Republicans accusing President Obama of failing to get serious about the budget. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  The fact is, we haven‘t seen enough progress from the White House.  You know, the White House once we get this done, and it‘s time for them to step up to the plate and get serious about it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  I am so tired of them.  Their definition of getting serious, well, it‘s to refuse to raise taxes at all in order to fix the budget mess, even if it‘s on millionaires. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CANTOR:  I asked the president hopefully that he will work with us to do so and to keep out of the discussions surrounding the debt limit and in the Biden talks, any notion that we‘re going to increase taxes. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  Why is that off the table?  Why are we listening to these guys?  Well, it better be back on the table.  And now, of course, there are reports that Republicans rolled their eyes during a meeting with President Obama yesterday.  Now why did they do that?  Because he said taxes are lower today than they were under Reagan, so Republicans scoffed.  Look, I think they are children.  And purely educated children at that.  If you‘ve got to roll your eyes, you better know what the hell you‘re talking about.  So now, are you going to be surprised when I tell you that, of course they are totally wrong?  Taxes are lower now than under Reagan. 

Now, look at the effective tax rate.  That‘s basically what Americans really pay in taxes after all the loopholes, exemptions and subsidies are taken into account.  According to the Congressional Budget Office, it was 18.2 percent during the Reagan years.  Compare that to the rate now, while Obama is in office.  This year, it‘s estimated to be 14.8 percent.  Do the math for you, that‘s lower than 18.2 percent.  In fact it‘s a 60-year low.  We are paying record low taxes, especially the rich.  Taxes are in fact, of course, way out of whack with historical norms in this country. 

Under Eisenhower, top earners paid 91 percent in federal taxes.  Remember, that was a republican president.  And in fact the last republican president who balanced the budget.  For most of Reagan‘s time in office, the rate for the top bracket was 50 percent or higher.  And the top income tax rate today, 35 percent.  So, roll your eyes at that.  Hey, children, class is in session.  Pay attention, Republicans.  You might learn something. 

All right.  With me now is David Cay Johnston, columnist for taxnotes.com.  He‘s also the author of the book, “Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill).” 

All right, first, David, fundamental question.  Republicans keep saying, oh, taxes are out of control, I can‘t believe how high taxes are, we should never touch taxes.  Are they even remotely accurate?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, COLUMNIST, TAX NOTES:  No.  They‘re talking as if they‘re from another planet.  You know, if you look, Cenk, at the growth and income and ways people spend money, since 1984, the lowest year of taxes in Reagan‘s administration the way you‘re talking about as a share of the economy, people‘s debt has grown three-and-a-half times faster than their income, their health care bills have gone up two-thirds faster than their income.  But you know what‘s down?  What‘s the lowest of all their expenditures is federal income taxes that only grew at 39 percent, the rate their income did.  Thirty nine percent compared to 350 percent for debt and 165 percent for health insurance. 

UYGUR:  Right.  And look, I‘d love to pay low taxes.  I‘d love for everybody to pay low taxes.  Who wants to pay more taxes?  That isn‘t the point.  The point is, do you have a budget problem or don‘t you?  And if you‘ve got a budget problem, you‘ve got to look at how you‘re going to fix that.  And if you say, I‘m going to take the biggest factor off the table, then you‘re not really serious about the budget.  But look, the Republicans keep going to this point, anyway.  I want to play you a clip from Eric Cantor again and I want to get your thoughts on it, so let‘s watch that. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CANTOR:  It‘s counterintuitive to believe that you increase taxes on those individuals and entities you‘re expecting to create jobs.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UYGUR:  Is that really counterintuitive?

JOHNSTON No, not in the least.  You know, the Republicans problem fundamentally, Cenk, is that they are a one issue party that‘s painted themselves into a corner.  What can they say given all that they have done except lower taxes is the solution.  This is sort of like bleeding the patient to death because you think something is wrong with their blood.  Their only solution to anything is cut taxes.  Well, it hasn‘t worked and taxes are, as you pointed out, at a historic 60-year low and they have been growing at less than 40 percent of the rate of incomes since the low point of taxes in the Reagan administration.  So this is just utter, complete nonsense.  

UYGUR:  And by the way, it‘s not like the rich are paying so much more.  No, as a percentage, the rich and corporations are paying a lot less and that tax burden is getting shifted onto the middle class.  For example, the payroll tax as a percentage of the taxes that we pay has gone up significantly.  That‘s what the middle class pays, right?  But corporate taxes have gone down dramatically.  

JOHNSTON:  Absolutely.  And Cenk, your earlier guest, the republican strategist actually made one important point, that does need to be upsize.  The very biggest corporations in America pay way, way, way below the statutory 35 percent tax rate.  The big 12 that were in the report yesterday have had negative tax rates in recent years.  But if you run a real small business, you have assets of a million, five million, ten million, $100 million even, you pay just about the 35 percent tax rate.  So, if the Republicans want to address something, the issue should be either everybody should be paying the 35 percent rate or we should lower that rate by taking away all these favors that allow big corporations to game the system, to take what are really profits in America and convert them into expenses that push them into negative tax territory or almost no tax territory.  

UYGUR:  No, no, that‘s a brilliant point.  

JOHNSTON:  The top 400 individuals.

UYGUR:  Go ahead.  Finish up to top 400 individuals because I want to come back to something you said. 

JOHNSTON:  Among the top 400 individuals who in 2008 made well over $200 million each, a third of them paid an effective tax rate of 15 percent or less.  Some of them apparently paid zero.  Half of them paid less than 15 percent.  And their total overall tax rate was about 18 percent.  My goodness, that‘s what a single wage earner pays when they make about $84,000.  And these are people who are making hundreds of thousands of dollars a day. 

UYGUR:  Right.  No, it‘s unbelievable.  And look, the great point that you made is that the big businesses are getting away and putting all the burden on the small businesses, so when the Republicans say we want to help small business, it‘s nonsense.  They keep putting all the burden on the small business to pay the 35 percent rate and then they let the big guys get away with paying, as you pointed out for some of the top 12 companies, a negative tax rate.  That‘s crazy.  Or they get money back from us.  It‘s insane.  

JOHNSTON:  Right.  

UYGUR:  All right.  David Cay Johnston, thank you so much for bringing us the facts.  We really appreciate it.  And we‘ve got to go right now but thank you again.  We‘ll be right back, everybody.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UYGUR:  The global commission on drug policy has called for a new strategy to reduce drug abuse by changing the current policy of criminalizing drugs.  I love it.  In a 20-page report, the commission suggests that the global war on drugs is simply not working.  It says, quote, “The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.”  And now that commission had world leaders from all across the globe, including former Republicans from our country or Republicans that were formerly in office.  Now devastating consequences that they mention are quite right. 

Since, the Mexican President Felipe Calderon has started his massive war on drugs, in ‘06 just under 35,000 people have been killed but some Mexican news agencies believe the number is actually over 40,000.  Not only is the global war on drugs costing lives, it‘s not reducing drug users according to the commission‘s report.  The United Nations estimates that from ‘98 to 2008, the global population has started using more opiates, cocaine and marijuana.  They report a 35.5 increase in opiate use, a 37 percent increase in cocaine use and an 8.5 percent increase in marijuana use.  Those stats are not good, to say the least.  Does it look like we‘re winning the war on drugs?  Maybe, just maybe the best way to fight back isn‘t by just making everything illegal and putting everyone in jail. 

According to the ACLU, there are 2.3 million people in prison right now in the U.S., costing taxpayers almost $68 billion a year.  Twenty five percent are in prison for drugs.  If we sent them into treatment instead of prison, we could save $17 billion a year.  By the way, treatment is exactly what the commission‘s report recommends to help fix the problem.  The report says, quote, “Replace the criminalization and punishment of people who are drug users but do not hurt other people with the offer of health and treatment services to those who need them.”  Now, that is finally a smart way to handle this.  By the way, when the Netherlands actually made drugs legal, drug use went down, not up.  So, please for the love of God, pay attention to the facts.  And thank you for paying attention to this show.  We‘re done.  “HARDBALL” starts right now. 

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