The Ed Show for Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Read the transcript to the Wednesday show
Guest Host: Al Sharpton
Guests: Alex Wagner, Sally Kohn, Shushannah Walshe, Rep. Keith Ellison, Dr. Rani
Whitfield, Tracy Velasquez, Dr. James Peterson, Brian Balthazar
REV. AL SHARPTON, GUEST HOST: Good evening, Americans. Welcome to THE ED SHOW. I‘m Reverend Al Sharpton in for Ed Schultz.
The president spent over an hour today answering questions from the press on a variety of topics, but he kept coming back to a single message:
Congress is not getting the job done. Not hard to believe when one party has no interest in negotiation but a real interest in making sure the president doesn‘t succeed.
This is THE ED SHOW. And as Ed would say—let‘s get to work!
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At a certain point, they need to do their job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON (voice-over): The president is ripping Republicans for intentionally getting in the way of the recovery. Alex Wagner, Sally Kohn and Shushannah Walshe are here.
Congressman Keith Ellison brings the progressive jobs to THE ED SHOW. We‘ll see what he thinks about the conspiracy theories who attacked him on this show last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congressman Ellison has long been associated with the most extremist groups around.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: In the courts, a major victory for the president‘s health care law today.
In Ohio, major progress for workers rights today.
And in other news, Lindsay Lohan‘s new Twitter scam has them going nuts over at FOX News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS: You get it, (INAUDIBLE). You got a new fan, party girl.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Today, President Obama came as close as he ever has to saying what other Democrats have already said, that Republicans are blocking proposals, they previously supported because they don‘t want to boost the economy because that could help President Obama.
In a news conference today, the president started off with the economy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: In addition to the steps that my administration can take on our own, there are also things that Congress could do right now that will help create good jobs. Right now, Congress can send me a bill that would make it easier for entrepreneurs to patent a new product or idea. Right now, Congress could send me a bill that puts construction workers back on the job rebuilding roads and bridges. Not by having government fund and pick every project, but by providing loans to private companies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The president talked about other areas like trade deals that could benefit the economy, and made it clear that Republicans used to support these ideas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: So there are a number of steps that my administration is taking, but there are also a number of steps that Congress could be taking right now on items that historically have had bipartisan support and that would help put more Americans back to work. Many of these ideas have been tied up in Congress for some time. But as I said, all of them enjoyed bipartisan support. And all of them could help grow the economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Now, do you think Republicans might oppose ideas they previously supported? It‘s because the number one priority of Republicans is not economic growth. The number one priority of Republicans is to defeat President Obama.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said it himself. Quote, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
As for negotiations over the debt ceiling, the president was blunt in accusing Republicans of a lack of leadership.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: At a certain point, they need to do their job. You know, and so, this thing, which is just not on the level where we have meetings and discussions, and we‘re working through process, and when they decide they‘re not happy with the fact that at some point you got to make a choice, they just all step back and say, well, you know, the president needs to get this done.
They need to do their job. Now is the time to go ahead and make the tough choices. That‘s why they‘re called leaders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The president drove the point home by declaring that the debt ceiling crisis is a jobs issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I want everybody to understand that this is a jobs issue. This is not an abstraction. If the United States government, for the first time cannot pay its bills, if it defaults, then the consequences for the U.S. economy will be significant and unpredictable. And that is not a good thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The president even criticized the amount of time that lawmakers have been absent from Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: They‘re in one week, they‘re out one week. And then they‘re saying Obama‘s got to step in. You need to be here. I‘ve been here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Let‘s bring in White House correspondent for “Politics Daily,” Alex Wagner; the founder of MovementVision.org, Sally Kohn; and “Newsweek” magazine contributor, Shushannah Walshe.
Alex, the timing this was it for maximum effect?
ALEX WAGNER, POLITICS DAILY: I think, look, the president said it‘s a yellow light turning red. And the Republicans have accused him of—it‘s a scare tactic. But I think there‘s real concern that, look, there are repercussions if we default on our debt.
And to your point earlier, the Republicans, there is a—David Letterman could have a top 10 list of things Republicans were for before they were against. And the president was taking this to highlight that. I mean, that‘s everything from infrastructure investment, manufacturing jobs. You could go down the list—immigration, immigration reform, cap and trade, energy. A lot we could do to bleed this economy that Republicans at one point supported, but have since done a 180 on.
SHARPTON: That‘s the point, Sally. A lot of Democrats have been saying that. Did the president go far enough and calling the Republicans out for not supporting what they used to support some of these issues?
SALLY KOHN, MOVEMENTVISION.ORG: You know, I think the president can go even further here. And, frankly, the American people are with him. The American people can tell that the Republicans are standing on the side of big business and the superrich and against the working class. And I think the president can draw an even sharper line by saying, look, somebody‘s going to pay here, either Wall Street is going to pay with money or the middle class is going to pay with blood.
He needs to draw a real, sharp line in the sand.
SHARPTON: With the debt ceiling deadline about a month away, what was the president trying to put in place today and the public‘s mind in the press conference?
SHUSHANNAH WALSHE, NEWSWEEK: I think two points. One, he was trying to warn the public that time is ticking and this deadline is real and we could default on the debt, you know, as Alex said, Republicans like Michele Bachmann said the president‘s using scare tactics. But this is very serious. It‘s very hard to wire these down into sound bytes. It‘s a complicated issue.
But—I mean, if America, which is the strongest country in the world, if that changes, it will have serious effects.
SHARPTON: You know, new Democratic super PAC launched an ad campaign.
Let me ask you, Alex, with this ad campaign that they launched today that will go up against the ad blitz that Karl Rove‘s group has put out—
SHARPTON: -- will they be able to come sharper and harder than what the president has not done so far?
WAGNER: Well, I think what Democrats have, I like to call it manna from heaven. They have some real talking points on this. Paul Ryan‘s approval rating is down at 23 percent or 25 percent. There are town halls being held across the country where voters are voicing real anxiety, fear and frustration over this Medicare plan that the GOP has passed.
And the Democrats need to capitalize on that. I think, you know, too many of us sat on the sidelines and we are constantly sort of befuddled as to why Democrats can‘t unite behind a message.
WAGNER: And this group, Priorities USA, I think is finally sort of taking the baton and running with it, and I think to the great satisfaction of a lot of folks, you know, in the left base.
SHARPTON: You know, in line with that, Sally, the president said something that struck me, he said that the Democrats in negotiation had ceded a lot of things that they had, you know, held in, believed in. Yet, the Republicans aren‘t ceding anything, are they?
KOHN: No, and I mean, it‘s funny. Unfortunately, I think one of the negotiating mistakes that the president and the Democrats have made in the last few years is giving too much to a Republican Party that‘s unwilling to give in return. When, in fact, the tide of Republican opinion, and actually the tide of sound economic policy is firmly with the Democrats.
I mean, we have never is had economic growth in our country with such low corporate and income taxes for the superrich. This is—and there‘s wide public support for doing this, but for some reason the Democrats continue to him and haw rather than holding firm.
SHARPTON: Well, Shushannah, you know, there‘s even an online petition that‘s been launched to calling on the president to call the Republicans‘ bluff. They‘re not really going to let the nation go into default. Is it too late to call the Republicans‘ bluff?
WALSHE: Right. Well, this is a game of chicken, right? But I think that what both sides—and I think that‘s what the president was trying to really talk about today that this is serious. You can play politics, you can play the game of chicken all the way up to the deadline—but what happens after that?
And I think that if both sides just continue to not take this seriously and play politics, which I think is what the president was trying to talk about today, there could be very serious consequences.
SHARPTON: You know, Alex, the president also talked about tax cuts on the wealthy. Let‘s listen to part of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: If you are a wealthy CEO or a hedge fund manager in America right now, your taxes are lower than they have ever been. They‘re lower than they had been since the 1950s.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The president believes he can make the case that Republicans are being unreasonable about that.
WAGNER: Absolutely. I mean, look, it‘s so weird to me that the Republicans found themselves in the corner where they‘re defending, you know, tax cuts for millionaires, billionaires and corporate jet owners. I mean, this is not—this is not I mean, especially the party that is now positioning itself to be, you know, the party of the insurgence and the Tea Party, it doesn‘t jive.
And I think you look at and then you look at the long term data about what‘s happened to the American workers whose wages have either stagnated or not grown in the last 30 years, while corporate pay has quadrupled and that‘s a conservative estimate. I mean, there‘s a real case to be made.
SHARPTON: Alex Wagner, Sally Kohn, Shushannah Walshe—thanks for your time tonight.
UNIDENTFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Since the Republicans took control of the House, they‘ve done nothing to create jobs. Progressives have had enough and they‘re taking action.
Congressman Keith Ellison has introduced a bill that would create 3 million new jobs, he joins me next.
And later, I‘ll preview our upcoming free clinic in New Orleans with one of the doctors behind it. You‘re watching THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.
SHARPTON: Last night, I spoke to the Tea Party candidate who‘s challenging Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison in 2012. She said the congressman is a, quote, radical Islamist who favors law over Sharia law over the U.S. Constitution. While she doubles down on her bigotry, Ellison is hard at work in Congress fighting to create jobs. He‘s here to talk about all of it, next.
SHARPTON: While Republicans in Congress are playing politics with the debt ceiling, progressives are focusing on jobs. The Congressional Progressive Caucus has launched a jobs tour to hear what every day Americans have to say. Members of Congress have already held events in Minneapolis, Detroit, and Milwaukee. The tour continues throughout the summer. Various members of Congress will host events from coast to coast.
Participating in this tour has inspired Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison to introduce the Put America to Work Act. Ellison says the legislation will create more than 3 million jobs in both the public and private sectors by providing $350 billion in grants to state and local governments.
To talk about his plan to put Americans back to work, let me bring in Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota. He is the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
How are you doing, Congressman?
REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: Doing well, Reverend. Good to see you. Good job.
SHARPTON: Good to see you.
During the last election, the midterm elections, Republicans promised to focus on jobs since they took control of the House. They‘ve done nothing about it. Are you getting any support from them across the aisle on your legislation?
ELLISON: Well, I‘m certainly going to encourage them to participate in helping put Americans back to work. I mean, the problem with the economy, the reason why you don‘t see a lot of companies hiring people, is because there‘s slack consumer demand. People can‘t buy stuff. So, if people can‘t buy stuff, then you‘re not going to see businesses add people on to meet those consumers‘ needs.
So, the public sector needs to get involved and get some people back to work. Three million more Americans back to work, doing everything from fixing up trails, fixing up roads, fixing up public buildings like schools which are crumbling all across America. You know, we also need to get our infrastructure in order, but then putting people in classrooms to help out teachers who are already stressed with so many kids in a classroom.
And the fact is—
SHARPTON: Congressman Ellison, as you‘re developing this plan and coming up with legislation, have you gotten just any one Republican to say, “I‘ll support that bill”?
ELLISON: No. But you know what? I‘m going to keep on asking them. I‘m not just going to take no for an answer. I‘m going to give them a chance to do the right thing.
SHARPTON: All right. Let me ask you another question.
ELLISON: And if they don‘t want to do it, they‘re going to be cleared.
SHARPTON: Is there a Republican bill to create jobs in the Congress? Have you heard of any Republican, one Republican that has a job creation bill that they‘re proposing before the Congress?
ELLISON: No, they don‘t have any jobs bills. Full stop.
SHARPTON: So, the Progressive Caucus jobs tour continues through August? You‘ve attended two events in Minneapolis and Detroit. What are you learning and what do you hope to accomplish by the tour?
ELLISON: We‘re learning that Americans believe that Congress needs to be creating some jobs.
When we were in Minneapolis, one lady came up and said, who worked for Walmart, that she has three cards. One card she has is her Walmart ID. Another one is her personal ID. And the last one is her welfare card, because she can‘t afford to take care of her family on wages they pay her. She‘s a manager and makes $9.80 an hour.
Then another young man told us, that because of a good union job, he‘s mother was able to put him through school, through a divorce.
And so, we heard—and then in Detroit, we hear people are dealing with foreclosure, how public services are not being provided for across the city of Detroit, because the city just doesn‘t have the revenue to do all the things that the residents need the city to do.
SHARPTON: Yes. But, Congressman, to be honest, I‘m sure you heard in Minneapolis and Detroit, people are saying, we need you to give more tax cuts to the rich, so it could trickle down? I‘m sure that happened, right?
ELLISON: You know what, Reverend? We didn‘t hear that. You know,
strangely, we did not hear any trickle down philosophy. What we heard is -
you put America back to work and Americans will be able to pay the taxes they need to pay for government services, to cut the deficit, do anything that is need to be done.
What we got to do is put Americans back to work.
You know, people have been out of work for the longest period of time since the World War II and even the Great Depression. People have been out of work, their skills are deteriorating, they need jobs now, and even the unemployed are being the victims of discrimination.
SHARPTON: That‘s right.
ELLISON: Some employers are saying, if you‘re unemployed we don‘t want to hire you any more. This is wrong.
SHARPTON: Before I let you go, I have to ask you this, Congressman. Last night on this program, I interviewed Lynne Torgerson, who‘s running against you in 2012. Her entire platform is based on anti-Muslim fearmongering.
And she says you support Sharia law over the U.S. Constitution. I asked her three times if she had any evidence to support that charge. She finally came up with this answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LYNNE TORGERSON: He was asked approximately a month ago in a public forum, what he believes, whether he believes—does he believe that the U.S. Constitution should be supreme in the United States or Sharia law? What Mr. Ellison did is actually refuse to answer the question.
SHARPTON: I just played you the tape where he said that to you, so we should not believe what we just saw and heard him say?
TORGERSON: The question posed to Mr. Ellison was: what should be supreme, the U.S. Constitution or Sharia law? He did—he will not say --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: H do you respond to an opponent who continues to throw such absurd charges at you?
ELLISON: Well, obviously, the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land. It‘s also the bedrock of American law.
But it‘s really all about division, Al, because tomorrow night when people assemble in the Bronx, New York, in Hostos Community College, to talk about jobs, our fourth site on the jobs tour, they don‘t care about religion, they don‘t care if you‘re Muslim, Christian, Jew, black, white, they want jobs.
And so, Lynne doesn‘t want to talk about jobs because that‘s not on her agenda. That‘s not on the Republican agenda. But jobs is on our agenda and we‘re going to keep the focus on jobs. Good jobs now. New York City, the Bronx, Hostos Community College tomorrow, 5:30, be there.
SHARPTON: All right. Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, thanks for joining us.
ELLISON: Absolutely. Thank you.
SHARPTON: You‘re looking at thousands of people marching in Ohio today, as they delivered a big surprise to Republican Governor John Kasich.
She‘s done with house arrest, and now actress Lindsay Lohan is warning her Twitter followers about the Federal Reserve. I‘ll try to make sense of it, coming up.
SHARPTON: The union busting bill in Ohio is on hold, and now, it‘s up to the voters to decide whether it stays or goes. It was 90 days ago when the Republican Governor John Kasich signed Senate bill 5 into law. The bill cuts collective bargaining rights for public workers, including teachers, police officers and firefighters.
Protesters made their voices heard outside the governor‘s mansion when the bill was signed. And a coalition called We Are Ohio promised to get enough signatures on the petition so the law would go on the ballot referendum.
Today, more than 6,000 people delivered signatures to the Ohio secretary of state. They marched through Columbus, along with semi-trucks carrying the signed petitions. About 230,000 signatures were needed—well, they got a little more than that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELISA FAZEKAS, WE ARE OHIO: Today, we stand together to send a clear message to those extreme politicians who support Senate bill 5 and we say:
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: With nearly 3.1 million signatures, the previous record for number of signatures on a statewide petition was shattered. The law cannot be in effect until it goes on the ballot in November.
Governor Kasich responded to the signatures, saying many of the people opposing Senate bill 5 have been misled.
Today is the same day that Governor Scott Walker‘s union-busting bill in Wisconsin went into effect. Opponents of that legislation are leading recall elections to get the law overturned.
A major victory for the president‘s health care law.
Plus, more on our upcoming free health clinic in New Orleans.
And justice is going to the highest bidder. Private prisons are giving millions of dollars to politicians in exchange for laws that will keep more people in prison.
SHARPTON: Tonight, a major victory for the president‘s health care law. A federal appeals court in Ohio upheld the individual mandate, the requirement that most Americans either buy health insurance or pay a penalty. That makes this the fourth federal court to find the law constitutional.
That‘s good news, in my book.
In the meantime, there are many across this country who need your help to get health care and the health care that they need. A reminder that MSNBC and THE ED SHOW are teaming up with the National Association of Free Clinics to hold a health clinic on August 29th at the Ernest N. Morial (ph) Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Your generosity has helped the organization hold seven free clinics;
13,000 patients got the care they need.
Joining me now is Dr. Rani Whitfield. He‘s the medical director of the National Association of Free Clinics in New Orleans. Welcome. Dr. Whitfield, welcome.
DR. RANI WHITFIELD, NATL. ASSN. OF FREE CLINICS: Thank you, Mr.
Sharpton. Glad to be here today.
SHARPTON: Glad to have you. What are some of the problems that doctors and other health care providers in New Orleans are facing?
WHITFIELD: Well, as you know, our health care system is currently in shambles. It‘s a broken health care system. So the Affordable Health Care Act is going to help millions once it goes into place. There are some things that have been activated already, extending health care to individuals under the age of 26 that can stay on their parents health care insurance.
But until 2014, many things will not kick in. So the National Association of Free Clinics is providing that safety net for individuals who cannot access health care, who don‘t have doctors. I participated in three clinics. This will be my fourth clinic. Three of those have been in New Orleans. This will be the third in New Orleans.
I have seen patients, Mr. Sharpton, that have not seen doctors in over five years. Could not get their blood pressure medications.
SHARPTON: In over five years?
SHARPTON: This upcoming clinic will be held on the 29th of August, which is the sixth anniversary of Katrina.
SHARPTON: I was down right after Katrina. I‘ve never seen anything like that in the United States. Six years later, has any progress been made in terms of health care in the community?
WHITFIELD: It‘s slow progress. We talk more about instead of recovery, reshaping of the health care system in New Orleans. There are now what we call patient centered medical homes or small neighborhood community clinics, such as the Common Ground Clinic on the West Bank, that are providing care—much needed care to these individuals.
But we still have a very long way to go. Our state, Louisiana, has very poor health statistics. We have high rates of HIV/AIDS. New Orleans and Baton Rouge have been ranked in the top ten—actually, the top five the last five to ten years.
Infant mortality rate is very high. High rates of obesity, heart disease, hypertension. We could go on and on.
So we still have a very, very long way to go. Even with the Affordable Health Care Act, we still won‘t have a lot of those things in place to extend to all of our citizens until 2014. So, again, the free clinics is providing that safety net.
And we‘re actually saving lives. We‘ve diagnosed cancers. We‘re treating people with high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, and getting them to other facilities outside of the free clinics.
Because this is just a one day clinic in New Orleans on the 29th. But we will get them to other clinics in the surrounding areas, so they can continue health care.
SHARPTON: You‘re there on the ground. What as a doctor frustrates you the most?
WHITFIELD: Today, I had a patient who had limited resources financially, had not been able to eat for several days because she had to pay for her medications. So when you see certain individuals trying to eliminate Medicare or Medicaid, it‘s quite frustrating as a doctor when you can‘t help someone.
I went into medicine to help, not to make money. If a young patient -
a young guy goes into medicine to make money today, he‘s doing the wrong job. So we‘re trying to help individuals. When you‘re limited as a physician, and you know what you can do, but you don‘t have the resources to treat that patient, it‘s very, very frustrating.
So we need medical, non-medical volunteers, Mr. Sharpton. We need laymen to come out to New Orleans on the 29th to volunteer their time, to help these people, until we can get some things in place with the Affordable Health Care Act.
SHARPTON: This is the third clinic MSNBC has done with you in New Orleans. Give us an idea. Give us a human face. What kinds of patients do you treat? What are some of the medical issues that come up in these clinics?
WHITFIELD: Again, people that have not seen doctors for five, sometimes ten years, hypertension that‘s uncontrolled, blood sugar that‘s uncontrolled. We‘ve had newly onset diabetes. But then there‘s some positive things too.
I‘ve done sports physicals on kids, just routine physical exams, again, patients that have not seen doctors in years. This will be the largest doctor‘s office in the world, as I say it, for one day. That‘s what the National Association of Free Clinics does on a regular basis.
When they do these clinics—they‘ve done 11 clinics all together. Eight of those have been sponsored by MSNBC. These are the largest clinics in the world, with the largest waiting rooms, the largest central supply area.
So it‘s a beautiful thing to see the convention center transformed into a doctor‘s office for a day, and for us to be able to help people and actually save lives.
So it‘s a blessing for me. I hope, Mr. Sharpton, that you can come down. You‘ve been in the Baton Rouge area doing radio shows, I missed you by one day at my alma mater, Southern, to speak. But we really hope you come down and just touch folks and say hello and become a part of this thing, because it‘s truly—had some great momentum.
We need financial support, though. This is largely provided by donations. So we need folks to donate to FreeClinics. com.
As you say, this is going to be the biggest doctor‘s office for one day—the biggest doctor‘s office in the world. What kind of turnout are you expecting at the New Orleans clinic?
WHITFIELD: Our first clinic was 1,200. Our second clinic was 1,500. That one was a two-day clinic. It‘s a tiring thing. The volunteers, I have to thank the volunteers now, because I know they‘ll be coming out.
It‘s a wonderful thing. We expect a great turnout with patients, but we‘re going to need more doctors and more support from non-medical volunteers. So we‘re encouraging people. We‘re starting early. We‘re going to get the word out.
I‘m on Facebook, National Association of Free Clinics. Just Google them. FreeClinics.com. We need you guys to come out and help and support. Mr. Sharpton, please bring your presence there. People love to hear your voice, love to hear you talk. I‘m sure if you‘re there, they‘re going to come out as well.
SHARPTON: Thank you, Dr. Rani Whitfield, very much.
Now, to make a donation or to learn more about volunteer opportunities for the free clinic in New Orleans, visit their website at Free Clinics.us. You can also text the word “HEALTH” to 50555 to make a 10 dollar donation by phone.
Arizona‘s harsh immigration law will leave more immigrants going to jail. Maybe that‘s why five out of six authors of the law took money from private prison companies. More on that next.
SHARPTON: The prison business is booming in America. And privately owned prisons need to make sure their cells are full. That‘s why they‘re spending millions of dollars to influence public policy.
Since the year 2000, the number of people in prison has gone up less than 16 percent overall. But the number of people in private federal facilities have increased by 120 percent. Last year alone, the nation‘s two largest private prison companies made nearly three billion dollars in revenue.
Those findings are in a new report by the Justice Policy Institute. The report also identified the strategies these prison companies use to encourage harsher policies and longer sentencing.
You see, if fewer people are being locked up, these companies aren‘t making much money. Three top prison companies have spent nearly seven million dollars on political contributions. And all you have to do is look to Arizona to see the prison lobby‘s influence in action.
The state passed the nation‘s harshest immigration law, which is designed to put more people behind bars. Thirty out of 36 lawmakers who co-sponsored the law received campaign contributions from private prisons and their lobbyists.
Joining me now is Tracy Velasquez, the executive director of the Justice Policy Institute, and joining me from Aspen, Colorado, Dr. James Peterson, the director of Africana Studies at Lehigh University.
Tracy, thank you for your report.
TRACY VELASQUEZ, JUSTICE POLICY INSTITUTE: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Tell us what this really cost us in terms of policy, this kind of influence that is being demonstrated by these private prisons?
VELASQUEZ: Well, Reverend Sharpton, as you know, the United States has become an incarceration nation. We have over two million people behind bars.
What we‘ve seen is that the influence of these private prison industries is contributing to that. When they win, we lose, in terms of more people behind bars for things like drug offenses, and other reasons that—they have helped support the policies like mandatory minimum sentences and other policies that have created longer sentences and more people incarcerated.
SHARPTON: So it‘s really not fighting crime. It‘s like a motel.
It‘s full occupancy is better business?
VELASQUEZ: Right, that‘s exactly right. We‘ve seen more incarceration doesn‘t lead to more public safety. It leads to more negative consequences, especially for the communities most affected, which includes communities of color.
SHARPTON: Dr. Peterson, what has this done to—this kind of influence, what has it done to the gains made with criminal justice reform?
DR. JAMES PETERSON, LEHIGH UNIVERSITY: Well, it‘s actually setting us back, right, because you essentially you these powerful corporations that have a very sophisticated, three-prong approach for influencing policy, for contributing money to specific campaigns, both Republican and Democrat, and for essentially, you know, tying incentives to incarcerating Americans.
Now I also applaud the report. It‘s a very, very important report. This is one of the most critical issues facing our nation in the 21st century. The bottom line is, this is also affecting black and brown folk and poor folk disproportionately.
As you mentioned with the immigration policies, once we sort of incentive private corporations to incarcerate folk, and their bottom line is based upon beds and putting bodies in those beds, then we essentially have removed justice from the criminal justice system.
SHARPTON: What impact—Dr. Peterson, what impact does—do these harsher sentences, longer sentences and policies—what impact does this have on communities?
PETERSON: It‘s a tremendous impact. As you know, Reverend Al, the recidivism rate across public and private incarceration facilities is somewhere around the area of two thirds, which essentially means that we put people in prison, we take them out of their communities—a lot of these folks are substance abusers, right.
Remember, this issue has tentacles in a lot of other social issues, including the failed war on drugs. But we put folks into prison, and sometimes—sometimes we‘re making them worse criminals. So they come back out. We don‘t prepare them. We don‘t train them for jobs.
And essentially, they become hardened criminals. Instead of rehabilitating folk, we‘re actually training criminals in some cases.
SHARPTON: So Tracy, we‘re not being soft on criminals. We‘re not saying, just let people get away with crime? You‘re really talking about reforming and making the system work to make the community safer?
VELASQUEZ: Right. When you think about public safety strategies, locking people up should be not even on the list, really. It doesn‘t improve public safety. More treatment is what we need, more education services.
And we need to stop the revolving door of people in the private prison industry going to government and going back. We‘ve seen it with the U.S. Marshall Service. We‘ve seen it in Ohio, where the head of the corrections department used to work for one of the private prisons.
And that‘s—when you have that sort of circle --
PETERSON: I wish we had the kind of lobby that CCA and Geo Corporation have for education. They‘re getting somewhere on the order of three to one, right? We spend three times as much on incarcerating folk than we do on educating young people.
So the Justice Policy Institute, again, heroic effort here. We have got to reorganize our priorities if we really want to sort of address issues having to do with crime and safety in our communities.
SHARPTON: Tracy, I think that‘s why this report is so important. Because while they‘re cutting education budgets, private prison guys are making away with a lot of money.
VELASQUEZ: Right. And they pitch it that it‘s less expensive; they do things better. And the data does not show that. And really, we shouldn‘t be giving policy makers an excuse not to fix the problems. You can see in California, they really should be addressing why so many people are ending up incarcerated, instead of possibly looking to private prisons, not to really reduce the number of people.
SHARPTON: Are any politicians out there talking about this? I mean, are any politicians, people in office, really out here championing this cause?
VELASQUEZ: If they are, they haven‘t stepped up, that we know of. We sure hope that they will.
SHARPTON: Dr. Peterson, do you know of any?
PETERSON: No, it‘s a very difficult issue for politicians. Because remember, in the ‘90s, the law and order sort of took control over the political discourse. So unfortunately, a lot of these politicians are appearing to be weak on crime.
They know these numbers. They knew about the information in this report before it came out. Unfortunately, the political discourse is dominated by a law and order type of ideology.
SHARPTON: Let‘s emphasize, again, Tracy, we‘re not trying to give criminals a get out of jail free card. We‘re saying people ought not to get fat off of just locking people up and not really trying to deal with reforming.
SHARPTON: And many of them are petty crimes that they‘re doing an inordinate amount of time for.
VELASQUEZ: Right. Actually, a lot of states have been reducing their prison populations. So to have this group that‘s trying to push against these reforms, some of them by conservatives, some of them by broad coalitions, that‘s really troubling to us, that they‘re working against the sort of reforms that we‘re beginning to see some movement around in this country.
SHARPTON: Tracy Velasquez and Dr. James Peterson, thank you for joining us.
VELASQUEZ: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Lindsay Lohan says the Federal Reserve is up to no good. Brian Balthazar joins me to discuss the dire warning from the star of “Kirby Fully Loaded” next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lindsay, how are you?
LINDSAY LOHAN, ACTRESS: I‘m good. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How‘s it feel to be free again?
LOHAN: It feels good. I‘m excited to start community service and focus on my work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: She spent the last 35 days under house arrest. But tonight Lindsay Lohan is a free woman. And it looks like she‘s got a head start on that community service.
Earlier this week, Miss Lohan warned her Twitter followers that the policies of the Federal Reserve will ruin America. Quote, “have you guys seen food and gas prices lately? U.S. dollars will soon be worthless if the Feds keep printing money.”
If it wasn‘t for her Twitter handle, I would have sworn the Tweet came from Glenn Beck himself. Lohan‘s Tweet attracted a few admirers, namely Neil Cavuto and Judge Andrew Napolitano of Fox News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: You‘ve got a new fan, party girl.
Relax, Lindsay, this judge likes you or at least likes what you‘re saying.
ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX BUSINESS ANCHOR: Well, she makes a very good point. She is representative of a vast array of voters who understand what the Fed does.
CAVUTO: Lindsay Lohan gets it and they don‘t.
NAPOLITANO: Yes, yes.
CAVUTO: You‘re just a little late to the party.
NAPOLITANO: I don‘t know what animates Lindsay Lohan, but the end result of her thinking is consistent with yours and mine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: What they failed to mention was that Lohan was paid to Tweet about the Fed. If you click on that link that Lohan provided in her Tweet, it will take you to the website of the National Inflation Association. The group claims it is helping as many Americans as possible become aware of the disaster we are rapidly approaching.
But the goal of the two guys behind the organization is making money. Shocking, I know. As the “Wall Street Journal” reports, the group aims to, quote, “pump up tiny, unknown stocks under the guys of helping members prepare for hyperinflation.”
After fans questioned Lohan‘s intentions, Lindsay Tweeted this follow up, “I actually do care about gas and food prices. So whether it‘s an ad or not, it‘s important for people to be aware of it.”
Joining me now is the editor of PopGoesTheWeek.com, Brian Balthazar.
BRIAN BALTHAZAR, EDITOR, “POP GOES THE WEEK”: Thank you.
SHARPTON: I‘m very worried about Lindsay‘s reputation will be affiliated with this group. What‘s happening here?
BALTHAZAR: Well, you know, she may not be without talent. But it does seem that she‘s without judgment. I think the problem is, is that she didn‘t really know what she was getting herself into. I think the majority of her fans don‘t investigate the way the “Wall Street Journal” did and many of the financial experts did, about what she was actually touting, what she was supporting.
To her, she‘s becoming somewhat of a puppet for any sponsor that comes along that‘s willing to give her money.
SHARPTON: So do you think she‘s just unaware of what they were representing and what they had her saying?
BALTHAZAR: I think she probably visited the site. But I find it unlikely that she really knew the background of these people and did much homework. She reportedly gets between 3,000 dollars and 10,000 dollars per Tweet. In the past year, she has reportedly been Tweeting about fashion sites for money, for celebrity sites, gift card sites.
She did a video for a shopping online site for 35,000 dollars for 15 seconds of work. Clearly, this is a woman who isn‘t making movies right now, because she‘s been under house arrest, and she needs money. I don‘t think she‘s exercising the right level of judgment to be making these kind of statements.
SHARPTON: How common are these celebrities being paid for Tweets?
BALTHAZAR: They are incredibly common. In fact, celebrity Tweets are so popular—they have so many followers that the LAPD are actually asking people like Lady Gaga and Ashton Kutcher to Tweet about a road closure in L.A. next month, because these people have—she has 2.1 million followers, Lindsay Lohan.
The thing is they look at what she says and mostly assume that it‘s just her opinion and it‘s not always clear whether or not she‘s being paid. And that actually is a violation of FTC guidelines.
SHARPTON: Are these Tweets by other celebrities usually as political as this?
SHARPTON: They don‘t usually get too political. It‘s usually Kim Kardashian will Tweet about some place she likes to shop or Tweet about a dress she loves.
Often it can be clear. There are companies that are designed to match up Twitter users with sponsors. And they can be very legitimate. The problem is when there‘s this gray area of whether it‘s actually a paid endorsement or it‘s actually their opinion.
Earlier tonight, Lindsay talked about a muffin company, a gift basket for muffins. It didn‘t say it‘s an advertisement, but why is she doing that? If she gets other people to pay for her Tweets, I‘m doubting that she volunteers Tweets in support of—
SHARPTON: So you don‘t know her political leaning? I mean, do you think she leans right? If not, who is going to break this to—
BALTHAZAR: Generally, she‘s pretty liberal, actually. So for her to make commentary about the economy, I think it raised eyebrows from her Twitter followers. They actually called her out on it. And that‘s why she got defensive on her Twitter account.
SHARPTON: Brian Balthazar of PopGoesTheWeek.com, thank you for your time. Happy birthday, by the way.
That‘s THE ED SHOW. I‘m Reverend Al Sharpton, in for Ed Schultz. You can find me on radio every day from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Eastern time. To check listings, go to NationalActionNetwork.net.
“THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell” starts right now.
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