Guest Host: Al Sharpton
Guests: Ezra Klein, Michael Eric Dyson, Bernie Sanders, Keith Ellison, Laura Flanders
REV. AL SHARPTON, GUEST HOST: Good evening, Americans. Welcome to THE ED SHOW. I‘m Reverend Al Sharpton, in for Ed Schultz.
The House passed the bill that will raise the debt ceiling and cut trillions in spending. We actually got it back for now. This is THE ED SHOW, and as Ed would say—let‘s get to work!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congressman Cleaver said this was a Satan sandwich.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: It probably is with some Satan fries on the side.
SHARPTON (voice-over): Democrats are forced to come out in favor of that Satan sandwich to save the American economy. But you still can‘t make some Republicans happy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we‘re doing here in Washington is about to destroy the country.
SHARPTON: Tonight, complete coverage from Capitol Hill including Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison and I take on one of the Tea Partiers effectively holding the country hostage, Kansas Congressman Tim Huelskamp. The only thing standing in the way of the most massive debt reduction package in American history is the United States Senate.
Shortly after 7:00 p.m. Eastern this evening, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to pass $2.1 trillion in cuts over the next decade, 174 Republicans and 95 Democrats voted in favor of the package, 95 Democrats and 66 Republicans voted against the package.
The Senate is going to vote the measure on—on the measure tomorrow. If it passes, President Obama will sign it on the very day the debt ceiling was set to expire.
After weeks of heated debate and political theater, a magic moment happened on the floor of the people‘s House during the vote. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords returned to Washington to vote for the bill. It was the first vote Gifford cast since she was shot in the head during a meeting with her constituents on January 8th.
When Giffords came for the floor she was greeted by ten minutes standing ovation by members of both parties. Gifford‘s press office released her statement.
Quote, “I have closely followed the debate over our debt ceiling and have been deeply disappointed at what‘s going on in Washington. After weeks of failed debate in Washington, I was pleased to see a solution to this crisis emerge. I strongly believe that crossing the aisle for the good of the American people is more important than party politics. I had to be here for this vote. I could not take the chance that my absence could crash the economy.”
Now, this was a beautiful moment during one of the ugliest debates in the history of this country. The Republican Party walked the United States up to the brink of economic disaster, and many liberals feel like they‘ve been fooled again including my first guest tonight.
Joining us now, Bernie Sanders, independent senator from Vermont.
Senator Sanders, let me ask you, Bernie, if you are the deciding vote in the Senate tomorrow, if it is all up to your one vote, will you vote for this bill?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Well, first of all, Al, I‘m not the deciding vote. It will win with a whole lot of votes. I‘m going to vote no.
I think this proposal is extraordinarily unfair. It‘s going to make devastating cuts on programs that working families, low-income people desperately need. At the same time, it‘s not going to ask the wealthiest people in this country or largest corporations to contribute one nickel to deficit reduction.
It is not only grotesquely immoral. It is very bad economic policy. It‘s going to cost hundreds of thousands of jobs. Now, Senate minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Boehner will pick six Republicans on this super committee.
This is what McConnell told FOX News earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-K), MINORITY LEADER: The chances of any tax increase passing with this—with the appointees that we‘ll put on there are pretty low.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Now, do you think this super committee will ever raise taxes?
SANDERS: No, of course not. The Republicans have been very clear that their job is to protect large corporations who make billions of dollars in profits and in some cases don‘t pay one penny in taxes. Millionaires doing phenomenally well experience the lowest effective tax rate in modern history.
Their job is to protect those guys, and they‘re going to do it.
Now, the real question, Al, is whether the Democrats are going to appoint people to that committee who protect Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the needs of working families.
One of the issues that has not been discussed is that this super committee is going to have everything on the table including Social Security, including Medicare, including Medicaid. I worry very much that with all kinds of Republicans saying cut Social Security and Medicare, with the president talking about Social Security raising the eligibility age for Medicare, I worry what will happen.
SHARPTON: Well, the guy named Gene Sperling, the National Economic Council director, said this bill has everything you want this morning on MSNBC. Take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GENE SPERLING, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: All of the things that were in the House Republican budget that Democrats wanted this president to stand tough on, not allowing deep Medicaid cuts that hurt children with disabilities or seniors in nursing homes, not a penny. The president didn‘t give one inch. In terms much of voucherizing Medicare, the president didn‘t give an inch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: I mean, what‘s your response? They‘re saying Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid is not on the table.
SANDERS: That‘s absolutely wrong. Look, this is a complicated bill with two steps. The first step will cut $900 billion in discretionary programs. That means Head Start, that means education, that means Pell grants, that means environmental protection. That means affordable housing. That‘s the first $900 billion.
Then you go to the super committee that has to deal with $1.5 trillion. Let me be very clear. Everything is on the table. I‘m not saying that they will necessarily cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. They may not.
They may go to the sequestration provision in which, by the way. Social Security is exempt and Medicare benefits are protected. That‘s true.
SHARPTON: So, they‘re not on the fable?
SANDERS: Al, they are on the table for the committee. If the committee does not reach a solution, which could call for cuts in Social Security and Medicaid, then through the sequestration process they will be protected.
Once again, Al, let me be very clear. The super-committee deals with everything. They have the power to cut Social Security and Medicare if the Democrats cave.
SHARPTON: All right. Thank you, Senator Sanders.
Let‘s turn to Congressman Keith Ellison, co-chair of the progressive caucus.
Why did you vote no, Congressman Ellison?
REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: Because it‘s retractionary in a time where we have 10 percent unemployment. What we need is a fiscal policy that‘s going to help Americans get back to work, not to put more of them out of work.
What this is doing is they cut programs and they cut people, they cut employees. And therefore, we‘re going to see the ranks of the unemployed swell, and this idea that somehow working for a government agency is not a real job is ridiculous.
The fact is that these people who are going to be cut out of this initial $900 billion, I mean, that‘s employees. Those are government workers, and, of course, this is going to be phased in. It won‘t be all immediate, but it‘s a retractionary fiscal policy in a time where we need fiscal stimulus.
SHARPTON: Now, a lot of this, as you alluded to, is backloaded and will come in after the Bush tax cuts expire. Won‘t some of those funds come in and deal with some of the needs here?
ELLISON: You know, because of this super committee, which can deal with everything, nothing is real certain. I guarantee you this. You know, these extreme Republicans who force this horrible bargain on the president, they‘re not going to go away. They‘re going to try to extend the Bush tax cuts again. I mean, there‘s no foregone conclusion. That‘s another fight we have to have.
So that‘s why I‘m telling every progressive and every political centrist out there, you better get your political shoes on and get ready to fight because these guys are not playing with us. They mean to dismantle everything since the Roosevelt administration, and any progressive or any person who‘s liberal or even in the center who thinks they can rely on important government programs that make America great, I don‘t think that‘s a safe bet. I think we need to get busy and active and engaged, and we need to get rid of these people who forced this horrible bargain on our president.
SHARPTON: I think we should have been busy. That‘s another question.
ELLISON: We better get busy now. You‘re right.
SHARPTON: Let me ask you this: Vice President Biden met with House Democrats today. Take a look what he said after the meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They expressed their frustration, which I‘ll be frustrated if I was sitting there as well. We keep on taking it down to the wire like this. And so, what they want to know is they ask questions specifically about the proposed legislation. Excuse me. I‘m sorry. The proposed legislation. I thought it was a good meeting. I feel confident that this will pass.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Did Vice President Biden‘s speech turn some no votes to yes votes?
ELLISON: I think what the most important thing that Vice President Biden is he reassured us that the White House is definitely on our side. They don‘t want these deep cuts any more than we do. They felt like they were backed into a corner and did the best they could with what they had.
That‘s pretty much, I think, what he did. I don‘t think he took --
SHARPTON: On that line, “Politico” reports that the vice president said that the Tea Party Republicans had, quote, “acted like terrorists.”
Now, the White House is denying that report. Did you hear him say that, Congressman Ellison?
ELLISON: I did not hear that from the vice president, no.
SHARPTON: All right. Do you think Republican members of the Tea Party have acted like terrorists?
ELLISON: I think Republican members of the Tea Party acted like hostage takers. I mean the T word is loaded politically, so I don‘t want to use it. But I will say that they—I felt like they sent a ransom note which said give us all the cuts you want or you‘ll never see your economy in --
SHARPTON: All right. For the record, he didn‘t use the t word, but he used the H word. Thank you, Congressman.
Now, let‘s turn to one of Washington‘s best policy crunchers, “Washington Post” columnist and MSNBC legal analyst Ezra Klein.
Ezra, what can you tell me about this deal?
EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: The deal is big. So, a lot of your viewers have heard this before, but there are, it‘s a two-stage deal. The first stage is about $900 billion in cuts. Half come from security and half don‘t. The second stage is—
SHARPTON: When you say, security you mean the Pentagon?
KLEIN: Not just the pentagon. So the theory is a bulk will come from the Pentagon, but security includes state, veteran benefits and foreign aid and a couple other things.
So, it is entirely possible that state could get big cuts and the Pentagon could be what spared. In the second round when you have them backed by the trigger.
And the super-committee, we don‘t know what it will do. If the trigger goes off it will cut $1.2 trillion out of the budget in 10 years. And out of $2 it cuts, $1 would come not from security but specifically from the Pentagon.
SHARPTON: So, it would be a huge cut in the Pentagon if, in fact, this super committee does not come with some resolve in terms of where their cuts are going to come from?
KLEIN: Absolutely. If you listen to the White House and the Democrats, they‘re arguing this is what will force Republicans to the table.
That they cannot abide by cuts in defense spending as significant as what the trigger will do.
SHARPTON: Now, do you think this deal will hurt the economy?
KLEIN: I think that what‘s going to hurt the economy in the short term is not so much what‘s in this deal but what it isn‘t. You have no unemployment insurance extension in this deal and no payroll tax cut in this deal. So, if you don‘t extend either of those, you take about $150 billion, $170 billion in economic support that you have here in 2011 out of the economy in 2012.
Add in the 2 billion in cuts that this bill has in 2012. Now, you‘re near $200 billion or so. That‘s a lot of money to take out of an economy as weak as ours. We really should do more to support the economy given how badly the recovery is going, not taking support away.
SHARPTON: Now, we should be talking about jobs, but the reality is we‘re hearing all kinds of analysis on all sides.
Could this deal create a double-dip recession?
KLEIN: I think it is unlikely this deal will do it on its own, although again I‘m pretty worried about taking it out of the payroll tax cut. But what we need to worry about isn‘t just double dip, we very well have it for one. We need to worry about getting the recovery back, and this deal does as far as I can tell nothing for the recovery. And if anything, it does a little bit to hurt it.
The only exception is this deal does not allow the debt ceiling to cave in. But honestly, if we‘re up clapping Washington on the back for not sparking a completely unnecessary global financial crisis, then our expectations are almost criminally low.
SHARPTON: MSNBC policy analysts Ezra Klein, thank you for your time tonight.
KLEIN: Thank you. The Tea Party seems to be calling the shots on the debt talks. Well, now, I‘ll talk with a Tea Party freshman who still isn‘t satisfied.
And later, our panel will discuss the future debt debates, what they might look like and what does the bill passed by Congress do for jobs?
That‘s what we want to know. Stay tuned. You‘re watching THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.
SHARPTON: As devastating as some cuts will be, folks in the Tea Party want more? I‘ll talk with the Tea Party congressman his vote earlier. You‘re watching THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT PELLEY, CBS: You were unable to get your own caucus behind your bill a few days ago. Do you intend to remain speaker of the House? I do.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: And when you look at this final agreement that we came to with the White House, you know, I got 98 percent of what I wanted. I‘m pretty happy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.
That was Speaker of the House John Boehner talking with Pelley Scott of CBS news. Now Boehner may say he got what he wanted, but many of his fellow Republicans don‘t think this deal goes far enough. But the Tea Party did succeed in influencing the debate. They put the focus on spending cuts and got revenues off the table. They convinced the president and key Democrats to agree to a deal that has angered some progressives.
Joining me now is Tea Party freshman Congressman Tim Huelskamp of Kansas.
He serves on the House Budget Committee.
REP. TIM HUELSKAMP (D), KANSAS: Good evening.
SHARPTON: Congressman, you voted no on the deal today. Why?
HUELSKAMP: Not enough. I know talk about --
SHARPTON: Not enough cuts?
HUELSKAMP: Well, not enough of a lot of things, Al. Not just enough cuts.
I mean, the cuts next year that we‘re talking are a little over 1 percent of the deficit. If I go home and tell constituents we cut 1 percent this year, they‘ll say, well, you never will balance the budget. I‘ll say, exactly.
This won‘t get us in balance. With a $1.65 trillion deficit, just a few million in cuts, that‘s not nearly enough for what we need to do.
SHARPTON: Yes, but don‘t people in your district need jobs? I mean, almost a quarter of your district makes under $25,000 a year. You think you coming home arguing about the deficit in Washington and not dealing with the needs of your constituents is going to satisfy them?
HUELSKAMP: Well, I‘ve been talking to them. I‘ve had 64 town halls, probably more than most of my colleagues, and that‘s what they‘re saying is they‘re tired the spending in Washington. They‘re tired of the so-called help from Washington. They‘ve gone through a stimulus package and it hasn‘t worked.
They understand the economy grows by business men and women creating jobs. Not Washington is doing. They want to be unleashed to let this economy grow forward. I‘m not opposed to new revenue. You get Washington out of the way by folks that make things, and create jobs every day of the year.
SHARPTON: Well, then, if you‘re not against new revenue, then why not support allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire? Less than 1 percent of your district makes over $200,000 a year. Why don‘t you allow them to go an ahead and pay the same tax rate before they were paying before the Bush tax cuts for the last years? It hasn‘t produced jobs in your district.
HUELSKAMP: Well, there‘s been a miserable job production going on in this country, with the stimulus package, after what‘s occurred there. You know, we were promised 6.7 percent unemployment. Today it‘s 9.2 percent. It certainly hasn‘t worked.
When I talk about revenue, I‘m talking about revenue from the private sector, versus what Washington is doing. Washington can‘t borrow and spend to prosperity. We proved that in the spending package. We need less regulation out of Washington. We don‘t need more.
SHARPTON: But we can‘t get over $400 billion just by restoring the Bush tax cuts?
HUELSKAMP: Well, yes, I know those numbers, and that‘s assumed that those Bush/Obama tax cuts will go way.
SHARPTON: Well, I don‘t know how they become Obama tax cuts when in 2001 when they started George Bush was the president of the United States. It was extended in December, but it was Bush‘s tax cuts.
HUELSKAMP: Who was the president --
SHARPTON: We could have different opinions but we can‘t have different facts.
HUELSKAMP: No, the fact is President Obama signed the tax cuts and extended those for two years.
SHARPTON: Extended the Bush tax cuts.
HUELSKAMP: Yes, for two years. You released a statement today explaining your vote. Quote, “I voted no today because I refused to dig America deeper into an un-scalable hole. I refuse to be complicit in recklessly spending and borrowing on the backs of the next generation.”
But your colleagues, Paul Ryan and Mike Pence and Eric Canton and Sean Duffy, they all voted for the deal. The Tea Party caucus voted for the deal 32 to 28.
Are they implicit in recklessly spending and borrowing on the backs of the next generation?
HUELSKAMP: Well, I‘m optimistic we can do better. And they thought it was historical and it was that finally made two years in a row where we had discretionary spending cuts. But what most Americans don‘t know, the budget next year is going to be bigger, and the next year it‘s going to be bigger.
We‘ve locked in major spending increases, but the deficit is still likely to be a trillion dollars for a number of years to come -- $1.65 trillion this year, maybe a trillion dollars next year. We can‘t sustain that.
Americans can‘t afford that much government, and that‘s what I‘m talking about. You said you thought that they thought it was hysterical or historical?
SHARPTON: I‘m just checking.
Congressman, thank you for your time tonight.
HUELSKAMP: Thank you, Al.
SHARPTON: Is this what our future debt ceiling debates will look like?
Our political experts weigh in.
Republicans ended up getting most of their demands in the deal tonight but 66 of them still weren‘t happy. I‘ll talk with former RNC chair Michael Steele coming up.
SHARPTON: If you think the debt ceiling debate is now a thing of the past, think again. Senate Minority Leader McConnell told FOX News that Republicans now have a blueprint for future debt ceiling votes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: In the future, Neil, no president in the near future, maybe in the distant future, is able to get the debt ceiling increased without a re-ignition, reigniting of the same discussion of how do we cut spending and get America headed in the right direction. I expect the next president, whoever that is, is going to ask us to raise the debt ceiling again in 2013. So, we‘ll be doing that all over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Let‘s bring in our panel of experts to talk about how this debt deal changes the game. First, Michael Eric Dyson, professor of sociology at Georgetown University and the author of “Can You Hear Me Now?”
Laura Flanders, host of the GRITtv on Free Speech TV and editor of the book “At the Tea Party.”
And Bill Press, nationally syndicated radio host and author of, “Toxic Talk: How the Radical Right Has Poisoned America‘s Airways.”
Is Senator McConnell right, Dr. Dyson? Will all the future votes to raise the debt ceiling be held hostage by the political opposition?
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Well, thank you, Reverend Sharpton. And, by the way, you were brilliant at the funeral services for Butch Lewis today.
SHARPTON: Thank you.
DYSON: I think absolutely he is right and distressingly right, that once having been successful at blindfolding the American public, putting a gun to the president‘s head, forcing him to read into law or to sign into law this extraordinary act of, I think, unpatriotic and irrational frenzy, I think they‘re emboldened. They will take this as a blueprint and a document of manifesto of sorts to go forward and disrupt the workings of American government at the behest of a splinter group that is a radical right wing organization that really needs to be brought to, I think, account for the devastation it has wrought on it this economy.
SHARPTON: Now, earlier tonight, I spoke with senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett.
Here‘s what she said about the possibility of future tax revenue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VALERIE JARRETT, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR: What we have right now is we have cuts in the first tranche, and we have the opportunity to bring revenues back into the equation, to look at real tax reform. Will we get rid of these loopholes where the very wealthy are not paying their fair share, where we have subsidies to oil companies—
SHARPTON: So, revenues can come back into the process?
VALERIE: Absolutely, Reverend Sharpton. Yes, it‘s a very important point. We now have the opportunity for this commission to look at all kinds of opportunities to bring down the deficit including revenue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Now, Laura Flanders, do you think tax increases will ever end up being part of deficit reduction in this Congress?
LAURA FLANDERS, GRITTV: We‘re not going to get anywhere in this country if we don‘t change the topic. And just the way the Tea Party people change the topic, we need to talk moral outrage here today. Everyone was misty-eyed about the return of Gabrielle Giffords. Everyone was happy to see her there on the floor of the House.
What brought her back from near death? Intensive care. What does our economy need? Intensive care. Instead of that, we‘re getting millions and billions of dollars of cuts and cuts to the very programs that help people.
We‘ve bought in—worse, we‘ve bought into the notion that what is nose diving our economy our public spending on programs that help the public. It‘s not true. Unless we counter that discredited myth, we‘re never going to get anywhere.
I mean, the nurses union, I think they‘re people we should listen to today who brought Giffords back, nurses giving round of clock intensive care. The nurses say it‘s just happy talk to think that the vulnerable will not be hurt in this package. They‘ll be hurt at the level of their hospital.
SHARPTON: I think you‘re right about changing the conversation. Bill Press, you opposed this deal. What do you think the Democrats should have done differently?
BILL PRESS, HOST, THE BILL PRESS SHOW: Well, first of all, I got to tell you. I share so strongly the moral outrage expressed tonight by Laura and by Dr. Dyson. This is a horrible deal. It‘s a bad deal. It‘s an immoral deal for the American people.
And I sat at the White House today and heard Press Secretary Jay Carney say it‘s a great victory for the American people. It‘s not a victory for the American people. It‘s a victory for the Tea Partiers.
I think Al, the first thing that the president should have never bought this equation linking raising the debt ceiling with these massive draconian cuts in social programs. You ask right from the beginning, do you think these are what the talks will be like from now on?
Absolutely, unless there‘s a Republican in the White House and then they‘ll raise it willy-nilly the way they always did before. But Al, before we get there to 2013, we‘ve got this dumb, I think, super-committee that‘s going to—that‘s where the blood is going to be on the floor.
You know, the Republicans are going to nominate the people who want to tear down Social Security, tear down Medicare, tear down Medicaid to that committee, and I hope we have some Democrats who will hold tight there, but I don‘t count on it.
SHARPTON: Well, Dr. Dyson, if this is a victory for the Tea Party, then why did so many of them vote against it?
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, AUTHOR, “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?”: Well, because Reverend Sharpton, what they‘re into is that they‘re in—you preach the funeral today brilliantly, the eulogy of Butch Louise who was among other things a boxing promoter.
So in boxing terms, they don‘t want a TKO. They want a knockout. This is blood sport. This is the absolute demand of a narcissistic group of people who were incapable of acknowledging the greater good and forging consensus in the name out of many one.
So what happens here is that they refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of other side. They have no desire to engage in what President Obama has been talking about, which is balanced conceptions of how we get this thing right and Laura Flanders is absolutely right.
If we don‘t get the jobs back on the table, which the president has been talking about, which you‘ve been talking about Reverend Sharpton and we don‘t change the topic of conversation, then the people hurt most will continue to suffer not only budget cuts now, but in the future deprivation of services that are critical to their survival.
FLANDERS: Can I add to this?
SHARPTON: Stay with us one minute. Democrats and Republicans say the end of the debt debate means they can go back to focusing on jobs. Then why were the unemployed thrown under the bus in this deal?
Earlier today, leaders the progressive caucus made it clear they were not happy about the debt ceiling deal. They were still pushing the 14th Amendment option. Adam Green of the progressive change campaign committee joins me later. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This conversation has gone on too long. The American people are sick and tired of hearing about the debt ceiling. We need to get back and have everybody focus odd job creation. It‘s a shared obligation, and it‘s certainly the president‘s commitment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: That was White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett speaking to me earlier tonight. She says job creation is the priority for Washington moving forward, but the debt ceiling deal leaves the unemployed behind.
It does not extend unemployment benefit for millions of out of work Americans. Let‘s go back to our panel, Michael Eric Dyson, Laura Flanders and Bill Press.
Laura, why did the Democrats lose the unemployment extension in this plan?
It was the so-called grand bargain just a few weeks ago.
FLANDERS: We lost all revenues here, Reverend Al. I think we have to get beyond the Tea Party. I mean, I know Tea Partiers. Some of them are people in trouble. They‘re being manipulated for sure, but the problem we‘re facing is not a handful of Tea Party hostage takers.
The problem we are facing in this country is the head lock that a few corporate interests and some very wealthy elites have put on our revenues. I have to say on our democracy. Look at the polls. You see a majority of Americans saying, don‘t touch the big three. Government needs to invest.
We are in trouble. We need programs that will help grow the economy, not contract it. Yet, this is where we‘ve come. We have a democracy problem here. We don‘t have the problem just of the run-away power of a small minority in the House. It‘s much bigger than that.
SHARPTON: Bill, do you think the Bush tax cuts are here to stay?
PRESS: Let me tell you something. Yes, I do think they‘re here to stay. The president caved in on them once, and I‘m afraid he will cave in on them again. But Al, here‘s the point, we have lost the focus on jobs totally.
And in this case, look, remember when the Obama administration, when President Obama took over, the first thing he did, the stimulus, $787 billion to create new jobs. Now, suddenly before the economy even recovers, we have switched gears entirely and now we‘re talking about $4 trillion in cuts.
I mean, it is ass-backwards. We‘re suddenly going backwards, and this is going to mean unemployment is going to go up. More people will lose their jobs.
SHARPTON: Why didn‘t the Democrats, when they had the majority in the House and Senate, move forward to stop the Bush tax cuts from being extended or at least to end them then and move forward with a jobs bill?
I see a lot of self-righteous Democrats in Washington today, but they wanted to protect themselves last year this time when we were facing a midterm elections. Where was the outrage then?
PRESS: There was outrage then.
SHARPTON: What happened?
PRESS: Wait, the president made that deal, and he forced that deal on Congress.
SHARPTON: Made what deal? Made what deal?
FLANDERS: It capitulated to an anti-Democratic filibuster.
SHARPTON: That was in December. I said last year this time. Hold it. Before we got to December, before the midterm elections, where were the Democrats who had the majority of the House standing up saying then, let us take these tax cuts to the floor and let us deal with a lot of that?
FLANDERS: We were being shaken down by an anti-Democratic filibuster deal in the Senate. Let‘s not forget how our democracy is corrupted from the top. This - I‘m deadly serious. We have a big problem here, and it‘s a democracy problem. You‘re getting at it with these questions, and I hoping that these are some topics.
SHARPTON: I hope somebody gives me some answers because I see everybody blaming everybody else. Go ahead, Dr. Dyson.
DYSON: I think that—to your point, the reality is they were blue dog Democrats there as well. The problem that President Obama has faced from the very beginning—let‘s be honest here. We‘re talking about being honest.
Here‘s the honest thing many of us are afraid to say. Here is a black man who is the president of the United States of America. He‘s damned if he does and damned if he doesn‘t. If he acts strongly and carrying a big stick, he is seen as a bully and angry black man. If he leaves from behind he‘s seen as a chump, who can be easily manipulated.
PRESS: Dr. Dyson—
DYSON: Let me finish. This is the extraordinary rage we all feel. I believe the outrage we all feel, but at the same time let‘s be honest about the racial politics.
FLANDERS: You‘re absolutely right. But let‘s come back to us. What you‘re getting at is it‘s not just about the president. As long as we in this country hope for one man, black, white or purple to save us, we‘re in trouble.
What the Tea Party has done and I have to give them some credit is they have organized on the ground. They have more money than progressives, absolutely. Progressives and Democrats have more people, and that‘s what we need to focus on over the next few months.
PRESS: Reverend Al, I don‘t care what color the president is. I look at his policies. The policy of extending the Bush tax cuts after he promised to end them was wrong. The policy I believe of conceding to this deal that he did today is wrong for the American people.
SHARPTON: I think what I was raising was that the Democratic Party could have done something when they had the majority in the House.
PRESS: You‘re right. You‘re right.
SHARPTON: You all sound like the Republican caucus with no speaker. What I‘m saying is they‘re selective outrage, and there‘s a lot wrong and I think when the Democrats had the majority they did nothing about it.
And now they want to blame it one way. I think we need to look at all of it. I think they took it hostage, but I think some Democrats left the door open for some of the hostage takers to get in. They didn‘t even have to break the lock.
Michael Eric Dyson, Laura Flanders and Bill Press. Thank you. The debt limit, just fulfilled. Just about all of the Republican demands, but still it wasn‘t enough for 66 of them. The House former RNC Chair Michael Steele will be with me next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN: To my friends on the right, we are cutting spending. We‘ve been trying to get discretionary caps in law for years. I‘ve been here 13 years trying for it every year. This is the first time. When we ran Congress the last time in the majority we couldn‘t get it a Republican Congress. Now we‘re getting discretionary caps. That‘s a big achievement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: That was Congressman Paul Ryan immediately before the House voted to pass the debt ceiling bill this evening. As he said, Republicans got some of what they wanted, much of what they wanted, spending cuts greater than the increase in debt ceiling and no new revenues, but 66 of them still weren‘t satisfied and voted against the bill.
For more let me bring in MSNBC political analyst, former RNC chair Michael Steele. Michael Steele, 66 Republicans voted against the bill that was largely favorable to what Ryan says was in their interests. Why couldn‘t Boehner keep the caucus together?
MICHAEL STEEL, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: Well, I mean, for the same reasons that 95 Democrats voted for the bill and—
SHARPTON: Well, I know why 95 voted for the bill. Because they were told that unlike what was asked by Mr. Boehner that now it‘s put over until 2013, not this Christmas. You have large cuts in the Pentagon, the largest since the ‘90s. We have Social Security off the table, Medicare and Medicaid, other than providers. So some of them probably thought that was better than what they were told.
STEELE: But all that is going to be back on the table with this committee coming in the fall.
SHARPTON: We‘ll see where it goes. The Bush tax cuts will expire. Again, why couldn‘t you all keep it together?
STEELE: Maybe, maybe not. We don‘t know. We‘ll see what the recommendations are once we get past this point. But I think the more significant thing to note here is that as much as folks would like to keep a lot of victory with the Tea Party activists and the Congress, those citizen legislators if you will, the dynamic in Washington has changed.
That‘s a good thing. Regardless of how you may feel about this or that issue, I think, Reverend, see a paradigm shift in how the government looks at spending and taxes and other issues going forward. When you talk about those members of Tea Party who did not support this particular bill, they will rise to fight another day on these issues.
That‘s the ying and yang, it is gave and take of Washington. We‘ve seen this process. It was an ugly process. It was largely unnecessary one that as you touched on in the earlier segment.
Even if you go back into December or earlier last year, the Democrats had a chance to avoid all of this by passing a bill that would increase the debt limit in December, but Mr. Reid had a different political agenda, and it came back to bite you.
SHARPTON: Well, I mean, that, I don‘t disagree with. I raised it. What I do raise with you is when you talk about this paradigm shift, you‘re talking about a shift that still protects tax cuts for the wealthy, still protects tax loopholes.
You talk about how the Republicans don‘t want to deal with all this spending. It was the Republican President Bush that brought us into three wars.
SHARPTON: We have no problem spending that. Your problem is spending on the American people.
STEELE: But let me tell you what is really helpful. If the Democrats get off the talking points and put a plan on the table.
SHARPTON: Spending money on the American people rather than the wars, chasing weapons of mass destruction that is not there is a talking point?
STEELE: It is a talking point when you don‘t do anything. You don‘t follow it up when you don‘t follow it up with an action plan. Neither Reid, Obama, nor Pelosi had an action plan to deal with what was obviously coming, and that was a generation of elected officials who were going to tackle the spending and debt problems of this nation. Now, it‘s not our problem if you weren‘t prepared to deal with that.
SHARPTON: I think it is real clear we‘re dealing with a hostage take-over.
STEELE: Come on.
SHARPTON: You also know that one of the hostages was John Boehner. You talk about a plan. He had to change his plan three times. It was almost like I have a gun at the president, and I‘m going to hold him and say which one do I shoot. Don‘t be cute about it, Mr. Steele. You all lost control of your party to the Tea Party.
STEELE: Talking with you, Rev, is like reading every other word in a book.
SHARPTON: Especially if it‘s a good book. Thank you, RNC Chairman Michael Steele and keep reading the books.
STEELE: You, too.
SHARPTON: Coming up, Tea Partiers weren‘t the only ones opposed to the debt ceiling bill. Progressives are furious about the deal. Co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Adam Green, joins me next.
SHARPTON: Welcome back to the ED SHOW. This evening, the House of Representatives passed the bill to raise the debt ceiling without the support of many in the Tea Party or the progressive caucus. Leaders of the congressional progressive caucus voiced their opposition earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEITH ELLISON (D-MN) PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS CO-CHAIR: This is the wrong approach for our economy at the wrong time. It goes against our basic values. For that reason we and many of our members of the Progressive Caucus will be voting no.
REP. RAUL GRIJALVA (D-AZ) PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS CO-CHAIR: If the president has to unilaterally use his authority given to him under the constitution, he should. And then we can proceed in a calm, rational way to look spending and to look at revenue generation.
Absent that, we‘re trapped in this Tea Party agenda. They won, and they should be able to deliver the votes they need to pass what is essentially their package.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: And Republicans did eventually come up with the votes to pass the bill 174 of them voted for it, 95 Democrats voted against the bill, many of them progressives.
Joining me now is Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. Do you agree with the Progressive Caucus chairs on this bill, Adam?
ADAM GREEN, CO-FOUNDER, PCCC: Absolutely. Not just me, but thousands if not millions of Americans. The bottom line is that politics aside, this bill is bad for the people. This is a bill that will hurt our economy and is an attack on middle class families.
SHARPTON: But didn‘t some of these progressives in Congress help create this problem by not addressing it before the 2010 election?
GREEN: Well, I‘m very intrigued by this question. I totally want to answer it. First, let me point out that the congressional Progressive Caucus has something called the people‘s budget. It doesn‘t get mentioned enough.
It‘s the answer it to what Michael Steele said before when he said where‘s the plan? It would actually balance the budget by taxing millionaires, taxing the rich and asking Wall Street and companies like GE to pay their fair share and by ending the wars.
SHARPTON: Did the Democratic Congress push that bill?
GREEN: Right. Well, that gets to your earlier question why didn‘t Democrats do something in power? We have to keep it real. We need to point our eyes at the White House. This is a president who has shown time after time even when the people are overwhelmingly on his side, instead of barnstorming across the districts of Republicans like candidate Obama would have in 2008 and forcing them to be accountable to the people, he invites them to cut a deal.
SHARPTON: So the reason that the Democrats in Congress and the Progressive Caucus voted against him today and didn‘t stand up a year ago was his fault?
GREEN: The Progressives in Congress especially in the House passed lots of Progressive legislation.
SHARPTON: I asked you about the tax cuts and the question of jobs. You‘re saying that it‘s his fault? They stood up to him today. Why didn‘t stand up a year ago?
GREEN: Let‘s get our facts together here. The House passed a very progressive stimulus plan that would have invested more in jobs, and the president collaborated with Republicans in the Senate to cut it, including billions in aid to the states, which honestly set off this Wisconsin fiasco we have right now. The House passed things that would have taxed millionaires way more and the president with the Republicans—
SHARPTON: The House also said they did not want to risk the midterm elections. I think there‘s enough blame to go around all over. I think that we have to be honest about it if we‘re going to correct it.
GREEN: We do have to be honest. Do you think it‘s fair for Progressives to somehow—sometimes hold the president accountable?
SHARPTON: I think they should hold him accountable, but I think they could be honest. Some of said, even on this station, let‘s wait until after the election. That was a mistake.
Adam Green, thank you for your time tonight.
GREEN: Thank you.
SHARPTON: That‘s the ED SHOW. I‘m Reverend Al Sharpton in for Ed Schultz.
You can catch me on MSNBC Live tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.
The “LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL” starts right now.
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