'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Monday, October 10th, 2011
Read the transcript to the Monday show
Guests: Buddy Roemer, Ari Berman, Kari Ann Rinker
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Good news for the Democrats. The
Republican presidential candidates are trying to destroy each other.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: The race took an ugly turn.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Obfuscation and
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After this poor bastard loses, I`ll get a nice
TODD: The field is starting to target Mitt Romney.
ROMNEY: I will not surrender.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not just because of the Mormon issue.
ROMNEY: There are a lot of reasons to elect me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t think Mitt Romney will energize
TODD: In Iowa, the evangelical vote is anywhere from 35 percent to 50
Attack on Romney`s faith.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The campaign accusing the candidate directly and
through surrogates are going to say that they think the people who attack
Mormons are being bigots.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Deplorable, deplorable statement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mormonism is not Christianity.
JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Some moron can stand up and
make a comment like that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Theologically, some people define it as a cult.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s always been considered a cult.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You did Rick Perry no good, sir, in what you had
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rick Perry is a Christian.
REPORTER: Joe Scarborough, I refer to you sort of derogatorily as a
O`DONNELL (voice-over): And a Republican is attacking Republicans for
attacking the Wall Street protesters.
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MINORITY LEADER: Growing mobs occupying Wall
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: Protesters are filling the streets around
ROMNEY: Wall Street`s connected to Main Street.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: I think this divisive rhetoric is
fairly -- is divisive.
MITCHELL: It comes two years after the Tea Parties.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t think they`re similar to the Tea Party
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The more than 25 million Americans who are
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Herman Cain says don`t blame Wall Street.
HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Some of them are there
because they don`t have a job.
ROMNEY: Finding someone to blame in my opinion isn`t the right way to
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Blue, red, you know, it doesn`t matter. You`re
unemployed in this country.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I tell you what they need.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A shower.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There she goes.
O`DONNELL: While President Obama`s re-election campaign is busy
raising the money it will need to do battle with a super-funded Republican
opponent who will be strongly backed up by super PACs the Republican
presidential candidates are doing battle with each other in a way that can
only help the president.
If Mitt Romney is to get the Republican nomination for president, it
will only come to him after being battered like this by his chief rival
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD)
ROMNEY: Now, I`m a conservative businessman.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Time and again, the White House has pointed
to the Massachusetts law as the model for its Obamacare.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I agree with Mitt
Romney. He`s right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jimmy Carter is throwing his weight behind Mitt
ROMNEY: Those who follow the path we pursue will find it`s the best
I like mandates.
In my book, I said no such thing. I stand by what I wrote.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Noting that the line about doing the same thing
for everyone in the country has been deleted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why if it`s good for Massachusetts and it`s
working for Massachusetts, wouldn`t you apply it to the rest of the
ROMNEY: I would.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Romney has flip-flopped on some of the issues.
ROMNEY: I didn`t change my mind. I`m running for a different office.
We end up with a nation that`s taking a mandate approach.
There are a lot of reasons not to elect me.
OBAMA: He`s right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Yes, that was Chris Hayes, co-starring in a Rick Perry
In response to that video, the Romney campaign said, "Rick Perry is a
desperate candidate who will say and do anything to prop up his sinking
campaign. After a mere eight weeks on the trail, Governor Perry is poised
to dethrone his one-time boss Al Gore as the most prolific exaggerator and
truth-fumbler in presidential campaign history."
If Rick Perry is to be the Republican nominee, it will only come after
attacks like that from Mitt Romney and after Mitt Romney has driven home
the message to every Republican voter that Rick Perry is an enemy of Social
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: The term "Ponzi scheme" I think is over the top and
unnecessary and frightful to many people. But the real issue is that in
writing his book, Governor Perry pointed out that in his view that Social
Security is unconstitutional, that this is not something the federal
government ought to be involved in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Howard Fineman, editorial director for
the AOL/"Huffington Post" Media Group and an MSNBC analyst. Thanks for
joining me tonight, Howard.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Howard, the Obama campaign has to be sitting back and
looking at those videos and just thinking, oh, boy, they are doing the job
FINEMAN: Well, I think their only concern is the Republicans are just
going to use up all their ammunition on each other and in a couple weeks,
it`s gotten so nasty in the last few days. Yes.
I think the White House, I know that the Democratic strategists and
Obama strategists around them are saying, you know, guys, on the Republican
side, you keep it up, we love the creativity and the edge of that Perry ad.
Let`s see more. Let`s see a lot of them on both sides. Let`s see more
nasty comments from the Romney spin doctor. Let her rip.
O`DONNELL: Howard, it`s interesting to watch those two, Perry and
Romney, when you`re considering what the ticket is going to look like.
Because with Republicans, you can usually look at the top two or three and
look at your whole ticket there somewhere. Somewhere there`s the
presidential nominee and somewhere in there is the vice presidential
nominee. But the shots they are throwing at each other seems to already be
ruling out the possibility of a Romney/Perry ticket.
FINEMAN: Well, Lawrence, you and I have both been around a long time
and you know that no matter how nasty it gets, there`s always the
possibility that desperation or circumstance will drive two people like
Romney and Perry together in the end.
But I -- also having been around for a while, I can tell you, that
it`s really unusual for things to be this nasty right now. You`re talking
stuff that is normally closer to, you know, the time of the actual voting.
Yes, the Republican schedule has been moved up somewhat. Voting is going
to start maybe as early as January 3rd, maybe even earlier than that.
But still to reach that level of intensity right now shows that, you
know, some people are getting antsy. And that would specifically be the
O`DONNELL: Well, the Perry campaign, let`s take a look at the latest
"Washington Post"/Bloomberg poll. They`re hosting tomorrow`s debate among
the candidates, 24 percent for Romney, 16 percent for Cain, which is
something of a surge. Perry is sinking, just like the Romney campaign
says. It is a desperate sinking campaign. They`re down to 13 percent
going into that debate tomorrow -- which I think may have something to do
with how hard hitting that video is.
The Perry campaign knows that it is very unlikely that now for Perry
to land the kind of shots in the debates that they would like to see him
land so they have to script those videos in order to have any kind of
impact against Romney.
FINEMAN: I think that`s a good explanation, Lawrence. I think the
debate will matter.
And I think the other thing Rick Perry is trying to do is stay in the
conversation as the main alternative to Mitt Romney. It`s got to be
infuriating. And I know it`s infuriating to the Perry campaign people, to
the Cain campaign people, to everybody else on the Republican side. If you
looked at that poll, Lawrence, you saw that Mitt Romney trails no opinion
by 5 percentage points. So he`s the weakest front-runner in modern history
and yet none of the others seem to really be able to get much traction
And in talking to one of Rick Perry`s top strategists the other day, I
said, look, you know, where are you guys going with this? I mean, things
are not going great. He said, look, Howard, it`s going to be -- the shape
of this race is Mitt Romney against a conservative.
Now, he didn`t say Mitt Romney against his guy, Rick Perry. What he
was saying is that the structure of the race is such that somebody on the
Republican side is going to emerge as the main competitor to Mitt Romney
and we still don`t know who that is.
O`DONNELL: And there`s one other drag on the Romney candidacy as we
saw emerge this weekend. It`s something we`ve always known about. And
it`s talked about mostly off camera. But we saw Pastor Robert Jeffress who
was on with Chris Matthews earlier tonight, saying this, creating a big
firestorm around Romney`s religion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PASTOR ROBERT JEFFRESS, PERRY SUPPORTER: I believe Mormons are good
people. I alluded to that in the introduction. But I don`t believe that
they are Christians. When all other things are equal, we prefer competent
Christians to competent non-Christians who may be good moral people like
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Howard, as we know, no matter what happens to that
dialogue in terms of its public presentation, in terms of television, how
much more air time it gets, it absolutely is the background noise on the
ground in Iowa among Republican evangelicals and all states these primary
states among Republican evangelicals.
FINEMAN: Well, there`s no question about it. And even though Mitt
Romney calls it out as bigoted, even though Bill Bennett denounced Reverend
Jeffress, even though Jon Huntsman demanded, you know, Rick Perry
repudiated the reverend, that is the background noise and it`s especially
important in the Bible Belt -- in Iowa, yes, but also in the Southern
And that`s one reason why when the Haley Barbour didn`t run and
Governor Huckabee, Mike Huckabee didn`t run and so forth, that Rick Perry`s
sitting over there in Texas says, I`ve got an opportunity to get in this
race because there`s no way the Southern Bible Belt Republicans will vote
for a Mormon. That was part of his calculation from the beginning even if
he and his aides didn`t say it.
O`DONNELL: Howard Fineman, thank you very much for joining me
FINEMAN: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: The "Occupy Wall Street" protests are adding an
unpredictable elements to the 2012 presidential campaign. The protesters
in Lower Manhattan won a big victory today when New York Mayor Michael
Bloomberg announced they will be allowed to protest peacefully in Zuccotti
The protests are also growing and spreading around the country.
Thousands of people were protesting today at occupy Boston, occupy Chicago,
and occupy Philadelphia. There were protests all weekend in federal plaza
in Washington, D.C.
Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor has called the protesters a mob
who are, as he put it, pitting Americans against Americans.
On "Face the Nation" yesterday, Republican presidential candidate
Herman Cain said the protesters are anti-American.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s anti-American because
to protest Wall Street and the bankers is basically saying that you`re
anti-capitalism. Part of it is jealousy. I stand by that.
And here`s why I don`t have a lot of patience with that. My parents,
they never played the victim card. My parents never said that we hope that
the rich people lose something so we can get something. No. My dad`s idea
was, I want to work hard enough so I can buy a Cadillac, not take somebody
And this is why I don`t have a lot of patience for people who want to
protest the success of somebody else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The ultra rich Republican front-runner Mitt Romney, a
former investment banker, who previously called the protests class warfare,
said this today at a town hall in Milford, New Hampshire.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: One of the things, in my view, that has made America`s
economy the most powerful in the world is that we have a very capable
financial services sector that makes loans and allows businesses to start
and thrive. Now, are there bad actors on Wall Street? Absolutely. Are
there bad actors on Main Street? Absolutely. And they have to be found
and picked out and plucked out.
But to say that somehow that we should point and attack other
Americans or other regions of America or industries in America, I think
would be a mistake. I think the idea of dividing our nation at a time of
crisis is the wrong way to go.
All the streets are connected. Wall Street is connected to Main
Street. And so, finding a scapegoat, finding someone to blame, in my
opinion, didn`t the right way to go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now from Manchester, New Hampshire, former
Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer, a Republican candidate for president.
Thanks for joining me tonight, Governor.
GOV. BUDDY ROEMER (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, Lawrence.
Good to be here. Like your show.
O`DONNELL: Now, Governor, you`ve been struggling to get into these
debates and you`re not getting over the polling threshold they required to
get into the debates. But if you were there on that stage with your fellow
Republicans, what would you have to say about the "Occupy Wall Street"
ROEMER: I would ask Republican candidates to remember how America got
started. I would ask them to remember the times in our nation`s history
where young people stood and protested the status quo. I`m 68. I can
remember the Vietnam protest. I can remember the civil rights protest in
the Deep South.
The young people made a difference. They weren`t always right. They
didn`t always have a mature agenda. But they debated openly what the
grown-ups wouldn`t talk about.
I`m hoping that they`ll talk about the fact that Wall Street money,
special interest money owns Washington, D.C.
When you look at me, you think of a broom. I don`t take PAC money. I
don`t take super PAC money. I don`t take anything over $100 and report
every penny given.
That`s what they`re talking about, young people. They don`t have
jobs. They don`t have hopes. And these Republican candidates would shut
them up, would call them anti-American? It`s not right.
This is America. And we have the obligation to debate who we are.
O`DONNELL: Governor, when did your party become the defenders of Wall
Street? When you think of the Southern Republicans that have no real
connection historically to Wall Street, how is it that you`ve allowed or
your party has allowed the center of gravity -- you`ve got representatives
like Eric Cantor who aren`t from New York, aren`t from that area, who seem
to be very, very protective of these Wall Street billionaires.
O`DONNELL: Well, what about Senator Chuck Schumer, Lawrence? I mean,
let`s be honest here. Both parties are in the bag.
I was a Democrat 20 years ago in the Congress. Working under Tip
O`Neill as a bull evil Democrat, working with Ronald Reagan to make good
things happen in America. I wasn`t perfect but I reached across party
lines and we built America. We ought to do the same thing now.
I disagree with you. It`s not the Republican Party. It`s both
I mean, the president of the United States barely two years into a
four-year term announces re-election and proudly says he`s going to raise
$1 billion. Last week, "The New York Times" said, guess what? His small
donations are drying up. He`s getting his money from special interests,
Wall Street, just like the Republicans. They both are on the dole.
O`DONNELL: Governor, the Chuck Schumer and other Senate Democrats
have authored an idea to raise taxes on those billionaires. A surtax on
incomes only over $1 million, beginning only on incomes above $1 million, a
surtax of 5 percent. That would also apply to capital gains taxes.
Is that something that you think is a fair burden sharing that could
be visited upon those massive incomes over $1 million?
ROEMER: They`re half right, Lawrence. You ought to take that tax
code written by lobbyists and special interests and throw it out the
window. It doesn`t work for America.
When the average working guy pays more taxes than G.E., something`s
wrong with America. We need it simple, simple, simple, fair, progressive
and adequate at about 18 percent of GDP.
I love the Steve Forbes idea of the first $40,000 of income being tax
free, you can cover your costs then a flat tax and nobody escapes.
Look, we need to rebuild America. Not Afghanistan. America. And the
way we do it is to pull together, Lawrence. That`s the way we do it.
O`DONNELL: Republican presidential candidate Buddy Roemer -- thank
you very much for joining me tonight. Those Republican debates need your
voice. Good luck getting in there.
ROEMER: Thanks, Lawrence. I hope to make it.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the real voter fraud in America perpetuated by
Republican-led state legislatures across the country.
And, tomorrow, the Senate will take up the president`s jobs bill.
Ezra Klein joins me.
O`DONNELL: Coming up in the "Rewrite," the Senate will take a step
closer to tax justice this week. Harry Reid has rewritten the American
Jobs Act in ways that have improved it greatly.
And, when Republicans say they want less government, do they mean that
cities like Topeka, Kansas, should stop prosecuting domestic violence
cases? That`s a lot less governing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Next week, the Senate will vote on the American Jobs Act. So
any senator out there who`s thinking about voting against this jobs bill
needs to explain why they would oppose something that we know would improve
our economic situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The president asked for it and he got it. The American
Jobs Act will face its first procedural vote in the Senate tomorrow night.
And Republicans are not happy about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: What`s concerning about it is he put
ideas in this jobs bill that have already proven to fail. Instead of
trying to get compromise, he`s embracing conflict. He`s running around the
country campaigning on a bill he knows won`t pass. He can`t get out of the
Senate right now. Rather than working with us on ideas that we agree on
that would actually create jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, "Washington Post" columnist and MSNBC
analyst Ezra Klein. Thanks for joining me tonight, Ezra.
EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC ANALYST: Good evening.
O`DONNELL: Ezra, what is the state of play in the Senate? Are we
going to get to a vote? What`s happening?
KLEIN: We`ll get to a vote. We`re not going to get much beyond a
vote. As you know, as you mentioned, this is a procedural vote. The idea
is to vote to see if we can have a vote. Vote to see if we can break a
filibuster vote on cloture.
And the Republicans are going to filibuster the bill. That seems
pretty clear. And then we`re sort of basically where we are now.
O`DONNELL: And it will take 60 votes for Harry Reid to proceed. He
can`t win this stage with 51. We`ve been to this party before. It`s rough
for the Democrats.
But the president has tried to put pressure on the Republicans. The
Senate Democrats have tried to put an additional pressure on the
Republicans by paying for this bill simply by isolating incomes over $1
million, getting rid of that grab bag of tax proposals the president had in
Is that a strategic improvement on the bill in the Senate?
KLEIN: It certainly is a strategic improvement for the bill when
Democratic senators want to campaign on it in the coming year.
One thing I think is actually important about the Republicans` tax
strategy where they say no to sort of everything that comes down the pike,
in the long run this is what you`re going to end up seeing. You`re going
to see Democrats reverting to the crudest most popular, most aggressive
types of tax policies. So, a very straightforward raise on essentially
marginal rates for rich people as opposed to which is what Barack Obama --
President Obama suggested in the bill flattening out some deductions,
cleaning up the code.
If you talk to Republicans in Congress, they would much prefer the
latter strategy. But by refusing to consider anything serious on revenues,
in the long run, they`re going to get the former because that`s what`s
going to be easiest to explain to the American people and when Democrats
have more power than they have now, easiest to pass.
O`DONNELL: Ezra, let`s listen to what Mitt Romney had to say this
weekend about stimulus, which essentially is one of the things this bill
hopes to be.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: Mr. President, we remember your last stimulus. The one you
promised would hold unemployment below 8 percent. It ended up costing over
a quarter of a million dollars for every job you said it created or saved,
a quarter of a million dollars a job. At the rate you`re handing out in
government money, every American will end up having to pay your
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Ezra, is that a preview of what we`re going to hear on the
Senate floor tomorrow?
KLEIN: You`ll hear a lot of that. He`s referring to an old graph by
Christina Romer and Jared Bernstein said. As he said, if you had the
stimulus it wouldn`t go above 8 percent. They forecast that, you know,
back in December of 2008 when they were doing not work. And we just hoped
the recession wasn`t going to be this bad. The stimulus was too small for
even what they thought it was going to be, but it`s way too small for what
we actually have.
And so now, we have unemployment high and an easy attack line for Mitt
Romney and others.
One point, though, on how much jobs cost. Republicans tend to like
the idea that you actually pay for something real when you`re doing
government spending. A lot of Republican governors support, say,
infrastructure spending. But when you have to build a bridge, you have to
pay for copper, you have to pay for steel, you have to pay for trucks to
So, it`s not that you can just divide by the amount of dollars you
spend and see how much your jobs cost. If you want to give every American
50,000 bucks, we can to it and they can buy things. The stimulus was
attempting to do things that were a little more worthwhile than that or
seemed to be for folks in the political system. So, it cost more money and
we also got bridges.
O`DONNELL: And, Ezra, we`re going to have -- we`re out of time. We
have to at some point discuss this whole economic forecasting thing about
the stimulus. It`s a little bit like physicians working on a cancer case
saying, I think if we try this treatment in four or five months, the
patient might be better. And sometimes the patient is better and sometimes
the patient isn`t better.
O`DONNELL: And, you know, it`s not some pure science. They made a
mistake I think politically, Christina Romer, in getting caught on that 8
percent prediction, which they shouldn`t have gone public with.
KLEIN: I agree. We could talk about it later. But, yes, the
Republican Party`s take on this, it`s like the doctor misdiagnosed the bad
pneumonia as a bad flu and now, the Republican Party is doubting
KLEIN: It`s not the way to approach it.
O`DONNELL: Right. Ezra Klein, thank you very much for joining me
KLEIN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the war on voting. Ari Berman joins me to
discuss Republican state legislatures` efforts to prevent millions of
Democrats from voting next year.
And how far is too far in cutting government spending? A Kansas
district attorney says he doesn`t have enough funding to continue to
prosecute domestic violence.
O`DONNELL: Still to come on the program, the jobs bill will come to
the Senate tomorrow where Harry Reid is using it to try to write a more
progressive tax code. That`s in the "Rewrite."
And radical changes are being made to voting laws in many states that
could prevent millions from participating in elections. And the millions
of votes that would be blocked would probably be for Democrats.
O`DONNELL: In the Spotlight tonight, 96-year-old Tennessee resident
Dorothy Cooper has been voting since 1933. Last spring, Tennessee passed a
new law requiring voters to have photo identification. Cooper took a trip
to the Department of Safety to get an I.D., but was turned away because she
did not have her marriage license.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOROTHY COOPER, TENNESSEE RESIDENT: We stood in line for a while.
And we were thinking we were going to get it. Then we found out I would
have to have my marriage certificate. I haven`t had any problems at all
until this time. This is the only time that I`ve had any problems.
I never thought it would be like this ever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Dorothy Cooper is not alone. According to the Brennan
Center for Justice, five million eligible voters may not be able to vote in
2012 because of new laws that require photo I.D., proof of citizenship and
reduced early voting periods. Nineteen new laws and two executive actions
have passed in 14 Republican dominated states, including Texas, where Rick
Perry signed a law that allows voters to show concealed handgun permits,
but not student I.D.s.
These laws, passed mostly by Republicans, target voters who tend to
vote for Democrats: the young, the poor and minorities. Many of the bills
are supported by the American Legislative Exchange Council, an arm funded
by the Koch Brothers machine.
Joining me now is Ari Berman, author of "the GOP War on Voting" in
"Rolling Stone" and also a contributing writer to "The Nation" magazine,
author of "Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and
Reshape American Politics."
Thanks for joining me tonight, Ari. You got started on this before
the Brennan Center study, which is quite authoritative. Look, it`s very
simple. If you want to have people vote, if you really want 100 percent
turnout, you make it easier for them. We don`t want that. The media
doesn`t want it. Nobody wants it.
They want it contained in one little day where they can report it.
They don`t like this early voting. You know, why don`t we just make it a
national holiday if we really want to make it easy for people to vote?
ARI BERMAN, "ROLLING STONE": What I found when I did my story,
Lawrence, is Republicans really didn`t want people who might vote for
Barack Obama to vote in 2012. That`s why we saw 38 states primarily
controlled by Republicans introduce legislation, and more than a dozen
states pass legislation designed to impede voters at every step of the
As you mentioned, the voters that will be impeded, they`re young
voters. They`re minorities. They`re low income voters. They`re the core
of the Obama coalition. They`re the coalition of the ascendant, as they
Republicans don`t want them to be ascendant anymore. Bill Clinton
said it best. He said, it`s not rocket science. Republicans want the 2012
electorate to look more like the 2010 electorate than the 2008 electorate.
They want it to be older, whiter, more conservative. They don`t want it to
be younger, more diverse and more Democratic.
O`DONNELL: But I just wish that over time the Democrats had been
working to open up voting, instead of doing absolutely nothing, while the
Republicans are studying exactly how we can play with these laws to trim
the edges of it here and there. Cut out five million and you have a
BERMAN: Republicans were very sophisticated when they launched this
campaign. First thing, it was a stealth campaign. People in 2010 thought
they were voting on the economy. Then, all of a sudden, all these bills
sort of appeared out of nowhere to make it harder to vote. And we saw the
same legislation being introduced state by state by state.
And what Republicans did is they looked at how the Obama campaign won
in 2008, by registering new voters, by turning out voters early,
particularly African-American voters, by expanding the electorate. They
said those are the very things that we`re going to crack down on.
It`s no coincidence that in states like Florida and Ohio, they now
don`t have early voting on the Sunday before the election, when black
voters historically mobilize their constituents. I don`t think that`s a
coincidence. I think they looked exactly at what the Obama campaign did,
and said we`re not going to let this happen again.
O`DONNELL: Yeah. And sneaking up on -- with the Democrats distracted
by everything they`ve been trying to do in the last couple of years in
federal legislation -- that`s where all the attention is -- being able to
sneak this in from the sidelines was really easy.
BERMAN: It was really easy. First thing, they had huge majorities in
a ton of states. So they were able to just ram things through in states
like Texas. It was passed by emergency legislation. In states like
Florida, emergency legislation. Legislation that was supposed to be
designed for basically the social welfare of the state -- you`re only
supposed to do it in extreme circumstances, that`s how some of the bills
Number one, it was done very quickly. It was done huge majorities.
O`DONNELL: Any strategic counter to this that the Democrats can come
BERMAN: The strategic counter is, number one, a lot of education,
helping people get these I.D.s, helping people know what`s going on.
Number two, there`s the Justice Department. The Justice Department has the
authority under the Voting Rights Act to look at all these different states
that fall under its purview.
I think you`re going to see a number of challenges. The Justice
Department has already sent pointed questions to South Carolina and Texas,
for example, asking for more information about how these laws might affect
minority voters in those states.
O`DONNELL: Ari Berman, contributing writer for "the Nation," thank
you very much for joining me tonight.
BERMAN: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the district attorney in Topeka, Kansas, has
found a new way to save money. The city will no longer prosecute domestic
O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s Rewrite. Tax justice will have its day
in the United States Senate, possibly as early as tomorrow. Majority
Leader Harry Reid will try to bring President Obama`s American Jobs Act to
a vote in the Senate, after having rewritten the tax provisions in the bill
that pay for it.
The bill should now be called the American Jobs and Tax Justice Act,
because what Harry Reid has written into the bill is a more progressive and
more fairly targeted tax proposal than what the White House had proposed to
pay for the bill.
Where the president offered a small collection of tax proposals aimed
at some corporations and individuals with incomes over 200,000 dollars,
Harry Reid narrowed the focus to one tax proposal for people with net
taxable incomes over one million dollars. The Reid proposal adds a 5.6
percent surtax on all income above a million dollars, including -- this is
very important. It includes capital gains income, which is taxed at a much
lower rate than ordinary income.
It is a sensible and practical attempt to close the gap between the
low capital gains tax rates billionaires pay and the higher income tax
rates that working middle class families pay. Now, let`s just think about
how much money this is.
If you make one million dollars, nothing happens to your taxes. If
you make 1,100,000 dollars, it means that on that 100,000 dollars above a
million dollars, you will pay an additional 5,600 dollars in federal income
tax. So a person making a million dollars a year, nothing, no change.
Don`t have to pay anything more.
But a person making 1.1 million dollars a year would pay an additional
5,600 dollars in federal income tax. A person making two million dollars a
year would pay an additional 56,000 dollars in federal income tax, only on
that second million dollars of income. The first million dollars of income
would still be taxed exactly as it is today, at 35 percent.
If you were making a million dollars, and you had a chance to make
another million dollars, but on that second million dollars, you knew you`d
have to pay 56,000 dollars of it in additional federal taxes, do you think
you`d say, nah, I`ll just hold it right here at a million? No one would
make that choice. No one has ever made that choice.
The brilliance of this surtax is that it goes where the money is,
plenty of money, a wild excess of money that is capable of absorbing this
very, very small additional tax responsibility without anyone who earns
that kind of money ever noticing that they`re sending in a little bit more
to the federal government, 5.6 percent more only on incomes over a million
And that is all we need to pay for President Obama`s entire American
Jobs Act. Eighty nine days ago, the Senate took its first important step
toward tax justice on a sense of the Senate resolution. Sense of the
Senate resolutions are not law. Most of them are not controversial. A lot
of them pass unanimously. Many of them just sound like hallmark greeting
cards in legislative language.
Like this one from January 11th: "it is the sense of the Senate that
the people of the United States should observe and celebrate the 150th
anniversary of the admittance of the state of Kansas to the United States
as the 34th state." Typical sense of the Senate resolution.
But the sense of the Senate resolution that Harry Reid introduced 89
days ago turned out to be sharply partisan. It was written by Majority
Leader Reid and contained this preamble: "Congress makes the following
findings: `The Wall Street Journal` reports that median pay for chief
financial officers of S&P 500 companies increased 19 percent to 2.9 million
dollars last year. Over the past ten years, the median family income has
declined by more than 2,500 dollars. Twenty percent of all income earned
in the United States is earned by the top one percent of individuals.
"Over the past quarter century, four-fifths of the income gains
accrued to the top one percent of individuals."
Then Senator Reid got to the point. "It is the sense of the Senate
that any agreement to reduce the budget deficit should require that those
earning one million dollars or more per year make a more meaningful
contribution to the deficit reduction effort."
Now, I wish we lived in a world where we could be surprised that every
Republican in the Senate voted against that resolution. But we all know
better by now. We know that most Republicans in the Senate and the House
took an oath to Grover Norquist before they took their oath of office.
Their signed oath to a Republican lobbyist, Grover Norquist, is that they
will never raise taxes in any way on anyone at any time, under any
circumstances, not ever, including taxes on millionaires, taxes on
And so, yes, every Republican in the Senate voted against Harry Reid`s
July resolution, which he properly entitled, "Sense of the Senate of Shared
Sacrifice." Senator Reid got all Republicans in the Senate on record as
being opposed to collecting anymore revenue in any way from the richest
among us who earn more than one million dollars a year.
Senate Republicans put themselves on record as being against closing
any kind of tax loophole that benefits the super rich or raising their
income taxes even by a dollar, just by a dollar. That was the genius of
Harry Reid`s resolution. It didn`t specify how much more we should ask of
the people making a million dollars -- making more than a million dollars,
just that it should be more.
A hundred dollars, 10 dollars, 1,000 dollars, five dollars? It didn`t
say. The resolution didn`t say that, just More. And Republicans voted
against the very concept of even having people making over a dollars
million pay just a dollar more, anything more.
Senator Reid got 51 Democratic votes in favor of his Shared Sacrifice
Resolution. You couldn`t ask for a clearer difference between the
Democratic party and the Republican party. You couldn`t ask for a clearer
reason to vote Democratic, or if you think the richest income earners in
this country shouldn`t be asked to contribute one more nickel to this
country, then, yes, you could not ask for a clearer reason to vote
When anyone tries to tell you there`s not much difference between the
two parties, when anyone tries to tell you there`s some sort of protect the
rich conspiracy going on in Washington run by the Republi-crat party, some
ugly governing force that controls both parties, point to this vote. Point
to July 13th, 2011, in the United States Senate.
Fifty one Democrats saying that those earning more than a million
dollars per year should make a more meaningful contribution, and every --
every Republican voting against that. No difference between the parties?
There`s a million dollar difference between the parties right there.
We`ll see that difference again this week. Most Democrats will vote
for tax justice and every Republican will vote against it.
O`DONNELL: The fiscal crisis that has hit federal, state and local
government is now having a shocking impact on life in America. We are
seeing not just fewer police officers on patrol in this country, and
teacher/student ratios getting out of hand, as we lay off teachers, but we
are losing our ability to sustain some of the basic elements of a civilized
Witness Topeka, Kansas. Tomorrow evening, the city council in Topeka
will decide whether to repeal an ordinance outlawing domestic battery. It
is in response to a decision by the district attorney of Shawnee County,
Chad Taylor. Faced with a 10 percent cut to his budget, Taylor has
announced his office will no longer prosecute misdemeanor crimes, including
Since that decision was announced September 8th, police in Topeka say
at least 18 people have been arrested for domestic battery. Arrested. But
they have all been released because they were not charged. The repeal of
Topeka`s city ordinance is a move designed to force the district attorney
to resume prosecution, since domestic battery is still a crime under Kansas
It is the type of real world consequence to consider when you hear
libertarians like Congressman Ron Paul and his son, Senator Rand Paul,
declare war on government spending.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: This country is ready for more freedom
and less government.
REP. RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe in limited
government, I believe in individual liberty.
There`s no authority for them to run our schools. No authority to
control our economy. And no authority to control us as individuals on what
we do with our personal lives.
RA. PAUL: It`s a message of limited, limited constitutional
government and balanced budgets.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Kari Ann Rinker, state coordinator with
the National Organization for Women in Kansas. Thanks for joining me
KARI ANN RINKER, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN: Thank you so much
for having me.
O`DONNELL: Could you just walk me through the strategy on what`s
going on in the city council on this vote?
RINKER: Well, from what I hear, they feel that if they revoke the
city ordinance that is for domestic violence, that it will force the hand
of the county D.A., that it will require him, under the state statute, to
enforce domestic violence within the city once again. But the troubling
thing that I have with the proposition of such a vote -- the problem that I
have with that is that it is not guaranteed.
Their own city attorneys have not been able to guarantee that this
would be the end result. I keep hearing words like "shall" and "probably,"
but when we`re dealing with the issue that is life or death, such as
domestic violence, there should be more guarantees before the city council
even considers the revocation of a municipal ordinance protecting women in
O`DONNELL: Kari, 18 arrests since the district attorney thought this
was a good way to save money. No prosecutions off of 18 arrests. That
starts to feel like a dangerous climate for at least the partners of those
RINKER: Of course. And, yeah, the judges in that community are
letting these men go because they know that they will not be prosecuted.
And there`s no way that you can hold someone if they are not to be
prosecuted. And as a matter of fact, there is one case that we have had
confirmed by the police chief in that community where we have had another
offense, multiple offense.
We had someone that was picked up, that was held and then let go, and
then within 48 hours, he committed another crime against his partner, was
arrested and then he was again let go. And you know, the end result could
very well be with having a murder on the hands of these officials that
refuse to get along with each other using the old-fashioned art of
You know, you were discussing problems at the federal level. And we
have problems at our state level with people working together on issues.
But certainly when we`re talking about the basic safety of the individuals
in your community, that is the most rudimentary level of protection that we
can provide citizens. And they are not providing them to the women of
O`DONNELL: Kari, I understand that tax revenues are down. They`re
down all over the country. But Kansas has an average -- typical state
income tax structure, sales tax structure. Why -- why would they suddenly
be in this prosecutorial strain that we don`t see elsewhere?
RINKER: Well, we have a governor, Governor Sam Brownback, who is
radically conservative, and has put the clamp down on all sorts of spending
throughout the state. I believe that this is it playing out at the local
level, quite simply.
O`DONNELL: Because the state could come in and supplement a county
district attorney`s need for funding of this kind, couldn`t they?
RINKER: Well, I would hope so. In my call, when I went in front of
the county commission on Thursday, my call to action was for them to all
come together or for the state to come in for a temporary compromise, while
the county D.A. is asking for a sum of 350,000 dollars to continue
prosecuting these cases. If we were to provide him with enough funding to
continue at least two more months, until the compromise could be find
between all parties, I think that would --
O`DONNELL: That was Kari Ann Rinker, Kansas State National
Organization For Women coordinator. I want to thank her very much for
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