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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

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Guests: Jared Bernstein, Steve Kornacki, Richard Wolffe, Joe Madison, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Cynthia Burkhardt

REV. AL SHARPTON, HOST: Welcome to POLITICS NATION. I`m Al Sharpton.

Tonight`s lead: Mitt Romney`s taxing situation. Now even his go-to
supporter Chris Christie is saying he should release his returns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: What I would say to Governor
Romney is, if you have tax returns to put out, you know, you should put
them out. You put them out sooner rather than later, because it`s always
better, in my view, to have complete disclosure, and especially when you`re
the front-runner.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Well, for once, Governor Christie has got it right.

Could Willard be trying to hide something?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What`s the effective rate
I`ve been playing? It`s probably closer to the 15 percent rate than
anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Ah, yes. Maybe he`s hiding 15 things.

We do know that Mitt Romney`s net worth is as much as $250 million,
but he only pays a 15 percent tax rate because his money comes from
investments. You know who pays more -- a lot more? Warren Buffett`s
secretary and millions of middle class Americans.

She earns $60,000 a year and pays double Romney`s tax rate, almost 30
percent. That`s right, a man making millions of dollars pays a lower tax
rate than your average secretary.

And what`s worse, Romney`s looking to make his tax burden less, not
more. He is promising to keep the Bush tax cuts in place, because if they
expire, people at his income level will have to pay a lot more. In his
case, as much as $4 million more.

As we have reported here again and again on this show, the rich in
this country have seen their income skyrocket over the past 30 years, but
the income for the poor has remained stagnant. Should we really be looking
to elect the poster child for unfairness?

If you don`t want to ask me, ask Newt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I fully expect the Romney
campaign to be unendingly dirty and dishonest for the next four days,
because they are desperate. They thought they could buy this. They are
discovering they can`t buy this.

I think they are now going to -- I think they have internal polls that
show them losing, and I think they will do anything at any level.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Joining me now is Jared Bernstein, an MSNBC contributor and
the former chief economist for Vice President Biden, and Steve Kornacki,
political columnist for Salon.com.

Thank you both for coming on the show.

JARED BERNSTEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you.

STEVE KORNACKI, POLITICAL COLUMNIST, SALON.COM: Sure.

BLITZER: Jared, before we do anything, can you explain Romney`s 15
percent tax problem? Because when I say unfairness, I want people to
understand the 15 percent and why many of us think that`s unfair.

BERNSTEIN: Sure. It has to do with the source of his income.

Now, we don`t know this, but presumably -- and I`m sure we`re right
based on his statements -- the fact is that the vast majority of his income
must come from what economists call assets or unearned income, not from the
kind of wages, the paycheck that Warren Buffett`s secretary makes. And we
have a tax system that is hugely tilted to the advantage of capital gains,
dividends, pass-through income, debt financing, which was huge for Bain
Capital.

The kinds of incomes that a guy like Mitt Romney has face a tax rate
of about 15 percent. So when he said, I pay the 15 percent rate, really
what he was saying was, I take advantage of all these favors that the tax
code does for the very rich.

SHARPTON: Now, so we are not talking about him maybe trying to hide
the fact he`s very wealthy, because that`s already understood.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

SHARPTON: The figures are not what a lot of people want to see. It`s
what percentage of his -- the rate, the tax rate, what percentage does he
pay based on this unfair capital gain tax percentage, and why -- and the
Bush tax cuts, which he wants to maintain.

BERNSTEIN: Well, the Bush tax cuts made the tax code even more tilted
to this asset-based income. It also, by the way -- and again, this gets
back to Ban Capital, to private equity -- it also tilts the tax code in
favor of debt finance. So, one of the reasons we end up with so much
leverage in our economy before we had the big debt bubble that ended up
really generating the great recession was -- one reason is because the tax
code favors this kind of speculation. Meanwhile, folks who are drawing
paychecks like the rest of us are facing rates that are much higher than
that.

SHARPTON: Now, Steve, the politics of this, let me tell you what was
also confusing to a lot of people. Here we are where we clearly have dealt
with the inequality in this country as the issue that we ended last year
and going into this year on. Why would Willard Mitt Romney risk this? And
how will this roll itself out?

All of us have had to deal with when we ran for president -- when I
did, you had to make disclosures, you had to do all this. I`ve had a
running battle with the IRS we just solved, and I`ve had to disclose, do
whatever.

Then he said something very interesting. Let me show you what he said
yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I know that if I`m the nominee, people will want to see the
most recent year and see what happened in the most recent year, and what
things are up to date. And so they`ll want to see the tax returns that
come out in April.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now, when I saw that clip, Steve, what rung in my ear as
one that ran for president and had to deal with disclosures, the most
recent year. Like he was cutting off the ring before we start the fight,
because when President Obama ran, he released six years of taxes. When
Willard Mitt Romney`s father ran, he released 12 years.

So is Mitt Romney saying, by that clip, that he`s only talking about
possibly when he becomes the nominee releasing one year? Which he hasn`t
even filed yet, which would explain why he wants to do it in April, because
he can file this April, pay a higher tax rate, or do something to clean up
what he`s been doing for years, release one year, and we never really get
an answer as to how he was doing business as a candidate that we should be
able to look at what he was doing.

KORNACKI: Yes. Well, I mean, I think there two things. There are
two potential sort of loopholes here that he`s looking at.

One is the timing issue, where he was asked, point blank in a debate
the other night, "Will you release your tax returns?" And he had Rick
Perry saying to him in the debate, we need to know now and not after you
are the nominee, what`s in there.

And he said, no, I`m going to wait until April, and he claimed there
was some tradition of doing it around Tax Day. So there`s a timing issue.
He wants the nomination sewn up before he does this.

And then there`s the issue you just had in the clip there with the one
year thing. Now, part of that might be the 15 percent. But the thing that
I`m hearing -- and I want to be a little careful here, because this story
just broke tonight and I haven`t had a chance to look at it too closely.
But there`s a story out tonight that talks about potentially Mitt Romney
being invested, having offshore investments.

And the idea being that he can clean that up potentially on the 2011
return, but not so much on the past returns. So, if the story that`s out
there now, that just broke maybe an hour or two ago holds up, then the past
years will offer a lot of clues, a lot of information about his offshore
activity that maybe the 2011 return wouldn`t.

SHARPTON: Offshore. You are talking about this story that ABC is
reporting?

KORNACKI: Right.

SHARPTON: Let me show you this. I don`t want to show off, but we get
things here by the minute.

They are saying, we understand, that he has as much as maybe $8
million invested in at least 12 funds on a Cayman Island registry. Another
investment between $5 million and $25 million also domiciled in the
Caymans. Bain Capital, get this, has set up some 138 secretive offshore
funds in the Caymans.

Now, I`m sure all of this is legal, but the question becomes offshore.
We`re dealing with all kinds of questions here.

Shouldn`t the American people have the right to know all of this?

KORNACKI: Well, right. And that`s why all of the events of the last
few days are really, I think, ratcheting up the pressure on Romney to do
this sooner than later.

You have Chris Christie, his top surrogate, going off message and
reinforcing it. You`ve got the story about his father. You`ve got how
uncomfortable he was in that debate the other night.

You`ve got him saying basically, I pay the 15 percent rate. Now you
have this story.

So right now we`re in the middle of January. He`s talking about
waiting three months until the middle of April. I have a hard time seeing
how this isn`t going to reach critical mass before then and he`s got to do
something.

SHARPTON: Now, Jared, everything that is in this report, if it proves
to be so -- we`ve not confirmed all of it, but it`s clearly coming out --
it may be legal, but is it fair?

BERNSTEIN: It probably is legal and it`s certainly not fair. Look,
here`s the thing.

What Mitt Romney is doing is the same thing that most of the denizens
of the top one or top one-tenth of the one percent are doing, which is to
take advantage of a tax code that massively favors the kinds of income and
the kinds of opportunities they have, whether it`s debt financing, whether
it`s capital gains, whether it`s offshore accounts. This stuff is legal.

The problem that I see, the larger problem, much bigger than Mitt
Romney, the candidate, is what does this is a about this moment and
economic time? Are we a nation that needs a denizen of that top one
percent to govern things going forward? Is this someone who can make the
right calls on the tax system, on revenue, on jobs, on investment?

And if you look at the record of the economy when you pursue all of
those kinds of rules, all those dynamics that favor the very tippy-top,
you`ve seen it`s been terrible for the middle class and for the poor. So I
think the larger lesson here is that the economics of a guy like Mitt
Romney, putting him aside, but someone who has that kind of economic
profile, has been a terrible economics for the middle class. That`s the
most important message, in my view, for the electorate to take from this.

SHARPTON: Well, let me say, I think I wanted to be very clear to our
listeners that we are not talking about his wealth.

We`re not envious or jealous of your lifestyle and your success,
Willard. We`re talking about fairness. That`s why we`re saying that even
Chris Christie is right.

Let us know the rate you are paying. Let us know the offshore stuff
you are doing. Let us know the basis in your life that you make these
economic policy position decisions. I think the American people need to
know.

The numbers are not as important as what you believe, and what you do
shows us what you believe.

Jared Bernstein and Steve Kornacki, thank you both for joining me.

BERNSTEIN: Sure.

KORNACKI: You`re welcome.

SHARPTON: President Obama delivers a big and surprising win to the
progressive community. We`ll have the story.

Plus, Newt Gingrich`s racially-charged campaign. It`s not what he was
saying a few years ago.

And Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. A media blitz to save his job.
Will it work?

You`re watching POLITICS NATION on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Welcome back to POLITICS NATION.

The House of Representatives is back in session, and they are picking
up right where they left off.

Earlier, House Republicans blocked President Obama`s request to raise
the nation`s debt limit. That`s right. They are going right back to that
low point.

It will have no impact whatsoever. It was simply a symbolic move.
New session, same old games.

But remember this is who they are.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LESLEY STAHL, "60 MINUTES": Your idol, as I`ve read, anyway, was
Ronald Reagan. And he compromised.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), MAJORITY LEADER: He never compromised his
principles.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STAHL: So you did compromise?

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: We found common ground.

STAHL: Why won`t you say -- you are afraid of the word.

BOEHNER: I reject the word.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Boehner and Cantor won`t compromise, but a new poll shows
85 percent of Americans want Republicans to compromise with Democrats. But
this "My way or the highway" attitude has now taken over the Republican
race for president.

We are also seeing them take a hard right run to the extreme. We see
it on the issue of abortion and a personhood pledge that says abortion is
no longer OK in cases of rape and incest.

We see it on the issue of immigration, where the Dream Act is treated
as an insult. And we see it on entitlements, where they want to obliterate
reform and change them totally.

But on the other side of the fence is the president of the United
States, Barack Obama, fighting to get something done while Republicans stay
further and further away from the mainstream.

Joining me now, Joe Madison, host of "Mornings With Madison" on Sirius
XM Radio, and MSNBC analyst Richard Wolffe. He`s the author of "Revival:
The Struggle for Survival Inside the Obama White House."

Thank you both for being here tonight.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Thanks, Reverend.

JOE MADISON, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Thanks.

SHARPTON: Richard, how out of step are these Republicans with what
Americans want?

WOLFFE: Well, out of step that they`ve helped a president who is
still struggling with high unemployment improve his approval ratings. He`s
gone from the low 40s to the high 40s. It`s better. It`s not great.

But he`s stronger because he`s taken on Republicans. He said he can`t
wait. He`s shown more activity.

Since that debt ceiling crisis and spectacular showdown, he has really
improved his performance in the polls. And, you know, Republicans thought
this election year would be easy because of the state of the economy. They
overreached. They`ve stumbled. They`ve set this president up for a much
better position in election year.

SHARPTON: Joe, when you look at, as I said, abortion, immigration,
entitlements, let me show you what their stand is on entitlements so you
can respond.

All of the candidates -- Republican candidates say that the federal
government`s investment in Medicare should be slashed, and all have
supported the privatization of Social Security. We are looking at people
that are far, far away even from the compassionate conservatism of George
Bush.

MADISON: And we`re looking at people who are also, I think, very
duplicitous. I think they are dishonest. And quite honestly, I think they
have demonized the poor to the point that they have even demonized those in
their own party.

Let us be honest about it. You mentioned Newt Gingrich and how he
demonized the poor, and his attitude, how he said there was no role models,
there was no culture. I think Santorum said a culture of marriage. But
yet, when he was with you, Al, there were role models in those audiences
all the time.

Has he forgotten the teachers? Has he forgotten the leaders that he
sat on the stage with?

SHARPTON: The parents, yes.

MADISON: Yes. I mean, the parents that met with you folks.

SHARPTON: I`m going to show a little of that in a few minutes. But
go ahead.

MADISON: But the sad thing is people in their own party depend on
these programs. And that`s why you are getting the reaction that you are
getting, the percentages that you are getting in these polls. I mean, they
are kicking their own grandmothers under the bus with Medicare.

SHARPTON: No question about it.

MADISON: That`s what`s really happening.

SHARPTON: Well, Richard, when you look at these polls, the American
people, just on entitlements, 66 percent when they were asked whether
Social Security benefits should be reduced in the future, 66 percent say
no. It is not only politically unwise. The reason that these programs are
being polled so high is because people need them. They work.

WOLFFE: Right. And that`s the problem for Republicans right now as
they look to emphasize deficits.

The question is, are they in touch with what people are going through
right now? Are you dealing with a short-term crisis that older people,
poorer people have right now, or are you just focusing on the longer term?

And just to come back to President Bush, who was just cited a moment
ago, he would struggle to get his own party`s nomination right now. He was
for immigration reform. He increased the entitlements with Medicare
prescription drug benefit, and he put a mandate on the state through No
Child Left Behind. He actually wanted to use government to help people at
the lower end of the scale, even as he was cutting taxes for the wealthy as
well. And that would not fit with the Republican Party today.

SHARPTON: Now, Joe, if Romney were to be the nominee and go on and
win, even (INAUDIBLE) says that Romney`s economic agenda is anything but
moderate. Now, it`s interesting.

He says, "This isn`t a Bush-like agenda. It`s much more right wing.
If Romney wins, he`ll think he has a mandate to push these crushing cuts to
public investments and the safety net."

This is frightening to a lot of people that need that safety net,
people that, in many cases, work but don`t make enough money, people that
are seniors. I mean, what does this really say to those people, Mr.
Madison?

MADISON: Well, what it says, Reverend Sharpton, is that people who --
and you`ve left a large segment of people out. People who are laid off
their jobs for no reason that they caused, because we had, as you pointed
out in the last segment, this speculating type of economy where the
gamblers in our economic system were given unfair tax benefits while
working poor people found themselves losing their jobs.

What you have, for example, in South Carolina are people who worked in
the textile industry, Reverend Sharpton. These were people who went to
work every day, worked hard. Sometimes they got sick from inhaling lint.
All they wanted was good health care.

SHARPTON: That`s right.

MADISON: All they wanted was an opportunity to improve their lives
and their children`s lives. That`s what the automotive industry was about
in Detroit. It improved the lives of future generations.

So what you`ve left out and what it means to these people is that you
have a man who will sit there and give tax benefits to people who actually
put Americans out of work, stopped manufacturing in this country, and go
around the world looking for the cheapest labor that they can -- they`re
bottom feeders when it comes to labor. And American people and especially
working people should never be bottom feeders. Never.

SHARPTON: Richard, let me get also to a little politics of this.
Sarah Palin has emerged again. And she kind of gave a tepid kind of
endorsement to Mr. Gingrich.

Let me show it to you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN (R), FMR. ALASKA GOVERNOR: If I had to vote in South
Carolina in order to keep this thing going, I`d vote for Newt and I would
want this to continue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: So you have Sarah Palin saying she would vote for Newt just
to keep it going.

But if Romney is able to survive and do well in South Carolina, pretty
much locks up the nomination, if he`s facing Barack Obama, has he put
himself in a tight squeeze that he`s gone so far right, he can`t get back
mainstream for the general election?

WOLFFE: Well, I think he`ll try and say that those comments that he
made maybe didn`t really represent what he felt, and that Romney version
one, rather than Romney version two or three, was what he really
represented. But the tape is out there.

And this contest that`s been going on for a long time may be ending
prematurely for some people like Sarah Palin if it ends in South Carolina
or Florida. But he`s got a year`s worth of material where he has gone
further and further to the right on things like abortion rights, on taxes,
and now he`s got his own pickle on his own tax situation. I think he`s got
so many problems that, honestly, it makes John Kerry`s track record in 2004
look clean.

SHARPTON: Ahead, more on President Obama. His approval ratings are
up. But there are some storm clouds. How does he prevail?

The head of the Democratic Party is here live to explain the strategy
with us.

Thank you, Richard.

Thank you, Joe.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Right-wing golden boy Scott Walker`s political career is in
grave trouble. More than one million people want him out.

So he`s on a massive PR blitz. In the last few days he`s been
everywhere. I mean, this guy is all over the airwaves.

He`s playing the victim. He says unions are out to get him. And he
says the people of Wisconsin really like him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: The big government union bosses
that drove this election and the operatives in the state of Wisconsin in
the Democratic Party ultimately want us to fail.

We chose to think about our kids and our grandkids, not just our own
political futures.

But the real opponent will be this money coming in from out of state
from these government unions.

I think we`re going to earn the trust of the majority of the people
again come 2012.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Really, Governor? "Trust" is not a word you should be
using. Let`s get real.

You didn`t run on union-busting. Governor, the people of Wisconsin
won`t stop fighting to finish what they started, and neither will we.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Welcome back to POLITICS NATION. The President is gearing
up for re-election. As he maps out his 2012 re-election strategy, new
polling shows the national barometer is moving slowly but steadily in his
direction. Overall, he has seen a bump in approval in the last two months
and a brand new pew poll puts him five points ahead of likely opponent Mitt
Romney. But that`s not all. These same polls also show more Americans see
a brighter future. We`ve seen an eight-point jump in the percentage of
people who think the country is on the right track. And a nine-point jump
in the percentage of Americans who feel the economy is improving. Fifty
five percent of Americans believe that unfairness in the economic system is
the biggest problem in America. With unemployment still at eight percent
and GOP obstructionists blocking most solutions, it won`t be an easy road
back to the White House. But as we all know, slow and steady can
definitely win the race.

Joining me now is Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz,
chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. Thanks for joining me
tonight.

DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL), DNC CHAIRWOMAN: Thank you Reverend
Al. Great to be with you.

SHARPTON: Let me ask you this. Is the President on the right track
to win in November in your judgment?

SCHULTZ: Well, I think that there is going to be a really dramatic
contrast between the -- anyone in the republican field and President Obama
because for his entire term, President Obama has been fighting for the
middle class, fighting for working families, pushing hard to get this
economy turned around and to create jobs. And, you know, he`s taken us
from a point where we were bleeding 750,000 jobs a month when he first took
office, thanks to the failed republican policies of the past, and now three
years later we`ve had 22 straight months of job growth in the private
sector. We`ve created about three million jobs for those last 22 months,
and we`re moving, as you just said, slowly but steadily in the right
direction. And we need to pick up that pace of change and improvement.

But the Republicans believe that we should return to the failed
policies of the past. Do things like end Medicare as we know it. Allow
people to invest their Social Security in the stock market. How would that
have worked out in the last few years? And basically structure our tax
policy in America so that we can help people who are already doing very
well do even better. That`s the dramatic contrast. And I think President
Obama ultimately on November 6th, will go back to the White House because I
think most folks want the president fighting for them and not for the
wealthiest one percent.

SHARPTON: Now Congresswoman, you and I know that a nice civil
discussion on facts is not how these guys are planning to run this
election.

SCHULTZ: Yes, that`s.

SHARPTON: Let me give you an example. I`m going to show you sound.
President Obama said at a campaign stop in Canton, Ohio, back in October
2008 that has already been distorted by the Romney camp taking it out of
context. Listen to this.

SCHULTZ: Sure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: Because that`s how you play
the game in Washington. If you can`t beat your opponents` ideas you
distort those ideas and maybe make some up. If you don`t have a record to
run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run away
from.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now that`s the way they are rolling. Let me show you what
he actually said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Which is why his campaign said that if we keep talking about
the economy, we`re going to lose. That`s why he`s spending these last
weeks` calling me every name in the book. Because that`s how you play the
game in Washington. If you can`t beat your opponent`s ideas, you distort
those ideas and maybe make some up. If you don`t have a record to run on,
then you paint your opponent as someone people should run away from.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: So, here they have an ad taking the last part of what the
President said referring to what his opponent does and what they are doing
in Washington. They are not going to play fair, Congresswoman.

SCHULTZ: No, they are not. That`s right. And that`s why we need to
make sure that we continue our effort to stand up the most robust
grassroots presidential campaign in American history. And we have been
doing that. We`ve logged hundreds and hundreds of thousands of calls, had
tens of thousands of one on one meetings in battleground states and states
across the country, really connecting with real people who are engaging in
our campaign, getting out and doing the door knocks and the phone calls for
President Obama while the Republicans are focused on courting and raising
money from special interests and the wealthiest Americans. And that`s
again another dramatic contrast.

SHARPTON: Now, the grassroots campaign on the ground certainly it was
something unparalleled in political history in `08 and you are saying
you`re going to duplicate it in 2012. But you are also doing something
else. "The New York Times" says that you already have the re-election
campaign has already bought time for ads in key swing states. Already
they`ve bought it. Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina. Ads that hit
the air as early as tomorrow maybe.

SCHULTZ: Now, Al, you know I`m not going to start sharing information
about ad buys and things like that.

SHARPTON: I have to try.

SCHULTZ: As much as I would love to break that news on your show,
that is not something I think I`m going to be able to do right now. Good
try, though.

SHARPTON: Well, I have to try. Well, let me try another one. Any
comment on these reports that Mr. Romney, who may be your opponent, has
money on -- in offshore accounts in the Caymans?

SCHULTZ: You know, I think there are countless examples of Mitt
Romney being dramatically out of touch with the average middle class
working family. And not the least of which was the revelation he made the
other day that his tax rate that he pays approaches 15 percent. He still
refuses to release his tax returns, even Chris Christie, the governor of
New Jersey, one of his biggest backers said the governor needs to release
those tax returns sooner rather than later. We have already gotten a
glimpse of what Mitt Romney is trying to hide. That he is completely out
of touch and really -- and doesn`t pay nearly the tax rate that most middle
class Americans pay. We need to make sure that Mitt Romney comes clean on
all kinds of things.

SHARPTON: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairperson of the
DNC, thanks for your time tonight.

SCHULTZ: Thanks, as always, Al.

SHARPTON: Coming up, Newt Gingrich`s latest campaign strategy is to
play an ugly stereotype. It`s offensive. But it`s not what he was saying
when he and I worked together. Why the change, Newt? My response ahead.

And the President says, no to a risky pet project for big oil. You
know the GOP won`t like this one. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We`re back with a major decision from President Obama.
There`s also a big win for progressives. Today, he rejected a
controversial construction project. The keystone pipeline. The project
that would carry sludge that`s even more toxic than crude oil. It would
carry it from Canada to refineries in Texas. It would cross the largest
source of freshwater in the United States. A spill of this toxic sludge
would be an environmental and economic disaster. And, of course, the GOP
wasted no time weighing in on his decision.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: And by deciding to block
the development of the keystone pipeline, he has essentially decided to
block the creation of 20,000 new jobs.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This is not the end
of the fight. Republicans in Congress will continue to push this because
it`s good for our country and it`s good for our economy and it`s good for
the American people, especially those looking for work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: But they are lying about job creation. It`s just bogus.
Check out this Cornell University study that shows the true number of jobs
the keystone would create. It isn`t even close to 20,000. It`s 6,500. At
POLITICS NATION, we know the real story. We talked exclusively to a
whistleblower. Here`s what he told me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE KLINK, KEYSTONE PIPELINE WHISTLEBLOWER: This pipeline is nothing
more than a toxic man-made river being built across our country. I don`t
understand why they would be willing to risk human lives for big oil.
There`s no reason to hurry a project like this. It should be studied. It
should be looked at.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: The President is standing up against big oil. He knows the
danger of the pipeline filed way to temporary jobs it might create.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We`re back with the ugly racial politics playing in the
republican race. Newt Gingrich has been at the center of it. Ripping the
President as the food stamp president and calling for poor kids to go to
work as janitors. His heated exchange with Juan Williams is still drawing
outrage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And we think unconditional
efforts by the best food stamp president in American history to maximize
dependency is terrible for the future of this country. I`m going to
continue to find ways to help poor people learn how to get a job, learn to
get a better job and learn someday to own the job.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Oh, the crowd loved it. On Martin Luther King Day, the
crowd went wild with a standing ovation for Newt. But just three years ago
on the same day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Newt got another ovation.
Only this time it was at my National Action Network`s Martin Luther King,
Jr. education rally in Washington, D.C. We came together for the good
cause of education. The event also happened to be a day before President
Obama was inaugurated. Here`s Newt talking about the food stamp President
that day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: I am thrilled to be here, and I am thrilled that on this
historic week that each of you is here. Tomorrow, we will inaugurate a
historic first African-American president of the United States. It is --
it will be great for America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: And here`s what Newt said about education.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: Now, I am attracted to and supportive of what the Reverend
Al Sharpton is doing because he correctly understands that education is the
key civil rights issue of the 21st century. We should have a simple yard
stick. Is every child in America getting what they need so they can lead a
full life and what do we have to do not to change it in 20 years but to
change it fast enough to save the future of every child in America. Thank
you. Good luck.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Interesting. Newt forgot to tell us that there were no
role models because there was a thousand parents sitting out in the
audience. He forgot to tell us that really what we needed to do was demand
jobs, not food stamps. He forgot to tell us to make those young people in
those schools that he said he commended and supported me, he forgot to tell
me to tell them that they ought to be janitors working and forgetting
everything else. He forgot the demagoguery of today. And I`ll tell you
why. Because he`s planning to get voters to do things like this lady that
stopped him today in South Carolina.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I would like to thank you, Mr. Speaker, for
putting Mr. Juan Williams in his place the other night.

(APPLAUSE)

His supposed question was totally ludicrous, and we support you.

GINGRICH: Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Putting Juan Williams in his place. Well, what place might
that be? And ludicrous to say it`s offensive to stereotype people in a
wrong way acting as if blacks were the ones getting food stamps? And you
forgot, by the way, Mr. Gingrich, even after the President was inaugurated
and after he was well into his term, you and I met with the President
around education. He sent us on tour together. Let me show you if you
forgot, a picture of the meeting. You forgot to tell him he was a food
stamp president then. We`re sitting there in the oval office talking to
him with Valerie Jarrett sitting there. Oh, he`s in his place. He`s in
the oval office. I want to keep him in his place, Mr. Gingrich. And we`re
not going to demagogue to do that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Back now with our ongoing series "Here are the Jobs."
Getting Americans back to work. Big cities still have a long way to go to
regain the jobs they lost during the recession. A report today from the
nation`s mayors showed that by the end of last year, only 26 out of 363
metropolitan areas were back to prerecession employment levels. But the
mayors predict that almost all of those areas will see job growth this
year. And by the end of 2012, 48 percent of jobs lost during the downturn
will be back. We saw some of those gains last month when the Labor
Department said, employers added 200,000 jobs. This month, as part of our
here are the jobs series, we told you about 500 new jobs at Agero. They`ve
been flooded with applicants. We also reported the news that there were
700 job openings at ServiceMaster.

Since our report, ServiceMaster tells us they`ve been flooded also
with applicants. That`s great to hear. Tonight, we feature another
company that`s hiring hundreds of new employees right now. Massachusetts-
based Philips has 980 job openings in seven states. Philips makes
everything from electric toothbrushes to coffeemakers and other home health
products. They also light our way into the new year putting the light
bulbs in the ball in New York`s Times Square.

Joining me now from Boston, Cynthia Burkhardt, Philips` chief talent
recruiter. Cynthia, thanks for your time tonight.

CYNTHIA BURKHARDT, VP OF TALENT ACQUISITION, PHILIPS: Thank you, Al.
I really appreciate you having me on your show. I respect what you are
doing.

SHARPTON: Thank you. Now, let`s get right to it. You`ve got 980 job
openings. What are the jobs?

BURKHARDT: Well, our biggest needs are in sales, engineering, field
service engineers, marketing, quality and regulatory and supply chain. So
it varies.

SHARPTON: Tell me the seven states that they are available in.

BURKHARDT: Well, actually, depends on the position. So our sales
positions are open anywhere we have -- in the field anywhere we have a
territory open. Field service, the same situation, wherever we have a
customer need. The rest of the positions fall within one of our Philips
locations in North America and most of them at one of our seven locations
which -- seven major locations which are in Massachusetts, Connecticut,
Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio and Washington State. So, pretty broad
scope.

SHARPTON: So, that`s great. They`re all over the place.

BURKHARDT: They are all over the place.

SHARPTON: Let me ask you this. Health care and technology are areas
where a lot of jobs are being added right now. Do you see a big comeback
for jobs at Philips in this area?

BURKHARDT: Yes, we`re definitely doing more hiring than we were a
couple of years ago. Now, I`ll say that a company our size, we`re always
going to hire because we`re always going to have critical positions,
customer facing positions. But we`re definitely seeing some through 2011
and ongoing. An some uptick in jobs, absolutely.

SHARPTON: Now, one thing that caught my eye is that Philips has a
unique benefits package including paid time off for employees who do
volunteer work.

BURKHARDT: Yes. I`ll tell you, one of the reasons I`m proud to work
for Philips is we really are a company with heart. And we show that
through a lot of ways. One of them is our Philips cares program that you
are referring to. Employees get paid time off to go do volunteer work.
And it`s just our way of giving back to the community. And I think it just
makes your employees feel better about your company and proud to be a part
of it.

SHARPTON: Now, people that are watching around the country, how do
they contact you and see about these jobs? How do they reach Philips for
one of these jobs and make an application to fill one?

BURKHARDT: Absolutely. So, if they could go to www.philips.com/here
are the jobs. Again, that`s www.philips.com/here are the jobs. When they.

SHARPTON: Go ahead. I`m sorry. I want to make sure people hear what
you have to say. You have the jobs. Go ahead.

BURKHARDT: I just want to let you know, we made a vanity url for you,
just special for you, Al, so.

SHARPTON: Thank you. Now let me ask you, the jobs in seven states
are -- you`ve explained to us, and you have told us that these openings
vary. In and over, mass, you have 26,000 employees. Locations in 60
countries. The company is all over the place. And you have some right now
immediate jobs. And prominent jobs. And they are available if they go
right to that Web site.

BURKHARDT: Absolutely. Our career Web site will let them search by
function, by geography, whatever way they want to approach it.

SHARPTON: Now, where are we in terms of the economy as you see it?
Do you see our returning to better days?

BURKHARDT: I think we are. I think, you know, I am cautiously
optimistic. I have to tell you, you know, as far as Philips goes, a large
one -- a large part of our business is health care, and that`s a little bit
economy proof because, let`s face it, America is aging. I read a
statistic recently that somebody turns 65 in America every eight seconds.

SHARPTON: Wow.

BURKHARDT: Yes, so.

SHARPTON: Well, I hope people go to the Web site. Thank you Cynthia
Burkhardt. And thanks so much and keep us posted. And for all the
information about our series "Here are the Jobs," go to
politicsnation.msnbc.com and click on "Here are the Jobs." You can read
all about all the companies we`re featuring and get updates about their
hiring plans and if you are hiring, you can let us know about it. We look
forward to hearing from you. And this is important to me and all of us
here at POLITICS NATION. People want to work. People are not lazy.
People are not just laying around looking for handouts. People really want
jobs. If you have jobs, please get in touch with us. And if you want to
work, go to our series. It`s time for us to rebuild the job market and
lives together.

Thank you for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right
now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

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