UP WITH CHRIS HAYES
March 17, 2013
Guests: Sam Seder, Jerry Nadler, Kyrsten Sinema, Heidi Moore, Raed Jarrar, Basma Zaiber, Zainab Al Suwaij, Koby Langley, Stuart Bowen
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBS ANCHOR: Good morning from New York. I`m Chris Hayes.
The judge in the case of two high school football players accused of raping
a 16 year old girl in Steubenville, Ohio, said last night he will issue his
verdict this morning at 10 o`clock Eastern. And MSNBC will be covering it
as the verdict comes in on today`s "Melissa Harris Perry." And Pope
Francis celebrated his first mass as head of the Roman Catholic Church
this morning before a packed crowd at St. Anna Parish in Vatican City.
Right now I`m joined by Democratic Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema from
Arizona, Sam Seder, host of online political talk show "The Majority
Report,", or there I am. Democratic Congressman Gerry Nadler from New York
and Heidi Moore, economics and finance editor for "The Guardian" newspaper.
Good to have you all here. Am I good? Are we good? All right?
This week, Republicans and Democrats and Congress release competing
proposals for the fiscal year 2014 federal budget. Big headlines are about
two plans in particular. One released by Republican Congressman Paul Ryan,
chair of the House Budget Committee and another released by Senator Patty
Murray, chair of the Senate Budget Committee. The Ryan budget is like
previous iterations of this particular product, a conservative wish list.
It would turn Medicare into a voucher program, make Medicaid a block
program and repeal the Affordable Care Act, among other things. The Murray
budget, by contrast, is a much more cautious proposal, the one to one ratio
for spending cuts and new tax revenue. With all the coverage focusing on
these plans, what you wouldn`t know as a third proposal, one that
constitutes a much stronger liberal counter weight to the unbending
conservatism of the Ryan budget. That alternative is the budget proposed
at a Congressional Progressive Caucus, which would add $2 trillion in new
spending to create jobs and pay for it by raising taxes on the wealthy and
corporations. The entire discussion about budgeting has been anchored on
the right by all the attention the Ryan budget has gotten.
So, even though it is billed as the Democratic alternative, this is really
important. The Murray budget is in some ways closer to the Ryan plan when
you take the progressive proposal into account. Check this out. For
example, the Ryan budget would cut non-Defense discretionary spending,
education, transportation, other social services, by 16 percent over ten
years. According to the Citizens for Tax Justice. At the end of - the
other end of the spectrum, the Progressive Caucus Budget which would
increase that spending by nearly 28 percent. So, you might expect that
Murray`s center left Democratic budget would fall somewhere around halfway
between the two right where you would see that red line or slightly towards
the progressive end of the spectrum.
But look at where it actually falls. The Murray budget, which cuts a
little less than one percent of non-Defense discretionary spending falls
not halfway, but somewhat closer to the Ryan plan. The same is true of
other mandatory spending, which includes aid for the poor and unemployed.
The Ryan plan will cuts those programs by 16 percent. The Progressives
budget would increase that spending by nearly 44 percent. So, where is the
Murray plan? The Murray budget would increase that spending by just 1.5
percent. Again, much closer to the Ryan end of the spectrum. Ryan budget
would add no new revenues while the progressive budget would increases tax
revenue it by 14 percent. And the Murray plan increases revenue by just
2.3 percent, which again, falls closer to the Ryan end of the scale.
Special shoutout to Henry Milton (ph) and Sal Gentile (ph) in the graphic
shop for making that work. I want to set that up because it seems to me
that the -- what`s been most frustrating with the budget conversation since
2010 is the way the conversation has been anchored.
And I thought that was -- and this is nothing against Patty Murray, who I
think is a quite good senator, and the Murray budget is not a bad document.
It is simply show what the parameters of the debate are right now, in which
the Ryan budget is a full-day story. Now, granted that`s the House
Majority Caucus, you know, Paul Ryan is a -- VP candidate, Keith Ellison
was not on the ticket. And, you know, the Congressional Progressive Caucus
simply doesn`t have the same power in the House that the Tea Party caucus
has. They are in the minority. And yet at the same time it does seem to
me like there are real actual costs, there are costs in terms of what kind
of budget we are actually going to get because the center of gravity is so
far over towards the Ryan budget and, in fact, when the Ryan budget came
out, and I will shut up for a second, when the Ryan budget came out, I
think there was a sense in which it was like, oh, man, he is doubling down,
he is ignoring the election results, right? He is not - he is, you know,
they are still going to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But from his
perspective, doubling down and just keeping things anchored there is
probably a pretty successful strategy in terms of dragging over the kind of
medium line that we drew on the graph. Sam?
SAM SEDER, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Well, it is strange. I mean, because --
what strikes me, though, about this go-around, well, first off, the real
problem starts with this notion of deficit and debt hysteria which I think
is -- something that goes across the political spectrum far too much than
it should in Washington. And I think part of that is because that`s what
the establishment in many respects has decided is the primary problem as
opposed to ongoing lack of employment in this country. And that is still
the crisis that we are dealing with. Yet, for a long time, the story has
been the debt and deficit. And I think part of the responsibility for
that, obviously, not all of it, really -- is the president`s. Because for
an extended period in 2010, 2011, we heard the same sort of silly rhetoric
about the family has to tighten their belt and the government does, too.
Which no economist believes is actually the prescription.
HAYES: Well, not no economist.
SEDER: You are right.
HAYES: If it were the case ...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well ...
SEDER: I mean I just ...
REP. JERRY NADLER (D ) NEW YORK: Just about no economist. (inaudible)
SEDER: Well, and -- I think there is a wide agreement that we need some
type of stimulus here to get out of this morass. And we are not seeing it.
And so, the only thing I can say that`s somewhat encouraging is that there
is more attention being paid to the CPC`s budget this year than in the
past. I mean nobody talked about the people`s budget last year as far as I
can tell. So ..
NADLER: Well, I just wanted to say that someone did a Google search of the
Ryan budget the day after it was released. 52,000 hits. Someone did a
Google, the same person did a Google search of the back-to-work budget the
day after it was released. Seven hits. It just hasn`t got the attention
that it deserves. Frankly. It`s a very serious budget that we worked out.
That`s the Progressive Caucus in the House worked out. Reduces -- it puts
7 million people to work right away. On infrastructure, it addresses the
primary problem facing the economy, which is a lack of employment and long-
term unemployment for a very large fraction of our people. It gets them to
primary balance by 2015. It gets the budget deficit down to 1.7 percent of
GDP by 2060.
HAYES: Yeah, let me show that.
NADLER: Which is better than any other budget.
HAYES: Let me show that, this is also the interesting thing about the CPC
budget is that even in the contours of the question about reducing long-
term deficit it does a better job than the Patty Murray budget which is the
sort of official Democratic response. This is the -- this is the -- how it
would reduce deficit. It`s just share of DEP, it will do that more than
the Murray budget. You see green line there. Beneath the blue one. The
Ryan budget, of course, if you can find the $6 trillion in tax loopholes.
He says you can. Then this is debt as a share of GDP and again, you see
the same thing, which is the progressive budget that comes in underneath
the Murray budget over time in terms of reducing debt.
HEIDI MOORE, THE GUARDIAN: Well, the problem with the progressive budget
is that one of the really great things about it is that it is incredibly
specific about what taxes it wants to raise, which we haven`t seen in
almost any other budget. Unfortunately, they are all taxes that are
guaranteed to turn Republicans into screaming whirling dervishes, they are
all things Republicans hate, a financial transaction tax on Wall Street
HAYES: Love it.
MOORE: Taxes on big oil ...
HAYES: Bring it.
MOORE: You know, taxing millionaires at 49 percent.
MOORE: Billionaires, sorry. This is everything Republicans will never,
ever agree to. And we already saw that in the fiscal cliff. So, my
question is what`s the plan to make them agree?
HAYES: Congresswoman, I want to get you on this.
REP. KYRSTEN SINEMA, (D) ARIZONA: You know ...
HAYES: What`s the plan to make them agree? You have a very winning
personality if you don`t mind my saying.
HAYES: So, the question is, can you through your force of personality
bring the Republican House caucus over?
SINEMA: What I think is really sad about this whole conversation and
what`s happened in the last week is that the American public doesn`t care
whose budget it is. So, you`ve got Ryan`s budget ...
SEDER: That`s for damn sure.
SINEMA: You`ve got Murray budget, you`ve got CPC. And you know what the
American public says? Can you just solve this problem, please? I mean
think the American public wants, number one, Congress to do no harm. And
that`s a big ask. Given what Congress has done in recent years. Right?
The problem Ii see with the Ryan budget is it actually hurts the recovery
that we are starting to make in our country. And it closes so-called
loopholes, or tax credits for things that are really important, like the
mortgage interest deduction that middle class families rely on. But with
all due respect, neither of the other budgets were formed in collaboration
with folks across the aisle either.
SINEMA: So, you`ve got three budgets, all kind of put out in their own
silos with no real conversation with the parties together which means,
frankly, none of them are real.
SINEMA: And none of this is really going to happen.
HAYES: So, this is - this is, I think now we are - go, Sam, respond to
SEDER: First I want to respond to, which are Heidi`s question. Because
what`s really even more fantastical than the notion that Republicans would
accept the financial ...
HAYES: Can we throw up those taxes, by the way? We have a graphic of
SEDER: What is more fantastical -- is that you are going to cut -- you`re
going to reverse the Affordable Care Act and you`re going to cut Medicare
this way. We are talking in terms of Medicare. We are talking about a
program that even a majority of Tea Partiers do not want to touch. So that
is far more shared in notion than the idea that somehow we`re going to go
back to traditional tax rates that we`ve had in the country for the vast
majority of ...
HAYES: Oh, wait a minute. Let me interject for a second. It`s not just
traditional tax rates. I mean, as you can see there, there is a bunch of
new taxes, right? A carbon tax, a financial transaction tax, all these are
in the CPC ...
SEDER: But we are never going to get close to the marginal tax rates that
we had just 30 years ago.
HAYES: Yes, I agree.
SEDER: And so - so but the question as to whether or not these budgets are
all fantastical is also - I think -- look, we have the sequester right now.
There`s really no room -- we have de facto budgeted everything there is to
SINEMA: That`s exactly right.
HAYES: Thank you.
SEDER: And what we are seeing is competing notions of visions for what the
country -- what the government should do at this point. And essentially,
the Ryan budget basically says the government should just go away. And --
you know, you are not even debating as to whether or not the government --
what priorities there should be. It should be just the government
shouldn`t function in ...
NADLER: The Ryan budget really says we should repeal everything we have
done since the new deal. Get rid of Medicare, get rid of Medicaid. Get
HAYES: Well, he doesn`t get rid of it. He block-grants Medicaid ...
NADLER: He block-grants Medicaid, which essentially gets rid of it.
Because when you block grant it, there is say - you say - here`s a pot of
money to the state, do whatever you want. And then you say, by the way, we
are going to cut it by two-thirds.
NADLER: It eliminates it over time. And it voucherizes Medicare, which is
another way of saying let`s get rid of Medicare. Throwing -- throw old
people -- older people back on to the private insurance market where they
were pre-`65. Help them a little with premiums and increasing little
amount each year. And reproduce all the problems we had. And -- don`t put
money into infrastructure. Don`t do roads, don`t do the highways. And
don`t employ people.
HAYES: But here`s my question, OK. So, if -- if we are operating under
this -- in this space in which you had sort of different ends of the
spectrum being held down and -- congresswoman, you just said the problem is
-- you know, the Ryan budget gets put out there. The CPC budget gets put
out there. No one is talking to each other. I want to talk about -- OK.
What would be the process, right, in an ideal world?
Forget about the process in ...
SINEMA: You mean the legislative process?
HAYES: Yeah, like literally. What`s the process of -- because I basically
think - remember that -- I basically think like all this talk about a grant
bargain is absolutely toxic nonsense. And so I would like to be persuaded
that there is some conceivable means of actually coming together in
Washington that is not going to end up screwing all the things I care
about. Right after this break.
HAYES: So, we are talking about how we are going to get to some kind of
budget solution. And Congresswoman Sinema, you are part of a so-called
Gang of 32.
SINEMA: These gangs keep getting bigger. Right.
SINEMA: There is the gang of eight in the Senate. In the House we
actually are, you know, bigger. So it`s like 32.
HAYES: I (inaudible).
SINEMA: We all come charging downstairs, right?
HAYES: No. But so -- you know, I think -- to the extent to - to the
existing that bipartisan gang exists, it is usually in the Senate ...
HAYES: ... which is -- which hasn`t completely, completely become totally
and entirely polarizing, quite the way the House has.
SINEMA: Well, because of the function of the Senate. You have to have 60
votes to get anything done. So, you have to have some level of
bipartisanship to get anything done. And in the House, of course, is
majority rules. So, the idea that we have this gang of 32, it is 32
freshmen, Democrats and Republicans together. We all started making
friends back in December during our orientation. And begin, you know,
talking about the fact that, frankly, Congress is totally dysfunctional. I
mean the 112th Congress got virtually nothing done. And so, our
conservation was not I agree with this. And I disagree with this. It was
we actually need to work together to solve our problems. The American
public depend on us to do this and they are demanding it. So ...
HAYES: No, but ...
HAYES : OK, OK, but -- the 112th Congress. The Congress wasn`t
dysfunctional. The Republican Party that ran the Congress was
dysfunctional. It just seems to me like -- and look, I understand -- I`m
not a complete like crazy purist on this. Like, you know, Ted Kennedy is a
perfect model of this. Right? This is someone - who -- it`s like sailing.
Ted Kennedy would probably appreciate this analogy, right? It is like -
you`ve got the boat and you`ve got the wind and where you want to go, OK?
And like you got to negotiate between the two. You can`t just go with the
wind and you can`t just decide I`m going there if the wind isn`t there.
And Ted Kennedy was a model legislator, right? He knew where he wanted to
go, he had the boat. And the winds blew in different ways, and he made
different bipartisan deals in different moments to get where he wanted to
MOORE: But where -- the point -- they are just throwing an anchor.
HAYES: That`s my point.
NADLER: It got harder in these last few years and people on the Republican
side who had dealt with him like McCain and Hatch had -- had eventually to
apologize for having dealt with him because the Republican Party became
more radically right wing.
SINEMA: But that`s exactly why ...
NADLER: He couldn`t sustain it.
HAYES: Right. So the question is ...
SINEMA: That`s exactly why are we doing the gang of 32. Look, we know
that the folks who are higher up in privilege and prestige at the Congress
are not necessarily on the same page as us. But I`ll tell you , you take a
look at the name of the 32 people who are on here, very, very diverse
ideological backgrounds. And all we have said in this statement is, you
know what, we`ve got a few core principles that we can agree on. Let`s
find some solutions here, let`s work on them together. And hopefully this
new class of freshmen, which I would say across the board, Republican and
Democrat, very interested in solving problems, very interested in
practicality, not as ideologically rigid as former, you know, classes and
what we are saying to the folks who are higher up than us is actually, you
know, what? What we heard from the American public is that they don`t care
about your ideological fights or who is at fault or who is the (inaudible)
anchor. They just want (inaudible).
SEDER: But I see OK -- the - the problem is that we can even take this a
step further. The problem is not Congress per se. The problem is that the
electorate that is sending them to Congress and the reality is that the
Republicans have been developing an electorate over an extended period of
time that extremely rigid, we can see the polling, we can see that their
own electorate does not want them to compromise as a principle.
SINEMA: But I don`t think that`s true across the board.
SEDER: Well, that may not be true across the board. But I`m talking in
terms of a majority of the Republican caucus, their constituent says very
specific things. Do not compromise.
SEDER: Hold these principles that are based, frankly, on something that`s
out of mainstream -- the reason why we see more to the extent we see any --
more compromise in the Senate is not necessarily because of the 60-vote
threshold. It is ...
SEDER: It is because they are running statewide. They do not have that
deep red constituent.
HAYES: And here is -- I jut want to put this on the table. Because I want
to talk about in this context, right? OK, we are solving problems.
Because -- and you hear this a lot. Like (inaudible) problems, Americans,
you want to solve problems. And that`s true. I mean although it`s sort of
tautological, right? I mean it`s -- you can`t poll people on do you want
Congress to make problems worse? Presumably if they know, so yes, solve
SINEMA: That`s what Congress is really good at doing.
HAYES: No, I know that, right? But wait a bit -- like solve problems.
There is this idea -- there is this idea in Washington that there`s some
kind of non-ideological practical -- like technocratically of solving
problems, but all - the things that emerge out of politics are political.
SEDER: Or even an agreed solution.
HAYES: Right. And I want to talk about the last time that we had like --
everyone come together to solve problems. 1983, right. That this was the
big fix Social Security bipartisan deal that would then got done, which is
now hailed as a model. And I want to look at the distributional effects of
that because it highlights precisely my fear for what might be on the table
right now after this.
HAYES: All right, so the iconic example of a kind of grand bargain, right,
along the lines of what people are now talking about is in 1983, the Social
Security reforms. And this was the Greenspan commission. And I want to
read a little excerpt of an account of how that came about. "Mr. Greenspan
and his fellow commissioners, had met for month and were secretly
deadlocked despite optimistic public statements. One late afternoon Pat
Moynihan, Democratic Senator from New York walked across the floor to talk
to Senate Finance Committee Chair Bob Dole, Republican of Kansas. They cut
the deal and brought out line right there. Fed it to Mr. Greenspan, left
the details to his commission. So, the last-minute Republicans and
Democrats locked arms around to plan to save Social Security by raising the
payroll taxes, to shave benefits, very gradually, raise the retirement age
for future retirees. President Reagan endorsed it, and the rest was
history." Right? So, that`s something like what we are looking for,
right? We want the legislators to strike a deal. But let`s all remember
what came out of that. This is the percent of workers who pay more payroll
tax than income -- by income level, right? The reason that ...
NADLER: Payroll tax -- payroll tax and income tax.
HAYES: Yeah, exactly, right. The reason that that deal was amenable was
that because it is deeply regressive tax on working people. Is a way they
solve the problem. And I just -- I worry when -- if we are talking about a
grand bargain it is like -- well, who is -- who is going to end up paying
for the grand bargain and that, to me, I`m not sure that`s a model,
frankly. I mean everyone talks about it as a model. Look at the
NADLER: Remember also -- remember the circumstances. Everybody forgets.
In 1983, they were projecting Social Security was going to go broke in two
NADLER: Two years. Now -- the trustees majority report, their
intermediate report projects having a problem, in which they can pay 75
percent of benefits in 20 years, and the more optimistic report -- which
has been right about 90 percent of the time over the last 30 years -- says
Social Security is flush for 75 years into the future. Which you never see
in the press. But the fact is no one says Social Security is a problem in
two years. So they were in desperate times.
HAYES: Right. They were -- they really felt like they were on the
precipice. But Congresswoman, convince me, this is what I want you to
convince me of. Convince me that you can think of a way to road map out a
kind of bipartisan compromise that doesn`t end up because of where the
center of political gravity is and because of the intransigence of the
Republican Party in the House, that doesn`t end up being fundamentally
SINEMA: Well, first, I think that we have to depend on the American public
to continue telling us how dissatisfied they are. You know, this Congress
and the Congress before it is continuing to kick the can down the road.
They used to kick it down the road for 18 months. Then it was a year, then
it was six months. Now the Congress is kicking down the road, the can down
the road at 90 days at a time.
SINEMA: That`s ridiculous. I mean -- it is frustrating. You know, the
debt ceiling deal that was made early this year was only a 90-day limit.
So, it means that we are governing by crisis which means we are not
governing at all.
HAYES: So, wait. Draw that out. Which means governing by crisis you
think creates greater conditions for bad regressive policies ...
HAYES: ... than some kind of actual ...
SINEMA: We make bad decisions, all humans do, make bad decisions when you
are under the gun and you`re only solving it for a few days, it`s putting a
Band-Aid on a much bigger issue.
NADLER: That`s why the Republicans have insisted on only taking it down
for a few days. That`s why in January they postponed the debt ceiling
deadline by three months.
NADLER: Because they want to create another crisis ...
SINEMA: And that`s why we have the gang of 32.
HAYES: Right. So here is the question, right? Progressives -- the
argument - I`m trying to tease out here a progressive argument for grand
SINEMA: So, the gang of 32 says look, we don`t like kicking the can down
the road any more than you do. Now, the truth is that the Republicans and
the Democrats and the gang of 32 probably have some very different ideas of
how to solve the problem. But we did agree on a core of set of like five
principles. And that is a basis to make a decision. And it takes into
account the political risks that people will take of primaries on both the
left and the right. I mean, folks are taking a risk by doing this. What
we are asking is that folks who are higher up in the ranks than those of us
who are freshmen be willing to join us and taking those risks.
MOORE: I will give you the progressive argument and the Republican
argument for a grand bargain which is that all of America has tuned this
argument out completely. Right? Nobody knows the details of the various
budgets. They only see ...
SINEMA: Amen ...
MOORE: -- which is why it has become kind of a cult of personality around
the budgets and no one is listening anymore. And so, grand bargain will at
least get people to listen at least then you are working with less magical
thinking of these budgets and actual budgets that people can talk about.
NADLER: Wait a ...
HAYES: I know you want to respond to that. First, we`re going to take a
quick break. Hold that thought.
HAYES: All right. So, I think we arrived at a really fascinating debate
here. No, really. This is where I wanted this to go to begin with. Which
is, there is a -- progressive case for kind of grand bargainism and
stopping government by sequential crises. Right? And then there is a case
for essentially do nothingism which is - I want you to make the case for
SEDER: Do not harm.
HAYES: Do no harm, which is basically like deadlocks -- at this point,
deadlocks and not doing things are good.
SEDER: There is nothing but evidence from a progressive perspective that
stalemate is the best of the worst options to protect what the American
public gets out of government and going forward and getting to a place
essentially where one of the two parties becomes essentially inoperable and
they - and does not become electorally viable. And I would argue also that
even the pursuit of some type of grand bargain is actually destructive. It
brought us the sequester. We know from Gene Sperling whether it was in his
reddit AMA or in his -- his -- e-mail to Bob Woodward that baked into the
cake of the sequester (inaudible) was to leverage an entitlement reform
deal, cutting Social Security and Medicare and to get new taxes. And what
essentially that did is it brought us the sequester. Their pursuit - their
pursuit -- the White House`s pursuit of this grand bargain has brought us
NADLER: That`s exactly right. You now have two political parties that are
further apart ideologically than at any point in American history except
for the decade of the 1790s and the decade before the Civil War. You have
the Republican Party that wants to repeal everything we have done over the
last 75 years, destroy Medicare, destroy Medicaid, et cetera, et cetera.
And any grand bargaining with them is going to -- for them to go with it is
going to have to go a long way toward doing it. What I see in -- a joint -
in any kind of joint statement we have to strengthen Medicare and Social
Security. Social Security is not endangered in any way for a long, long
time. And we don`t have to cut benefits for it.
MOORE: But the president ...
NADLER: And Medicare we don`t have to cut benefits either. We can
strengthen it by doing things like enabling Medicare to bargain with
prescription drug companies and save $100 billion.
MOORE: But this is not the only thing that the president wants out of the
next three years. He wants other legislative accomplishments and he is
going to have to give on this if he wants gun control, if he wants
immigration reform. He`s looking at it from the point of view ...
HAYES: Right. The question is -- I think that`s a really good point,
which is that deadlock -- there is - there`s limited amount of bandwidth,
right? And to accept the entirety of legislative bandwidth is constantly
taking up with budget like, you know - we -- there is a shot at a really
good immigration deal.
SEDER: There is no ...
SINEMA: A very good shot.
HAYES: There is a good shot.
SEDER: There is no evidence that capitulation on - on the economics side
is in anyway going to enhance the opportunity for those other issues.
HAYES: No. I`m not making, I`m only slightly ...
SEDER: The only thing is -- to the extent that the Republicans stand in --
in opposition of these things like -- sensible gun control, these other
issues you are talking about, they do it at their own political detriment
and it is something that is sure to happen even in a better sense of
HAYES: It`s a different argument, though. It`s a different argument. I
agree with you that there`s no - there is no cultivation of karma that
HAYES: No, but I do think that there is limited legislation bandwidth.
And I do think to the extent that is constantly occupied by the next
impending deadline which are whether the continuing resolution or whatever
the next step in Budget Control Act is that does occupy energy and
cognitive resources and away from striking some kind of deal.
NADLER: As little as I think of the Republican leadership of Congress I
think they are capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time.
HAYES: No one is capable of walking and chewing gum. But people just sit
around, chewing gum or they spit the gum out and they walk. But no one is
walking and chewing gum.
NADLER: It`s very much in the interest of the survival of the Republican
Party and they know very well to get a decent immigration bill passed. I
think we can work out a decent immigration bill regardless of that ...
SEDER: This is exactly the point. There is a political price for the
Republicans not to pass these initiatives, it`s far greater. They are
going to pay a far greater price than the Democrats or the president and
that`s where the leverage lies, not in a, you know, capitulating or even
freeing up the docket for them. They can pass it if they want to. It`s
just a question of whether or not this is political ...
MOORE: They are willing to take that because the most successful thing for
Republicans, if you talk to Republican backers, forget who is at Congress,
but Republican backers, the billionaires who pay them, they approve of a
single platform Republican Party taxes.
MOORE: And so, as long as Republicans stick to taxes, they are not going
to lose anything else. They are willing to lose in the polls. But they
want to win the primaries.
HAYES: But here -- let me -- I want to ask you this, Congresswoman, to get
away from immigration for a second, go back to this entitlement question.
SINEMA: That`s what I`m just talking about.
HAYES: Social insurance. OK. So, the Republican Party has succeeded in
drawing the president further and further out, right, to where the point
now is, he is saying going around saying look, I want to cut Social
Security. I want to cut Social Security. How many times do I have to say
it? I want to cut Social Security. It`s on the record. It is on the
WhiteHouse.gov page. Do you -- where are you on this?
SINEMA: Well, I -- like many others in the Congress have signed the
statements saying that we can`t have cuts to Social Security or Medicare or
to Medicaid. Because these are programs that people depend on. And I will
tell you this. My grandma is one of those people. She was widowed in her
early 20s, raised three kids as -- you know, as a widow. Worked at first
cafeteria in South Tucson, worked her whole life. Retired. And now she
lives on Social Security and Medicare and because she`s poor, Medicaid.
She earned those benefits. Now this may surprise you. But our gang of 32
statement, the very first thing we talk about, is protecting and
strengthening Social Security and Medicare. And that`s a joint statement.
HAYES: That`s fascinating. That is -- that`s fascinating, because I
actually think the politics of this are much more tangled and much more
complicated than they first appear. So, I want to talk about that
specifically. Because I think there is a really fascinating kind of jiu-
jitsu move being done right now by the Republicans particularly. I want to
talk about that after we take this break.
HAYES: So, the politics of social insurance politics and Medicare and
Social Security, and I`ve said this on the show before, and I will continue
to say it. You know, they are more complicated than they appear because,
of course, it is the Republican base that most depends on those programs.
Right? It is senior citizens who ...
SINEMA: How about all Americans?
HAYES: Right. No, of course. But I`m just saying from the -- perspective
of a political calculation by a Republican, a Republican member of the
House is torn between two things. A donor class that does not like those
programs. An ideological commitment to be disposed against them, B, C,
voters who will vote -- who are self-identified Tea Party voters or
Republican voters in Republican primaries who do not want to see Medicare
and Social Security cut.
NADLER: That`s why the Republican proposal say we will only do this ten
years down the road. It won`t affect my voters now. And they are hoping
that people will be selfish enough that senior citizens will be selfish
enough to say -- I`m OK, it`ll only be the next generation that will be
hurt so I can still vote Republican.
HAYES: So, on this, let`s talk about the chained CPI thing, which is
what`s being proposed, right? This is a different way of calculating the
rate of the cost of living increase to Social Security. It`s a lower cost
of living increase.
NADLER: Not just Social Security. This will also affect SSI, it would
also affect veterans benefits, it would also affect indexation of tax
rates. It would raise everybody`s taxes over time including all the people
who are making $40, 000, $50,000, $60,000.
MOORE: But not just people, women.
MOORE: This is going to hit women much harder.
NADLER: Women and people.
HAYES: They are hurting you first, America.
MOORE: That feels like a congressional statement, but very often, it is
women who rely on Social Security. They live longer. And ...
SINEMA: My grandma.
MOORE: Perfect example. Widowed at a young age, raised three kids. She
depends on this.
HAYES: But wait a second. OK, so now, you`ve spent the first half hour
talking about compromise, getting things done, solving problems.
HAYES: OK? Now we arrive at the part of the program in which the -- thing
that`s on the table for solving problems is this -- change the calculation
of chained CPI. And the reason that people who are worried about long-term
deficits and our debt level like it is because it essentially builds up
over time, right? If you make a permanent difference, you essentially
alter the slope of the line, right, and if you alter the slope of the line,
you save a little bit of money in the beginning, but 20 years down the line
you are saving a lot of money, right? This is why ...
NADLER: It also mean that ten years down the line, or 20 years down the
HAYES: It`s a bigger cut ...
NADLER: Senior citizen is getting $2,000 ...
HAYES: Right. I`m just saying this is the kind of thing when people talk
about solving -- coming together and solve problems, like this is a policy
position that is on the table that the president has supported, right?
NADLER: This is an obnoxious change that goes against low-income people
and middle income people, but feels OK because it doesn`t take effect right
away. So you can ...
HAYES: The question for you, is do you support it? Right.
SINEMA: No, I oppose chained CPI. It is a bad idea. It hurts people who
put so much into the system and worked so hard. And one of the things I
like to remind people is that Social Security and Medicare, they are not
entitlement programs. They are earned benefits. People work their whole
life to get them. But this is a very Washington discussion that`s
happening right here. When you say, this was on the table. You know,
let`s just put some other stuff on the table.
SEDER: I agree.
SINEMA: That`s the problem ...
HAYES: No, I totally agree that. That`s my ...
SINEMA: Put some more on the table. Let`s talk about other things.
SEDER: The problem is the gang of 32, you cannot get down to this granular
level of a conversation because when they say protect and strengthen Social
Security, that is their way of saying, let`s cut benefits ...
HAYES: That`s right.
SEDER: So that it is still around. Where you don`t need to cut benefits.
And, you know, the real problem is because ultimately the Republicans only
care, I think, ultimately about maintaining low taxes for wealthy people.
NADLER: No, they care about all other things. The modern Republican Party
cares about one thing overall. Well, two things. Lowering taxes on rich
people. And eliminating government. And everything has happened -- these
last 30 years is - everything happens over the last years is, comes from
David Stockholm`s plan to starve the beast. You deliberately create, you
reduce tax rates, you deliberately create huge budget deficits, which can
then justify taking actions which in the normal political environment would
be obnoxious like cutting Social Security and Medicare, (inaudible) and so
HAYES: Do you hear -- let me just say this. Here is where we end up in
all of this, right, Congresswoman? Is that after this discussion about
grand bargaining, after this discussion about working across the aisle,
right, you are still saying you are not -- you do not pay (ph) for a
chained CPI cuts, right, you`re opposed to it, right?
SINEMA: That`s right.
HAYES: So, then, I think -- OK, fine. We want - I think it is wonderful
you`re talking to Republicans. I actually - I like talking to
conservatives on the show. I like having Republicans on the show. I think
people should talk. I`m all about debates.
SINEMA: Some of my best friends are Republicans.
HAYES: Some of my best friends are Republicans -- well, I don`t know about
that. That is true. But the point is at the end of the day, right, the --
place -- what I find so fascinating about what this is all headed towards,
is the -- the place where the force of Washington conventional wisdom and
the force of the donor class and the force of this kind of interests that
are pushing to get something on quote entitlement reform is the place that
is where there is the least amount of political support for it. Right?
All of the other stuff is the stuff that`s most politically - and so you
have this bizarre mismatch between what all these forces in Washington are
pushing to get towards to solve our problems and what people actually want.
And the question is -- does -- do the -- do the political gravity, do the
forces of gravity, from that kind of hydraulic pressure, from the
conventional wisdom and from the donor class, is that stronger than the
political gravity and the hydraulic pressure of your voters who you are
going to have to go back and tell them you just voted to cut Social
Security. And I think right now we are at a perfect equilibrium, in which
those two things are essentially equally powerful, which is why we are not
SINEMA: And I think it is too early to answer that question. Because it
remains to be seen whether the -- Republican caucus in the House -- they
are not quite sure who they want to be when they grow up, right? They are
still trying to figure that out.
SINEMA: And so -- there`s some movement and opportunity for folks who
aren`t in leadership to find other solutions and work together. And that`s
why we turn this gang of 32 statement into a caucus. We just started a new
caucus called the United Social Caucus. And our goal in caucus is to have
real, honest conversations about real solutions.
HAYES: If you want me to come and moderate the table I would love to do
that. I want to thank Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona,
Sam Seder, the (inaudible), host of "The Majority Report", Congressman
Jerry Nadler, Democrat of New York and Heidi Moore of "The Guardian"
MOORE: Thank you.
HAYES: Iraq, ten years later. What we left behind, after this.
HAYES: This Tuesday marks the tenth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of
Iraq. A war fought on the premise of the threat posed by weapons that, of
course, we now know do not actually exist. We think of the Iraq war as a
moment of radical discontinuity born of the trauma of 9/11. But in Iraq,
the war perpetuated a long legacy of societal devastation visited upon the
country by the United States. The 1991 Gulf War, which destroyed the
country`s infrastructure followed by the U.S.-led sanctions that prevented
it from being rebuilt along with Saddam Hussein`s infamous and legendary
cruelty resulted in the near total destruction of the country`s economy.
The American bill for this latest war in Iraq, according to a new study by
"The Cost of War" project of Brown University will ultimately be $2.2
trillion which includes the cost of care for veterans who were injured in
the war. As far as the human cost go, the war claimed the lives of more
than 4400 U.S. service people, wounding over 100,000 more. This is to say
nothing of the U.S. service members who survived two and three tours in
Iraq, the ones who missed birthdays, anniversaries and graduations, who
struggled to keep relationships together and now re-enter an economy with
very weak job prospects.
The toll for Iraq and Iraqis is simply staggering and impossible to fathom.
A study from John Hopkins conducted between 2002 and 2006, found that more
than 600,000 Iraqis were killed during the war. The study used the
technique called cluster sampling, which researchers take a sample, then
extrapolate broad results from that sample. Even lowest estimates of
civilian deaths in Iraq put the number around 150,000. Still, somewhat
remarkably for a man who rose to national prominence due partly to his
opposition of the war, President Obama appears to view the Iraq war, the
war he never wanted to fight, the war he called unnecessary, as producing
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It is harder to
end a war than begin one. And the -- everything that American troops have
done in Iraq, all the fighting, all the dying, the bleeding, and the
building, and the training and the partnering, all of it has led to this
moment of success. Iraq is not a perfect place. It has many challenges
ahead. But we are leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq
with a representative of government that was elected by its people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Iraq may be sovereign, but it`s also a country with an unstable
democracy led by sectarian-driven politics. Prime Minister Nouri Maliki,
Shia led government has faced a number of protest from Sunni Muslims in the
last few months calling for Al Maliki to rescind policies they say
discriminate against the Sunni minority. Now, while the violence in the
country is down from the worst days of civil war, bombings are still a
regular occurrence in Baghdad. At least 18 people were killed in a bomb
blast inside the Ministry of Justice compound just on Thursday. Iraq is a
country of a sharp, bitter animosity in the political sphere and deadly
violence in its cities.
Roula Khalaf, the Middle East editor for "The Financial Times" described
her most recent trip this year to the Iraq`s capital this way. "What I
leave behind are two different Baghdads. The first one belongs to people
tired of conflict and eager for a normal life that goes beyond the ability
to consume and talk freely. In this Baghdad, desperate people have been
forced to turn to party and tribe for guidance. The second Baghdad hides
behind concrete blast walls. It is a city inhabited by greedy politicians
struggling for control of the state. For this political class,
sectarianism and patronage are the only means of survival."
Since America`s rather quiet exit from Iraq in December of 2011 details
about the country, its people and its politics have been conspicuously
absent from American media coverage. Maybe because the Iraq of 2013 is not
the Iraq U.S envisioned when invaded that country a decade ago.
Joining us now to discuss the Iraq today, Raed Jarrar, communications
director for American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. He was born in
Iraq. He is a graduate of the University of Baghdad. Zainab Al Suwaij,
co-founder and executive director of the American Islamic Congress. She
fled Iraq in 1991 during the uprising against Saddam Hussein. Koby
Langley, command judge advocate for the 2nd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne
Division in southern Baghdad in 2003. He was also the first foreign claims
act commissioner for Iraq. And Basma Zaiber, director of development and
research and Iraqi case load for the List Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies.
She is also a graduate of the University of Baghdad and came to the United
States in 2005. It is wonderful to have you all here. Thank you very much
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
HAYES: You gave me nice and a very gracious quiet approving nods when I
managed to pronounce your names correctly.
HAYES: I`m thankful for that nonverbal affirmation. Let`s start with the
physical -- just the basic landscape of Iraq and Iraq`s infrastructure.
Because I think one of the things Americans -- it is hard for us to
remember is that the country that we invaded in 2003 was a country that had
been really devastated. And devastated by a bombing campaign in the first
Gulf war and by sanctions that were the strictest the world had ever seen.
What was the situation on the ground in Iraq when we entered in terms of
infrastructure and what do we have now?
RAED JARRAR, ADC.ORG: In addition to being -- talking here now, I`m
actually an architect by training, and my master`s degree is on that ...
HAYES: It`s far more useful work, let me tell you.
JARRAR: Yeah, I worked on post war reconstruction. Iraq was in shambles
then. Unlike the perception that we have in the U.S. that the war started
in 2003. The war started in 1991. And Iraq was pretty much destroyed by
2003. Electricity wasn`t working all the day, sewage and water systems
were dysfunctional. And the telephones were not working that much either.
So, when in 2003, invasion happened, it came on -- like the top of another
13 years of destruction. Very destructive sanctions and semi-daily bombing
ZAINAB AL SUWAIJ, AMERICAN ISLAMIC CONGRESS: Which was very interesting
when I went to Iraq back in 2003. And I was shocked by how the country was
damaged. Severely damaged. I left in 1991 after the -- Iraq -- after the
uprising against Saddam Hussein. And when I went back, it was not only the
damage and infrastructure, but also people. You know, the - the mentality.
It is really -- very modest and at the same time, very damaged inside. In
terms of the years of sanctions, years of oppression from Saddam`s regime.
Many people get killed, many people tortured, in jail. So it was a very
sad scene. I still go back and forth every six weeks to Iraq. And I see
the rapid change every time I go back and forth. Every time I see - every
time I go, I see how there is a little bit of change. There is a little
bit of, you know, a new building here.
HAYES: The progress you are saying.
AL SUWAIJ: Definitely. Definitely.
HAYES: What was your impression when you landed in Iraq, the 82nd
KOBY LANGLEY, IRAQ WAR VETERAN, 82ND AIRBORNE: Well, I`ve got to tell you,
Chris, I think everybody knew when we got there that this was - this was a
country that was in poor -- in a very poor state in terms of
infrastructure. You know, no electricity. Random electricity. No water.
No real clean sewage system. Folks were -- were trying to get rid of trash
in the middle of the streets. It was - it was -- really utter chaos when
it came to infrastructure. We spent a lot of time looking at our target
and making sure that we didn`t continue to destroy, you know, what was left
after 2000, excuse me, in 1991 and have to tell you that, you know, there
wasn`t a whole lot to protect. And the -- country was in a state of
disrepair, really, in terms of infrastructure when we got there. And the
fight that we`ve end up fighting was not against the Iraqi army. It was
against -- how to get the lights back on, how you get the water going
again. I mean that was the real fight and it started almost immediately
and we hit the ground.
HAYES: And that I think is -- one of the - one of the lessons of Iraq and
something I want to talk about is -- in the abstract, right, it seems like
where America has -- the very - the wealthiest country in the world and
something as simple and obvious a concrete improvement of people as lives
as getting clean water or getting electricity working would seem well
within our power. And -- it doesn`t seem that it was well within our
power. And I want to talk about why that was right after we take this
HAYES: Hello from New York. I`m Chris Hayes here with Raed Jarrar of the
Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee, Zainab al Suwaij of the
American Islamic Congress. Koby Langley, an Iraq War veteran, served in
the 82nd Airborne Division. And Basma Zaiber of the List Project to
Resettle Iraqi Allies.
We are talking about Iraq and the state of Iraq ten years after the U.S.
invasion in March of 2003. And we are talking about the -- just the basic
live reality of living in a place with the infrastructure that was -- had
been destroyed in 1991 in the Persian Gulf bombing campaign. It was
impossible to rebuild it through a combination of very strict sanctions
that didn`t let in things like pipes that would be the kind of things you
would need to import to rebuild a sewage facility that was bombed. And of
course, Saddam Hussein not being particularly motivated to do things that
would necessarily improve the lives of people, particularly when it was a
means of him of showing how destructive the sanctions were. I want to be
very careful about this. I think it is an example of both/and. The debate
we had internally in the U.S. was, was the suffering of the Iraqi people
during the period of the sanctions regime Saddam`s fault or the sanctions`
fault, and it seems like in retrospect, it was both.
There was an expectation, Basma, I think, of the fact when the war happened
on the ground in Iraq, that these problems of electricity and clean water,
the basics of life, would be improved.
BASMA ZAIBER, THELISTPROJECT.ORG: You know what, I was born and raised in
Iraq. I lived like my -- I attended elementary school, secondary school,
high school, all in Iraq. And it was like before 1991 and after 1991. I
told you, I can tell you. It is not -- wasn`t the great country with great
schools and hospitals and everything before 1991. But it got worse, of
course, after all the bombs and destroying the infrastructure of Iraq and
with no power to live like summer of -- it gets to like 150 degree with no
electricity, no air conditioning. I don`t know how did we survive. But--
ZAIBER: -- 100 degrees, will be like -- all the media says don`t go
outside, keep inside. I was like OK, come on. It is like 115 in Iraq and
people have no electricity.
So anyways -- so when the war started in 2003, we, the people of Iraq, had
like a very high expectation that everything will be fine within the next
couple of months. It is OK, the most important thing is we are getting rid
of Saddam. So all the sacrifice and all the bombs and everything was OK,
that we have hope that things will get better. But I think it has taken
too long to get better.
HAYES: Was -- I mean, you supported the war, am I correct?
AL SUWAIJ: I was supporting to get rid of Saddam.
HAYES: Sure, but that would be the instrument by which that happens.
AL SUWAIJ: We lived many years under Saddam`s brutality. Many people got
killed. The country has been damaged. Saddam has been leading Iraq from
one war to another, invaded Kuwait for no reason. And at the end, he`s the
one who destroyed the whole country and destroyed its own people. I mean -
- all of these -- all of these things were part of the system.
HAYES: Did you have expectations, though, that -- like Basma was saying,
expectations of what would life -- what would reconstruction look like?
When you imagined, this is what I mean, the Americans are here, right, you
know, they -- they had their stuff together. Right? They are going to --
we are going to get some power and --
AL SUWAIJ: We get -- I got to Iraq in 2003, working on rebuilding the
education system in Iraq. Surveying schools, working on women`s rights,
working on teaching democracy and building civil society through my
organization, the American Islamic Congress, and we did all of these kind
of things. We trained 56,000 teachers in new methods of education. There
are a lot of efforts that was invested in Iraq. Throughout these years.
And these efforts actually did some change in Iraq. But it is not the
magic wand. It is not going to happen within two, three months.
JARRAR: The point is that people did have high expectations. Not because
just the -- they had like a vision of how the U.S. would function in Iraq.
This is what they were promised. They like, repeatedly. They were told,
you know, your country would become heaven on earth in like three weeks,
you know. Just like -- set aside and work (ph). I mean - an important
point I want to make here is that there were many people, including myself,
who although understood the situation, thought that Iraqis should take the
lead on reconstruction from day one. I`m not saying that -- like people
didn`t know that there was devastation. Everyone knew. But I don`t think
everyone expected the U.S. to have the capacity or the will to build the
country without Iraqi participation.
HAYES: Did you feel those expectations?
LANGLEY: Oh, absolutely. Almost like I said, almost on day one. And to
be completely honest with you, we weren`t equipped to deal with that kind
of reconstruction. So you are talking about a very thin force in a war
that was pitched to the American people on the cheap, to be completely
honest with you. And I don`t think that if today -- if folks said it is
going to cost $2.2 trillion --
HAYES: Can you imagine going before the American people and selling
something that`s going to cost $2.2 trillion?
LANGLEY: I just -- I don`t think that would have happened. You know --
the loss of life and blood and treasure, and ultimately these are fights
that are still being fought today, right. There is still a defunct
electrical grid. People still having trouble accessing clean water and
these basic, you know, necessities of life. And -- that was than an
expectation, and it happened almost immediately. That actually almost
became the largest security threat that we faced.
HAYES: This is the study by Gallup, which went in and polled -- and had --
came up with the metric for slum conditions. Iraqis living in slum
conditions. This number is pretty shocking. In 2000, 17 percent. By
2011, it was 53 percent. This is much worse. Obviously, you know, how you
weigh what -- the value of getting rid of Saddam, et cetera, and in the
daily life of being an Iraqi. But what are things there like now? I mean,
what does -- does the electricity go up? Can you get oil? Do the cell phone
networks work? What is the reality there now?
AL SUWAIJ: The best thing working in Iraq is the cell phones.
HAYES: That`s true across the world. I mean, the one thing that works is
the cell phones.
AL SUWAIJ: Nothing else. I mean, electricity is still -- you know -- each
household gets like a few hours every day.
ZAIBER: And some governors is there like, they restored power. Like, I
know that. They don`t have problems like Nasiriyah and--
HAYES: Some regional governments.
ZAIBER: Yes, yes.
ZAIBER: So it is getting better now.
AL SUWAIJ: Pretty much good electricity.
JARRAR: When you think about how much money was thrown on that problem
from the U.S. side, though, around $60 billion that we know of, that were
spent on the so-called reconstruction campaigns, and -- from Iraq, you
know, Iraq has $100 billion a year of a budget. So we are talking about
another trillion dollars from the Iraqi side in the last decade. So it is
amazing to think that a country as small as Iraq that has a budget that`s
larger than Jordan and Syria and Lebanon and Egypt combined, can`t provide
very basic services to its citizens in a decade.
HAYES: Right. And this is why I want to bring in the special investigator
general for Iraq reconstruction, who just issued an absolutely scathing
report that traces through the reasons. Right? You have the inputs here,
which is $2.2 trillion of American money -- although not, obviously, to
reconstruction. But $60 billion just for reconstruction, right? You have
an Iraqi oil budget over the last ten years. And the outputs are the slum
conditions, I just said, and two, three hours of electricity a day. Live
from Baghdad, we`re going to be talking to special inspector general right
after this break.
HAYES: I want to bring in Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for
Iraq reconstruction, whose final reports suggests the Iraq reconstruction
program, sets it at $8 billion. He joins us this morning from Baghdad.
And Stuart, I want to read you a quote from your report. This is from
minister of the interior in Iraq who says this. "With all the money the
U.S. has spent, you can go into any city in Iraq and cannot find one
building or project built by the U.S. government. You can fly the
helicopter around Baghdad or other cities, but you cannot point a finger at
a single project that was built and completed by the United States." How
can that be?
STUART BOWEN, SPECIAL IG, IRAQ RECONSTRUCTION: Well, I think he was
exaggerating to express his frustration. The Minister Al Assadi (ph)
engaged -- has been engaged at the Ministry of Interior since 2004, and has
seen some progress, but, indeed, like many of the Iraqis, has been
frustrated with what they view as the insufficient results from the U.S.
rebuilding program. Prime Minister Maliki said the same thing to me. He
said, for $55 billion, there should have been better results.
HAYES: Why were there not better results? There was a lot of money spent.
You characterized some of the malfeasance and the waste and the fraud that
happened. But what`s your -- what`s the short version to the American
people who are watching this of why there were not results?
BOWEN: Three reasons, Chris. One, trying to pursue a large infrastructure
rebuilding program while security deteriorated severely. That was unwise.
Those large contracts should have been terminated sooner. Those projects
should have been ended. Instead, for example, in Fallujah, we pursued a
waste water treatment plant in the middle of a war zone that ended up
costing three times as much as planned, over $100 million. Took three
times as long, and is serving a third of the people.
Second, the United States was not well structured to carry out its mission.
It shifted in the spring of 2003 from a policy of liberate and lead to
occupy and rebuild. From spending $2 billion to $20 billion in the blink
of an eye. Ultimately, $60 billion appropriated. But there wasn`t an
integrated interagency capacity to execute the program.
HAYES: It also seems to me one of the recurring themes in both the
reporting I read on post-conflict, if you can call it post-conflict Iraq,
and your report -- and I would be curious to get -- is just the absolute
embedded persistence of corruption at so many layers. Now I should say
that corruption is a factor on the world, right. It`s not particularly a
special case that Iraq is especially corrupt.
JARRAR: It is actually especially corrupt. It is the second most corrupt
country in the world, according to Transparency International. So there is
HAYES: Yes. That`s a good point. All right. And that seems to be a huge
part of what is happening here, right? There has been -- there has been
this -- someone called it a rentier class. A class of people that are
connected that there`s dollars coming in. Sometimes literally dollars on
palates. We have all seen the stories of American dollars loaded onto
transport planes, taken off palates, right, and there is a class of people
that have been able to put themselves in proximity to that money. Stuart
Bowen, is that -- has that been a huge obstacle?
BOWEN: Well, corruption has been a serious problem that has daunted Iraq
and the entire program for ten years. Indeed, our office, our
investigations have produced 82 convictions of Americans, and yielded about
$200 million in recoveries. Chiefly U.S. money. But the corruption on the
Iraqi side affecting Iraqi money is many orders of magnitude larger, and
indeed the Iraqi Board of Supreme Audit, their chief oversight entity, it
just told me last fall that money laundering is producing up to $40 billion
in corruption per annum right now. And that is draining the economy of its
lifeblood, and holding Iraq`s progress back.
HAYES: $40 billion, just to be clear, is 40 percent of the total budget
for the entire country of Iraq. What does this look like on the ground?
When you are operating in Iraq, when you are seeing it here at the table,
what does this mean? Do you see the corruption in front of you and on a
AL SUWAIJ: Yes. It was very clear through many different government
BOWEN: Well, I`m in Baghdad now, as you know, in the international zone.
But -- but the reality is that -- reconstruction of Iraq is an Iraqi
mission now. Since 2008, it`s chiefly been Iraqi money that has funded the
recovery and the relief and the rebuilding across this land. And because
of corruption and because of security, both of which still limit progress
on the relief and reconstruction efforts. Not enough needs are being met.
And the Iraqi people are especially frustrated with regard to electricity
output, although it is at its all-time high now. It`s still not meeting
the demand for a variety of reasons. And -- and -- that causes a daily
frustration across the country.
HAYES: This is outside of your portfolio, Stuart, but I want to ask you
this final question. There`s two ways to think about the failures of
reconstruction in Iraq. One is as a technical, pragmatic failure of
implementation of an agenda that if done better could have resulted in a
better life for Iraq after the withdrawal of American troops. The other
way to view it is that -- under no circumstances can the kind of war that
we engaged in result in a country that can be stitched together or have
higher outcomes along all these humanitarian lines. And I`m curious which
of those two do you see this as a failure of?
BOWEN: Well, first, Chris, I`m sorry I can`t -- the audio is very bad. It
is hard to get your question fully. But as I understand it, you know, the
-- to judge the effects of the program, the outcomes, that`s what this
latest report learning from Iraq was all about. I interviewed 44 leaders
in Iraq and in the United States on Capitol Hill, you know. And the answer
that they gave me in response to the -- answers as responsive to your
question is that there was not enough consultation with the Iraqis. There
was not enough oversight for the program, and there wasn`t enough capacity
really on the ground to carry out the program. The combination of those
with -- with the security issues and the corruption matters, limited the
outcomes. Limited the effects and provided many lessons for us to learn
for Afghanistan and certainly for future stabilization and reconstruction
HAYES: Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction,
thank you for joining us this morning from Baghdad. We`ll be right back.
HAYES: We just had Stuart Bowen, who is the inspector general for
reconstruction in Iraq. And I want to read one part of his report and ask
you the question I asked him. This is -- talking about accounting for $4
billion allocated for infrastructure projects. "With $4.12 billion, the
commanders emergency response program provided military commanders across
Iraq with funding source to address urgent relief and reconstruction needs
in areas such as water, waste water, education, electricity, security, rule
of law and protective measures. The special inspector general for Iraq
reconstruction could not provide a thorough accounting of the final
disposition of all projects executed under the program."
And I think this cues up the question of, was this a failure of execution
or a failure of the project itself? Right? Was it -- was it the problem
that we just did a bad job of reconstruction and could have done a much,
much better job? Or is the problem that when you invade and occupy a
country, those are not the conditions under which one can stitch together a
better, stronger society and infrastructure?
JARRAR: I felt frustrated reading the seven recommendations that came out
of the report, because I felt like this reflects poorly on what we have
learned from the last decade. Because unfortunately in D.C., the mentality
is up until now, what went wrong. Only if we offered this one more office
there, only if we hired this one more consultant. Things would have gone
the right way. You know?
I think that the questions we have to ask is not how the U.S. should be
engaged in nation building, but whether the U.S. should be engaged in the
nation building. I don`t think the U.S. has the capacity, it does not have
the moral or legal grounds to actually go to another country and build
them. I think that -- if there is one thing to learn from Iraq, we should
not be doing these things. It is not about how to do them. But it is
about starting to engage in reconstruction without actually giving the
leadership to that country.
HAYES: Koby, I think you disagree with that.
LANGLEY: Well, absolutely, and I think, listen, this was intended as a
coalition, and the -- if you think about the Marshall Plan after World War
II. Clearly, clearly coalition forces that come together can have the
capacity to have a tremendous impact on improving the lives of a post-war
country. So I think America did have the capacity to do it.
I think the problem was that it was - it wasn`t sold and billed that way.
And it wasn`t structured that way. So when you run into a country with
100,000 troops, and you really have what I would call policy by prayer in
terms of civil infrastructure, you know, displace all of the leaders of the
-- of the infrastructure, and then hope that the non-governmental
organizations will come in, even though you are in the middle of a war zone
and they are leaving.
And the most distressing part, Chris, about all of this is that we still
have 82nd paratroopers on the ground today, 2013, 10 years later. I was
part of the first 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers on the ground in
Iraq. And a lot of the folks in the military equate their own personal
successes with what they did on the ground in Iraq. Did I make a
difference for a life of an Iraqi? And here today, in reading the report,
that some of that progress was not as billed, it is distressing. It`s
distressing as a former service member. I`m sure it is distressing for
people that are listening at home and overseas. And a large part of that
was due to the fact that we went into it wrong.
JARRAR: Let me just say I have heard the German the example for five years
now. Iraq is not Germany. I think we can tell now that by 2013 there are
completely two different situations there. Iraq was not like Germany when
the war started. It wasn`t like it after the first invasion started or
ended. And it`s not like it a decade after, you know. Reconstruction of
Iraq has been a complete failure. And -- there were some small glimpses of
hope here and there, but they were mostly the ones that were led by Iraqi
engineers. And we shouldn`t forget that Iraq had three different
reconstruction campaigns before, you know, after 1991, after the Iraq/Iran
war in 1988, and during the sanctions. So there is more experience there.
AL SUWAIJ: I think the security situation also did not help a lot. Every
time there was something that needed to be built or remodeled or whatever
inside the country, there are always bombings here and there. And when the
security is not really good, many of these teams that - the reconstruction
teams, they would leave. They would leave the project, you know, they just
- 20 percent or - 30 percent or 50 percent. The whole -- whole atmosphere
was not really ready for that. People had high expectations. But what
came in was not as what they expected.
ZAIBER: Let me share a personal experience. My father was a contractor.
And he`s always been a contractor. The last project he worked on was that
to rebuild the biggest police station in Baghdad. And he spent a lot of,
like, efforts, time, and everyone worked really hard. And it turned out to
be like a very beautiful project. Very beautiful building. However, my
father was kidnapped after he finished the project.
HAYES: He is OK?
ZAIBER: He is OK. Yes. He was --
ZAIBER: But I think six or seven months after he was done and -- while he
was still living in Jordan, that building was bombed. And my father was
almost having heart attack, because he knows how much was -- how much money
was spent on that building, how much effort was put in that building. So
even if there is something good, a building, they finish it, they will bomb
it. Like the militia will bomb it.
JARRAR: I want to say that these two issues are not separate. It`s not
like the U.S. was trying to build. And it just so happened that some stuff
were falling from the sky and building, you know, destroying all buildings.
The security is bad because we are there, and these two things will happen
as long as the U.S. is there. That`s why engaging in reconstruction --
ZAIBER: But now the U.S. is not there.
HAYES: Right. And I`m glad you said that, because now the question is -
I`ll turn to you next, we talked about reconstruction and its very spotty
record - I think it is the most charitable way you can describe it. What
the politics of Iraq are right now? I mean, I spent a lot of time last few
days reading into it. And there`s some things that seem slightly promising
in terms of it clearly isn`t as violent as the most horrible years of
ethnic cleansing and sectarian violence in the middle of the decade, but it
also -- there is a lot of troubling things. And I want to talk about what
Iraq looks like now. Iraqi politics and what the path forward is, right
after we take this break.
HAYES: I want to show a map of sectarian displacement in Baghdad, before,
during, after, forced displacement. This was produced by the Watson
Institute in 2011. What you see is a place that was a very mixed -- the
white is mixed. Right? The white is places that are (inaudible), that are
resided in by both Sunni and Shia. And in 2003, it was a very -- fairly
mixed place. You did you not have these very Balcanized little districts.
The tremendous sectarian warfare that happened in the peak years of
violence, around 2006, you see this dispersal. And now you see by 2007,
there is very little white left on that map, which means there are very few
areas left where Sunni and Shia are living together. Baghdad actually had
always been a famously cosmopolitan city. Had a Jewish quarter before the
creation of Israel, and a very integrated actually Jewish population. And
it seems to me the central fact of Iraqi politics in the aftermath of the
war are these sectarian divisions, which have now been enshrined in the
political parties. The government of Nouri Al-Maliki, the Dawa Party is a
Shia party, it`s a Shia majority in Iraq. The opposition run, the Akiya
(ph) party, which is run by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is a Sunni
party, and there is a tremendous resistance in the Sunni heartland of the
country, in places like Fallujah, that had been one of the central places
in the, you know, war against the American troops, during -- when the
American troops were there, that I guess my question is, how much is that
holding together? How much are these sectarian divisions defining political
life and life in Iraq right now?
JARRAR: I would say a lot. I`m actually half Sunni and half Shiite. As
HAYES: You`re mixed, you`re white on our chart.
JARRAR: We call them Sushis.
JARRAR: From my personal experience -- and I have never been asked in my
entire life until 2003 if I was a Sunni or a Shiite. I had never seen
someone being asked that question.
HAYES: Growing up in Iraq.
JARRAR: It was never a part of our identity before 2003. After 2003, now
it is the core component, unfortunately. The system of sectarian and
ethnic quarters in the government created a completely different governing
system. And that was introduced in 2003 during the governing council.
Iraqis were chosen based on their sectarian and ethnic backgrounds for the
first time in contemporary history.
HAYES: I think this is - please.
AL SUWAIJ: At the same time, at the same time, I think the political
parties played a big role in that. So you are a Sunni, you have to grab
your Sunni (inaudible)--
HAYES: They are cultivating their base as we would say in American
AL SUWAIJ: Exactly. That`s the thing. And at the same time, the lack of
security helped a lot in this kind of division. Because you want to be
protected. As a person, as an individual, in a country that does not have
really much of a security. So you lead with our own group that its` going
to provide you with the protection. At the same time, the amount of
control that the tribes have, whether Sunni or Shia, some of these tribes
are mixed. They are half Sunni, half Shiite, but they are from the same
background. Mixed families. Also religious minorities in Iraq, such as
Christian and Daiz (ph) and so on. All of them they felt, you know, they
are in this -- in this mix together, because also they have their own
representation and their own political parties, but they are not as strong
as they should be, so they lean to have to build an alliance with either
this group or the other group, and that`s how the division in my opinion
ZAIBER: I think the Shia and Sunni thing existed in Iraq, but it wasn`t
like as public as now. So like the government, most of the government
officials were Sunni before 2003 and now most Shiite --
HAYES: Which is the majority of the country.
ZAIBER: Yeah. So if that did not exist, why would all these Sunni people
be like in the government or most of the--
JARRAR: Can I comment on that point?
HAYES: Yes, please.
JARRAR: Because this is a misperception. The 55 deck of cards that was
produced by the Pentagon after the fall of Baghdad, included the 55 top
leaders in Iraq, and the truth that`s not very much known is that 36 out of
these 55 were Shiites, which is more or less the same representation
publicly. This is not to say--
ZAIBER: -- only 36 means like there`s something wrong.
JARRAR: 36 out of 55 is the same representation on the ground. I`m saying
that the (inaudible) Iraqi government was a dictatorship, but it was a
secular dictatorship. And national identity did not really include
AL SUWAIJ: But at the same time, it was oppression. So if you are a
Shiite or you are a Kurd, you are, you know, you are not always there to be
(inaudible). Even the last name of the tribe or the family, last names
always never indicated in most of these national ID papers. So you know.
I mean, these --
ZAIBER: But religion is.
HAYES: This seems to me that -- this is an important point. Because I
think the way that we are inclined to think about post-conflict situations,
this is certainly true in, say, Bosnia, right, is that there are ancient
tensions, right. That basically these people from these backgrounds are at
each other`s throats, and then the conflict emerges and that just allows
them to do the thing they were doing before. What you are saying is that
it was the - it was the war and the conflict that produced ethnic and
sectarian tension, as opposed to uncorking the pre-existing ones.
JARRAR: That`s exactly the point. It`s not like Iraqis came from Sunni-
stan and Shia-stan and created some Yugoslavia called Iraq. There were
Iraqis from before.
ZAIBER: It`s like the components of the country. Like the minorities, all
the different religions and different ethnics is the components of Iraq,
but (inaudible) were discriminated against during Saddam. We cannot say
now -- he attacked, I know, he attacked even Sunni. But it was mostly
HAYES: So you are saying there were pretty firm sectarian divisions in the
AL SUWAIJ: It was. People --
ZAIBER: It did exist, yes.
AL SUWAIJ: People were busy how to protect themselves from the brutality
of the regime. So these kind of divisions within the community did not
exist. Afterwards, it became very clear, especially with the lack of
HAYES: We are talking about security a lot. I want to talk about what it
is to create a society, or re-create a society, in the -- in the wake of
such tremendous amounts of violence. I mean -- and -- just the personal
grief that must have been experienced by so many Iraqis based on numbers.
Americans, we -- you know, 9/11 looms very large in our - the way we think
about the world for incredibly understandable reasons, because it was the
largest attack on our soil, where people that we knew and loved or
identified with were killed, and we are now talking about building a
society in the wake of destruction orders of magnitude larger than that. I
want to talk about that. Koby, you had some personal interaction with what
that looks like on the ground. I want you to tell that story when we come
HAYES: Koby, this is a photo that you gave our producers. It is a picture
of you on July 9, 2003. You are sitting in the home of Iraqis. What are
you doing in that photo?
LANGLEY: So this ultimately became one of the first solatia payments that
were paid by American forces in 2003. This was an investigation of the
death of a 16-year-old young man during one of our cordon search
operations. And it was a tragic, tragic accident. And it was one of the
first examples of the difficulties of civil reconstruction. How do you
compensate civilians who are injured or killed, either accidentally or
through negligence in some instances, by U.S. forces, and how do you keep
that from turning the tide, if you will, of public sentiment against U.S.
forces, and it was a very, very difficult time, and it was -- because,
quite frankly, the policy was not being implemented when we first got on
I paid the first claim for any kind of damage in Iraq, and it was $20 for a
broken window. By 2007, 2008, halfway through the war, U.S. government had
paid over almost $30 billion in reconstruction funds, and $2.8 billion of
it was lost. And you really have to ask yourself, what kind of investment
did we make into the Iraqi people? And how well did we do in terms of
compensating them for the unintended effects of war?
HAYES: Solatia payments is condolence payments, essentially. This is from
a GAO report. Guidance for condolence payments issued in 2007. Initially,
September 2004, multinational established maximum condolence payment levels
in Iraq for each instance of death, $2,500. Serious injury, $1,000, and
property damage, $500. November 2004 guidance, they raised the minimum
condolence payment amounts for injury and damage in Iraq to match the
maximum payment amount for each instance of death, which is $2,500. So an
example, two members of the same family are killed in a car hit by U.S.
forces. Family can receive a maximum of $7,500 in commanders emergency
response program condolence payments. $2,500 for each death and up to
$2,500 for vehicle damage.
LANGLEY: Yeah. You know, Chris, it was probably one of the most heart-
wrenching conversations that I had when I was in Iraq with our brigade
commander, with the uncle of that young boy that was killed about a week
after the investigation. And -- you know, we were trying to discuss and
negotiate with him what the proper compensation would be. There is
something that he said that will stick with me really for the rest of my
life. And nobody was able to answer in that room. That was -- you are
asking me what is a price for my nephew. What I`m asking you is what would
be the price of a child in America? That was the question he asked us in
July of 2003. And clearly, those numbers, although they are current
policy, and I`m not going to comment on current policy, are difficult to
hear. And I think that they were difficult to hear and believe back in
JARRAR: Actually, I can comment on current policy. And I think this is
literally adding insult to injury. We are telling Iraqis who have just
lost a family member and a car, we are giving you $2,500 a piece. So
$2,500 for your baby and $2,500 for your car. And another $2,500 for your
couch. It is the most insulting compensation system I have ever heard of
in my entire life. And it does really reflect the way that Iraqi human
value of the -- Iraqi human life has been evaluated during this war. We
were talking about hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed. I think $2,500
is how Iraqi human life was --
HAYES: How does -- how does the trauma of violence and the loss of family
members all throughout Iraq -- how does that affect -- what does that do to
Iraqi society now? How much is it a society living through essentially
AL SUWAIJ: Iraq has been through a lot of wars. Since the `80s, you know,
when Iran-Iraq war started.
HAYES: Which was far more deadly.
AL SUWAIJ: Exactly. I was in third grade, and we were seeing bombing and
death every single day. That lasted for eight years. And then we took a
break for a year, and then Iraq invaded Kuwait. That`s another thing. And
then in 1991, also the war started. So they have been through all of that.
And then the sanctions and all of that. So it is a continuous trauma.
Iraq did not take a break from that. After that, even if there was no war,
it was internal oppression and killing by the government against its own
people. So this is something that they lived in. And they are still
witnessing it every single day. So they have not really emerged from that.
There are a lot of within (ph), a lot of people kept that. I worked on a
project to help Iraqi children who have been subject to trauma. And we
worked with a specialist who have -- you know, psychology background in war
trauma. And a lot of things came out of these children, especially who
have been, you know, have not witnessed the war, but they are witnessing
the everyday, you know, instability and bombing and all of that.
JARRAR: There is actually surprising findings in that regard. Iraqis are
coping better with PTSD than -- than U.S. troops. When you are actually in
the same environment where tension rises and then goes down, in a period of
two decades, there are better coping mechanisms.
HAYES: That`s very interesting.
JARRAR: Than like parachuting in and out.
HAYES: And being back in a supermarket in Kansas after being -- what you
should know for the news week ahead coming up next.
HAYES: In just a moment, what you should know for the week ahead, but
first a quick update on the story of Saadiq Long, the ten-year U.S. Air
Force veteran who, as we told you in February, was mysteriously added to
the federal no-fly list. Long, who converted to Islam and moved to Qatar
with his wife and daughter, first learned that he had been placed on the
no-fly list when he was barred last April from flying back to his home in
Oklahoma to visit his terminally ill mother. Long was finally allowed to
fly to Oklahoma in November. When he tried to make a return trip to his
home in Qatar, he was once again told he could not fly and wasn`t given a
So last week, according to an Oklahoma newspaper, Long boarded a bus to
Mexico, traveled 600 miles to an airport there. After layoffs in two other
countries, he has finally made it back to Qatar to reunite with his wife
and daughter. We wish him well. No American should have to endure what he
So, what should you know for the week coming up? Well, you should know,
the FAA is expected to make a final decision tomorrow on which airports
will be forced to close their air traffic control towers as the result of
the automatic spending cuts from the sequester that began taking effect
this month. You should know the FAA is facing more than $600 million in
spending cuts this fiscal year, which will first target the 173 towers that
are operated by third-party contractors as opposed to FAA staff. Most of
the closures are expected to impact smaller, less traveled airports that
can choose to keep their towers open if they are willing and able to pick
up the tab.
You should know that three years removed from the Deepwater Horizon oil
spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Department of Interior says BP can bid in
this Wednesday`s sale of offshore drilling leases, with one small obstacle.
Still hovering over the oil giant is a temporary ban preventing it from
obtaining new contracts with the government due to its quote, "lack of
business integrity." BP would need to have that ban lifted by the time new
drilling releases are awarded, which takes about 90 days. BP had no
comment when asked if it would enter the drilling lease sweepstakes. You
should know that BP remains locked in a massive civil trial with
governments, business and civil (inaudible) citizens to determine liability
for the 2010 oil rig disaster that killed 11 people and dumped four million
barrels of oil into the Gulf.
You should know that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has ordered a review
of the Distinguished Warfare Medal, a new medal that honors armed service
members serving in unconventional combat roles, including drone pilots.
The medal was approved by Hagel`s predecessor, Leon Panetta, and would
outrank combat medals, including the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
Members of Congress from both parties went to Hagel to express their
outrage over the medal`s precedence, and legislation has been introduced in
both houses to keep it from ranking above combat medals. Nobody has been
awarded the Distinguished Warfare Medal and will not be during the review.
You should know the impact of piloting drones is real and profound, and
that while our elected officials debate the role and sacrifice of our,
quote, "silent warriors," they should also be debating the silent wars they
I want to find out what my guests think we should know for the week coming
up. Raed, I`ll begin with you.
JARRAR: I think the lack of accountability to what`s happened in Iraq will
have some criticism in the week coming up. It has been ten years, and we
haven`t really heard any real calls for accountability for those who took
the U.S. to war. And whether they are politicians or whether they are
media pundits, we have not paid compensation to Iraq either. So I am
hoping that the week ahead will tackle this issue a little bit as a nation,
rather than just sweeping it under the rug.
HAYES: I think in some ways, it is such a shameful chapter, that we have
just kind now swept it behind us. And that extends to the way we talk
about veterans who served there, to what is happening in Iraq now. And I
think you`re right. I think this is an occasion to revisit it.
AL SUWAIJ: Yes, I think, you know, in the week ahead, I hope Iraq will
recover from what they have. The insurgency, the instability that they
have. And also, the neighboring countries will stay and keep their
business to themselves and not really interfere with Iraqi issues and
business. I always say Iraq is in a very bad neighborhood, and that
contribution from neighboring countries added a lot to the instability in
Iraq. So I hope this is what`s going to bring for the upcoming decade,
where Iraq prospers and rebuilds, and have a normal, decent life for its
LANGLEY: I hope that we can focus on the 2.5 million Iraq and Afghanistan
veterans that deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi
freedom, and the costs of that war when they come home. Here are a couple
of startling statistics. There are at least one out of three returning
Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. We know
for a fact that although unemployment rates have been increasing, if you
are 24 years old and you are an Iraq war veteran, your unemployment rate is
over 30 percent. We know that if you are a female veteran, that your
chances of unemployment are also increasing. So I hope that people think
about the service and sacrifices of those 2.5 million Iraq and Afghanistan
ZAIBER: I hope the U.S. government will facilitate the security clearance
and all the process for Iraqi refugees who have been threatened because of
the help they provided to the U.S. government. So in the state of waiting
for the security clearance for up to two years or three years, in some
cases, it will be faster.
HAYES: The List Project is a project you are associated with that is
advocating on behalf of the people. We will put that up on our web site.
I want to thank my guests today, Raed Jarrar from the American Arab Anti-
Discrimination Committee. Zainab Al-Suwaij of the American Islamic
Congress. Iraq War veteran Koby Langley. Basma Zaiber from the List
Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies. Shukram, thank you. Thank you for
joining us. I`ll be back next weekend Saturday and Sunday at 8:00 Eastern
time. My guests will include author and columnist Dan Savage, Democratic
Congressman Xavier Becerra, plus a special roundtable on the New York City
mayoral race, with four of the candidates. I hope you join me at 8:00 p.m.
Monday, April 1st, for the launch of my new program, which will air
weeknights here every night five nights a week on MSNBC. UP is not going
anywhere, I should note. We will have an announcement in the coming days
about who the new host will be occupying this seat at the table. Coming up
next is "MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY" with guest host Joy Reid. On today`s MHP,
as President Obama prepares to leave for Israel, he`s weathering criticism
that he`s going more as a tourist rather than as the leader of the free
world. Could that approach be just what is needed in the peace process?
That`s next on MHP. We will see you next week here on UP.
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