updated 9/9/2013 1:06:34 PM ET 2013-09-09T17:06:34

MELISSA-HARRIS-PERRY
September 7, 2013

GuestS: David Cay Johnston, Michael Saltsman, Fred Azcarate, Colby Harris, Herb Smitherman, Igor Volsky, Tara Dowdell, Mohammed Ghanem, Amaney Jamal, Frank Jannuzi, Dominic Tierney, Tanya Fields

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: This morning, my question. Would you
pay more at Wal-Mart if it meant your cashier wouldn`t need food stamps?

Plus, the secretary of explaining stuff takes center stage on health care.

And my message to little black girls when people try to make you ashamed of
your hair.

But first, the more we hear about Syria, the less we actually know. Good
morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. You, dear viewer, are not the average
American. You care about world affairs. I mean, it`s Saturday morning and
you are watching a political cable show. So by my own, ever so humble
equation, you are way above average. But how much do you know about the
country that the United States may bomb very soon? Could you confidently
point out Syria on a blank map? President Obama is going to address the
nation about his plan for Syria on Tuesday, and he has already, by asking
Congress to weigh in, put the debate, to some extent, in our citizen hands.
It becomes our responsibility to know as much as we can about what we may
be getting ourselves into.

As the ancient Chinese military general and philosopher Sun Tzu wrote, you
must know yourself and know your enemy in order to win your battles. And
after what feels like nonstop Syria talk for nearly two weeks, I`m still
left wondering, how much do we know about the country itself? Syria`s
bordered by Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, and Israel. It was part of the
Ottoman Empire until after World War I, when France and Britain carved up
the Middle East between them. France took Syria, and Syria didn`t gain
independence until 1946. The next few decades were marked by coups and
uprisings, until President Bashar al-Assad`s father seized power in 1970.

Now, Syria is made up of a wide variety of ethnic groups, including ethnic
Kurds, Arab Christians, and even Druze. The majority of Syrians, 59
percent of the population are Sunni Muslim Arabs. And then there are the
Alawites who are also Muslim Arabs, but who follow a sect of Shia Islam.
And the Alawites make up less than 12 percent of the population, but they
are the ruling class. And this matters. You see, President Bashar al-
Assad and his family are from that ethnic group. Assad`s father managed to
keep power despite his minority status by violently crushing any
opposition. And in 1982, he stopped the potential Islamist uprising by
bombing the city of Hama for weeks, killing as many as 20,000 people,
mostly civilians, and his son is following suit.

Today the country has been devastated by violence that began when Bashar
al-Assad`s government responded to peaceful Arab spring protest in March of
2011 with a brutal crackdown. More than 100,000 people have been killed.
And more than 6 million people out of a population of 20 million have fled
or been displaced within the country. The economy has shrunk by a third.
Most of the country`s state-run hospitals have closed and fighting has
caused $15 billion in damage to public buildings and infrastructure. Assad
insists that he is fighting terrorists, supported by foreign powers. The
opposition insists that they are fighting for a better country.

Now, what`s important here also to remember is that the rebels are not a
single entity, but a hodgepodge of groups, like the Free Syrian Army and
the Syrian Liberation Front, which have not been able to organize into a
coalition capable of ruling or even at this point negotiating a political
settlement. Some are relatively moderate. Some are extremists who openly
declare their ties to al Qaeda. And Syria`s neighbors are also involved in
the civil war. Splitting broadly along religious lines. The majority
Sunni countries of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar have funded the rebel
groups, while Shia, Iran, and Hezbollah and Lebanon support the Assad
regime. The word may be an incredible understatement, but Syria is, at the
very least, complicated. And so is the question of our response.

The Obama administration says that more than 1,400 people were killed in a
chemical attack allegedly launched by the Syrian government in late August,
although estimates from some human rights groups are much lower. In
response, President Obama wants to bomb some of the government`s military
assets, even though he admits that military action will likely only make a
dent, at best, a dent in the ongoing and brutal Syrian civil war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We may not solve
the whole problem, but this particular problem of using chemical weapons on
children, this one we might have an impact on, and that`s worth acting on.
That`s important to us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: Whatever else this military action might be, there`s one
thing it definitely isn`t, according to the president`s top diplomat.
Secretary of State John Kerry told my colleague, Chris Hayes, that this is
not war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Because I know the lessons of war.
I don`t believe this is taking America to war. I believe this is enforcing
a very limited military action, not going to war, that will, in fact, stand
up for the notion that you should not use chemical weapons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: Bashar al-Assad may be more of an enemy to the world and
humanity than it is specifically - than he is specifically to the United
States. But it is quite clear that it is quite clear that it is quite
clear that his nation may, in fact, soon be the target of the United
States. And to return to the wisdom of Sun Tzu, before we launch our
missiles into Syria, we best know our target.

Joining me now is Frank Jannuzi, who is Deputy Executive Director of
Amnesty International, USA`s advocacy policy and research department.
Amaney Jamal, associate professor of politics at Princeton University.
Dominic Tierney, associate professor of political science and author of
"How We Fight: Crusades, Quagmires and the American Way of War." And
Mohammed Ghanem, senior political advisor, government relations director
and strategist with the Syrian American Council. Thank you all for being
here.

Mohammed, I want to start with you. Because you have spent the week on
Capitol Hill --

MOHAMMAD GHANEM, SYRIAN AMERICAN COUNCIL: Correct.

HARRIS-PERRY: -- meeting with representatives.

GHANEM: Correct.

HARRIS-PERRY: What have you done in terms of simply educating them?
Because I assume they like many of us don`t know. What were the key items
you needed them to know in order to make this decision?

GHANEM: The stakes. This is a high-stakes situation, as high as it can
get. And we`re explaining what this matters -- what this means in terms of
U.S. national security interests. What the lack of the cause of - lack of
action would be, and how limited it is. The president`s proposal, et
cetera, so we focus education this week on these issues.

HARRIS-PERRY: I have been, I think, surprised at how much, since the
president has announced that he was going to go for congressional
authority, how much the conversation in American media has shifted almost
exclusively to the politics, the internal politics, and away from the
question of what is actually happening in Syria. Professor Jamal, what do
we need to know about Syria. And about the region that will help us to
make better decisions.

AMANEY JAMAL, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Well, about Syria, there`s a valid
issue here, that you have a regime that has used outlawed weapons against
its own citizens. So, whether or not the Syrian regime should be held
accountable is the key question, and do we have - does the United States
have a moral obligation to secure that moral obligation? So, that`s the
key question. The problem is, we take that - that question to the American
public, the American public is going to ask, why is it the U.S.`s
responsibility to uphold a moral obligation in the world.

HARRIS-PERRY: That piece, which we`ll talk about more even tomorrow on the
show, but that piece of public opinion here, and the sense that part of it
is a war-weary public, that the members of Congress who you talked to this
week are trying to figure out not only sort of what the moral obligation
is, what the realities on the ground are, but what their constituents are
thinking of it, how much of that typically weighed into sort of how we, how
we pursue military actions in this country?

DOMINIC TIERNEY, PFORESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE: Public opinion is a key
part of the equation, for any president who goes to war. And the current
intervention in Syria is looking like it is going to be one of the least
popular interventions in the post-Cold war era, and that`s partly because
of the legacy of Iraq and Afghanistan, and it`s partly because, frankly,
the American people look at the president and they haven`t been presented
with a clear strategy, that they can understand, that seems like there`s a
clear path to a successful outcome.

HARRIS-PERRY: Let me play a little bit of sound here from Secretary of
State John Kerry, because part of -- oh, OK, I actually will not play that
right at this moment. But part of what I want to ask about here is the
various groups -- so the idea that there are multiple rebellious groups,
there`s not one rebellion, there`s not one organized, how does that impact,
then, what our strategy is?

GHANEM: It impacts the level of organization that the opposition can have.
Because unlike Benghazi, unlike Libya, the opposition in Syria doesn`t have
Benghazi. Assad maintains access throughout the country, thanks to the Air
Force. So the lack of a region on the ground, an area on the ground where
the opposition can meet, talk, et cetera, definitely poses - poses
challenges.

HARRIS-PERRY: And this is the other thing that poses that very thing, is
what poses a challenge around the human rights violations going on.

FRANK JANNUZI, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Yes, that adversity poses a
challenge for seeking justice and also responding to this magnitude of the
human rights disaster. Amnesty International has documented human rights
abuses by all of the parties in the Syrian conflict. So, if there`s going
to be no impunity for war crimes and there`s going to be a pursuit of
justice, there needs to be a mechanism that can bring all people to be held
accountable for their actions.

HARRIS-PERRY: Speaking of that - so - I`m sorry, just a second on the
technical to get the sound, but I want to hear John Kerry talking to my
colleague, Chris Hayes, actually about that "New York Times" story about
one of the - about one of the groups and sort of those incredible images we
saw, and then this is Secretary of State Kerry responding. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: We all know there are about 11 really bad opposition groups, so-
called opposition, they`re not -- they`re fighting Assad. They are not
part of the opposition that is being supported by our friends and
ourselves.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC ANCHOR: How confident can we be, though, that that
support can be cordoned off or quarantined in any way?

KERRY: Well, it is being. Because there`s a very careful vetting process
that`s taking place, where people have to come out in Syria. We`re not
remotely talking about getting America involved, directly, in between any
of those forces.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: OK. There`s a lot going on there. The very first piece is
this idea that there are 11 opposition groups, but don`t worry, we know the
good guys from the bad guys. How likely is that to be true?

GHANEM: I think that`s - that`s absolutely true. And here`s why. So, I
think it`s well-known that the mainstream opposition in Syria is moderate,
but that because there was a void created on the ground, with the state
contracting, retracting, or completely withdrawing, so there was a void,
lack of political will to help the Syrian -- the mainstream opposition fill
this void, definitely, nefarious organizations or nefarious individuals
started trickling into this country, into Syria.. And they`ve been doing a
very good job of distributing social services. There`s a desperate
situation on the ground. People have no choice, but to turn to some of
these. But again, you look at the numbers. I think the key questions is,
what are the numbers? You have, I think estimates, you have about 6,000
extremists in comparison with about 150 to 200,000 mainstream opposition.
That`s relatively moderate. But the problem is that mainstream opposition
is resource hungry, they`ve not been supported, and then you have small
minority extremists that is -- that have excellent resources. Unless you
tip this balance, I think the situation will continue to grow worse.

HARRIS-PERRY: So the argument I`m hearing you make right now is an
argument that sounds actually less -- something like what I hear the
administration saying. But even more importantly, it sounds like the
McCain argument, in the sense that not only should this be a limited set of
strikes around, saying, we will not use chemical weapons as a world global
practice, but also that there is a potential to tip the balance towards
moderate opposition forces?

JAMAL: There is that potential, but I`m going to respectfully disagree.
It`s not clear that the moderate opposition has the upper hand in the
conflict right now. And this is an important issue. Let`s just assume we
go in. We weaken the Assad regime. This is a regime, first of all, that
doesn`t really have an exit strategy, so if it`s in the face of being
weakening, there are no guarantees that it`s not going to unleash chemical
weapons again on its own population, A. And B, if it is drastically
weakened, it might actually bomb the moderate opposition. And strengthen
the more radical opposition.

HARRIS-PERRY: I want to - We`re going to take a break, but I want to come
back exactly on this point. Something I haven`t heard frequently talked
about. This idea that the Assad regime also needs an exit strategy. There
has to be a way for it to exit without sort of responding in the way that
it has, even to the most moderate of protests. So stay with us. More on
our kind of Syria 101 when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: There are going to be times, where, as is true here, the
international community is stuck. For the whole variety of political
reasons. And if that`s the case, people are going to look to the United
States and say, what are you going to do about it?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: Not a bad question, President Obama. What are we going to
do about it? So, let`s go back to this exit strategy.

GHANEM: So, I would just like to say quickly that, we are where we are
today, with the regime that`s using chemical weapons as another tool in its
arsenal, in the arsenal, simply because the credible threat of the use of
force has been lacking. And so, it was a peaceful protest, a movement for
six months, Assad militarized the protests, escalated from live rounds,
military blockades, use of tanks and then heavy artillery, helicopter
gunships, fixed-wing aircraft, scud missiles, and now because of no
consequences, Assad believed that the world doesn`t have any business in
Syria, (inaudible), et cetera. And it has escalated. So now I think if no
action is taken, this would be tantamount to a blank check to Assad and
other dictators around the world that the, you know, the world would
continue to stand by and watch.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, it feels this is the chess game question, which is, all
right, here we are. Like we find ourselves in this moment, as the
president says. If we strike, particularly in the very limited way that
Secretary of State Kerry is saying, then what happens? And do we find
ourselves with an Assad who survives a strike, and is like, I stood up to
the U.S. and continues to use weapons, because he`s in power, and if we
don`t strike, is he like, see, you know, I pushed them down, they can`t
even come over here, I continue to use weapons. Is there any story we
think happened where Assad does not continue to attack his people?

TIERNEY: This is a great question. And at the start of the segment, you
talked about Sun Tzu, the art of war. And what you need is a strategy,
right? And the strategy requires clear goals, a plan to achieve those
goals, and ideally an element of surprise.

We have none of those clear goals.

HARRIS-PERRY: We certainly don`t have an element of surprise.

TIERNEY: We have no clear goals.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yep.

TIERNEY: Are we going after this chemical weapon issue? Is it a regime
change mission? How are limited strikes possibly going to be a game
changer in Syria? And where is the element of surprise? This is the most
telegraphed war in history.

HARRIS-PERRY: But is that - is that the credible -- so in other words, is
there a possibility there`s a credible threat?

JANNUZI: There is way to get the international community unstuck. I mean,
I think the president put his finger on it. The obstructionism by Russia
and China and the U.N. Security Council is integral to the problem here.
Because they are standing in the way of justice, they`re standing in the
way of an effective sanctions regime or other international response that
might both address the needs of the displaced and the refugees, as well as
bring to bear significant pressure on all the parties by curtailing their
access to arms. So getting the U.N. Security Council unstuck should be the
focus of U.S. diplomatic efforts. And the ways to do that, in terms of
isolating Russia and China, putting the heat on them to show the world the
consequences of their preventing the U.N. from responding.

JAMAL: So --

HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, jump in there.

JAMAL: So I want to respond to this. I think this is the way to go. I
mean we are basically saying, we have two choices. Do we strike or not?
And I don`t think we should frame the debate that way. I think it is, can
we use this as an opportunity to say, look, to the Assad regime. You have
clearly passed the red line. You`re clearly in violation of all these
international norms and standards. You either come to the table with the
backing of the United Nations and be prepared to make serious concessions
to the opposition, if indeed the opposition is organized enough to
negotiate, and let`s use this as an opportunity for diplomacy. This is a
failure in diplomacy, if we have no other option before us, except to go at
it alone and strike Syria.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, but how can we press Russia? Because it does feel to me
like the huge elephant in the room here is Russia.

JANNUZI: One way to press them is by getting them to put pressure on Syria
to sign the chemical weapons convention. If we`re talking about
reinforcing international norms, preventing the use of chemical weapons,
Syria is one of five countries in the world that has not signed the
chemical weapons convention, banning these weapons. Put pressure on
Russia, which has signed the convention. Tell your client state. Get with
the program. You need to abandon these chemical weapons. Otherwise,
you`re going to face serious international consequences.

GHANEM: This was this - I would completely agree with this, if we - if we
were like in ideal world, but unfortunately this is a strategy that we`ve
been pursuing for 2 1/2 years, and look where we ended up today. Assad, by
the way, responded to your question just two days ago and said, the only
solution to dealing with the opposition and what opposes me is, quote, to
annihilate them. The Assad regime -- I lived for 29 years in Syria. The
Assad regime is not interested in negotiations. It`s not a regime, neither
the father, nor the son, not a regime that negotiated. They`ve only used -
they`ve always used brute force to crush opposition. So you have a regime
that`s embattled, Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations envoy to Syria - when
he met with Assad last year said that Assad is interested in, quote,
"taking Syria back to the good old days when the Assad dynasty ruled with
impunity. So unless Assad understands that there are consequences to the
massive and reprehensible use of chemical weapons against innocents, they
will continue to escalate just like they`ve done --

HARRIS-PERRY: OK, you believe in the military forces --

GHANEM: For 2.5 years.

(CROSSTALK)

GHANEM: Let me give you the inside scoop.

HARRIS-PERRY: Dispersive --

(CROSSTALK)

GHANEM: Let me give you the inside scoop. I completely agree with all of
my colleagues here, that if you - if you approached this from the point of
view, must care enough that (inaudible), definitely the Assad regime would
say, I faced - I`ve faced down -- you know, I defied the American bullying
and faced that down. Congress, I think now is, especially in the Senate,
some leaders in the Congress, are pushing the president to place these
strikes within a broader strategy to ensure that there would be some
positive difference on the ground.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, stay with us when we take a quick break, because when we
come back, I want to talk about the millions of people who are caught in
the crossfire. Are we even talking about the Syrian people as we talk
about this potential battlefield that is their home?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: We`re back. And I just want to follow up on this issue that
you`ve raised here. And this notion of, sort of, intervening in a way that
could ultimately make a difference in the civil war, because that is
precisely what the secretary of state said we are not doing, and yet, I
hear that appeal. And I guess the main question that comes to mind for me
is, what do the people of Syria. want? Do the people of Syria want an
intervention that is strikes? Do they want no U.S. intervention? Or do they
want, in fact, boots on the ground that will tip the balance of power?

GHANEM: The overwhelming majority of Syrians are not asking for boots on
the ground. They`re saying we are the boots on the ground. We have boots
on the ground, but these boots on the ground need resources and need to be
empowered to do the job. What we need are surgical strikes against
artillery, because it`s a major killer, against airfields, et cetera,
missile batteries Assad is using to subdue the population, and just empower
(inaudible) elements with resources. And we can do the job. So that`s
what they`re asking for. However, I think it`s important to say that on
three different occasions, Syrians have held nationwide protests, asking,
calling on the international community to assume its responsibility, under
the responsibility to protect, and come and protect civilians in Syrian.

JAMAL: So that is true, but then, what will that look like? I mean, let`s
just step back. Should the United States strike Syria because Syria
crossed a red line? And what we`re hearing is that there`s going to be a
limited strike, that`s not going to have much of an effect. What we`re
hearing here is that, no, the U.S. strikes should weaken the regime and
empower the opposition. If, indeed, the strategy is regime change, and
this goes back to the idea that we don`t have a strategy. If the strategy
is regime change, for that to be effective, there has to be a commitment to
boots on the ground. U.S. boots on the ground.

GHANEM: The bill that has passed --

HARRIS-PERRY: And that is the thing that we know we can`t get public
support for. So, I guess, my question is, is this about the fact that
there actually is a strategy, and the strategy is regime change, and it
does include ultimately boots on the ground, but they`re not saying that at
this moment, because that will never get enough votes, or is it seriously
that the strategy is simply a limited response to both empower opposition
and to sort of send this international message?

TIERNEY: What we`re doing at the moment, I think, or what we`re looking at
doing is the worst of all worlds, right?

HARRIS-PERRY: Just enough to be nothing?

TIERNEY: Just enough to get the United States embroiled in the Syrian
civil war, where we become a player and we become responsible, but not
enough to change the fundamental dynamics of a deeply entrenched sectarian
civil war.

HARRIS-PERRY: And this is -- my colleague over at CNN suggests that this
is a kind of sectarian rebalancing, that we simply had to expect to occur
as a result of the whole sort of Mideast uprisings, and that ultimately we
know -- and this is why I`ve been wanting to say, I don`t know if we know
enough to be engaged here.

JANNUZI: In the absence of a commitment to significantly shift the
balance, we should not think there`s, therefore, nothing to be done. If
folks go to amnestyusa.org/Syria, you can see a list of seven or eight
actions that could make the situation a bit better. There can be an
intensive humanitarian response, there can be an attempt to impose an arms
embargo to dry up the source of the conflict and force people back to the
diplomatic table. There can be an appeal to the international criminal
court to investigate and hold those accountable so there is no impunity.
There can also be an effort made by the international community to say,
look, why should we not hold accountable the states that are aiding and
abetting the violence here? Why is the U.S. military still doing business
with Russian arms companies, who are, themselves, selling weapons to the
Syrian regime and backing them up?

HARRIS-PERRY: I got to tell you, it is our relationship with Russia that
feels to me like the thing that is being spoken about the least here. And
we saw it -- not here, at this particular table, but we saw it sort of
percolate as a conversation because of the meeting in St. Petersburg this
week, but still, like that fundamental question of where these arms are
coming from and who`s giving cover and why the U.N. can`t move is really a
story about Russia.

GHANEM: Yes. But in terms of the strategy, I think we have to say, we
have to be fair to the administration. The administration has made it very
clear that there`s only a political solution to the crisis. But, however,
conditions on the ground are not conducive to a political settlement.
Assad is convinced he`s winning on the ground with the help of Hezbollah
and Iran, et cetera. They won`t come to the negotiating table. So
hopefully the strikes will be robust enough so that Assad is convinced he
cannot gas infants -- gas his way out of conflict and come and sit at the
negotiating table.

HARRIS-PERRY: This is a very good point. I do think the administration
would say, hey, what you`re talking about here is what we have tried to
pursue, but we`ve also said chemical weapons were not allowable, so we have
to act. Stay right here, I want to talk about the millions of internally
displaced persons and refugees.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: Missing from much of the public conversation about Syria are
the more than 6 million people who have been forced from their homes by the
current conflict. They are refugees in neighboring countries or displaced
within Syria. And more than half of the refugees fleeing the country are
children. For many, the situation is dire. Aid agencies cannot reach many
of the internally displaced persons, and some of Syria`s neighbors are
strained to the breaking point, as more and more refugees pour in. The
exodus has increased Jordan`s population by 10 percent. The Zaatari
refugee camp in Jordan is now that country`s fourth largest city, with
120,000 people in what was, very recently, a desolate stretch of desert.
The United Nations is coordinating the response and is trying to raise $3
billion to fund it. But as of two weeks ago, they had only reached 40
percent of their goal. Talk to me about this part.

JANNUZI: I worked in a refugee camp on the Thai/Cambodian border 20 years
ago. And there is no more heroic group of people than the international
relief agency folks who are there in Zaatari refugee camp now. The
international community needs to do a much better job. They need to fully
fund the more than $4 billion that are needed to address the need of this
refugee crisis. It`s as if 100 million Americans had been driven from
their homes. That`s the proportion of the Syrian population that is on the
move and at risk. 75 percent of them are women and children. They`re
victims of sexual trafficking, victims of sexual assault and abuse.
They`re in a very vulnerable state. And we need a much more robust
response.

HARRIS-PERRY: I want to listen for a moment to what Prime Minister Cameron
said, because, of course, we know that part of what`s happened in terms of
U.S. politics happened in part because of what happened in the British
parliament. As much as UK has said, we`re not going in in terms of
military, here is what the prime minister said about humanitarian work.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Because we were never going to
reach agreement at this summit, I thought it was right to focus on
something we could do, building the strongest possible international
commitment on humanitarian aid. Inside Syria, 6.8 million are in need of
humanitarian assistance. 60 percent of hospitals, 4,000 schools have been
damaged or destroyed. This is the humanitarian crisis the world and our
generation faces. And I`m determined that the world takes the action to
deal with it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So as America is talking about our war weariness,
I`m thinking, 6.8 million people.

JAMAL: It`s massive. Almost a third of the population. Clearly, the
international community has not done enough for the refugees. They`ve
pledged, but they haven`t funded. And the humanitarian crisis in Syria is
just despicable. It`s just massive, and more needs to be done. So when we
think about an air strike on Syria, it needs to be coupled with a clear-
cut, effective humanitarian strategy. And we really haven`t heard much on
that from the American side.

HARRIS-PERRY: And the other piece for me is that map that maybe we showed
earlier. And that idea of sort of, so where are they going, and what
happens when they get there? So we know that this dispersion, this exodus
of people is now having an impact all throughout the region.

TIERNEY: You`re talking about 2 million Syrians who fled to neighboring
countries. That`s like all of the people in New Mexico. It`s an
incredible number. And it`s both a moral question and a strategic
question. It`s a moral question, because this is the lives of ordinary
people. A strategic question, because it`s destabilizing neighboring
countries. But we have to follow what the doctors swear, the Hippocratic
oath, which is do no harm. So will air strikes really help the refugees? I
think we can all agree that a sustained humanitarian program is essential
here, but will air strikes really help?

HARRIS-PERRY: Will they?

GHANEM: I think if you go to a refugee camp now, Melissa, and randomly
meet people and ask them, will you be supportive of the strikes? I think
the overwhelming response you`ll get is, yes. And here`s - so that`s
refugees. You need to keep in mind, the United Nations revised their
numbers a couple of days ago, and now we have 7 million displaced of the
country`s population, but about 5 million of whom are (inaudible) this
place, and these people are being bombed on a daily basis with very dumb
(ph) TNT barrels lobbed on the population. So if you can do something
about the missile batteries, the Scud missiles that are being lobbed on
them, or the heavy artillery, or the air force, I think that would be a
significant step towards reducing the number of civilian casualties in the
country.

HARRIS-PERRY: So refugees are never just a random draw from the box of the
population. This is your point about women and children and those who are
most vulnerable. If tomorrow I could wave my magic wand and I could fix
the current crisis in Syria, but would leave all of the collateral damage
that has occurred, how bad is it? Thinking a decade, two decades forward?

JANNUZI: The reconstruction job is going to be enormous. Amnesty
International has used satellite imagery to document the destruction of
civilian neighborhoods in the country`s largest city of Aleppo. And when
you look at the before and after shots on our website, it`s devastating.
Whole neighborhoods have been leveled, flattened by ballistic missiles and
heavy artillery. So even if this conflict were to end tomorrow, those 7
million people are not going to get to move home immediately. There`s
going to be a long-term sustained effort necessary.

GHANEM: But we`ve got to start somewhere.

HARRIS-PERRY: So we`ve talked a little bit about Syrian people living in
Syria. We talked a little bit about Syrian refugees who are on the run and
internally displaced. Does the Syrian American community have a position
on intervention, either in a humanitarian role or in a military role? And
do they have any capacity as Syrian American community to actually
influence the outcome of these decisions?

GHANEM: I`m a board member on the Coalition for a Democratic Syria, an
umbrella organization of eight Syrian American organizations that work in
Washington, D.C., but have nationwide presence. I think they think of it
as a humanitarian strike, similar to what happened to Kosovo, Bosnia, or
even Libya. And I think they overwhelmingly support and endorse the
president`s request for punishing Assad for the reprehensible use of
chemical weapons. Now, the Syrian American community have played a role
since the beginning of the crisis with peaceful protests in March of 2011,
which raised funds for humanitarian relief. Sent about $115 million to
help humanitarian relief programs. They`ve also played a role in awareness
raising, and I think they`re also advocating the administration.

Now, this -- I would not say every -- I don`t like to make generalizations.
I would not say every single Syrian American in the United States is on
board with this. But I can, because I`m deeply involved in the Syrian
American community, I would say the overwhelming majority is on board.

HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask you before we go, many of my viewers are
staunchly against military intervention. What can they pressure
politically their representatives to do? If they are staunchly against
military intervention, to nonetheless make a difference in this crisis?

JANNUZI: They can go to amnestyusa.org. They can sign up for an action
pushing Boehner, Reid, the president to refer this conflict to the
international criminal court, to enhance our aid for the refugees. The
American people are the most generous in the world. We`re already doing a
lot to help the people of Syria, but we could do more. But also to bring
pressure to bear to dry up the supply of arms to this conflict. There are
options on the table that have not been fully exploited.

HARRIS-PERRY: That this is complicated, again, does feel like a deep
understatement. And yet, here we are. We`ve got to keep trying to walk
through the complications. Thank you all for being here. Amaney is going
to stick around a little bit later. Up next, a really different topic. It
is my letter of the week and it`s to a 7-year-old girl in Oklahoma.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: Black hair made news again this week. During a segment on
CBS` "The Talk," co-host Sheryl Underwood expressed dismay that supermodel
Heidi Klum would save the cut hair of her biracial children saying, "OK,
I`m sorry, but why would you save afro hair? You can`t weave afro hair.
You never see us at the hair place going, look here, what I need here is I
need those curly, nappy beads. That just seems nasty." Now, Underwood
swiftly apologized, claiming that she was making a joke, but also
acknowledging that the misplaced humor touched on a deep place of pain for
many African-Americans, the social rejection of our hair.

While Underwood was taking the brunt of public outrage for her hair joke,
we learned this week that a school in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has made hair
shaming official policy. Debora Brown Community School in Tulsa, Oklahoma,
sent a student home for what authorities there deemed an unacceptable
hairstyle. The hairstyle, short dreadlocks, pinned back with a bow. The
student, a 7-year-old girl, who by all accounts, is a very good student.

So now my letter this week isn`t to Debora Brown Community School, even
though we reached out to them and were referred to their lawyer, who still
hasn`t called back. Instead, my letter this week is to the most important
person in the whole story, 7-year-old Tiana Parker and all the little
Tianas in our other communities.

Dear Tiana, it`s me, Melissa. Tiana, when I saw and heard you cry about
not being able to wear your hair the way you wanted, it broke my heart.
First of all, Tiana, no matter what your school or anyone else has said to
you, we are proud of your hair, and you should be too. In spite of your
school`s policy that states hairstyles such as dreadlocks, afros, and other
faddish styles are unacceptable, for the record, Tiana, your hair is not
distracting, unacceptable, a fad, or wrong. Tiana, your hair is wonderful.
You come from a people with a beautiful array of styles and textures that
range from short to big afros, that come in colors from gray to black,
curly naturals that spiral every which way just because they can.

And you, dear Tiana, are part of a people who have the choice of sporting
dreadlocks, which have a rich history in black culture. Locks have been
rocked by the likes of reggae`s most indelible artist, Bob Marley, and
later generations of musicians like rocker Lenny Kravitz, who wore
dreadlocks in his early days. Songstress Lauryn Hill`s locks were matched
by the beauty of her deep, brown skin, and that same beautiful brown skin
that you possess, Tiana.

Because, remember, on top of all of this, your black is beautiful. And
let`s not forget the Queen Bee herself, Oscar winning actress, Ms. Whoopi
Goldberg, hasn`t let anyone tell her how to dress or look, and has probably
worn her locks for decades.

But if you need inspiration, how about closer to your own age. You can
look to young artist Willow Smith. Whether she is whipping her hair back
and forth or she`s rocking the shortest buzz cut, no one tells her how to
limit her beauty or her choices. The same way that your beauty and choices
are limitless, dear Tiana.

So your old school might want to revamp its policy, because instead of
enforcing a uniform policy for students, it reinforces stereotypes and
undermines a sense of student`s self-worth. And also, kudos to your mama
and your daddy, the barber who takes great pride in your hair, for pulling
you out of that school that did not celebrate their child.

So here is the MHP show message to you, Tiana, and to all the little brown
girls who rock their hair in all its many styles, you are perfect, just the
way you are. And don`t be confused. When you`re at school, it`s what`s in
your head that is way more important than what is on your head. Sincerely,
Melissa.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: If you look into Wal-Mart, this past week`s protests and
demonstrations weren`t really that big of a deal. According to the
company`s statement, "once again, it looks like the UFCW, the United Food
and Commercial Workers Union, threw a party and nobody showed up. Despite
promises of thousands of workers protesting this week, the union failed to
deliver more than a smattering of paid protesters at their 15 orchestrated
events."

Oh, really, Wal-Mart? Tell that to the crowd of people who turned out on
the streets of New York City to protest the low wages at the world`s
largest retailer. And the folks in Los Angeles seemed pretty organized as
well. Across the country, at least 100 people were arrested in 11 cities,
according to organizers. If Wal-Mart considers that to be a smattering, it
remains to be seen what it will take for them to change their policies and
take their workers` demands seriously.

At the table, Michael Saltsman, research director at the Employment
Policies Institute. Fred Azcarate, the executive director of U.S. Action,
David Cay Johnston, author of "The Fine Print," and Colby Harris, a Wal-
Mart employee who was arrested in Thursday`s protests in Dallas.

I am going to start with you, because Wal-Mart says, this isn`t a real
thing. Not a big deal. You were arrested. What`s your response?

COLBY HARRIS, WAL-MART EMPLOYEE: It is a real thing. And also to the
response that this is UFCW coordinating this, that`s not true. Our
organization consists solely of current and former workers, and we
coordinated everything. And the fact that Wal-Mart would come out and make
a statement like that, and it`s just to show -- it really goes to show how
much they could really care less about what their workers have to say, and
the fact that they don`t respect the fact that we`re speaking out.

HARRIS-PERRY: So it is a relatively small number of employees compared to
the, you know, one point some million employees that Wal-Mart claims to
have. So David, why should we take it seriously? If it`s a small number,
even if they`re deeply committed, even if they are deeply organized, even
if they`re willing to go to jail, why should Wal-Mart take it seriously?
They are a huge multinational corporation.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, AUTHOR: Wal-Mart will take it seriously when customers
recognize that they`re the very people being dissed by these outrageous
comments by the company, showing the disrespect they have for the people
with low wages, who shop in their stores. Stop shopping there. Or
minimize their shopping there.

But, we should care a lot, because as Wal-Mart being such a big employer,
largest private employer in the country, 1.3 million people, if it can
drive down wages, if it can eliminate unions at other firms that sell
groceries, other people`s wages are going to fall, and it`s a terrible
story that will lead to higher taxes, higher government burdens, but it
will make the Wal-Mart family richer.

HARRIS-PERRY: You just said two things that feel to me deeply connected,
which is, one, that people with low wages buy things, including groceries
at Wal-Mart, and so the need for Wal-Mart to keep prices low, for poor
people, and people with low wages and reduced incomes, who need things
like, oh, I don`t know, food, is what they typically will respond is the
important part of why wages are low. It`s low-wage work because we`ve got
to keep prices low. Yes, no?

JOHNSTON: No.

HARRIS-PERRY: No, that`s not?

JOHNSTON: No. What Wal-Mart`s trying to do is drive down the general
level of prices paid to workers in this field. Stores that have unionized
clerks make a profit. Stores in Canada and Europe pay higher wages and
make a profit. And a lot of that money that Wal-Mart is putting out the
door comes right now because of all the joblessness, from food stamps,
which means the taxpayers.

HARRIS-PERRY: But I would feel like, OK, I`ve got constrained choices
here. If I`m a consumer and I`m watching this, and I`m like, hey, yo, I`m
down with you, Melissa Harris-Perry, I`m down with you, Colby, but look,
I`m a constrained consumer. We`ve got one super-Wal-Mart. I`ve got to go
buy my groceries there. I want to support folks, but this is the reality.
Similarly, as a potential worker, I would feel like, have you seen the job
numbers? They`re really bad. And given how bad these job numbers are, I
need a job, and if a minimum wage job is what I can take, I`m going to take
it and I`m not going to cause problems.

FRED AZCARATE, EXEC. DIRECTOR, US ACTION, The problem isn`t prices, it`s
wages. What Colby is doing and what his coworkers are doing is in the
greatest American tradition of standing up against injustice. They`re
fighting for themselves and their families. They`re also fighting for all
of us. They`re trying to take a stand against saying, you know, we`re not
going to go down this path of lowering wages as low as we can, and abusing
workers. Because we put more money in workers` pockets. What do they do?
They spend it. And increase economic activity.

MICHAEL SALTSMAN, EMPLOYMENT POLICIES INSTITUTE: Let`s take a step back
here for just a minute. First of all, we`re talking about unionized
grocery stores, for instance. Unionized grocery stores have people who
make at or near the minimum wage, while chains like Safeway and Giant, the
UFCW has come in and unionized, also have people who are in the minimum
wage. The UFCW, obviously, because it represents those, is they are a
direct competitor here to Wal-Mart.

So when we`re talking about wages and when we`re talking about what`s going
on here, this ultimately is an orchestrated event. We`ve seen these photos
of the protests in Washington, D.C. It was reported last night that only
two of the people at that protest, where there were maybe over 100 people,
were former Wal-Mart employees and zero of the people there were current
Wal-Mart employees. So is it possible to find a couple one thousandths of
one percent of the store`s workforce that are dissatisfied, absolutely.
But I mean, if you look online at who`s saying bad things about the
company, it`s good jobs first. It`s our Wal-Mart, it`s UFCW. It`s not a
mass uprising.

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS-PERRY: Colby, Colby, is it labor Astroturf? The argument is it`s
labor Astroturf.

HARRIS: The thing about it is, is the fact that there`s a fear factor.
And when you join the organization, the retaliation is real. On June 1
through the 7th, workers decided to go on a labor practice strike against
the company for retaliating us, (inaudible) for going on strike, doing
protests and things of that nature. And they fired 20 workers illegally
for being on a protected strike.

SALTSMAN: The UFCW wants it both ways. On the one hand, you want to say
that Our Wal-Mart is not a union, and on the other hand, you want the same
protections that are afforded to unions under labor law, which is why you
have to say you`re protesting an unfair labor practice. From Wal-Mart`s
perspective, this is just people who are walking off the job. And I`ve
worked in the service industry and the retail industry for a number of
years, and if there`s one unpardonable sin in this industry, it`s the no-
call, no-show. If you`re not showing up to work, Wal-Mart is not having an
unfair labor practice. They`re just making the decision that any business,
large or small, would make.

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS-PERRY: Pause! We`re going to take a break. As you can see, this is
about to get hot, so stay with us. Coming up next, what Wal-Mart could
look like under a new model of management. Plus, President Bill Clinton
and the House Republicans, can you believe this. I`m sorry, yes, President
Bill Clinton, I said that. Not yes, we still call him President Bill
Clinton, yes, even though he`s not president right now, they`re at odds
over explaining stuff. And also, there is more Nerdland at the top of the
hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.

While there may be a dispute between Wal-Mart and those who protested this
past week over how many people participated in the demonstrations, the
protests were real. And so are the issues that inspired them.

Now, clearly something isn`t working in the model that`s been set up. So,
in this day and age where our economy is still recovering from the great
recession, is there an alternative model to pay workers fair wages and for
companies to still make a profit? Costco -- Costco! -- which is the number
two retailer in the U.S. behind Wal-Mart, finds its ways to pay its hourly
workers an average of $20.89 and 88 percent of Costco employees have
company sponsored health insurance.

Fast food chain, In-N-Out Burger, starts its employees out with a wage of
$9.50 an hour and they can work their way up to $120,000 a year with no
degree or previous management experience.

Wal-Mart may want to take note, because these two alternate business
models, which focus on the employees` wellbeing sound pretty good to me.
Plus, I just like Costco.

Back at the table, Michael Saltsman, research director at the Employee
Policies Institute. Fred Azcarate who is the executive director of the
USAction. David Cay Johnston, who is the author of "The Fine Print." And
Colby Harris, a Wal-Mart employee who was arrested in Thursday`s protests.

So, I get that Wal-Mart obviously operate in a very different model than
Costco. Again, I love Costco, but I can also afford to pay the membership
fee to go shopping at Costco. And In-N-Out is apparently privately held.

David, is there a model for a Wal-Mart to say, OK, we can do this
differently?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, AUTHOR, "THE FINE PRINT": Sure. And Costco is the
proof of that. First of all, if you pay higher wages, you`ll be able to
hire better quality workers and you can get more productivity out of them.
But there`s no question that the issue here is not, can you make a profit
at this model? The question is, is Wal-Mart going to drive down everyone
else`s wages? That`s really what this fight is about -- pushing down
everybody`s wages.

HARRIS-PERRY: So I want to ask you about something, the interaction that
was happening here before the break. In part because, I heard you say,
look, if you don`t show up for work and you`re claiming it`s, you know, for
protests, but I just -- I`m a manager, I`ve got to cover my hours, but I
guess what surprised me about Wal-Mart`s response is that there something
going on here. Some level of unhappiness, distress, from consumers, from
employees.

Why not say, all right, there are some things we`re willing to do and not
others? Maybe there is something with our model that doesn`t work
perfectly in this new system. We have data and evidence showing how many
of our employees are on public assistance and we, as entrepreneurs, don`t
want our employees taking from the government trough.

Why not sit down and start talking about some kind of changes in how they
do their business?

MICHAEL SALTSMAN, EMPLOYMENT POLICIES INSTITUTE: Well, I think Wal-Mart
has them. That Wal-Mart came out, for instance, in support of the last
increase in the federal minimum wage prior to the Affordable Care Act,
which Wal-Mart had to make some changes in response to that. Wal-Mart
offered health insurance plans to their employees, both full-time and part-
time for a while well.

So, Wal-Mart has done these things. But at the end of the day, Wal-Mart`s
business model, with low prices at the customers, and customers only
willing to pay so much, you can look at Wal-Mart`s overall profits and you
can say, they look like a really profitable company, but they have a lot of
employees too.

So, when you`re only earning $6,000 or $7,000 in profit per employee, the
limits of what you can do are different. And they`re even --

HARRIS-PERRY: OK, you`re going to convince me of all kinds of things, but
the idea that they`re hurting for money is just -- I mean, all kinds of
things about entrepreneurship, but not that.

(CROSSTALK)

SALTSMAN: The CEO of Wal-Mart, the CEO of Wal-Mart, you could take his
salary and his bonuses, you could cut them down to zero. And you could
give everybody in the company a raise --

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNSTON: This is what your organization, which isn`t really a research
organization, you work for a public relations firm, let`s be clear.

SALTSMAN: It`s been around for 20 years. We have an advisory board --

JOHNSTON: I encourage readers to go look up the organization.

(CROSSTALK)

SALTSMAN: -- from Cornell, from Harvard University, from the University of
Chicago --

FRED AZCARATE, EXEC. DIR., USACTION: You don`t have to be an economist to
what`s happening, right? We`ve seen decades of workers` productivity going
up. Wages remaining stagnant, remaining flat. And Wal-Mart`s part of the
problem.

And what Colby and his coworkers have done is expose this, right? It`s a
choice. It`s a choice. Are we going to have a Costco economy or a Wal-
Mart economy?

JOHNSTON: And Wal-Mart`s problems depend on subsidies from the government,
people who work there who are on government-financed medical care, people
who work there who are on food stamps.

Wal-Mart is a huge welfare operation, financed by the taxpayers. And
people who are worried about their tax burdens ought to focus on the
redistribution of wealth. Because they are a perfect example of the issue,
I talk about the fine print in my other books that we have created a system
that redistributes upward. It takes from the many to give to the few.

And the Wal-Marts -- what you`re doing is bringing up these fine detail
points. No one has suggested that paying the head of Wal-Mart less money
is the solution to this. No one -- no one, Michael.

SALTSMAN: These are not fine detail points. These are economic realities.
And I think the Costco economy that you mentioned is important here because
at Costco, you`re right, you do pay to be a customer. The other thing you
have at Costco -- Costco brags on its Web site about how few employees they
have, about how they`ve cut overhead to a minimum. When you`re Wal-Mart
and you have a staff of 1.3 million, and increase in labor costs looks a
lot different than it does for Costco.

So, you can`t compare this sort of apples and oranges of business models
and you just, well, if Wal-Mart could just be more like this company, or
earlier --

COLBY HARRIS, WAL-MART EMPLOYEE: If you look at the turnover rate from a
Costco to Wal-Mart, you`ll see that a Costco worker stays there. Wal-Mart
is always having a turnover rate of the associates because they`re not
satisfied.

JOHNSTON: And economists call that friction, high cost.

HARRIS: They`re not getting the consistent hours and they`re getting a
poverty wage. If you look at Costco and Wal-Mart, you`ll see is the fact
that Costco is taking care of their associates and Wal-Mart isn`t. So, you
have that high turnover rate and don`t have the consistency of good workers
who are going to be there and stay with the company.

HARRIS-PERRY: This does feel to me like a shift in our understanding about
what is going on in America and in the private sector, and a shift that`s
occurred maybe over the past 50 years. What you just talked about is, OK,
if I`m a worker, I would like to be valued. I would like to have some
control over my hours.

If I`m capable of working 40 hours a week, I want to work all 40 of them.
I want to make a wage that doesn`t require me to also be dependent on
government services. There was a point at which we considered businesses
that did that inherently valuable to who we were as Americans, as well as
to the kind of economy that we were growing.

So, let`s -- you know, I can do a little Costco cheer all day, because they
give you nice fun food when you go in. But let`s put Costco to the side
for a moment and say, just in general, the notion of that model to a
relationship to workers, versus a relationship to workers that says, I want
as many hours as I can get from you, but only up to the level of what I
would have to pay you benefits, and I want to pay you as little as possible
and keep you as close to the edge as possible. It just feels like a
different notion of investment than the people who are the labor in this
country.

AZCARATE: I think that`s part of the crisis in collective bargaining in
this country. You see a decline in the unionization in this country. That
whole compact, where companies and workers could collectively bargain for
wages and benefits and working conditions, and do what`s best for the
company and for the workers, to grow our economy.

HARRIS-PERRY: And, by the way, you also felt good about that. Look, work
something you complain about, because it`s work, so you complain. But when
you have a relationship with a company that feels like -- and I think
that`s the part for me that I want to understand from -- like I`m
legitimately curious about, from the Wal-Mart side, is they do present a
kind of family model, a kind of happy face model. And, you know, I meet
someone like Colby, who seems serious and hard working, willing to risk his
own freedom in the context of being arrested, and who`s been with the
company four years, right?

So I`m thinking, OK, it sounds to me like you`re not trying to shove Wal-
Mart down, you`re trying to have an appreciation, a pride in being a Wal-
Mart employee.

HARRIS: Yes. The thing about is we don`t want this company to not be
profitable, because they`re not profitable to the point they want to be,
they`ll start shutting down stores and things of that nature. So we don`t
want them to have less money than what they`re already making, but we do
want what we deserve is workers.

JOHNSTON: And we want a company that earns its own way and isn`t based on
a model mining the taxpayers for subsidies.

HARRIS-PERRY: And the other thing is, of course, we know that what happens
in the public discourse around that, David, is that the people who get
shamed, or the entity that gets shamed for being on food stamps is not --
we don`t shame Wal-Mart for being on food stamps. We shame the person.

JOHNSTON: I don`t know how many people know this, but 90 percent of Wal-
Mart distribution centers are built with taxpayer money. They are not
built with Wal-Mart`s profits. You and I are taxed to pay for that.

HARRIS-PERRY: Excuse me, what? Local taxes?

JOHNSTON: Yes! Wal-Mart has government use eminent domain to acquire
property. It uses these tax increment financing deals, where they keep the
sales taxes to build the stores. One of their executives acknowledged in
an interview, they try to get these deals in about a third of the stores.
They`re not doing it in the urban stores who have more sophisticated news
coverage and people who are organized.

But Wal-Mart is all based on a system of getting the taxpayers to put up
the capital. This is not market capitalism, OK?

HARRIS-PERRY: When we come back, we`ll take a closer look at what Wal-Mart
has to say and then let David punch them. All right, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: Just for fun, I want to go back to the statement that Wal-
Mart sent to us, what they had to say about the protests. The company`s
statement reads, in part, "The UFCW, the United Food and Commercial Workers
Union, is quickly becoming the boy who cried wolf. They put out news
releases with big promises, but failed to deliver on those promises, was
proven again this week that our Wal-Mart group doesn`t speak for the vast
majority of Wal-Mart associates."

So, Colby, is that the case?

HARRIS: That`s not the case. What`s happening is, we actually have
thousands of members who are in the organization, which is not a big number
compared to 1.3 million associates. When you look at the fear factor that
they put over us, people are scared to lose their low-wage job, because
once you lose that, then what else do you have? Unemployment?

You know, so, it`s the fear factor that`s held over our heads, and that`s
maybe why we don`t have the numbers that people might be looking for.

(CROSSTALK)

SALTSMAN: It is the case, if you compare the people who are involved in
this and if you look at -- I mean, in Denver, at the protests in Denver,
just like in D.C., there were zero actual Wal-Mart employees there. So if
you look at these, I think if you look at the fast food protests that have
happened recently too, what you see is unions like the SEIU, and the UFCW,
who see a historical decline in their numbers and are looking for ways to
build their memberships.

This is not, at the end of the day, about the workers. This is about labor
unions that want to build their memberships --

JOHNSTON: Wait a minute, Michael, let`s assume your argument -- Colby,
let`s assume your argument. So, Colby goes to get a job at Wal-Mart. What
does he know? Very little. What does Wal-Mart know? It has studies,
human relations staff, lawyers. It has got lots of knowledge.

This is asymmetrical. Unions are market economics. If your organization
actually cared about the society as a whole, you`d be in favor of unions --

(CROSSTALK)

SALTSMAN: Grocery store not paying $15 an hour to employees to start? Why
aren`t they doing it? A red herring --

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNSTON: I`m raising a fundamental issue that unions represent market
economics. Union represents market economics, because you have informed
people on one side. The U.S. Supreme Court definition of a market is you
have to be informed, you have to be without any restraint upon you, and you
have to reach an agreed upon price. That`s not what`s going on when you
don`t have a union.

(CROSSTALK)

AZCARATE: Here`s what`s happening. At Wal-Mart and at a lot of other
companies around the country, you`re supposed to have the freedom to
organize, to form a union.

HARRIS: Exactly.

AZCARATE: Colby and his coworkers should have that freedom of association.
That doesn`t happen. Routinely, employers break the law, they fire workers
for collective activity.

JOHNSTON: And there`s no penalty.

AZCARATE: There`s no penalty. So they keep doing it.

HARRIS-PERRY: I want to point out, I think that this question of the a
asymmetry in the relationship, and the issue of whether or not what we`re
seeing here is a real thing or an Astroturf thing are both critically
important.

And I think it`s a challenge for those of us sitting in a studio in New
York, saying, OK, I do cover this? Is this real? Am I seeing something
that`s actually occurring? Is it a real protest? Should I get into
something that`s nascent or do I have to wait?

I mean, I think those are real questions that are raised and raised in part
by Wal-Mart`s statement. On the other hand, I think we can`t miss -- and
this really matters. Why would it be problematic to have your workers
organized? Why would you not want your workers to have the opportunity to
have the additional information, to have a strategy to organize?

And I don`t think it`s enough to say, unions are trying to build
themselves. Well, sure. And Wal-Mart`s trying to make profits. Neither
one of those things are evil things. They are both institutions and
organizations that want to perpetuate themselves, right?

Sure, but I guess the question is, if labor unions don`t believe that an
organization making a profit is, itself, inherently against its own
interests, why is this organization that makes a profit believe that labor
unions are inherently against its interests?

(CROSSTALK)

AZCARATE: Quite frankly, I think it`s a lot of corporations don`t want
anybody telling them what to do, right? And unions aren`t trying to -- the
difference is, unions are democratic institutions. You know, workers
decide --

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, they vote.

AZCARATE: Through a vote, whether to form a union and what they
collectively bargain about. And I think the challenge is that, you know,
companies just, you know, put profits before everything else.

HARRIS-PERRY: And I do want to underline, to say that unions are
democratic is not to say that they are perfect. It is to say they come
with all the messiness of democracy.

JOHNSTON: Wal-Mart`s not perfect either.

HARRIS-PERRY: People will pick despots, sometimes, to leave them. You
will tax people in order to be -- a democracy is ruled by the people and
ruled by the people is messy stuff. But it is a check on tyranny. I mean,
yes, at its core.

SALTSMAN: If you want to know why Wal-Mart would be skeptical of something
like a labor union. Look at what`s happening. The UFCW is and
organizations like Good Jobs First are slandering Wal-Mart, have started
Web sites, have put out reports to make exaggerated claims, are holding
these protests, are trying to disrupt the company`s business --

HARRIS-PERRY: Well, yes!

JOHNSTON: Yes!

That`s how democracy works! You don`t like democracy, Michael.

SALTSMAN: You can understand why Wal-Mart would be skeptical. And
memberships don`t lie. Memberships have been declining through Republican
and Democratic --

JOHNSTON: Absolutely! No question.

HARRIS-PERRY: That`s because --

SALTSMAN: The idea of being in an employment relationship that`s based on,
let`s say, merit instead of seniority, and something where you deal
directly with the employees instead of bargaining with the union, these are
out --

JOHNSTON: In Germany, executives have unions. All of our economic
competitors have unions. All of them.

HARRIS-PERRY: I`ve got to say, no one can argue with the empirical reality
that unions are in steep decline. I would argue that it is because of a
free choice set, in which workers decided not to be in unions. We saw
after the 2010 midterm election cycle, in Wisconsin and in other places,
very clear policies set into place by state governments, to make union
organizing significantly more difficult.

SALTSMAN: This is a long-term decline, though.

JOHNSTON: Yes, because the companies have bought -- the companies have
bought rules through their campaign contributions, that are anti-worker.
You have a right, under treaties signed by the United States government, by
our Constitution, to have a union. We`ve created a series of laws that
make it virtually impossible to have unions. And why would we see what
we`re seeing now?

What did Frederick Douglass teach us? Power concedes nothing without
demand. It is perfectly appropriate for workers to demand. By the way, I
have a solution, Melissa, to actually make for the action that goes to
Michael`s point.

If you work at Wal-Mart, spend less money there as a worker. Go to another
store. If you shop at Wal-Mart, cut back on your shopping at Wal-Mart. If
you see that they are being punished in the market, if they see that
customers say, you are being contemptuous of people. You are depending on
taxpayer welfare for your profits and driving people into poverty through
your policies and trying to drive workers at other places to the same
level, if they see their sales fall, they will change.

SALTSMAN: That is code word for a family who`s spending a third of its
income on food. Here`s a deal -- Wal-Mart is a progressive success story.
That`s a quote from Jason Ferman who is --

HARRIS-PERRY: OK, OK --

HARRIS: Inspiring workers for going on a labor practice strike. A legal
protected strike. Is that being -- they fired 20 associates for strictly
going on strike.

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS-PERRY: And I`m --

HARRIS: How was that them being progressive?

HARRIS-PERRY: You guys are all coming back, because this is valuable.

And, Colby, thank you so much for being here today. I know -- I mean,
you`re in a tough circumstance and I appreciate you being here.

And David Cay Johnston`s on fire today.

But speaking is -- so by the way, Michael and Fred and Colby, thank you so
much.

But let`s hold on for just one moment, because we`ve been talking about
democracy, but I want to show you some young people who are working on
democracy right now. I want to acknowledge some of the special guests who
are here in the studio. Those are students visiting from Howard
University. They are actually working on their own democracy right there
on campus at Howard University.

My daddy went to Howard, my sisters went to Howard. So, go Bis! And nice
to have the Howard students in Nerdland.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: Today`s date, September 7th, 2013. That means we have only
24 days left until millions of Americans who don`t currently have health
insurance will be able to secure coverage through marketplaces called
exchanges.

This development is brought to you by the Affordable Care Act, or
Obamacare! Yay!

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia will set up state-run
exchanges, which is what the law calls for. But the other 34 states took
the option of either setting up a joint state federal exchange or stepping
aside and defaulting to a federal exchange entirely. Of those 34 states,
27 of them have Republican governors. In fact, in only one state, Idaho,
did a Republican governor with a GOP-controlled legislature actually say,
yeah, we`ll run a state exchange.

It`s pretty clear what most Republican leaders think about Obamacare.

But bad news for Republicans, because there is a lot of good news about
Obamacare. Insurance premiums under Obamacare will actually be generally
lower than expected, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation study, the
biggest Obamacare study to date.


For example, take New York, which has the most provider options under
Obamacare -- $62 a month. That`s how little a 25-year-old in New York
state earning $25,000 a year may have to shell out for health insurance in
2014 after the tax credit. And if that same 25-year-old moved to Vermont,
one of the states with the fewest insurer options, could pay zero in
monthly premiums after a tax credit. Not exactly the spike in premiums
that many conservatives predicted.

And since voting 40 times to repeal Obamacare didn`t work, Republicans in
Congress appear to have a new plan to stand in the way of Obamacare. It is
House Republicans versus President Bill Clinton. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: Last year in the midst of a presidential campaign, President
Obama joked that former President Bill Clinton was his secretary of
explaining stuff. The former President Clinton continued in that role this
past Wednesday in Arkansas, breaking down Obamacare for the masses, and for
the Republicans still in denial.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: This does give us the best chance
we`ve had to achieve nearly universal coverage, provide higher quality
health care, and lower the rate of cost increases, which we have got to do
in a competitive global economy. And, finally, it is the law. And I think
we have --

(APPLAUSE)

We`ve all got an interest in trying to faithfully execute the laws. If you
get one of these elected jobs, you actually take an oath to do that.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, Bill Clinton nerding it up and joking it up. It`s so
Bill Clinton. More than three years after it became law, it seems like it
shouldn`t be necessary to explain that the Affordable Care Act is, in fact,
law.

But more than four in 10 Americans surveyed in a new Kaiser Family
Foundation pole either within the sure Obamacare is still the law or
thought Congress or the Supreme Court got rid of it. And a little more
than half the public said they don`t have enough information about
Obamacare to understand how it will impact them and their family.

So who`s going to help bridge this information gap? Well, for one, the
reigning Super Bowl champions. Like the Boston Red Sox did in
Massachusetts with Romneycare years ago, the NFL`s Baltimore Ravens will be
promoting Obama care, but only in the state of Maryland. As far as all the
other states, the Obama administration recently awarded $67 million to more
than a hundred groups around the country to act as navigators to help the
uninsured understand their options under the new health law.

But now, Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have sent a
letter to these navigators, demanding extensive paperwork, essentially
requiring them to spend time doing busy work, instead of educating the
uninsured.

Protesting this busy work, Congressman Henry Waxman, who wrote to the
committee chairman, quote, "The timing of these letters is particularly
suspect. Indeed, it appears that these requests may have been sent solely
to divert the resources of small, local community groups, just as they are
needed to help with the new health care law.

Joining me now, live from Detroit, is Dr. Herb Smitherman, assistant dean
of community and urban health at Wayne State University School of Medicine.
Also with me, Igor Volsky, of thinkprogress.org; professor of politics,
Amaney Jamal; law professor David Cay Johnston; and Democratic strategist,
Tara Dowdell.

I want to start with you, Dr. Smitherman.

DR. HERB SMITHERMAN, WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Yes.

HARRIS-PERRY: Why do so many people still not know that Obama care is law
or have any idea what it does?

SMITHERMAN: Well, you know, when it was first enacted, they spent a year,
the Republicans spent a year fighting the legislation. Since then, you
know, between its enactment in 2010 and its full implementation in 2014,
there have been 40 attempts to repeal it in the House. Most of the states
are refusing to either launch the exchanges, so the feds have to step in,
or refusing to expand Medicaid.

And so, there have been just a lot of misinformation and confusion over the
last four years, including just significant opposition to the law. And all
this misinformation is confusing the public. And in addition to that, as
states are waiting to figure out whether they`re going to, for example,
launch the exchange or expand Medicaid, the states are paralyzed to really
advertise what`s going to happen if they don`t know for example whether
Medicaid is going -- expansion of Medicaid is going to actually occur.

HARRIS-PERRY: So we started this show, like, Syria 101. The things you
need to know to make some kind of reasonable public opinion decision about
whether or not you support strikes. So, let`s do this real quickly for
ACA. Dr. Smitherman, what do people need to know about October 1? What
are the key maybe two or three things that viewers need to know about what
is going to change for them on October 1st?

SMITHERMAN: First of all, if you are uninsured currently, that`s 50
million people, you should go to your state Department of Health and Human
Services or your Department of Human Services, to find out what you`re
eligible for. Whether you`re eligible for the expansion of Medicaid or
whether you`re eligible for one of the exchange products.

There are navigators that are -- that you just talked about, $67 million
spent on navigators across this country. These people are to help you
understand and negotiate what are the best products for you. We -- there`s
money being placed at federal qualified health centers to help outreach to
communities.

I can tell you, most of the uninsured, 25 percent of them, are in federally
qualified health centers. About 50 percent to 60 percent of them are in
emergency rooms. If we can hit the emergency rooms and the federally
qualified health centers with outreach navigators, we will really educate
the population on what products will be beneficial for them.

HARRIS-PERRY: So I look at table and, Igor, ask exactly that. Is that the
goal of this obstruction and sort of miscommunication, is to make sure that
we don`t reach those people, the doctor just now said, would make a big
difference in the system.

IGOR VOLSKY, THINKPROGRESS.ORG: Well, precisely, the navigators are key,
which is why Republicans are literally flooding them with paperwork. It`s
exactly what they complained about the IRS. That the IRS sent these Tea
Party groups, all these forms and questions to fill out, these small groups
that couldn`t handle it had to do all of this work.

They`re doing the same thing here, and these groups have really a couple of
weeks to fill all this out and send it back, while they`re trying to enroll
people on October 1st. The other piece here that`s really, really devious
is that they sent the requests to people who are operating -- states that
are operating the federal exchanges. And as it happens, these are the
exchanges in the states where there are the most uninsured people. So the
people who need health care the most may now not have it or have a harder
time getting it because the navigators are overwhelmed filling out forms.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask this. On the one hand, it feels devious, it
feels like the kind of tricks -- and yet, at this point, the Obama
administration had to know that this was the sort of thing that was going
to happen. You know, they`re ticking down, less than four weeks now.

Where is the Democratic side, major initiative, major push, big money to
say, we`re going to -- we are going to counter this kind of thing with
information overload. You can`t go anywhere without hearing about October
1 and Obamacare.

TARA DOWDELL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No, you`re exactly right. And I will
say this, that the administration initially, I think, was unprepared for
the type of pushback, just the aggressiveness and the unrelenting nature of
the pushback.

The Republicans had been running what I call a fear and smear campaign from
day one. And it continues. And I think it goes beyond just
obstructionism. This is about sabotage. And I`ll say this, because
they`re specifically trying to stop young people for signing up, because
the more young people that sign up, the lower the costs go, because young
people, by definition, are healthier, so they spread the risk.

And I just want to add one point to piggyback on what the professor said.
And I think you asked him a great question. What people need to know is,
if they go on to the Web site of the Affordable Care Act and they click on
their state, they can then, on October 1st, look at what options are
available to them online in that state.

And there is money for people, if they cannot afford a policy, there are
subsidies and tax credits that are available to them. Some people will pay
nothing. They will pay less. This is important information. Small
business owners, there`s a 35 percent tax credit that goes up to 50 percent
if you already are providing insurance, or if you so decide to do so.

I am a small business owner. I will be taking advantage of that.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, this -- I mean, I feel like you should be the secretary
of explaining stuff, right? Because just to say, step one: go to the Web
site. Step two: you can now see what is available to you. Step three: if
you don`t have enough money, there is a subsidy for it. Step four: if you
are a small business owner, no matter what you`ve heard about how bad this
is for you, actually, this is quite good for you.

And yet I feel like, so -- like, I want an army of people, not just the
Baltimore Ravens, although good job, doing this.

VOLSKY: Well, it`s remarkable, they`ve spent, the opposition, half a
billion dollars on television ads alone, since 2010. Half a billion
dollars. And the Obama administration only has a pattern here. If you
remember, when it was becoming law, Obama waited years -- like a year to
get involved, to really get out there and give those fiery speeches.

Here he`s doing the same thing. I mean, it`s great to have the secretary
of explaining things, but where was he a year ago? Two years ago? We`ve
got to get this effort underway. States are doing it, but we need more
help.

HARRIS-PERRY: Dr. Smitherman, before we lose you, let me ask you one
important question here. And that is, what is -- what happens if, in fact,
Tara`s right and this is about sabotage? What happens if the people don`t
go and sign up starting October 1? Does it effectively end up doing the
one thing those 40 votes doesn`t -- couldn`t do? Does it kill ACA?

SMITHERMAN: No, because we actually have, from the laws is enacted January
1st. So between October and January is when people can go find out what
options and what insurance programs that are available for them. They can
actually sign up, open enrollment is between October 1st and March 31st,
2014.

So, they actually have seven months. But this three months is a time where
people can go and find out what is available for them. So, you know, I
believe -- and young people, as was said, is extremely important for this.
And we know that, when we implemented the same plan, you know, we call
Romneycare, in Massachusetts, we saw that in the first year, about -- the
number of uninsured young people dropped by 62 percent.

When young people are offered health insurance in the market place at their
jobs, at employment, almost 70 percent sign up. Young people sign up.
There`s not a barrier for young people. The biggest barrier for them is,
(a), awareness, and (b), cost.

HARRIS-PERRY: Got it. Dr. Herb Smitherman, thanks so much for joining us.

We`re going to stay on this topic. When we come back, I want to get to the
story of who else is trying to stick a dagger in the president`s health
care plan. Come on people, it`s health care! It`s a good. It`s a good.
We want more of it, come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: Even as Republicans who are throwing a wrench into the
machinery of Obamacare exchanges prepared to open on October 1st, Aetna,
the third largest health insurer in the United States, last week decided
not to sell insurance on New York`s individual health care exchange. New
York is the fifth state Aetna has pulled out of in the last few weeks.

David, should I -- should I be freaked out about that?

JOHNSTON: No, I don`t think so. I mean, there are other insurance
companies. And in I think 30 of the states, one insurer has more than half
the individual market. Aetna is looking out for its own personal business
interests here.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, this is not an indication that major insurers, united
and others, are going to just start opting out of this exchange.

JOHNSTON: Even if they do, it`s an opportunity for others to grow.

HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, this is -- this is how you potentially end up with
exactly what a marketplace ought to be.

JOHNSTON: Yes, yes.

VOLSKY: On the whole, you`re seeing a good number of insurers
participating all across the country. It`s pretty clear that consumers are
going to have a lot of options in all these different tiers of coverage.
If they want more coverage, less coverage -- that`s all going to be
available.

So, while Aetna is doing what makes sense for its business, it really --
the larger picture is, choice is going to be there on January.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, Amaney, as I was listening to former President Clinton
sort of doing his explaining, and he has this moment where he says, this is
about as close as we`re going to get to universal coverage, so we`ve got to
make it work. And I get that. I`m very, you know, on board with that
argument, this is about as close as we`re going to get.

But as we`ve been talking, even in the break, about this level and that
level, and this state and that state, I keep thinking, man, what if --what
if this could have just been universal coverage?

AMANEY JAMAL, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Well, I mean, universal coverage is a
far stretch and it would require significant reforms and I don`t think you
would have had, you know, certainly, the Republican Party wouldn`t have
been on board, and certainly members of the Democratic Party wouldn`t be on
board. But even with the Clinton speech itself -- I mean, it was a
complicated speech.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes.

JAMAL: I don`t think the average American appreciates what Obamacare has
to offer. And it raises a question of why aren`t we targeting -- or why
isn`t the Obama administration targeting these reforms at the state level
in a more effective kind of campaign?

HARRIS-PERRY: Because the things that Americans do know about, that they
really get, they like. So the "you can cover your kid," right, into their
mid-20s. People get that, they understand it, they took immediate
advantage of it, and they like it. And in fact, if Republicans tried to
repeal that part of it, there would be an outcry kind of across the
political spectrum.

Can they do just sort of a marketing that says, all right, you know, this
thing or this thing or this thing, so that people get at least the pieces
of the law, if not all of it.

VOLSKY: Well, it`s maybe not the Obama administration that`s running it.
What you see in some states is really remarkably creative campaigns. In
California, you have a "get covered" campaign, where you`re going to have
billboards of naked people with strategically placed signs saying "get
covered."

In Connecticut, they`re handing out sunscreen that says "get covered." In
Washington, they`re putting ads on port-a-potties, and everywhere else in
creative places, to kind of spread the word about the law.

HARRIS-PERRY: But then here`s the problem. But if you live in Louisiana
and you have an obstructionist like Bobby Jindal as your governor, you
would think this is not even occurring.

VOLSKY: Well, that`s the slower pace. That`s a slower burn. And it`s
clever.

What this administration is -- you know, there are a lot of states like
Louisiana that have these Medicaid waivers that cover populations that
traditional Medicaid doesn`t. And they`re all up for renewal. So, in
renegotiating them, the administration said, we`ll continue to approve this
waiver, if part of that population that you had previously covered with
Medicaid dollars goes into the exchange, and it`s good for a year. So,
next year when you have to renew it again, you`ll have no choice but to
really expand Medicaid and it kind of gets them hooked on Obamacare, and
they`ll have to implement it down the road.

HARRIS-PERRY: Well, this is interesting. This isn`t just a direct
campaign to the public, this is about incentivizing the lawmakers. Do you
have a sense of what incentivizes the lawmakers to implement better?

DOWDELL: I think what`s happening is, and this is a good thing, and I
think we started to see this in Texas, oddly enough, but what`s happening
is some of the disabled and elderly people that are being impacted, if
these -- if the states don`t allow for some of these reforms to go in
place, have now awoken to the fact that, wow, this is a problem.

So you have organizations like AARP, who are pushing back and who are
saying and educating their population, educating their members, so now, I
think people in some states are starting to develop, you know, sort of a
ground swell and saying, look, we want this expansion of Medicaid, we want
some of this additional Medicare support that was also in Obamacare.

And so I think, that`s really where you`re going to see, I think, it has to
be the grassroots. I think the administration needs to empower the
grassroots and give them the information and the resources, but it has to
be the organizations that people trust and that they bout into, pushing
back. And when that happens, you see change. We saw it in New Jersey.
You see it in Texas, even Arizona, Governor Jan Brewer.

HARRIS-PERRY: That`s a really good point. In our highly partisan
environment, to hear a message coming from the Obama administration is not
going to penetrate for lots of folks, but from the AARP, it will.

Igor and Amaney and David and Tara, thank you all for being at the table
and for helping us try to get a little bit of ACA 101 on the table here.

Up next, one woman, a whole lot of food, and a really big bus. Our foot
soldier is here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: According to the USDA, 2.1 million households are both more
than one mile from a supermarket and lack access to a vehicle to get to
one. So, they are in what`s called the food deserts.

Our foot soldier this week has a solution, for one, in her community. And
it`s what other residents like to call the magic school bus. Starting this
month, Tanya Fields and her non-profit the Black Project are bringing
healthy food to the South Bronx here in New York City in a mural painted,
music blasting school bus. The bus will be fueled mostly by vegetable oil
and filled with fresh produce from local farms.

Tanya`s goal is for the bus to roam throughout the Bronx providing a street
side store front for those looking to buy fresh produce. She`s already
raised more than $65,000 to get the show on the road for her activism
supporting the health being of families and low income communities and
beyond. Tanya Fields is our foot soldier of the week and she joins me here
in the studio.

Tanya, I am moved in part by the fact you were moved by your own personal
experience to do this. Tell me that a little bit.

TANYA FIELDS, URBAN FARMER & FOOD ACTIVIST: I came to the south Bronx,
gentrified out of Harlem, 22 years old with a 3-month-old baby, still
putting myself through school. And I came to this community with a lot of
the same predispositions and biases that a lot of other folks did. I
didn`t know much about the Bronx except Yankees, prostitution and the
botanical gardens.

So, when I got there, there was so much that sort of validated maybe some
of the bias I had, but I also found a community that brought itself back
from the brink of death when nobody else is willing I saw a community that
be was resilient. You know, you had the hot boys on one corner, but you
also had like, you know, the Agwalitas and Theo (ph) in the middle of the
block with the drums and dancing and that`s what really tapped into me.

So, as I had my second child at 23 still working my way through school,
cycling in and out of the welfare system, not really have a ton of support,
I started to gain a lot of weight. I had a child who became a chronic
asthmatic because she was subjected to the 16,000 diesel truck trips we get
every day in my community, much of it from the transportation of food. And
she developed food allergies.

HARRIS-PERRY: And this food piece, because, you know, I love that you
paint, because this is the stereotypes of our communities that they`re all
one thing or the other. So, the point that they`re all of these things at
the same time, and yet, if people cannot feed themselves fresh, healthy
foods, if you can`t make a smoothie for your daughter, what options do you
have to make sure in that mix of things she becomes the set of things that
you are valuing.

FIELDS: Right, I think that`s what happens. I know people use the term
food desert. I don`t feel like it applies to New York. I like to say more
like food apartheid because what happened is when I wanted to feed my kids
fresh food, I had to lug these two babies on a train, because I didn`t have
a car, we`re going down to fairway or go to trader Joes and now got a baby
strapped to me. I`m trying to shove groceries in a stroller. And after a
while that`s not a realistic set of expectations people will have.

People will eat and it`s been proven. They will eat what is in walking
distance to them.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes.

FIELDS: What also most importantly, this idea of food access, food
hardship, food apartheid, it really is a reflection of deeper things that`s
happening in our community. This is why it`s important for us to do a
project that could catalyze some economic development because it`s not just
about black folks not wanting good food. It`s about the fact that if you
are poor and you have these access issues to everything else, and that
manifest in the put that`s put in your body.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, what is that bus going to do not only to bring food to
people`s doorsteps but these other issues?

FIELDS: So, we do feel like this was magic school bus. I was like what,
yes. Magic school bus, because it`s really also about community building.
I would like to think I`m brilliant and in some ways I am but I`m standing
on the shoulders of folks who have done so much to get this community to a
place where I can do this type of project.

So, we want to make sure this bus also supports that. So, in the
beginning, we`re starting out as sort of a buying club where we will be
delivering boxes of food and sustainable meats to folks. And we`re going
through the permitting process now. That we`ve actually had folks from the
New York City Department of Health to help us through that. But that
process is pretty hellacious.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes.

FIELDS: We also are talking with folks like the Laundromat project, like
the Point CDC, you know, Mothers on the Move. How does this bus then
support the things that they`re doing, so people in our community can start
to realize we have the tools we need right here. We need to do a better
job at networking. So, the actual mobility will allow us to do that. It`s
great because it`s doing it in way that`s like clean air energy.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, it`s so visible. I`ll be able to see it, hear it, I`ll
be able to eat from it. I love it. We`re going to keep our eye on it.

Now, also, I know -- I told you when you sat down I got 45 minutes worth of
stuff to talk to you about, and three minutes to talk to you in. We do
have an interview on the web. I really encourage people to go and read
because never doubt, you are brilliant and I love the work you`re doing.

FIELDS: Thank you so much.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you for your efforts.

That is our show for today. Tanya Fields is our foot soldier, as you can
see, for very good reason. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m going
to see you tomorrow morning, 10:00 a.m. Eastern. We`re going to take a
closer look at fashion week. I`m telling you, this is going to be too much
fun.

Where are the women of color on the cat walk? Right now, it`s time for a
preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT" -- Alex.

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

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