October 12, 2013
Guest: Jacqueline Pata, Jared Bernstein, Rick Newman, Liza Cook, Elahe
Izadi, Liz Kennedy, Akhil Reed Amar, Mark Alexander, Steve Shapiro, Roger
Ross Newman, Lisa Hamler-Fugitt
MELISSA HARRIS PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good morning, I`m Melissa
Harris-Perry. All right. So the thing about zombies, besides the rotting
flesh and all of that, it`s they are really hard to stop. No matter what
you do, they just keep on coming after you, hungry and ready to tear you
apart. So, you can never just sit back and relax, because after these
zombies, the ones right in front of you, there are thousands more right
behind them and a thousand more behind them, and they`ll all want a piece
of you. "Nerdland", maybe you have a plan for the zombie apocalypse. The
CDC certainly does. No, really, that`s a real poster from the federal
government`s zombie preparedness campaign, but what about a plan for a
breach of the debt ceiling, what will you do if the United States
government defaults on its debts? The way some people are talking about
it, sure sounds like an apocalypse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: To
actually permit default, according to many CEOs and economist, would be,
and I`m quoting here, insane, catastrophic, chaos, these are some of the
more polite words. Warren Buffett likened default to a nuclear bomb.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: But the real zombies in this metaphor aren`t the
country`s debts, the real zombies are the congressional Republicans. See,
no matter how much you think they`ve been defeated, they just keep coming
back. The Affordable Care Act was passed and signed, and they still fought
it. It was upheld by the Supreme Court, still, they attacked it. Just
this month, it was officially enacted and still Republicans shutdown the
government over demands that president Obama gut his biggest legislative
achievement. Republicans lost the presidential election, despite a
stumbling economy, they failed to take the Senate, they barely held on to
the House. 1 million more people voted for Democratic House candidates
than Republicans. But redistricting kept the Republican majority safe.
Their approval rating is lower than low and still falling. Only 24 percent
of Americans have positive feelings towards the Republican Party, according
to a new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll, the lowest number ever since
polling began almost 25 years ago.
And yet, still they come, demanding that Obamacare be defunded, that
the safety net be slashed, that you become their undead dinner. Now they
are massed in Washington, D.C. threatening to keep the government shutdown
to default on America`s debts for the first time ever, unless President
Obama gives them something, Medicare reform maybe, changes to the tax code,
I don`t know. But the contempt of most of the American people won`t stop
them. Electoral results won`t stop them. The threat of economic
catastrophe won`t stop them. They`ll just keep coming back, trying to rip
the government apart limb from limb. Joining me now, Jared Bernstein at
MSNBC and CNBC contributor, who`s currently a fellow at the Center on
Budget Policy and Priorities and was the former chief economist and
economic policy adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. Lisa Cook, assistant
professor of economics and international relations of Michigan State
University and former member of the president`s Council of Economic
Advisers. Elahe Izadi, who is staff correspondent at the National Journal,
and Rick Newman, finance columnist with Yahoo! And author of "Rebounders:
How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success."
Nice to have you all at the table. Rick, I want to start with you.
That same poll that I just quoted has, I think a fascinating poll result.
They ask whether or not Americans wanted to just fire everyone in Congress
and replace them with new folks. 60 percent of Americans said, yep, that
sounds like a good deal. Does that mean the zombies have won, if people
are at this point just disgusted with government overall, does that mean
Republicans, no matter what happens on debt ceiling, have won?
RICK NEWMAN, YAHOO!S FINANCE COLUMNIST: Well, there is certainly is
this tactic that if you simply make the entire government look terrible, it
will create more momentum to shrink the government and that`s what some of
these Young Turks are after, right? I think it`s - I think it`s a disaster
strategy, I think this is backfiring, because what happens when the
government shuts down is suddenly, we become more sympathetic toward the
government, we start to realize what the government doesn`t do and we say,
you know, wait a minute, we actually want the government to do these
things. We want it to go out and, you know, patrol, you know, food-borne
illness. And we want it to help babies who need infant formula, and so I
think - it just backfired, it makes the government look good and it makes
the people trying to stop the government look bad.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Jared, that`s born out a bit in the poll numbers,
as well, when we look at who is blamed by the American people here, we have
a clear sort of preponderance of people blaming Republicans rather than
blaming president Obama. 53 percent of folks saying that this is - that
the shutdown was really the Republicans` fault, but in the end, is it
possible that they - I mean what we`re fighting over here is to get back to
sequester levels, to, you know, to raise the debt ceiling, as though this
is a thing that ought to be fought about.
JARED BERNSTEIN: Yeah, I thought President Obama had a very good
point when he kept saying raising the debt ceiling is not a concession to
me. That`s the job of the Congress. You raised a good point, and I think
it`s one that somewhat underappreciated, both in terms of these ongoing
arguments they are having and the outcome. Vis-a-vis the ongoing
arguments, in fact, the Democrats have actually made a considerable
concession to Republicans by accepting budget levels, these sequestration
or budget cut levels that are well below where they`d like to put the caps
on discretionary spending, and at the same time, the sequester is - looks
like it`s - we`re going to be stuck with it for at least 2014, if not years
HARRIS-PERRY: So on this point then, just one more on the politics.
Elahe, I wonder about not only what the sort of undead Republican battle is
doing vis-a-vis the administration, but also sort of what is it spurring
these Republican zombies on? The Heritage foundation seems to be trying to
shift some of the structural constraints facing these members and put out a
new report, excuse me, put out a statement saying, "We do not support clean
debt ceiling increases, but because Heritage action is committed to giving
House leadership the flexibility they need to refocus the debate on
Obamacare, we will not vote against the reported proposal." So we`re not
going to, basically, hold them accountable if they raise the debt ceiling.
So this is Heritage saying, we want to fight about Obamacare, we
don`t want to fight about debt ceiling. If Republicans raise the debt
ceiling, we`re not going to sort of score you down as a conservative, but I
keep thinking, well, yeah. I mean, how would you score someone down for
doing their job?
ELAHE IZADI, STAFF CORRESPONDENT: NATIONAL JOURNAL: Well, raising
the debt ceiling, a clean debt ceiling bill has never been that popular
with very conservative members and organizations, but I found it
interesting that Heritage decided not to do a key vote on a clean debt
ceiling increase to refocus on Obamacare. And I think that indicates where
the enthusiasm is among the conservative base. That they are mostly
enthusiastic about Obamacare, and a lot of them are actually upset with
Speaker Boehner for moving away from this discussion, and I think part of
his reasoning for moving ahead and proposing a six-week debt limit increase
and separating that from turning the government back on was to give
conservatives hope that Obamacare would be revisited. So I think that kind
of indicates where the conservatives are and that they are more passionate
and interested on the Obamacare issue. And they realize that the
repercussions on not raising the debt limit, I mean it`s unprecedented. We
don`t know what could happen, but a government shutdown, that`s happened
before, and I think Republicans are feeling comfortable that they won`t
lose the House over it, even if as the majority of Americans blame them for
it right now.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, right, because there`s enough time? Is that?
IZADI: Yeah, there`s enough time. And, you know, for - we might see
more of the repercussions, for instance, in Virginia, where they are going
to have a governor`s race and an election day is coming up, and a lot of
federal workers live in Virginia, it`s already a purple state, so you might
see some ramifications there. But in more than 12 months from now when all
these guys are up again, the government shutdown, the specter of that, all
of the problems and issues might have been resolved and people might not
feel as passionate or feeling that upset about it anymore.
HARRIS-PERRY: Lisa, I want to sort of pick up on this question about,
you know, shutdown versus the debt ceiling fight here. And in part
because, you know, one of the great frustrations of anyone who watches at
least the old-fashioned zombie movies, zombies move pretty slowly, you can
see them coming, right? You know, that here they come, but over and over
again, our protagonist will stumble, will fall and then the zombie eats
you. And so, I keep thinking, when I look at the administration, is there
some stumble, some fall that the administration previously in its
relationship with the Republicans has committed that has allowed the debt
ceiling to once again get wrapped up, you know, something that is
potentially catastrophic, is there some sort of failure in how the
administration have handled this in the past that allow us to keep coming?
LISA COOK, ASST. PROF. MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY: Well, I think the
Republicans, the House Republicans, certainly think there are opportunities
there, that these - the concessions that have been made before would lead
to further concessions, but I think the line in the sand that has been
drawn has not been recognized, or was recognized recently. So they keep
saying, well, if we don`t do Obamacare, let`s do the debt ceiling. If we
don`t do the debt ceiling, let`s do your first-born child. You know, so .
COOK: So, you know, they keep moving the goal post, and the
strategy has born itself as shown to be an emperor without clothes. So I
don`t think that they have a deep strategy, and I think that everybody`s
realizing that we would wind up in uncharted waters and that history, we
have a recent experiment. We don`t have to look back to 2011 here.
COOK: We can look to Europe. This was disastrous. Even the notion
that Greece would default .
COOK: . drove the European Union into action, the Eurozone into
action. So, I think they`ve really lost this one.
HARRIS-PERRY: As soon as we come back, I want you guys to chart those
uncharted waters for me and explain precisely what happens. There`s a lot
of misinformation about the debt ceiling and what happens if we don`t raise
it. So stay right there. Because up next, the new crop of truthers who
are haunting the Obama administration, pure zombie denialism may be the
most frightening part of this whole thing.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right now, House Democrats are on the floor trying one
more time to end the government shutdown by introducing the Senate bill to
fund the government, and one by one, they are being rejected. Let`s just
take a look at this for a moment. This, you know, we`ve been saying that
Republicans are the zombies, but in this case we`ve got Democrats coming up
and saying we want to end this. Let`s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gentleman from Virginia.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, right now, I yield for the purpose of
a unanimous consent request to the gentleman from Texas, Mr. Doggett (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. maker (inaudible) I ask unanimous consent that
the House bring up the Senate amendment HJR 59 instead of leaving for a
three-day weekend, that we open the government and go to conference on a
budget and end this Republican government shutdown.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As the chair previously advised, the request
cannot be entertained, absent appropriate clearance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, Mr. Speaker, Ms. Pelosi has already cleared
it. Who`s objecting? Who`s not clearing it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gentleman isn`t recognized, gentleman from
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, at this time, I`d like to yield for
the purpose of a unanimous consent request to the gentleman from Wisconsin,
Mr. Pocane (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent
that the House bring up the Senate amendment to HD resolution 59 to open up
the government and go to conference on a budget so that we can end this
Republican government shutdown that`s costing the U.S. economy $160 million
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As the chair previously advised, that request
cannot be entertained absent appropriate clearance. Gentleman from
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, I now yield for the purpose of .
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, we`ve been seeing there what has been
going on for some time this morning and looks like it is likely to continue
for some time. Now, we`re going to talk here a bit, we`re going to pull
out from this and we`re going to talk about the debt ceiling, because I do
want us to keep in mind that some Republicans refuse to simply acknowledge
or to believe that defaulting is even a thing that could happen. Take a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no such thing as a debt ceiling in this
country. I would dispel the rumor that is going around that you hear on
every newscast that if we don`t raise the debt ceiling, we will default on
our debt. We won`t.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you don`t raise the debt ceiling, what that
means is you`d have a balanced budget, it doesn`t mean you wouldn`t pay
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s zero chance that the U.S. government is
going to default on its debt. It`s unfortunate that people have conflated
this idea of not raising the debt ceiling immediately on October 17th .
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: . would be somehow defaulting on our debt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. Jared?
BERNSTEIN: You`re physically hurting me.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, I know, right.
BERNSTEIN: . by playing this stuff. Look, you could try to tell a
story that if you don`t raise the debt ceiling and you prevent the
government from borrowing to pay debts that it`s already incurred, that
this Congress has already signed off on, that they can use incoming cash
flow from revenues to pay some of their debts, but the fact is, they can`t
even do that, because there are days when the amount that you owe your
creditors, the people who are lending you money, are larger than your
incoming cash flow. And if that happens on a given day, that`s called a
default. This is not rocket science. And the word default exists, the
debt ceiling exists.
BERNSTEIN: You`re right. I mean I thought the zombie thing was
kind of a joke, but I think you may actually be on to something very
important there. So the extent of disinformation there is, and, you know,
we know we`ve lived in a kind of fact-free environment here for a while,
but it`s always been kind of like this fringe on the edge doing it with
enough grownups in the middle to kind of keep the thing from falling apart.
You`ve really got to be worried about where the grownups are.
HARRIS-PERRY: I just want to underline this, Lisa, the poll, the same
poll we`ve been looking at actually asks the question, which would be
worse, Congress failing to raise the debt ceiling and the U.S. defaulting,
or Congress raising the debt ceiling and the U.S. increasing spending. And
you actually have 37 percent of respondents saying that it would be worse
to raise the debt ceiling at the default, but 41 percent saying it would
actually be worse to raise the debt ceiling and increase spending. I look
at that, and that is to me, that is an effective massive disinformation
COOK: Absolutely. And when I hear these people, who are not
economists and they are certainly not god, and economists aren`t perfect.
COOK: But we`re not perfect at forecasting, but I`m not sure what
tools they are using .
BERNSTEIN: It`s accounting.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, right.
COOK: Exactly, exactly. Bondholders can smell blood. We know this
from 1992. We know this from the fall of the European exchange rate
mechanism. We know it from the Eurozone crisis. Bondholders can smell
blood. Now the question is not just your ability to pay, which is
sometimes a short-term cash flow crisis, it`s your willingness to pay.
COOK: So when you are not willing to pay, certainly, you know, bond
markets know this. So we saw this in Russia, we saw it in Argentina, and
you may not have the ability to fund things in the future. So if you just
pay these -- some bills and not others, so bondholders will say, well, you
can pay us, but what about in the future? You may not be creditworthy in
the future and there may be increasing political pressure for you to pay
these other expenses, and it just becomes a default. So I`m not sure what
information they are using, what data they are gathering.
NEWMAN: Just can I amplify something Jared said? This is important
to point out. We are talking about paying for things that Congress has
already spent the money on.
NEWMAN: This is not about borrowing so we can spend more next year.
This is borrowing to pay for what we`ve already purchased. And anybody who
thinks this isn`t a big deal should simply do a partial default on their
own bills. Why don`t you call up your creditors and say, you know, I`m
going to pay American Express, but not Visa, and then see how easily that
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, but this is .
NEWMAN: That`s what we`re talking about.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, and this is to me, this is a critically
important way -- as much as I hate, you know, taking the macro and making
it into your household economics, because I think there`s obviously a lot
of things that don`t work there, but there`s value in this point, in part
around the question of willingness, right? And this idea that - I mean at
least if you called American Express and Visa, maybe you could work
something out, but at this point it`s like American Express and Visa are
looking at your household having a fight about whether or not you will ever
bother to pay them.
NEWMAN: You could work something out, but your credit score would
HARRIS-PERRY: . would go down.
NEWMAN: And you`d pay the price for that for years to come.
HARRIS-PERRY: You`ll have higher interest rates. The principle .
NEWMAN: The principle is not that complicated. If agreed to pay
something, and you already have the merchandise, you need to pay for it or
suffer the consequences.
HARRIS-PERRY: Hold for me, because I want to continue on this, but
when we come back, I want to continue on specifically on the question of
full faith and credit. I`m going to say it again, full faith and credit.
One more time, full faith and credit. They all keep saying it, but does
anyone know what it means? I bet these guys do.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY PELOSI: The full faith and credit of the United States of
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Full faith and credit.
HARRY REID: Full faith and credit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Full faith and credit.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Full faith and credit
of the federal government.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Making sure
that the full faith and credit of the United States is retained.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. We`ve been hearing this phrase a lot,
full faith and credit of the U.S., and it cannot be denigrated, but what
does that really mean? What is the full faith and credit of the United
States of America? Anybody want to explain? Jared?
BERNSTEIN: Well, I was actually about to pull up a dollar bill and
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, yeah.
BERNSTEIN: Well, actually, you know, I mean, it`s relevant, because
if you think about our monetary system and our economy, a lot of it rests
on precisely this, full faith and credit, the trust. The trust that the
institution of government in this case, since we`re talking about paying
our debts, will, in fact, do what it says it`s going to do. And in the
history of our government, going back to the late 1700s, we have always
paid our debts. Now, there are a couple of instances you can find, in 1790
there was a thing happening with gold for a few minutes .
BERNSTEIN: But that`s ancient history. We`ve always paid our
debts. We have never undergone this kind of a discussion about breaching
the debt ceiling where it`s literally days out, and the world markets know
BERNSTEIN: And that`s what`s critical. The dollar is the reserve
currency of the world. When we talk about credit spreads, we`re talking
about the relation of interest rates of corporate institutions, of other
countries relative to treasury rates. That`s the baseline, because it`s
the most trusted economic structure in the world. If we fool around, if we
screw around the way we are with this debt ceiling, if we breach the debt
ceiling, we are sacrificing in a matter of days, literally, I`m not
exaggerating, we`re sacrificing in a matter of days .
BERNSTEIN: Hundreds of years
BERNSTEIN: . of what we`ve built up in that regard.
HARRIS-PERRY: Elahe, because of that .
BERNSTEIN: It sounds hyperbolic, but I really mean what I`m saying.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And because of that, Paul Krugman wrote this
week, that basically if the congressmen choose to move on the debt ceiling,
they are forcing the president into a circumstance, we have to do something
illegal, He either has to not protect the full faith and credit of the
U.S., or he`s got to raise the debt ceiling without their approval. When
Krugman says it, when he says, "One way or another, the president could
simply choose to defy Congress and ignore the debt ceiling, wouldn`t this
also be breaking the law? Maybe or maybe not, opinions differ, but not
making good on federal obligations is also breaking the law. And if House
Republicans are pushing the president into a situation where you must break
the law no matter what, why not choose the one that hurts America the
least? Krugman is saying, if you have to, just raise that sucker on your
IZADI: Yeah, and I mean going back to the other point about the
deniers, I mean this actually isn`t a new sentiment. This goes back to
even 2011, there were Republicans on the hill saying, well, the debt
ceiling not passing, that doesn`t mean we`re necessarily going to default
on our debt. Now, if the debt ceiling is not raised and it turns out we do
default on our debt, then maybe President Obama is taking some sort of an
extraordinary measure to do so after the fact might show that he, you know,
he has the authority to do so or that he has the incentive to do so rather.
HARRIS-PERRY: And the respond - I mean - I mean this idea that we
could undo in days the thing that you have built up over hundreds of years,
through civil war, through the expansion of our nation to both oceans. I
mean we haven`t done a small thing in America, we have done a big thing.
I`m not fully an American exceptionalist, in the way that some folks are,
but I really like this country and feel like what we have demonstrated
about the capacity of self-rule is a meaningful, historical thing, and to
undo it in a matter of days?
COOK: We keep our word. This is one reason why the British have kept
the pound. They have not .
COOK: So, this is over centuries, over six, seven centuries of
having the pound. So this is comparable. So we have to keep our word as
individuals, and I don`t like the individual household comparison either,
but we have to keep our word with respect to our obligations, or our credit
score`s going down.
NEWMAN: You know, it`s worth going back to 2011 when we went through
something similar. So, after that, Standard & Poor`s first downgraded U.S.
credit rating. Standard & Poor`s did not say we`re downgrading America`s
credit rating because the country is broke, or they`re running out of money
or anything like that. They said we`re downgrading the credit rating
because of the political chaos and our lack of trust in the political
system, and that`s what you hear everywhere. You know, America is actually
still leading the world remarkably as we come out of this global recession,
everybody is looking to America. America is the one that, you know, the
economic engine is still chugging and people are saying, what`s wrong with
NEWMAN: I mean why do you keep shooting yourself in the foot, and
it`s all politics right now.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I want to come back on exactly this point in part
because it`s both sort of an international community, it is a credit
community looking at us, but it`s also ourselves looking at ourselves. And
I want to talk about the fact that we`re pushing this towards the holiday
season and the impact that might have on our economy when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: The last time the U.S. Congress engaged in this kind
of brinksmanship over the debt ceiling in August of 2011, credit rating
agency Standard & Poor`s took the unprecedented step of downgrading the
U.S.`s perfect credit rating, moving it from AAA to AA plus. At the time,
S&P said, quote, "The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights
what we see as America`s governance and policy making - becoming less
stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously
believed. Now, again, it`s not just a question of what others believe, but
we ourselves believe. We are heading towards the holiday season, and for
some retailers, the holiday season can represent as much as 20 to 40
percent of annual sales. In 2012, holiday sales represented 19.3 percent
of total retail industry sales. So if this brinksmanship continues into
the holiday season, the impact on our economy could be enormous.
COOK: Consumer confidence has already tumbled. We`ve seen it. We`re
moving backwards in terms of consumer confidence, and this is what takes up
the majority of GDP, consumer spending. So what you don`t want is
consumers and businesses pulling back, and this is still a healing economy.
This is what makes me really mad about the comments about default, and we
know what`s going to happen. You don`t know what`s going to happen. This
is not a regular economy. This is an economy that`s coming out of a
recession and that still has above seven percent unemployment.
BERNSTEIN: Just quickly, this is one reason why you want to be weary
of a six-week deal, by the way.
BERNSTEIN: So, these guys are cooking up some kind of a deal, and
that`s good. You want to see this crisis come to an end as soon as
possible, but a six-week deal leaves you with the retail problem you`ve
HARRIS-PERRY: But because it brings us right to Thanksgiving. And
again, you were saying during the break, and I think this is important.
Because, you know, we do a little bit of the breathless cable news, you
know, aspect, but in the break you said to me, you know, but Melissa, I
don`t think that we are actually going to default, and it may be worth
noting that to the American people at this moment.
BERNSTEIN: Yes. Let me underscore that. I mean I think the
probability that we`ll actually default on our sovereign debt, our national
debt, is way under 50 percent, but it`s not zero.
BERNSTEIN: And I think that`s what we`re talking about, it should
be zero. I don`t want to attach a percentage to it, and I actually think
it`s low. You`ll hear John Boehner say, we don`t want a default.
BERNSTEIN: I won`t allow a default. I think what he`s actually
talking about is this kind of prioritization idea we talked about earlier,
we`ll pay the creditors, not other people. That won`t work. So, let`s be
clear, we do face a very serious situation, but I don`t think we`re going
NEWMAN: Can I talk about priorities in a slightly different way? I
mean we have an economy that is growing at less than two percent. That`s
extremely weak. And we - every marginal part of growth means jobs. We
should be squeezing every tenth of a percentage point of growth we can get
out of this economy right now instead of taking back a couple tenths. And
people think it`s only a couple of hundred million dollars a day. We don`t
- we`re not in a position where we can squander a couple of hundred million
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, right, this is Lisa .
NEWMAN: And we are. We`re squandering this under margins.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And this is your point, Lisa, about being still
a recovering economy. That sort of, you know, you might be willing to go
outside without your hat on if you`re perfectly healthy, but if you`re just
coming back from a cold, right, then you take the extra precautions. And
that`s basically where we are as a nation, right, that at this moment is
not just consumer confidence, right, but it`s all those seasonal workers
who get hired over those holiday season at Walmart, at Target, at Costco,
right? It`s because, in fact, we expect more demand. If all of a sudden
it looks like that demand isn`t going to be there, those are jobs not being
NEWMAN: Those jobs that aren`t being created, are more people who
will be dependent on a government that is not working.
HARRIS-PERRY: That is not even open.
IZADI: Well, and the business community has been sounding the alarm
not over just the shutdown, but the debt ceiling, and I think it will be
really interesting to see how that translates moving ahead, whether big GOP
donors and the business community, if they are still going to fund these
congressmen, these candidates, who have put us in this position. I mean we
hear Goldman Sachs, for example, the CEO of Goldman Sachs after the meeting
at the White House with business leaders, he came out and said, you know,
we believe these kinds of policy issues should not be fought over and
attached to the debt ceiling. Well, Goldman Sachs donates a lot of money
to Ted Cruz and his campaign. It`s (inaudible). So, it will be
interesting to see whether their money will be where their mouth is moving
ahead. Because I mean I don`t doubt their seriousness when they say that
this is very detrimental to the economy and to the business community, but
are they still going to fund Republican candidates who have put us in this
BERNSTEIN: One problem we`re having, of course, is that the extreme
fringe is really - not - doesn`t seem particularly susceptible to pressure
from traditional sources like the business community.
HARRIS-PERRY: That feels to me like that`s the safety valve that
always felt like it was there, even if I didn`t always ideologically agree
with the values of big business. You know, big business likes stability
and a certain level of predictability, and the notion that that would be
BERNSTEIN: It goes deeper than that. It goes deeper. Big business
doesn`t only like that, big business has historically liked important
public goods that we`ve been disinvesting in.
HARRIS-PERRY: Roads, bridges.
BERNSTEIN: Roads, schools, universities, education. You know that -
I could always count on those folks as allies, not in a minimum wage fight.
BERNSTEIN: . but in a fight for education and infrastructure.
COOK: And it`s not just big business. I mean small businesses are
trotted out. Whenever they are politically expedient, but these are among
the young ones, most young firms are small, but it`s the young ones that
are the ones that create jobs. They are the ones who are suffering. I
mean on Twitter I`ve been talking about my being shut out of the
Smithsonian and people have been writing back telling me about closing
their software businesses because of the shutdown. I mean this is real for
them, and this is where growth is happening, or might happen, among the
young, small businesses.
NEWMAN: Young and small businesses are also fragile. And they are
the ones that are getting hurt, and we need those companies to be hiring
one person, two people at a time. That`s the best way the economy grows,
and they are not doing it right now, they are sitting on their money, if
they have any.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. (inaudible) Cruz, is that these businesses,
particularly small young ones hate Obamacare.
And are willing to support .
BERNSTEIN: They are exempt from Obamacare.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, of course. Of course.
BERNSTEIN: If you have less than 50 employees, you are exempt from
HARRIS-PERRY: Everybody stay, it`s getting good. But before we
continue on this, because we do have more on this, I do have a letter
first. It`s time for my letter of the week. And, you know, this one is
special, because I know if you`re a watcher, you already know that I live
in New Orleans, and when my governor speaks, here in "Nerdland" we tend to
say #fbj, forget Bobby Jindal.
HARRIS-PERRY: Americans are officially over Congress` debt default
and shutdown shenanigans. This week, an Associated Press poll found
Congress` approval rating has shrunk to an abysmal five percent, five, as
in one, two, three, four, five. It`s probably, safe to say, the last place
anyone is looking for leadership to steer us through this mess is inside
the U.S. Capitol, especially on the Republican side of the aisle. An
NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll released Thursday. It found Americans have
reserved the lion share of contempt for Republicans and the Tea Party. But
according to one of the GOP`s most prominent leaders say it`s only because
Americans are watching the wrong Republicans. If we want to see the real
model of the modern Republican Party, he says, we should be looking not
toward Washington, but some place much closer to home, inside our
governor`s mansions. But I think this guy should clean up before he starts
inviting folks over to the house, which is why my letter this week is to my
Dear Governor Bobby Jindal. It`s me, Melissa, again. Caught your
fancy new ad campaign that`s trying to shine the spotlight on the
achievements of Republican governors. Now, I know you`re hoping that
bright light will blind us from seeing the spectacular train wreck that is
the Republican Party in Congress, and as chairman of the Republican
Governors Association, you certainly know how to give good face. The
rollout of the campaign features the governors who are on the surface, the
embodiment of the kind of inclusivity that GOP claims to be embracing,
Governor Susanna Martinez, Governor Nikki Haley, and, of course, you. But
a party cannot live on optics alone. Your campaign promises to eventually
introduce us to the accomplishments of all of the country`s 30 Republican
governors, who according to the campaign theme, are the ones driving
You want Americans to know that Republican state leadership is,
quote, "Where the rubber`s hitting the road, where you can see measurable
results." You know what, we should get to know more about those Republican
governors, like how they signed the worst voter suppression laws in the
country. Because I don`t know about rubber hitting road, but when pen hit
paper and North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed the state`s new voter
I.D. law, he made sure there`d be some measurable results at election time.
Making it harder for African-Americans and young people to vote. And we
should know about how some Republican governors seem to be offroading, like
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett last week. Now I`m not exactly sure how
his analogy of same-sex marriage as the legal equivalent to incest is
driving America`s comeback, more like driving even more people away from
your party. But hey, you might have a new Republican governor to introduce
folks to this year if Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli wins the November
election in Virginia. Then you can tell Americans all about his failed
crusade against anal sex. After the Supreme Court rejected his attempt to
reinstate Virginia`s anti-sodomy law. Have fun explaining that one.
And while you`re at it, try explaining to the 8 million people who
will remain impoverished and uninsured because their Republican governors
rejected the Affordable Care Act`s Medicaid expansion. In fact, you can
start that explanation right at home, since your refusal of the Medicaid
expansion has left 200,000 of your constituents and my neighbors without
access to health care.
Seriously, Bobby, your own state senators are begging you to take
action against brain-eating amoeba infecting our state`s public water
system. So maybe this isn`t the best time to invite the American people to
take a look at how Republicans are running things during the Washington
shutdown. Maybe you ought to focus a little less on the ad campaign and
put a little more chlorine in our water, unless letting the amoeba eat our
brains is part of the strategy for convincing us that Republicans are doing
a good job. Sincerely, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: If House Speaker John Boehner needs an extra incentive
to end the government shutdown, he need look no further than his own home
state. When Ohio`s Republican Governor John Kasich signed a proclamation
deeming September Hunger Action Month in the buckeye state. He noted that
the more than 2.3 million people who rely annually on food provided by the
Ohio Association of Food Banks and the more than 164 million pounds of
wholesome food that those food banks distributed last year. But all of
that could be grinding to a halt very soon thanks to the government
shutdown. Ohio`s food banks rely on federal funds to cover basic
administrative costs, for things like storing and transporting food.
Across the country, food banks are dealing with reduced resources and
increasing demand. And in Ohio, that increasing demand includes the most
vulnerable, one in four children in the state don`t know where their next
meal is coming from. The governor told the Cleveland plain dealer last
month, "My kids have enough trouble with algebra on a full stomach. Think
about a kid going to school trying to learn algebra and they don`t have
enough food." That sounds familiar. I wonder if that thought has ever
crossed Speaker Boehner`s mind. Joining me live now from Columbus, Ohio,
is Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, who is executive director of the Ohio Association of
Food Banks. It`s nice to see you this morning.
LISA HAMLER-FUGITT, OHIO ASSOCIATION OF FOODBANKS: Good to see you,
Melissa. Thanks for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Lisa, I`ve said a little bit, but tell us, how -
what are the effects that you`re seeing already in terms of the shutdown in
HAMLER-FUGITT: Well, all administrative funds have ceased for our
commodities supplemental food program, as well as our federal commodities
program. Those dollars put fuel in the trucks and cover the staff of those
who are distributing the commodities to our agencies. Over a million
dollars in cuts on Meals on Wheels programs, and while our state has only
gained nearly 25,000 jobs in the first nine months, we`ve seen 6,000 new
claims for unemployment. Again, folks are not making it. They have not
been making it as this unending great recession continues, and now it`s
just compacting the problem that we are seeing more people who are needing
food more frequently.
HARRIS-PERRY: And Lisa, one of the reasons we wanted to speak with
you again, and you`ve joined us before, is because Ohio is Speaker
Boehner`s backyard, and we looked back in September for some statements
that he made on SNAP benefits, the supplemental nutritional program. What
he said was said that "He wanted a set of common sense reforms that
strengthen the safety net for our nation`s poor, root out waste and fraud
in the food stamp program, and then went on later to say that a growing
economy is the best weapon we have against poverty and hunger." How do you
square these statements by the speaker with the realities that you`re
seeing on the ground?
HAMLER-FUGITT: One in nine -- excuse me, 1.9 million Ohioans
currently receive food stamps in our state, and, in fact, over 40 percent
of them work every day. It is the most highly efficient and effective
program that we have as the first line of defense against hunger in this
nation. I`m not sure what type of sensible reforms that he speaks of,
because other federal programs should aspire to the efficiency and
effectiveness of the food stamp program, and, in fact, today in America
when we`re seeing more and more individuals who work every day, whose
paychecks aren`t stretching, I think that he needs to refocus his attention
in getting a budget passed, as well as agreement on the debt ceiling before
47 million Americans face a November without a food stamp program.
HARRIS-PERRY: So hold for me for one second, because Lisa, I want to
put on the table this idea that when the government restarts, which we all
assume that it will, right, so we assume we`re not going to default that at
some point the government will restart, but poor people, vulnerable people
often also have less resiliency, right, so what we`re seeing here could
have longer term results?
COOK: Absolutely, absolutely. So, one of the things that we know
about poor people is that they don`t have wealth, right, they can`t consume
out of wealth.
BERNSTEIN: According to your calculation.
COOK: According to my calculation, that`s right. I know it sounds
absurd, but - yes, they can`t consume out of wealth. And I think that all
of these policies, strategies, the entire shutdown, is contingent upon
thinking that people can just smooth consumption. It`s a basic economic
consumption that people can consume out of wealth. This is a permanent
income hypothesis. People are not in that position yet. This is not a
normal economy. This is an economy that is still healing. People are
still getting their balances back where they are supposed to be.
BERNSTEIN: I`ll tell you what I believe, the Republicans who are
attacking food stamps really believe, and by the way, I think Lisa`s
defense is very trenchant and extremely well done. They think that they
can go out and get a job. They don`t think they are wealthy and that they
can just tap their, you know, bond portfolio. They think they can go out
and get a living wage job tomorrow, and the fact is, as Lisa stressed, most
able bodied people on food stamps are already connected to the labor
market, so the problem is, and we`ve been saying this, Rick made this point
earlier, the problem is the economy has not recovered from the great
recession, especially from the perspective of the poor.
HARRIS-PERRY: And Lisa, let me also ask not only about the poor, but
also you started talking about November and the realities that the levels
of stimulus in terms of food stamps are going to sort of end in November,
no matter what happens, right? Talk to us about that a little bit.
HAMLER-FUGITT: We were already bracing for the perfect storm. We`ll
see the rollback of the modest boost that the recovery act provided to over
47 million Americans. That means the loss of $36 a month, beginning in
November, for a family of four. Mary, I met Mary last night at the grocery
store, who had already received her notice that her food stamps were set to
be cut by $36, and I ask her what $36 less a month meant, and she said it
means more days of hunger every month for her family, her children. It
means more frequent trips to her local food pantry to try to fill the gap.
Now what we`re facing, and the United States Department of Agriculture has
been clear with our states that they will have to, quote, pivot on a dime
if we don`t receive - if Congress doesn`t act to pass an appropriations
bill or continuing resolution.
That again, 47 million Americans may face the beginning of our
Thanksgiving season with no ability to feed themselves and their families.
Food stamps may not be issued in November.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask one last question to the table here, who
will be held politically accountable for the reality that Lisa just put on
the table for us?
IZADI: Well, if you look at the polling right now, Americans are
holding Republicans responsible over Obama and the Democrats for the
shutdown. I think it`s by 22-point margin with the recent NBC/"Wall Street
Journal" poll, so that`s where it stands now, but I think it`s also
important to note that if you`re talking to Republicans on the Hill about
the shutdown, they will emphatically say I don`t want the shutdown. This
is - they`ll cast it on the Democrats, they`ll put the blame on Obama, and
my sense is, you know, if you are already entrenched in an ideological
position, whether you`re on the left or on the right, you`re going to see
the shutdown through the lens that already suits that, where you`re sitting
at the moment. So, it`s really going to be a question of what do
independents and Republican-leaning independents feel about the shutdown
and who is responsible.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re going to stay on this topic. I`ll bring you
back. Lisa, Hamler-Fugitt in Ohio, thank you for joining us again, thank
you for your work there and we`ll keep our eyes on what`s happening.
HAMLER-FUGITT: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks. And coming up next, the victims of the
shutdown that you don`t hear about and the Supreme Court cases that could
change everything about money, politics, First Amendment rights, all of
that kind of thing. There`s more "Nerdland" at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. The House of
Representatives and Senate are both in session this morning. In a bit of
political theater, House Democrats, one at a time, tried to reopen the
government. Steny Hoyer, the number two Democrat in the House, kicked
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STENY HOYER (D), MARYLAND: I ask unanimous consent that the
House bring up the Senate amendment to H. Resolution 59 to open the
government and go to conference on a budget so that we end this Republican
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Hoyer and each of his colleagues were rejected as a
point of parliamentary procedure. And so far at this time, as Steny would
say, the government remains shutdown. I`m here to report not all of the
government is shutdown, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday
travelled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to pay his respects to four
soldiers killed this week in Afghanistan.
One day, later the Senate passed a bill by unanimous consent,
sponsored by Republican Senator John Cornyn that will provide death
benefits to the families of men and women killed while on active duty
during the government shutdown.
Now, President Obama signed the bill within hours of passage, even
though he and other Democrats have taken issue with the GOP shutdown
strategy of piecemeal governing, picking and choosing which parts of
government they want to fund or are shamed into funding. Will we see, I
wonder, a bill to fund the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention?
It turns out the shutdown comes at an awkward moment for public
health. The CDC recalled a few of its furloughed personnel on Tuesday to
help deal with a widespread salmonella outbreak in chicken, only to
discover that it is proving resistant to antibiotics. Thus far, the
salmonella outbreak has sickened at least 317 people across 20 states and
Puerto Rico. Obviously, an antibiotic resistant salmonella outbreak is
always bad, but the government shutdown has stripped the CDC`s foodborne
diseases employees from 300 to about 50 workers and as a result, the CDC
can`t do all the test it needs to do.
The director of that division Wired super bug blog, quote, "We may be
missing something. We have a blind spot."
Anyone want some chicken? The federal courts are working, too, for
now including the Supreme Court, which we`ll get too soon. They`ll all
expect it to remain fully staffed, even though they could run out of
funding by next week. Once that happens, the chief judge of each district
court will determine which employees are essential. The workers will not
be paid until the shutdown ends, but they are guaranteed their salaries.
Domestic violence shelters, which are housing women and children,
whose nutrition benefits are already in jeopardy, may soon need to turn
those survivors away. Federal agencies that administered funding for
domestic violence programs have seized operations. That could hit one
group particularly hard.
As "The Nation" magazine noted this week, about 40 percent of Native
American women face domestic violence, a higher rate than any other group,
and the shutdown has already taken egregious toll on tribal lands, as
residential care for children and adults cast assistance for the poor and
payments to vendors who provide foster care have all been put on pause.
Joining me now from Tulsa, Oklahoma, is Jacqueline Pata, executive
director of the National Congress of American Indians, and member of
Raven/Sockeye Clan of Tlingit Tribe.
And with me again also are Jared Bernstein, fellow at the Center on
Budget Policy and Priorities and former chief economist and economic policy
adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. Lisa Cook, associate professor of
economics and international relations at Michigan State University. Elahe
Izadi, who is staff correspondent at "The National Journal," and Rick
Newman, who is finance columnist with Yahoo!.
Jackie, thanks for being here. If you can help us understand how the
shutdown is having a particular impact on American Indians who live on
JACQUELINA PATA, NATIONAL CONGRESS OF AMERICAN INDIANS: Yes, thank
you so much for inviting me to do that.
You know, Indian country, if you combined Indian country, all
together, it would be the fourth largest state in the nation. And yet,
we`re like Washington, D.C., we have a high dependence on the federal
government because of the trust and treaty obligations and our health care
programs, our education programs, et cetera, are funded by the federal
government. So, a shutdown like this has immediate dramatic effects to
I`m hearing from tribes across the country, in fact, in the Crow
Nation, they sent out a notice they had to furlough 300 employees and just
last week I heard that in the northern California, very small community,
had to furlough 60 employees.
Now that might not sound like a big number, but you think about those
furloughed employees and their dependence now becomes for, you know, food
service, food assistance, and general aid, particularly in the Great Plains
area where there`s already starting to be the winter blizzards are setting
in and energy subsidies are important. All of those things require some
assistance through the tribal government, who hasn`t been paid, from this
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Jackie, you and I talked earlier during the sort
of election cycle, and I`m reminded again of that battle over the Violence
Against Women Act and sort of the role that indigenous women were playing
in that entire fight. And it just makes me think again, is there some
sense that American-Indians are simply disposable because they are not
politically relevant in the ways that other groups may be?
PATA: You know, you`re absolutely right. I think it`s because we`re
a small population, but I also think it`s because it`s the history of the
country. For a long time, we`ve always dealt with the Indian issue and
it`s really hard to be able to kind of think of Indian country and tribal
governments as the same of other governments with the same kind of
responsibility to their citizens, and, you know, the day-to-day crises.
You brought up Violence Against Women, and let me just say that`s one
of the areas we`re really concerned. The FBI is closing their training
centers, so when we thought we were making great gains forward on the
Violence Against Women, we`re now having a 50 percent cut, not just with
the shutdown, but with sequestration, on being able to implement that law
HARRIS-PERRY: Jackie, hold to me one second. Because, Rick, part of
what`s happened is you sort of at moments these big issues have popped up,
there`s been media coverage around them, and then we do get this shaming
piecemeal approach, OK, we`ll fund that, we`ll fund that.
How -- what does a piecemeal approach, is it good economics, is it
good politics? And should the president be signing this piecemeal
RICK NEWMAN, YAHOO FINANCE COLUMNIST: It`s terrible economics,
that`s for sure. I`m sure there`s some people thinking it`s nice we`re
picking off programs one by one and deciding which ones we like and which
we don`t. That`s no way to govern. ]
But I actually detect a silver lining here. I think we`re getting an
interesting civics lesson out of this. It`s worth pointing out a lot of
Americans are very suspicious of the government, and that`s not just Tea
Partiers, that`s a lot of independents. People feel they pay taxes, their
money goes into this gigantic black hole, they don`t know where they get
their money. They don`t know even know what the government does, it`s like
this giant machine that sort of hums in the background.
So we`ve kind of drained the lake and we`re now seeing the things
that are not happening because the government`s not doing them. And, you
know, Americans are not heartless. They care about where their tax money
goes, but I think most Americans are okay with the idea that we have
support nets and safety nets and things like that and we help the
disadvantage and the unfortunate.
So we are getting kind of an education about some of the things the
government does, and again, I think this makes people a little bit more
sympathetic to the government and the people who depend upon it.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this idea of sort of having a different view of
government, Lisa, I want to bring you in here in part because we were
talking about small businesses and Obamacare and this idea, OK, the
initiation of the shutdown was about Obamacare and the idea it was bad for
LISA COOK, MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY: Right. And what people have
been writing me and what I worked on at the White House is the fact that
small businesses, many of them young, many of them new, were going to
benefit from -- or potential small businesses, were going to benefit from
the ACA, from Obamacare, because being on their parents` health care until
age 26 gave people an opportunity, graduates an opportunity, to go live at
home or not live at home, but to save up the capital to be able to start a
And this was a big boot, it seems to me, that came out of the ACA. I
think people have been writing about it this past week. This is a big
HARRIS-PERRY: Generated the ability for some millennials to be
entrepreneurial in a time when wealth is evaporating, health care becomes
wealth that you can pass on to your kids.
ELAHE IZADI, NATIONAL JOURNAL: If we were not in a shutdown right
now and talking about how various groups and agencies and Americans are
being effected by it, I think the number one story, the headlines would all
be focused on, except for the debt ceiling, how the rollout of Obamacare
has been a disaster, has not gone well --
HARRIS-PERRY: Shhh, don`t talk about that right now.
IZADI: It`s true. It`s kind of like I wonder whether some
Republicans are looking at that and feeling kind of some remorse -- I doubt
these are the Republicans who want it to be here in the first place, but
really they missed a golden opportunity. And I don`t know how long it`s
going to be like this, so maybe that opportunity hasn`t gone away, but, you
know, the way the shutdown has gone. I mean, no one -- people are talking
about the rollout of Obamacare, but it`s not gaining the national
prominence and attention it would otherwise.
JARED BERNSTEIN, ECONOMIST: I have kind of a meta or uber question
about all this. Listening to Jackie and Lisa, both I think extremely
articulate defenders of issues Rick raised, things we don`t typically talk
about because they kind of run under the radar, you really have to scratch
your -- let`s say this thing ends next week like most of us think it will,
you have to really scratch your head and say, this is a family show, so
I`ll say what the heck was that all about? What was that all about?
What we just went through -- I mean, we`ve inflicted deep pain on
some fairly granular places. We`ve shaved some basis points off GDP
growth, and for what?
HARRIS-PERRY: For what?
BERNSTEIN: I mean, It wasn`t going to be Obamacare. That came off
the stage pretty quickly. Then, Paul Ryan started talking about these
fiscal things and yesterday John Boehner said I want to talk about big
problems with the president. I think tomorrow he`s going to say I want a
hug just to get this behind me.
BERNSTEIN: You know, the level of dysfunction is clear, and if we
resolve this soon, remember, it`s a temporary resolution. We`re maybe out
of it for six weeks, maybe six months, but fundamentally, the people we`re
hearing from today are the ones hit the hardest.
HARRIS-PERRY: Jared, I so appreciate it and I`m going to leave it
there -- because I think, Jackie, Jared brought us to an important point,
maybe everybody should spend their Columbus Day weekend thinking about,
this question of what is this all about, the people that we are hurting,
that we are harming in Indian country, in Ohio, in all of our communities
Jackie Pata, thank you for joining us. Jared Bernstein, Lisa Cook,
Elahe Izadi, and Rick Newman.
Everyone, I want you to stay with me because we`re going to the
Supreme Court docket next.
Up next, Citizens United, the sequel. How the court may make an even
bigger mess of our political process.
HARRIS-PERRY: Despite the government shutdown, the Supreme Court
came back to work this week to hear arguments in several cases, including a
really important one. McCutcheon versus the Federal Election Commission or
FEC. The decision in Citizens United scared campaign finance watchdogs, a
decision in this case could reinforce the fear that an elite few hold a lot
of, if not all of the power in politics.
This case challenges the constitutionality of the aggregate
contribution limits created by the FEC. Those limits dictate exactly how
much money an individual can donate overall in each political cycle to
candidates and certain political committees. The public policy
organization Demos estimates that striking the aggregate contribution
limits could translate to more than $1 billion in additional campaign
contributions and that money wouldn`t be coming from you and me, instead it
would come from a tiny, elite group of donors through the 2020 election
At the table: Akhil Reed Amar, a law and political science professor
at Yale University, and a visiting adjunct professor at Columbia Law
School. Mark Alexander, a law professor at Seton Hall University and
former senior adviser to President Obama. Liz Kennedy, counsel at Demos,
specializing in money and politics. And Steven Shapiro, legal director of
the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU, and an adjunct professor of
constitutional law at Columbia Law School.
So, Liz, I want to start with you, because this is Demos` data that
we were playing with here, and these data show that this decision could, in
fact, have an enormous impact on how elections are decided in our country.
LIZ KENNEDY, DEMOS: That`s absolutely right, Melissa. Congress has
established a system, which requires contribution limits -- contributions
to be limited so that government can be protected from corruption and the
appearance of corruption. And the problem is that if the court takes the
radical step to strike down a federal contribution limit for the very first
time, going against their precedent for 40 years, it would increase the
impact of the tiniest sliver of the richest Americans, these elite donors,
over our politics and policy.
Already Americans believe that their elected representatives are far
more responsive to their contributors than to their constituents or even
the public interest and that government is being prevented from addressing
the critical public policy issues that we all face because of the dominance
of the donor class.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. You have the sense when people go home on the
weekends, they don`t go walk Main Street, they go to multi-thousand dollar
plate dinners to talk to their donors, not to talk to their constituents.
Now, Akil, clearly, there`s sort f a partisan aspect in the fact many
people believe this could have a disproportionately impact on the right
than on the left. But should the court care at all if there`s a partisan
influence here? How should the court be thinking about making this
AKHIL REEED AMAR, YALE UNIVERSITY: The question whether there`s
systemic corruption. We`re talking now about campaign contributions, not
independent expenditures. Independent expenditures, you know, I publish a
book and I like Smith, or the newspaper op-ed, or I buy an ad, but it`s
actually making an appeal to the voters who will decide for themselves on
We`re talking about campaign contributions. That`s not all speech.
It can go to campaign pizza, campaign gasoline. It goes into the war
chests of these individual congressmen and women.
And now, if you can give to everyone without a limit, you can corrupt
the entire legislative process. And I would give a shout-out for the
audience here, there`s a really outstanding piece recently posted by Larry
Lessig, a professor at Harvard, who`s been studying systemic discussion,
it`s in "The Atlantic", it`s based on his amicus brief in the case, which
has filed by the Constitution Accountability Center saying the framers were
concerned not just about individual corruption of individual lawmakers, but
the corruption of the legislative process itself as a whole.
PERRY: And I have no doubt that Jamil, our digital editor, will get
Larry Lessig`s piece up right away. So, get on your Twitter and find out
because I`m sure he`ll send it out.
But let me ask, though, from an ACLU perspective, though, because
this does get framed as a speech question, and certainly did in Citizens
United, does the ACLU say, I hear you, I hear you on corruption, but
corruption`s part of the free speech, we have a right in this country?
STEVEN SHAPIRO, LEGAL DIRECTOR, ACLU: No, we don`t say that and the
ACLU did not take a position on this case, although we support reasonable
But I think a couple of things seem reasonably clear to me. One is,
I think it`s very unlikely that the court is going to uphold the aggregate
limits, at least as applied to individual candidates. Secondly, I think
it`s equally clear the court understands very little about the mechanics of
how elections are financed. And number three, this is not a court that`s
inclined to show deference to congress that presumably understands those
But I think at the end of the day, as we all think about the problem
of money in politics, we have to face the reality that limits have not
worked, and they have not worked because this court is not going to uphold
them, and they have not worked because money always finds another loophole.
We`ve learned that over the last 40 years. And I think we`d be better off,
honestly, if we talked and thought seriously in this country about
establishing a real and comprehensive system of public financing.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you said something there that I want to follow up
very briefly here, which is the idea that the court may be making these
decisions without a clear understanding how the processes work. In fact,
the court, for all of its deep legal knowledge, often doesn`t have very
much social scientific knowledge and/or sort of real world political
knowledge. Do the briefs translate at all? Do they penetrate this?
MARK ALEXANDER, LAW PROFESSOR, SETON HALL UNIV.: They can penetrate
that. The work of DEMOS has been fantastic on that. But I think what we
see is that the justices are in their own little bubble and they need to
look at what`s really happening. I was talking to my students just at
Seton Hall just yesterday about this in class, and we`re all talking about
how people don`t have faith in the system. So, when they see money pouring
into the system over and over again, the justices I think take this in a
sort of isolated way, and don`t realize there`s a big picture problem,
which you see all the time.
You were just talking about this, how Congress just is seen so
poorly. Well, there`s such a huge influence of big money. People say, why
would I trust this, this isn`t my government, it belongs to someone else.
MATTHEWS: It degrades that kind of deep faith that we have that is
the basic requirement for democracy working. We`re basically in rapid fire
SCOTUS rounds here. We`re going to come back and ask this question, how do
you know if something is racist? The Supreme Court case that could help to
answer that question.
HARRIS-PERRY: Earlier this year, the Supreme Court erased some hard
fought advances in the civil rights movement. The court welded its
judicial act in Shelby County versus Holder by striking section four of the
Voting Rights Act. In Fisher v. the University of Texas, the court sent
affirmative action back to the lower court. And if you thought they were
done, think again.
Up first this Tuesday is Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative
Action, which challenges Michigan`s Prop 2, that created a state
constitutional ban on race-conscious college admissions.
Then, there`s Mt. Holly versus Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens in Action.
Now, that case challenges whether disparate impact claims of
discrimination are detectable under the Fair Housing Act. So, let`s start
with Mt. Holly.
Who wants to explain what disparate impact is so that the viewers
ALEXANDER: Well, you know, sometimes what you see is a law that may
be written in a certain way, but has a disparate impact on how it`s
enacted and how it`s enforced, so it doesn`t say black people can`t live
here, women can`t do this. But as it`s enforced, you see there`s a
disparate impact on people. If you see a law on its face, black kids,
white kids, separate school, on its face, no good. Disparate impact
saying, well, the law doesn`t say that, but it`s going to have a disparate
impact where it has the same effect, just as evil an effect into the
HARRIS-PERRY: And this has been critically important, right, because
it meant you could take the issue of intent, of an evil racist mind out and
you could simply say, look, the policies generate a disproportionately
negative effect for communities of color. This case challenges whether
those sorts of statistics are usable as a way of demonstrating what
constitutes discrimination, not only for fair housing, but I want to ask is
this possible if they decide against disparate impact usage in fair
housing, can that then spread to our general understanding of what counts
KENNEDY: It absolutely is very dangerous for them to be challenging
the results test in these kind of race discrimination cases in this fair
housing standard in that it might have ripple effects, but also
specifically because Congress had never intended for there to be an intense
test -- intent test. There`s no evidence that Congress wanted that
standard. Moreover, every circuit court, all 11 of the appellate court
that has looked at this question as to whether the results standard is the
right one to use under the Fair Housing Act has found that it is.
So, there is no circuit split and it`s questionable why the court
should have taken this case. It`s eminent domain case. Justice Thomas
actually in Kelo had found -- had thought eminent domain might be used to
target vulnerable populations and that`s what we`re seeing here.
SHAPIRO: But I think the point that Liz makes is an important one,
which is this law has been on the books for 45 years. For 45 years it`s
been understood by every court in the country to prohibit laws that have
proportionate impact on racial minorities. There`s no reason for the
Supreme Court to reach out and decide this case. They`ve been on a
mission, because they took a case two years ago, they`ve raised the same
question, the case got settled before they could decide it and they looked
for the next case in the queue and it happened to be Mt. Holly.
And so, that is part of what has everybody so anxious as this case
comes up to the Supreme Court.
HARRIS-PERRY: Because they have choices about what they hear. Talk
to me in the question about choices, also about the affirmative action
case. This case is very different than the others we sort of typically
think of in that line of progression.
SHAPIRO: In some ways, it`s an unusual case and it happens to be an
ACLU case, and in order to understand Schuette you just have to go back ten
years. In 2003, the Supreme Court upheld the use of affirmative action at
the University of Michigan Law School and recognized -- in a case called
Grutter v. Bollinger. And in doing so, recognize that universities have a
strong and legitimate interest and wanted to diversify their student body,
the diverse student body aids all these students as they go through the
The losers in that court battle responded by putting an initiative on
the ballot, proposal 2, which led to an amendment to the Michigan
Constitution that prohibited the affirmative action that the Supreme Court
had allowed. We then challenged that amendment to the Michigan
constitution claiming that it itself was discriminatory. And in a larger
political sense, the case is all about affirmative action.
SHAPIRO: In a narrow, legal sense, it`s about something else. It`s
about whether or not you can create two sets of rules in the political
process. So if you are the child of a donor to the University of Michigan
or you are an athlete or you played the violin and you want to go to the
university and say, you know, this is an important part of who I am and you
ought to think about this and not just look at my SAT scores when you`re
reviewing my application, you make that plea to the regents.
If you want to say the fact that I`m black or the fact that I`m
Latino is an important part of who I am and it will contribute to the
discussion at the university, you have to go through the long, arduous, and
impossible process of amending the state constitution and it`s those two
political different processes we`ve challenged as fair and unequal.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve got more because there`s another small case that
is potentially huge and it`s about prayer and the question of whether or
not this case tests the separation of church and state when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: One case the Supreme Court will hear on December 6th,
may as our friends at Think Progress put it, nuke the separation of church
and state. The case in question is the town of Greece versus Galloway.
And the question, did the town of Greece violate the constitutional ban on
the separation of church and state by starting its board meetings with a
This case comes just more than 30 years after the court ruled in
Marsh v. Chambers, which justices upheld government funding for legislative
So, Akhil, I want to come to you with this, because it feels small.
It feels like this is a case about whether or not you can pray in your
state legislature, but it`s potentially bigger than that?
AMAR: So the question is, it could be decided very narrowly saying
because of this case called Marsh versus Chambers, chaplains, prayers
before legislative assemblies, before Congress, before state legislatures,
before town councils, city councils, those are just historically different,
because from the beginning Congress had prayers and indeed still does. And
even if those are somewhat sectarian prayers if their pattern, even if
they`re mainly Christian prayers, we`re just going to give a pass to
legislative prayers on historical grounds.
That`s the narrow way of a ruling, which means that they can do it
here, the second circuit written by my dear friend and former boss,
(INAUDIBLE), these are mainly Christian prayers, but mars said you could
have mainly Christian prayers. We have mainly Christian prayers in
Congress. So, the Obama administration weighed in, we think the second
circuit was wrong, because their test it`s mainly Christian is going to be
a problem for Congress, too.
And so, even though this is a case involving a tiny town near
Rochester, New York, the logic might say Congress has to stop doing that,
and that goes back to the days of the First Amendment.
The broader possibility is the court could say, you know what, we
just want to dial back very considerably the much more general law of
church and state. Justice O`Connor was the key justice before, and she
basically said, you know, you have to sort of -- forget legislative prayer
for just a second. Everywhere else, she said, crosses on town squares and
stuff, outside the legislative prayer context, she says, you want to look
at that and see whether ordinary people would get the sense government was
siding with one sect over another sect, endorsing one religious point of
view. And she`s been replaced by Justice Alito, who doesn`t maybe have
So, that might betoken a much broader thinking of the law of church
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to listen to -- or actually read for you a
moment from Justice O`Connor, who said those who would renegotiate the
boundaries of church and state must, therefore, a difficult question, why
would we trade a system that has served us so well for one that has served
others so poorly?
But I want to weigh in here and ask the folks at the table, when we
say separation of church or state, what does that mean? I mean, there
isn`t a code, there isn`t a policy, and there isn`t a constitutional moment
that says there will be a separation of church and state.
SHAPIRO: Well, there`s constitutional provision that says there
shall be no establishment of religion, right, and the no establishment of
religion has been understood for 200 years to require some level of
separation between church and state. And the place that the town of Greece
wants to go in this case, away from the endorsement test, they want to go
to a test that says there is no violation of a Constitution unless there is
coercion, unless you are coerced to participate in a religious exercise
that violates your own religious beliefs, the government can engage in any
religious exercise it wants to engage in. That would be a very, very
dramatic narrowing of how we have understood the separation of church and
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. Pause and we`ve got one more case and I
also then just want to ask a question, because you guys have troubled me a
little bit as you`ve been talking in terms of how the justices themselves
are making decisions in the question of data evidence, but also of
precedent and what this sort of potentially activist court may do, when we
HARRIS-PERRY: The First Amendment is rarely a court issue in the
fight for reproductive justice, but it`s taking first center stage in a
McCullen Coakley case. At issue whether the first circuit court erred in
upholding Massachusetts massive exclusion law.
Now, that law creates a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics
and makes it a crime for protesters to come any closer, even on the
sidewalk, which is generally considered a public forum. So I am a card-
carrying lifetime member of the ACLU, but I`m also someone who at various
points worked as an escort to get people through the gauntlet.
And the ACLU on this one is potentially on the issue of saying, well,
protesters do have a right in public forum to express their opinions about
SHAPIRO: These are always difficult issues for the ACLU, because
like you we support the right of people to protest on the public streets
and we also support the right of women to have an abortion if that`s what
they choose to do and to be able to walk in and out of abortion clinics
without intimidation, harassment, and violence.
HARRIS-PERRY: And what we actually did in this case was take a
middle position, which is we didn`t think the 35-foot rule was inherently
unconstitutional -- 35 feet is not very far away, and we thought in a lot
of places it still gave the protesters an adequate opportunity to present
their views, while protecting the women walking in and out of the abortion
But we said, the lower courts had inadequately considered how the law
applied at certain locations where people drove in and there was never an
opportunity to reach out and try to hand somebody a leaflet or engage in
conversation. They ought to look at those questions more carefully.
I`ll just say one other sentence. One of the reasons I think this
might be a hard case for the Supreme Court had nothing to do of abortion
clinics. I think if this was only about abortion clinics protesting, the
law it might in some jeopardy. But I think they`re also going to be
thinking about the restrictions on military funeral protests, which they
want to uphold.
SHAPIRO: So, the question is, can they adopt a rule that allows the
abortion clinic protesters closer without also allowing the West Borough
Baptist Church to get closer to the military funerals and I think that`s
going to be in the back of their heads.
KENNEDY: Yet if they are trying to split the difference between
military protesters, and these other people that are protesting other
people as they seek access, doesn`t that potentially endanger their content
neutral, you know, standard if they are saying one type of protest is fine,
one type isn`t? Really, they are attacking the ability of the
Massachusetts legislature to adopt these time place and manner restrictions
on -- which as long as they are content neutral, is really within the
purview of the legislature under their public safety and public welfare
So this is very similar to a law that was already on the books in
Massachusetts. This is very similar to a law that the court already upheld
in a case called Hill. And so, it`s something where the court in these
First Amendment cases, it`s absolutely important that they balance these
rights and that they carefully consider the facts.
But here the question of where someone`s rights end and where someone
else`s right to seek medical care without harassment and intimidation,
which actually is an exception to people`s first amendment rights in
certain instances, is really a critical one.
HARRIS-PERRY: This is what terrifies me then. This is a real
concern. I want to be able to protest and I want to be able to seek
medical care, which includes at this point the legal right to seek an
I want to believe that the group of people who are making the
decisions about this are careful, are thoughtful, and are governed by
things like precedent, by things like data and evidence. And you guys have
undermined my confidence in that a bit, either continue to undermine it a
bit as it comes to this court.
AMAR: So, I want them to be bound, most of all, by this, more than
precedent, it`s in my American Constitution Society copy of the
Constitution. The Cato Society has basically the same text, and this is
what binds us together as Americans.
Precedent, not so much. Let`s take this as equal. Brown versus
Board of Education took that word seriously. Precedent hadn`t. Precedent
said, you know, separate`s OK. That`s precedent (ph).
The court that overturned more precedence than any other in the
history was the Warren court. Half of the entire court in its history
before that, and I`m a big fan in general of the Warren Court.
So my criticism isn`t that they are revisiting precedent, it`s that
they are getting this wrong. This actually really does say equal, it
really does say Congress has very broad power to protect voting rights and
civil rights. So, my critique is they are not ultimately faithful to this.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s fascinating you whipped out the Constitution, in
part because the interview with Justice Scalia that frames himself as an
originalist, who claims that document leads him to very different kinds of
decision-making, and so, I don`t know, there`s something interesting to
hear from you, an almost originalist argument being made here.
AMAR: Yes, and that gives us something in common, and the difference
is that I would respectfully say he actually has to read this on
scholarship about it way more than he has, rather than reading what he
apparently is reading.
ALEXANDER: And understand the facts better. When we talk about
equality, there`s an understanding of quality, how we are treated
differently in this world. If the perspective is that everyone is equal,
the reality is there`s vast inequality in this world, unfortunately, but we
need to treat that seriously.
And the reality is that when conservatives say, to talk about a
justice who may be a Democrat-appointed justice, saying, oh, that`s an
activist judge, this is a very activist court, I think, if you want to use
that term, and we can`t shy away from that. And I think the reality is we
have to push back on that and realize that putting forward this view
Justice Scalia says whatever he thinks is right and it`s not bound in
AMAR: That`s the brief that I mentioned earlier is so great because
he clerked for Scalia, making an originalist argument for campaign finance
reform, saying the Framers believed in Lessig`s view of the danger of
systemic corruption. They were concerned that the Congress is supposed to
be dependent on the people, not on the donor class. He made an original --
KENNEDY: Quoting James Madison, not the rich more than the poor.
Not the rich more than the poor.
HARRIS-PERRY: Akhil Reed Amar, Mark Alexander, Liz Kennedy, and
Steve Shapiro, thank you for breaking out the nerdiness on the table.
After the break, what do American evangelical missionaries want with
Uganda? The new documentary that exposes a gospel of hate is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Homosexuality does not benefit the society.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s sin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do not fight somebody because of who they are
and what they do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Russia has a proposed death sentence for
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The law says no homosexuality on this nation.
It`s an abomination to God.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When they preach hate here, we forget they are
preaching to the people who (INAUDIBLE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That disturbing footage is from Academy Award winning
director Roger Ross Williams` new film "God Loves Uganda." It documents
American evangelical Christians traveling to Uganda. They understand
themselves as missionaries bringing the good news, but their presence is
inspiring and stoking a fire of homophobic hatred and violence.
Williams is an openly gay man who spent three years making this film
in a country where homosexuality is illegal, and politicians and priests
use citizens as scapegoats. But inspired by the openly out activists on
the ground, he pushed aside his fear and completed this extraordinary film.
For his bravery and excellent film, the director and producer Roger
Ross Williams is the foot soldier of the week and he joins us right here on
Thank you for this film.
ROGER ROSS WILLIAMS, DIRECTOR/PRODUCER: Oh, thank you. It`s great
to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: What made you want to tell this story?
WILLIAMS: You know, I grew up in the African-American Baptist
Church. My father is a leader in the church. My sister is a pastor. We
have a big family megachurch. It`s a family business and I grew up singing
in the choir, but I was never accepted as a gay man.
So I was totally drawn to this story for personal, personal reasons.
HARRIS-PERRY: So I felt that even before I read your biography, I
just watched the film clean in that sense, and felt that respect that you
have for the Christian missionaries. You don`t -- you don`t make them
evil, but you certainly demonstrate the ways in which they are misguided.
I want to watch a quick piece of the film here that reflects an important
aspect of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have come with you to share the good news.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We came all this way across the ocean. To tell
you of his love. That God loves you so much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most of the young people, they might well-
meaning, but for most of them, it`s a time to go on an adventure. But,
when they start demonizing another person, the poor African listening to
them think that`s how things should be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Tell me about that.
WILLIAMS: You know, I mean, missionaries are doing great work in
Africa, and this is by no means against the great work they`re doing, but
it`s about understanding the culture. You know, you go into a country, you
don`t understand the culture and here you have an American 20-year-old girl
who represents so much because she`s a Midwestern white American. She
represents so much to Africa.
And so that woman who has so much of her own, like, history and her
own faith, they listen to them because it`s what America represents.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I guess, part of what I was so struck by in that
moment was, here`s this young girl, of relative privilege saying, I`ve come
across the ocean to tell you something. And I think, shhh, listen, baby,
this woman may have something to tell you --
HARRIS-PERRY: -- about faith and about the capacity.
Now, why Uganda, in particular? Is it the post-Idi Amin moment? Why
is Uganda such a right space for this rabid anti-gay agenda?
WILLIAMS: Well, you know, Idi Amin was a Muslim who outlawed
charismatic Christianity, so that movement was underground. After he fell,
it became aboveground. And Mike Bickle, the owner of IHOP, was there to
take it as a Christian nation. Uganda, the youngest population on the
planet, so they built schools and hospitals, and they raise.
And the thing about this is everyone I talked to said they feel they
have lost the culture war in America, but they`re winning in Africa.
HARRIS-PERRY: This film also resists you being the American with all
the answers. I`ve come to show you how backward Uganda is, and it resisted
by putting at the fore the Uganda activists themselves who are pushing back
against the anti-gay agenda who are themselverisking their own lives. Tell
us about some of them.
WILLIAMS: It was really, really, important that Ugandans came one
the solutions for this, and the brave heroes like Bishop Christopher
Senyonjo who is 81-year-old Anglican minister who stood up for the rights
of LBGTs and was one of the only people in Uganda who stood up. You go to
his church and it is filled with everyone who has been rejected by the
church in Uganda. He is such a brave man. And it was important that he
was the one that came up with the solution and it wasn`t like an American,
HARRIS-PERRY: He just pops off of that screen, the love that is
inside of him resonates in this incredible way. And you just get a sense,
like you`re seeing all this charismatic activity of the young American
evangelist, and then you see this very quiet, very humble loving way.
WILLIAMS: He is such a humble, quiet map. He`s been threatened. He
was on the cover with David Cato (ph), of the newspaper with the title
"Hang Them." He has ten kids. He was living in poverty and was thrown out
of the church. He was defrocked and lost his pension all because he stood
up for the rights of the LBGT people. And that`s --
HARRIS-PERRY: You do feel like there`s probably going to be for him
on the other side that sentence, well done my good and faithful servant.
WILLIAMS: Absolutely, absolutely.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you for being here today.
That`s our show for today. Thank you to Roger Ross Williams for your
incredible film. Thanks to you at home for watching.
Now, I`m going to see you tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. It will be
different up in here. We`re going to tell you why Ted Cruz is like Monica
Plus, and I`m not kidding, big Freedia is coming in Nerdland. Miley
Cyrus has got nothing on this.
Right now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
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