UP with STEVE KORNACKI
December 14, 2013
Guest: Vera Volk, Simone Campbell, Emily Tisch Sussman, Mark Glaze, Fmr.
State Sen. Jeff Smith, Timothy Noah, Kristen Soltis Anderson
KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: The wait forward on ending the cycle of gun
violence in America.
I`m Krystal Ball with the great pleasure of sitting in, setting up for
Steve Kornacki this morning who has the weekend off, much deserved. And we
have lots of news and plenty of interesting discussions to get to on this
chilly and stormy Saturday in mid-December, including yesterday`s school
shooting outside Denver, Colorado where an 18-year-old student opened fire
with a shotgun at Arapahoe High School, wounding a fellow student before
The wounded student is reported to be in critical condition following
surgery. The school is less than ten miles from Columbine High School, and
the attack was one day before the first day anniversary of the shooting at
Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. More on what can be done,
what should be done to curtail gun violence, that`s in just a moment.
We`ll also try to figure out what signal the White House might be sending
by hiring a Democratic heavyweight with solid progressive credentials to
help them out for the upcoming year.
And I`ll be trying Steve`s whacky fly (ph) jacket on per size. I`ll switch
from former champion to host. I quiz everyone`s current event`s knowledge
in another exciting installment of "Up Against the Clock.
And we`ll also be looking at some of this country`s forgotten Americans.
More than five years after the great recession began, why do some lawmakers
appear eager to stop helping the long-term unemployed?
But first today, we mark a somber anniversary. One year ago this morning,
the lives of 20 beautiful children and six educators who tried to protect
them were senselessly taken in a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary
School in Newtown, Connecticut. Gun violence is so rampant in America that
we`ve grown somewhat accustomed to it, numb to it. What that previous
summer alone gunman had opened fire on a crowded movie theater in Aurora,
Colorado, killing 12 people and wounding more than four times as many.
And as we were just reporting, yesterday shooting at Arapahoe High School
outside of Denver, Colorado, so close to where 13 lives were taken at
Columbine High School in 1999. This is how that attack is being reported
in the "Denver Post" this morning again. But as horrific as those attacks
were as any act of mass violence is, Sandy Hook was perceived as something
else. Sandy Hook was so horrifying, so socking, so many young lives that
it woke us from our slumber and it forced us to take an even harder look in
How could this have happened? What kind of a country do we live in that we
allow these acts of violence to go on day after day while doing nothing.
And maybe most chilling, what is to stop another Sandy Hook from happening
again? The Newtown community has made it clear that on this day, they want
to reflect on peace without intrusion from the media.
The Newtown Action Alliance, Newtown Foundation, Sandy Hook Promise,
another supporters show to mark this week with acts of kindness in a
candlelight vigil at the National Cathedral in Washington for all victims
of gun violence.
We certainly have the utmost respect for their desire for privacy on this
heart-wrenching anniversary. And so to honor their wishes, I want to spend
this morning looking forward to focus on the best way that we can continue
to work to avert another Newtown. How we can best end the cycle of gun
violence happening every day in towns and cities across our country. We
can`t help but be disappointed with the lock of progress, thus far, despite
nearly everyone wanting it to be so.
Following Newtown, there was a huge spike in national support for stricter
gun laws. I`d like to think we could pass an assault weapons ban like the
one that expired in 2005, the one we already used to have, except with
fewer loopholes. So, it`d be even more effective. It seems like at least
we should be able to pass universal background checks. If you want to buy
a gun, you should be able to after you passed a background check. Who
could object to that?
This past spring, a bipartisan background check bill was drafted by West
Virginia Democrat, Joe Manchin, and Pennsylvania Republican, Pat Toomey.
Maybe, just maybe, it was hope this time, gun safety would win. But while
over 90 percent of Americans supported universal background checks, the
National Rifle Association did that. And in the end, a sign of how
catastrophically broken our democracy is, the Manchin-Toomey amendment
failed to clear a Senate filibuster.
Progress at the state level has been more mixed. In Connecticut, home
state of Sandy Hook Elementary, new gun restrictions did pass. In New York
and Maryland, as well as other blue states with Democratic legislatures and
governors, new gun restrictions passed as well. In Colorado, universal
background checks were passed into law along with some other gun-related
measures, although, a backlash from that passage in successful organizing
by the NRA lets the recall of two Democratic state senators who had backed
the bill and the resignation of a third.
Overall, 1,500 gun bills were introduced in state legislatures this year.
109 of them have become law, and of those, 39 tightened gun restrictions
like the ones in Connecticut, Maryland, and Colorado and 70 loosened gun
Looking back at the complete failure at the federal level and the mixed bag
at the state level, it would be easy to get discouraged to become convinced
that money of powers -- behind the pro-gun movement are just too powerful
that the cause is hopeless. Giving up, however, is no way, giving up is no
way to honor the lives lost at Newtown. Giving up is no way to honor the
lives lost to guns in this country every single day. After all, movements
require time. They require patience.
The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act passed six years after it was
first introduced and a full 12 years after President Reagan and Press
Secretary James Brady were shot. And already, we`ve seen a small shift in
the politics of guns. In my home state of Virginia, a swing state with a
strong gun culture, Democrat, Terry McAuliffe won election as governor
while boldly declaring that he didn`t care what great (ph) he got from the
All in all, we`ve learned a lot this year about what works and what
doesn`t. How money should be spent, how passions and activism should be
directed? Those lessons give us direction and strategy for oncoming
battle. So, am I disappointed? Yes. But are we defeated? Never. We`ve
taken our first steps small, though, they may be towards progress and
towards truly honoring the lives lost to gun violence in Newtown and Aurora
and in every town in America.
To help us understand all this, put it in context and figure out how to
move forward, we really got a terrific panel. We`ve got Mark Glaze,
executive director of Mike Bloomberg`s gun control group, Mayors Against
Illegal Guns, Jeff Smith, professor of politics and advocacy at the New
School. He`s also a former Democratic Missouri state senator, MSNBC.com
contributing writer, Timothy Noah, author of "The Great Divergence:
America`s Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do About It," and Emily
Tisch Sussman, campaign director of the Center for American Progress Action
Fund. Thank you, guys, all for being with me.
And Emily, I wanted to start with you, because I know you`ve been working
with some of the families in Newtown. I know you attended the candlelight
vigil they had at the National Cathedral this week. If you could, just
tell us a little bit what that vigil was like, what the sense is in the
community, and how they`re assessing the past year in terms of policy
EMILY TISCH SUSSMAN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: The vigil was
beautiful. It was really beautiful. And it really spoke to a lot of the
senses of the families in Newtown of the entire community that this was an
atrocity and it got a lot of national attention and it really did move the
public in an emotional way.
But, what`s important about it is not just the lives that were lost that
day but the lives that are lost every day to gun violence. You know, it is
on average 33 Americans a day that die from gun violence. And we need to
BALL: And they talked about that at the vigil, too. right?
SUSSMAN: And it was very present. This was not just a vigil for Newtown.
It was actually for victims of gun violence all over the country, and they
flew in families from a lot of urban communities who have lost their
children, lost their brothers, and sisters, and they spoke on par with
them. This is not -- you know the urban communities generally do not have
a lot of political power. They just don`t get the same attention as they
did at Newtown.
And the fact that the Newtown families are able to say, this -- we are one.
We feel the pain together. And we are going to move forward together. I
think it`s a really beautiful thing. It was very present there. But of
course, you couldn`t deny the fact that they wanted to see some justice for
their families. It was a very strong theme that was in the vigil.
BALL: Well, and Mark, I`m interested from your perspective at Mayors
Against Illegal Guns. You know, as I said, the progress at the state level
has been mixed. At the federal level, thus far, we`ve seen basically
nothing. How do you guys assess what happened this year, wins, losses,
lessons to be learned?
MARK GLAZE, MAYORS AGAINST ILLEGAL GUNS: We think we`re more optimistic
than most, because we`ve been working on this for a while.
GLAZE: And so, you started with something you alluded to which is you have
a Congress that can`t pass a budget or foreign bill or re-authorize the
violence against women act in less than two years. So, you start with an
institution that`s fundamentally broken. So, we`ve been expected it would
be easy for an issue which the NRA has owned all of the territory for a
generation that turned out quickly. I think legislators didn`t know much.
I think for a long time, electorally, the NRA was the only game in town.
And you have a lot of legislators who are looking ahead to the election. I
could have wondered whether Mayor Bloomberg would be there, because we
haven`t been around this long (ph), but they know the NRA will be there.
And so, they made a political calculation that I think was short sided and
that will become clear overtime.
BALL: Well, and do you think -- you think that calculus is going to shift
for lawmakers? They`re going to see that they`re going to have backup on -
GLAZE: Well, it will turn around in a couple reasons. Let me give you an
example. Colorado where my dad was a gun dealer, we passed a state of the
art background check bill. In just a few months that that bill has been in
effect, nearly 100 prohibited purchasers, people who are already -- law
from owning a gun because they are too dangerous, felons, domestic violence
offenders have been blocked.
Had that law not been in place, they (INAUDIBLE) people in Colorado know
all too well it only takes one. It`s going to be clear over time that you
can vote for these bills. People will continue to buy guns at the same
phase, but a lot of people will be safer. That kind of successful, pretty
more success (ph) as politicians figure out that they can do something that
90 percent of the public supports.
BALL: Yes. And Jeff, I mean, part of the reason why I wanted to have you
here this morning, because I think you`re great, but also because you ran
for office as a Democrat. You served in office as a Democrat in a red
state. We`ve talked about sort of the politics of guns in rural states for
Democrats. And I think that the reality was maybe a little bit more
complicated than a lot of supporters of gun control were hoping.
And one of the things that struck me is we tried so hard to be careful in
the messaging. You know, we don`t want to take away your guns. We just
interested and say, background checks, very reasonable stuff which most
people support, but any time you start talking about gun control, there`s a
sort of instinctive reflexive backlash in rural areas in the sort of pro-
And there was this quote in the "Washington Post" that really struck me
that I wanted to get your thoughts on from a concealed carry instructor in
Ohio, Jennifer Dewey (ph). She said that probably 75 or 80 percent of the
people coming into her class had no experience with firearms or training.
"I always start off my classes with tell me why you`re here. A lot of them
led off with I`m concerned about my second amendment right and whether I
want to get grandfathered in before the government takes that right away."
Why are people so fearful of that? No one is talking about taking their
guns away. They`re just talking about very simple steps forward.
FMR. STATE SEN. JEFF SMITH, (D) MISSOURI: I think the NRA has done a
brilliant job in the last 40 years in demagoguing the issue and clouding
it. And it wasn`t always that way. The origin is that the NRA are
different than a lot of people people realize. In the 1920s, the NRA
consistently supported gun control laws at the state level. In 1934, in
1938, the NRA supported federal legislation on background checks and also
on, well, a couple different pieces of legislation.
Guns are obviously different and a lot less technologically sophisticated
than they are today. But the NRA, really, even in 1963 and 1968 supported
gun control legislation at the federal level. So, this is a new
phenomenon. Movement conservatism really appropriated the NRA and the gun
rights movement. So, it wasn`t always as politicized as it is today.
And I think what`s important to understand and I wanted to kind of go back
to you on this a little bit Mark is while 90 percent of the public does
support background checks, 90 percent -- out of that 90 percent, maybe 10
percent vote on that issue.
SMITH: Out of the 10 percent who don`t support background checks, it seems
like 90 percent vote on that issue, right? And so, given that disparity
and intensity of public opinion, how do you overcome that? That`s, you
know, one thing I wanted to ask you.
BALL: Yes. And we`re going to talk more about that in just a minute. But
Tim, I wanted to get you in as well. Do you think that we were too
optimistic this year about what could be done in one year as I was pointing
out? Brady Act took six years to pass from the time it was introduced, 12
years after Ronald Reagan and James Brady were shot. Were we sort of
impatient about wanting all of the progress right at once? Do we need to
wait for it to sort of build the movement a bit more?
TIMOTHY NOAH, MSNBC.COM: Well, you always have to try. But I think, you
know, as Mark said, you know, this is the long haul we`re talking about. I
heard Eleanor Holmes-Norton on the radio the other day comparing this to
the civil rights movement.
NOAH: You know, the civil rights laws were not passed overnight. And, the
gun culture and United States, people sort of don`t take this into account.
It`s a very different gun culture from what we had 30, 40 years ago,
because it -- we now have a minority of households in the United States
that have guns. It has become in moving from the majority to the minority.
It has become a fringe extremist culture.
We`ve seen fewer and fewer people own guns in the United States, and yet,
there are more guns in the United States. So, there`s an awful lot of
hoarding going on which is, of course, terrifying.
BALL: Which specs to that quote of the people saying, you know, I have to
get my gun now and get grandfathered in. There`s this fear around it. And
even though fewer people own guns, the sentiment among those who do is very
strong. We`ll talk more about all of this right after this.
BALL: We are back in talking about how to address gun violence in this
country. And, the Sunlight Foundation had a couple of interesting graphics
that Mark I wanted to get your thoughts on. In terms of the way that money
was spent in this fight tactically over the past year and first they took a
look at the amount spent on ad buys. And if you look at this graph, you
can see that there was a major spike in ad dollars on the gun control side
right around the Manchin-Toomey amendment.
And overall throughout the year, the gun control forces outspent the gun
right forces, which I suspect is pretty unusual. But then if you look at
spending on lobbying, the tail is very different. On that side, the gun
right side, very much outspent, the gun control side. So, Mark, as you
know, executive director of an organization that spent a lot of money on ad
buys, was that the right strategy or does there need to be a shift more to
talking directly to legislators lobbying, working more directly through the
GLAZE: You know, we need to do all of that. I mean, the thinking behind
ads is that you have a public that has not had to think about these issues
for a long time and legislators have not had any heat from the public on
it. So, you have to start there. But, you know, the NRA spent plenty of
money that was not about advertising, it was about buying phone calls that
going legislate (ph) this office and urged them not to do anything about
And they have traditionally spent much more that we have on lobbying.
That`s because the NRA has a $250 million a year organization that gets
million dollar checks from the gun manufacturers of their annual
conference. So, they have plenty of cash to do that they spent all kinds
of different way, but they are focused on grassroots action even when they
have to buy it.
BALL: Well, and that sounds like a very depressing thing, right? I mean,
they have lots of money and that`s not going away. And it`s always going
to be somewhat of an uphill battle even when you have people like Mayor
Bloomberg with a lot of personal resources spending on the side of gun
control. But Jeff, you have actually done research showing that more
important that money and this is very hopeful, very good stuff, more
important than money is actually direct constituent activism.
SMITH: Yes. I did research on the 2011 session in the Missouri
legislature and was able to obtain records of constituent contacts from
several legislators and then sort of paired them against contribution
record to see how much money had been given in support of or in opposition
to particular pieces of legislation and what the numbers bore out was that
contributions were statistically insignificant in influencing whether or
not a bill would pass, but the number of contacts in support of or opposed
to a bill were very statistically significant, particularly, on the
Once there were 12 contact, just a dozen contacts against a bill on average
to each of these legislative offices, it was overwhelmingly unlikely to
SMITH: Yes. So -- I mean, a very optimistic finding based on the fact
that 90 percent of the country supports things like universal background
checks. The question is, how do we get all those people to contact their
offices in the same ratio that pro-gun people do.
BALL: Right. Emily, I mean, you`ve been working directly with some of the
families and one of the things that we do have more of on the side of gun
rights is increased passion and outrage, frankly, at what we`ve seen
happening in the country. What have you seen in terms of what`s been
effective with caps actions on gun control?
SUSSMAN: Right. An intensity just on the gun issue as opposed to a
variety of issues.
SUSSMAN: I think the reason that graph is a little bit misleading is that
there is a very narrow definition of what lobbying is. And I think that
that is what they`re counting. But, you know, the work that we`ve been
doing in partnership with Mark and with other organizations is actually
going into the states and really organizing on the ground. We do need to
do a little bit of education on the issue.
We do need to talk to people who care about a general progressive agenda
and make this one of the top issues. When you talk to your legislator, is
this the issue that you talk about? It always needs to be in the
forefront. We had spoken about this, but I`ve spoken to a member of
Congress from a suburban reasonably affluent area who told me that in his
town hall, this issue basically never came up.
SUSSMAN: It just wasn`t something that came up at all. And after Newtown,
he said that he had moms in there every single town hall, and they were
there for this issue in particular. Whereas he was someone who, you know,
probably could have gone either way, probably would have split his vote pro
and against gun legislation. He really felt like he started hearing from
it. And to your point, it really stuck with him.
BALL: Well, and Tim, I mean, do you think we`ve seen sort of a lasting
shift in sentiment or this is going to spike and then go back down to
levels we saw before.
NOAH: Well, I think that -- I think it has spiked and gone down, but --
BALL: But -- it has not gone back down to levels --
NOAH: Pre-Sandy hook, right. But, you know, I think it will be a slow,
gradual movement towards action. I think, you know, the demographic trends
favor pro-gun control forces over time. You know, it`s a bit like what
people say about, you know, the United States becoming a majority-minority
nation. You have a group that`s getting smaller by the day that`s exerting
this portion of influence, and eventually, they`re going to lose.
BALL: Reflective of a lot of our politics. Go ahead, Jeff. Quickly.
SMITH: But in the same way that that dwindling band of Tea Partiers are
all the more vehement. My sense as former legislator was that the
dwindling band of pro-gun people were that much more vehement.
BALL: Much vehement and they vote.
SMITH: And they vote.
BALL: So, we`re going to talk more about how to move forward and maybe
some sort of big picture legislative fixes. That`s right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARK PRYOR, ARKANSAS: The mayor of New York City is running ads
against me because I opposed President Obama`s gun control legislation.
Nothing in the Obama plan would have prevented tragedies like Newtown,
Aurora, Tucson, or even Jonesboro. I`m committed to finding real solutions
to gun violence while protecting our Second Amendment rights.
I`m Mark Pryor and I approve this message because no one from New York or
Washington tells me what to do. I`ll listen to Arkansas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALL: So, that was a campaign ad from Sen. Mark Pryor, and he voted
against the Manchin-Toomey amendment and now is basically a response to the
ads that your group were running against him in the state. So, he`s sort
of embracing it and saying, you know, these outsiders aren`t going to tell
us what to do. Do you think -- I mean, was that attention in terms of the
work that Mayors Against Illegal Guns did this year?
GLAZE: You know, it`s a funny response, because if you listen to Arkansas,
he`d realize that 84 percent of people in Arkansas believe that everybody
ought to get a background check in this country. You know, I think Senator
Pryor with whom we met, I think we can continue talking and I think he can
help us on some things. And I think he eventually will get there, because
he`s hearing from people back home.
A lot of folks I think regret the vote that they made not just because the
kind of thing that we saw happened in Colorado keeps happening, and it will
keep happening until we do something different. But also because they`re
hearing about this from people back home in a way that simply wasn`t the
case two or three years ago and that`s because the country is in a
BALL: But you know, Jeff on the foot side of that, Senator Manchin, who
sponsored the universal background check legislation along with Pat Toomey
has seen his approval ratings in West Virginia significantly decline. So,
this is still a tough issue for people in rural states.s
SMITH: Absolutely. And I think draper "New York Times" magazine piece
that will be out this weekend, you know, Manchin says that his mail and
contacts were overwhelmingly against his work on the Manchin-Toomey --
BALL: I mean, I really I give him a lot of credit here. I think he is
SMITH: I mean, it has to be someone like him to do it.
SMITH: And it was good -- you know, Toomey from Pennsylvania`s state which
I think James Carville famously said is Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and
Alabama and everywhere in between --
SMITH: -- good that someone like Toomey joined on board, but this is not
going to come from Chuck Schumer and Diane Feinstein.
BALL: And Tim, I mean, to me, when I looked at the failure of the Manchin-
Toomey amendment. The fact -- 90 percent of Americans support this thing,
right? Background checks. It`s not radical. It`s not crazy, and yet, it
can`t clear a senate filibuster. I mean, to me, it was a symbol of how
broken our democracy is.
Are there sort of bigger picture government reform fixes that you think
could have helped this particular amendment pass, could help other
overwhelmingly popular things pass that are being (INAUDIBLE) by a very
NOAH: Well, I don`t know whether it would affect this particular case,
Manchin-Toomey. But, certainly, we saw a big step forward a couple of
weeks ago with the elimination of the filibuster for presidential nominees.
NOAH: Accepting Supreme Court nominees. And, you know, we saw nine
confirmations over the last three days.
BALL: -- actually happening.
NOAH: Right. These stories are all about, you know, the Senate is sort of
in gridlock. They`re having to, you know, work 24-hour days. Well, yes,
they were having lots of conflict, but they were getting a lot of things
passed. And, you know the Republicans are being extremely intransigent.
And my feeling is they should keep being intransigent because maybe they
will provoke Harry Reid.
BALL: Well, that`s what happened, right?
BALL: Emily, quickly, the push back on that is, yes, but just wait until
Democrats are in the minority, then you`re going to hate it. Personally, I
believe that if you win an election, you should be able to have a chance to
an accurate agenda. So, it doesn`t scare me getting rid of the legislative
SUSSMAN: Look, the Republicans have gotten extreme with their use of the
filibuster. If the Democrats go to minority, they`re going to do it
anyway. I mean, honestly, (INAUDIBLE) saying there`s still sort of a
gentlemanly quality about it.
SUSSMAN: They`re going to do it anyway.
BALL: We`re fooling ourselves.
SUSSMAN: We`re fooling ourselves, but I just want to push back in the fact
that we got nothing federally done. I actually think the fact that this
bill came up for a vote sponsored by NRA a-rated senators is a very big
BALL: Yes. That`s such a great point. It`s a great place to end this
discussion on a hopeful note. And I want to thank Mark Glaze, the Mayors
Against Illegal Guns, very much for joining us this morning.
GLAZE: Thank you.
BALL: Shifting gears to our next segment. Keeping a customer base happy
is important whether you`re a salesman or maybe the salesman in chief. The
new hire at the White House that has liberals everywhere reading the tea
leaves. That`s when we return.
BALL: Remember the 99 percent, the rallying cry of Occupy Wall Street? We
are the 99 percent. Well, it`s been two entire years now since occupy
raised the issue of the vast disparities of wealth in this country, and
yet, two years later, not a whole lot has changed. President Obama
highlighted this persistent inequality in a speech just this month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A family in the top one
percent has a net worth 288 times higher than the typical family, which is
a record for this country. So, the basic bargain at the heart of our
economy has frayed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALL: What the latest White House hire says about the struggle against
inequality? That`s next.
BALL: There was an important personnel change now to the White House this
week, the return of John Podesta. He used to be Bill Clinton`s chief of
staff, and at the start of next year, he`s headed back to 1,600
Pennsylvania Avenue to advise the current president. A guy you might know
named Barak Obama. Mr. Podesta has spent much of his time between the
Clinton and Obama administration, those interim Bush years heading the
Center for American Progress.
If you don`t know what the Center for American Progress is, no worries, it
is one of a number of think tanks in Washington, D.C. and given his
credentials, it happens to be not just a Democratic one, but a beautifully
delightfully liberal one. In fact, it acted as a sort of shadow government
during the conservative heyday of the Bush administration.
Over at the Center for American Progress, they sponsor research. They put
out position papers and they monitor legislation all to advance an
unapologetically progressive agenda. Sort of reminds me of this guy I used
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The same old Washington textbook campaigns just won`t do in this
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: Triangulating and poll-driven positions because we`re worried about
what Mitt or Rudy might say about us just won`t do.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: If we are really serious about winning this election, Democrats,
then we can`t live in fear of losing it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALL: Then Senator Barack Obama secured the 2008 Democratic nomination and
he won the White House on a message of hope and change. Change you could
believe in. His election was supposed to reject the safe political
posturing that Democrats had adopted with Bill Clinton in the 1990s during
their journey out of the political wilderness after the Reagan revolution.
The 2008 Obama campaign was a promise to say goodbye to all that.
The pledge to begin a new chapter of Democratic governance straight forward
and unabashedly progressive leadership. That`s what we thought -- hasn`t
always turned out that way. Yes, the president was able to negotiate a
health care law, but a single payer bill was off the table from the start.
And yes, he passed financial reform legislation, but the Dodd-Frank bill
watered down a key reform, the so called Volcker rule and it`s been
hindered by a lack of enforcement, then there`s immigration reform where
the president has faced criticism for not doing all he can with his
executive power to halt deportations of undocumented workers.
Sure, he has been working with the Congress that has thwarted him at every
term. But his liberal critics have often complained that he hasn`t fought
back hard enough, that he conceded at times when he should have held his
ground. He played the pragmatist instead of punching back. All of that is
why I believe the announcement of John Podesta`s role as senior adviser is,
in the words of Joe Biden such a big f`ing deal.
The White House just might be turning a page. Remember when President
Obama appointed Bill Daley his new chief of staff, you know, the former
Clinton commerce secretary and a former exec at JPMorgan Chase. Daley was
hired in part to apiece the business community to make things right with
the big banks who thought they were being slated by the White House.
But John Podesta represents a very different constituency. He is a much
different kind of Democrat. He`s an ad advocate for issues that would make
Bill Daley run for the hills. On Monday, the day his appointment was
announced Podesta had an op-ed in "Politico" all about income inequality
and how it has, quote, "reached levels last seen during the roaring 1920s."
He rejected the conventional wisdom that fighting inequality hurts job
creation. I seem to recall another guy with a similar way of thinking
about these things.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We`re going to take on growing inequality and try to improve upward
mobility for all people. We`ve got to move beyond the false notion that is
an issue exclusively minority concern. And we have to reject a politics
that suggests any effort to address it in a meaningful way somehow pits the
interest of a deserving middle class against those of an undeserving poor
in search of handouts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALL: That speech not coincidentally was given at Podesta`s Center for
American Progress. So, is the return of John Podesta the return of the
Barack Obama of 2008? Is this the message President Obama wants to carry
into the 2014 campaign?
Here to discuss this with me, we still have with us MSNBC.com contributing
writer, Tim Noah, Emily Tisch Sussman, who happens to be of the Center for
American Progress Action Fund. No pressure there, Emily.
BALL: Kristen Soltis Anderson, a Republican pollster at the Winston Group
and who was recently named one of "Time" magazine`s 30 people under 30
changing the world, and we have with us as well Jeff Smith from the New
School who remains at the table.
And Kristen, I wanted to start with you. I mean, to me, the hire of John
Podesta kind of checks a lot of boxes. I think it is a signal about the
messaging plan going into 2014 and maybe also a signal about doing more
things that he can with his executive power since Congress is obviously not
working for him.
KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, THE WINSTON GROUP: I think it`s a lot about that
second point. I think there`s -- John Podesta has been sort of a big
advocate for having President Obama take his executive power out for a spin
and see what he can do. And I think this is sort of an acknowledgment that
the 2014 elections are not likely to yield a Congress that is more friendly
to the president than the current Congress.
Republicans, I think political report said that if the year is kind of a
wash, if it`s not really a waive for either side, Republicans are likely to
pick up about 12 seats in the House, there are a lot of Senate seats in
play. Congress is more likely to be more red than it is today for the last
two years of President Obama`s term. And so, bringing in John Pedesta is
bringing someone in who wants to sort of help the president try to get
BALL: Well, and for me, it sort of kills two birds with one stone, Emily,
because on the one hand, it gives you what I think is a very powerful
message going into 2014. I think the country is in this very populous
moment deeply concerned about income and equality. We see the comments
from the pope. We see him named person of the year by "Time."
We`re seeing growing concern, growing talk about increasing the minimum
wage. Do you think that Podesta`s work at cap (ph) specifically on income
and equality will affect his work in the administration?
SUSSMAN: We can certainly hope so. I totally agree with you. This is a
huge populous moment. And I would actually pushback on the idea that we`re
just sort of giving up. I think there is something a lot to the idea that
there should be more done with executive action, but I totally agree with
that. But I think that also we can run on populous and we can run on
income and equality and hold to progressive values.
I think the Democrats are realizing that, you know, passing the health care
law in 2010 and then running away with it didn`t work.
SUSSMAN: Run on it. Make it work. Run on progressive values. And you
know, from the White House on down, we should really be meeting with them.
BALL: Yes. And I think we finally learned that lesson, Tim. I mean, the
other piece of this is the president has reached out to Republicans so many
times when, right, it is obvious that they`re never going to work with him.
Anything that has his name associated with it, forget it, it`s off the
table. And he has been damaged, I think, politically from trying to work
through Congress so much.
So, to me, it seems like both a political win to do more with his executive
power. It seems like that strong leader that the country seems to want,
but it`s also a legislative win, because you actually get more
NOAH: I think that`s right. I think that`s right. I mean, I wrote a
piece several months ago saying that the politically true thing for Obama
to do would be to move left even if all he wants to be is a centrist moving
left will be away to provide some counterpressure to the Republicans
who`ve, of course, been moving steadily right for more than 30 years.
BALL: And Jeff, how does the message about a sort of populous message
about income and equality, about raising the minimum wage, fighting back
against the banks, how does that play in a place like Missouri?
SMITH: I mean, I think it plays great, you know, everywhere outside Wall
Street pretty much.
SMITH: There are not a lot of places that are really pumped up about the
bailout. There are not a lot of places that are really excited about the
fact that despite increasing sort of economic, you know, persistent
economic stagnation in the heartland. Despite that, the fact that Wall
Street and the Dow are hitting all-time highs, there aren`t a lot of people
who are really pumped about that.
SMITH: So, I think that message works not just with progressives but also
with sort of like the alienated middle that oftentimes -- that most people,
most political scientists attribute the 2010 Republican route to the
Republican sway of those independents.
BALL: Right. And Kristen, what do you make of that? I mean, do the
Republicans have a plan or policies that they can use themselves to talk
about inequality or sort of playing the populous mantle of the moment?
ANDERSON: So, I think what Republicans should be doing is focused on
mobility. So, rather than saying we need to focus about on the difference
between the very poorest and the very richest, we need to be focused on
making sure that someone who starts off as the very poorest can become the
And that this talk about social mobility, something you started to see a
lot of Republicans weaving into their speeches. And it`s time for, you
know, some real policies to be put out there to say this is what we want to
do to help make people so that when they start off in the beginning --
SUSSMAN: What could some of those policies look like because that`s always
been sort of the blank slate?
ANDERSON: We`re talking here about, you know, raising the minimum wage.
You know, President Bush was the last person who was president when the
minimum wage --
BALL: -- should actually get behind that.
ANDERSON: I don`t think that, for instance, when we`re talking these
things like $15 an hour, I don`t think you`ll see Republicans get anywhere
near there. But I think there are some interesting proposals. For
instance, there are some countries where they`ve indexed the minimum wage
to things like inflation instead of allowing it to be something where
politicians decide what they want the minimum wage to be, you`ve got more
of a technocratic approach.
I don`t know if that`s something that Republicans would get behind, but it
would be at least a start.
ANDERSON: -- putting something on the table where they can say, you know,
we do care. We`re not just focused on the one percent. I don`t believe
that Republicans are just focused on the one percent. That`s not why I`m
in this party.
ANDERSON: And I think that by focusing on things like, how do we make sure
that we have an education system that`s giving people the skills so that
when they start in a low skill job, they have the opportunity to move up.
But that`s a real way for Republicans to have policy and a message that
gets around this idea that --
BALL: Yes. And they desperately need that. And to your point about
indexing to inflation, I mean, that would also solve a political problem
for Republicans because then you wouldn`t have this thing that Democrats
can beat them up over time and time again every time we need to lift the
minimum wage. We`re going to have more on this. I`ll pick up on that
point right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Concentrated wealth at the top is less likely to result in the kind
of broadly based consumer spending but drives our economy and together with
lax regulation may contribute to risky speculative bubbles.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALL: We are back talking about the president`s agenda. That was
President Obama this month at the Center for American progress talking
about income and equality. And, Tim, I wanted to ask you about something
you`ve been writing about which is a sort of populist win on the Volcker
rule, if I can say that correctly. Talk to us about what it means, why
it`s important. Help us understand what`s going on.
NOAH: Well, it`s a great step forward just for bringing more stability to
Wall Street, but it`s also great step forward for income and equality
because you know, this -- there has been a drive towards ever greater risk.
It`s been very, very lucrative to people on Wall Street and this will
reduce that risk taken by investment banks and that`s quite helpful, I
think. You know, people don`t really pay much attention to regulation.
It`s boring. They want to see scalps nailed to the wall. They want to see
prosecutions. And, you know, I think prosecution is a very effective tool
for dealing with wrongdoers, but I don`t think it really changes the
culture of Wall Street very much. Regulation, the Volcker rule, really
will. I think it`s quite a significant achievement.
BALL: Emily, what other issues do you think that John Podesta is
particularly passionate about? You speak for all of cap, right -- the
definitive last word in terms of what cap things. But yes, what other
things do you think that we can see him being passionate about and focusing
SUSSMAN: Well, I think that we should look at the issues that he`s really
championed. Some of the issues that cap was built on, income and equality
being number one. But I think also John has really been a champion for
climate and that seems likely he`ll be working on that and health care as
well. You know, there`s a lot of robust health care department at cap.
Putting out a lot of work.
You know, I think that the way that John has built cap I think really says
a lot to his thinking and the way moving forward, what are you bringing to
the White House?
SUSSMAN: The fact that we`re looking at forward thinking ideas, big
picture ideas, the things that could, you know, not today, but things that
we could implement in the future, but then also having that piece of
helping with the issues today, I think, said a lot to us thinking (ph).
BALL: Yes. Well, and Jeff, one of the things that the president was
criticized for in the election was that it was all small potatoes ideas,
right, the big vision of 2008 seemed to have shrunk to little more, you
know, sort of specific, small issues, things he could tackle in a second
term. Do you think that he`s rethinking that in wanting to sort of return
to the 2008 big picture changing America, really tackling income and
equality head on?
SMITH: Yes. I can see your point in the second game change, double down.
He even said to his consultants, hey, this agenda is all small ball.
SMITH: We need something bigger. So, those are sort of his own words that
you`re quoting. And yes, I think he`s thinking a lot about his legacy now.
For a while, I think it -- a grand bargain was going to be his legacy. And
now, he`s obviously seeing (ph) if that`s probably not going to happen.
So, I do think he`s thinking about some of these legacy issues. Let me
take issue with just one thing that I think may happen under Podesta`s
watch here. I think he`s known XXL. I think the pipeline actually made
the green light.
BALL: Why do you think that?
SMITH: And, I know he`s been a huge opponent of that, one of the most
vocal. But right when he was appointed, one of the first things the
administration did was said, he will not have any part of discussions on
BALL: I read that differently, because I read that as we`re leaning
towards not doing it and we don`t want to look like John Podesta is
involved given that he sits on the board just to clarify to some of the
board of a couple of companies that, you know, could potentially benefit
from it not going through.
SMITH: And that may be the case. For the last couple of years, I thought
-- originally announced the delay a couple years back. I thought, well,
you know, this might be a clever way to continue the harness, the energy
and resources of environmental activist throughout the campaign, but then
eventually approved it.
Podesta`s own words according to Ryan Lizza`s reporting in the "New
Yorker," he said it was overwhelmingly likely to happen until the
Republicans made it an issue and that`s why he delayed it in the first
place. So, I think that maybe the appointment of Podesta counter
intuitively could be in part to be a prophylactic against environmental
anger if it is approved.
BALL: Interesting. Well, it would be interesting to see if they`re able
to sort of reclaim politically that issue of climate change which they sort
of stumbled with -- on cap and trade and it was a problem in 2010. So, if
we can message that better coming up.
All right. I want to thank Emily Tisch Sussman with the Center for
American Progress Action Fund and Jeff Smith, thank you.
We will see you later in the next hour as a contestant on "Up Against the
Clock." We are very excited for that. And I believe your words to me
were, this has been your lifelong dream since before even there was an "Up
Against the Clock." So, I know you`re excited, too.
BALL: All right. But first, we`ve got another full hour of news including
why Nancy Pelosi told House Democrats to, quote, "embrace the suck" this
week and what it means for millions of Americans. That is coming up next.
BALL: Nancy Pelosi is a lady who gets things done. She is known for
getting her members to vote the way that she wants them to.
And in the interest of getting Democrats to swallow a very bitter pill this
week, the message she employed was, and I quote, "embrace the suck." That
was the language the House minority leader used Thursday when she told her
caucus to fall in line and cast a vote for the two-year budget deal that
was hammered out by Republican Congressman Paul Ryan and Democratic Senator
Many Democrats were not happy that the deal does not include jobless
benefits. Pelosi pushed for including those benefits, but she was ready to
move on to look for another opportunity to pressure Republicans to extend
unemployment insurance, another bill. So, she used that vivid turn of
phrase, "embrace the suck", to get frustrated Democrats to support the
budget agreement, people close to her saying she told House Democrats, we
need to get this off the table so we can go forward.
And with Nancy Pelosi whipping votes, go forward it did -- 163 Democrats
voted for the measure, joining another 169 Republicans to pass the budget
through the House, 332-94.
And so, the message to the 1.3 million Americans who are still out of work,
no matter how hard they have been searching for jobs that do not exist may
never exist. The message to them is they will lose any help from the
government three days after Christmas.
So, basically, embrace the suck and have a happy New Year and good luck
putting gas in the car or paying the mortgage or keeping the electricity on
because the help you`ve been getting will vanish two weeks from today
unless Congress acts.
JEFF GILLAN, TV ANCHOR: Three days after Christmas jobless benefits will
stop for thousands in a state still hit very hard by unemployment.
REPORTER: For LaShawn Daniels Palmer (ph), a mother of four, much of her
morning ritual remains the same, getting her kids up and ready for school.
But these days, she is supporting her family with her unemployment
UNIDENTIFIED FEMLALE: And at $357 a week, it`s really tough. It is
really, really tough.
REPORTER: Randy Russo (ph), who despite living in Chicago, he keeps the
heat low to save money.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t know when the end game is. I don`t know when
it will happen. But it`s just that, it`s hope. If you don`t have the
hope, then it`s truly over.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m not beyond working in a retail store. I`m not
beyond working at McDonald`s, whatever it takes so that my kids are not
BALL: In normal times, unemployment insurance is supposed to tide over for
a short period of time while you look for a new job. Up until mid-2008, if
you lost your job, you got up to six months of unemployment from state fund
employers pay into. But in the wake of the worst recession since the Great
Depression, Congress enacted emergency compensation, something that could
kick in after six months for the millions of Americans who still have not
found new jobs.
And I think the word emergency is an apt one. If you want to know what
emergency looks like, take a look at this graph. You can see long-term
unemployment has skyrocketed in the last four years to a level not seen in
this country for more than the last half century. This is a problem we
have not seen in a long, long time. There are three people leaning up for
every one job opening that exists. And the longer you are out of a job,
the harder it becomes to get one, since employers tend to prefer workers
who still have a job or who just started looking.
You start to get some sort of perceived stink of joblessness, having done
something wrong when obviously you haven`t. So, while short term
unemployment is back down to pre-recession levels, it is long term
unemployment that continues to dog the nation. Twenty-seven weeks is just
the start of how we measure how long, long term really s. The long term
unemployed tend to be older, have more education and include people of
There are individuals like Vera Volk who`s had a 20-year career in biotech
and pharmaceutical research. She`s got a bachelor`s degree in microbiology
and masters in immunology. But she is now barely getting by on emergency
unemployment compensation that is set to run out in two weeks.
Vera testified before Congress this month and will share her story here
with us today.
At the table is Timothy Noah, author of "The Great Divergence: America`s
Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do About It" and contributing
writer for MSNBC.com. Along with Vera Volk who has been looking for wok
since she lost her job in May. Christine Soltis Anderson from the Winston
Group, a Republican polling firm. And Sister Simone Campbell, executive
director of Network, a National Catholic Social Justice Organization.
Thank you guys all so much for being here to join this conversation.
And, Vera, I wanted to start with your take and I`m so grateful to you for
being here. I think a lot of people would be surprised to hear about your
education background. I think they may have some sort of stereotypes in
their mind about who the long-term unemployed are and what they look like.
Tell us a little bit about how you lost your job and what the process has
been like trying to find work in this economy.
VERA VOLK, UNEMPLOYED: I lost my job because of lack of funding with the -
- in the biotech industry. That was probably due to sequestration.
BALL: Oh, really?
VOLK: Effects taking place in that people weren`t investing into
technologies as much. I was developing a diagnostic tool that would help
diagnose cancer patients much earlier and get better hope than health to
those people. It`s been frustrating looking for a job, because as you said
for every position there is at least three if not more people looking.
They`re asking more for younger, from less experienced employees than and
if I -- because I don`t have some specific talent or title I`m being passed
over, even though I performed all of these functions in every position I`ve
had in the biotechnology community, it doesn`t count for anything like
BALL: And so does that, what I said about the fact that employers
basically discriminate against folks who have been out of work for a
certain period of time, does that ring true to you in your experience?
VOLK: To some degree it does because they`re looking more for the younger
person whose recent graduates. I`m having to do more with technical
skills. It`s not necessarily knowledge. It`s not necessarily skills per
se, because I can be taught anything and it`s very easy to do some
It could be very difficult. It`s the fact that they`re looking for very
specific requirements and skill sets that no one could truly fill, even the
best of people out there.
BALL: And when you have three people looking for every one job, employers
can decide -- well, you know, we`re not going to take a chance on that
person because we`re not 100 percent sure.
Sister Simone, it was so important to me to have your voice here today
because I wanted you to reflect a little bit on what it says about a
country when in this last budget deal, we prioritize restoring some of the
funds to the military over providing help for 1.3 million Americans who
have been unemployed, who are unemployed, who are looking for jobs. And it
just means that little lifeline to help them get through the holiday
What does that say about our priorities here?
SISTER SIMONE CAMPBELL, NETWORK: Well, I have a hunch. It says that the
corporations have stronger advocates than we were in Congress at this
point, there is more diplomacy on the industrial complex than on the people
complex of who we the people actually are. The challenge is in our nation
is to look at the reality of this recession, the benefits of the so-called
Ninety-five percent of the benefits have gone to the top 1 percent when we
have folks like Vera who continue to struggle. It`s the rest of us who are
struggling really hard to deal with the impact of the recession, which was
a constriction of jobs. There has been no real job creation, especially in
the industry as Vera pointed out.
And the importance of we the people have to do is lift up the fact that
it`s about us.
CAMPBELL: We the people need to be the ones that our government is
responding to and that requires the extension of long-term unemployment and
a few other things I could add to the list.
BALL: I bet you could.
Well, Sister, what do you say to people I heard on the right folks made the
argument -- well, this is really the work of the church and of community
groups to support folks once they have been out of work this long. This
isn`t really the job of the government at all.
What`s your response to that? We got a great e-mail from an 84-year-old
she woke up in the middle of the night worried about folks she had met who
are unemployed. And she realizes an 84-year-old, even in her church she do
you know do new. But she knew by paying taxes it was like asking the
government to do a piece that she couldn`t do.
We can`t -- the needs are so large we cannot individually meet these needs
so what we the people do is we find a way to organize to respond to need.
Then what people miss is that churches utilize leverage government funds
often to make a difference. So, it`s a partnership between the government
and private charity to really make an impact.
And it`s that government private partnership that we the people is all
BALL: Well, Tim, I think we also often forget, excuse me. We think of the
government as like this other thing over here. When the government is just
-- it`s us, right? That`s the way it works in this country. It`s the
things that we choose to do together.
And I think if you ask Americans, they understand the realities of this
economy. They understand that folks like Vera, they`re not like hanging
out on the -- they`re doing their best to find a job. It`s just not there
TIMOTHY NOAH, MSNBC.COM: That`s absolutely true. I mean, yes, hey, when
you hate the government, you hate yourself because you are the government.
NOAH: And the economy right now is in a very peculiar state. We are
seeing record corporate profits at the same time we are seeing paltry GDP
growth. It`s very odd and you know as a result, we`re not seeing much in
the way of a reduction in unemployment.
And it`s baffling economists as to what the actual cause is. But companies
do not want to hire, even these wildly profitable ones.
One of the more shocking statistics I heard recently was that I think it
was about a third of all bank tellers in this country are on food stamp.
NOAH: So even if you can get a job in the most successful sector in the
entire economy, you might still end up on, quote/unquote, "welfare".
BALL: Right. Yes. And we seem to have no thought of the way we`re
subsidizing corporations who don`t provide a living wage. Back to this
question specifically, Kristen, of the politics of it and the idea that we
need to extend for the unemployment benefits. Democrats have said they`re
committed to it. They put forward a couple ideas of how they could attach
it to the farm bill potentially.
On the Republican side, how do you impose a number of senators if the idea
of extending unemployment insurance benefits had even come up at all? And
one of them, Senator Bob Corker, said in terms of whether there had been a
discussion. He said none. There has been no discussion. It has never
So how would you characterize Republican opposition to extension of
unemployment benefits? Is it like they`re totally philosophically opposed?
Is it something that they`re sort of indifferent about? Or is there may be
some interest on that side of the aisle in moving forward in.
KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, THE WINSTON GROUP: So I think there are two
pieces. First, it`s the fiscal side. How much does it cost us? It`s
always sort of a question when you`re talking about why do Republicans
oppose something? But the other piece to is, that the extension of
unemployment benefits up to 99 weeks, you know, this much longer thing. If
it was a temporary measure put in place because the recession was so bad,
because there was this temporary emergency need.
Now it`s been so long, I think the question is, it appears this isn`t
temporary. This is sort of a permanent problem in the way that our labor
markets are working in this country.
ANDERSON: So, by continuing to send the band-aid and send checks, are we
doing what we need to help folks get jobs? And that is there something
that we could be doing? For instance, there are economists at AEI, a
center-right think tank, who have advocated instead of sending folks
checks, you can offer to subsidize the wages of folks who have been long
term unemployed who take a job. You could actually do direct government
hiring. They actually note -- they say this is kind of odd for somebody
from the right to be suggesting.
But instead of mailing folks checks and saying we wish you the best of luck
in getting a job, what if the government was actually helping to find those
people positions so that they have something more recent the put on their
resume to help them be more attracted to an employer.
BALL: Well, I think those are some great ideas. I want to push forward
and talk about some other ideas in terms of what could help folks find
jobs. I mean, I would argue that since Congress isn`t doing anything, the
least we could do that we owe these folks is to give them the little life
line they have right now, until we could get some policies in place to
actually make the economy better.
We will talk more about that right after this.
BALL: We are here talking about long term unemployment and what we could
potentially do outside of just extending unemployment benefits to help
folks who`ve been looking for work and have been unable to find this in
Vera, I wanted to turn to you and your experience. You mentioned that your
job may have gone away because of the sequester`s impact. You know, for
you, what could congress potentially do that might help you in locating
BALL: I mean, ending sequester cuts seemed like it would be a good start.
VOLK: That will definitely because that cut my federal unemployment
compensation by $150. That`s well below what I was earning from the state
of Massachusetts. They to create jobs, invest more money into the
technology sectors, the higher end sectors, where people can have a good
I`m taking on seasonal work. I`m taking on part time work. My husband has
been looking for the same amount of time make it easier for us to get on
food stamps and heating assistance and to find the housing assistance that
we need. I got paperwork upon paperwork to fill out every day just to get
these basic essentials and I am up against the clock as I borrow your
VOLK: -- on trying to get this paper and gathering my stuff. I`m
sleepless at night. Finding us -- giving us the medical assistance we
need. There is so much that they can do.
VOLK: It`s interesting they would supply jobs. It`s got to be not at all
levels of the economy from the lower basic construction type of thing, fast
food workers, retail, all the way up to --
BALL: Everything, all the way up.
VOLK: All the way up, because if it`s hurting me, I can just imagine how
it` hurting someone in a lower income bracket than I am.
BALL: Well, and, Tim, those sorts of programs like direct government hire
programs are disparagingly called make work programs, right? Just
disparagingly on the right in particular.
Is that what`s called for in this crisis at this point though? I mean, you
have people out of work for this time. They`re trying to find jobs, their
skills are atrophying, employers aren`t hiring them, and they`re in sort of
spiral because they`re unemployed, employers are less likely to hire em.
Is that what`s called for in this situation?
NOAH: Well, it`s not the only solution, but it sure would be a helpful
one. I mean, if Republicans are ready to bring back the WPAs, sign me up.
BALL: Only Kirsten, for all Republicans, and we can solve these problems.
NOAH: Seriously -- yes, I am promoting a federal jobs program, a federal
jobs program for a number of years now and it`s way outside the discussion
right now. I`d love to see it get into the discussion.
BALL: Go ahead, Sister.
CAMPBELL: Well, this is a part of our whole conversation we need to have
as a society, because the benefits have gone to those in top 1 percent, the
top 0.1 percent in the recession recovery. What has happened is we have
come to this agreement as a society kind of tacitly that we want to pay the
lowest possible price, pay the lowest possible wages and push people down.
And that is wrong for the long-term benefit of our economy. We need to
redo that agreement where it will work as you are saying, Vera. Work needs
to allow families to sustain themselves. The fact that McDonald`s workers,
fast food workers use $6 billion of safety net programs in 2012, I mean,
that`s the wrong equation.
I mean, Republicans must be up in arms about. So, couldn`t we pay 50 cents
BALL: I haven`t heard Republicans up in arms about that.
CAMPBELL: I would think they ought to be because our families, working
families need to eat. People leak Vera with a lot of talent. Our country
is losing that folks can`t contribute their talent to the economy.
BALL: Such a great point.
CAMPBELL: So, we redo this conversation.
BALL: Vera is not working, using her skills.
ANDERSON: The challenge that when you talk about, you know, these folks
who are working at McDonald`s and they are making minimum wage. You know,
the first problem is if you do say a federal minimum wage increase up to
something like $15, at what point does McDonald`s say we could have
computers or people walk in to our restaurant and go, I think I`d like my
number one where a pepper --
BALL: We`re going to talk more about minimum wage tomorrow. We got a lot
planned on that, because it`s an issue on particular that we are passionate
about. But in terms of if you look at evidence, you know, we have a sort
of natural experiment in this country. A lot of different states paying a
lot of different minimum wages, and there has been very little evidence
that it has much if any impact on employment.
Now, of course, if you take it to an absurd place, it would have an impact.
But it`s at the levels that are realistic and that we are talking about, I
don`t think that it would.
But, you know, Kristen, you were bringing up some potentially Republican
ideas on helping the jobless, and if I can put on the screen, you were
referencing the American Enterprise Institute has been writing about this.
They put forward some ideas. Some seem more right leaning, some left
And I was wondering if you talk about if you think things like expanding
work sharing unemployment insurance programs. I think this idea of
relocation subsidies for the long-term unemployed, they can go to hotter
jobs markets is a good one -- lump sum unemployment insurance payment,
bonus payments to those who do find jobs. Is there any possibility for
support for programs leak these in Congress?
ANDERSON: I think there could be. I think right now, Republicans are
trying to figure out what is our agenda, right? They have been branded as
the party opposed to everything. You`ve got a lot of voices within the
party who are now saying, OK, we have been against things. Now, we got to
for things. We`ve got to present what our solution is.
So if we think paying more money that`s a band aid for a problem, is not
the solution, what do we think is the solution? So, I`m encouraged to hear
these ideas. Some of them I think would probably be non-starters, with
Republicans in Congress and not for no reason.
But take for instance relocation subsidies. I was talking this is Tim`s
area of expertise. So, I`ll let him run with this one. But, you know,
there are certain like -- you`ve got Texas, where you had the Texas
economic miracle and jobs and are growing there. I know, if somebody is in
Detroit, a city that has gone bankrupt, that`s really hurt, could have that
cost for their family reduce to move to a place where they`re looking to
In places like North Dakota, where if you get a job at a Wal-Mart it`s $17
an hour, because the economy is booming there so much, and the sort of
balance of power is in the employees` favor. If you can help get rid --
BALL: Let me -- sorry. Let me make sure I understand. They`re paying $17
and they haven`t going to robots yet?
ANDERSON: Because they don`t have to. Because the job market there,
because there is so much money being made in North Dakota because of the
energy boom, that`s what it`s worth in the short term to make it work.
CAMPBELL: Additionally, I think a Republican model might be also to with
the big tax breaks corporations get to incentivize job creation. If we
actually shifted some of that profit to job creation, then I think we could
grow this economy and solve some of the problems that folks like Vera are
BALL: Go ahead.
NOAH: The basic problem, we have an economy, sometimes I think the prize
goes to the guy who makes the greatest amount of money while sharing it
with a few number of people. I mean, creating the fewest number of jobs.
And that`s got to change.
Speaking of this, you know, relocation idea, I do think this is an
underappreciated fact that Americans are migrating to jobs considerably
less than they used to. This has been going on for decades now.
NOAH: People don`t move to opportunity. To the extent they move --
BALL: They are tied partly to their house, and they are unable to move.
But I wanted to -- quickly, we need to go to break.
But, Vera, I quickly wanted to get your take. Are you hopeful?
VOLK: I am hopeful, because as I guess it`s from my parental bringing up
and my religious and my own personal beliefs that there is something out
there for me to do.
VOLK: What that is, I`m not sure anymore. I thought it was to help cure
cancer when I was 10 years old.
BALL: Well, it may still be.
VOLK: Still may be.
BALL: Well, I want to thank Sister Simone Campbell for joining us.
MSNBC.com`s Tim Noah.
And, Vera Volk, thank you for sharing your story. We`re all be thinking
about you and hoping that you find that dream job to be able to cure cancer
for all of us. Thank you.
VOLK: Thank you.
BALL: Now the cliche tells us all that you learn something new every day.
And this week for me, those lessons came from -- wait for it -- Senator
Rand Paul. I will explain tongue firmly in cheek on the other side of this
BALL: We were just talking about the plight of the long term unemployed,
about folks who`ve been out of work for much longer than anyone expected
and who are still struggling to get a job. It seems logical to me given
that we`re still recovering from a massive recession, and there aren`t
enough jobs to go around an estimated three people for every one available
job right now. Because of that, it seems we should provide these folks
down on their luck with a life line, to give them unemployment benefits.
It just seems to me like the moral thing to do.
So, when Rand Paul said in this week -- well, it just really stayed with
me. Maybe my logic on unemployment benefits has been all wrong?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I do support unemployment benefits for the
26 weeks that they`re paid for. If you extend it beyond that, you do a
disservice to these workers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALL: Wow, a disservice to the workers? Rand Paul is saying, I`m actually
hurting the very people I want to help and he`s a doctor, too, so he ought
So, that got me thinking -- what other hardships are we burdening people
with by trying to alleviate their hardships? Well, food stamps seem to be
an obvious candidate. Bad if you have we give them to adults. But just
think of the children. I mean, think about it. Food stamps could to be
doing a disservice to today`s service whose foraging skills I would
characterize as uninspired at best.
Without economic incentives to dig deep into the grittier dumpsters, they
are never going to learn how to dig down for the good stuff.
Plus, nothing hones math skills sense like counting the days since your
"The New York Post" editorial board gets it. They can always be counted on
to guard against unfettered compassion. This week, in response to "New
York Times`" expose on homeless families, they pointed out that public
shelters do a disservice to the homeless.
Sure, the large family with young children that was so movingly profiled
lives in a shelter with rodents, namely mice and sexual assaults and other
crimes. According to "The Post", if the city is at fault here, it might
well be for having been too generous. I mean, it makes sense, think of all
the help send relevant la got from that animal kingdom. Maybe that`s the
wrong approach. Maybe we should be using the rodents to drive them out of
assisted housing. Perhaps the rodents, they are simply not big enough?
Now, you pop one of those puppies into their 500-square foot, 10-person
palace, then we`ll see how fast they find a job.
Speaking of finding a job, the way we coddle seniors these days with their
Social Security checks month after month after month, that is definitely
doing them a disservice. They will never learn the value of a hard day`s
work or wait -- or maybe how to stop using those walkers? Hmm.
It`s a tough one, actually. You know, I think we can still get them off
the dole. Just stick them in with a rat. You will see how fast grandma
stand up and finds a job again.
Oh, Lord, do not get me started on the EPA. They are clearly doing a
disservice to the environment. If we just stay the course on the carbon
emissions we are spewing into the environment, we can take the ozone layer
right on the equation entirely.
Let the free market decide the correct ratio of ocean to land. We can
teach everybody to swim. It will be just like the latest hungry games
movie. Besides, China`s polluted as hell, and they`re kicking our ass.
Rand`s philosophy also seems to apply beautifully to emergency services.
They do nothing but create diplomacy on big government, folks. 911, my
house is burning. Help me, big government. Please?
By providing you with government sponsored emergency services, we create an
entire nation of whiners waiting to throw up their hand at the first raging
fire they see. What about self-reliance? What about exercise? We are
doing folks a big disservice here with this whole fire department.
Rouse the neighborhood and form a bucket brigade. Show some community
spirit. Also show a little patience and wait and see how this raging house
The more I think about it -- there is simply no end to the disservices our
government has been doing to us, even before the twin villains of the nanny
state Social Security and Medicare. To what am I referring, you may ask?
Well, I will tell you.
I think we all know that when Barack Obama crashes the economy in virtuous
state of nature, we won`t have the slightest clue how to live off the grid,
will we? You won`t be bragging about your fancy rural electrification
then, will you?
You know, come to think of it, Rand Paul`s philosophy, it`s so simple. So
elegant, so all inclusive that it even applies to Rand Paul, himself.
After all, he and his delightful nuggets of wisdom do a disservice to all
of us. Why don`t we just try to do without those two?
All right. We`ll be right back.
BALL: The legendary game show host Bob Barker turned 90 this week. Happy
birthday, Bob. And, of course, just as you would expect, his old
colleagues on "The Price is Right" celebrated the occasion with this very,
very impressive cake. In the middle of the TV party during one of the
commercial breaks, there was even more Bob Barker.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB BARKER, GAME SHOW HOST: Folks, when you get to be as young as I am,
you call it like you see it. That`s why I`m supporting David Jolly for
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALL: Now, Bob Barker usually just offers as a reminder to get your pets
spayed or neutered. He was asking voters to come on down and support
Republican David Jolly in Florida`s upcoming special election.
Politics and game shows have a habit of colliding like that on this show
every week, on our current events quiz show, up against the clock. So in
honor of Bob, why don`t you come on down right after this break to see who
has what it takes to when the coveted golden cup.
ANNOUNCER: Live from studio 3A in Rockefeller Center, USA, it`s time for
"Up Against the Clock".
Original from the greatest city in human history, St. Louis, Missouri, ask
him what high school he went to, it`s Jeff Smith.
From sunny Orlando, Florida, visited by more than 55 million people a year,
say hello to our own visitor Kristen Soltis Anderson.
And our returning champion from Seattle, Washington, and Roosevelt High
School, total of winnings of $11 in cash and re-gifted fruit cake, please
welcome MSNBC`s Ari Melber.
And now, the guest host of "Up Against the Clock," who just happens to be
one of our higher scoring champions ever, its Krystal Ball.
BALL: Thank you, Bill Wolff. Thank you studio audience. Thank you at
home for tuning.
You might have noticed, I am not Steve Kornacki. But he has graciously let
me take the reigns today, jacket and microphone included.
I want to welcome our three contestants. I am glad to have almost all of
Thanks to see you as well.
It doesn`t mean the rules have changed just because I`m here today. There
are still three round of play, wrong answers will cost you. Plus, there
are a few instant bonus scattered in each round.
And most importantly, studio audience, I beg you, please, no outbursts.
These contestants deserve and demand absolute concentration when they are
up against the clock.
So, with that, I will ask you, contestants, are ready to play?
ARI MELBER, MSNBC`S "THE CYCLE": Yes, I`m ready.
BALL: Excellent. I feel the enthusiasm.
MELBER: I brought a pastry.
BALL: Pastry, you are excited.
All right. Hand on your buzzers, please, we will put 100 second on the
clock. And we will begin with this, newly declassified documents from the
CIA this week revealed that former director Leon Panetta inadvertently
revealed information for filmmakers for this 2012 film about the Osama bin
Ari Melber of 100 points.
MELBER: "Zero Dark Thirty."
BALL: That is right.
All right. Next up for 100 points, this pastor-turned-governor-turned-
television host --
JEFF SMITH, CONTESTANT: Mike Huckabee.
BALL: Jeff Smith got it there. Mike Huckabee for 100 points.
Next up, new Obama administration hire John Podesta with President
Clinton`s last White House chief of staff. For 100 points, name any other
Clinton White House chief of staff.
MELBER: Erskine Bowles.
BALL: That is right.
Ari Melber, 200, Jeff Smith, 100, Kristen is going to get on the board, I
Stepping down as the CEO of Wall Street`s largest lobbying firm Thursday,
this former New Hampshire senator immediately tamped down speculation that
it is because he would run for Senate again.
SMITH: John Sununu?
BALL: That is incorrect. A hundred points off the board for Jeff.
Anyone else? Five, four, three, two -- the answer is --
SMITH: Can I protest this, Krystal? You said this former New Hampshire
senator. He was a former Massachusetts senator.
SMITH: Scott Brown.
BALL: Judd Gregg.
MELBER: I thought it was Judd Gregg.
SMITH: Oh, my good, I should get another 100 points taken away.
MELBER: Don`t fact check if you don`t know the facts.
BALL: And part of delegation to Nelson Mandela`s memorial services,
senator with Cuban ties walked out in the middle --
SMITH: Ted Cruz.
BALL: Was it?
ANDERSON: I don`t know who got it first.
BALL: It was Jeff.
SMITH: Ted Cruz.
BALL: That is right.
And last on the 100 point round, speaking to actress Shirley MacLaine at
the Kennedy Center honors this week, President Obama became the first
president to acknowledge this Nevada installation famous for its
extraterrestrial -- Kristen.
ANDERSON: Area 51.
BALL: That is correct for 100 points.
All right. And round two, the stakes go up to 200 points.
Katherine Clark won a special election Tuesday to fill a seat in Congress
held by this 30-plus year House veteran -- Jeff.
SMITH: Ed Markey?
BALL: That is correct, 200 points.
One of the wealthiest members of Congress, this Florida Democrat revealed
this week that he lost --
MELBER: Alan Grayson.
BALL: That is correct. Ari Melber, Alan Grayson.
ANDERSON: He`s my member at home (ph).
BALL: The Senate voted 57-41 on Tuesday to confirm this North Carolina
congressman -- Jeff.
SMITH: Mel Watt.
BALL: That is correct for 200 points.
And this is the instant bonus question. Senate Democrats cleared the way
for Mel Watt`s confirmation by changing the rules about what Senate
procedure that had been blocking.
This is not. You don`t get the answer -- just for Jeff -- that had been
blocking his nomination.
SMITH: The filibuster.
BALL: That is correct. That is the instant bonus.
All right. An actress who appeared in minor roles on several recent TV
shows pled guilty in Texas this week for sending President Obama letters
laced with what?
Three, two, one -- ricin was the correct answer.
ANDERSON: Oh, I should know that from "Breaking Bad".
BALL: Data released by the Department of Health and Human Services on
Wednesday shows that this New England state leads the nation in sign ups
for insurance -- Kristen.
BALL: That is correct. Vermont for 200 points.
Retired Major General Michael Lehnert wrote in an op-ed for "The Detroit
Free Press" Thursday that this controversial facility that was under his
command never should have been opened -- Kristen.
ANDERSON: Guantanamo Bay.
BALL: That is correct for 200 points. Kristen, making a strong comeback.
Starting a media frenzy, President Obama was photographed on Tuesday,
appearing in a, quote, "selfie with British Prime Minister David Cameron
and Helle Thorning-Schmidt, prime minister of what European country,
BALL: That is correct, for 200 points.
MELBER: She`s on a roll.
BALL: All right. And we are at Jeff with 700, Kristen with 700, and Ari
All right. Round 3, 300 points, anyone`s game this week, this South
American nation became the first country in the world to legalize marijuana
trade -- Ari.
MELBER: It was Uruguay.
BALL: This is correct. For 300 points, Uruguay.
All right. This Republican congressman from Wisconsin told a local GOP
event that the United States should not have lowered flags for Nelson
Three, two, one -- the answer is Jim Sensenbrenner. Way to go, buddy.
All right. For 300 points, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit Wednesday
that had been seeking to overturn the 2010 House censure of this New York
congressman for financial -- Jeff.
SMITH: Charlie Rangel.
BALL: That is correct. Congressman Charlie Rangel.
Formerly the daughter of President Josiah Bartlett on the show "The West
Wing," this actress was nominated for a Golden Globe -- Kristen.
ANDERSON: Elizabeth Moss.
BALL: That is correct, Elizabeth Moss for 300 points.
BERMAN: Oh, we`re doing Golden Globes now?
BALL: It`s all tied up between Jeff and Kristen.
All right. This red state Democratic senator up for re-election released a
TV ad this week hitting back at Obamacare and vowing to fight the Obama
administration to let people keep their old -- Jeff.
SMITH: Mary Landrieu.
BALL: That is correct. Mary Landrieu for 300 points.
Former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie said he is
considering challenging which Democratic Senate -- Jeff.
SMITH: Mark Warner.
BALL: That is correct, Mark Warner. Uh-oh, Jeff Smith.
Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, already the longest serving governor in the
state`s history announced his bid for reelection in Portland this week. If
successful, how many terms, will he -- Jeff.
BALL: That is correct. Four.
All right. It was announced this week that former Alaska Governor Sarah
Palin will host a new show in 2014 on this obscure channel featuring
outdoor lifestyle programming. Anyone?
I`m going to be kind of proud of you.
ANDERSON: I will lose points if I get it wrong.
SMITH: I think I have it on the hand here somewhere.
BALL: All right.
ANDERSON: The Sportsman Channel.
BALL: The Sportsman Channel, correct. We`ll give it to you.
Anyway, that`s what I say.
All right. Let`s see the final tally. That means that Jeff with 1,900
MELBER: Pretty strong.
BALL: You are the "Up Against the Clock" champion and you are our new all
time high scoring champion, way to go.
Kristen, you are also up there.
All right. Bill Wolff, tell him what he`s won.
ANNOUNCER: As our champion, you will have your name printed in exquisite
Sharpee on the coveted "Up Against the Clock" gold cup. And you get to
take it home and show it off to friends, family and school children for
exactly one week.
You`ll also receive an appearance this coming week on MSNBC`s "THE CYCLE",
airing weekdays 3:00 to 4:00 Eastern Time.
You`ll also get to play in our bonus round for today`s grand prize of $50
gift certificate to Rutt`s Hut in Clifton, New Jersey, serving up the best
franks in the greater Meadowland`s area, by the River Road (INAUDIBLE) is
Back to you, Steve.
BALL: Congratulations, Jeff. You look good with that UP cup.
All right. We have some unfinished business here. I have in my hand the
instant bonus question for that jackpot to the famous Rutt`s Hut. One
question, do or die, here it is. This Texas congressman known for his
colorful Twitter feed announced this week he will challenge Senator John
Cornyn for his Senate seat. You don`t have to buzz it.
SMITH: Steve Stockman.
BALL: That is correct. You don`t have to buzz. Steve Stockman.
And with that, you win this giant check to Rutt`s Hut.
BALL: Congratulations, Jeff.
SMITH: Thank you.
BALL: I knew you could do it. I believed in you from the start.
And you`ll all get the home edition, fun for the whole family, one way you
can bring all the excitement of "Up Against the Clock" into your very own
Thanks to everyone at home for playing along. Steve will be back next week
for another battle of the ages on "Up Against the Clock."
And after the break, we`ll get back to the real show. What do we know now
that we did not know last week? Our answers are after this.
BALL: Before we turn to what our guests know now that they did not know
when the week began, I do want to take a moment to show the president and
first lady marked the first anniversary of the shootings at Sandy Hook
Elementary School. Just minutes ago they lit candles, 26 of them, one for
each of the victims in silence. Beautiful scene in the map room of the
White House there.
So I guess that is what I know this morning that I did not know previously.
So let`s turn to our guests.
Kristen, what do you know now?
ANDERSON: What I know now is that China is now reporting that they have
landed a probe on the moon. There`s sort of this interesting space race
that China has been waging, you know, it sounds almost cold war-esque, and
just this morning their state media is reporting they have successfully
landed something on the moon.
BALL: Hmm. Very interesting.
Jeff, how about you?
SMITH: What I know now is advances in medical technology have made
possible the human spinal transplants which you could see this week if you
watch John Boehner getting a spine and actually finally stand up to the
extreme elements of his party in working with Paul Ryan to get 169
Republicans in his caucus to support this budget compromise.
BALL: Yes. And I also know that not to go head to head with you in a
trivia game. Impressive -- very impressive performance. What do you know
MELBER: I think I know a similar fact, which is that you can defy these
pressure groups Heritage Action and the rest of them and sun still rises
the next day and Republicans can still run their caucus the next day. And
we`ve sort of lived in that shadow and John Boehner`s been worried about
it. It turns out you can just do it and get up the next morning.
BALL: And life goes on.
BALL: The other thing we know about that is that it helps when you have
someone like a Paul Ryan who has conservative cred to back you up.
BALL: I think that was a key part of John Boehner finding his spine
implant this week.
All right. My thanks to all of our guests today, Kristen Soltis Anderson
and Jeff Smith. And my co-host on some other program you might have heard
about, Ari Melber. It`s called "THE CYCLE." It`s on 3:00 p.m. Eastern.
All right. Thank you all for coming in on a weekend and playing along.
And thank you for joining us today for UP. Join us tomorrow where we`ll
look at women in the workforce because America`s auto company has put a
woman in charge doesn`t mean the discussion of inequality should be closed.
Christie Hefner and Rachel Sklar are two of our guests. You don`t want to
And coming up next is "MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY". And on today`s "MHP": budget
deals in Congress, angst over Santa`s race, and breaking Beyonce news. The
most wonderful time of year to spend some time in Nerdland. Don`t go away.
Melissa is next.
And we will see you right here tomorrow at 8:00. Thanks for getting UP.
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