December 22, 2013
GuestS: Michael Saltsman, Richard Kim, Marcus Mabry, Heather McGhee, Aisha Moodie-Mills, Danielle Moodie-Mills, Dave Zirin, Michael Anderson, Seth Ferguson
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Yes, politically speaking, it is about to be on and
popping. So, what effective weapon can a Democrat use to run against a
Republican in this day and age? Well, this has to be something that will
gain traction, sip into the vernacular and most importantly, stick. I will
give you a hint. It`s an issue Republicans have slept on. The President
Obama dropped this crumb at the beginning of the year - at the beginning of
his State of the Union address.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Tonight, let`s
declare that in the wealthiest nation on earth, no one who works full time
should have to live in poverty and raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: That was no - President Obama didn`t mention raising the minimum
wage just for fun. He was laying the groundwork for political agenda that
could carry straight into the next national election more than a year and a
half away. And the coalition heard him loud and clear. With several
states passing their own minimum wage hikes this year. 19 states and
Washington, D.C. as of January 1 will have a minimum wage floor that is
higher than the federal level of $7.25. Well, let`s be fair, President
Obama may have made the minimum wage sexy again, but he was not the first.
Rachel Maddow was dropping minimum wage knowledge back in 2010.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: If you want a secret decoder ring for Democratic
electoral success, the minimum wage is what your ring decodes to. The
minimum wage issue is Democratic electoral magic. Whenever minimum wage is
on the ballot, it blows up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: OK. Fast forward to 2012 and 2013. The issue of raising the
minimum wage has won even greater support. Which illustrates, it can be an
issue that Democrats can not only run on, that they can win on. In 2012,
there were two Senate races where minimum wage was used successfully by
Democrats. While Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill ran on many issues and
faced an interesting challenger in Todd Legitimate Rape Akin, she
(inaudible) on minimum wage. Pointing out that her opponent wanted to
abolish it altogether. Minimum wage as a political tool had worked for her
before. In 2006 she used it to defeat Republican incumbent Jim Talent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLAIRE MCCASKILL: You are going to have to cast a vote in two weeks on
whether or not we raise the minimum wage in Missouri. Will you vote yes or
will you vote no?
JIM TALENT: I have not taken a position on the minimum wage ballot issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Yeah, Talent didn`t take a position on minimum wage, but Claire
McCaskill did, when she supported the Missouri State minimum wage ballot
initiative called Proposition B. It raised the state minimum wage to $6.56
an hour and won 76 percent of the statewide vote. The initiative, in fact,
turned out to be much more popular than Claire McCaskill herself. She eked
out to win by just two points. Now, in 2012, Democratic incumbent Senator
Jon Tester faced a tough re-election, too. But he used the minimum wage
weapon early and effectively. Actually, his opponent Denny Rehberg helped
him out when he couldn`t even answer this question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you guys willing to pay minimum wage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you guys willing to pay minimum wage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t know. What is it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t know.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REID: OK, maybe Congressman Rehberg just didn`t want to answer the
question. But when Democrats released that video it made Rehberg look
completely out of touch, and it worked to Tester`s advantage.
But don`t take my word for that, for that the minimum wage is an effective
tool in a political arsenal Democrats can have, it has Republicans running
scared. Take a listen to what my colleague, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough had
to say about it on Friday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Can I just say ideologically, I was opposed to the
increase of minimum wage. It`s one of those things where I just prayed
every night please God let`s not have this debate for two or three months.
That would be a great debate for the White House to have.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REID: See, what Joe knows is that when a minimum wage increase is on the
ballot it passes big time with an overwhelming majority. And it drives
voters to the polls. Voters who happen to be more likely to vote
Democratic. So, if you are a Republican, how do you effectively run
against the minimum wage without seeming like you are either against people
obtaining the American dream or just plain surviving? And if you are a
Democrat who needs a can`t lose popular idea to run on, what are you
At the table, our Michael Saltsman, research director for the Employment
Policies Institute who formerly worked as the field economist in the Bureau
of Labor Statistic. Heather McGhee, vice president of policy and outreach
at Demos, Marcus Mabry, editor of "The New York Times" Lede blog, and
Richard Kim, executive editor of TheNation.com. Thanks all of you for
being here. This is an issue that I actually am a little bit obsessed with
because it does seem to be one of those issues that is kind of obvious,
right? Americans all want to make more money. Everybody likes the idea of
having a little bit more money in their pocket. And it also does really
well in elections. So, I`ll throw that out to you first, Richard. Are
Democrats doing an effective job of messaging on this to nationalize it for
RICHARD KIM, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THENATION.COM: You know, I think they are.
I think there are a couple of things that President Obama can do right now
that would help that. Besides give the great speech that he did on
inequality. He could pass an executive order, he could just sign an
executive order that would require federal contractors to meet the $9 or
ten, or whatever, that goal is, wage hike. And I think then he needs to go
out and campaign with all the people in all these states that have
successfully run these minimum wage messages and support them. In Seattle
there is a great coalition coming together to try to figure out how to get
to $15 eventually. And I think he should lend his podium to those people.
REID: Well, I mean and just let`s go through and talk about the state
level markets. You know, because we have at several states that have
actually done this. That have actually passed for minimum wage. And it`s
hard to argue that these states like Oregon and California where it is
actually going to go up to $9 an hour. They have a wage hike that is going
to take place next year. Vermont, which is at $8.73, Connecticut, New
Jersey, you start to read down the list of states and you notice they have
something in common. These are blue or purple states. Whereas you still
have the red states really resistant to this idea and then you also look at
this state`s sort of standards of living and you also notice that these
states with higher minimum wage also are places that are more desirable
places to live. They have sort of better housing, better services, et
MARCUS MABRY, NY TIMES LEDE BLOG EDITOR: No question about it. Now, this
is an issue - and your question gets at it. This is an issue that
Republicans will argue lots of states already have this minimum wage. So a
federal minimum wage hike will not make a difference. And the Republicans
would also argue that it`s - these liberal states have done this, and, you
know, Texas, there`s been a lot of fight about Texas` economics, situation
versus Californians. Texas will say we`re at better situation than
California, and we haven`t done this. So, the Republicans use it as a kind
of (inaudible). But really, the point is, the Republicans don`t want - as
Joe Scarborough said, the Republicans don`t want to have this discussion.
They don`t want next year to be about minimum wage. That is not a battle
they win in anyway. Because if you look over the last generation or two in
America, we have seen the middle class get pummeled. We`ve seen - you
know, economic statistics tell us that. It`s been eviscerated.
MABRY: This is not a battle any Republicans say - oh yeah, we make a lot
of money - middle class makes plenty of money in this country. They don`t
need any more money. No, they can`t say that. However, if the Republicans
make next year not about minimum wage, but about health care reform .
MABRY: And about you as a working class person having to pay more now for
your policy, but the president having said that you`ll actually can keep
your policy and you couldn`t keep your policy, it turns out. And president
want to penalize you now, and tax you for - his new policy. If they can
make it about that they win. If it` about minimum wage, they lose. And
so, it`s that simple. The two parties have been working very hard next
year to set the ground level. And the Republicans were trying to get not
at all minimum wage
REID: But they want to - This is just a great chart that just physically
illustrates the sort of cost of living impact of not having raised the
minimum wage. If you look at the minimum wage from 1938 to 2012, and where
it would be, if we had let - keep up with inflation, right? It would
probably have to be around $10 an hour right now. But it is still at
$7.25. So, essentially, your dollar is buying less now, and people are
making less money. So, Michael, what is the possible argument against at
least allowing the minimum wage to keep up with inflation or keep up with
the cost of living?
MICHAEL SALTSMAN, EMPLOYMENT POLICIES INSTITUTE: Well, you need to start
with that graph, right, and so you can look at the 1960 minimum wage and
say it would be $10 an hour today, but you can look at the 1948 minimum
wage and it would be $3.80 today. You could look at the 1980 at minimum
wage, it`d be $6.50 today. I think the broader point has been, very few
people are stuck at the minimum wage. Data suggests that about two thirds
are getting a raise in one to 12 months in a job. But in order to get that
raise they need the job experience in the first place. I think right now
we`re surrounded by the consequences of the kind of political strategies
we`re talking about. Where if you are a young person today, you`re
grappling with 20 plus percent unemployment and high minimum wage in states
like Washington, you`re looking at close to 30 percent teen unemployment.
These are the unintended consequences of political strategies like this.
And it shows us, if really not about the workers, if this was about the
workers, we would be having a conversation about expanding the earned
income tax credit. This is about putting more Democrats into office and
unfortunately, I wish people would just take responsibility for their
actions and responsibility for the kind of employment consequences we`ve
seen for the least skilled workers.
HEATHER MCGHEE, V.P. POLICY AND OUTREACH, DEMOS: Well, that suggests -
Michael`s point suggests that the majority of minimum wage workers are
teenagers. In fact, that is not true. They are - the majority of minimum
wage workers are in their prime child bearing years. And increasingly so.
Right now the majority of low wage workers are now people who are
increasingly well educated, who have just suffered from the fact that we
have lost those middle wage jobs. And this is why there is so much heat on
this issue and people who actually have been struggling in fast food jobs
for a long time are actually stepping out. Yes, they are being organized,
like anybody you need to actually have someone say another way is possible.
But it feels like this is more than just a temporary job. This is a new
vision of America and new vision of our economy. And people are not
REID: And just to illustrate that point that Heather made, because this is
- there is that image that well, minimum wage workers are just teenagers
who work at McDonald`s. Well, first of all, McDonald`s workers are now
increasingly parents raising children and trying to pay an entire mortgage,
and trying to live on that money. Only 30.9 percent of people who earn the
minimum wage are between 16 and 19, or are teenagers. But if you add up
those who are 20 to 24 and 25 to 34, there are more in that cohort than
there are teenagers. 24.1 percent are between 20 and 24. 15.5 percent are
25 to 34. So increasingly, we are talking about people who are not
teenagers but who are actually trying to live on the minimum wage, and it
doesn`t even keep up with the general cost of .
KIM: So, where the job growth was and the recession also, was precisely in
this low wage service sector jobs, which means there are so many more
people entering the economy in these jobs and that`s why raising the
minimum wage for fast food workers, for example, is absolutely the right
thing to do.
SALTSMAN: But then let`s talk about what this new economy looks like,
right? So, in $15 minimum wage that fast food workers are calling for.
You go to a country like France where the minimum wage is higher and you go
to McDonald`s and you place your order in a touchscreen instead of with a
person. We already have experience going to grocery stores and bagging our
own groceries. Even restaurant chains like Chilly`s (ph) have tabletop
REID: OK, we`re going to have - you know, hold on a second. Hold on a
REID: I want to really hear what Heather had to say - have her answer to
that. Because that is, I think, the central argument that`s made by people
who oppose higher wages, that oh, if you do that then everyone will be laid
off. I want to try to get everyone`s answer to that, but we are going to
do it when we come back.
REID: OK, I want to zero in on what Michael said, and which is really the
fundamental argument against raising the minimum wage. And namely it is,
that if you raise the minimum wage too high, it is a disincentive to hiring
and actually is an incentive to let people go, to automate workplaces. So,
Heather, you had a response to that.
MCGHEE: Yeah, I mean that has been for a long time what the economics
textbooks have said. But we have actually seen in places where they have
raised the minimum wage, no adverse employment effects. And the idea
behind that is, while these employers can`t afford it. If they could
afford it, they would have done it already. But a couple of things. One,
we know that if you just look at similar types of businesses. You know
sort of the Walmart or the Costco. Obviously, Costco pays a lot more, but
it also has more productive workers, more sales per employee. Because
you`ve got less turnover, more investment in the work. And then we`ve also
done some studies at Demos looking at - OK, across the entire low wage
retail sector. What would this do to jobs if we raise the floor to 12.25
an hour? And we found that it would actually create jobs because of the
stimulate effect of having more low wage workers with more money in their
pocket. Just that.
SALTSMAN: The idea that this is going to create jobs, and there have been
a couple of studies out there. The way they get that, is you could plug a
$40 or $50 minimum wage into that same model.
MCGHEE: But that`s not.
SALTSMAN: No, no, it`s not. Because .
SALTSMAN: We were talking about $8 or $7.25. Now, we`re talking about 15.
And it continues to creep up. We`ve talked about $22 with Senator
Elizabeth Warren. If you look at the research on this over the last 20
years. With the couple exceptions, and some studies like the (inaudible)
that have been debunked, the vast majority of economic .
REID: That have been debunked by who? Well .
REID: Hold on a second. Hold on a second.
SALTSMAN: The vast majority of economic research shows that racing the
minimum wage does cause employment loss. And that somebody`s .
REID: I said that - probably here at this foundation studies, but I do
want to ask you the question, because when you just look at the empirical
evidence and look at states with higher minimum wage versus states with
lower wages. The poverty rate in the state like Mississippi or Alabama is
considerably higher than in a state like Illinois or New York. You look at
the state like Massachusetts that has a higher minimum wage. You have
higher standards of living, you have lower rates of poverty. I mean there
is a pretty straight line kind of direct connection between having higher
wages and lower rates of poverty.
MCGHEE: I think it`s really important to look at where this money is,
right? We are talking about this in a vacuum. The fact is, we did a
report at Demos looking at just Walmart. If they spend the money that they
spent buying back their own shares of stock in the market, right, which is
something that has been increasingly done by big corporations sitting on a
lot of cash, not wanting to invest in their workforce and wanting to pad
sort of executive pay and give dividends back to their shareholders, they
could have raised the wage of their lowest paid employees by nearly $6 an
hour. In just one year of what they are doing basically sort of
financializing instead of investing in the productivity of their own
SALTSMAN: 52 percent of minimum wage workers .
REID: OK, wait .
KIM: One of the towns that actually raised the minimum wage, SeaTac, this
small little town outside of Seattle. One of the lead campaigners against
raising that to $15 an hour, there was the owner of this hotel called the
Cedarbrook Lodge. And he said, I`m going to have to lay off workers. He
went to every single council meeting and complained and said this is what`s
going to have to happen. After they passed the law, and they counted the
ballots, he announced a $16 million expansion of his business. That he is
going to break new ground, higher new construction workers, higher new
hotel workers. So, you now, both anecdotally and in the studies that
Heather has looked at and cited, you don`t see job loss. What you see is
some wage compression at the top, you might see some organizational
efficiency, you might see some small price increases. That is what the
vast majority of economic studies have suggested happen when you raise the
REID: But Marcus, don`t you - go on.
MABRY: The political problem is, we are talking about record corporate
profits. And that is what you are getting at. But it`s this issue of -
companies are making more money than ever, but in fact, the middle class
has been so gutted, that workers are making at the bottom of the curve, are
making less money than ever. That is a microeconomic problem and a
political problem that we don`t solve if we don`t raise the minimum wage.
But the interesting issue is, it`s also a macroeconomic problem, because
it`s not just the U.S. problem anymore. It`s a global problem.
MABRY: So, whatever happens here or there, we, lots of American jobs have
already been displaced around the globe. There is - I think it is true.
There is .
REID: There is this race to the bottom.
MABRY: Exactly. And so, if you raise it too much it is true. You may see
some displacement. But we`ve seen so much displacement already, that I
think it really is not the way you cheer this a determining factor there.
And you`ve been talking about Europe, the last point is, Germany is a
country where the actually - workers and then companies actually work
together more than almost any economy, certainly much more than this
economy, where it is often adversarial. And in Germany, companies realize
to have educated workers is to their benefit. And so, Germany has done
much better than the U.S. has as far as the global race to the bottom. And
I think that is a lesson for the U.S., both workers and companies, to take
REID: OK. I have to ask this one really quick question. And then I also
want to go to President Obama on this, Michael. Because there is also this
- the empirical evidence, over the course of the 20th century, that having
workers who are also consumers, who have more income to spend into the
economy actually benefits business. So, I`m wondering what is the argument
that lower wages help business when these people are also customers.
SALTSMAN: Well, the only way you can get this idea that the minimum wage
would create a stimulus is if you ignore the other side of the equation,
right? And so, the way - that the economy is to put more money into
workers hands. Well, then that sort of works itself out. But what happens
is, you know, if you are talking about the kind of businesses that employ
minimum wage employees like a restaurant or a grocery store. These are
businesses that have narrow profit margins. And they are already spending
about a third of their income on labor costs. And so, when the costs go up
as they can`t raise their prices, and they have to find a way to provide
the same product for the lower cost. So either prices are going up, or
people have less money to spend. And that is actually what the literature
is showing. I mean even on this question of poverty, which you raised
earlier, which is an important one.
There were 28 states that raised the minimum wage between 2003 and 2007.
Economists from Cornell and American University found no associate of
reduction of poverty because these dynamic that you could get an hourly
increase in pay, but if your hours decline, or if you lose your job
entirely, you`re actually worse off than you were before.
REID: OK. I`m sure that people - everyone is jumping into answer that
question. But when we come back. One of our favorite parts of the minimum
wage debate: Mitt Romney and President Obama are actually on the same
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY: My view has been to allow minimum wage to rise with the CPI,
or with another index - adjust automatically .
OBAMA: So, here`s an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on
last year. Let`s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living so that it
finally becomes a wage you can live on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REID: OK. I know it can be a scary thing when President Obama and his
former challenger Mitt Romney actually agree on something. But this notion
of time the minimum wage to the cost of living, isn`t actually new and it
is something that many states are actually looking at very closely. OK, so
what would be the practical benefit of tying the minimum wage to inflation?
MCGHEE: Well, I mean if you think about it? It is pretty rough as
certainly a tip worker, right? Tip workers have been sitting at $2.13 for
20 years to have to wait for a Congress to raise your pay, right? A
Congress that is beholden to a donor class for whom, you know, the majority
of whom agree with Michael here, that actually it is OK for someone to work
full-time and still be in poverty. So, this is like structural problem.
SALTSMAN: That is not my position. The position would be that if we are
going to help someone at the - sort of at the bottom part of the career
ladder. Then we want to find the smartest way to do it. And that`s why
something like earned income tax credit, which we have expanded
considerably since the late 1970s.
REID: OK, let`s just .
SALTSMAN: It is a smarter way to do it. Which operates the tax code
(inaudible) a mandate on employers.
MCGHEE: You have to do both. We cannot as a country subsidize low wage
work. And that is why the EITC is, and that`s why a lot of Republicans and
conservatives like it.
REID: Let`s .
REID: Hold on. OK, let`s put a pin in it. Let`s put a pin in it. And
actually explain what we are talking about before we get off on
(inaudible). Because Nerdland people are super smart, but we are going to
go in just for me. The earned income tax credit, it`s a refundable tax
credit that Washington makes available to low income workers. Meaning that
if it`s larger than the amount they owe to the IRS, they get the difference
back in cash. So, it`s an expansion, it`s played a major role in welfare
reform. And a new mark illustrates - we have a graph that - lovely graph,
it can actually add thousands of dollars to annual income for a family, but
you actually get it at tax time.
MABRY: You have to earn income, though. You have to earn income.
REID: Well, you have to earn income.
MABRY: You have to earn income. It doesn`t help you. You`ve got to earn
the income, if you are not making money, it doesn`t help you.
REID: And if your base wage is still low then having an extra bite at the
end of the year, once a year, doesn`t help with your cash flow on a day-to-
day basis. And I think what people are talking about is people having
money to spend every day. And if you`re a log wage worker ..
MCGHEE: Also, do we want people to be able to - I mean it is interesting
so much that the conservatives wanted to go through the tax code, once this
government check, one time a year, instead of people in the free market
with their employer being able to actually bargain a little bit better and
have a higher minimum wage.
KIM: Or that conservatives are OK with that 25 percent of low wage - of
workers are on public assistance that have full-time jobs. I`m also
saying, you know, going back to Obama and Romney agreeing there. There is
something interesting that we were saying earlier Republicans don`t want to
talk about the minimum wage. Well, actually, 62 percent of American - of
Republicans want to raise the minimum wage, 80 percent of independents want
to raise minimum wage. So, this is actually a national consensus. It
should not be a difficult thing to do to get this past this Congress.
MCGHEE: But it`s not a consensus among the donor class, and I hate to just
say that one more time. It is really important. Because unfortunately, we
are in a money and politics situation right now with Congress where the
ideas that the donor class, people who make enough money to be able to
write $10,000 checks are defining that parameter.
SALTSMAN: Moving out of the conspiratorial element for just a minute,
moving back to the policy element.
MCGHEE: It`s not. It`s a bunch of political .
SALTSMAN: Here is the reason why something like earning of tax credit
would be desirable. Because especially at the kind of minimum wage we are
talking about here, like $15 one that has been pushed for recently. You
can`t have both a $15 minimum wage and the same number of jobs in industry
like the fast food industry that we have now. You just can`t. There is
technology that allows automation in front of the house, there is even now
an automatic burger making machine.
REID: OK, we`ve made that argument before about .
SALTSMAN: So, the earned income tax credit - what it does, is it permits
us to still boost wages, but to do it in a way that doesn`t adverse the
effect of the opportunities that people need to be able to get the raise to
be able to move on.
REID: But hold on. Michael, just one pin in it. You are talking about
what the earned income tax credit is at onetime check, right? And the
actual experience .
SALTSMAN: $5,000 to $7,000.
REID: But hold on. It`s a onetime check. And the actual experience of
being broke, OK, if any one of you have actually experienced it? Is it
that one time check, by the time you get that check, you are already so
deep in the hole that you are just using that just to subsist. But whereas
if your wages are raised on a regular basis. If every week or every two
weeks you have more money to spend, that in your actual life, your day-to-
day life. But I think that the problem with a lot of conservatives is that
they don`t have bad experience to draw on. They are not understanding that
people aren`t talking about a onetime catch up with all my bills that are
now deep in the hole and turn my life back on, check. They are talking
about day-to-day living.
SALTSMAN: But day-to-day living if the minimum wage continues to go up
could mean .
REID: is better if your minimum wage is higher, day-to-day living is
SALTSMAN: And it is worse if your job is replaced by a touch screen
REID: Which is happening anyway.
REID: Which is happening anyway.
SALTSMAN: But it is being sped up in direct response to additional
REID: Where`s the proof, the time setup by that? Where`s the proof that
that is happening because the minimum wage is arising?
SALTSMAN: Because actually, it has been reported, right? In places like
the "Wall Street Journal." Companies like .
REID: Oh, you mean Rupert Murdoch`s paper?
SALTSMAN: On the news pages, it`s been reported.
SALTSMAN: And so, you know, it`s time for proponents of this to sort of
having you break it, you buy it sort of moment where we look around and say
look, we have 20 plus percent teen unemployment, we have an employment
crisis among people who are less guild and less experienced and we look
around to see grocery stores and restaurants, and we see that these jobs
are disappearing in response to higher labor costs.
MCGHEE: It`s not in response to higher labor costs.
SALTSMAN: There is. It`s been well established in the literature that
that is response.
MABRY: Do you think it is a problem that we are returning in America to
kind of income disparity? To the lowest sector - and the highest - It
looks like the gilded age again. And we have - greatest income disparity
since the gilded age, in fact. I mean does that seem like a problem?
Because you don`t have consumers in that.
SALTSMAN: Well, I think, no, because I think the question is, all right,
so if we can agree that - for the roughly one in six minimum wage earners
that is a single parent, we can agree, for instance, that we want to find a
way to boost their income. I think the conversation is, what`s the most
intelligent way to do that? And I think my submission to you is that the
minimum wage isn`t it. And that`s been well established over the
(inaudible) that it is not going to reduce poverty.
SALTSMAN: We can subsidize them partially or we can do a 100 percent
subsidy when they lose their jobs.
REID: We`ve established that people really care about this, but I also
want to get back to whether or not this is good politics. Whether this
argument that we`re having at the table is actually good politics for 2014.
So we definitely want to do that. And after the break, I also want to get
back to something that Richard brought up earlier. We are seeing much of
what`s happening with the minimum wage on the state and local level, these
fights that we`re having here at the table, but when we come back, I also
want to talk about the national scope and in particular what President
Obama could do right now.
REID: Some on the left really think that if President Obama really wants
to do something about raising the minimum wage, then he should make like
Nike and just do it. Earlier this month, the co-chairs of the
Congressional Progressive Caucus, Congressman Keith Ellison and Congressman
Raul Grijalva, wrote a letter to the president urging him to sign an
executive order raising the minimum wage for Americans working under
federal contracts. That includes the largely low-wage hourly workers who
staff the museums, the parks, the food courts in the Capitol, as clerks,
security guards, or cooks. And they wrote. "Since May, CPC members and
Senators have urged your administration to issue an executive order that
would ensure a full day`s pay for a full day`s work for low-wage federal
contract workers. You have the ability to make a living wage a reality for
millions of Americans, which will benefit their families and also spur
needed economic growth."
Now, while progressives are trying to push the president to send a clear
signal and raise the minimum wage for federal workers, so far the White
House won`t even respond or speculate on the possibility of an executive
order. I want to play what Jay Carney had to say, the president`s
spokesman, when asked directly if this is something that the president
would actually do by executive order.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think I have said broadly
speaking, not addressing this, that the president is always looking for
ways to move the ball forward where Congress won`t work with him to do
that, but he believes that this is an opportunity for Congress to work with
him, in concert, towards a goal that will help millions of Americans and
help the economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: So, Richard, you brought this up earlier. Is it a mistake for the
White House to be so reticent about an issue that obviously just from what
we`ve discussing here is a hot political issue among Democrats?
KIM: Let`s just first lay out what is at stake here. There are hundreds
of billions of federal dollars that go to low-wage contractors that pay
low-wage workers. There are about two million low-wage workers hired by
the federal government through contractors. That makes the federal
government the largest employer of low-wage workers in the country. So I
think just on a moral level, if President Obama is serious about raising
the minimum wage, he can do that with things like this executive order, and
Now there is a question of if he does that, what the political
repercussions are. Republicans in Congress are going to go ballistic.
They`re going to say this is another example of the president running
roughshod over Congress and it also sort of minimizes the issue in the next
election cycles. So there are some political concerns there. But I think
just the clear moral imperative to take this action to help two million
low-wage workers overrides those political concerns.
MCGHEE: That figure is actually something that we calculated, Demos did a
report back in the spring called "Underwriting Bad Jobs." And it was
really to say, to start shifting the focus of this low-wage work question
on who actually is making these decisions, and turning up the fact that it
is actually taxpayers. And that is really depressing when you think about
those large bipartisan majorities of people who don`t want that kind of
America. So when we actually sort of ran the numbers at a more granular
level, to look at what might happen if he were to raise it, we originally
talked about $12.25, because we think that is the kind of wage that we need
to be aiming for. But if you just the more modest $10.10 an hour, it t
would end up being a few hundred thousand, almost half a million direct
contracting workers. So people who are sewing our military uniforms and
who have been working there for 10 years and are still making $7.25 an
REID: I know you do want to get in on this, but just on a purely political
level, Richard made a very interesting point, which is whether to do it now
or to save it as a 2014 election issue. If you look at the polling.
Gallup went and polled people`s support for raising the minimum wage,
right? So you do have back in November of -- in this November, 2013, you
have 22 percent who are against it and 76 percent who are for it. Only 3
percent have no opinion. If you go back to March, it was 71 percent who
were for it and 27 percent against. So it is getting more popular over
time. It is a popular issue. Might that mean that Democrats would be
better served for keeping this issue alive for 2014?
MABRY: Speaking in purely political terms, absolutely. You want the
issue, you don`t want to actually solve the problem. Again, speaking
purely politically. But also, it is like reality of politics here. It is
easy for us to say oh, yeah, go ahead and do that, make an executive order.
But as you said, Richard, the political repercussions would be huge. That
would give the Republicans an issue of saying again, this is a president
who governs by fiat. Again, the Democrats will want next year to be about
this minimum wage issue. The Republicans will want next year to be about
Obamacare. If you can maybe make that part of that narrative of this
president who made promises he didn`t keep, who made you do things you
didn`t want to do, that is a problem.
REID: And Richard, just to give you one more piece on the political. The
other point is that as a ballot initiative, as something not used at the
executive level but actually used at the state level, let`s just look at
the history. When you look at the percentage of people who voted for a
minimum wage increase, state by state, New Jersey, where Chris Christie got
reelected, still passed 61 percent, places like Albuquerque, at the local
level, San Jose, Long Beach, Missouri, statewide. Montana. So Missouri
overwhelmingly, a pretty conservative state, 76 percent voted for it.
Colorado, passed 53 percent. So it is an effective issue as a ballot
measure, so the Democrats might be better served in the--
KIM: Now I`m going to disagree with myself. If Obama signs this executive
order, it still does not eliminate those political opportunities. You are
only talking about contractors with the federal government. There still is
a federal minimum wage that applies to private employers and states can
also run. All those state employees are not covered under an executive
order looking at federal contractors. So all of those dynamics can still
be in play while Obama leads with the executive order.
MCGHEE: I think it would be important for the president to show that he
can deliver on something. It would just be a few hundred thousand workers,
but it`s important. On my dime, on my watch the president would say nobody
is going to bed hungry when we`re working.
That`s something he can say and we can still talk about that.
SALTSMAN: Let`s talk about that. Nobody is going to bed hungry, and what
the president said when he wanted to introduce a minimum wage increase. He
said no one working full-time should have to live in poverty. What we have
seen on the minimum wage - even setting aside this question we`ve talked
about, about lost jobs, is that the minimum wage is just not an effective
way to reduce poverty and it just has not shown up in the research. And
that`s been over many decades--
MCGHEE: And why is that? Because people lose their jobs?
SALTSMAN: It partially is because people lose hours and employment. But
it`s also because it`s not well targeted. Because a lot of the folks -
actually about 60 percent of the folks who live in poverty haven`t worked
in the past year and can`t -- aren`t affected by it.
SALTSMAN: Just to go back to this question. So, if at the end of the day,
what we are talking about here, is kind of this, well, should we put it on
the ballot, because it`s going to benefit Democrats and it`s going to boost
turnout, that strikes me as a very cynical point of view, because we are
talking about the livelihood and we`re talking about opportunities that are
going to be eliminated for low-wage and entry level workers.
MABRY: -- corporate profits and about giving them back to the American
SALTSMAN: 52 percent of minimum-wage employees work in small businesses
with fewer than 100 employees. So there are some-
REID: At the end of the day, we do know it is a fact, it is an
incontrovertible fact for which we don`t need research, that there are
millions of Americans who are working every day who are making minimum wage
but who are also receiving federal anti-poverty assistance, because I think
the clear evidence, if you lived it, is it is very difficult to live on $7
an hour any way you live, but we really do appreciate you bringing your
opinion to bear. Thank you so much. We appreciate it.
Everyone else, please stick around. Michael will stick around. Up next we
are going to look at how one single person in Washington could shift the
entire political spectrum.
REID: Did you know that payday lenders whose high-interest lending
practices are targeting the poor have been banned in 18 states, and that
they get their capital from big banks? It`s true. According to a new
report out this week, Wells-Fargo, Bank of America and the like have
offered a collective $5.5 billion in credit to Payday and other high-cost
lenders like rent-to-own businesses. Payday lenders charge exorbitant
interest rates, often in the triple digits, as high as 650 percent or
higher, to mostly low-income borrowers who need short-term loans to make
ends meet until the next paycheck. The problem is that many people can`t
pay the loans back on time and wind up paying more in fees and racking up
more and more interest as time goes on. 18 states have capped short-term
low-interest rates, or outright banned payday loans, but the businesses are
profitable, and still finding a way to exist, by lending over the Internet
or operating on Native American land to avoid the laws. And many lenders
are funded by those big household name, allegedly respectable megabanks.
That`s according to this week`s report by Reinvestment Partners, an
organization that advocates for more banking options for the poor. I
suppose it is no surprise when there are fewer banks now than since at
least the Great Depression, fewer even than the 2008 financial crash when
lawmakers and regulators vowed banks would no longer be too big to fail.
Clearly that has not come to pass. But there is one senator holding the
banks and her colleagues` feet to the fire. Her name, Elizabeth Warren.
More on what Warren is doing to Wall Street and the Democratic Party next.
REID: Who`s afraid of Elizabeth Warren?
Wall Street surely has been. The financial sector waged a successful
battle to keep Warren from heading the Consumer Financial Protection
Bureau, which was her brainchild, meant to regulate financial institutions`
consumer products like mortgages and private student loans. And joining
that battle was nearly every Republican senator, who wrote a letter to
President Obama after he nominated Warren, saying they would not vote to
confirm any single director of the bureau. Warren, of course, wound up
getting a job right alongside those Republicans as a US senator herself,
and she has made financial regulation her signature issue. Talking bluntly
and eloquently in speeches that have a tendency to go viral online. Here
she is in February, asking bank regulators why they hadn`t taken any big
banks to trial for their role in the financial crisis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, D-MASS.: Anyone else want to tell me about the last
time you took a Wall Street bank to trial?
I just want to note on this. There are district attorneys and U.S.
attorneys who are out there every day squeezing ordinary citizens on
sometimes very thin grounds, and taking them to trial in order to make an
example, as they put it. I`m really concerned that too big to fail has
become too big for trial.
That just seems wrong to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: But how successful has Elizabeth Warren actually been at getting her
policy ideas enacted? She introduced legislation this week that gained a
lot of attention in the liberal world. A bill that would prohibit
employers from using a prospective employee`s bad credit history to deny
them a job. Now, it`s an important bill with one in ten unemployed people
reporting that they have been denied a job due to a credit check.
But will it go anywhere? In fact, will any of her policies make it into
law? Does she really have the teeth to keep Wall Street afraid? Joining
our table now is Aisha Moodie-Mills, senior fellow with the Center for
American Progress. And it`s always great to see you.
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Great to be here.
REID: I am going to go right to you. I mean, Elizabeth Warren is
obviously a rock star on the left. Her speeches and railing against the
banks go viral, she`s even attracted speculation about whether she should
run in 2016. But how effective has she actually been so far as a
MOODIE-MILLS: I think we really should look at the legislature to
determine how effective she should be. It`s not fair to just say Elizabeth
Warren is just doing absolutely nothing, because she`s going it alone. I
think that, you know, she to me is a symbol of where we are going in terms
of this economic populist tone of a nation. And I think the things that
she is pushing are really reflecting what people feel, and at the end of
the day, that`s how she`s going to be judged, not necessarily how many
pieces of legislation did she get passed in this Congress.
REID: Also, she`s sort of become a liberal lion in a lot of ways, Heather.
And this new bill, this new idea she`s come up with, the idea of outlawing
the practice of not hiring someone because of a bad credit history. How
important would that be for workers?
MCGHREE: It is extremely important. Actually, it is an issue that Demos
have been working on for quite some time. We have a report called
"Discredited," which looks at how much this practice is being used. Almost
50 percent of employers are actually using credit, screening people for
credit, and what this does is just compounds the misfortune. Right? If
you look at what is actually revealed by a credit history when you are
applying for a job, it`s not, there has been no correlation found. Even
TransUnion, the credit bureau that actually sells this stuff, and is the
corporate interest behind these laws, they said in 2010, actually, we have
found no research that shows this is a correlation. But what it does show
is that you have survived a recession. You have not had health insurance
at some point, and have had medical debt, you`ve had some sort of medical
So Elizabeth Warren who is really -- she is left or more she is with the
middle. She is standing up for the middle class, and this kind of issue,
can you get back on your feet when you`ve been knocked down by our economy
and by our frayed social safety net, that is the kind of issue she`s sort
of illuminating for the party and for the country.
REID: Even in that Senate, as I put it, Richard, she has formed some
interesting kind of alliances here and there. There`s a bill she is
actually cosponsoring with John McCain that would reinstate some of the
Glass-Steagall Act, and one of the big beefs that a lot of Americans, not
just on the left, have with the `90s, as good as they were economically for
a lot of people, was that major parts of the Glass-Steagall Act were
repealed, and so this bill would restore it.
KIM: I`m going to disagree a little bit with Heather, which I almost never
do. I think this piece of legislation about the credit scores is an
important one, you know, it would be great if she could get it passed. I
think there actually is some potential there, because there is a
libertarian interest on the privacy violations, and so there`s some, you
know, there should be a basis for a sort of bipartisan move on this.
It does feel kind of small bore to me. The reason why people are not
getting jobs is not usually because of this situation, it is because the
jobs don`t exist. So I would like to see her put something bigger on the
table. A stimulus of $1 trillion, the Glass-Steagall Act as a part of
regulating finance that would be important on these terms, and so a Robin
Hood tax would be something that`s great. So this speaks to her need to
actually pass some legislation, and I understand that, to have a record. I
also don`t want her to stop being the kind of representative of that kind
of populist mood in the country as a whole.
REID: Well, and this is going to sound a little controversial, Marcus, but
my question would be, perhaps in a sense more importantly than legislative
pieces that she`s able to get through, does Elizabeth Warren kind of serve
a similar function - and this is in a sense a little bit out there, but let
me get through it - as Ted Cruz kind of does? Ted Cruz, he doesn`t really
pass any legislation but he keeps the coalition from getting too far away
from the base. Any time they even think about getting away from far-right
conservatism, there`s Ted Cruz out there sort of hounding them back in that
direction, and Elizabeth Warren on a symbolic level, I mean, there is a
little bit of a fear of getting away too much from economic populism. You
can`t go hang out on Wall Street too much as a Democrat and not worry that
Elizabeth Warren`s base will turn around and bite you.
MABRY: I have to say, I think it says a lot about the state of our
politics, and I`m a political analyst, that it is Ted Cruz on the right and
Elizabeth Warren on the left. Whoa.
MABRY: (inaudible) says a lot about America, kind of a lopsided nature of
our politics, doesn`t it? I think it is amazing that she has risen. She
is not a typical politician. She doesn`t have the profile or the kind of
warmth that we are talking about earlier.
MABRY: She is no, one might say she is no Hillary. Well, you`ll get to
find out. The fact that you were playing that clip we were going out --
simply the best. That is amazing. Elizabeth Warren has arrived
politically. And I find that extraordinary.
REID: But isn`t that because the idea of economic populism has arrived?
MOODIE-MILLS: It`s popular. Exactly. We`re talking 68 to 70 percent of
Americans who believe in the things that she`s pushing. They want to see
us closing corporate tax loopholes. Right? They want to see an expansion
of Medicaid, of Social Security. These things, they want to see a raise in
the minimum wage. These things are popular.
REID: I wish we had more time to talk about it. I`m sure, Elizabeth
Warren (inaudible). Thank you so much. We have more to get to this
morning, including the latest R Kelly controversy. The first same-sex
marriage in Utah. And when we come back, the press conference that really
summed up President Obama`s exasperating 2013. Debunking the fifth year
narrative is next with more "Nerdland" at the top of the hour.
REID: Welcome back. I`m Joy Reid, sitting in today for Melissa Harris-
I want to take you back for just a moment to the beginning of this year.
Specifically, January 21, 2013, when President Obama was inaugurated for a
second term. Remember that soaring rhetoric, the cheering crowds? Well,
if you believe the headlines lately, that day, just three weeks into the
new year, was the highlight of the president`s whole year.
As the president begins his Christmas holiday in Hawaii and prepares to bid
aloha to 2013, he`s getting a not-so-welcome parting gift: headline after
headline if this was the president`s worst year ever, or even the worst
fifth year of any presidency in the history of presidencies. A question
echoed over and over again on Friday by the White House press corps.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has this been the worst year of your presidency?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: o you understand that those -- that the public has
changed in some way their view of you over this year?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My question is, do you have any personal regrets?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Now, the president did this best to take it in stride.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have now been in office
five years, close to five years. Was running for president for two years
before that. And for those of you who have covered me during that time, we
have had ups, and we have had downs. I think this room has probably
recorded at least 15 near-death experiences.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Now it is true the president`s approval rating is at its lowest yet:
just 43 percent in the latest NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll. He`s
been dogged by criticism of the NSA, and he failed to accomplish some of
his legislative goals this year, like stricter gun control and immigration
But let`s take a breath for a moment. To paraphrase Mark Twain, the rumors
of President Obama`s political demise may be greatly exaggerated. After
all, this is the same president whose administration, just this year, this
supposed terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year forged an international
agreement to rid Syria of chemical weapons and reached an historic nuclear
deal with Iran.
This is the same president who, in this same year, has seen unemployment
drop from 7.9 percent in January to 7 percent last month, the lowest in
The same president who this same year stood up to congressional Republicans
and refused to give into their unreasonable demands, even when they shut
down the government for the first time in 17 years.
And this is the same president who, in this year, managed to do what
Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Bill Clinton all wanted but couldn`t
do: implement national health-care reform. Yes, the roll-out of the
Affordable Care Act was riddled with problems, but after a Web site reboot,
there`s growing evidence that it is working, as the president explained in
his press conference on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Since October 1, more than one million Americans have selected new
health-insurance plans through the federal and state marketplaces. So all
told, millions of Americans, despite the problems with the Web site are
poised to be covered by quality affordable health insurance come New Year`s
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: The president said he firmly believed that 2014 will be a
breakthrough year for America. But to convince the American people, he
must first break through the negative narrative.
Joining me now at the table Aisha Moodie-Mills, co-host of the radio show
"Politini" and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress; Danielle
Moodie-Mills and a co-host of "Politini" and an advisor to the Center for
American Progress; Marcus Mabry, the "New York Times" lead blog editor; and
Richard Kim, executive editor of TheNation.com.
OK, guys, so I think we can agree that this was the year that, essentially,
President Obama was declared that he should just really pack it up and stay
in Hawaii and cry for the next three years, because this has just been so
awful. But it`s interesting when you look at the components of what`s
actually dragging down the president`s approval ratings.
One would, you know, assume it`s the economy. The economy is still tough
and difficult. But actually, looking at the charts, NBC and the "Wall
Street Journal" actually asked people, "What are the most important issues
shaping your view of the president?" Health care is 58 percent of it.
Jobs -- I mean, the economy is 25 percent. The government shutdown, 23
percent. Syria and Iran, 16. Immigration and guns, 14. NSA way down
there at 9 percent. Not what you would expect, given the narrative.
And I think that because health care has been so important, obviously, to
the president`s legacy. Changing the narrative on that, Aisha, isn`t that
what the president has to do in order to change the narrative of his
AISHA MOODIE MILLS, CO-HOST, "POLITINI": Yes, absolutely. Obama care has
to work. I mean, that`s the reality. You know, what those numbers are
showing is that the Republicans are successful in their P.R. game and
strategy. They said several years ago that all they wanted to do was take
out Obama and to take out Obama care.
That is all that they focused on. They beat the drum, and those poll
numbers are showing that. They put out misinformation. They`ve, you know,
criticized him at every pass. And so that that`s what we`re seeing, and
that number has nothing to do with the effectiveness of the actual program.
REID: And that`s the irony, because if you actually look at the enrollment
in the Affordable Care Act, the estimated weekly sign-ups through the
federal exchange, according to "Business Insider," look at that trajectory
on that chart. It`s gone way up by week nine.
I mean, yes, week one it was pretty bad, if you look at it there. But it`s
actually being implemented, Richard. People were actually signing up for
it. At the same time they`re telling pollsters they don`t like it.
RICHARD KIM, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THENATION.COM: Yes. You know, and on the
states that actually decide to set up their own exchanges and not force the
federal government to do it, it`s working even better.
I think, you know, from the numbers, it`s going to be a success at the end
of the day. The problem for President Obama now is that it kind of doesn`t
matter. Right? All the Republicans need to do is go find the one person
who was forced to pay higher for his health insurance, play that clip ad
MARCUS MABRY, LEAD BLOG EDITOR, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": There`s a lot more
KIM: And there are going to be people, right? And then play the clip of
Barack Obama saying you`re not going to have to change your insurance. And
that`s all they have to do, sort of just come at it again and again and
again. And that is unfortunately, because I think if you look at the
aggregate data over time and had some patience instead of this sort of
whiplash news cycle we have, you would see that, on the whole the policy
REID: And is it -- but that is the issue, though, isn`t it, Danielle?
That because the Republicans have a plan that it is simple, that is easy to
message and that is predicated on just over and over again, to Richard`s
point, reminding people that the president said you can keep your health
care, and then these people are going to come out and say, "I wasn`t able
to keep my heath care." That`s a simple plan, much simpler than the
president -- what the president has to do.
DANIELLE MOODIE-MILLS, CO-HOST, "POLITINI": Here`s the reality, though.
We have, Americans have -- it`s been 12 months since the president has been
elected -- has been elected again. And the reality is, is that all their
big problem is, is with health care. Right?
As soon as the Web site is fixed, as soon as things move on, they will be
happy. That`s what those numbers show, is that the chart is going up.
More people are enrolling. Sure, will they not be able to keep their
health care, some of them? Because it was substandard.
So that`s really -- that`s really what they have to feed in, what Democrats
have to say, is that your health care is substandard. It`s not actually
covering you. It`s not actually providing the kind of care that you need.
And so I -- what we are offering with the Affordable Care Act is for you to
have actual full coverage.
REID: But there`s -- Danielle said Democrats. So that`s predicted on the
idea that Democrats are all rolling in the same direction with the
president on ACA. As we saw in 2010, that was not the case, and it`s not
clear that Democrats are going to feel confident running on it in 2014.
MABRY: I think there are people that -- No, 1, the narrative will change,
and the narrative will change not because the Web sites aren`t doing
something else. They`re going to change because you know what? We have to
sell newspapers and get people out to our program. Because if we tell the
same story over and over again, then they won`t do it. They`ll stop.
And so you think about, you know, two or three months ago the story was the
government shutdown. The Republicans are over. The party will never
And now the president is over. The president will never -- It`s silly. We
overstate all of this stuff. All a poll is, is a snapshot in time.
REID: At a moment in time.
MABRY: A poll is not important in the long run.
REID: And it`s interesting, because the right track, wrong-track numbers
for the president look really bad when you look at them just in isolation,
right: Sixty-four percent, right track/wrong track.
But the right-track wrong-track has been deeply upside down since before
the 2013 reelection. President Obama was re-elected with the right track,
wrong-track number that wasn`t looking good.
MABRY: And the more important number your pointed out was the unemployment
number. And the unemployment number now is 7 percent, and it`s going to
keep going down next year.
The fact that the Fed actually announced last week, "We will now stop
buying as many billions of dollars in U.S. government assets, because you
know what? The economy is actually starting to gain ground on its own. It
no longer needs our support.
The reason the president really, really, really wanted to get re-elected,
was really upset when it looked like it might be out of his reach, was
because he knew that, in these four years, the economy was going to improve
vastly. He did not want the Republicans and Mitt Romney getting credit for
MABRY: That`s going to happen. So that`s going to be more important than
any of these headlines we`re having now at the end of the year.
REID: And he also wanted to make sure that there wasn`t a Republican in
the White House who would sign a repeal to the Affordable Care Act.
A. MOODIE-MILLS: Well, and the other number that`s missing that we should
be comparing is the right track/wrong track of Congress.
A. MOODIE-MILLS: Because if you look at the president`s approval rating,
it`s actually sky high compared to them.
D. MOODIE-MILLS: Is there -- is there a right track?
KIM: Just one way there.
A. MOODIE-MILLS: It`s one way, and it`s going down fast.
REID: But it`s interesting that Republicans have been able to survive. I
mean, the government shutdown was such a huge story.
KIM: I know.
REID: It was such a huge deal...
KIM: I know.
REID: ... politically. But Republicans really pivoted from that, and they
went right back on their laser focus on the Affordable Care Act.
KIM: Yes, I mean, I think something that we`re seeing here in this worst
year ever thing is actually just kind of a reflection of the last three
months, really. It really looked after the shutdown that the Democrats
were just going to kind of run the tables on the Senate and even the House.
I mean, they were really talking about winning majorities.
And that`s in jeopardy because of technical failures on the Web site. I
think the White House was not very good at messaging why those technical
failures existed. They didn`t know, in part. They didn`t successfully pin
some of the blame on Republicans in Congress, who defunded HHS and didn`t
allow -- even Sebelius begging for money didn`t allow enough funds to
construct this Web site.
And you know, that was a kind of fumble on their part, and they didn`t
really recover. And so now you`re stuck at the end of the year with this -
- with this marriage (ph).
REID: But meanwhile, in that press conference that we`d seen on Friday,
Marcus, not one question about Iran, not one question about Syria. Nothing
REID: Meanwhile, the numbers where the president actually is not upside-
down are his foreign policy numbers. Nothing on those.
We also have a focus on the media side, frankly, that is all about the Web
site and not necessarily about broader policy.
MABRY: I think the problem here is that, both in the political class and
the media class, the punditry class, we over-compensate. These are vast
pendulums that we have to swing, much more I think, than the realities of
the American people.
And so I think we overblow all this stuff. And you can kind of, you know,
step back and breathe a little and not worry about what we`re saying.
REID: And then we take a poll and say, "Oh, wait a minute."
REID: The same thing we`re talking about.
OK. We need to take a quick break, and when we come back, I want to get
into the year-end message that President Obama sent to his 2013 nemesis,
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
REID: OK, I want to correct one thing I mentioned in the last block.
President Obama was asked about Iran during Friday`s press conference.
But I want to turn now to Russia. In what appears to be the most prominent
brush-off yet in the winter -- of the Winter Olympic Games in Russia,
neither the Obamas nor Joe Biden are going to Sochi. And what makes this
the -- which makes it the first time since the Summer Games in Sydney in
2000 that a U.S. Olympic delegation will not include a president, a first
lady or a vice president.
Instead, the U.S. delegation will include three openly-gay athletes: tennis
legend Billie Jean King, ice hockey player Caitlin Cahow, and figure-
skating legend Brian Boitano.
The president made it clear on Friday, in case it wasn`t crystal clear
already, that his choice of a delegation is a deliberate response to
Russia`s draconian anti-gay laws.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I think the delegation speaks for itself. When it comes to the
Olympics and athletic performance, we don`t make distinctions on the basis
of sexual orientation. We judge people on how they perform.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: And joining us now from Washington, D.C., is Dave Zirin, sports
editor of "The Nation" magazine.
And so Dave, how big of a deal is this? The -- the snub of not sending a
presidential delegation to Sochi?
DAVE ZIRIN, SPORTS EDITOR, "THE NATION": Well, it`s a huge deal. As you
said, it hasn`t happened since 2000. But the far bigger deal is the
content of who President Obama chose.
I mean, Billie Jean King is more than just a member of the LGBT community.
I mean, she is an activist legend in the world of sports. I mean, probably
in that conversation with people like Mohammed Ali and Arthur Ashe as one
of the great athlete-activists who ever lived.
Caitlin Cahow, as well, is somebody who is not just part of the LGBT
community but somebody who`s been active on what`s called the Principled
Six campaign, which tries to make the International Olympic Committee
actually live up to its own charter and actually say that "We are not going
to have Olympic games in places where people are prejudged on the basis of
their sexual orientation." So that part is a very huge deal.
But all of this comes with a big concern, that I feel like needs to be
underlined and re-underlined. And that`s the only question that matters
when we talk about protests at the Sochi Olympics. And that`s the question
of, after the smoke has cleared, after all the delegations have gone home,
after all the confetti has been swept up, what will the situation on the
ground be for LGBT activists and allies inside of Russia?
And that was my concern of all this, because yes, this was a huge
diplomatic point-scoring move by this administration. Yes, it got a lot
great publicity, but the question is, the intervention of the United States
into what has been a grassroots international movement for LGBT rights,
what will that do to activists on the ground? Will it allow Putin to be
able to say, "This is just a pawn of the United States. This is about U.S.
hegemony. This is about Edward Snowden. This is about Syria. This is
about all of these other issues"?
And believe me, that is already being said in terms of local media inside
Sochi and inside Russia. So that should be the concern that we look at, I
REID: Dave, you know, you`ve written a lot about this. I mean, there is a
long history of activism around the Olympics, going back to, you know,
Jesse Owens, the Olympic games in 1968 and the black power protests. But
those were really broader than what you saw on that medal stand.
REID: There actually was a movement among athletes in 1968 that sort of
corresponded to that singular protest. Do -- is there evidence that there
is such a thing going on around the LGBT issue among athletes who are going
to the games?
ZIRIN: Definitely. And it is international in scope. And that`s what`s
so important for people to realize, that this is not just about the United
States sending in a delegation or a couple of U.S. athletes who have said
There are athletes all over the world who have said -- who have either
spoken their discontent with what is happening on the ground in Russia,
spoken their discontent with the International Olympic Committee for their
craven cowardice over the last year in terms of Russia`s policies and the
laws that they have passed. And there have also been a lot of statements
that things will happen inside of Sochi. And things that I have heard off
the record about what is going to happen, things that we`re not going to
know about until they do happen.
Let`s just say that the No. 1 story at the Olympics this year will -- I can
guarantee will not be what happens on the field of play. It will be things
that happen on medal stands. It will be things that happen in interviews.
It will be things that happen in rallies outside the stadium. I mean, it
is going to be raucous, and it won`t just be U.S. athletes.
REID: And if you could just put your reporter hat on for a little bit, is
there evidence that other governments are going to follow suit and sort of
follow the lead of the United States and maybe change their delegations or
maybe not send heads of state to the Olympics?
ZIRIN: Yes, I think that that`s going to happen to a great degree,
particularly countries from Western Europe. You`re going to see evidence
of that. I don`t think you`re going to see anybody with the profile of
Billie Jean King. But frankly, that`s a tribute to Billie Jean King.
There are few people on earth with the profile of Billie Jean King.
ZIRIN: And the fearlessness with which she has stood up.
And I just have to say one thing about Billie Jean King. Is that in
September -- this is what`s so great about her being chosen and what a
tribute it is to the movement itself, that she would be chosen. Is that in
September she said that at Sochi, the LGBT community needed, as she put it,
a John Carlos moment, in reference to John Carlos from 1968.
Keep in mind that John Carlos was vilified by the International Olympic
Committee for decades in violation of the most sacred laws of the IOC,
which says no politics allowed. So for her to say she wants to see that
and then be chosen as part of the delegation is just an amazing statement
about where the movement is right now.
REID: And I want to bring it up to the panel. I mean, the significance,
obviously, of the U.S. not sending a delegation and of making their stand
in this way. How important that is to the LGBT community here in the U.S.
D. MOODIE-MILLS: I think it`s tremendously important to the LGBT
community. But I like to -- to Dave`s point, about the fact that these
people that are part of the delegation, they`re not just gay. Right?
They`re amazing athletes with records that stretch far beyond their sexual
And I think that that was the message that the president is sending. It`s
not just like, "Oh, here, in your face, Putin," about here`s these three
gay folks that we`re sending. No, it`s about, like, their records; that
gay people are amazing, fantastic professionals, athletes. All of these
And that he, Putin, is choosing to silo them out. And say, oh, because of
this piece, because of your sexual orientation, you are devoid of human --
you know, of human care and comfort and dignity.
And the president is like no, look, at these people, and you have to see
MABRY: I have to say, I don`t think it`s going to make a big difference.
I don`t think the world is going to care. I don`t think the world really
knows a lot about these athletes. They`re phenomenal people and phenomenal
athletes, but I don`t think on a global stage it matters. I don`t think in
Russia it matters at all. I don`t think they`ll be seen in Russia and
To go back to what Dave was saying about these protests from the athletes
on the platforms, protests that happen that Putin and the Russian media
can`t deny, because they`re part of the games and the life of the games,
and the athletes of the world are bringing that message, that could
actually -- that could actually be progress for LGBT rights.
REID: Well, let`s let Dave respond to that. Dave, do you -- do you take
Marcus`s point that, essentially, it`s really going to be more about what
happens on the medal stands and on the field?
ZIRIN: Oh, absolutely, because that`s where you`re going to see real risk.
And that`s where, if you look at the history of athletic protests, the
times where it`s really mattered is when you see athletes actually risk
Because athletes, Olympic athletes, they operate in a very sort of
privileged air in our society. They`re the closest thing to demigods that
we produce in our culture. And when you see people like Mohammed Ali
actually risk his privilege, when you see someone like Billie Jean King
really risk a great deal by going with Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the
Sexes match. She said later that she felt like, if she had lost to that,
the way Margaret Court had lost against Bobby Riggs, it would have set the
women`s movement back years. It`s how she felt in her heart.
It`s like it`s only when people actually risk things that you see it
amplified and you see change start to -- start to move. And so I think you
are going to see athletes risk censure from the IOC, risk censure from
their own countries, and do so for what they feel is a much broader, more
important principle, and that is the principle of LGBT liberation.
REID: All right. Well, Dave Zirin, who I can also say is my favorite
ZIRIN: Thanks for that.
REID: Thank you so much for being here.
ZIRIN: Thank you so much.
REID: OK. Up next, same-sex marriage has been making tremendous strides
here, but Utah? We did not see this one coming.
REID: 2013 was an extraordinary year for the marriage equality movement.
The Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and let stand a
ruling striking down Proposition 8, clearing the way for same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage became legal in 7 additional states: Delaware, Hawaii,
Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Rhode Island. And now
it`s legal -- at least for now -- in one of the most surprising places:
Utah, a conservative stronghold and home to the Mormon Church.
On Friday a federal judge declared the state`s voter-approved ban on same-
sex marriage unconstitutional. Judge Robert J. Shelby, a recent appointee
by President Obama, said Utah failed to show that allowing same-sex
marriages would affect opposite-sex marriages in any way.
Utah`s Republican governor, Gary Herbert, criticized the ruling, saying it
went against the will of the people. And the state has filed both a notice
of appeal and a request for an emergency stay. But in the meantime, same-
sex couples are making a rush for the altar. Within minutes of the judges`
ruling, Michael Ferguson and Seth Anderson became the first same-sex couple
in Utah to get married at the Salt Lake County Court`s office. And the
happy couple, Seth and Michael, join me right now from Salt Lake City.
So first of all, congratulations, guys.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you so much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.
REID: So first of all, how shocked were you to learn that you were going to
be able to marry in, of all places, Utah?
MICHAEL FERGUSON, HUSBAND OF SETH: Amazingly shocked.
REID: And what was the planning like? I mean, was this an instant
wedding. Did you guys have sort of a wedding in a box, like ready if you
guys wanted to, if it ever happened? Or did you have to do a rush plan?
SETH ANDERSON, HUSBAND OF MICHAEL: It was kind of a rush plan. We had
been engaged since the summer and were planning to be married eventually.
We never thought it would happen in Utah and not on Friday. So it was a
quick, quick thing that had to happen. Because, like, we didn`t know what
was going to have to happen with a stay or -- time was of the essence. We
didn`t know if we`d have five minutes, five hours, five days. So we
hurried right over.
REID: A think a lot of people would -- are you guys Utah natives? Are you
-- did you guys grow up in Utah?
ANDERSON: Michael grew up in Virginia, and I was born in Utah. I lived
here until I was 8. My family roots are deep, Utah Mormons since the
1960s. However, I moved away when I was a kid and grew up in Arizona, and
I moved back here last summer to go to graduate school.
REID: What has been the reception that you guys have received, now that
your wedding is so public and people were talking about it? What has
really been the reception for -- from your fellow Utahans? Is that the
right word for it?
FERGUSON: Overwhelming kindness, love, generosity and just a wondering
outpouring of affection.
REID: And what do -- I mean, if you could just sort of speak to what
implications do you think that this might have? I mean, a state that is so
very conservative, such a red state, for marriage equality to come to Utah.
Do you guys think that that`s going to have bigger implications outside of
FERGUSON: Absolutely. This is a bright beacon of hope for the ultimate
triumph of love and of the decency and goodness of the human heart.
REID: So I want to definitely bring the panel into this. Because this
really probably, you know, of all the states in the world, I think this
would have been the last state people would have expected. Richard, I
mean, this -- is that really what it takes? And in a state like Utah, the
world doesn`t end because these two lovely gentlemen get married. Is that
what it takes to sort of break the dam on marriage equality nationwide?
KIM: We all saw this in Ohio -- Iowa way back when they passed...
REID: Right, true.
KIM: A court passed same-sex marriage there. You know Utah. Yes, it`s a
conservative state, but it has pockets of real progressivism. Salt Lake
City has a great gay scene. I`ve been there a couple times.
In fact, city council and mayor at the time passed, I think, a domestic
partnership bill. So -- so it`s not like it came out of the ether either.
There are lots of gay and lesbian people that live in Utah that have been
campaigning and working really hard to fight back anti-gay laws, to push
pro-gay legislation. So there is a political base for this, even in
And when you actually think about marriage it`s quite a conservative
So you know, I think there is some seismic shift here. And the sort of
conservative argument against same-sex marriage is eroding day by day by
day by day.
REID: Well, the conservative argument is essentially the slippery slope
argument. Right? And so you did see in Utah also this week, one of the
things that conservatives argue will happen if you legalize same-sex
marriage. You had a ruling by a different judge also in Utah about co-
habitation, and this is partly about, obviously, Mormonism. We are in Utah
where it was previously banned to have multiple marriage.
But that is what people fear. Is there a concern that, because that ruling
happened, too, that you will see strength -- a strengthening of the
slippery slope argument from the right?
A. MOODIE-MILLS: So one of the big problems was that we`re conflating two
different arguments. There`s marriage equality, and then there`s right to
privacy, which is essentially what that case was all about.
And so I think that what conservatives are going to try to do is make them
one and the same, but they`re not.
What we just saw, though, is this constant eroding of the same ridiculous
arguments that conservatives have made against marriage, and this is what
the judge found there in Utah. He said, "Look, families are families.
Children are going to be great and fine and healthy. In fact, the state is
doing families harm when they don`t allow the parents to be able to be
They also said that marriage is not about procreation, as you know, kind of
the Christian argument has been. In fact, we`re not
going to stop, you know, women or men who are infertile from getting
married. We`re not going to stop post-menopausal women from getting
married. We`re not going to stop inmates who can`t even, you know,
consummate their marriages from getting married, either. Right? It`s not
So at the end of the day I think that what is exciting about Utah is that
it`s eroding those same arguments that have been made time and time again
and just flipping them on their head. And you know, it`s not at all about
the other case, which is really about the right to privacy. Can you do
what you want to do in your own home?
REID: OK. Well, I think I missed the most important question, so I have
to go back to Seth and Michael. You have to tell us your honeymoon plans.
FERGUSON: Gosh, well, first it`s just keep our business and our graduate
school under control. And we`re worrying about honeymoon later.
REID: Responsibility? What a concept.
FERGUSON: I know.
REID: All right. We appreciate you making us a part of your honeymoon, a
little part of it. So thank you so much. Congratulations to you, Seth
Anderson and Michael Ferguson.
ANDERSON: Thank you.
REID: All right. And for more on the story of this great and wonderful
couple, you can log onto our Web site: MHPShow.com.
And up next, rethinking R. Kelly. Mm. Is the R&B star getting a pass from
the press and from his fans? We`ll discuss, next.
REID: If he had his way, R&B superstar R. Kelly would love for you to be
talking about "Black Panties." No, really. That`s the name of his new
album, "Black Panties." It`s currently at No. 4 nationwide on the
Billboard 200 chart.
Now, the guy who named his album "Black Panties" is the R. Kelly same who
sang "I Believe I Can Fly," "Step in the Name of Love," and who didn`t see
nothing wrong with a little bump and grind.
He`s also the 46-year-old Robert Kelly who was first accused more than a
decade ago of preying on underaged girls in the Chicago area. Many know
about his brief marriage to 15-year-old pop star Aaliyah in 1994 when he
was 27 years old.
But this past Monday, "The Village Voice" published an interview with music
journalist Jim DeRogatis who 15 years ago broke the R. Kelly sex tape
story, along with other allegations of sexual abuse of children.
DeRogatis felt compelled to come forward again with what he called, quote,
stomach-churning details about R. Kelly`s alleged rapes of not just one but
dozens of girls.
One of the excerpts from the DeRogatis interview describes what R. Kelly
would do at Kenwood Academy in Chicago, where a 14- or 15-year-old girl he
was allegedly in a "relationship" with attended school.
Quote, "He would go to her sophomore class and hook up with girls afterward
and have sex with them. Sometimes buy them a pair of sneakers. Sometimes
just letting them hang out in his presence in the recording studio."
This from guy whose self-applied moniker is the Pied Piper of R&B and who
responded to the article by slyly telling his critics to listen to the last
track on his album, a song entitled "Shut Up."
So I have to ask the same question that Thurlena (ph) Maxwell asks in "The
Griot" this week. Can feminists keep enjoying R. Kelly`s music even after
being reminded of all this? Her answer was no. I`ll ask that question to
my panel next.
REID: And we are back with the amazing Moodie-Mills wife and wife team,
Aisha and Danielle, hosts of the "Politini" podcast, talking about stories
that popped this week. And of course, we have to start with R. Kelly.
A. MOODIE-MILLS: Well, I just get creepy when -- I mean, I feel like
creeps when you say his name. I think that, you know, it`s really
unfortunate that here we have a situation where R. Kelly is, allegedly, I
guess, but he is clearly a person who`s not a good person. Right? And
he`s got all these fans that are buying his music.
REID: And women fans, as well.
A. MOODIE-MILLS: Woman fans. And so it really creates this broader
pictures of where are we as a society that we give a guy a pass because he
might make us shake our hips, even though we know that he`s doing all of
these horrible, heinous things?
D. MOODIE-MILLS: I have been calling it musical amnesia. It seems that
every time that somebody is a singer and if they`re an actor or what have
you that we forget everything else and only listen to the melody and not,
like, the disgusting behavior that they do.
R. Kelly, there was hundreds of pages, documents, OK, of like this nasty
A. MOODIE-MILLS: Sexual predator.
D. MOODIE-MILLS: It made people`s stomach turn but nobody in the press,
that is, because they haven`t read it.
REID: Well, 1 percent of the press. I mean, the reporter who actually did
the story, that pursued the story, the quote that he came away with in the
"Village Voice" article, Mr. DeRogatis, was "The saddest fact I`ve learned
is that nobody matters less to our society than young black women.
Isn`t it also the point that, you know, in the case of Michael Jackson --
not that we`re drawing an equivalency, but Michael Jackson was accused of
sexual misconduct, but with boys, and he paid a tremendous price for it in
his career. With R. Kelly, you know, the conduct is alleged to be against
young girls, and is it the case that there`s a lack of valuation of these
A. MOODIE-MILLS: It`s a lack of valuation of black girls. If it were one
little white girl, you better believe that he would be somewhere behind
bars. Right? And if it were a little boy, then they`d be like, "Oh, we`re
not fooling with him because he`s a pedophile, and God forbid he might
possibly be a gay pedophile. Then that would be a whole other thing.
So yes, I think that there`s a whole conversation to be had about how do we
value black girls in this country? Do we? Why don`t we? And why is no
one coming to their aid? There are dozens of them.
D. MOODIE-MILLS: And we sexualize black girls. Right? Because they can
say, "OH, she said that she was 16, but she looks 18."
D. MOODIE-MILLS: "Or she looks 20." So we put the onus on R. Kelly`s bad
behavior on the young women...
REID: Right. Or on their families.
D. MOODIE-MILLS: Or on their families. Because they must not have had
good parents, or they must not have been raised well. But -- whoever they
were being raised by.
But here is -- this man was lurking at a high school, at junior high
schools waiting for these girls. What kid is not going to be impressed by
a star -- right -- that is there, and they`re thinking that he`s an adult.
And OK, we`ll -- you know, we`ll trust you. And what he did, the violation
that he did on their bodies and their psyches, here he is still getting
awards, still racking up Grammys.
REID: And he`s really in your face.
D. MOODIE-MILLS: Oh, yes. And "Black Panties"...
D. MOODIE-MILLS: ... as the title? That`s like a big, you know, finger in
the face of these girls that are still trying to put their lives back
A. MOODIE-MILLS: These girls, some of whom have true -- attempted to
commit suicide, because they feel such despair and such shame that no one
is coming to their aid. That in fact, society is demonizing them, and
they`re the ones that are the victims.
I think we have a lot of soul searching to do, when you have dozens of
girls who are being victimized and no one is wrapping their arms around
them. And we`re putting them out to pasture and just shaming them and
allowing this crazy guy to continue to gyrate on a stage, talking about
like, you know, sex.
REID: Well, tell us what you actually feel.
But you know, speaking of sort of girls` empowerment, I think this is one
that I know Jose Perry (ph) agrees with this. I definitely agree with it.
But that if you look at the other end of the spectrum in terms of self-
A. MOODIE-MILLS: Yes.
REID: ... OK, just the way that she dropped her album in terms of doing it
her own way, putting all the singles out at once, not letting the record
labels nor radio choose what are going to be the singles. They`re all
singles. And just the sort of, really, you know, the way she bogarted the
whole industry doing it. What`s the latest thing that she`s done that`s
been empowering now? Talk a little bit about that. She went to a Wal-Mart
and did some things.
D. MOODIE-MILLS: Oh, my goodness. So she went into Wal-Mart -- just OK, I
have to just admit, I think Beyonce is ferocious.
A. MOODIE-MILLS: She walks on water for us.
D. MOODIE-MILLS: She walks on -- she walks on water for us. But she walks
into the Wal-Mart, because right after Target has said that they are not
going to pick up her -- pick up her CD...
REID: Because she released it...
D. MOODIE-MILLS: ... because she released it on iTunes, right? And I have
to say, you know, they just have decided that they`re not going to evolve
with the industry. Right? Because that`s what`s happening.
But here she walks into the Wal-Mart. She gets on the loud speaker, and
she says, "Hello. Attention Wal-Mart shoppers, your first $50 purchase is
on me." She drops $37,500 on gift cards for the 750 customers that were in
A. MOODIE-MILLS: Which is her way of walking in and, total diva, total
gangsta, saying, "You know what? I appreciate you for appreciating me.
And I`m going to come in here and drop 50 bucks on all of you. Welcome to
the bee hive." I thought that that was really fantastic.
REID: So what about the counterpoint. Are people saying you guys were
just talking about the sexualization of young girls in the R. Kelly sense.
What about people who look at Beyonce and say, "Well, she`s putting forward
a very sexualized image of womanhood, as well"?
D. MOODIE-MILLS: Beyonce is a grown woman. A grown married woman. She is
a mother. Right? We can`t even put R. Kelly and Beyonce in the same
conversation and in the same space. Because here is a woman that is owning
her image, her body, her industry, her brand and is taking control out of
that in an industry where women are constantly taken advantage of.
A. MOODIE-MILLS: And it really -- and I really push back against this idea
that Beyonce is in some way a sexual deviant because she owns her
sexuality. Why is it that when you have 50 million white women jumping up
and down screaming over Christian Gray, right, buying these books talking
about, you know, beat me, chain me up, et cetera, et cetera, then they`re
just liberated? Right, they`re liberated.
But when you have a black woman who`s actually talking about having a very
healthy relationship with her husband...
REID: Within her marriage.
A. MOODIE-MILLS: ... within her marriage that all of a sudden, that`s
something that we should all shun away from. So I completely resist that
REID: All right. And then I wish we had time to give into "Duck Dynasty"
and somebody defending the "Duck Dynasty" guy by saying that he`s the next
D. MOODIE-MILLS: You`re going to leave us like that?
REID: I think you guys agree that he is not.
A. MOODIE-MILLS: No.
D. MOODIE-MILLS: He is the antithesis of.
A. MOODIE-MILLS: Right.
REID: Stay right there. Coming up, is it Paul Ryan? Is it Hillary
Clinton? Is it Ted Cruz? Just who are the ones to watch in 2014? We`ll
find out next.
REID: 2014 is shaping up to be a banner political year with an election
that could defy expectations about what a midterm electorate looks like, if
Democrats succeed in bringing the percentage of black, Latino, single-women
voters up who go to the polls in 2014.
For one thing, 22 -- Why is it so major? Because for one thing, 22 out of
29 Republican governors will be up for re-election this year, including
nine in states where President Obama won in 20 -- 2008 and 2012: Florida,
Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, and
So who are my politicos to watch next year? OK, I`m going to start with
Richard Wade, with Rick Wade. Rick Wade is a former Commerce Department
official who advised the Barack Obama presidential campaign in the crucial
primary state of South Carolina in 2008 and 2012.
And now he`s running for the United States Senate against Tea Partier Tim
Scott, who was appointed by Governor Nikki Haley to fill Jim DeMint`s
Senate seat last year.
Now, before you say Democrats will never, ever win in that state, consider
this. President Obama lost South Carolina in 2008 and in 2012 but not by a
blowout. He got 45 percent and 44 percent in other vote total in those
And Wade, who faces a primary that he`s expected to win, would have a key
issue off the table in a matchup with Scott. As the state columnist Warren
Bolton wrote in August, "It would be intriguing to see two black candidates
with opposite viewpoints on a laundry list of issues debating them before
the people of the Palmetto State. At the end of the day, voters would be
asked to choose based not on race but on these candidates` ideas and
So who else should we be watching for next year? Charlie Crist. You know
I can`t leave off my Sunshine State. The sitting governor of Florida is
Rick Scott, as you know, who barely got elected in 2010 and who remains one
of the most -- more unpopular governors in the country.
So Crist, the one-time Republican governor turned independent turned Obama
Democrat, has the chance to get his old job back and to set the table for
Florida to be in Democratic hands come 2016.
And last but not least, Wendy Davis, the Texas state senator who
electrified Twitter and the nation with her fierce filibuster of an anti-
abortion bill back in June. The bill eventually passed, but Wendy and her
pink sneakers became a national phenomenon.
And while you might think that Texas is totally unwinnable for a Democratic
woman, just remember: it`s been done before by Ann Richards. And if Davis
can inspire enough single and Hispanic women to go to the polls for her,
she could be the start of a Texas purple makeover and would instantly
attract Hillary-like buzz as a potential first woman president.
OK. Let`s get to our panel and find out who their ones to watch are for
2014, starting with politics and starting with Marcus.
MABRY: For me, it`s Paul Ryan. Now, he`s not nearly as exciting as all
the people you just suggested. I`m terribly sorry. He`s more
conventional. But I think we -- the success he just had on the budget deal
and actually carving out a little bit of bipartisanism in Washington. Now
he actually is kind of balancing out -- trying to balance out. This is
what I`m going to watch next year to see if he can continue to do it.
He`s trying to walk the line between the Republican traditional
conservatives, who are more pro-business, and the Tea Party, more
extravagant part of the party. Now if he can balance those two interests
and not offend one too much as he tries to mollify the other, then he
really becomes a real amazing contender for the Republicans in the next
presidential election. So I`m going to be watching if he can keep that
balancing act going.
REID: OK. Richard?
KIM: I may be looking at Bill de Blasio, who -- we know the guy can run an
election. His diagnosis of inequality in New York was spot on. As he now
turns to govern on that progressive populist agenda, can he do it? There
are huge challenges ahead of him.
There are no contracts with any of the municipal unions. That`s one of the
legacies of the Bloomberg administration. He has to go to negotiate that.
He has to talk to Albany and get them to pass a tax hike so he could
actually fund pre-K here in New York City. There is gentrification.
There`s income inequality. All these things that are sort of roiling that
he was so good at pointing the finger at he now has to fix. It`s a test
not just of his character and his ability to govern but also what economic
urban populism can do in America.
REID: Absolutely. That is the big experiment happening, economic
A. MOODIE-MILLS: Well, I`m actually looking to see what`s happening in
culture. Because as we know, politics tends to be a lagging indicator of
where the American public is on a variety of issues.
So I am watching the fictional character Olivia Pope. Because Olivia Pope
really reflects so much of the -- of the conflict inside of all of us. The
good, the bad, and the ugly. And I think that it really permeates our
social consciousness about how we move through the world and the choices
that we have to make.
And I`m also watching Janet Mock. Hey, girl. Shout you out. Because
Janet Mock is really -- her book is being released this year in February, I
believe. She`s really redefining how we think about black women in our
REID: All right. Sounds good. Danielle.
D. MOODIE-MILLS: All right. So I`m on the culture watch, as well, because
I think that politics and pop culture have a wonderful intersect.
D. MOODIE-MILLS: And so the first person that I am watching is Laverne
Cox. I love Laverne, "Orange is the New Black." She has been an amazing
advocate for the trans community and for bringing the trans struggle into
the homes of everyone around the world. And so I think that she`s
phenomenal, and we need to continue watching her.
My other pick is Michael B. Jordan, who starred in "Fruitvale Station,"
which was amazing and had tremendous buzz. And I think that he is going to
be that actor that we`re going to be following for quite some time.
REID: Isn`t it amazing how between Laverne Cox as well as Janet Mock, how
the -- in the LGBT community, the most invisible part of it really has
been the transgender community. But these two ladies are actually really
bringing it forward and bringing that conversation forward. How important
D. MOODIE-MILLS: It`s everything. They`re living out loud. They are
truly defining what that means to really put yourself, put the personal and
the politics together. And they are living that. And I think that it`s a
wonderful identifier for everyone on how we need to be forward-facing on
our political issues and what we believe in.
A. MOODIE-MILLS: Yes, and I think that with the two of them as well as
with Olivia Pope, they`re really kind of bringing issues to the forefront,
sure, but they`re really bringing the sense of common humanity to the
forefront. Like we`re all Americans. We`re all deserving of the same
opportunities, the same rights. We make the same mistakes. We have the
same challenges. And I think that we can all kind of coalesce around that.
REID: And I personal don`t know what I`m going to do until "Scandal" comes
back. I literally have psychological trauma.
Well, Aisha Moodie-Mills, Danielle Moodie-Mills, Marcus Mabry and Richard
Kim, thanks to all of you.
That is our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m Joy
Reid. Melissa will be back here next Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m.
And now it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT" -- Alex.
ALEX WITT, MSNBC ANCHOR: There is such enthusiasm. Thank you so much.
REID: It`s because of you.
WITT: There`s good news here. Let`s go with this. New in the Target
fallout, why some 2 million debit card holders will be limited to only
taking out $100 at some ATMs.
We`ll also talk to the author of a new and provocative article about
whether companies are willing to let their employees go hungry.
Did hardball politics lead to inconveniencing thousands of commuters?
We`ll have the very latest twist in the flap over Chris Christie and the
George Washington Bridge.
And the holiday break is upon us. So what films are we seeing? We have
your holiday movie guide, including why the film "Her" is getting so much
And in today`s special version of "Office Politics," the MSNBC gang shares
the best and worst gifts they`ve ever received. There`s some really good
ones here. They`re kind of funny.
Don`t go anywhere. I`ll be right back.
WITT: A weather odyssey on the East Coast. It is spring-like here, but in
the Midwest it`s the first full day of winter, and it`s acting like it.
A surprise response from some banks to the stolen credit and debit card
numbers at Target. So how might it affect you?
They were among the most maligned group during the Iraq war. Blackwater
Security. There`s now a new book about it. I`m going to talk to the
Diving for gold. Meet one woman who`s going to great lengths -- and depths
-- to follow her dream.
Hello, everyone. High noon here in the East, 9 a.m. out West. Welcome to
"WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
To politics. And new today, we are less than 24 hours away from a major
Obama care deadline. Tomorrow is the last chance for people to sign up for
health insurance to take effect on January 1.
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