January 4, 2014
Guests: Jay Angoff, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Robert George, Marc Steiner, Carl Hart, Chris Simunek, Ramiro Gomez, Lorraine Miller, Ralph Nader, Raul Reyes
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
And we have a lot of news and politics to discuss this morning.
But before we get to that, I`m going to start with an apology. Last Sunday
we invited a panel of comedians for a year in review program. It`s what we
call our look back in laughter. But in one of the segments we looked at a
number of photos that caught our attention over the course of the year. And
in that segment I asked my guests to provide kind of off the cuff ideas for
captions of the photos that we were seeing. Among the images we aired was
one of the Romney family that showed Governor Mitt Romney`s grandchildren,
including his adopted grandson, who`s African-American. Now, given my own
family history, I`d identify with that picture and intended to say positive
and celebratory things about it. But whatever the intent was, the reality
is that the segment proceeded in a way that was offensive. And showing the
photo in that context, of that segment, was poor judgment.
So without reservation or qualification, I apologize to the Romney family.
Adults who enter into public life, implicitly consent to having less
privacy, but their families, and especially their children, should not be
treated callously or thoughtlessly. My intention was not malicious, but I
broke the ground rule that families are off-limits, and for that I am
Also, allow me to apologize to other families formed through transracial
adoption because I`m deeply sorry that we suggested that interracial
families are in any way funny or deserving of ridicule. On this program we
are dedicated to advocating for a wide diversity of families. And it is one
of our core principles. And I am reminded that when we are doing so, it
must always be with the utmost respect. We`re generally appreciative of
everyone who offered serious criticisms of last Sunday`s program, and I am
reminded that our fiercest critics can sometimes our best teachers.
HARRIS PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
This week a national attention turned to New York City for a moment widely
recognized as the start of something new for our country. No, I do not mean
the whole countdown and ball drop in Times Square to mark the beginning of
the new year. I`m talking about what happened hours later when New York
City ceremoniously inaugurated its brand-new mayor, Bill de Blasio. De
Blasio`s decisive, landslide victory has been hailed not only as a mandate
for progressive social and economic reform here in New York City, but part
of a larger shift towards a populous movement in American politics. Because
he made a reality out of what had previously been a political pipe dream
for Democratic candidates in a major election. To run and win on a far-left
progressive platform. Now, New York voters responded overwhelmingly to De
Blasio`s campaign theme of a tale of two cities. And he`s promised to
address the widening gap between the city`s rich and poor with policies
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL DE BLASIO: We will expand the paid sick leave law. We will require big
developers to build more affordable housing. We will fight to stem the tide
of hospital closures.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
DE BLASIO: And we`ll expand community health centers into neighborhoods in
need. We will reform a broken stop-and-frisk policy. We will ask the very
wealthy to pay a little more in taxes so that we can offer full-day
universal pre-K for every child in the city.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
DE BLASIO: And after-school programs for every middle-school child. We will
not wait. We`ll do it now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS PERRY: Now, but maybe not quite right now because no sooner had he
taken office then all of the day one items on this populist agenda got
blown a little further down the list by development that demanded his
immediate attention. The new mayor would first have to contend with the
winter storm that cut a path across the Midwest this week before moving on
to the East Coast. The blizzard dumped nearly two feet of snow on the mid-
Atlantic region including up to ten inches that covered New York by late
Friday morning. So, De Blasio couldn`t plow ahead with his plan to clear
the way for the rise of the people because first he had to plan for the
plows to clear the ice and make sure the people wouldn`t slip and fall.
It`s a reminder of the relatively mundane day to day work of governance,
especially when you compare it to the big ideological questions of policy
and progress that characterize a campaign. Because let`s `be honest.
Snowplows and salt don`t sound quite as sexy in a stump speech as applause
lines about justice and equality.
But for a city turning a new page on the government that serves the needs
of its most vulnerable, they are the tools to take the early measure of a
mayor`s ability to deliver on those high ideals. After all, it was this was
photo that became symbolic of Mayor Michael Bloomberg`s perception as an
out of touch elitist when a 2010 blizzard pounded New York City. That`s
Bloomberg`s block, clean and clear the day after the storm while much of
the rest of the city remained blanketed in nearly two feet of snow. He paid
a political price with his botched handling of the snow emergency, caused
his poll numbers to plummet. So, on the optics, at least, de Blasio is off
to a promising start. This was the morning after snowmageddon image for New
York`s new mayor. Bill de Blasio, shovel in hand pulling a Cory Booker
clearing his own sidewalk while giving reporters an update on progress of
the city`s response to the storm.
His performance on this, his first big test as mayor of the country`s
largest city, matters to more than just snowed-in New Yorkers because
there`s a national spotlight on the New York mayoralty. And for this
administration in particular, it`s all the first big test of whether or not
this waive of nascent progressive populism is just a passing moment or a
growing sustainable movement of meaningful reform. If Mayor De Blasio is to
take his populist promises from ideas to implementation, he will have to
effectively marshal the city`s considerable resources of municipal
government, of nearly 300,000 employees, and a $70 billion budget in
service of his agenda.
Liberal reformers beyond the city`s five boroughs will be watching the city
not only as a test case for the promise of the populist movement, but also
for its possibilities because over the past four years the most consistent
prevailing image of populism in American politics has looked like this --
the Tea Party, fiscally conservative, opposed to tax increases and above
all adherence to a view that the federal government has encroached too far
into the lives of ordinary people. So, the beginning of the de Blasio era
in New York pushes the boundaries of that brand of populism to embrace an
alternative. But whether it is providing safety and security, access to a
good education, an affordable place to live for just a snow-free street,
there is a place among those ordinary people for good government that works
to make their lives better. Joining me now with Marc Steiner, host of the
Marc Steiner Show on WEAA 88.9 FM and founder of the Center for Emerging
Media. Also, Lorraine Miller, interim CEO of the NAACP, Katrina Vanden-
Heuvel, editor and publisher of "The Nation" magazine and author of "The
Change I Believe in: a Fighting for Progress in the Age of Obama." And
also, Robert George, associate editorial page editor of "The New York
post." Thanks to all of you for being here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
HARRIS PERRY: So, I sort of teased there, Katrina, about the new mayor
pulling a Cory Booker in that - you know, these images of actually being
out with the people in the neighborhood, you know, clearing snow, but how
important or rather how well the sort of image aspects have to line up
against the real capacity to deliver policy that is in line with what the
boss says he wants to do?
KATRINA VANDEN-HEUVEL, EDITOR & PUBLISHER, THE NATION MAGAZINE: I mean it`s
very important that he passed his first test. Because I think to be an
effective progressive leader you need to show competence. I mean and you
mentioned the Bloomberg`s snowstorm. Don`t forget the Lindsay snowstorm of
1969 when scores of people died. And that really hit him badly.
HARRIS PERRY: It`s not the cosmetic like --
VANDEN-HEUVEL: It`s not the cosmetic. You need to show confidence. And you
need to show in terms of public safety and a whole set of other issues
while he still stays true to his promise to reform a broken stop and frisk
system and repair relations with communities. But I do think Bill de
Blasio, the nation endorsed Bill de Blasio early. At the end of July, a lot
of people said to us, how noble of you. It really could have been Weiner
and Spitzer in this city. I mean there was a moment.
HARRIS PERRY: That happened. Yep. That happened.
VANDEN-HEUVEL: You know, I say this with humility. I`ve spoken to people
around Bill de Blasio and I don`t think he fully understood how important
his campaign was as it moved forward. But he did have this very coherent,
important message about tackling inequality and rebuilding a city for all
pre-K, universal pre-K, is his signature policy. And he will need to move.
The good thing about Bill de Blasio is he comes out of a politics of
community organizations, of mobilizations in this city that were under the
radar for decades in Bloomberg`s New York. So I think the one thing I would
say, Melissa, going forward, being careful about using the word populist,
progressive, but I also say we should never say that tapping inequality is
a right or left issue. It is about right and wrong.
HARRIS PERRY: So, I love sort of the language that you have laid out here
around Bill de Blasio and the kind of excitement in this moment. But Marc,
I have to say one of the joys that I have about living not in New York,
living in New Orleans, is, you know, I`m constantly pushing back on my
producers that, hey, actually what`s happening in New York is just -- I
know it seems like it`s national news because it`s happening here and all
of the media are here, but is there any evidence from your perspective,
Marc, that - because you also live here in the city, that what is happening
in New York is actually indicative of a growing populist progressive
movement more broadly across the country? In other words, electing a
Democrat as mayor of New York may be a little bit like saying it snowed in
MARC STEINER, POPULIST CAMPAIGN PLATFORM: But you had Bloomberg for a long
HARRIS PERRY: Yes. Right. Granted. Granted. What about - snow in winter?
ROBERT GEORGE, ASSOCIATE EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, NEW YORK POST: It`s been 20
years since a Democrat was here.
STEINER: And I think, but I think there is - - whether it`s Chokwe Lumumba
in Jackson, Mississippi, or elections all around this country, in our
cities, progressives are growing. The movement is growing politically on
the Democratic side. As importantly to me are all the people around the
country who are mobilizing in North Carolina, in Georgia, in all across
city in Baltimore, at home in New Orleans, you know, that communities are
rising up. What has to happen, and we`ll see if it happens, can that
progressive Democratic movement that seems to be pushing the party, which
Clinton and everybody else to a certain direction of the progressive side,
it cannot meet in the middle of all the people who are rising up around the
country, demanding change? That`s where we are going to see the dynamic.
HARRIS PERRY: So this notion of the people rising up, this is in part why I
wanted to put my finger on the idea that the most effective in terms of
organizational capacity and in terms of impacting our government populist
movement has not been progressive, it`s been conservative, right? It`s
really has been the Tea Party since 2009 and when I think about populism
that`s occurring in Louisiana, New Orleans now, it`s not Huey Long
populism, it`s mostly Tea Party populism.
GEORGE: That`s exactly right. And that populist strain, just as the
populist progressive strain is pushing Democrats to the left, the populist
conservative strain is - the Tea Party strain is pushing the Republican
Party to the right. And what I think is going to be interesting, if you
start seeing in Louisiana, North Carolina, and so forth is whether those
strains will actually start because those are the kind of the states where
you might see -- particularly North Carolina where it`s a purple state.
HARRIS PERRY: Right.
GEORGE: And you`re going to see what kind of - how those - there was
populist strains will clash and which ones will come out on top.
HARRIS PERRY: Well, it`s -- .
GEORGE: And obviously, a Bill de Blasio might possibly a few years down the
road, you know, run for governor. He could win here. But in a lot of these
urban areas that are in red states, it`s not quite clear whether that
populist strain is going to be able to win statewide. I don`t think it`s
going to win statewide in Texas, for example, but at least not anytime
LORRAINE MILLER: Yeah, but - and in North Carolina, where our state
conference chair, Reverend Dr. Barber and is moving with the Moral Monday.
It is the coalition -- I think it`s a social justice movement that is
really bubbling up, that people -- there`s a need there. And he`s felt that
need and he`s been able to mobilize people. The same thing in Florida that
we have with one of our local branches, Miss Ellison. There was - they`ve
got this huge school to prison pipeline that she worked with the school
superintendent and the parole officers and the courts to come up with an
agreement that we`ll address. It`s the social justice issues.
HARRIS PERRY: Even this language of Moral Monday, right, this goes to your
point about this is not a right/left issue, it`s a right/wrong issue. And
it`s part of the brilliance of that. Stick with me. We`re going to stay
right on this topic. Because I want to talk more about the dream defenders
and what`s going on in Florida and the universal pre-k is one of the key
aspects, but so, too is Stop and Frisk. And how identity politics and
populism come together. When we come back.
HARRIS PERRY: Welcome back. We`re hearing discussing the burgeoning
populist movement in American politics. So let me ask you a little bit on
this sort of discursive strategy, Robert. Because it seems to me that what
the populist movement on the right has done beautifully is it has a
language about what constitutes populism in terms of policy, and it is tax
cuts. That`s - that the thing that the government can do to ease life for
ordinary people is tax cuts. Is that a reasonable sort of populist
discourse going forward for the right?
GEORGE: Well, I mean it`s tax cuts and the complementary aspect of it is
size of - is size of government.
HARRIS PERRY: Yes. I remember. Because of that - because then you haven`t
GEORGE: Yeah, I mean it`s kind of -- it comes from that sort of don`t tread
on me sensibility. Look, the belief is that if the, you know, the average
family has more money in their pocket to, you know, allocate as they would,
that`s - and in certain ways the kind of best kind of freedom. And so, that
is sort of the bulwark of the conservative language and the Tea Party.
SK: So, Katrina, given how effective that message has been over the years,
how do you then come in and say, all right, what we actually are going to
do from a left populist perspective is to provide more services, which is
going to require raising taxes on --
VANDEN-HEUVEL: I think you begin by saying something that Senator Elizabeth
Warren has said so effectively, because she, let`s not forget, precedes to
Bill de Blasio in terms of being, you know, a leader of a populist
Democratic wing. Which is that the system is rigged in favor of the
powerful interests in this country and against the working families and
people of this country, so I think a sense of fairness. I think there needs
to be an aspirational sense, too, and in that is the signature program of
Bill de Blasio, the universal pre-K, which is commonsense investment in the
future of our country. You know, sadly, and I think Ralph Nader and I have
spoken about this, there was the opportunity for some alliances between
different kinds of populism, because at its heart there should be a kind of
any corporate -- not any business.
HARRIS PERRY: Right.
VANDEN-HEUVEL: There is a belief in business.
HARRIS PERRY: Not any business.
VANDEN-HEUVEL: Not any business, but any corporate, not anti-wealth
creation but I do think the right-wing populism of the Tea Party not only
became so obsessed with an anti-government name, but let`s be honest. There
is a racism threaded through the right-wing populism, which is not unusual
to American right-wing populism, that has not allowed for coalitions that
could be built on behalf of working people in this country against the most
HARRIS PERRY: So, listen, this was the great challenge of Huey Long. Let`s
back off from the contemporary Republican Party for a moment and just go
back to our history of populism where I think this question of race and
racism having split potential populist movement, it`s kind of more obvious
and I think accepted and in fact it wasn`t the Democratic Party where it
was happening at that time.
GEORGE: It was very, very strong in labor union movements as well, such as
- you know, the Davis Bacon laws and things like that.
HARRIS PERRY: No, but that`s what I`m saying. It was actually - it was
happening on the left in that there was this possibility of creating class-
based movements where people who had similar interests in economics ended
up being split around issues like Jim Crow. That`s why you don`t end up
with a labor movement in the South. Right?
GEORGE: That`s exactly part of - it`s part of the reason. So I mean it`s
not just - it`s not the right wing populism and racism, there is also left
wing populism and racism as well.
VANDEN-HEUVEL: Not today, though. Not today.
HARRIS PERRY: Right. And I think that`s a part of why I want to come to the
Bill de Blasio point, is because as much as universal pre-K is a signature
policy, what allowed him to break through in this race was not universal
pre-K. It was him taking a position on Stop and Frisk.
MILLER: He was a part of our march a couple of years ago.
VANDEN-HEUVEL: The silent march. Yes.
MILLER: Yes, the silent march that - and then, you know, he`s to be
commended for that. Early on without any prompting.
GEORGE: Now, of course, there is a little bit of an irony here in New York,
though, that de Blasio has taken - has pointed Bill Bratton, replacing Ray
Kelly, to head the police department and one of Bratton`s biggest successes
- or he sees this as the successes, was actually expanding Stop and Frisk.
Now, in the middle he may have done it differently from the tactical point,
but there is an interesting --
HARRIS PERRY: I actually, Marc, for me this is actually the big challenge,
right? So, progressives -- we saw this in a certain way in the 1970s when
we first got African-American mayors who emerged often around language of
left wing populism and racial justice, right? They emerged. People are
excited. And then it turns out that they often end up in bed with precisely
those same, like, policing interests as their predecessor.
STEINER: What`s going to happen, I think what Bill de Blasio and other
progressive mayors have to watch out for is this, and this is so layered.
One is, in New York City like most cities the financial interests in
developers have huge power. They have what they want. When he starts
talking about saying you have to have affordable housing and they have to
start paying for it, that`s where this (inaudible) is going to come. Can
you fight that? And that`s all to me tied in to Stop and Frisk, because
poverty is tied into people lacking housing, that`s where homelessness is
tied into. It`s all together. And I think that Stop and Frisk -- I think
the difference is also we are talking earlier about populism, is it that -
what we are seeing now is the social justice populism, very different from
right wing populism.
VANDEN-HEUVEL: That`s Bill de Blasio also -- and not just Bill de Blasio,
Letitia James, the first African-American citywide to the public advocate.
But it`s going to take -- we know this. Elections are just the first step.
He`s been elected and he has said this openly. He needs allies and others
in the street pushing for racial justice, for police accountability, and
for working with the very groups which helped elect him as well as the
public education groups, as well as the community groups, as well as the
labor groups. But there`s no question that it was a police reform, police
accountability groups that played a central role.
HARRIS PERRY: I want to pause right here because I think that`s exactly the
point I want to go to is this idea that if we rest just on electing the
right people or the left people, the case may be that may be insufficient.
So, we`re going to take a quick break. And when we come back, we`re going
to bring in Ralph Nader in order to talk about how we make populism into
HARRIS PERRY: The beginning of 2014 brought with it encouraging news that
meaningful policy reform may finally begin to tackle the nation`s ever-
expanding wealth gap. On January 1, a total of 13 states increased their
minimum wage, bringing a happy new year to nearly 2.5 million low-income
workers. That brings the total to 21 states that have taken matters into
their own hands while Congress continues to drag its feet on raising the
federal minimum wage. Joining me now from Washington, D.C., is someone who
has been a leading voice on raising that federal minimum, consumer advocate
and author of "The 17 Solutions: Bold Ideas for Our American Future." Mr.
Ralph Nader, thank for being here today.
RALPH NADER, CONSUMER ADVOCATE: Thanks you, Melissa.
HARRIS PERRY: So, talk to me a bit about how much this increasing minimum
wage at the state level, how much of a victory is it for low-wage workers
given that we don`t have a federal momentum yet?
NADER: Well, this minimum wage is the beginning of a progressive resurgence
in this country, because as you indicated there`s pressure now from a lot
of people at the local level to raise the minimum wage, like San Jose did
with the students in California, at the state level to raise the minimum
wage is going on around the country, and also pressure now on Congress. So
this is a very popular issue. We`re going to win this issue. 30 million
American workers make less today than workers made in 1968, 44 years ago,
and worker productivity has doubled. It comes in at 80 percent support from
the American people, which means a lot of conservatives as well as people
who call themselves liberals and progressives. Even Mitt Romney until the
election year was for it. And Rick Santorum is still for it.
HARRIS PERRY: Yes.
NADER: So, we have here a great economic stimulus. $30 billion will be
spent in the economy by hard-pressed families. Two-thirds of all minimum -
two-thirds of low-income workers are hired by the big corporations like
Target and Walmart, which we picketed in Connecticut earlier last year. And
two-thirds are women. And, of course, a majority are minorities, including
a lot of poor whites. So this is a huge coalition, and it needs a victory
and will have a great spillover effect. And what`s really interesting here
is that there`s a conservative aspect to this. Ron Unz is going to put an
initiative on the California ballot and he`s got a record of winning. In
November of this year to raise the minimum wage to $12. You know what his
argument is? His argument is that Walmart pays so low wages while the CEO
makes $11,000 an hour, that they`re pushing the workers on public
assistance like earned income credit, housing assistance, Medicaid, food
stamps, and he says why should the taxpayer fund these giant corporations
who are underpaying workers who were working their heads off?
HARRIS PERRY: Right. So that the key sort of argument about a reduction of
the size of government, particularly around programs that are often
unpopular on the right, that idea that that safety net is actually being
used to bolster the profits of the very wealthy who own these.
NADER: That`s right.
HARRIS PERRY: But that said, typically, so, as you were talking, we were
looking at a lot of images there of folks in front of Walmart and other
places who were advocating for the minimum wage, but I keep thinking that
the most effective tool that this country has ever seen for changing wage
and labor conditions were and are labor unions. And those have had a really
tough time since about 2009. You recently wrote to the AFL-CIO around this.
Talk to me about the role of labor unions and whether or not you can
strengthen labor unions in a way that effectively addresses this issue.
NADER: Well, I`ll show you how easy it is to get this minimum wage at least
up to 1968, which would be about $10.70 an hour, only a few thousand
workers supported by SCIU have gotten a lot of this publicity, picketing
McDonald`s and other fast-food chains. Imagine if a million of the 30
million workers hit the streets, how much faster this would occur. And this
has huge popular support all over the country. A conservative worker in
Walmart is going to say, oh, no, I`m conservative, I want to work for eight
bucks an hour.
NADER: It doesn`t happen. It doesn`t happen. And so what we`re seeing here
is the Democrats in Congress are too sluggish. George Miller and Senator
Harkin, they have put this bill in after a little pressure from some of us.
But they`re not really pushing it. And so I wrote Richard Trumka, the AFL-
CIO, like my fourth letter and said come on, take a real lead here, for
heaven`s sake. These workers are potential union members in the future. So
we got to kick start the sluggish Democratic establishment in Washington.
And, you know, they`re so stupid electorally. They could win the House back
on this issue, preserve the Senate. There are 30 million workers looking
for a little help to feed their families for heaven`s sake. We have the
lowest minimum wage in the Western world. In Ontario, where Walmart makes
good money, they have to pay $10.25 an hour. Australia, it`s $16 an hour
and they have a lower unemployment rate. So we`ve got a real opportunity to
galvanize the whole progressive movement and have spillover effects on
HARRIS PERRY: All right, Mr. Nader, stay with me because I do want to dig
into exactly that question about whether or not you can kick-start, as you
say, the sluggish Democratic side. And we`re going to talk about part of
that sluggish Democratic side and how it feels like it`s starting to get
kick-started because the Clintons showed up at the de Blasio inauguration
HARRIS PERRY: With all the focus on Bill de Blasio`s inauguration signaling
a new wave of populism, it`s hard not to notice who might be riding that
wave along with him? Most notably one of the other political power couples
on the podium that day, Bill and Hillary Clinton. The mayor worked as a
regional director of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in
President Clinton`s administration and managed Secretary Clinton`s campaign
when she ran for the U.S. Senate in 2000. But even given their personal
history, a former president and presidential -- potential presidential
candidate aren`t kind of usual suspects when a city is swearing in a new
mayor. And it`s prompted some to speculate that their show of support was
political as well as personal.
In a column for "The Washington Post" this week, writer Dan Balz says of
President Clinton`s speech at the inauguration, that quote, "The former
president was clearly mindful that the Democratic Party of 2014 and of
Barack Obama is not quite the same one that he led in the 1990s and that
one potential obstacle on the path of Hillary Clinton`s possible
presidential ambitions is a primary challenge from the left. His embrace of
de Blasio`s message was a deliberate step in positioning of the Clintons as
they look to a possible campaign." So, Marc, if the Clintons are there
waving their de Blasio flag as a kind of progressive bona fide, what is de
Blasio getting from heaving the Clintons - I mean obviously, the Clintons
are kind of Democratic rock stars, but, you know, in a real way, what does
it benefit him to have them there?
STEINER: Well, A, they`re friends, obviously. They are friends. They`ve
known each other for a long time.
GEORGE: And really, he asked the president to swear him in because he
benefits from having Clinton there as well.
STEINER: Exactly. But I think what`s happening here is also symptomatic of
the split happening in the Democratic Party right now. A lot of the
establishment forces inside the Democratic Party are really worried about
the push from the outside, whether it`s (inaudible) defenders, or whether
it`s de Blasio or whether it`s the kind of progressive wing of the party,
pushing hard to ask questions, asking questions like is the way capitalism
structured America today answering the needs of our country. Many people
say, no. So what does that mean they have to do when there`s always TPP and
HARRIS PERRY: Right.
STEINER: And so, this is real tension happening.
HARRIS PERRY: Yes.
STEINER: That is emblematic.
HARRIS PERRY: And embodied by Bill Clinton. I mean this is the --
HARRIS PERRY: -- from hope, right, who wasn`t felt had that narrative and
VANDEN-HEUVEL: But Bill Clinton was also -- .
HARRIS PERRY: Exactly.
VANDEN-HEUVEL: Deregulation of Wall Street.
HARRIS PERRY: Exactly.
VANDEN-HEUVEL: But I think you saw the Clintons -- you saw the Clintons
come and to do it - you know - you saw the Clintons come to this, I think
because they see the energy, where the energy is in an ascendant wing of
the Democratic Party. And also just on a small scale if Bill de Blasio is
going to get his signature achievement, universal pre-K, through, he needs
to show Andrew Cuomo, governor of the state, who is very much not in sync
with Bill de Blasio. I mean he is for tax cuts, he is for property tax
cuts, he is not for that, saying to the very richest this city that, hey,
we can, you know, you can pay a little more, $973 a year, one soy latte a
day as Bill de Blasio put it. So, I think - but I think if Hillary Clinton
is going to run, it is a different Democratic Party in many ways and she
needs to move to where the energy is. I would like to see her in the
Clinton - the both Clintons our across the country campaigning for
universal pre-K nationally.
HARRIS PERRY: We still have Ralph Nader with us. I want to go to Ralph
Nader, from all. Because, you know, obviously, Mr. Nader, you took certain
kinds of critiques about the ability of a progressive populist movement to
be electorally strategic. Right? That is a central question. And whatever
else Bill Clinton was as candidate and president, the man was incredibly
strategic in terms of being able to manage sort of the realities of
politics. So how, then, right, do we marry that sort of Clinton strategy
capacity with an emerging left populism?
NADER: Well, you wouldn`t rely on the Clintons. The Clintons put their
finger to the wind and their rhetoric is very windy. We`ve been trying to
get Hillary and Bill to come out for a $10.50 minimum wage. Hillary goes
around the country talking about the plight of poor women and children, but
she won`t come out for it. So maybe this program will help do that. But the
Clintons demonstrate the distinction between liberals and progressives.
Liberals like the Clintons, they`re not worried about NAFTA or the World
Trade Organization. They`re not upset by the military budget very much.
They`re go, go, in terms of military adventures and militarizing the State
Department. They`re not going after corporate welfare or demanding a
speculation tax on Wall Street transactions, which would help de Blasio
enormously. They`re not worried about even the Patriot Act. But
progressives are. And that`s the difference. And I think we ought to draw
that line, and if you`ll pardon me, Melissa, I think a lot of the talk show
hosts on MSNBC can be categorized as liberals rather than progressives.
HARRIS PERRY: Rather than progressives. OK. Yes.
MILLER: You know what, I`ll just take a slightly different tack on
President Clinton and his alignment with Bill de Blasio. I saw it as a
HARRIS PERRY: OK.
MILLER: I mean, I`ve worked in the Clinton administration. I have a good
feel for what the president is about. And I see this as part of what he
stood for in his presidency and in his post presidency with the Clinton
Foundation. I think part of what`s happening here is as our social justice
movement -- and I keep looking back at what`s happening in the Moral
Mondays in North Carolina with our -- what Reverend Barber wants to do is
to impact what the state legislature is not doing. And part of what that
is, is the strength in numbers. As he builds his coalition, he`s going to
have the numbers to impact the state legislature so that the governor is
going to have to say, OK, maybe I do need to consider what I`m not doing
with Medicaid, unemployment, all of that. That is I think the strength in
numbers and moving --
HARRIS PERRY: And it`s a pretty extraordinary coalition, right? One that
includes LGBT folks, one that includes students, one that includes women,
one that includes Democrats and Republicans.
MILLER: This is huge.
HARRIS PERRY: Rev. Barber was our very first foot soldier on this show and
it has been kind of extraordinary to watch that he is - whatever else he
is, he`s interested in building movement as to opposed to being a
charismatic leader, which is not something you`re seeing often, and I think
it`s part of - part of the question what we will do going forward. I just
want to say, thank you to Ralph Nader, who joined us this morning.
NADER: Thank you, Melissa.
HARRIS PERRY: And I totally hope that you`ll make a chart, and maybe it
could be a power chart, like which hosts are liberal and which ones are
progressive. Big - I totally --
NADER: Be careful what you wish for, Melissa.
HARRIS PERRY: Ralph Nader.
NADER: You`re right on, Melissa. Right on.
HARRIS PERRY: Ralph Nader and Lorraine Miller, thank you both for being
here. And up next the Obama administration responds to a supreme challenge.
HARRIS PERRY: Before helping to countdown the last seconds of 2013 in Times
Square Tuesday night, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor agreed to
temporarily block the Affordable Care Act`s contraception mandate so that
it will not yet impact a group of religious organizations including a
network of homes for the elderly run by catholic nuns. The nuns and other
plaintiffs are already exempt from providing contraceptive coverage to
employees under the ACA, but they claim that filling out the form
certifying that they are exempt is in itself a violation of their religious
beliefs. Now, here`s their point. Employees of exempt organizations can
still get birth control coverage directly from the administrator of their
health plan so that the religious organization has nothing to do with it.
But for that to happen, the religious organization needs to first fill out
the form certifying its exemption. The lead attorney for the nuns put it
the way - "The government demands that the Little Sisters of the Poor sign
a permission slip for abortion drugs and contraceptives or pay millions in
fines. The sisters believe that doing that violates their faith and that
they shouldn`t be forced to divert funds from the elderly poor they serve
to the IRS."
The plaintiff had asked Justice Sotomayor to block the mandate and these
fines from affecting them while they take their case to the federal appeals
court. The government responded Friday arguing that the plaintiffs cannot
claim that filling out the form violates their religious beliefs, because
their insurance administrator will be providing birth control despite the
plaintiff`s religious objections not because of them. The government also
noted that in this case the religious group`s insurance administrator is
itself also exempt from the mandate and will not have to provide birth
control anyway. For as the government put it, the nuns can solve their
problems themselves by declaring their religious exemption with the stroke
of their own pen.
Joining us from Washington, D.C. is Jay Angoff, the first director of
implementation for the Affordable Care Act at HHS and now a partner with
the D.C. law firm Mehri & Skalet. And here, at the table, Raul Reyes, an
attorney and columnist for "USA Today." Jay, I actually want to start with
you, because I want to ask by your understanding, do the nuns in this
particular case actually have standing? And is this different from the
hobby lobby case?
JAY ANGOFF, FMR. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES DEPT. OFFICIAL: I don`t believe
they do have standing and it is different from the hobby lobby case. I hate
to disagree with the Little Sisters of the Poor.
HARRIS PERRY: Yes.
ANGOFF: The Little Sisters of the Poor are the plaintiffs in this case, but
I think they`re being unreasonable because the position they take is that
simply by signing a certification saying that they`ve got a religious
objection to providing health coverage, which is guaranteed by the
Affordable Care Act, that is a burden on their religion. And I just think
that`s unreasonable. The Affordable Care Act guarantees women insurance
coverage that covers contraceptives. And what the Little Sisters of the
Poor are saying is not only that we don`t want to cover them, but that we
don`t want anyone to cover them. And the irony in this case is that their
insurer is a religious organization itself, so that there is no way that
they would provide that coverage anyway. So, I don`t even think they have
got standing to begin with.
As far as the hobby lobby case is concerned, that`s another very important
case and I think that`s even more dangerous in this respect. There`s a law
that says that person guarantees persons exercised religion. And what the
hobby lobby is saying is that I, the corporation, the hobby lobby, is a
person just like any individual, and that this corporation, the hobby
lobby, has rights to religious expression just like an individual. That`s a
very dangerous precedent. It would be an expansion of corporate rights and
ironically at the same time the Supreme Court`s trying to restrict
HARRIS PERRY: All right. So hold for me for a second. Because this is - I
really appreciate that, Jay, because it`s such a clear way of setting out
sort of what these challenges are. So, Raul, I want to come to you on this
because it does feel to me like this question of contraception has become
sort of the flashpoint for ACA, and just in case anybody doesn`t know, ACA
is Obamacare, they`re the same thing, it`s been such branding issues,
right? But that the sort of flashpoint issue has become contraception,
reproductive rights. Honestly, I was almost surprised how important this
has become because it is still a relatively small amount of the total
health care that Americans receive.
RAUL REYES, ATTORNEY: And for the vast majority of Americans, this like -
this case with the Little Sisters of the Poor it will not affect them. But
where this is, is very relevant to people, is that the way this argument
continually is reframed in the public eye as an assault on religious
freedom, as an assault on religious liberty. And two things on this case.
Number one, Sonia Sotomayor weighed in on this case and gave them the
temporary injunction only because as a Justice she is in charge of the
Tenth Circuit, which covers most of the Western states. So she is not
necessarily taking any position on this case. We have no idea what her
position is on the merits. It`s going to go to the full court. So, this
already her importance has been a little bit overstated. And secondly, as
you said, what they`re objecting to in this instance, they`re objecting to
opting out of what they object to. So when you push aside all the legal
arguments and just frame it that way, the ACA in this sense, it`s not
curtailing anyone`s religious freedom. It enhances that. Because not only
do the religious groups get the exemptions, churches, and, you know, but
also these groups that are in the middle that have some religious
affiliation. The government is giving them a way to be, say, a
conscientious objector, and say that we don`t want to participate, we
decline. They`re even objecting to that. So in that sense their position is
very logical and I`m glad -- .
GEORGE: Within Catholicism, though, there is this idea that, you know, if
you are sort of on party - you know, party to something that you see as
basically sinful, you are in a sense being part of that, which is the core
of their argument. And I`m actually --
HARRIS PERRY: I just want to point out that your point, Raul, that we don`t
know exactly how Sotomayor would rule is certainly true, but it`s also true
that when we look at the religious freedom cases, this is the one place
where this court has not been divided.
HARRIS PERRY: Where, in fact, they`ve been giving us 8-0 and 9-0 decisions.
And it is interesting to me, although I certainly don`t think it`s
definitive that every member of the court is either Catholic or Jewish.
HARRIS PERRY: And so my bet is that part of what`s going on there is that
they are still members of religious beliefs that in many ways are still
relatively marginalized within the American context and may have been
brought up with a sense of -- like the need to protect those freedoms in a
way that somebody who`s a Methodist, for example --
GEORGE: It is a legitimate protection of minority rights.
VANDEN-HEUVEL: Of minority rights. Exactly. But it`s worth stepping back
talking about minority rights, stepping back and looking at this court as
the one percent court, because there was an interesting reference to the
hobby lobby and how that hinges ...
HARRIS PERRY: Corporate identity.
VANDEN-HEUVEL: On corporations are persons. Coming out of -- as a
consequence of -- it follows naturally from a very destructive decision,
HARRIS PERRY: Yes.
VANDEN-HEUVEL: And if corporations are people, they bleed, you know, they
bleed. And they don`t. In any case, this is a court that has basically
gutted corporate responsibility, workers` rights, and enhanced corporate
power. So we may see a very interesting decision in that case, but in terms
of representing the people of this country, the court is a one percent
court at the moment and the Roberts` court, by the way, will talk about
this, I know, but perhaps one of the real damaging decisions for the ACA is
the Medicaid decision, allowing states to opt out of providing for their
most vulnerable. I mean, a stick in the eye to the most vulnerable --
STEINER: This is dangerous. I mean I think this is - I agree with you. I
think what this has to do with, A, what you were talking about, Katrina,
which I think is very scary, which is not taking -- one step further.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly.
STEINER: That corporations have a religious freedom. And that`s frightening
to me, A. And B, this is also a push for a subtly - not so subtly to deny
women`s right, to go after the issue of women`s rights to choose --
REYES: Not so subtle.
VANDEN HEUVEL: Not so subtle.
STEINER: Not so subtle. I know. I know. So that`s what`s under this. And I
think that - I think that with all due respect, the sisters and everybody
else need to listen to Pope Francis.
VANDEN HEUVEL: I was going to say that.
STEINER: There are more important issues to deal with than this one.
HARRIS PERRY: But I will say - Pope Francis is certainly --
GEORGE: But the nuns are women, the nuns are women, too, and they feel that
this particular thing, this particular policy is against their --
HARRIS PERRY: Everybody stick with me. There`s a lot of - there is a lot
more on ACA, on this question. We`ll say, you know, we do Pope Francis
cheers here every day.
HARRIS PERRY: I mean we love Pope Francis. But it`s also true that Pope
Francis still has not - has not made any changes doctrinally in terms of
the position on reproductive rights and on birth control and that your
point about -- I just don`t want people to miss that there is this point
here, but then also yours about this idea. So, I mean there`s a real
challenge here about this question of how we balance what we continue to
need to balance. So coming up next, the growing enrollment in Obamacare and
the challenges that it still faces. First, legal recreational pot shot open
to big business. Is marijuana the newest cash crop? There is more
"Nerdland" at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
On January 1st, part of a law went into full effect, a law that had been
fought tooth and nail by Tea Party Republicans who said it was a government
encroachment of fundamental American liberties. That`s right, the light
This year marks the final phase out of traditional incandescent bulbs.
Under a 2007 law signed by President George W. Bush, manufacturers can no
longer make or ship 40 or 60 watt bulbs that have not been redesigned to be
more energy efficient.
Now, the idea was to phase out old bulbs which waste 90 percent of their
energy giving off heat rather than light. A relatively simple way it seems
to reduce U.S. energy consumption, though some saw a more nefarious plot
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. VIRGINIA FOXX (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Mr. Speaker, light bulbs are a
symptom of the problem with this executive administration. They want to
control what kind of light bulbs we have.
REP. MICHAEL BURGESS (R), TEXAS: We shouldn`t be making these decisions for
the American people. Let them decide how much energy they want to consume,
how many dollars they want to spend on kilowatt hours every month, not the
REP. TED POE (R), TEXAS: The federal government does not have the authority
to force anybody to buy anything, from health care insurance to a box of
donuts or even a light bulb. Nowhere in the Constitution does the federal
government have such abuse of power. We should forget school lunches, Mr.
Speaker. We now need to worry about our children`s eyesight because the
lighting they sit under every day in a classroom, all thanks to the blind
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Uh-huh. It`s too late to go back now. Manufacturers actually
fought against Republican efforts to suspend the new regulation, saying
they`d already spent money to retool their plants.
Now, this should all in fact sound pretty familiar. The bulk of the
Affordable Care Act, of course, went into effect on the first of the year,
after five years of battles in Congress and town halls and the Supreme
Court and in the court of public opinion. After all that, millions of
people now have health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act, 2.1
million people have enrolled through the ACA`s exchanges and more than 4
million have enrolled in Medicaid. And there is no going back now.
With me now from Washington, D.C., Jay Angoff, a former Health and Human
Services Department official. Here at the table: Marc Steiner, host of the
Marc Steiner Show, Raul Reyes, attorney and columnist for "USA Today",
Katrina Vanden Heuvel, who is editor and publisher of "The Nation"
magazine, and Robert George, "New York Post" editorial writer.
So, I mean, I love that we can make a claim between light bulbs and health
care. And I think that the light bulb fight is over.
ROBERT GEORGE, NEW YORK POST: It`s like a light bulb.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Yes, a little light bulb.
But, Jay, let me pull you in here. I think the light bulb fight is over if.
Is the ACA fight finally over now that it`s implemented? Is it over? Are we
going to -- are ACA opponents going to admit defeat?
JAY ANGOFF, FORMER HEALTH & HAUMAN SERVICES DEPT. OFFICIAL: No, they`re
not, it`s not over, but I think it`s hard to think this way right now but
all this fighting in a way is really a blessing in disguise.
ANGOFF: The unrelenting opposition, the total focus and over-the-top focus
by the opponents of the Affordable Care Act on the Affordable Care Act has
brought so much attention to the Affordable Care Act, it`s worth much more
than any hooky marketing campaign. People are talking about health
insurance at the dinner table, in offices, in bars. There`s so much more
knowledge now that health reform exists. I think that`s a big advantage.
There are already as you said more than 2 million people who have signed up
for health insurance. There`s another three months to go.
And as we saw with Massachusetts enacted universal health care, everybody
comes in at the last minute. So there are going to be millions and millions
of additional people, many of whom have never had insurance before, who are
going to be signing up under the Affordable Care Act.
HARRIS-PERRY: But, Robert, I got to say, Jay -- I mean, my mouth is saying
-- that`s got to be the most optimistic reading of this five years of
fighting that I`ve ever heard.
GEORGE: Well, I probably agree with him. I think -- I`m not sure if they`re
actually talking about it in bars. I think they`re talking more about
pending bowl games.
HARRIS-PERRY: At least right now, this week.
GEORGE: There is a discussion. But I think particularly in the light of our
overall discussion on populism, I think he is right that it is a debate.
There`s certainly debate going on, on the right about whether you should be
fighting for repeal of Obamacare or as some centrist conservatives are
saying, look, it is the law of the land and we have to figure out how to
either push back on this part of it or that part of it.
So that fight is going on. But I`m also going to predict that on the
progressive side, I wouldn`t be surprised if you start seeing debates
forcing the states that have not adopted Medicaid expansion, whether that`s
going to become something of a battle on the left to try to push that
through. So, I think he`s right. The discussion is it`s going to continue
in 2014 and 2016 and further.
KATRINA VANDEN HUEVEL, THE NATION: I think the debate on the left is going
to be how you revive the Medicare-for-all program, and the states become a
laboratory for possibly doing that, whether it`s Vermont, where in 2017,
you will move toward the single plan. But in other states, blue states, I
think there`s a move on. How do you regulate the insurance companies, how
do you force Republican governors to expand Medicaid and get rid of the
cruel folly that leaves 4.8 billion people not covered and leaves $30
billion a year on the table.
But I think, you know, the public option fight is one that you can use ACA
to build out in different states.
So, every Democrat`s going to have to run on this in 2014 and they need to
run on it and they need to say every Democratic president science Truman
fought to bring you affordable health care.
Sure, we wanted Medicare for all, but let`s not talk about repeal. That`s
folly. How do we repair, heal it, build on it, make it a stronger part,
because once it`s woven into people`s lives the history of social programs
in this country shows how hard it is --
GEORGE: There`s also the competence issue, too, which I think Democrats
also have to in a sense defend.
HARRIS-PERRY: But I love the point that you brought back the populism
question, both of you, on the sort of building a broader populist movement
because in terms of legislative accomplishments and achievements, ACA is
sort of the most important populist policy effect that we have seen over
the course of the past decade. And as you point out, all of these
presidents trying to do what President Obama actually accomplishing it.
But, E.J. Dionne wrote beautifully about this, Raul, in saying, but as much
as the president absolutely accomplished it, he`s only managed to get us
this far, he also had to make so many compromises and so we end up with a
marketplace. Then the marketplace ends up in the conversation we just had
with all these challenges that happen in a marketplace. Is it possible --
because now I think Katrina is the most optimistic person, right? Then, not
only will this fight be a big fight, but one that will move us toward
RAUL REYES, ATTORNEY: But nothing wrong with that. And I want to say, Jay,
happy New Year to you. You are an optimist and I love that.
And, you know, Jay, and you and Katrina are both right. Now, we`re at the
place where we`re going to improve it. We`ve had so much controversy, it`s
still so incendiary in certain communities, the whole health care issue.
But you have to remember, we have also what`s lost in this is finally our
government is saying it has established that it`s not just going to be
concerned with health insurance for the elderly, for the very poor, for
children, it`s going to be concerned that there`s compelling government
interest and health insurance for all Americans.
I read E.J.`s column and he`s right. It`s here. It`s happening. We`re going
to go forward. We`re going to make it better.
I think the challenge for Democrats particularly will be educating and
bringing in the large communities that are underserved by the Latino --
HARRIS-PERRY: I`ll just point out the Gallup, who has been pretty
conservative in their ratings of President Obama`s approval ratings,
nonetheless shows that we see kind of an uptick in the president`s approval
ratings, not high, but an uptick in them in part as a result, we think, as
people actually being able to sign up for Obamacare.
When we come back, I want to ask this question about whether or not folks
can actually run on this in 2014 and going forward in 2016. And I want to
bring in Marc on this question of the Medicaid expansion question.
HARRIS-PERRY: At the top of the hour, I told you about some Affordable Care
Act numbers, 2.1 million enrolled in exchange plants and more than 4
million enrolled in Medicaid. But there`s another number to share, 4.8
million. Now, that is a the estimated number of uninsured nonelderly adults
who are below poverty and could have received health care through Medicaid
on January 1st if their states hadn`t refused billions of dollars in
federal money to expand their Medicaid programs.
But those 25 states can expand their programs at any time with federal
funds. So, the fight is far from over.
Take a look at Georgia, a coalition called Moral Monday Georgia is taking
its inspiration and training from the Moral Monday protests in North
Carolina that we`ve been talking about and will hold its first rally on
Monday, January 13th, as Georgia`s legislative session gets into gear. And
their message to the governor: expand Medicaid now.
So, will this be the actual sort of policy moment around which this
MARC STEINER, HOST, "THE MARC STEINER SHOW": I think for people who believe
in a certain kind of America, this is a very important time. I`m sick of
these people not having medical care. On the other hand, what it means is
that you`re going to -- a majority of the Tea Party representatives or a
good number of them are in some of the poorest districts in America, poor
districts with poor white folks living in those districts.
Folks are going to realize they`re being screwed. If the left, progressives
have their wits about them, they should organize this and organize people,
there`s a whole world hit like it was in `68 during a poor people`s
campaign that can change because people are going to see they`re being
exploited. That`s what`s happening here. They`ve set themselves up against
their own voters.
So, I think in a political sense, it can move things ahead. This is a
tragic thing when it comes to when poor people can`t get up.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Jay, let me go to you on this because from the
administration`s point of view, why is it good deal for states to expand
Medicaid, to put more federal dollars there?
ANGOFF: Well, it`s a stunningly good deal. There`s 100 percent federal
funding for the first three years and if states after taking 100 percent
federal money to expand Medicaid for three years decide, well, we liked it
better when we had more uninsured people, they can stop insuring them.
ANGOFF: The important thing, though, to keep in mind right now is the three
years starts on January 1st, 2014. So, for each day that goes by the state
is losing -- the state that doesn`t expand Medicaid is losing money.
And then in addition, when a state elects not to cover its own poor people
through Medicaid, its people are still paying federal taxes to help other
states cover their poor people. So, it`s absolutely by that so many states
including states like Texas, which have huge percentages of uninsured
people, are refusing to take the federal money to insure their own poor
people at no cost to themselves.
HARRIS-PERRY: Raul, this just feels to me like campaign commercial 101,
that if I`m running in 2014 in any state, if I`m a Democrat running in any
state where the governor did not expand Medicaid, this is my campaign
REYES: Right. Especially as, you know, time goes by, I think people in
different states are going to become more aware of this disparities among
the states and thinking like why is it that someone in the state right next
door can get the coverage that we can`t, that they have more access, and in
states like Florida and Texas with large numbers of African-American
voters, Latino voters, and also poor white voters, I think that could be a
real wedge issue and we could see a tipping point as we get closer to the
midterm, where is people as you said are basically waking up and saying,
why do we not have what other states have? We want it and we need it.
VANDEN HEUVEL: In addition to the Moral Monday coalition, which is
spreading in the south, which is very exciting, it seems to me, picking up
on what Ralph Nader said, like a run-ons. A businessman in California who
understands how insane it is that you`re not paying workers minimum wage,
therefore they`re going on public assistance and costing the taxpayers,
that`s a conservative argument.
I`d like to see an enlightened business community in these states, which
are essentially rejectionist states. There is a map which shows some of the
states that are rejectionist at other times in our history are sinking with
these, but they should wake up and say you`re leaving money on the table.
You`re leaving money on the table.
Who is going to take care of the citizens of our country?
HARRIS-PERRY: Then the argument is they`re beginning to make is, OK, you`re
leaving money on the table now, but there`s a Medicaid phase-out and we`re
left with the bill.
GEORGE: Which is the central concern that a lot of these conservative
governors, conservative legislators have, is, yes, you`re sort of like,
hooked in by the 100 percent takeover in terms of Medicaid at the
beginning, but then when that fades out, it`s state taxes which are going
to end up having to fill in --
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s like balloon mortgages.
GEORGE: That`s exactly right.
And so the conservative argument is, you know, that`s not a long-term
tradeoff that we want.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, that conservative argument I like, right? Because I think
it`s reasonable and I think it has --
GEORGE: They`re very reasonable, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Listen, and I think that one has policy fixes associated with
it. If what you`re saying is, look, you`re promising this but this feels
like one of those balloon mortgages, I don`t have a one-year or a three-
year commitment, I have a 20-year commitment to my state.
HARRIS-PERRY: But as much as I like that argument, what I don`t like is the
an argument that says we`re not going to expand Medicaid, we`re also not
going to set up a state-based exchange, we`re also going to send our
attorney generals to sue the president`s administration over the fix around
people being able to keep their own health insurance for the short term,
and in fact all of those map -- they`re not -- it`s not as if there are
some set of states. They are mapping on in an act of massive resistance
against ACA that doesn`t feel to me like that kind of clear fiscal argument
STEINER: A movement called Medicare for All that could happen. If Vermont
takes hold, this will be the third time they would have passed a single
payer system their governor has vetoed. They might not veto it next time.
That begins to happen, a movement begins to build for something different.
That could fill the breach.
REYES: That`s the counter to the resistance. It`s not just resistance. The
Republican conservative opposition to this, you know, it borders on
And, you know, with respect to that conservative argument down the road,
who`s going to pay for the health insurance for all these other people, the
progressive answer is we are. American citizens, we are, because we take
care of each other. That`s what most people in this country want. That`s
why we have the president that we do, that`s what the Supreme Court upheld.
So, I think in the long run, you know, it speaks to our --
VANDEN HEUVEL: -- social programs, the history of social programs in this
country has always been troubled. I mean, you saw with Social Security. You
saw with Medicare, the same massive resistance. You saw governors not
wanting to take it.
2014 will be important electorally. But moving forward, the movements to
build on ACA and to say, are you better off, again, woven into people`s
lives, it`s going to be harder and harder. You see in the Republican Party
some pragmatism because the straight-up repeal folks aren`t really in sync
with the establishment wing of the Republican Party at this point, which
realizes it is here to stay. What are we going to do. Sabotage or have an
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, this morning, thank you so much. We undoubtedly --
the fight is not over. So, we`ll get to talk more about ACA going forward.
Jay Angoff, Marc Steiner, and Robert George, who I learned used to be a
deejay. He rapped --
HARRIS-PERRY: -- and a whole conversation now about music in the break. I
think next time you come back you`ll have to deejay for us.
GEORGE: Don`t get me started.
HARRIS-PERRY: Coming up, my letter of the week.
HARRIS-PERRY: All across the country, politicians will be getting back to
business next week as the White House and the U.S. Congress and in state
and local governments.
But this morning, I want to focus on one particular state. Like many other
states, Indiana has a full plate for the 2014 legislative agenda, including
preschool education, funding for roads and tax policy. But it is the issue
of marriage equality that has Indiana in the national spotlight.
In the coming weeks, the Republican-controlled state legislature could vote
to put a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage on the November
ballot. But one person in particular has the power and influence to help
keep that from happening.
And that`s why my letter this week is to Indiana`s Republican House
Dear Speaker Brian Bosma, it`s me, Melissa.
Now, I know you`re facing a busy legislative agenda and have admitted the
issue of marriage equality is not high on that agenda. But no matter where
your stand on the issue personally, take a moment to consider Indiana`s
place in history. In 2011, state lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the
proposed constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage, and now, a
second vote is required before it can be considered by Indiana voters.
But before you allow that vote to go forward, remember that the national
landscape has changed since 2011. Same-sex marriage is now legal in 18
states including Utah, where voters passed a state constitutional amendment
in 2004 banning same-sex marriage only to have it struck down by a federal
judge last month.
So, why the need for a constitutional amendment? Indiana already has a
state statute barring some same-sex couples from marrying, and the language
in the proposed amendment is potentially troubling because it states,
quote, "a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of
marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized."
So, opponents of the amendment point out that language could close the door
even to civil unions. And many of your constituents appear hesitant. A
recent poll showed the majority of Indiana voters oppose amending the state
constitution to ban same-sex marriage. And 11 Indiana mayors, six
Republicans and five Democrats, serving some of the state`s biggest cities,
have announced their opposition to the proposed amendment.
So, Speaker Bosma, you and your counterpart in the state Senate face a real
test of leadership. You have already admirably called for any movement on
this proposal to be done with respect and civility, for Hoosiers to work
through it together.
So I hope you do and that I hope that you listen to your constituents and
urge your colleagues to shelf the measure that many feel is neither civil
HARRIS-PERRY: Some Coloradans had a lot to celebrate on January 1st as
dozens of shops mostly in Denver opened to sell recreational marijuana to
long lines of customers, including people from Nebraska and Ohio. Now, why
were out-of-towners there? If you want to purchase recreational marijuana,
are 21 years of age and have a valid out-of-state ID, you can get up to a
quarter ounce of pot in Colorado. And Coloradans who are 21 and have a
valid ID can purchase up to an ounce, which equals slightly more than 28
grams, or about 60 joints.
Now, if you`re a resident and have a medical marijuana card, you can buy up
to two ounces. How much will this run recreational users who don`t have a
medical marijuana card?
Right now, the estimated cost for an eighth of an ounce is anywhere between
$35 and $70 after taxes. A quarter of an ounce will run you about $130. And
the cost for a top-shelf ounce will cost you $400. Not including taxes.
Raul says, hmm.
While it is entirely possible prices will drop over time, right now, they
are projected to add significant amounts to the economy of both Colorado
and Washington state, where recreational pot will legally be for sale later
According to market research, Washington state is expected to add $208
million to its economy in 2014 from legal marijuana sales and in Colorado,
$359 million could be added this year from pot sales.
Joining me now from Washington, D.C. is Jared Bernstein, an MSNBC and CNBC
contributor. He`s also a fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy
At the table, Chris Simunek, who is editor in chief of "High Times"
magazine and Raul Reyes, attorney and columnist at "USA Today". Katrina
Vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of "The Nation" magazine. And Carl
Hart, associate professor of neuroscience and psychology at Columbia
University, and author of "High Price: A Neuroscientist`s Journey of Self-
Discovery that Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society."
Now, Jared, I want to start with you because I want to start with you on
the pure economics of this question. Those were extremely long lines. It
looked like Black Friday out there. I guess I just want to know how much of
an economic impact is this really likely to have? I mean, will Colorado
JARED BERNSTEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, when an economist
sees a line like that, we immediately think demand exceeding supply.
BERNSTEIN: Great insight, right? Typically that would lead to higher prices
at least in the near term over the longer term, you`d expect more retailers
to get into the business, although it`s heavily regulated. So, there`s a
Look, the numbers you mentioned are reasonable, sensible numbers based on
the kinds of revenues states will achieve from their taxes on the sale of
marijuana. But there`s a whole other side of savings to state coffers,
having to do with the savings from no longer enforcing prohibition.
In many cases, that amount is similar if not greater to the fiscal revenues
that come in from the taxation. So, there will be benefits to state
coffers. Against that, and I don`t know that this was in the numbers you
showed, against that, you have to figure the increased costs of regulating
pot sales. That`s not trivial either.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask you this. I mean, in the very realist way, I
an entrepreneurial small business man or woman and I am looking for a
market to enter, if I`ve been watching "Shark Tank" on CNBC, and I`m like,
OK, I need a market to enter. Is this the one? Do I move to Colorado, try
to get a license, and say, hey, we`ve got long lines, that means we`ve got
-- supply is insufficient to demand and this is a way for me to
individually go make a profit?
BERNSTEIN: So, my gut reaction is absolutely yes. When you see that kind of
demand. But against that, again, you have to weigh the regulatory
environment, the tax environment. Those are actually unanswered questions
at this point. We don`t know the extent of regulation and taxation.
For example, if taxation across the counter-sales of marijuana ends up
being high enough, that will possibly incentivize black market sales to
undercut the legal market. We`ve actually seen that in the past in
transitions from, say, periods when alcohol was prohibited to when it
wasn`t. Ultimately, the legitimate market takes over.
But I think you have to consider the regulatory environment, which will be
substantial in these states, before you pick up states and go open a new
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask you this. How much does the way that Colorado
has implemented its recreational use here, as opposed to medicinal, how
much does it actually tell us about what you think ultimately, Chris, the
capacity to say this has been a success will be?
CHRIS SIMUNEK, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, HIGH TIMES: Well, that remains to be seen.
Someone`s got to do it first. And, you know, a lot of times they say, you
know, the pioneers get scalped.
We`ll see what happens in Colorado, but it looks good. I mean, I don`t
anticipate this doomsday scenario of legal marijuana. I think in a couple
months, this story is going to fade from the news as far as Colorado is
concerned. And in a couple years, people are going to be like, why did we
ever, you know, consider making that illegal to begin with? That`s what I
HARRIS-PERRY: Although I`m not a big fan of the pioneers and scalping, I
put my finger on here. That said, there is a challenge here in what we are
seeing is people pushing the frontier, and pushing the frontier in terms of
states and communities despite some resistance, saying, you know what, the
cost of prohibition is too high, right? The cost of criminalization and
communities, the cost of, like, keeping people from doing it is too high.
When there`s not good, solid medical evidence that says this is more
problematic than other things that are legal in our neighborhoods.
CARL HART, AUTHOR, "HIGH PRICE": Yes. No. I think that when we think about
the ultimate benefits of this, one of the things that it does Colorado and
Washington, it sends a message that we think that the risk or the harms
associated with prohibition are too high.
And so, by making this thing recreational legally -- legal and regulating a
previously unregulated market, what we`re doing is that we`re making things
more safe for our general population. And in terms of science and medical
sort of -- when we think about medicine, there are always risks to taking
any drug from acetaminophen, the liver toxicity and so forth, to marijuana
There are always risks that you have to think about weighing the risks
versus the benefits. And in this case, Colorado, Washington, say, hey, the
risks are too high for our current --
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I mean, the death from prescription drugs in this
country far exceeds the direct deaths, at least, from anything marijuana
related. And yet the reason we have highly regulated but legal prescription
drugs is because we say the benefits of those prescription drugs are very
REYES: Right. And to your point about pushing that frontier, you know, that
this is basically uncharted territory for the states, one thing that`s very
important to remember is that our laws do not shape the culture. It`s the
culture that shapes the laws. You know, we`ve already seen that with same-
sex marriage, I believe in the future, we`ll see with immigration reform,
and it`s now happening with the legalization of pot.
I think it was back in October that for the first time a majority of the
American public supported legalization of pot. So, with these states taking
the lead, we are going to see the needle moving.
And we don`t know how it`s going to work out, but it sure as heck -- the
American public does not -- I think we`ve reached a tipping point where
we`re not in of the mass incarceration or the marijuana possession or the
mandatory sentencing laws or these other measures.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m going to bring you in on that. Massive incarceration and
that I mean pact.
Jared, stay with us, because I want to talk more about what those other
costs are and because, you know, in case I need to set up and a new
business, I really want to know.
Up next, from the financial to the ethical and the political part of pot
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN AZZARITI, VETERAN: I was turned down for my med card when I first
apply for it because I didn`t know that PTSD was a qualifying factor. So,
know that other veterans and not just veterans, but anybody who`s out there
suffering will be able to have access to this and just -- it`s a great
feeling, to say the least.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was former marine and PTSD sufferer Sean Azzariti who is
explaining why the legalization and sale of marijuana in Colorado is a good
thing for him and his fellow PTSD sufferers. Mr. Azzariti was the very
first customer when shops opened for business on New Year`s Day. His
purchase cost $49.28 before tax, $59.74 after tax.
But while some celebrated what is happening in Colorado, others voiced
their concern. Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, a co-founder of non-
profit smart alternatives to marijuana, who has himself struggled with
prescription drug addiction, said on Thursday that Americans are rushing
recklessly toward legalizing a dangerous substance according to the
"Detroit Free Press."
And columnist David Brooks wrote this in "The New York Times" on Thursday,
"In legalizing weed, citizens of Colorado are indeed enhancing individual
freedom but they are also nurturing a moral economy in which it is a bit
harder to be the sort of person most of us want to be."
So, I appreciated David Brooks` column in that he was speaking from his
personal perspective, but I also kept thinking, Katrina, he was missing his
point that he and his colleagues who made these choices were able to make
their choices and go on to have lives he deems is good or bad.
VANDEN HEUVEL: Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: But at no point were any of them arrested, put in jail, and
had their life choices so severely minimized for them, that in a certain
way David Brooks actually did experience what legal marijuana is in that he
did not experience any negative legal consequences as a result of his
VANDEN HEUVEL: Absolutely. You know, in the lead editorial we did on a
special issue called "Dope and Change: Why It`s Always Been Time to
Legalize Pot," we quoted a wonderful guy named (INAUDIBLE) who`s at the
Institute for Policy Studies, marijuana is a gateway drug. Well, it`s been
a gateway drug to the White House.
No, if you look at it, look at Clinton, W., and President Obama -- all have
admitted in different ways to smoking pot.
Now, President Obama, you know, he is our president now. But if his life
had been constrained, restricted, marginalized by his use of smoking pot,
it would be a very different outcome. What is lost and what Carl Hart
writes about is you have to put racial justice it seems to me at the heart
of the legalization movement, because there are about 700,000 people each
year arrested for marijuana, and that nonviolent crime is filling our
prisons mostly with people of color, and it is a cost that Jared spoke of,
the cost of incarceration.
There is a moral, economic cost to this country. So, David Brooks speaks
from a very privileged position. And I think it`s high time to think about
an alternative. And President Obama could very well look at the scheduling
of marijuana as a schedule one drug, change that. That would really move it
from a dangerous, very addictive drug to one that, you know, lets tax
regulate and control.
Colorado, Washington, other states soon to follow will be our Petrie dishes
to see, but I do think the racial justice piece can`t be lost. It`s been a
big part of this city, too.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Carl, yes?
HART: When we think about those folks, Brooks and Kennedy, the thing that
people need to say to them in no uncertain terms, they are behaving in much
of the same way when we think about in slavery. There are people in slavery
times. They were concerned about what would with let`s say, for example,
the children of slave owners or the slave owners. They would no longer be
able to live the lifestyle they had. You know, and so, as opposed to
worrying about all the people who were being prosecuted and persecuted.
So, I think we need to say in no uncertain terms that`s the situation here.
I think we`ve been less than forceful with that statement. That`s one.
And, two, what we think about here in New York state alone or New York City
alone the numbers of women, primarily minority women, who are -- have their
children taken away solely because they test positive for marijuana. You
can go in a Brooklyn family courtroom any day of the week and see this
happening. People like Lynn Paltrow and those folks, they are out there
fighting this battle every day.
When you think about all of those injustices and you hear people saying
what they say, it`s reprehensible.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you guys are giving me a tough time between the scalping
metaphors and the slavery metaphors. Again, I think we have to be careful
on the slavery metaphors so I want to just reiterate that so I make sure
I`ve heard what you said. Then I want to go to Jared here, which is that
there is something about asking who is bearing the greatest cost in any
given circumstance, and in this case the question of who`s bearing that
cost are those who are most vulnerable and most marginalized, so that if
you were a college student at an Ivy League institution who does a little
weed, the outcome is so different for you than if you are a single, poor
So, Jared, let me come to you on that.
BERNSTEIN: Yes. So, look, Katrina mentioned a very important number a few
minutes ago. I think the latest data shows 750,000 people arrested for
marijuana, prosecuted in 2011.
Now, once you end the costs of that enforcement and prosecution, not only
do you generate savings, as we discussed earlier, but the distribution, the
equitable distribution in terms of conversation you`ve been having at the
table is very important and, of course, doesn`t fall on the David Brooks of
the world, it falls on the folks in the lower end of the income scale.
One other point, this issue of a gateway drug not in the sense that Katrina
meant but in the more traditional sense, has to be balanced against the
fact of what we just talked about. It`s not like nobody is out there
smoking marijuana. It`s not --
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. As we learned this week when so many folks were like,
oh, yes, I was -- even though it`s still federally illegal.
BERNSTEIN: How many first timers were standing in that line? Probably zero.
So the point is that you have to evaluate this gateway claim against the
fact that it`s really not a gateway if you`re just involving a population
that`s been using for a while.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, what Brooks` claim, Raul, is that the gateway is not so
much a gateway, the kind of individual -- whether or not people will then
use bigger drugs but a cultural gateway and that it`s going to create a
world in which -- and I think, Carl, to me, this is the missed point, is,
like, no, the cultural gateway problem is the criminalization, right,
rather than the use of this drug.
REYES: What he missed in his column and we were talking about it earlier,
in a sense he was writing from his bubble because he did have an experience
using marijuana, but, you know, no one is searching at Yale to find people
in possession of marijuana. You live in a housing project or low-income
area, it`s a real risk.
Sometimes when you talk to the people about consequences of simple
possession of marijuana, they`re shocked when, you know, not just
incarceration but also losing your right to vote, you know, the criminal
record that can prevent you from getting, you know, employment, loss of
your public benefits. I mean, it has severe consequences. David Brooks was
writing about it from such a narrow perspective, in a way he made the case
inadvertently of the disparities between suburban whites and low-income
people of color.
HARRIS-PERRY: Being the people that we want to be may have less to do with
whether or not we decided to become more heavy weed users than whether or
not we end up with that permanent "x" on your back that is associated with
Jared Bernstein and Chris Simunek, I`m sorry, Raul Reye, Katrina Vanden
Heuvel, and Carl Hart, thanks so much.
Up next, the story behind the picture-perfect lifestyle and the artist
making sure you see the whole picture is our foot soldier of the week.
HARRIS-PERRY: Have you ever picked up a glossy magazine filled with photos
of immaculate homes and manicured lawns and shimmering pools, as Robin
Welch would say, champagne wishes and caviar dreams?
Behind the scenes, there are a lot of people who work hard to make those
dreams come true. And our foot soldier this week wants to make sure when
you see images of luxury, you see the full picture.
Ramiro Gomez (ph) is a 27-year-old artist from California, the son of
Mexican immigrants. Ramiro says he found inspiration for his art in 2009
when he became a nanny in Beverly Hills. His work involves him interrupting
existing images of luxury whether they`d be in paintings, magazine ads or
real life structures.
By inserting images of those essential behind the scene workers, house
cleaners, gardeners and other domestic workers.
For making the invisible visible, Ramiro Gomez is our foot soldier of the
week and he joins me from Los Angeles, California.
Nice to have you.
RAMIRO GOMEZ, FOOT SOLDIER OF THE WEEK: Hi, Melissa. Nice to be on the
show, as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you.
I want to start by putting on the screen one of the most recognizable
pieces you worked on. It is David Hockney`s a bigger splash. So, up on the
screen, we`re going to see his luxury image and then next to it your work
entitled "No Splash."
What are you trying to communicate here?
GOMEZ: Well, it`s something simple, to interrupt the iconic image by the
famous artist David Hockney and his focus is on the splash as supposed to
what my focus was, the pool cleaner. That came from my experience working
as a live-in nanny in the Hollywood Hills for a family who employed a pool
cleaner and the pool cleaner would arrive every Thursday as would the
housekeeper. I would see that.
So I looked at David Hockney`s work in a very different way and felt the
need to communicate that visually for people to understand what goes on
behind the scenes of a luxurious affluent home in the Beverly Hills,
Hollywood Hills area of Los Angeles.
HARRIS-PERRY: One of the other media that you use are magazines, right? You
actually take magazines and understand that for you, this is medium
basically came from, as you said, your situation.
GOMEZ: Yes, it came primarily from the fact that I was working every day
Monday through Friday as a nanny and I have real feelings and I have
emotions that would come into play and I had to communicate them in some
form. Art became my medium to present a very difficult complex issue for
people to understand what goes on behind the scenes as I said, in these
It`s very hateful to hear what people think of a housekeeper or gardener
and so I`m trying to contrast that image of a person coming in and stealing
a job and turn it into something that becomes positive and people can
connect and empathize with.
HARRIS-PERRY: The language you use is interrupting. Tell me what you mean
GOMEZ: Well, interruption is a word that is very important to me in my
process. In this current state in society in general, there`s a lot of
people with power, and there`s a lot of things that aren`t necessarily
mentioned or talked about in the mainstream. And so, what I`m bringing up
is something that will be repressed or hidden especially in the wealthy
circles. Not talked about.
And interruption becomes important to understand the meaning behind the
work. There is no person speaking about the things that I`m trying to
speaking about publicly in the forms that I`m trying to speak about. So,
I`m coming in and trying to interrupt these mainstream thought processes
especially of the wealthy and the privileged to help people understand what
it takes to maintain luxurious homes and luxurious lifestyles.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, Ramiro Gomez, thank you so much. You are -- thank you
for joining us in Los Angeles. Thank you for your work.
I also want to say my grandmother who worked her entire life as a domestic
worker, often invisible in the household where she worked, would have loved
your art. And so I am very happy to have you as one of our foot soldiers.
Let me also say if you`re in the Los Angeles area, you can catch Ramiro`s
work at his art show, "Domestic Scenes" at the Charlie James gallery
starting January 11th.
And that`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching.
I`m going to see you again tomorrow morning 10 a.m. Eastern, where we`re
going to be looking what`s on the agenda as Washington finally gets back to
work, and what Florida can tell us about the year ahead.
But, right now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
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