ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
January 30, 2014
Guests: Grace Spencer, Sam Seder, Tom Colicchio, Goldie Taylor, Tom
Perkins, Jeff Merkley, Dorian Warren, Josh Barro
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes.
If you thought the New Jersey State Ethics Commission was going to be the
one to get to the bottom of what`s going on with the Christie
administration`s multiplying scandals, you might want to think again. This
week, the Ethics Commission, the group that would eventually rule on any
complaints filed against Chris Christie or anyone in his administration,
approved in a closed-door vote Christie`s recommendation for the executive
director of the Ethics Commission, Susana Espasa Guerrero.
Guerrero is a longtime Christie loyalist who spent eight years at the law
firm with close ties to Christie and where Christie once even worked before
becoming U.S. attorney. She`s a former counsel in the governor`s office
who served with all nine Christie aides subpoenaed in bridge gate.
Meanwhile, today, more evidence lending credence to the account Dawn
Zimmer, Hoboken mayor, has given that the Christie administration withheld
Sandy funds from Hoboken to punish Zimmer for not expediting a private
"The Times" today writing that e-mails and interviews made clear the
development wary mayor was coming under increasing and repeated pressure
from politically connected lawyers working for the Rockefeller group and
from the Christie administration.
And yet, here we are -- subpoenas flying, investigations in motion, and
Sandy money is still in Chris Christie`s hands.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: As you know, our state is about to be
entrusted with billions of dollars in federal funding so we can move
forward in storm recovery and rebuilding here in the state. I want
everyone to have confidence that those funds are being spent wisely.
HAYES (voice-over): So what is going on with all that Sandy money? Well,
it`s complicated. Attempts to impose transparency in the process of
allocating funds have been rejected by the Christie administration time and
again. In November 2012, Chris Christie appointed this man, Marc Ferzan,
to manage the Sandy money.
CHRISTIE: He is a smart, proven and capable manager who will bring people
and government together, build consensus and effectively handle the many
facets of the recovery effort moving forward.
HAYES: Ferzan earns a cabinet level salary of $141,000. During the first
five months in his role as Hurricane Sandy czar, he made no public
appearances. In fact, in his role, he has skipped four legislative
hearings on precisely his supposed area of expertise, the Sandy recovery.
In August of last year, he skipped a joint legislative hearing where
homeowners testified about their struggles post-Sandy. In September, he
failed to appear at a bipartisan hearing on Sandy recovery money. The next
month, he skipped another hearing where Sandy victims testified. He
skipped another in October.
Just last week, after the mayor of Hoboken alleged the Christie
administration was tying Sandy money to a private development deal, Ferzan
assured reporters on a conference call that Sandy money was being allocated
MARC FERZAN, HURRICANE SANDY CZAR: I`m scratching my head a little bit
about, you know, any community that`s getting the short end of the stick.
HAYES: But Ferzan isn`t the only Christie official who`s seemingly not
interested in legislative oversight. In February of last year, Christie`s
treasurer also skipped a Sandy oversight hearing he was asked to attend.
And when both the New Jersey House and Senate passed a bill unanimously
that would have required more transparency on how Sandy money is spent,
Chris Christie vetoed the bill, saying it would produce unnecessary
redundancies and waste government resources.
And they aren`t just stonewalling New Jersey lawmakers. They don`t want to
give much information to anyone. When the Fair Share Housing Center filed
a public records request for the most basic information about who money was
going to, the Christie administration simply refused to comply. The group
had to sue the state of New Jersey to get the documents.
If the state of New Jersey can`t be trusted to give us the transparency
needed to manage how hundreds of millions of federal dollars are being
spent, then where is the federal government?
HAYES: Joining me now, Jersey Assemblywoman Grace Spencer, Democrat. She
co-chaired the joint assembly and senate committees Sandy oversight
hearings last year.
I think the concern that folks have in watching what has happened in terms
of the mayor`s accusations from Hoboken, the story out of Belleville
yesterday, that the Sandy money, which was passed and appropriated to help
Sandy victims has become essentially a political slush fund in which the
governor can just use to punish or reward people. That is the concern.
That`s the allegation.
As someone who`s tasked with oversight, what is your feeling about this?
ASSEMBLYWOMAN L. GRACE SPENCER (D), NEW JERSEY: My feeling is that as
legislators, we try and provide opportunities for individuals to come and
provide us with information to answer the questions that residents or
citizens in the state are asking us. The four hearings that we conducted
across the state, Trenton, Atlantic City, Toms River, and Jersey City.
Each time people came and asked questions that dealt primarily with how the
money was being spent and what the process was in which they could have
applied and how they were chosen.
And each time we were not given the due accord or due deference to have
individuals come from the administration to answer questions that were
being raised by people that elected us to office.
HAYES: What is the administration`s answer? I mean, when you interface
with them, you say, hey, we`re having this hearing about oversight.
SPENCER: We send a letter. We ask them to come and provide us
information. Or answer questions that have been asked of us.
And we get a response. We`re not available. We can`t do more than that,
unfortunately, but what we are charged with is to find out information to
put the information together so that we can help the people.
HAYES: The secretary of Housing and Urban Development said on this show
last night, Shaun Donovan, he was, quote, "confident that the money was
spent in the right way."
Do you have that same confidence?
SPENCER: I have some confidence in that. The confidence comes from who`s
getting the money and where it`s going. We`re getting information about
the different individuals who filed for applications for grants. They`re
I have confidence in that. But then there are those things that occur that
we don`t know about. So, that`s where the problem is. We talk about
Whenever that amount of money is being involved, there needs to be
transparency for the sake of the administration and for the sake of us
HAYES: I want to bring in Sam Seder, host of online podcast "Majority
Report", co-host of radio show "Ring of Fire".
And what the assemblywoman said is actually just kind of a basic but also
very conservative-friendly point. Back when this bill was the most
controversial thing in Washington, Tea Party Republican Tim Huelskamp had
this to say about why he voted against the Sandy aid. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TIM HUELSKAMP (R), KANSAS: We just want to make certain the money
gets to those in need and in a proper way and make sure it goes through the
course in which it gets full opportunity for people to come in and see how
the money is going to be spent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That was the big concern. That is why they voted it down and why
people were angry they voted it down and I was angry they voted it down
because I wanted to see this money get to people in need.
Are you expecting those congressional Republicans to go into full outrage
mode about the stories coming out of New Jersey?
SAM SEDER, HOST, MINORITY REPORT: Probably not. With that said, I mean,
maybe the congressman knew something about the Christie administration that
the rest of us didn`t at the time.
But, look, Christie doesn`t necessarily have a tremendous amount of support
in the House. And it`s quite possible that there may be some allies of
other people interested in running in the 2016 sweeps that maybe we`ll
start to see something. I mean, look, you know, the other issue, of
course, is how much spillover is there going to be here? Which is why
Governor Christie is sort of radioactive in Republican circles right now,
because nobody is quite sure what`s under this rock when it finally gets
HAYES: Have you had the experience in your interactions with the Christie
administration where you felt like they were doing anything that crossed
the line from sort of hardball pressure to something else?
SPENCER: Not in my experience. My experience with the administration has
been one if I ask for some information, sometimes I get it, sometimes I
don`t. The hearings, for example, we didn`t get the information. It was
very frustrating because I had a chance to speak with different individuals
who could provide us with the information. All I cared about was making
sure that Ms. Jones who lives in Toms River who has made three applications
and each time she`s been told to come back and submit something else, I
just wanted an answer.
When HGI was preparing the application process and people were saying that
the people working for them didn`t know what was going on, we needed
someone to come and tell us what the problems were. And no one ever came.
HAYES: Let me say HGI was the contractor who won a quite large --
SPENCER: $68 million.
HAYES: $68 million, to oversee this, right?
So, there`s all this money flowing throw. Contractor, HGI, $68 million.
They were fired apparently weeks ago and no one in the administration said
that. It was not announced. We find out later.
SPENCER: No one cared to share that information. Certainly it proved the
people who testified in our committees, that they were correct. That there
were problems and did not know what was going on.
And had someone from the administration participated in the hearings, they
would have heard it also. And rather than that happening seven weeks ago,
it would have happened after the first hearing which was no August.
HAYES: Ideologically what I find interesting about this, Sam, like bridge-
gate, right, which is using the power of the state for this nefarious
purpose, these stories, the Belleville Senior Center which God bless the
seniors of Belleville. Everyone thinks it`s great Belleville has a senior
center. It`s a question whether the Sandy money should have paid for that.
These stories are the worst thing for your median primary voter in a
Republican primary in Iowa.
SEDER: Yes, look, you know, I for one just think we`re well past the time
to talk about Christie`s 2016 prospects at this point.
SEDER: I think it`s really more like his just how long is it going to be?
HAYES: Serving out the term.
SEDER: Exactly. Prospects.
Yes, of course, this is -- and this strikes to the heart of his whole
branding, right? That I`m a technocrat, I just get things done, I am a guy
who, you know, doesn`t mess around with partisan politics. I mean, to a
certain extent maybe there`s not as much partisan politics here than sort
of outright pay to play type of stuff.
HAYES: And part of what was interesting to me in the disconnect that was
happening during the election was that election was predicated on the Sandy
response in many ways, the re-election. Any time we did reporting, any
time I talked to people, and I did talk to people in New Jersey who had
been through it, they were not happy.
I mean, the sample that I was talking to and maybe that`s self-selecting
because they were coming to me, there were a lot of people, ones who were
directly hit who did not like the fact --
SPENCER: Certainly, the timing was such that opportunities were afforded
that he was able to take advantage of some things. We came up on the one-
year anniversary just prior to the election. And there were many different
rollouts that occurred up to that point, dealing with where we were as far
as rebuilding the state of New Jersey. So there were opportunities there.
But at the same time, I can`t help but go back and consider the pleas that
came from we had over 600 people testify in our -- testify over those four
hearings. And clearly there was a problem and if someone had just heard
their pleas six months ago, you know --
HAYES: When you fire the contractor on a $68 million contract to oversee
possibly billions of dollars in federal money --
HAYES: -- there`s a problem, right? And that is exactly the state of
affairs right now.
SEDER: And the real question is, why didn`t the administration tell
anybody about this for a long time?
HAYES: Exactly. Seven weeks ago.
SEDER: Who was in charge of making sure -- that`s not a typical decision.
SPENCER: I would like to know what were the problems, what led to the
HAYES: Why were they fired?
Assemblywoman Grace Spencer and Sam Seder -- thank you both.
SPENCER: Thank you.
HAYES: All right. Coming up, something you won`t see anywhere else on TV,
a little line that was hidden in the farm bill then taken out before it was
passed yesterday in the House. How Congress just pulled a fast one on all
HAYES: Up next, an ALL IN scoop. We caught Congress absolutely red-
handed. We`re going to put them on front street on national TV.
That, plus "Top Chef`s" Tom Colicchio will be here at the table, live and
HAYES: OK. Right now at this very moment, Congress is trying to get one
over on the American people, and we here at ALL IN have caught them red-
handed. It`s a story you`re not going to see anywhere else on television.
Yesterday, the House passed a compromised version of the five year
extension to the farm bill, after more than two years of contentious
Now, there are good provisions in the bill and very bad ones. We`re going
to talk about that that moment, including cuts of more than $8 billion to
There`s one tiny provision that is the center of this particular story,
which has gone almost completely unnoticed. The original version of the
farm bill passed by the House last year had a requirement in it. It
required that crop insurance subsidies paid out to members of Congress be
disclosed to the public. And that was a really good idea because it meant
that we could find out who was directly benefiting from the subsidies they
were voting on.
That is not an academic issue. Last summer, the Environmental Working
Group calculated that 15 minutes of congress or their spouses took in
$238,000 in taxpayer-funded direct cash payments through the farm bill
subsidies in 2012, alone.
Now, those farm subsidies, the $138,000, those come via direct cash
payments. They`re different than another kind of subsidy that come via
discounted crop insurance. The recipients of the direct cash payments --
they are already disclosed to the public for one thing, but not those who
benefit from the other kind of subsidy, the government subsidizing crop
In both cases, however, what the government is doing is effectively giving
money to farmers, many of whom are already wealthy and some of whom are
Republican Representative Kristi Noem has benefited more than $500,000 in
farm subsidies through direct payments to her and her ranch since 1995
according to the Environmental Working Group.
GOP Representative Doug LaMalfa and his wife benefited from more than $1.7
million in farm subsidies according to the group.
And Republican Representative Stephen Fincher and his wife had reportedly
benefitted more than $3.4 million in farm subsidies over the years. Now,
that is the same Steven Fincher who quoted scripture to defend his vote to
cut $40 billion from the food stamp program while protecting the subsidies
to farmers. And who professes to believe this --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEPHEN FINCHER (R), TENNESSEE: The role of citizens, of Christians,
of humanity, is to take care of each other, but not for Washington to steal
money from those in the country and give it to others in the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: OK. So the earlier version of the farm bill, the one that passed
at the House which you don`t expect a lot of good provision in that. But
that one, it contained a provision requiring disclosure of the crop
insurance subsidies that are going to members of Congress. But as the
great Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense pointed out to ALL IN,
something very strange happened when the House and Senate versions of the
farm bill were reconciled in conference committee. Lawmakers quietly
amended the bill to delete that requirement.
That`s right. Hundreds of lawmakers just voted to keep the public from
learning how much lawmakers themselves may be getting through crop
insurance subsidies that they, themselves, voted into law.
Joining me now is Chef Tom Colicchio, author of Craft Restaurants, and a
board member of Food Policy Action.
It`s always great to talk to you, Tom.
TOM COLICCHIO, CHEF: Chris, how are you doing?
HAYES: All right. You -- Food Policy Action, you guys have been doing
great work on the farm bill. It looks like this is going to be the farm
bill we get. What does Tom Colicchio say about this bill?
COLICCHIO: Well, listen, it`s a terrible bill as far as I`m concerned.
Hunger advocates I work closely with are really concerned about this. You
know, I would be somewhat disingenuous if I didn`t point out there`s good
things in the bill as well. There`s funding for the SNAP program, double
buck program, which is great.
There`s incentives for farmers markets, funding local promotions for
community food projects. There`s senior -- funding for senior programs in
farmers market. There`s SNAP ed in there.
So, there are great things in there. This is a big giveaway to insurance
companies and big ag.
COLICCHIO: And it`s on the backs of poor people once again.
HAYES: We should just so people, the structure of this farm bill, right,
is you`ve got SNAP which is food stamps, right? Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance Program. You also have all the farm subsidies, and they`re kind
of yolked together.
The cuts here, the House bill, the House bill was going to cut $39 billion.
We were up in arms about this on the program. You were up in arms on this.
COLICCHIO: On this program.
HAYES: On this program, we`ve been banging the drum on this.
The Senate bill cut $4 billion. The final compromise bill cuts $8.7
billion. So, I look at that and say, I guess it could be worse. Also why
are we cutting $8.7 million?
COLICCHIO: That`s the problem. The total savings is between, the CEO said
it`s between $16 billion and $23 billion. Why does half have to come from
poor people? Why?
It just doesn`t make sense.
HAYES: You`re saying so this bill --
COLICCHIO: The savings of the bill.
HAYES: -- savings of the bill half comes from the poorest people.
COLICCHIO: That`s right.
HAYES: Now, I want to play something. There`s some confusion about what
these cuts mean. Like, are these -- is this kind of an accounting gimmick
or real money out of real people`s pockets?
I asked Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota about this the other night at the State
of the Union. This is what she had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: The compromise is really based on a
very specific provision that affects only 16 states and it`s how they
leverage their heating money, their food stamp money and doesn`t affect
most the people in this country in any way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: What`s your response to that?
COLICCHIO: You know, it affects 850,000 people. And it takes on average
about $90 out of their pockets a month. I would suggest that the people
affected will think differently of Amy Klobuchar and whether or not it`s
not a big deal.
It`s a very big deal. Especially -- this comes out of the LIHEAP program.
It`s a program that actually if you are enrolled in LIHEAP, you get
assistance for heating. If you had as little as $1, you got additional
funding for food stamps.
And they change that now to $20. So there are a lot of people who now are
going it have to really choose between heating their homes, and it`s cold
HAYES: Right. That`s what it is.
COLICCHIO: That`s what it`s about.
HAYES: Basically you`re going to take the dollars and choose, are you
going to heat or going to eat?
COLICCHIO: Right. And, you know, I think what really bugs me, and my
friend Jim McGovern from Massachusetts says this, we shouldn`t have a farm
bill that makes one person hungrier. It just doesn`t make sense.
HAYES: Right. It`s only -- it`s only not that bad when the benchmarks are
how much we`re going to cut, but take a step back for a second, look at
this country and say to ourselves, why are we cutting?
COLICCHIO: If this is how far we`ve come and this is the compromise you
have to make, whether or not people eat food, I thing we lost the value
that`s sort of made this country great. I mean, we`ve really gone off the
rails here if this is the compromise.
And so, you know, this is really a bad bill. If you look at what insurance
companies get here, this is a big giveaway to insurance. The government
picks up 62 percent of the premiums. They guarantee 17 percent of the --
let me get this down. I want to get this right, $17.4 billion of
And they also guarantee, the USDA has an agreement with an insurance
company that guarantees 14 percent rate of return.
HAYES: Everyone -- everyone hearing this, because that was a lot of
numbers. I want to say what the basic principle is here, right? You got a
business, face risk, you take out insurance for that risk.
HAYES: Crops are -- face certain kinds of risks and there`s a recognition
that these risks are different because of the weather. What we`re doing in
this bill is the government is backstopping the risk, it is subsidizing the
insurance risk and it is not just subsidizing the farmer. It is
subsidizing the insurance company who provides the insurance.
COLICCHIO: And insurance, it`s not insurance the way people think of
insurance. If you have crops that failed, you get money. This is
HAYES: Guaranteed income -- which means if the weather`s bad, the
government pays you money.
COLICCHIO: It doesn`t matter. If the weather`s got, they pay you money.
It doesn`t matter.
HAYES: This is what`s happening in this bill. There`s a lot of crowing
about we got rid of direct cash payments. Really it`s been given another
COLICCHIO: They call it cop insurance.
HAYES: Chef Tom Colicchio, who`s done a great work on this issue. Thanks
for coming by, man.
All right. Coming up, day three of awful in Atlanta, and a day where
people who abandon their cars were asked to come pick them up. It`s worth
noting apocalyptic traffic in the Atlanta area isn`t a new problem.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m legendary Atlanta consumer Stan Still. I want to
talk about a venture of mine, a regional decent selling guide book, Atlanta
transportation at a standstill. An introspective work at one of the most
atrocious transportation systems and tips to cope with the self-loathing
and rage it invokes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: It`s a political ad that ran a couple years ago encouraging
residents to vote for a referendum to solve Atlanta`s giant traffic
problem. It failed and we`ll talk about why, next.
HAYES: The state of Georgia and the city of Atlanta are just in total
ongoing crisis right now, one that`s disrupted the lives of metro Atlanta`s
residents and threatened the career of its political leaders.
Two-point-six inches of snow fell Tuesday. Because a variety of factors
including decisions made at the municipal and state levels, it basically
led to situation in which virtually everybody in the greater metro Atlanta
area was put on to the roads at the same time as the snow fell in one of
the most congested high traffic metro regions in the country.
And the result was this, these pictures you`re seeing. People stranded in
their automobiles for 12 hours, for 18 hours, some abandoning their cars,
some walking miles to get home. Some sleeping at nearby drugstores or
simply stuck in their cars. Their kids stuck in school alone, safe, but
also stranded -- total sci-fi level paralysis.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They watched the sun set and they watched the sun rise.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A major American city paralyzed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Took us 13 hours to drive over here and then we ended
up sleeping over there at the shell station in our car.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cars abandoned on roads. Drivers stranded in ice.
Children left to spend the night in their schools. Luckier drivers found
shelter taking cover overnight in the nearest grocery store or at Home
GOV. NATHAN DEAL (R), GEORGIA: What I was referring to was that the
national weather service had continually had their modeling showing that
the city of Atlanta would not be the primary area where the storm would
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Overnight Tuesday, 3:38 a.m., winter weather advisory
upgraded to warning. A full eight hours before the snow started. And as
you watch on the radar, you will see it move in and engulf Atlanta, 2.6
There was plenty of time to make those adjustments for any kind of snow
removal. So you decide.
DEAL: I`m not going to look for a scapegoat. I`m the governor. The buck
stops with me. I accept the responsibility for it.
MAYOR KASIM REED (D), ATLANTA, GA: We made an error in the way that we
released our citizens.
HAYES: That last part was Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta and Governor Nathan
Deal of Georgia whose public stance regarding this mess has been evolving
as the outcry intensifies. Governor Deal mobilized the National Guard to
help rescue stranded motorists. Even today the image and the continuing
problem of the abandoned car according to the Associated Press, the storm
contributed to at least a dozen deaths, traffic accidents and a mobile home
Joining me now is Atlantan and MSNBC Engrio.com contributor, Goldie Taylor.
All right, Goldie, people are watching this. Their jaws are dropped, like,
how, how, what is going on? Why did this happen? What happened?
GOLDIE TAYLOR, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think there are a number of factors,
but let`s start with the current factors. The current factors are you had
a guy named Charlie English, who is head of our Georgia Emergency
Management Agency who was literally asleep at the switch that did not see
the overnight upgrade to warning, who did not see the path of the storm was
changing from south of the metro to hit directly on to the city and in
surrounding metropolitan counties. And so you had some of that happening.
The city of Atlanta, however, did react early. They did pretreat their
major thoroughfares and thus 80 percent of Atlanta streets with clear
within 24 hours and so --
HAYES: It`s funny because Mayor Kasim Reed was on "Morning Joe" this
morning making that point. All the streets you`re showing, those are
streets I don`t control. This is the thing about Metro Atlanta. All of
the main ways people get around Metro Atlanta are all highways, all
TAYLOR: We`re a car-driven city. But you know, some of this is blamed on
how some of our local affiliates around the city did this, our local
bureaus and how we fed into some of our national bureaus out there. You
know, we gave the impression that Atlanta really was one city of 6 million
people, when in fact, you know, we`re 10 to 15 counties all with an
individual chief executive.
We`re 60 municipalities all with a mayor. We`re two dozen school districts
all with superintendents. We`re a state organization. None of those
things really worked together and they never really have and that`s been,
you know something that`s taken place over the course of really decades.
HAYES: That`s a really fascinating point. I read this article that was an
"Academic Journal" piece. That was basically about residential racial
segregation in the era of the automobile -- in the automobile in Metro
Atlanta. Metro Atlanta has famously terrible traffic. This article was
basically making the argument the way residential segregation worked in
Metro Atlanta over the last 40, 50 years is people moving far away from
each other and --
TAYLOR: The sprawl.
HAYES: The politics of sprawl and the politics of traffic are really
fraught for exactly that region.
TAYLOR: Well, sprawl has an awful lot to do with it. When it came to
growth in the late `60s, early `70s, it really stopped at the city line.
That`s because the outer counties back then were all largely white. They
call (inaudible) by a very infamous name. They call it moving African-
Americans rapidly through Atlanta. And so today, even today when those
outer counties are a bit more diverse, it still does not stretch into
Gwyneth County, doesn`t stretch into Fayette County, out into Rockdale
All these people drive into the city every day for work. If we had, for
instance, approved it two years ago, we could have transformed this city in
meaningful ways to get people out of cars, back on to bikes, on to rapid
rail. You know, and transform the city in really meaningful ways. But the
same dynamics that play out in the early `70s that stopped it from crossing
the city line stopped us. A very curious coalition, Tea Party Republicans
HAYES: Before you do, I want to give people the background. It is, of
course, the rapid transit for the area, right.
HAYES: You had this proposal at the ballot box in 2012, right?
TAYLOR: That`s right.
HAYES: It was basically a kind of integrated public transit plan. What
was the coalition that defeated it?
TAYLOR: The coalition with a strange one, it was Tea Party Republicans
from outer counties who were concerned about the additional sales tax
revenue that would take, pay for it and couldn`t believe it could be
executed on such a grand scale. And you had someone else. The Concerned
Black Clergy of Inner City Atlanta who said it did not provide for enough
investment in communities of colors.
So those two groups got together and defeated it, which over the next ten
years would have been a meaningful transformation, not just for the city of
Atlanta but the entire region. Economically, school systems, political
systems, all those things, these people don`t work together on a day-to-day
basis. It was their opportunity to do it.
HAYES: You see the vulnerability of Metro Atlanta in the last three days
because it is so dependent on this. MSNBC contributor, Goldie Taylor,
thanks so much for coming on tonight.
TAYLOR: Thank you.
HAYES: Some congressmen have been calling President Obama things like
socialistic dictator because the president mentioned the words executive
order. Wait until you see how he stacks up against his predecessors.
HAYES: Before this week, you probably never heard of a guy named Tom
Perkins. He is a pretty interesting dude, multimillionaire venture
capitalist, formally married to Danielle Steele. In 1996, was convicted in
France of involuntary manslaughter for a yacht accident that killed a man.
Tom Perkins` star has risen this week because as a multimillionaire he
wrote a letter to the "Wall Street Journal" in which he compared the rising
populist sentiment against the rich in America to Kristallnacht in Nazi
Germany, quote, "I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi
Germany to San Francisco`s war on its 1 percent. Kristallnacht was
unthinkable in 1930. Is its descendant progressive radicalism unthinkable
And then in a pretty incredible follow-up interview, Perkins appeared on
Bloomberg TV to apologize kind of.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you regret this comparison?
TOM PERKINS, CO-FOUNDER, KLEINER PERKINS CAUFIELD AND BYERS: Yes. I
talked to the head of the anti-defamation league this morning following up
on a letter I had sent over the weekend apologizing for the use of the word
"Kristallnacht." It was a terrible word to have chosen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More than 90,000 Jews were killed Kristallnacht,
30,000 people put in concentration camps. What were you doing for analogy?
PERKINS: The Jews are only 1 percent of the German population. I guess my
point was that when you start to use hatred against a minority, it can get
out of control. Let the rich do what the rich do which is get richer, but
along the way they bring everybody else with them. They can buy a six pack
of Rolexes for this but so what? I created some billionaires, but I
unfortunately am not one.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you divorced from reality?
PERKINS: I don`t know if anybody can answer that. Truthfully, I don`t
HAYES: Might have all ended there, multimillionaire plutocrat says
something ridiculous, apologizes, goes back to being a plutocrat. Except
the "Wall Street Journal" editorial page, the official organ of
conservatism in this country, came to Perkins` defense, quote, "While
claiming to be outraged the critics seem more incensed that Mr. Perkins
dared to question the politics of economic class warfare. Maybe the
critics are afraid Mr. Perkins is on to something about the last political
The point was essentially, OK, maybe Kristallnacht is over the top, but
basically Mr. Perkins is right, and crucially this is not an isolated view.
Remember in 2010, when Jonathan Alter, reported this little bit from
billionaire, Steven Swartzman, quote, "It`s a war," Swartzman said at the
struggle with the Obama administration over increasing taxes on private
equity firms. "It`s like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.
Don`t forget this gem from Grover Norquist appearance on Fresh Air with
Terry Gross back in 2003.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TERRY GROSS: Excuse me one second. Did you compare the estate tax with
NORQUIST: No, the morality that says it`s OK to do something to a group
because they`re a small percentage of the population is the morality that
says the holocaust is OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: I wrote an entire book about the psychology and psychopathologies
of the American elite and if there`s one thing I`ve taken away it is
there`s nothing more destructive than a ruling class that simultaneously
has too much power and is genuinely convinced it is being persecuted. And
that is the situation we have now and history has shown that is a very
unstable equilibrium indeed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O`REILLY: Mr. Obama has promised in Congress does not cooperate more
with him he`ll sign a bunch of executive orders getting stuff done by fiat.
That`s not going to make many people happy.
NEIL CAVUTO: Jay Carney says the president has sent out unilaterally and
bypasses Congress the executive order to get what he wants and get
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s going to talk more than he ever has before about
the idea of doing things without Congress, going around Congress with
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you`re going to hear more executive
orders; you`re going to hear the evil Republicans are blocking my agenda.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s the fact he`s going to do it with executive order
so it`s a little scary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Scary indeed. It`s 2014 and conservatives are newly aroused to the
fear of an imperial presidency. That term imperial presidency coined by
the legendary liberal Arthur Schlesinger in "The imperial presidency" was a
liberal critique of rising power in the White House and wrestling with the
fact more and more of that power is winding up in the hands of the
executive. Until recently, arguing for maximum executive power was what
conservatives spent a lot of their time doing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY (via telephone)+: We did not exceed our
constitutional authority as some have suggested, but we the president
believes, I believe very deeply in a strong executive, and I think that`s
essential in this day and age. And I think the Obama administration is not
likely to cede (ph) that authority back to the Congress. I think they`ll
find given the challenge they face they`ll need all the authority they can
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Of course, everyone is skeptical of the executive when it`s not
their own party in power. That cuts both ways for liberals and
conservatives. This time around, as conservatives were unleashing a whole
bunch of rhetoric about Obama and his imperial lawless presidency, all
because he said this on Tuesday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: In the coming
weeks, I will issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay
their federally funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Here are the facts. When the president gets around to issuing that
one executive order, it will be his 168th executive order of his
presidency, which means that Obama is issuing executive orders more slowly
than any president since Grover Cleveland. In his first term, alone,
George W. Bush issued almost 30 more executive orders than Obama. And that
said, it`s absolutely true that each year makes the executive branch more
and more powerful.
For all of us liberals who spent all those years in the Bush administration
horrified by that, you`ve got to ask, is this a trend we want to cheer on?
Joining me now, Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat from Oregon, who has been, I
think, quite a consistent voice in this. So first of all, what`s your
reaction to the president`s announcement in the State of the Union in terms
of this -- these fears of imperial presidency coming from the right?
SENATOR JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: Well, I got to tell you the things he
was talking about, which I`m going to convene CEO`s to talk about job
creation, I`m going to hold a conference on the family. I`m going to bring
experts together to try to establish a coalition around pre-K, universal
pre-K education. That sounds like convening a conversation on important
issues facing America. This is what we expect.
HAYES: Yes. That is hardly a threat to the Constitution.
MERKLEY: Exactly, hardly a threat. If we take the one real point he put
out which is he believes the federal government should pay a higher minimum
wage to its contractors so that a full-time employee under contract to the
government isn`t living in poverty, I say that is right on. That`s a great
example to set. That`s well within established powers. There`s nothing
imperial about it.
HAYES: There is no new theory of executive power being offered here. I
mean, this is just squarely within precedent.
MERKLEY: Absolutely. In fact, this is one charge from the right that is
so devoid of reality. You pointed out that he`s used his power very
minimally in terms of issuing executive orders. They bend within the frame
of the delegated power. One of the things he talked about he was going to
increase the fuel efficiency standard for trucks.
MERKLEY: Is that an imperial presidency? The Congress gave him that.
HAYES: The power.
MERKLEY: That power. If the Congress does not want him to have that
power, they should take it away.
HAYES: This gets to something you have worked on very hard which is part
of, I think, the ceding of power to the executive which is I think is
unquestionably a trend and this presidency has been part of it -- we`ll
talk about the war on terror in a second -- is the fact that Congress,
particularly the United States Senate, has become such a procedural mess
that it can`t do anything.
MERKLEY: Well, certainly that is almost the case. I must say we had this
little it`s like an oasis in the desert in the past few weeks. We actually
passed a budget. We actually paused actually passed an appropriations
HAYES: You passed a lot of nominees, too. Thanks for the nuclear option.
MERKLEY: It is the oasis, the rare moment on a long journey. Most of the
time we`re in the scorching sun of dysfunction!
HAYES: Can you convince your colleagues in the Senate, guys, by abusing
the filibuster in the way you are, what you are doing, the end result is
giving more power to the executive. Because what happens is American
moment on a long journey!
MERKLEY: Most of the time we`re in the scorching sun of dysfunction.
HAYES: Can you convince your colleagues in the Senate, guys, by abusing
the filibuster in the way you are, what you are doing, the end result is
giving more power to the executive. Because what happens is American
people and everyone looks at this and says this is a dysfunctional body.
How can we bypass it?
MERKLEY: It`s so obvious if you have two tracks to accomplish something,
one using existing delegated power and one developing a conversation about
new ideas and passing new legislation, if that second track is blockaded as
it has been throughout virtually this entire presidency, then the executive
is going to turn to the power it has in hand. Use it judiciously, within
the confines of the law. Things like increasing truck mileage, holding
conferences on children`s education are certainly well within the law.
HAYES: Here`s the test. Process or outcomes? If the president could sign
an executive order overriding Congress and closing Guantanamo, how would
you feel about that?
MERKLEY: If that was within his power to do, I think he should do it
because Guantanamo is creating a huge national security problem for the
United States around the world. But it has to be within the power that
Congress has previously delegated.
HAYES: And Congress has been very specific about blocking that. I want to
bring in more some people into the conversation and talk about the
president who most used executive orders. You want to stick around to find
out who that was and what it means, ahead.
HAYES: We`re back with Senator Jeff Merkley. We`re also joined by Dorian
Warren, associate professor of political science at Columbia University and
MSNBC contributor, Josh Barro, also politics editor. So here`s the chart
that made me sit up and think about how should I feel about the imperial
president executive power?
Here is the history of executive orders by U.S. president. Something I`d
have no occasion to visit except for this. Basically in context there`s a
bunch of presidents then there`s FDR. That huge bar you see there is FDR.
There`s everyone else, they`re around once in a while and FDR absolutely
using this as a main lever.
Dorian, FDR is our hero in many ways as liberals but he was also
unquestionably in some ways the most aggressive about executive power of
any modern president. How should a liberal feel?
DORIAN WARREN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: One thing we have not come to grips
with is when he think about the new deal and we, you know, remember the new
deal and how great it was. Half was legislative. The other half was
HAYES: He closed the banks.
WARREN: There are two I want to mention, though. One is an executive
order extending paid six days to federal employees in the `30s. He
extended this to federal employees in 1939 roughly.
WARREN: The second one is more important, relates to President Obama`s
executive order around federal contract workers. In 1941, labor leader A.
Phillip Randolph threatened a march on Washington if the president did not
issue an executive order to end discrimination in the defense industry for
African-Americans. It was only through the threat of disruption and
protest that the president did it.
HAYES: And it`s probably something that would not have passed
WARREN: It would not have passed and it was the first executive action on
both workers` rights and racial justice since the emancipation
HAYES: Senator, I had Debbie Wasserman-Schultz here the other night and
said she liked the executive order. The way you and your colleagues act,
violates how James Madison thought you would act. He thought your
allegiance would first be to your chamber then to your party. In fact,
it`s the other way around, right? What ends up happening, Congress people
get the executive due deference if it`s their party and they do if it`s
MERKLEY: Certainly you do have that influence because it`s a team where
you`re connected in trying to accomplish things that will advance the
interest and success of the United States of America. And so you have a
natural inclination to side with a president who shares your views.
HAYES: But is that dangerous?
MERKLEY: I think there are a lot of checks in the process right now.
We`re seeing the other end of the spectrum where there is the paralysis
aside. And certainly it is dangerous if you get into a situation where you
say because it`s my president or a president they`re always our presidents,
but because it`s a president who shares my views, I`m going to allow
executive power to be abused. That`s when you go over the line. An
example recently, I felt strongly the president needed to come to Congress
to seek authorization should he propose a strike and he was proposing a
strike for Syria. The president came to that point of view. He did come
to Congress and that was correct.
JOSH BARRO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think liberals should be a little more
cautious about sort of saying OK to the way the president`s done this. I
would use the example of Obama care. The president has used a fairly
aggressive strategy of just waiving or delaying various parts of the law as
a strategy to make the law work.
HAYES: Part of which is baked into the cake statutorily we should say.
BARRO: Part of which, part of which is quite nebulously legal, saying sell
the insurance plans, which the law says are illegal because I won`t try to
enforce it. Easily imagine a republican president using the same strategy
to undermine the law rather than support the law. If President Romney had
been elected he could have just said, well, we`re going to delay the
individual mandate because the regulations aren`t ready, but really because
we don`t want the law to work. So I think it`s concerning to have a
president who just basically picks and chooses parts of laws to enforce,
but I agree it`s part of a broken legislative process.
HAYES: What this Again gets to, people talk about process but what they
care about is outcomes.
WARREN: People care about outcomes.
HAYES: That`s what politics is.
WARREN: This is the context. The least productive Congress in history and
this is a president that has not used executive look, the labor movement
had been asking him to do this five years.
WARREN: He just did it. Frankly in terms of the number of workers, I know
this is a question; it`s only going to affect new government contractors,
right? People are making this to be even a bigger issue than it should be
and still has to be pressure on the president I think to issue an executive
order that`s broader than what we`re hearing so far.
HAYES: Finally, the authorization to use military force is to me the
biggest enabler of executive overreach now. That was passed by Congress.
Passed nearly unanimously! The big question I think is, is Congress going
to revisit that? Right now, if you want to talk about the imperial
presidency, the source is the words you see on your screen.
MERKLEY: You`re talking about the war powers act. Under the war powers
act, the president has to come to Congress within a certain timeframe and
that timeframe needs to be honored. In the case of Syria, however, the
standard set up in the war powers act were not met and would have been
abuse of the delegation of authority had the president not come to
HAYES: There`s a great piece on Buzzfeed by Greg Johnson on this. Passed
the week of 9/11, that thing is given an unbelievable amount of cart
blanche. Senator Merkley, Dorian, Josh Barro, thank you all back from L.A.
That is all in for this evening. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friends.
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