'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, February 23rd, 2014
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
February 23, 2014
Guests: Marcus Mabry, Igor Volsky, Tsedeye Gebreselassie, Tamara Draut,
Avik Roy, Andy Kroll, Seema Iyer, Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Lucia McBath,
JOY REID, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question, do rich people already
have more votes?
Plus, the mother of slain teen Jordan Davis on turning grief into activism.
And the daughter of Malcolm X tells us about the young Malcolm little.
But first, the debate over 10.10 President Obama continues to wage against
Good morning. I`m Joy Reid in for Melissa Harris-Perry.
OK. Let`s play a game of what if. Say you were given a big, shiny, red
button just like this one and you knew if you pushed it, you could lift
900,000 people out of poverty just like that. You`d push it, right? But
hold on, there`s a catch. What if by pressing that button, you might also
be eliminating 500,000 jobs or as many as a million or none? And there`s
really no way of knowing until you push. In fact, you might not know until
long after you push or you might not ever know. Would you do it then?
That`s the question we have to ask when we debate whether to raise the
federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, as a bill introduced by
congressional d Democrats and supported by President Obama would do.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let`s tell Congress to say
yes. Pass that bill. Give America a raise because here in America, no one
who works hard should have to live in poverty. And everyone who works hard
should have a chance to get ahead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: $10.10 would be a major increase over the current federal minimum
wage of $7.25, a 39.3 percent increase, to be exact. And as the bill is
written, it would be tied to inflation, so it would keep increasing
automatically as the years go on. Congressional Republicans and major
business groups like the U.S. chamber of commerce and the national retail
federation say, no, that passing the minimum wage would cause businesses to
higher fewer people, ultimately hurting low-wage workers and the economy.
Supporters of raising the wage saying putting more money into workers`
pockets can only help the economy. And both sides have legitimate points,
at least according to the new report out this week on what a wage bump
would do to economic job growth.
The report was done by the congressional budget office, the nonpartisan
influential office full of economists and policy advocates who evaluate the
effects of proposed legislation for Congress. In its report, the CBO
estimated that raising the wage to $10.10 would increase the incomes of
16.5 million people who currently make between $7.25 and $10.10 an hour.
Another eight million making just more than $10.10 could also see ripple
effects from the wage bump. A higher minimum wage would increase income
altogether by $5 billion a year for poor families and $14 billion a year
for those in the middle class. And it would lift 900,000 people out of
poverty, about 2 percent of the 45 million Americans living below the
Those are great, inspiring numbers that will serve as substantive
ammunition for the proponents of a higher wage floor. But there`s still
that catch. In the same report, the CBO estimates that raising the wage
could result in a decrease in the number of jobs, anywhere between just a
few to as many as one million jobs could be lost. Now, the CBO uses
midpoints in their estimate, which is why you`ve seen headlines this week
which says the minimum wage increase could kill 500,000 jobs.
Now, several economists along with "The New York Times" editorial page and
the White House have argued that the CBO is way overestimating the number
of jobs that could be lost. And that it`s out of line with most economic
studies on the subject of raising the minimum wage. But the CBO is
standing by its report, arguing that the $10.10 proposal would have a
higher impact on employment, because the increase itself at 39 percent is
much bigger than the past wage increases that have been subject to all
those previous economic studies.
So let`s take the CBO at its word and ask if all the benefits it describes,
900,000 people out of poverty, 16.5 million with higher wages, higher
demands for goods and services throughout the economy are worth the risk of
losing up to a million jobs.
Joining me now is Tamara Draut, vice president of Policy and Research at
Demos, Avik Roy, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and an opinion
editor for "Forbes," Tsedeye Gebreselassie, staff attorney at the National
Employment Law Project and Igor Volsky, the senior I got frighten, managing
editor of thinkprogress.org.
Welcome to all of you.
So I think the first question, obviously, is would you push the out button?
Let`s just go around the table. I already know what you`re going to say.
Let`s start over here. Would you actually push the button? Are those jobs
worth raising the minimum wage?
TSEDEYE GEBRESELASSIE, STAFF ATTORNEY, NATIONAL EMPLOYMENT LAW PROJECT:
Absolutely. And I would actually dispute that there is a trade-off,
because you noted that the CBO`s analysis is against the weight of current
economic consensus on this issue, which finds that raising the minimum wage
does not cause job loss. And it`s important to know that the CBO didn`t do
any independent analysis when it released its report. What it did is
review the economic literature out there and did a synthesis and found that
estimate of job loss, even though, you know, hundreds of economists
reviewing the same literature, seven Nobel laureates have said, no, raising
the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour will improve the lives of working
families without the job loss that the CBO claims.
REID: And I know that Avik dispute. Let`s go around. Igor, would you
take that trade?
IGOR VOLSKY, MANAGING EDITOR, THINKPROGRESS.ORG: I would. And I wouldn`t
just look at the economists. I mean, economists say a lot of things that,
as we know, don`t always come true. But you look at the real-world
examples, states where the minimum wage has increased, other times the
minimum wage was increased under Bush the last time in 2007, and you see
there, you don`t have job loss. You have unemployment either decreased or
stayed the same or fell below the national average. It certainly didn`t
And just taking her dispute into account, but just showing you, let`s just
pretending that we all agree that it`s correct, I just want to show as I
ask you, Tamara, the same question, the actual trade-off, higher wages for
25 million people, 9,000 people out of poverty and jobs lost. Just looking
at it graphically, you can see that you are literally having a lot of
people getting a lot of benefits as against 500,000 potential job losses.
So even if we just go ahead and stipulate that the CBO is actually correct,
looking at that trade-off that you see, Tamara, would you pursue it?
TAMARA DRAUT, VICE PRESIDENT OF POLICY AND RESEARCH, DEMOS: I would push
it. I`d push it twice, three times if you ask me, absolutely. Because one
thing we have to keep in mind is that we know workers are going to get the
benefit. The unknown is whether there will be job gains, which is also an
option, or job loss. So I would definitely go with the known of raising
almost a million people out of poverty and improving the living standards
of millions of workers, absolutely, in a heartbeat.
REID: And Avik, that is really the issue, right? So the known is, you
know, hundred years of economic history that higher wages, that great bulge
that happened during the 1940s after World War II and the on-come of unions
in the early to mid-20th century, when people`s wages went up, you saw the
economy rise, that people could buy the newfangled gadgets, the
refrigerators, they can actually buy cars. There`s real-world evidence
that raising minimum wage lifts people out of poverty and improves the
economy. The unknown is the number of job losses.
AVIK ROY, SENIOR FELLOW, MANHATTAN INSTITUTE: Higher wages are good.
Federal mandates for higher wages are not because it makes it more costly
for companies to higher people. The people that are the most vulnerable in
this economy are the people who are seeking work but can`t find it. And
so, that 500,000 number, whatever the real number is, it`s an important
number to be concerned about. And there are two other points. I thought
your rundown of the CBO report was great. There are two points to keep in
mind that the CBO explicitly did not take into account.
The first is when you raise the minimum wage, it has an impact on the cost
of consumer goods that are functioning, when you raise the cost of
businesses, they have to pass on those costs to consumers in the form of
higher prices. The second point that`s important to remember, there are a
lot of anti-poverty programs, things like Medicaid, things like SNAP, like
other transfers that explicitly don`t get counted when you think about the
impact on poverty. And so, the impact on poverty is actually more muted
than the CBO calculated, because it only took into account wage income and
not other transfers that are means the tested, that also affect how those
totals come together.
REID: OK, so -- go on.
GEBRESELASSIE: You know, the minimum wage is not fundamentally an anti-
poverty issue. Yes, it -- or the measure. Yes, it raises people out of
poverty, because incomes increase, but it is a fundamental labor standard
is. It is the fair labor standards act. Wages cannot fall beneath this
level. And the problem is it has not kept pace with inflation over these
last 40 years. I mean, we are talking about raising the minimum wage to
$10.10 an hour. Yes, it`s a 30 percent increase like you said. But had we
just kept the minimum wage up with inflation over the last 45 years, it
would be almost $11 an hour and this is the problem. This is the problem,
you know, the minimum wage stays flat for years at a time. Congress cannot
get its act together to pass an increase, and workers are effectively
seeing a pay cut.
ROY: It`s a different analysis, which if you take into account the earned
income tax credit, the impact of the earned income tax credit in concert
with the minimum wage, actually the wages of those individuals is actually
REID: Well, let me ask just a little bit because I know that the earned
income tax credit is sort of a favorite means from the conservative world
of raising the overall income annually. But the fact that that`s a one-
time infusion of cash into a household, that means that you`re catching up
then on bills that have fallen behind, because your actual day-to-day,
week-to-week, month-to-month income can`t keep up with the basics of your
life. So how does a one-time cash transfer make up for lower wages? It
doesn`t seem like in the real world, that actually helps people.
ROY: Your point about how the impact of those transfers should be more
regular, rather than just a one-time thing at the end of the year is a good
point. Marco Rubio in his speech, anti-poverty speech talked about that,
about why it`s important to actually have an improved system, where you`re
actually giving that extra money to people, rewarding them for --
REID: But aren`t you actually asking federal tax office dollars to
subsidize low-wage work. You`re essentially saying --
ROY: That`s better than --
REID: Pay low wages and we will subsidize that through the federal tax --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is that better?
ROY: That`s better than making it harder and costlier for businesses to
hire those --
REID: Let`s go to Igor.
VOLSKY: I mean, Avik is not wrong to say, that obviously, if you increase
the minimum wage, your payroll will increase, that`s absolutely true. But
I think there are two roads businesses can go down. They can increase
their payroll, pay their workers more, and in return, they get higher
productivity, they get better workers, they retain the best and the
brightest, or they could save on payroll and say, we`re just going to pay
people the least we can and then they have a lot of turnover, they have to
recruit more people.
And businesses know they face this choice, which is why you have businesses
like Costco, like GAP just recently increasing their minimum wage and
saying, we`re doing it because we value our workers and we value our
customers. And we know if we have the best workers, our customer service
is better, our business overall runs better.
REID: We`re going to stick with that point. I know everyone wants to jump
in on that, because I think that`s what we want to hone in on. Businesses
own attitudes toward this. Because Walmart, they haven`t had a complete
change of heart, but I think they`re starting to get there.
And when we come back, more on this topic.
REID: The day after the CBO report came out, we got some other minimum
wage news. GAP Inc., which owns GAP and five other clothing chains,
announced it will increase its bay base pay for workers to $9 this year and
to $10 in 2015. GAP says the change will affect 65,000 workers. On why
they did it, GAP said in a statement that by increasing hourly pay, quote,
"we can strengthen our ability to attract and retain a skilled,
enthusiastic, and engaged workforce. We believe that investing in our
front line talent will strengthen and deepen relationships with our
And, of course, by doing that, GAP got a little shout-out from President
Obama, who has also, he did the address this week on the minimum wage and
this is Obama`s response to the gap, saying they`ve raised their wages.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Earlier this week, one of America`s largest retailers, the GAP,
decided to raise wages for its employees, beginning this year. Their
decision will benefit about 65,000 workers in the U.S. That means more
families will be able to raise their kids, finish their studies, or keep up
on their bills with little less financial stress and strain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: OK. And it`s not just like the squishy, liberal gap, you know.
It`s also Walmart, which while they didn`t sign on to the idea of
necessarily increasing the minimum wage, it was sort of played that way in
Bloomberg, but Walmart sort of sounded like they`re kind of softening on
it. From Bloomberg`s story this week, increasing the minimum wage means
some of the 140 million people who shop at the chain weekly will now have
additional income. That was Walmart`s spokesman, David Tovar, not saying
they`re for it, but saying they are not necessarily against it.
VOLSKY: I think employers are really recognizing that their employees
aren`t just people who work for them, they`re also their customers. And
so, again, if you raise up wages, in a spending economy, you have more
consumption, you have more growth, you grow the economy out.
And also, who benefits? The president mentioned there, people raising
families. In GAP and elsewhere, disproportionately the beneficiaries are
women. Women for whom the economy, frankly, the labor economy, doesn`t
work very well. They don`t have paid sick leave, for instance, other
issues that need to be addressed. So this is just, I think, a policy that
gets us there, that makes sure we have an economy that works for today`s
REID: And how does one argue against that, Avik? I mean, if we are
talking about making more consumers that is a conservative argument for
raising the minimum wage.
ROY: Why do wages grow organically in the economy when federal policy
isn`t dictating what the wages will be? It`s when there`s competition for
workers, right? So where you have an economy where there`s low
unemployment, because the economy is growing, that`s where wages increase,
and that`s the kind of wage increase we`re not seeing, because unemployment
is so high.
REID: The only way to grow is when you`re collectively bargaining for
them, which is another thing that`s been taken off the table for a lot of
DRAUT: Listen, you know, one thing we haven`t talked about here is
business responsibility. You know, you keep saying that there shouldn`t be
some overall floor for wages, that the government says, if you do business
here, and hire workers here, you have to pay a decent standard of living.
And that`s what the federal minimum wage is. It`s a decency wage. It says
that in a rich nation like the United States, nobody who goes to work every
day should live in poverty. And I`m sorry, you know. Business has a
responsibility here to hire at a decent wage. They can afford it. Walmart
knows they can afford this. They spend billions buying back shares of
their own stocks, which really benefits shareholders and CEO pay. They
know they can afford this. And they don`t have to raise prices to afford
GEBRESELASSIE: Well yes, I mean, just I`ll explain, I mean, wages have
been stagnant around the decline in this country for a long time, even
before the economic recession hit. I mean, from 2012, for the bottom 60
percent of America`s workforce, wages were stagnant around the decline.
And one of the key reasons why was because our wage floor has badly eroded,
because it has not kept pace with inflation. And I think GAP`s
announcement is as much a response to the momentum that`s out there to
raise wages. I mean, it`s, you know, in response to the fact that we`ve
seen this tremendous decline at the bottom and this, you know, increase at
the very top.
REID: And I think to Tamara`s point about business responsibility, I think
in the ideal world, you can say, yes, business has a responsibility to its
employees, but they don`t have an incentive, right? A clear, amoral profit
incentive, taking morality out of it is to make a profit. And a lower
wage, a lower cost of labor is one way to eke out more profit.
ROY: Unless there`s competition for the workers.
REID: But without unions, because the unions are on the decline. Without
a collective bare bargaining force to push back against management desire
for lower wages, the incentive is just a race to the bottom, even by
exporting those jobs out of the country or by paying people lower and lower
VOLSKY: I mean, I think that`s a question for Avik. If Avik wants to see
more competition, would he then support the expansion of unions, laws that
would make workers organize, make it easier so workers have representation,
I mean, what he said that he would want to see that sometimes maybe a
safety net is better than increasing the minimum wage. Would he then
support Medicaid expansion or having a more robust safety net?
I think a lot of times conservatives want to have it both ways, right?
They want to say, let the market decide what the wage is going to be, but
then we`re also going to make sure that workers don`t have the
representation they need, so that they`re in a fair bargaining situation
with their employers. And that`s why workers have been losing for decades,
why wages have increased some 2 percent annually since the 1970s.
REID: Let`s let Avik respond.
ROY: Yes. Well, you have raised a lot of points there. So I support
universal coverage. I support a robust safety net. I don`t think the way
we have a safety net today is very efficient. I think the earned income
tax credit is a great example and the CBO report talks about this. So,
even it points out that a minimum wage increase is not actually well-
targeted toward the low-income people because a lot of people benefit from
the minimum wage increase are say the rich teenage kids --
REID: Hold on a second.
ROY: The earned income tax credit is much more targeted towards --
GEBRESELASSIE: It is not about targeting, it`s a labor standard. So, that
is the thing. It is like, yes, it does impact, you know, if you are poor
and you are working, you will be less poor with a minimum wage increase.
It benefits everybody --
ROY: If you have a job, if you can get a job. But there will be less
jobs, that`s the problem.
REID: I think it`s a canard to say it`s about teenagers. That`s a
fallback position from the right. The majority of people who make up low-
wage earners in 2015, 88 percent of the people earning low wages will be at
least 26-year-old, 56 percent female, 91 percent will have not attained a
bachelor`s degree. We`re talking about teenagers at the entry level job.
We are talking about a lot of adults raising entire families on the minimum
wage. And we have to get off this idea that it`s teenagers. A lot of
times, it`s household earners.
ROY: The broader point is the point about income, right? So, if you
really want to target, if you want to help out people who are struggling
because their incomes are low, the earned income tax rate is a more
targeted way to do that.
REID: I`m sure a lot of people want to respond. We are going to do it
right after the break.
REID: And we are back with what`s turning out to be a very hot debate on
the minimum wage. And I know Tsedeye wanted to get in on Avik`s point,
that reducing the overall availability of jobs is the real problem here,
not the minimum wage.
GEBRESELASSIE: Right. Not true if you look at all of the studies recently
that have examined this, the regular ones that have been endorsed by so
many economists. And not true if you look in real world experiences. Gap,
for example, it`s located in San Francisco. That city has a minimum wage
of $10.74, and it`s going to go up every year, because it`s indexed to
inflation. California just passed an increase to $10 an hour. There are
five states that passed increases last year, many more are going to do it
this year, including in red states like Alaska and South Dakota that will
have it on the ballot. And it`s clear that these increases, like Igor were
saying earlier, have not caused job loss.
We have not seen massive unemployment among low-wage industries. In fact,
they have been booming, because they are the ones that are
disproportionately growing in our economy today, which is exactly why we
need to raise minimum wage.
REID: Go ahead, Igor.
VOLSKY: I`m just surprised to learn this morning that apparently the
conservative position or the position against the minimum wage seems to be,
let`s get rid of some labor standards, let`s allow businesses to kind of
race to the bottom, and let the government subsidize these folks who aren`t
REID: I think that is probably my biggest problem, too, Avik. We`ve had
this debate before. I think that`s my biggest problem with it. It`s
essentially, as Igor said, you`re asking for essentially a welfare subsidy,
so that businesses can get away with doing in this country what we`ve
accused them of doing outside the country, which means searching for $2 an
hour labor somewhere outside the U.S. we`re now saying, feel free to come
here and search for that amid Americans and we`ll subsidize them with
welfare payment one-time.
ROY: You know, Germany has no minimum wage and they have a robust welfare.
GEBRESELASSIE: They have strong unions.
REID: Tennessee, that`s -- they tried to do --
ROY: -- a necessary tool for all the things --
VOLSKY: Avik, where are you on these unions? We`ve talked about this too.
Are you open to --
ROY: I`m totally happy with anyone who wants to organize a union to do so.
VOLSKY: Do you think it should be easier for people --
ROY: I don`t think people should be covered. But I think it is fine for
people to organize if they want to and that`s what they do. That`s what
you do in a free world.
REID: Well if they do, but they don`t in the southern states, right? They
sort of moonlight and magnolia`s theory of the economy has been, let`s
create right-to-work states and compete to create more jobs by basically
guaranteeing lower wages.
ROY: But those workers on the UAW plant, in the Volkswagen plant in
Chattanooga voted not to join the union. It wasn`t because --
ROY: You could disagree with the result, disagree with their decision,
disagree with the people who tried to persuade them one way or the other.
REID: Hold on a second.
ROY: They voted with their own free minds to not join a union.
REID: OK. Let`s talk for just one second. First of all, Volkswagen has
now, they`ve raised question about whether they`ll build anymore plants in
the south because they have very strong union laws in Germany. So they
might have actually now presented more jobs in the south.
I want to pick up on a point that you made that is legitimate. There was a
vote in Tennessee, it was a union vote, a vote not to create the union, but
there was a fair amount of political pressure there. Bob Corker, the
senator from Texas -- I mean, from Tennessee got involved in it. The
politics of the minimum wage are interesting because Democrats do feel that
it is as a political manner good for them to run on this, good for them to
have this debate we`re having here. And Republicans by and large have
said, they`re just going to stay, not do anymore new legislation. So let`s
talk just a little bit, Igor, about the politics of this for Democrats.
There`s a poll that Gallup took that showed the, that asked, what is the
most important problem facing them, unemployment and jobs got 23 percent in
that poll, the economy in general got 20 percent, wage issues only got two
percent, and the gap between rich and poor got two percent.
So I think, as a theoretical matter, people on the left think, listen, this
is really important. People in Tennessee want higher-wage jobs, but if
they are left to vote, vote no on the union, asked what their most
important thing is, they don`t say wages.
VOLSKY: Well, I think to be fair, you look at polls and about half of
workers said, if they had the option of joining a union, they want to join
a union. I think in 2013, 56 percent of union elections actually organized
a union. So I think the problem is, getting at a union. But that`s a
discussion maybe for another day.
But you`re right, as a purely political matter, for the voters that
Democrats are looking to attract, this is this new Obama coalition of
voters, this is where the discussion needs to be about jobs, about wages,
about upward mobility, about, as the president says, kind of building the
economy out from the middle and raising up those people. Because for too
long wages have stagnated, folks haven`t been able to advance in starting,
you know, from the early 2000s onward. And those are the voters who, for,
I think, a long time have said, what has the government done for me lately?
I feel like the government is only helping the rich people and not me. And
I think it`s the job of lawmakers now, if they want to win elections, to
change that perception.
REID: And on a policy level, Tamara, I mean, what is the strongest
argument one would make for raising the minimum wage, in the face of the
fact that it`s not an obviously important thing to the average voters in
these towards polls.
DRAUT: Well, it is strongly supported by most voters if you ask directly,
if you want to see the minimum wage increase. I mean, it`s hard to get
poll numbers as strong as they are for the minimum wage which is why it is
definitely a political winner for Democrats.
The strongest argument is that it`s the decent thing to do and we get a lot
of economic benefit out of doing it. It is a stimulative policy, but as
Tsedeye keeps saying and I will underscore, it`s a basement labor standard.
You know, we are a rich nation. We are an advanced nation. We need to
have basic dignity and a decent floor for wages in this country.
REID: All right. And I think that is the perfect last word on the
Thank you so much, Tsedeye, for being here this morning, and everyone else,
please stick around.
Up next, somewhere out there is a brand-new one percenter.
REID: We still don`t know exactly who won Wednesday`s Powerball lottery.
But we do know someone did win. That someone walked into this chevron
station in the Silicon Valley and picked up all of the winning numbers --1,
17, 35, 49, 54 with a Powerball of 34.
Those six numbers, just 11 digits, add up to $425 million, the sixth
largest jackpot in American history. Congratulations, whoever you are!
You`re not just an overnight millionaire. You have just become an instant
member of the one percenter`s club.
If you choose the lump sum cash option, you`ll walk with $242.2 million,
before taxes. If you need some tips on how to spend that fortune, how
about a few of these. The s-class Mercedes-Benz at a price of $93,000
each, you can fit more than 2,600 of them in your enormous garage. How
about 17 of these custom me talon yachts at the bargain price of $14
million-a-piece? Want a little more bling for your buck? How about owning
the most expensive diamond ever sold at auction? At $83 million a pop, you
could buy nearly three of them. Or how about a slew of luxury condo like
Oprah`s beautiful Chicago home, listed at $7.75 million? You could buy
that one and 30 more just like it for you and your friends.
But, if material goods aren`t your thing, how about investing in something
that could really pay dividends, your own political issue? Plenty of
wealthy Americans are already doing exactly that. We`ll deep dive into
REID: When we think about millionaires, billionaires, and politics, there
are few people who come to mind right away, specifically, when it comes to
conservatives. Charles and David Koch, aka, the Koch brothers, you
probably know their political network raised $400 million during the 2012
But how about the name Paul Singer? Not ringing any bells? He`s the New
York billionaire who "Politico" reported last week helped launch a club
called the American opportunity alliance to bring together some of the
richest pro-business GOP donors in the country. Several of whom share
Singer`s supports for gay rights, immigration reform, and the state of
Israel. "Politico" reports that the club will host a closed-door meeting
in a swanky Colorado resort this week. Among those expected to attend,
House Speaker John Boehner and New Hampshire senator Kelly Ayotte,
according to the report.
But wealthy conservatives aren`t the only ones putting their money where
their politics are. One financier is about to test how well one percenter
politics work to address what is often perceived as a liberal issue.
Democrat Tom Steyer founded one of the world`s most successful hedge funds
and spent millions to help elect his candidates of choice in last year`s
elections, including $11 million to help Terry McAuliffe to become New
Jersey`s new governor.
Now, Steyer wants to build a $100 million war chest to tackle climate
change during the 2014 election season. NBC`s Chuck Todd, on Friday`s
edition of "the Daily Rundown," asked Steyer about the influence of wealthy
donors in politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM STEYER, HEDGE FUND INVESTOR: There have been some legal decision, some
court decisions, which I absolutely disagree, like citizens united, which
have led to this explosion of money.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Do you believe you
should not be allowed to be doing this? That you should not be -- you`ve
pledged $100 million, $50 million is your own. Do you believe you should
not be able to legally do this?
STEYER: I believe there should be a different system. We can complain
about it. We can lament about it, or we can actually do something to try
to work within it which is what we are trying to do.
TODD: All right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: And joining at the table now is Marcus Mabry, editor of the Lead
Blog at "The New York Times," and from Washington, it is "Mother Jones"
magazine, dark money reporter, Andy Kroll.
Andy, I want to start with you because you`ve written a lot about this sort
of new nexus of dark money. For the liberals who are uncomfortable with
the post Citizens United world, does Tom Steyer`s approach show that the
only way to beat a billionaire whose ideas you don`t want imposed on
government is to fund your own?
ANDY KROLL, DARK MONEY REPORTER, MOTHER JONES: That certainly seems to be
what Tom Steyer thinks. And you know, we have seen his emergence on the
political scene. He has, you know, supplanted any of the other liberal
boogiemen of years past, as, you know, the face of billionaire politics
among liberals, and you know, he`s really creating some and eliciting some
kind of fascinating reaction with people. Some people don`t agree with him
embracing the post-citizens united rules of the game. He`s a super Pac.
He`s going to be spending anonymous money as well around the issues of
climate change, and specifically punish lawmakers who don`t take action on
that issue or deny the science of it.
But you also have some other folks, myself a little bit included, who feel
that going down this road and throwing money on top of money on top of
money may not make that much of a difference and is only going to have a
harmful effect on elections and campaigns and frankly our democracy.
REID: Well, I`m wondering, Andy, is it an equal playing field? Are there
as many big-money super Pac liberals as there are conservatives out there
operate right now?
KROLL: No. It`s definitely tilted toward the right. The numbers from the
2012 election bear this out. You know, most of the biggest super Pacs,
most of the biggest political nonprofit groups, the so-called dark money
groups, if you will, are tilted toward the right. I think what Steyer is
trying to do is the balance that out. And if you have a whole cottage
industry of think tanks and other groups stoking doubts about climate
science and trying to delay climate change legislation, you know, Steyer
wants to at least bring some pushback and emphasis on the other side. So,
it`s not an even playing field at all. On what we see the money being
ratcheted up on both sides and you see, you know, these billionaires who
care about a single issue really getting involve in trying to, you know,
press the matter, just by virtue of their own money and their own networks.
REID: I want to bring this out to the table, and I`ll start with you,
Marcus, since you are newest joining the table, is this the world that we
now are living in? The Post-Citizens United, doesn`t this make the sense
for the left to just say listen, this is the world where man will play.
Otherwise, we`re going to be outgunned in every election?
MARCUS MABRY, NEW YORK TIMES: Well politically, I don`t understand how
either side, even if this advantage was on the left right now, as you said,
it`s on the right, how either side could unilaterally disarm. I mean, you
just can`t do that in our political context.
I mean, remember, it was Obama`s state of the union, when he called out the
Supreme Court on citizens united case, and he said, it was the wrong
decision. And you had chief justice Roberts there in the first row looking
out for the president, stone faced, and I thought, there is the conflict of
our three wings of government going at each other, right?
And I think the Supreme Court, until the left can actually impact the
Supreme Court, and there`s a conservative justice that steps down, while
there`s a Democratic president, and a Democratic Senate, and that may be
only a few months left of that, until that happens, then this is not going
to change. This is going to stay the law of the land. As long as it`s law
of the land, you must play with these politics. Otherwise, you`ll see
yourself losing issue after issue after issue on the political landscape.
REID: And Tamara, what is the risk of that, I mean, to our democracy?
This sounds like 3,000 or 4,000 people essentially deciding every single
policy in the country.
DRAUT: Yes, it`s a real travesty. I mean, the voice and the preferences
of most people in this country are completely left out in this system. You
know, I keep thinking, if the people who make the news, the Adelsons, the
Koch brothers, Tom Steyer, what do they all have in common? They`re white
men, and they`re setting the agendas and priorities of our national
politics. And it leads out the preferences, the needs of low-income
people, of people of color, of women.
You know, I wish I had $100 million. I believe in climate change. I think
it`s important that we actually advance, but is that what I would choose?
Is that what 100 million voters would choose? Maybe they would want that
money put towards advocating for job creation. In fact, polls show that`s
probably what they would want. You know, it`s become a plutocracy.
REID: And Avik, I`m curious because on the right, you know, a lot of the
argument is, well, you know, people don`t necessarily -- the people don`t
want these liberal policies. But when you have so much money being poured
in to shape public opinion, particularly in core Republican districts and
core Republican areas, are we really seeing the Democratic process, say,
that we don`t want unionization, we don`t want higher wages, or are we
really seeing that warped by a few people who stand to personally benefit
by, you know, by the ordinary citizens in their states making less money,
staking less wages, et cetera?
ROY: You know, it`s interesting. This is one of those issues where the
way the progressive movement looks at this issue and the way the
conservative movement look at this issue are very, very different.
Liberals and prerogatives tend to worry about, well, maybe we`ll be
outgunned, maybe the rich people will support policies that we don`t like
and that will be an unfair advantage. The way conservatives look at this
is different. It`s a first amendment issue. Congress should pass no law
abridging the freedom of speech. That`s why the Supreme Court ruled the
way they did in citizens united. They thought the law was a violation of
the first amendment. And so, I know that liberals and Supreme Court
justices don`t necessarily agree with that, but it`s a constitutional more
than it is a position about the outcomes of where the money will play out,
who influence (INAUDIBLE).
REID: But should money buy you more speech than me?
ROY: You know, we have our votes, right? So the votes are what -- the
money doesn`t necessarily influence the elections, right? So, it is not
REID: So why spend it? Somebody`s losing a lot of money for nothing.
ROY: We all have the freedom to start a newspaper, to start a blog --
REID: But not everyone has the money to do it. So I mean, I`ll ask you
the question --
ROY: But you can`t -- how do you level the playing field with that,
legally? You really can`t because to do so, necessarily, it bridges the
freedom of speech.
VOLSKY: When you`re in a situation in a system where 0.1 percent of the
richest Americans gave 40 percent of the campaign dollars in 2012, you have
to ask yourself, who has the louder voice here?
REID: We`ll take a quick break. But when we come back, Andy, I do want to
come to you on your incredible report about how one very rich family,
planned, organized, and spent its way to a defeat of organized labor.
REID: In the current issue of "Mother Jones" magazine, our guest, Andy
Kroll, has a feature about the family of billionaire Richard DeVos senior,
Amway corporation co-founder and current chairman of the Orlando Magic
According to Kroll, since 1970, DeVos family members have invested at least
$200 million on a host of right-wing causes, think tanks, media outlets,
political committees, evangelical outfits, and a string of advocacy groups.
They spent $44 million alone in Michigan just in the past 17 years, and
it`s borne fruit.
The DeVos family helped make Michigan a state synonymous with the power of
organized labor a right-to-work state. Kroll reports that, quote," like
his father, Dick DeVos Jr. sees organized labor as an enemy of freedom and
union leaders as violent thugs who have an almost pathological obsession to
power. But while DeVos Sr. Simply invade against unions, Dick took the
fight to them directly, orchestrating a major defeat for the unions in the
cradle of the modern labor movement."
And joining us from Washington is Andy Kroll, staff reporter at "Mother
Jones," and also a Michigan native. I mean, were you -- give me a sense of
what people in Michigan actually think of the DeVos family in general.
KROLL: Yes, where I`m from, which is not far from where the DeVos family
is based in west Michigan, they are sort of our local Rockefellers, if you
will. They are that huge, wealthy family, the institution multi-
generational that sort of looms large over politics in the state of
Michigan, which have been evolving for decades now. And the DeVoses, they
always been there. And when Michigan passed right-to-work in December of
2012, there were sort of rumors and grumblings that the DeVos family had a
role this it. They had been quietly sort of pushing a message about right-
to-work in Michigan for quite a while. But, I, you know, decided to go
back to my home state and dig into it a little bit, and really came back
with a story about how a family, you know, with a lot of savvy and a lot of
money, especially, and at the state level, can make the unthinkable happen,
which was, as you said, right to work and cry all the modern labor
REID: And Andy, what was really fascinating about your piece, it is well-
done by the way, how you talked about how individual members of that
legislature were really pushed hard, and Governor Rick Schneider, who ran -
- didn`t run on this and said it wasn`t a priority, how people were really
cornered and how the money and influence and power that the DeVos family
had, really moved legislatures to do something that they didn`t originally
set out to do.
KROLL: Right. We don`t see this quite as much in Washington, D.C.,
because the stakes are larger, the stage is bigger. But -- and you go to
state capitals around the country, especially when I was in Lansing, the
capital of Michigan, you really see, you know, how much more bang you get
for your buck if our Democratic donor or a Republican donor. And you
really see how the sausage gets paid, how the arms get broken, and how, you
know, just a handful of really motivated, wealthy people can turn the
screws on lawmakers in their state and really try to get them on board with
an issue that, you know, even a few days before right-to-work was
introduced in Michigan, it was, you know, thought to be dead on arrival.
And look where we are now, you know. Rick Snyder signed it into law.
Michigan is a right-to-work state.
REID: And I mean, Avik, you are also a Michigan native, as you said. Is
this really the kind of democracy we want? I mean, Andy`s piece talks
about really, you know, pushing lawmakers to do something that they didn`t
tell the constituents they were going to do, and also, using it a as a
template to, quote, "defund the left," basically, take away their
oppositions, even opportunity and options to fight them, and essentially
impose this idea and this will, not just on Michigan, but on states that
have unions right now, all over the country. Is that the kind of democracy
ROY: Andy`s piece was terrific, and hats off to him for writing it. It
was really fascinating, as you said. I think one thing that`s really
important to realize, and this goes back to the point we were making before
the break, is right-to-work was supported by 70 percent of the people in
REID: It was underwater in the polls not long before the DeVos family
started getting in there and really pushing it.
ROY: Well, as Andy reports in the story, they did a bunch of polls on a
bunch of issues. They found there was seven percent support for right-to-
work, and that`s why they went forward with pushing for that issue. And
remember, there`s money, power, and a lot of influence, political influence
with the labor unions that was already there, right? So, it`s not like
there was some just sort of popular sentiment that was being reflected in
the way the laws were already set up. There were labor unions that were
probably influencing politicians and pressuring politicians to support or
to oppose right-to-work and support the previous initiative to embed that
in the institution.
So if anything, what the DeVos family did in Michigan show that if you have
public sentiment already on your side, yes, you can leverage that to
pressure legislatures and politicians to do what the public wants.
REID: But there was a piece that Andy has done, one of the members of the
DeVos family, one of the wives said, the problem in Michigan is high wages.
One problem is too much regulation and high wages. Do you think that`s a
popular sentiment, yes, our wages are too high?
ROY: Well, certainly not today. But of course, if you have high wages
that are economically inefficient, then you have high costs, right? And it
kind of goes to the products that are too costly. Why did all those auto
jobs go away in Detroit, right? It`s because there were inflexible labor
laws that led the cars that were produced in Detroit to be inefficiently
produced, not as high quality, too expensive for the labor costs. Toyota
could spend enormous amounts of money on R&D. That`s why all these foreign
car companies have put --
REID: I feel like we should jump in. We`re back to arguing that we need
VOLSKY: Making a very difficult argument, I think, which is that the
interests of the 0.1 percent are the interests of all of us, guys. They
have popular opinions on their side and we`re all in this together.
You know, I think the larger kind of issue here is it perpetuates a very
dangerous cycle. Because you pump in money to bust unions, you shrink the
middle class. That class then has less money to give in elections and the
money of the super rich is weighed even heavier. And that perpetuates
policies that go and undermine the middle class.
REID: OK. I want to give the last word -- we`re running out of time. So,
I have to give the last word to Andy Kroll, because we are thanking him.
Andy, do you think the DeVos money will play or how do you think it will
play in 2014, briefly?
KROLL: I think they`re going to play at the state level. They`re going to
try to defend the gains they`ve made, defend the lawmakers who helped them
get right to work. You know, that was part of the deal, was that, you
know, if you help us on this, we`ll help you out down the road. And
they`re also doing some very interesting work on the Senate race there,
Terry (INAUDIBLE) the Republican, and Gary Peters, the Congressman running
for Senate, you`ll see a lot of money flow into that and try to take back a
democratically held seat. And I think you are going to see efforts to push
the right-to-work model, the strategy, into other states as well. And so
it`s -- their work is on multiple levels, national and state.
REID: All right, Andy, thank you so much. Andy Kroll, great reporting
coming from Washington, D.C. And also, thank you to Tamara drought and
Avik Roy here in New York. Marcus and Igor are sticking around.
And coming up next, the reaction from jurors in the Michael Dunn trial and
what it tells us about stand your ground laws.
And Jordan Davis` mother, Lucia McBath, joins me live.
But first, a quick programming note. Starting tomorrow, MSNBC has a brand-
new daytime lineup, including the debut of my new show, "the Reid Report"
at 2:00 p.m. eastern. I hope you`ll join me then. Applause! And know
this, there`s more Nerdland at the top of the hour.
REID: Welcome back. I`m Joy Reid, in for Melissa Harris-Perry.
It`s been a week since a Florida jury delivered its verdict in the trial of
Michael Dunn, the 47-year-old man who shot and killed 17-year-old Jordan
Davis in Jacksonville, Florida, in November of 2012. The decision of the
seven women and five men on the jury who found Dunn guilty of attempted
second-degree murder of Davis` friends, but were unable to reach a verdict
as to whether Dunn murdered Davis left many wondering, what were they
Well, now we know, because this week, two of those jurors sat down for
interviews where they talked at length about exactly what happened inside
the jury room, and what was going through their minds as they struggled to
reach a consensus.
In that interview, in an interview with ABC News, juror number four,
identified only as Valerie, spoke about one of the first things the jurors
did when they began their deliberations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VALERIE, JUROR #4: Page 25, start with page 25.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: That was the page in the jury instructions that said that the use of
deadly force is justifiable if Michael Dunn reasonably believes the use of
force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm. That is
the language of Florida`s controversial stand your ground law, that first
attracted national attention after George Zimmerman went 44 days without
being charged for shooting Trayvon Martin.
And it was the part of the jury instructions that Dunn`s defense attorney,
Cory Strolla, explicitly told jurors to pay attention to, during his
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CORY STROLLA, MICHAEL DUNN`S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: He had no duty to retreat,
and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: So although Dunn`s defense attorneys opted against using stand your
ground in a pre-trial hearing to exonerate him, we know now that the jurors
considered it during their deliberations.
According to juror number four, it was an inability to reach an agreement
on this key question, about whether Dunn`s use of force was justifiable,
that led to their inability to reach a verdict on the charge of first-
degree murder. But there`s another question that both jurors agree did not
factor into their decision in the case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How much of a factor did race play in the jury room?
CRESHUNA MILES, JUROR #8: Actually, none at all. We -- race wasn`t
presented in evidence, so therefore we couldn`t use it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: White man shoots and kills a 17-year-old black boy.
How could it not be about race on some level?
VALERIE: Sitting in that room, it was never presented that way. We looked
at it as a bad situation, where teenagers were together and words were
spoken and lines were crossed.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
REID: So according to the jurors, race did come up in the jury room,
because race did not come up during the trial.
Prosecutors never introduced rationally charged letters sent from Dunn
while he was in prison awaiting trial, so the jurors never heard them in
court. If they had, the jurors may have heard this musing from Dunn in a
letter to an unknown recipient. Quote, "It`s spooky how racist everyone is
up here and how biased toward blacks the courts are. The jail is full of
blacks and they all act like thugs. This may sound a bit radical, but if
more people would arm themselves and kill these expletive idiots when
they`re threatening you, eventually they may take the hint and change their
Michael Dunn is awaiting sentencing next month on the conviction of three
counts of attempted second-degree murder and one count of shooting into a
vehicle. But this will not be the last time a jury will consider this case
in court. After last week`s verdict was announced, Florida state attorney
Angela Corey vowed to try Dunn again on the outstanding charge of murder in
the first degree.
Joining me at the table are Marcus Mabry, "The New York Times" editor of
"The New York Times" lead blog, Seema Iyer, a criminal defense attorney and
former prosecutor for the Bronx D.A.`s office, Khalil Gibran Muhammad,
director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and Igor
Volsky, managing editor of thinkprogress.org.
So, Seema, I have to come to you right way, as our attorney of record at
SEEMA IYER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You have reasons for it, let`s go.
REID: Exactly. And ask, the Dunn jailhouse letters, the one that I just
read in the setup, let me read a little bit from another one in which Dunn
talks about thug culture. He says, "I`m really not prejudiced against
race, but I have no use for certain cultures. This gangster rap ghetto-
talking thug culture that certain segments of society flock to is
Now, the prosecutor, John Guy, referenced this notion of thugs and said,
hey, look at these other three boys, the three surviving boys that got on
the stand, they`re not thugs, he got that far, so why not introduce the
IYER: I have no idea, Joy. In every one of my trials as a defense
attorney, the prosecutor hands me a stack of CDs and says, listen to these,
I will argue that they are relevant, if evidence is relevant, it comes into
the trial. In this particular case, the words that Mr. Dunn wrote and the
words that he uttered on those recordings are relevant.
Why are they relevant? They do directly to the premeditation and the
intent to commit murder, directly to that first-degree murder.
I don`t know why, Joy. This is the same conversation that we had during
Zimmerman. Are they throwing these cases? Is this politically motivated?
REID: You know, I want to -- I want to take a listen to juror number four,
whose name is Valerie. And she talked about -- now, she was one of the
people who wanted to vote for second-degree. She was in favor of a vote
for second-degree murder.
Let`s listen to a little bit of what she said about their deliberations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why were you and the others so convinced that Dunn was
VALERIE: We all believed that there was another way out, another option.
(END VIDEO CLIP)]
REID: And yet, the actual jury instructions prevented them from using sort
of that common sense reasoning to go to the next step, which is to say,
he`s guilty of murder in the first-degree, which was required spite and ill
IYER: (INAUDIBLE) difference from murder in the second degree, but they
would have had to have found him not guilty on the murder of the first
degree to go to murder in the second-degree, because that was a lesser
included. And they hung on the murder in the first-degree.
REID: And, so, before stand your ground was put into place in 2005 and
signed by Governor Jeb Bush, this is the way Florida jurors were instructed
in case like the Michael Dunn case and cases like the Zimmerman trial.
This is the instruction, "The defendant cannot justify the use of force,
likely to cause death or great bodily harm, unless he used every reasonable
means within his power and consistent with his own safety to avoid the
danger before resorting to that force. The fact that he was justifiably
attacked cannot justify the use of force likely to cause death or great
bodily harm if by retreating, he could have avoided the need to use that
So, essentially, Khalil, based on what that juror said, we thought he had
another way out and those pre-stand your ground jury instructions, this
could have been a very different outcome without stand your ground?
KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD, SCHOMBURG CENTER: Absolutely. And I think we have
to ask ourselves, do we want to live in a world where we know implicit bias
shapes outcomes in high-intensity, emotional situations. I mean, to the
question of why didn`t the prosecution enter this kind of evidence of
Dunn`s state of mind in reference to rap music, which, of course, is
largely upheld by white consumers, why that kind of information wasn`t used
in this trial, begs the larger question, how come an expert testimony
wasn`t given by implicit bias researchers.
Because we`ve known for at least a decade, Jennifer Everheart (ph) and
Phillip Goth at Stanford University have cited the fact that people when
primed with black faces are much more likely to see weapons, they are
either going to see guns or knives. Therefore, we have the basis for
having a smart, even scientific conversation about how race functions in
these kinds of circumstances. And stand your ground, though problematic,
in every instance that we`ve seen, does not have to silence our ability to
tease out and discuss the context in which race operates in our daily
VOLSKY: I mean, you heard the jury say, race never entered into the
discussion, because it wasn`t part of the trial, but the problem is, it`s
part of the law, because the problem -- one of the big problems with stand
your ground, and the problem that`s baked into it, I think, is this idea
that subjective belief rules. That your own biases, your own subjective
feelings about someone, that`s what matters and you don`t have to retreat,
and you can, you know, in some cases, cause very serious harm.
REID: And, you know, it`s interesting you say that because former state
senator, there were very few votes against this law, it passed nearly
unanimously. Dan Gelber, who is the House Democratic leader at the time,
then became a state senator, he was one of the few who voted against it.
This is what he said about why he did vote the way he did.
He said, "While in the Florida legislature, I strongly opposed the strand
your ground law, because I believed it would provide defenses to people who
had created the scenarios they sought protection from. Or it would leave
juries without the proper rules of engagement that ought to govern
predictable human interactions. By taking away from the jury, the simple
notion that people have an obligation to avoid the danger or retreat if
they could do so safely, they were essentially authorizing stupid, venal,
and as in this case, often tragic behavior."
Now, he wrote that, Marc, about in reference after the Zimmerman trial.
But isn`t that the reality, that by saying, listen, jury give complete
weight and give deference to people`s own personal subjective views to the
danger they were in, you`re essentially prompting people to just act
without thinking it through.
MABRY: Absolutely. And when you read those pre-strand your ground jury
instructions from Florida, which said, basically, if there`s another way
out, you had to take it, you gave us a context for why stand your ground
came to be. There were people out there who said, that`s ridiculous, if
I`m threatened, I should be able to stand my ground and fire back. I don`t
have to retreat.
So, I understand that human reaction, especially those who want to have a
tough way of looking at it, which is why so many Democrats supported it.
The danger is, to believe that means that somehow there is going to be
justice dealt in these somehow murderous situations, as we`ve seen, even
when there`s race involved and there`s almost always race involved when
you`re talking about people of different races, even two different African-
Americans, there can be race involved, and perspective on race involved.
To assume that that`s going to be justice and it`s not going to be racial
bias injected into that situation is ahistorical ignorance in our country.
We don`t live that way as Americans. I wish we did. I wish race didn`t
It does. It matters to our justice and it matters how we see danger.
So, to ignore that is murderous. And that`s what we`ve seen. And we`ll
see it over and over and over again. This will not be the last time.
REID: All right. Stay right there, stay right there, because when we come
back, the mother of Jordan Davis is going to join us. And we were all
moved by what she had to say right after the verdict in the Michael Dunn
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LUCIA MCBATH, MOTHER OF JORDAN DAVIS: We are so grateful for the truth.
We are so grateful that the juries were able to understand the common sense
of it all. And we will continue to stand and we will continue to wait for
justice for Jordan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: The grieving African-American mother demanding the country look at
the face of her murdered son and using the visual representation of his
suffering and hers to demand that not just hearts, but also laws be
changed. That`s what the world saw in 1955, when 14-year-old Emmett Till
of Chicago was brutally murdered in Mississippi by two men after he was
accused of having been flirtatious with a white woman.
Till`s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, exposed her grief and her son`s mutilated
body to the world when she released the photos of his open casket funerals
to the media. The shocking visuals attracted international attention to
the victimization and vulnerability of African-Americans in the segregated
South and helped to galvanize the nation`s movement for civil rights.
Almost six decades later, the country watched the public grief of yet
another mother, who summoned the courage to act despite a heartbreaking
loss. Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, continues to honor the
life of her son, with her activist work to ensure another mother will not
have to carry such a heavy burden. And yet, her work remains undone,
because the name of another mother has now been added to her cause.
In the wake of the shooting death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis, his mother,
Lucia McBath, joined the fight for gun law reform as the national
spokesperson for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
And she joins me now from Jacksonville, Florida.
Lucia, it`s wonderful to talk with you again. I want to start by asking
how your --
MCBATH: Thank you so much.
REID: I want to start by asking, and I`m sure all our viewers would love
me to ask, how you`re doing.
MCBATH: Taking it day by day. Yesterday, I was able to have a little bit
of a rest and relaxation with my family. We had a chance to go to Orlando,
just to breathe a little bit. So, just taking things day by day.
REID: And I mean, you spoke so eloquently during the trial, and I think
everyone has been really amazed by your courage and your poise in all of
this. The next step for you, and something you`ve been involved in is this
issue of gun laws. How do you plan to tackle that, and give us just a
little bit of sort of your strategy going forward with Moms Demand Action?
MCBATH: Working very actively, as a national spokesperson for Moms Demand
Action for Gun Sense in America, working collectively with all the mothers
and the families across the nation, as we bring to light, to the
legislatures, the state legislatures, civic organizations, businesses,
universities and administrations, letting them understand what the gun
culture is in our country, how it is devastatingly affecting each and every
state, and getting citizens to understand and know that they have power and
authority to make the change, to eradicating a lot of the gun laws in this
country, that have been designed, basically to just -- and it`s really sad,
what`s happening in the country, is that people are not able to freely walk
their streets and live without the fear of guns, without the fear of
And so that is what we do with moms demand action. We actively work within
the nation to bring to light the gun culture in the country, and make the
changes in the laws.
REID: And I mean, have you had any outreach? Have you heard from any of
the proponents of stand your ground? I know you`re not a Florida resident,
but any of the state legislatures, and state legislatures in Florida who
are now being asked to consider changing that law. Have any of them
reached out to you?
MCBATH: Not personally, other than State Senator Corrine Brown.
But having gone to Tallahassee before and testified before the legislature
there was very, just a little dismayed, because constituent after
constituent after constituent basically spoke and said that they were very
happy with the laws in the state of Florida and that they were working for
the citizens in the state of Florida. And that was very disheartening to
REID: Yes. And I mean, I want to talk just a little bit about sort of the
trial itself. I mean, you have now heard some of those jailhouse calls,
and I understand, letters, that Michael Dunn sent from jail. Did it
surprise you that none of that was released at trial? Or used in the
MCBATH: Well, we have a time frame in which evidence can be introduced.
And of course, Judge Healey did make consideration for those pieces of
evidence, but they were released after we had already begun trial. So some
things were not allowed in evidence at that time. We`re definitely aware,
there`ll be more evidence that will be allowed in the trial for Jordan
coming this spring.
REID: And what about your response to the jurors, two of whom have come
forward and said that race played no part in the trial, it wasn`t brought
up in the trial. Do you believe that race was a factor in Jordan`s death?
MCBATH: We know that race is an element of our case, and that cannot be
denied. I can`t personally speak for those jurors. Maybe they really did
believe and think that race was not an issue. I firmly believe, and what
I`ve seen across the country, and particularly with the way the laws are
being used in the state of Florida, it is my belief that at some point in
time, there had to be some thought of race.
MCBATH: But I cannot speak, you know, particularly, for those jurors.
REID: Right. Well, Lucia McBath, I think I join everyone in commending
you. You are a very strong woman. You`re doing a lot for other moms, so
they don`t have to join the horrible club that you`ve been not voluntarily
So, thank you so much for your advocacy and for being here today.
MCBATH: Thank you so much for having me, thank you.
REID: All right. Up next, despite the Dunn verdict, the NRA is not
backing down from stand your ground. Even in Florida, in fact, they`re
pushing to expand it. That story, when we come back.
REID: One of the most visible supporters of Florida`s stand your ground
law has had a slight change of heart. Jacksonville`s top cop, Sheriff John
Rutherford, previously supported the legislation, but says now it`s time to
rethink the language of the law.
In an interview with "The Florida Times-Union," Rutherford said, I think
there is some tweaking to the stand your ground law need, in that lawmakers
should revisit whether there is ever a duty to retreat from a threat before
using deadly force. Rutherford went on to add, "If it`s a safe retreat and
it doesn`t place you in anymore danger, I think that`s always the best
As it turns out, changes to the law are, indeed, underway. Only the latest
update is more of an expansion than an edit. On Thursday, a bipartisan
house committee in the Florida statehouse approved bill CSHB-89, commonly
known as the Threatened Use of Force Bill. This bill, which is expected to
pass the full chamber, would expand stand your ground immunity to include
not only the use of force, but also the threat of force under the law`s
Florida legislatures revisited the legislation after the 32-year-old
Jacksonville mother, Marissa Alexander, was sentenced to 20 years in prison
for firing a warning shot at her husband, who she says threatened to abuse
her. Alexander is awaiting a retrial after a judge determined that jurors
in her case, in her original case, were given erroneous instructions about
But the real winner in the stand your ground expansion, if it becomes law,
is the organization that`s backing it, the National Rifle Association.
So we have here, panel, an attempt to respond to the Marissa Alexander
case, which was thrown out, so this really isn`t about that case.
IYER: For different reasons, though.
REID: For different reasons, for the jury instructions, but now the move
in Florida is actually to expand stand your ground to give immunity if you
just fire a shot in warning.
IYER: Right. So this bill, also known as warning shot bill, is going to
help someone like Marissa Alexander. But just to be clear, Marissa
Alexander got the 20 years for the 10-20 life law. So that`s kind of a
separate issue in that she used a firearm.
So, this would help her in that, it seems the that if you actually hit
someone, you have more protection under stand your ground at this point,
than you would if you miss, like Melissa Alexander.
VOLSKY: You know, Joy, I am a little optimistic here. And I kind of feel
the public opinion may be turning. Yesterday morning, I spent with just a
remarkable group of kids, about 100 kids from 32 states, came to the Center
for American Progress, for what Generation Progress called Fight for a
These were kids affected by gun violence, Newtown, Sandy Hook, and it was
just remarkable to hear them identify the problems, talk about solutions,
and ways to empower themselves. Kids 16, 17, 18 years old, to empower
themselves in their own communities to change the tide of violence, to
change some of these laws, to change the perception of what`s happening.
And you know, we`re often cynical about D.C. and lawmakers can`t get
anything done and are spending money, but these kids are the future. And
they really got it. They really understood it. And they were serious
about the change coming from the --
REID: Just to inject a note of cynicism.
At the legislative level, I think it`s great, a lot of activism, and the
Dream Defenders are down in Florida, but the reality is the difficulty of
actually changing the law. I want to read something that Jamelle Bouie
wrote in "The Daily Beast" about his thoughts on whether or not it`s going
to even be possible to change the stand your ground law.
He said, "To repeal that law in Florida, in effect, in 23 other states,
means building coalitions, either with people who support the law or who
represent constituencies who support the law, constituencies that are
mostly white and are from certain portions of the state, and have in the
attitudes they have for grounded historical reasons. So, even that sort of
step one, how do we do something about the solution, repeal the law, is
almost impossible. Like, it`s just not going to happen.
The way our political system is designed, there`s no way to fix that
legislatively. We have the explicit cooperation and support of white
Americans. Let`s say on 20 percent of white Americans believe that there
are no significant racial disparities in American life. In the American
political system, that may as well be a majority."
So, isn`t that the barrier? It`s just, legislatively, almost impossible.
MUHAMMAD: I think that`s absolutely right. And that really is the
challenge of the 21st century, which is to say, the criminal justice system
and racism in that system, which is well-documented.
I`m a professional historian. I have taught the history of criminal
justice my entire career. We call it popular justice, because, ultimately,
the expression of the criminal justice system, even though we are a nation
of laws, turns on how juries respond to evidence.
And one of the things that`s interesting in this case is, really, ten of
those jurors believe that Michael Dunn actually committed murder. Yet, in
a jury system where you have to have a unanimous decision, it doesn`t
So one, I think we ought to respect that, because there is something to be
said for that. But secondarily, when we have elected prosecutors, we`re
the only significant nation in the world that continues to elect
prosecutors, which is a product of patronage in the office, but clearly has
another dark side, which is to say that we can`t give fair justice in our
courts and we can`t expect legislatures, when it`s a race to the bottom,
for the sensibilities of Americans, and I`m going to side with Michael
Moore here, who have built an entire edifice of our criminal justice
system, being afraid of black people, and where they might show up.
It`s not too long ago that Wayne LaPierre described in the wake of the
Newtown shooting that people needed to arm themselves, because in the wake
of Sandy, there were people looting in Brooklyn, which was an absolutely
falsehood and a lie.
And lastly I`ll say, this notion that everyone`s afraid to sort of name
race and racism as the problem, Americans have an amazing an ability to
intuit ill will, duplicity and bias when it comes to their political
opponents and when it comes to their foreign leaders, foreign leaders in
other nation. So, Putin writes an editorial and everyone intuits all of
his ill will and his lying. Barack Obama has a hidden black agenda, which
he`s never articulated from the perspective of most black people.
So this is absurd that we are not sophisticated to understand that just
because is people don`t say something, doesn`t mean their ideas are not
informed by an attitude where race matters.
REID: But even if we got that the laws prevent them from using in the
common sense in the jury, because the instructions say that you give the
benefit of the doubt to the person`s subjective fears.
IYER: There`s two things here. Number one, the jurors are lying. OK,
that is the starting point. The jurors are lying that race did not come
into the fray. Maybe they didn`t discuss it, but it was there.
Number two is that I agree that this case was about race. However, it`s
not just race, it is race plus perception. And this is what I mean. So,
you gentleman are sitting here in suits. The perception is different,
whether you`re black or brown or white. Those young boys are not only
dressed casually, t-shirts, jeans, baseball caps, they`re listening to loud
rap music. If they were listening to some country, feel-good, everything
feels good sing-along, you`d better believe that we wouldn`t be sitting
here and Jordan Davis wouldn`t be dead.
REID: And I you know, so smart that you said there`s an associate
professor in the University of Miami who put that, what you said, into
words, when she wrote for I believe "The Miami Herald," she said, "The
issue may be semantic or images or perceptions, then what the law actually
says, the law, stand your ground law, is that the proponents, including the
National Rifle Association, want people to believe this is an aggressively,
manly law that allows you to use deadly force. It reinforces this
misperception that you don`t have to think twice about shooting someone.
That`s the real danger."
That essentially those implicit biases, you don`t even have to express
them, you just get to act because of the law.
MABRY: The law explicitly gives you that right. The law says, if you
perceive this, then it`s so. It doesn`t actually have to be so. Even if
objectively, actually, say, it is racism driving you, saying it is
historical racial roots of situation, in your view, of young black men.
That`s fine. If that`s your view, then that`s fine.
And that`s the real danger of the law. It codifies and allows you to do
this, to act on this prejudice and bias.
REID: Absolutely. Well, up next, a gun fired and the shooter lives. The
target lays dead. But another debate over who`s the victim.
REID: This week, the men who shot and killed Trayvon Martin and Jordan
Davis said that they were victims. In an interview with CNN on Monday,
George Zimmerman said this is how he felt the night he shot and killed 17-
year-old Trayvon Martin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: I certainly was a victim when I was having my head
bashed into the concrete and my nose broken and beaten, so I wouldn`t say I
was not a victim.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: On Monday, Florida prosecutors released some of Michael Dunn`s
jailhouse phone calls. In those calls, following his arrest in the
shooting death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis, Dunn also called himself a
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MICHAEL DUNN: I`m the victim. He attacked me. I chose not to be a victim
and now I`m being punished. This is (EXPLETIVE DELETED) up.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
REID: Speaking with MSNBC`s Lawrence O`Donnell this week, the father of
Jordan Davis made clear who he believed the victim was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RON DAVIS, FATHER OF JORDAN DAVIS: Michael Dunn should understand that the
victim was the one that had a bullet go through his lungs, a bullet tear
his aorta. The victim is the one that was choking on his own blood and was
gasping for air. The victim was the 17-year-old teenager that should have
had his whole life in front of him, that was seeing his life go away in
seconds. And he probably was so fearful and his friends were looking on,
watching their best friend die in a moment of seconds. That`s the victim.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: The law says both Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis were tragic, and
what both of their stories did was to spark a national dialogue about a
particular kind of victimization, involving a very specific group in our
society, a group whose very existence is rendered suspect on a daily basis.
REID: As Charles Blow of "The New York Times" wrote on Thursday, with
regard to the Dunn case, this is simply one more example of the bias
against, and in fact, violence both psychological and physical against the
black body, particularly black men. That extends across society and across
their lifetimes. And this violence is both interracial and intraracial.
Blow is talking about the way our society almost systemically devalues the
lives of young black boys from the time they come into this world. And
early on imposes on them the stigma of presumed criminality. And one only
has to look at the realities our young black men face to understand.
Between 2009 and 2010, one in five black boys received an out of school
suspension. During the 2011 and 2012 school year, 75 percent of the
students arrested in Chicago public schools were African-American. In New
York City, at the height of stop and frisk in 2011, 53 percent of those
stopped by police were black. By age 23, 49 percent of African-American
men in the United States will have been arrested at least one.
And black men born in the United States in 2001 have a one in three chance
of being incarcerated at some point in their lifetime.
I`m back with our panel, Marcus Mabry, Seema Iyer, Khalil Gibran Muhammad
and Igor Volsky.
I`m going right to you, Khalil, on this, because this is beyond one trial
or two trials, this is a broader societal problem for black men and young
MUHAMMAD: We could actually say that the entire edifice of modern society
in the United States was built on the notion that black people were an
inherent threat to it. And that that evidence was rooted in a statistical
analysis of black people being incarcerated or arrested.
But what we know is that at the earliest possible moment when black people
stepped into freedom, when black men tried to build their families and
their homes, they were subject to criminal surveillance, because they
challenged the status quo. We can never separate out, therefore, their
attempts to actually make America the country it claims to be, and then
being subject to criminalization. That`s a fact! It`s the Jim Crow story.
It`s the story that we actually already know.
But the notion, somehow, that that story is the past, that there`s an
invisible moment in time that we can say, it`s 1968 or 1973 or `64, is
absurd, because it`s so deeply rooted in the cultural DNA of the nation. I
can tell you, in 1935, the problem of the false accusation of black people
driving up crime statistics, falsely, was documented in an interracial
report coming out of a group in the South called the Committee of
Interracial Cooperation, where they labeled the report, "Burnt Cork and
Crime," because the practice of corking one`s white face to appear to be
black to those who were looking the for suspects was absolutely so common,
that they could actually document it as a social phenomenon.
So, the idea that we`ve somehow left this behind is predicated on this
notion that in these big cities, these modern places, take New York City
for example, just take stop and frisk. It is predicated on the notion that
statistically speaking, black people are overrepresented in the system.
But don`t we live in a nation of constitution protection for the
MUHAMMAD: Doesn`t that then tell us that we actually have fundamentally
criminalized a group, because we`re going to predict with that everyone in
that group is a would-be suspect. This is point of fact. And that it
doesn`t matter who the individual is.
So, whether it`s the Dunn case or the Zimmerman verdict or whether it`s a
reasonable person walking down the street, I`m going to presume that that
black person, particularly a young black male, is actually criminal.
That`s a contemporary problem, which is an echo of a deeply rooted past.
REID: And can I just ask -- I don`t want to have to make poor Igor speak
for all of white America, but how do we have that conversation with white
of America? A lot of people are resistant to the conversation that he`s
making. That`s -- you black people talking about that. We don`t want to
talk about this, racism is over, stop complaining about.
How do we have that conversation?
VOLSKY: I think white Americans like to think everyone`s created equal and
if you just work very hard, you`ll get the American dream. But white
people, I think, have to wake up to the reality that just by a draw of a
card, they were born white in a country where it gives them certain
privileges, certain privileges to be able to hail a taxi cab easily, to not
be followed around in a store.
And I think until white people realize that, that they -- just because of
their skin, have certain entitlements in this country, that black people
don`t, I think that`s really the key to make sure that the law, that the
laws -- that the bias, rather, and that kind of privilege doesn`t bleed
into the law.
But you have to realize, that you have privileges, and how you act and how
-- what you do with that privilege, I think is how you go about addressing
REID: But the opposite is true in a lot of ways. We played those -- the
sound bites of Michael Dunn and George Zimmerman, who really believe, you
know, far be it for me to tell somebody what they believe. They believe
that they are victims. And there is a sense of victimhood that you do see
among some white Americans saying, no, no, no, we`re being victimized by
things like affirmative action, so there isn`t the ability to say there is
this privilege, because people say the opposite is the true.
MABRY: Well, there`s a psychological element to this be with right, that
goes to each of us as individuals. And in order for white Americans to
recognize white privilege, they have to say, well, then, if I`m benefiting
from privilege, then in some ways I have things that I don`t deserve,
That is just a psychological resistance to that that doesn`t let most
people do that. So, if you look around and say, there`s poverty and racism
in America, that means that -- well, maybe I have stuff I don`t deserve.
And people reject that notion. The individual does not allow that notion
to take root in his or her head.
What I find most scary, and this is why you have the attorney general of
the United States himself coming out and begging schools, please stop your,
you know --
REID: Zero tolerance.
MABRY: Zero tolerance policies, please stop your, don`t make one mistake
as a child, because if you do, we`ll throw you in jail and have the police
up in here to give you a record. The reason why the attorney general asks
schools to please stop this policy -- imagine that, the United States
attorney general asking schools to stop a policy, it`s ridiculous. He did
it because those little black boys, because the bias we have in our heads
as Americans are immediately criminalized when they walk through the school
door and schoolteachers and guidance counselors see them as a threat and
give them a record, therefore because of these zero tolerance polices, from
the youngest age. That then carries on forever.
What I find extraordinary, even as an old, middle-aged black man, still
walking down the streets of New York, when white people pass me on the
street, I will see more often than not, white men in particular, but also
white men, check for their wallet after they go by me.
IYER: I disagree with my new friend, Marcus, because I think if you`re in
that suit, you`re not going to --
MABRY: I`m always in this suit. And that`s exactly what this --
IYER: OK, well --
MABRY: It`s about skin color in America. It`s not about class.
IYER: I will take it, and I will -- I can`t argue with that, because this
is your experience. But what I will say, though, is that -- like Khalil
was saying, our court systems, our justice systems, any courthouse in this
country is overwhelmingly a majority of black men. That is the fact.
Now, if you have -- if I have a client who is black and one day he comes in
a t-shirt and the next day I say, put on a suit, the judge will immediately
think, the lawyer made him put a suit on. So, that is the perception.
Now, if Igor is in the audience, he`ll walk into the courtroom and be like,
what`s a white guy doing it here? What`d the white guy do?
REID: Or assume he`s one of the lawyers.
IYER: Always, always, exactly.
REID: Yes. And I k now this is a discussion we could have for another
hour. Unfortunately, we cannot.
But I want to thanks Marcus Mabry and Seema Iyer, Khalil Gibran Muhammad,
as well as Igor Volsky -- thank you guys very much.
MUHAMMAD: Thank you.
REID: The story of Malcolm Little before he became Malcolm X, as told by
his daughter, next.
REID: Friday marked the 49th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm
X, a one time leader in the Nation of Islam became one of the most
outspoken voices on race. He was born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska,
in 1925, and his introduction to activism began early. His parents Earl
and Louis followed the teachings of Marcus Garvey, and focus their lives in
the fight for freedom and justice, instilled in their values into their
Now a children`s book, "Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become
Malcolm X," written by Ilyasah Shabazz, the daughter of Malcolm X, gives us
a glimpse into the early years of his father life.
And I am pleased to welcome to Nerdland, Ilyasah Shabazz.
Thank you so much for being here.
ILYASAH SHABAZZ, DAUGHTER OF MALCOLM X: Thank you, Joy.
REID: So, this is an interesting way. A children`s book, why did you
choose that genre?
SHABAZZ: I think there`s a child in each one of us. If you look,
(INAUDIBLE) did an amazing job with the illustrations. A young,
impressionable, innocent child is how we all begin. And it speaks to the
role of adults, our responsibility to ensure that they are properly
nurtured, loved, all that great stuff.
REID: What`s great about it and the illustrations are beautiful and
everything that looked at the book were just struck by what a beautiful
child first of all your father was but also I think it does humanize him,
REID: We saw him appear on the scene as an adult. Was that part of why
you wanted to do it, to give the full humanity to your dad?
SHABAZZ: Yes. I said it was important to understand the values that went
into a young boy to become a Malcolm X, one of the greatest political
strategists, and the importance of the foundation of both his mother and
father and what they played in sharing those values.
REID: I mean, being the daughter of somebody who is such a seminal figure
in American history, there`s got to be a lot of pressure there. How do you
deal with that and does that follow you around in your career being an
author, et cetera?
SHABAZZ: I wouldn`t say it`s a lot of pressure. You know, it`s who I`ve
always been. So it`s me now grown up. And I just accept my role as, you
know, being an adult.
REID: Yes. Well, I have to talk to you about something you`re doing soon
and this is a story I couldn`t believe. During Black History Month,
there`s a school in queens that barred the children from talk about or
writing book reports about Malcolm X. What do you make of that? You`re
going to that school.
SHABAZZ: I am. I`m going the school to donate Simon Shuster, wonderful
publishers, donating cases of books to the school. You know, most of the
people, a lot of people that I know have grown up and they weren`t able to
talk about, write about or really learn the truth about Malcolm. And so,
it wasn`t a big surprise.
What was more surprising was that the parents said absolutely not. Malcolm
X is a great man, a man of compassion, a man of integrity, who sacrificed
his life for us. Never asking for a penny in return but that he
contributed all that he did and my child will learn about this great man.
And, you know, they stood up and gave an autobiography to say this is the
truth of Malcolm.
I think it`s timely that Simon and Shuster donate these beautiful books.
REID: Yes, absolutely. And you do have a sense that people really
understand your father`s legacy and his contribution?
SHABAZZ: I don`t know that everyone understands. I know there`s a lot who
fought to ensure that the depiction was accurate.
SHABAZZ: But I think now it`s just wonderful that we could put this
children`s book out, that we could humanize him, we could see the values
and accept this enormous figure, you know. He gave so much of himself. He
was only in his 20s when the world learned of him. He 39 when he was
And look at all of what he did -- he circled the globe in the final month
in his life, searching for solutions to the human condition so that all of
us could be treated fairly and especially our beautiful children.
REID: Yes, what do you think it was about Malcolm Little, the little boy
that sort of what was in him that allowed him to become Malcolm X the man?
SHABAZZ: What my grandparents instilled was the love for education, the
love for learning. The love for -- the love of compassion, the importance
of compassion. You know, in the book it`s a story about his mom in the
garden, where she teaches him about caring for insect, caring for
vegetables, caring for butterflies -- which he came to be a collector which
most people wouldn`t know but my sisters and I grew up with two humongous
collections of butterflies that was our father`s.
REID: That`s a beautiful story. And it`s so great to see you. This is a
SHABAZZ: Thank you.
REID: "Malcolm Little: A Boy Who Grew Up to be Malcolm X."
Ilyasah Shabazz, well done. Thank you so much for being here.
SHABAZZ: Thank you.
REID: All right. That`s it. Actually the book is on sale starting on
newsstands today. So, please pick up a copy.
All right. Thank you very much at home for watching. That is Nerdland for
And don`t forget starting tomorrow, MSNBC does have a brands new daytime
lineup. Now, you can catch "NEWS NATION" with Tamron Hall at 11:00 a.m.,
"ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS" at noon, and also stick around for the launch of
the Ronan Farrow show, "RONAN FARROW DAILY" at 1:00 p.m., and my own new
show, "THE REID REPORT" at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.
Now, it`s time for a review of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT", today with T.J.
Holmes -- T.J.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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