'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Saturday, April 5th, 2014
Read the transcript to the Saturday show
April 5, 2014
Guests: Heather McGhee, David Cay Johnston, Mark Calabria, Alexis
Goldstein, Adrianna Quintero, Ray Offenheiser, Bjorn Lomborg, Michael Levi,
Nailah Jefferson, Aidan Thomas Hornaday
MELISSA HARRIS PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning my question, just what is
cruel and unusual punishment? Plus, the end of the world as we know it has
already begun. And to quote Nina Simone, Mississippi got damn. But,
first, what happens when the richest of the rich just keep on getting
Good morning. I`m Melissa HARRIS-PERRY: and one theme reigns supreme in
our nation`s capital this week. Money, money, money, money. Not just any
old money, but the kind of money that widens the wealth gap between the
rich and poor in this country. It`s a theme as old as David and Goliath,
us versus them, or as it has come to be known in our recent political
discourse, the 99 percent versus the one percent. A movement that began
ahead of the 2012 election and seized control of presidential campaign
messaging. That is, until Republican candidate, former Massachusetts
Governor Mitt Romney introduced another percentage into the political
vernacular, 47 percent. As defined by Governor Romney, that was the group
that was dependent on the government, thought of themselves as victims,
paid no income tax and would vote for President Obama no matter what.
Well, and vote they did. Ensuring President Obama was elected to his
second term in the White House, though his 51 percent of the vote couldn`t
ensure that the president would gain any ground against the 233 Republican
members of the House or 45 Republicans in the Senate or the GOP`s
unprecedented obstructionism against Obamacare, his judicial nominees, the
budget, you know, governing. So Congressman Paul Ryan`s house GOP budget
plan to cut federal spending by $5.1 trillion by 2024 by cutting essential
programs to the poor came really not exactly as a surprise this week, but
the key numbers this week that could change the game for those in the 99
percent is five and four. That is, five to four because that was how the
Supreme Court voted in McCutcheon versus the FEC. Effectively, abolishing
caps on individual contributions to federal candidates in the two-year
election cycle. But hold up. If you think that the one percent will be
the ones benefitting from this ruling, I hate to break it to you, because
it`s actually the .1 percent. And even the .01 percent who are leaving all
the rest of us in the dust.
While the .1 percent has had its ups and downs with the U.S. wealth share
in the last century, one thing is for sure, things are looking pretty good
for them lately. And when we look at this next chart in terms of
distribution of wealth by class, the potential effects of McCutcheon versus
FEC decision with regards to the political process become devastatingly
clear. "The Washington Post" produced the following graphic, which shows
how much the campaign finance floodgates have been opened. Before the
McCutcheon decision a single donor could contribute $5200 to every House
and Senate candidate, up to the limit of $48,600, however, the McCutcheon
decision overturned the limit on aggregate amount that an individual can
give to candidates, party committees and packs. What that means? That if a
single donor gives $5200 to every House and Senate candidate of one party,
in a 468 race election cycle that would amount to nearly $2.5 million. At
a time when the American median income is a little more than $52,000 a
year. Unemployment is holding steady at about 6.7 percent. The poverty
rate is at 15 percent, which translates to more than 46 million Americans.
And decisions like McCutcheon versus FEC make the political process of free
for all for the top .01 percent. How could any American citizen feel like
we the people include them and their one little vote at all?
At the table, Heather McGhee who has been new president of the think tank
Demos. David Cay Johnston, a contributing editor to "Newsweek" and author
of "Divided: the Perils of Our Growing Inequality." Mark Calabria who is
the director of financial regulations studies at CATO Institute. And
Alexis Goldstein, the communications director for The Other 98 Percent. A
group dedicated to removing corporate lobbyists from Washington. Thank you
all for being here.
So, Heather, let me start with a little bit of devil`s advocate and just
say, all right. Seriously, how important is this McCutcheon decision?
Because hasn`t it been for as long as any of us can remember the case that
there is a sort of outsized impact of the wealthy relative to governing
because they have money to bring to bear? I mean does this really make
that big of a difference?
HEATHER MCGHEE, PRESIDENT, DEMOS: That`s a really good question, actually,
Melissa, because it`s true. Our system right now is so dramatically skewed
already to the big donors who are able to write those massive checks and
why that`s important is that there`s an actual difference in policy
preferences between the very wealthy and the rest of us. Take, for
example, the minimum wage, which was a vote that the Republicans blocked on
Wednesday as well while the president was out there stumping for it. The
idea that minimum wage workers should actually be able to work their way
out of poverty because the minimum wage should be that high is - gets
majority support even among Republican voters, but it`s actually a minority
opinion among essentially the donor class, the wealthiest Americans
according to recent research. So, you see where it`s not just like, you
know, horse races. I`m just, oh, of course, billionaires are always going
to spend a lot of money in politics, but it ends up shaping who gets to
run, who gets to win, and then what actually elected officials are doing
after they get into office.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so this is useful. Because Mark, I do think that an
argument could be made, I`m not saying that I would necessarily make it,
but I do think an argument could be made, that, look, there`s a kind of
paternalism, that the wealthy being that wealthy are no longer even that
interested in gaining more income. And so, they are going to govern in the
best - right, that they would govern in the way that protects the public.
I sometimes hear this, for example, about campaign finance reform. I`ll
hear what you need then is people who are independently wealthy to run
because then they won`t be impacted, right, by contributions to campaigns.
MARK CALABRIA, CATO INSTITUTE: We need more Jon Corzines and Jay
HARRIS-PERRY: Or Bloomberg.
CALABRIA: Oh, Bloomberg.
CALABRIA: And so, let me actually say, where I very much agree with
Heather is. I do think the world view of donors across the political
spectrum incorporates into D.C. And it`s not just the money, of course.
It`s like, oh yes, we were at Larry Summer`s undergraduate Harvard class
together. This is what we learned. So, they travel in the same circles,
they have the same world view. Now, where I would disagree with Heather is
there are probably half of the beliefs of the donor class I agree with,
half of them I don`t. For instance, it might come as a surprise that polls
show the same surveys and - that the American public largely do not believe
in Keynesian stimulus spending. They do not believe spending money you
have grows the economy, but the donor class does, which is, again, because
they all took economics and undergrad with Larry Summers in Harvard. And I
think that`s the way it works. So, I do worry that a tremendous amount of
group think in Washington and I believe that that group thing just reflects
the group thing of the donor class. And I think there`s far less
difference between a Hank Paulson and a Tim Geithner than there is about
ALEXIS GOLDSTEIN, THE OTHER 98 PERCENT: I think it`s important to kind of
codify what happened here. You do a really good job in the interim in
laying that out, but I just want to throw one other fact in, which is that
this McCutcheon ruling affects basically 1200 people. There was a study
that shows .
HARRIS-PERRY: In terms of their capacity to give this to give this to .
GOLDSTEIN: Exactly. There were 1219 individuals that basically are able
to give that much and have in the past given up to the aggregate limit,
which used to be if you take into account the whole two-year cycle
$123,200. That is one in 4 million Americans, but it is one in six
billionaires. And the Koch brothers and Larry Ellison who is this
software, you know, billionaire, is - among that class. And so, you know,
we were a country that was founded on, you know, let`s remove tyranny,
let`s remove like kings, but we - there used to be this concept of divine
right of kings. But now we have this kind of divine right of corporations
and divine right of the .01 percent. And I don`t think the American public
agrees with that.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, this is useful.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me dig down on this a little bit. Because I like
the idea that we were founded on this kind of democratic ideal, right?
Because we are going on to the democratic ideal, in part penned by a slave
owner. Right? And certainly at no point - I mean less than 100 years
where the women even having full citizenship rights. So, we`re always sort
of striving towards this perfection. And the question is in part whether
the McCutcheon decision pushes this back. But let me - I like both of what
you said here. And I want to get you to weigh in on here, David, because
this is a suggestion that the issue is about the donor class as opposed to
- in particular, ideological viewpoint. In other words, when you say Larry
Summers repeatedly, part of what it reminds us, is that the Democratic
Party may be equally impacted, right? By the extent to which these now
super donors can contribute to just a few.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, NEWSWEEK: Right. Well, all of the people who led the
American Revolution would be shocked at the suggestion that dollars equals
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Well, yeah.
JOHNSTON: Which is at the core of what the radical, and he is a radical,
John Glover Roberts is promoting here. Democrats are going to have to go
to the same pool of .
HARRIS-PERRY: Tell people who John Roberts is.
JOHNSTON: The Chief Justice of the United States.
JOHNSTON: And so, you know, I`ve been rereading Gordon Wood on how we
became the American people and throughout you see then in the publications
that stirred up the public - so we`ll revolt against the British. There
was a talk about common rights, about - concern about aristocracy. People
were reminding, you know, that Aristotle told us you can have an oligarch
here or democracy, but you can`t have both. And that`s - we`re heading
towards - we are heading towards being if we aren`t already an oligarchy,
not a democracy. That`s not good. Those things don`t work out well in the
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, I want to think a little bit about the
extent to which, a sort of in a very specified way they don`t work out
well. Sort of what kinds of impact we might expect to see as we see this
growing inequality gap when we come back. So, stay right there. Because
up next, the budget proposal that could increase the wealth gap. But
first, an update on the search for that missing Malaysia Airlines passenger
Chinese state media, CCTV news is reporting that a Chinese ship taking part
in today`s search efforts has detected a pulse signal in the south Indian
Ocean, however, we have no confirmation that this is linked to Flight 370
at this point. A high level government official in Malaysia tells NBC News
the government is aware of the reports, but cannot verify the information
until it is corroborated. The Chinese state news agency also published
photos it claimed show unidentified objects in the south Indian Ocean. NBC
News has not independently verified this report. We will continue to
monitor the story and bring you the latest information as it becomes
available and we`ll also be right back.
BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL RYAN: The best thing for people out of work are jobs and economic
growth. And that`s what this budget accomplishes.
RYAN: On fighting poverty, let`s not measure it by how much money we throw
at programs. We should stop doing that and measure our effectiveness by
how many people we get out of poverty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan speaking
with Fox News on Wednesday, the day after he released the updated House
Republican Budget plan, which would raise no taxes, repeal President
Obama`s health care law, alter Medicare benefits for future retirees and
make steep cuts to Medicaid and food stamps. According to Ryan this
roadmap would create a balanced budget by 2024, but I guess that depends on
what you mean when you say balanced. So, this is it. We have spent a lot
of time in Nerdland on it. And, you know, David, nobody thinks that this
is going to become law.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, why does it matter? Why so much coverage and why even -
- this is a serious document, right? Ryan`s a smart guy. It`s a serious
JOHNSTON: I don`t think it`s a serious document. It`s one-sided math.
And, you know, this part of the problem is we have this intense coverage
because there is people advocating for it for what amounts to let`s cut
programs to the poor, let`s reduce access, let`s stop investing in people
so that they can get to a better place in life and very little discussion
about all these programs I read about that take from the many very subtly
and redistribute upward through regulatory policies and rules that almost
nobody knows about and there are no statistics on that I`ve dug out of the
public record. And Mark knows that the regulatory system is full of this.
It is quashing competition, which is bad for consumers, and it is
reinforcing existing wealth. And the real agenda of Paul Ryan and his
program is to protect the existing wealthy, not to create new wealth.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. All right. Good. So, I love this. I want to listen
to Paul Ryan speaking in his own words for MSNBC`s effort called "In Plain
Sight" where we talk about poverty. I want to listen to Paul Ryan speaking
for himself and have you respond to that, and David.
BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: We want to make sure that our poverty fighting programs are meant to
get at the root cause of poverty to break "the cycle" of poverty, get
people out of poverty. And that`s the concern we have, which is a lot of
these programs as well-intended as they are, are not serving the purpose of
getting people out of poverty on their feet again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, he`s talking about these root causes. And then we have
this path to prosperity, which is very much cutting social programs. How
do we connect those two things?
CALABRIA: So, let me first say, I don`t know a sitting politician in
Washington who`s put forward a serious budget. Let`s be honest about that.
We were facing horrible long term fiscal imbalances. Not even seen anybody
- serious. And I think the recent deals have put us back. There are lots
of places we can`t go where we should cut. There are 12 nuclear aircraft
carriers in the world, 11 out of those over in the United States. Do we
not have enough? So, I think there are lots of places we should cut, like
defense. I think there are lots of places we can .
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, but this does increase the defense spending.
CALABRIA: I think that`s a massive mistake. I think Paul Ryan, if you`re
not willing to come to the table and put defense on the table, then I think
it`s incredibly hard to take Republicans seriously.
GOLDSTEIN: Then I think it`s fair to say there`s no serious political
budget put forth. Because the congressional progressive caucus has put a
budget force, which does reduce military spending and .
CALABRIA: I applaud them on that regard. And I think we can work - I have
a question about the math. But let me talk about the poverty issue. There
are two separate issues on how much you spend on poverty and then what you
do on poverty. And what I mean by that, the structured programs is most of
our programs work so that an extra dollar of earnings, you lose a
percentage in benefits. So, many of our programs punish work.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Right. Which we`ve talked about repeatedly on the
show that part of it is that it brings you up to just kind of this .
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, to this marginal level. You start losing benefits
and so there really is a cost/benefit tradeoff.
HARRIS-PERRY: But typically, at least the progressive response to that is
so then you need to hold that safety net a little bit longer until people
aren`t just kind of struggling above the water, but are kind of clearly
above it. But this is a response to take the net away altogether.
MCGHEE: And more importantly, let`s talk about even besides what it does
to the safety net, which is, you know, really draconian cuts that are not
supported by the American people. Let`s look at what it doesn`t do to
actually do what is the biggest challenge of our time, which is invest in
recreating the middle class. Right, the middle class didn`t just create
itself in the postwar period, right?
MCGHEE: So, looking not just .
HARRIS-PERRY: Are you trying to suggest you`re going to build that?
MCGHEE: Looking not just at, you know, government transfer programs, but
actually what can we do in the economy to make sure that people can either
work or educate their way into the middle class. What about the G.I. bill,
what about investments in the infrastructure, what about things in the
labor market in terms of giving workers more security and bargaining power,
like the ability to form a union? These are all the things that Paul Ryan
either cuts against by doing the massive discretionary cuts that would be
things like infrastructure, Pell grants he freezes. He makes it harder for
people to get financial aid at a time when a college degree is the ticket
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, so let me - I want to connect the first and
second for just a second. There was something extraordinary that happened
in the 2008 race and that is Obama for America in the 2008 primaries and
general election made sort of ordinary people into political donors for the
first time, right? Folks who had never thought about giving money to a
campaign because they have what - $20 to give, $50 to give, $100 to give.
Turn them into political - small dollar political donor. Even though we
know, it took big dollars to get the president elected both the first and
second time. Is there any way in the face of the McCutcheon decision which
allows the super class to have more political donation capacity to go back
to these folks, to the folks who will be most impacted here and make them
not just voters and not just folks interested in government policy, but
actually political donors who could impact who gets elected and who
MCGHEE: Absolutely there is. And it`s actually one of the bright spots in
our politics right now is that much of the Democratic caucus in the House
has signed on to a new bill called the Government by the People Act, which
would match small donors. It would do a system like we have here in New
York City like almost just passed in New York state and like Connecticut
has, which would actually make it, so that, you know, a waitress or a nurse
or a school teacher could give a modest donation. And it would be matched
by the taxpayers. Taxpayers who would then be able to be calling the tune.
And what we`ve seen is that in Connecticut in a place where they have that,
you actually see policies that actually reflect the preferences of working
and middle class people.
HARRIS-PERRY: People at the table have a lot of emotions behind this. I`m
going to allow those emotions to be articulated as soon as we come back.
And when we come back, one of the uber rich in fact - but first, an update
on one of the 99 percent. Last week we shared this story about Shanesha
Taylor. A single homeless mother of two who was arrested on March 20TH for
two felony counts of child abuse after leaving her children in the car
during a job interview. Shanesha said that she had no access to child
care. After hearing of the arrest, 24-year-old Amanda Bishop who says she
is also a struggling single woman established an online fundraiser to
finance Shanesha`s bail. Set at $9,000. To date, almost 3,000 people have
donated amounts totaling more than $85,000. According to the fundraising
website, a local Arizona church also came to Shanesha`s aid gathering
enough funds to post her bail on March 31st. All funds raised online will
go towards Shanesha legal expenses. And we`re going to keep you updated as
this story progresses. Small donors, big change.
BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D) NEVADA: And he`s coming out with a budget. It`s a
blueprint for a modern Koch -- how would we say this, Kochtopia. Yeah,
that`s it. K,O,C,H,T,O,P,I,A. In fact, call it whatever you want. You
might as well call it the Koch budget because that`s what they`re --
they`re protecting the Koch brothers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That folks is Harry Reid on fire. That was Tuesday as he
spoke on the Senate floor. The Senate Majority leader slammed the Koch
brothers. And the affiliated political action committee for financing
midterm attacks against him in Nevada. Harry Reid also tried to
preemptively associate the Koch brothers with Congressman Paul Ryan`s
budget proposal even before it was released. But if you thought the Koch
brothers would not respond to Democratic attacks, think again. On
Wednesday, Charles Koch penned an op-ed for "The Wall Street Journal" where
he wrote, "The central belief and fatal conceit of the current
administration is that you are incapable of running your own life, but
those in power are capable of running it for you. This is the essence of
big government and collectivism. Instead of encouraging free and open
debate, collectivists strive to discredit and intimidate opponents. They
are engaging character assassination. I should know - as the almost daily
target for their attacks." No, I don`t know, Senator Reid, but in this op-
ed it seems like Charles Koch is telling you and the rest of the Democrats,
So, I`m interested in this game, like, so, I want us to go back to the
question of the small donors, but also, there`s a clear Democratic strategy
here. Call the Republicans puppets of Koch, make Koch the bad guy, right?
For the midterms and have a bad guy to run against. I mean like is that
CALABRIA: Well, I think - I don`t think you have anything to run on,
really. You know, I mean rather than tout here, here are all the great
things we have .
HARRIS-PERRY: 1 million people who signed up for Obamacare.
CALABRIA: I do like people - then why aren`t they talking about that? Why
isn`t that .
HARRIS-PERRY: They`re talking about it.
CALABRIA: Well, there`s far more -- I mean, I`ve gone to a few Democratic
fundraisers. And they talk far more when they are (INAUDIBLE) about all
the evil Koch brothers than they talk about Obamacare.
GOLDSTEIN: Well, I think what`s important .
JOHNSTON: Why would you tell us? Why would you preach to the converted?
HARRIS-PERRY: But in part, it might be - well, right, why would you
preach? But also in part because I`m just talking pure strategy. I want
to back up for - just say, bad guys can be a more motivating thing to run
against even than good guys, no matter what side you are on.
CALABRIA: So, I would agree.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And both parties .
GOLDSTEIN: Big government is the boogie man on the right. It seems like
part of the left is using the Koch brothers as the boogie man now. Like I
think it`s important to know that the CATO Institute, which was founded by
the Koch brothers. They, I believe, remain on the board.
CALABRIA: David is on the board.
GOLDSTEIN: Right. And they are also big donors for lots of other big
groups like the Heritage Foundation, and Americans for prosperity. And so,
I do think that is an effective tactic for the left to run against.
Because so many people are upset about big money in politics and the Koch
brothers are the biggest money in politics.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. OK. So, I actually - I love this language of
Kochtopus. Right? So, this is Kochtopus, right? So, we have Kochtopia
from Harry Reid. Al Franken gives us - "I suppose, Kochtopus is as good a
name as any for the huge secretive network of interest groups, the Koch
brother`s masterminded to funnel dark money all over the country in 2010
and 2012 elections and now their Kochtopus money man is heading up another
group and coming straight after me." So, on the one hand, like I feel
this, right, because you can - you can name it. You can say, this guy
works for Koch, this - but .
CALABRIA: I don`t work for Koch.
HARRIS-PERRY: No, no, no. But one can make this claim about like the
connections. The problem is also, if you get cancer treatment in a lot of
places in New York, you`re getting it from Koch money. If you`re going to
go see a symphony, you are going to get symkock money. Like .
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, I mean I just .
CALABRIA: A lot of money to charity.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, and I just wonder like if you start - if Kochtopus is
really big, like - and you`re using it to smear, will the Democrats soon
have the mud back on them just because Kochtopus is so big?
CALABRIA: Well, then back to the strategy question. So, I think without a
doubt, you know, the 2012 election was one of the ugliest and to me one of
the most negative campaign on both sides. And I think the Democrat
strategy looked at it and said we won on 2012 by going negative early and
often and it worked. So, I certainly think that the party has convinced
itself that negative is the way to go. I will certainly agree that the
Republicans will think the same thing. So, I wouldn`t certainly love to
see the debate in Washington and the broader debate become more about the
JOHNSTON: It must have been really good if the Democrats instead of just
attacking the Koch brothers which is politically smart strategy, would stop
being Republican light .
JOHNSTON: And would promote things that really matter. You know, if you
believe in market economics, bring back unions. Use that on the
Republicans. Unions are market economics. Let`s get universal health
care. If Portugal with half our income per capita can provide universal
health care, we can`t? 47 babies will die today needlessly because of the
American health care system. That`s one of the facts in my new book
"Divided." Compared to Cuba. 15 American babies will die today
unnecessarily because they do a better job than we do on infant mortality.
Those are the kinds of things that the Democrats should be promoting. And
the Koch brothers plan, listen, if you`re a capitalist, it`s a great plan.
If you are anybody else, they favor lower wages, fewer benefits. That`s
HARRIS-PERRY: And by capitalists you don`t mean someone who believes in
capitalism. By capitalist you mean someone who is an owner of the means of
JOHNSTON: Yes. Someone who owns the means of production. Here we go
CALABRIA: Quickly respond to two points --
HARRIS-PERRY: I promise I`m going to let you. We`ve got one more break,
but I do want to ask a little bit about this. Because part of what
President Obama did this week was to get a little more like Democrat on it
in his discussion about minimum wage and actually calling the growing
inequality in America the defining issue of our time. We`re going to take
a closer look at that as we soon as we get back. But first, as we go to
break, a change of tune with our foot soldier this week. 13-year-old Aiden
Hornaday. Later, we`re going to tell you all about how he`s using his
harmonica to help others. But right now, let`s listen to Aiden.
BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, next week members of Congress have a fresh chance to
show which side they`re on. They`re going to get a yes or no vote on
raising the minimum wage all across this country. And they`re going to
make a clear choice. Talk the talk about valuing hard work and families or
walk the walk and actually value hard work and families.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: You`ve got a choice. You can give America the shaft or you can
give it a raise.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was President Obama speaking to a crowd at the
University of Michigan on Wednesday. The president was there to praise
Michigan`s ongoing efforts to raise the minimum wage and promote his plan
to raise the federal minimum to $10.10 an hour. And he did so while
striking a particularly partisan tone by accusing Republicans who oppose
both of those efforts in Michigan and in Congress of standing in the way of
prosperity for millions of Americans. So I want to ask you a question
about Occupy. Because we started like way back in the beginning of the
show with this notion that Occupy gave us the discourse of 99 versus one.
But Occupy also mostly shied away from specific policy proposals. It
wanted to change the language of how we think about inequality. But is it
possible that occupy missed the opportunity to make minimum wage the policy
proposal that could actually encapsulate this question and can occupy come
back around and now adopt this? Because it clearly the Democratic Party
has. I`m just wondering if there`s a movement that can help to get behind
GOLDSTEIN: I mean in my opinion, Occupy was more about how do we destroy
hierarchies in any form. And the message of Occupy was, look, the power
source is not Washington, D.C. The power source is in New York City. And
these are the people that are actually calling the shots. But I do think
that in the wake of Occupy and it`s shifted in the conversation other
groups have used that momentum to take up this struggle around minimum
wage. And I don`t know that Occupy is the group to do that. But I think
at the momentum and the sort of spirit behind direct action and occupations
has spread. And we see occupations now in North Carolina with moral
Mondays, and we`ve seen it, I believe, in Atlanta now and in Georgia where
there was occupations there. And so, I think that sort of maybe the tactic
is more easily spread. I think that sort of message of occupy was more
about how do we dismantle hierarchies and less about particular policy
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah. All right. So, let me then ask whether or not since
Occupy as a movement was not thinking specifically around policy, but
obviously the Democratic Party is as well as electoral strategy. How
powerful will minimum wage be in order to do the distinguishing work the
day that we were just talking about, but not being Republicans lite, but
actually being Democrats?
MCGHEE: I think it`s been pretty powerful. I think you also need to
remember that even though the Republican elected officials right now in
Congress are anti-raising the minimum wage. The base of Republican voters
is actually a majority in support of it. Right? So, this is a broad
American proposition that someone who works full time shouldn`t have to be
in poverty. I think something that`s really important to point to is how
much low wage and minimum wage workers themselves are putting their daily
wage on the line by standing up and striking. And I think when we start to
see that level of courage and audacity by people who have so much to lose
that is when we actually see the politics shift. And I think it`s going to
be really, really hard for Republicans to continue to actually when there`s
a spotlight oppose something that seems like common sense to basically
JOHNSTON: The Democrats also need to change this debate. This is not
about raising the minimum wage. It`s about ...
HARRIS-PERRY: I heard you scream this out earlier.
JOHNSTON: Restoring this! And, you know, I was a minimum wage worker,
with a wife and a child and with four jobs, we managed to eat. It was not
a good life. And now I`ve done much better.
JOHNSTON: But if we had been two thirds of the minimum wage, which is
where we are now effectively, I don`t know what we would have done. I
would never have been able to pay the rent or feed us or put the gas in the
car to go to work.
HARRIS-PERRY: I absolutely understand what you mean by the restoration and
the question of two thirds. But just back up and explain for my viewers,
who are thinking, what do you mean restoration? Did it actually go down?
JOHNSTON: The minimum wage in the mid-1960s was almost $11 an hour in
CALABRIA: And, so, you can pick any date. I mean the minimum wage, when
it was created, in `38 would be $4.
JOHNSTON: All right. I agree. That`s the peak.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh you pick a time of great share or prosperity or coming
out of ..
CALABRIA: We have to be honest with ourselves. Increasing the minimum
wage will make some people wealthy, and will cost jobs. Now, it might not
cost any of us .
GOLDSTEIN: I think it does not ferret that out.
CALABRIA: Yes, the evidence does.
CALABRIA: Evidence does.
HARRIS-PERRY: So I think - I think .
CALABRIA: How many economists do we have at the table?
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, but OK - but .
GOLDSTEIN: Don`t pull that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Wait a minute. Wait a minute - That`s not fair though,
Mark. Economists do disagree, right? So, it`s a bit like - it`s a bit
CALABRIA: It`s like saying climacologists - climatologists .
HARRIS-PERRY: No, economists are - economists who are real economists,
disagree on this question, because it does depend on what you are looking
at. If you give people who make the minimum wage even marginally more
income, we know that those individuals spend that income. We know that
that income is the stimulative because it gets spent. So, economists who
read the minimum wage narrative that way will say that it is stimulative.
Those who read it from the top who talk specifically about whether or not
corporate profits will bear a higher labor cost say that it will cost jobs.
I think the challenge here for economists in this particular historical
moment is that we have enormous corporate profits that haven`t led to a
greater investment in labor costs. They`re not hiring more people despite
CALABRIA: We also have very - the teenage unemployment rate is 20 percent.
GOLDSTEIN: But only ten percent .
MCGHEE: How many workers are teenagers?
HARRIS-PERRY: I`ll just take one example.
MCGHEE: Mark, may I please respond? May I please speak? Thank you. Let`s
take one example - Walmart, right? The biggest private employer in the
country. We look at what they spend money on, right? They obviously don`t
spend enough in our opinion and in the opinion of many of their workers on
labor costs. They spend $7.6 billion a year buying back their own stock in
the market. We looked at what if that - you know, in terms of
productivity, in terms of the customer experience, in terms of all of that
pretty much useless practice. If that were redirected to the lowest wage
workers it would give them a 5 -- almost a $6 an hour raise.
HARRIS-PERRY: And we know if we go back to the Paul Ryan budget that if
you want to get people off of government programs and one way to do that is
to not pay them subpar wages. We know that Walmart benefits from food
stamps multiple times because its employees then get food stamps, which
subsidizes their profits and then they spend those food stamps at Walmart
grocery stores, right?
GOLDSTEIN: So does McDonald`s. About a billion a year.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, they`re screaming at me upstairs. They are screaming -
to be upstairs. Thank you to Heather McGhee and Mark Calabria and to
Alexis Goldstein. David can stick around a little longer, but before we go
to break, I`m going to take you first to Memphis, Tennessee. Where the
National Civil Rights Museum is reopening after 18 months and nearly $28
million in renovations. The museum is located on the site of the Lorraine
motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated exactly 46 years ago
yesterday while there for a labor strike. MSNBC.com national reporter
Trymaine Lee is in there. To - tell us more about what is going on.
TRYMAINE LEE, NBC CORRESPONDENT: How is it going? This is the second day
of a two-day event commemorating the life and death of Dr. Martin Luther
King, but also in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the signing of
the Civil Rights Act. And so, today there should be parade coming from
behind me in about ten or 15 minutes, folks will gather. And we have a
drum circle behind us. There will be a full day of speeches and other
events. And it`s kind of a blend of moments of solitude, but again,
moments of honoring the life of Dr. King.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I wanted to make this point that he was there for a
sanitation worker`s strike. It was a labor strike. Is there a kind of
awareness of that connection between racial civil rights and labor rights?
Is that part of what is being emphasized in this reopening of the museum?
LEE: I think undoubtedly it`s part of the expansion of the exhibit, it`s
about five centuries of resistance and part of that resistance started here
locally. And we are talking about the sanitation strike, in which two
workers were tragically killed. People in this community know the
connection. That`s what initially brought Dr. King to Memphis in the first
place and undoubtedly the museum attempts to really broaden that idea that
union workers and workers` rights and the community and the people are all
coming together to resist subjugation on so many levels.
HARRIS-PERRY: MSNBC.com`s Trymaine Lee. Thank you for reporting for us
And up next, Moneyball. The NCAA`s final four kicks off tonight. But we
already know who`s gonna win.
HARRIS-PERRY: The final four men`s college basketball teams left in the
NCAA tournament meet in north Texas tonight. For the right to play in
Monday`s championship game. The reason why one of them, Kentucky, is still
in the hunt is because of this shot last Sunday by freshman Aaron Harrison,
number two. A three-pointer in the final seconds that gave his team a
three-point win over Michigan. Such a good shot, in fact, that it landed
him right here on the cover of "Sports Illustrated." Now as for Kentucky`s
head coach, John Calipari, his three assistants and the Kentucky athletic
director well, they collected a lot more than a trophy, hat and t-shirt
thanks to that shot. Try nearly $330,000 in final four bonuses according
to their contracts as listed online. The other final four coaches are also
cashing in. According to Forbes, Billy Donovan, the coach of the top
seeded Florida Gators pocketed $100,000 for his team reaching the final
four. Wisconsin badgers coach, Bo Ryan, 50 grand. And perhaps because
it`s only his second year, Connecticut`s coach Kevin Ollie receives only an
extra $33,333. Now the coaches are far from the only ones winning more
than games during the final four. $572 is the average price of the ticket
to tonight`s semifinal. That`s actually the cheapest it has been for a
final four in four years. But don`t think the NCAA just got generous.
AT&T stadium holds 105,000 fans, including standing room tickets which
should break by just a little the previous final four record of 75,421 just
three years ago. $275 million is what visitors to the two basketball games
tonight and the one on Monday are estimated to spend.
And as for the players who those fans are all there to see, the players
coached by the guys who just got those big bonuses? Well, all the men`s
and women`s players in the tournament do receive a gift pack that includes
a fossil brown watch, gear from athletic manufacturer Wilson, some final
four swag and a Johnston`s commemorative ring according to "Sports Business
Daily." Final four participants, both men and women, get a bonus gift
package worth an estimated 750 entire dollars plus a for a fancy new ball
cap t-shirt, maybe a piece of that championship net that victorious players
could collect gifts valued maybe up to $370 over the course of their
conference tournaments. Or put another way, slightly more than one percent
of what four Kentucky coaches and their athletic director will now collect
because one freshman hit a serious jump shot.
HARRIS-PERRY: On Thursday at 6:27 p.m. Central time the state of Texas
executed Tommy Sells. It was the state`s fifth execution this year. And
it went forward despite a last-minute appeal to the Supreme Court to stay
the execution after the state refused to disclose the name of the pharmacy
providing the lethal injection drug. Since 1982 the United States has been
using a standard three-drug combination for lethal injections. The first
of those drugs, the anesthetic, is sodium thiopental which has been
imported from European manufacturers. But in 2011 the European commission
prohibited the export of products which could be used for the execution of
human beings by means of lethal injection, including thiopental, that first
part of the execution cocktail. So now facing a shortage of that drug,
states are working to find new ways to kill prisoners facing the death
penalty. And some states have been using untested drug combinations and
are turning to compounding pharmacies to make new drugs. But many are
refusing to disclose where they`re obtaining their new drugs and that
secrecy, that lack of transparency about how our states are killing our
citizens has led to multiple legal challenges, even halting executions in
And there are concerns about how the new drug combinations work. On
January 16th Ohio tried out a new untested combination of drugs in the
execution of Dennis McGuire and it took him nearly 25 minutes to die. And
witnesses reported he was gasping for air. The state has now delayed their
next execution until November in order to review what happened. Joining me
at the table now is Tanya Greene, the advocacy and policy counsel at ACLU
who works on criminal justice and death penalty issues. Thank you so much
for being here, Tanya.
TANYA GREENE, ADVOCACY AND PLICY COUNSEL AT ACLU: Thank you for inviting
HARRIS-PERRY: So, the Supreme Court held in Bays v. Reese, is that right?
HARRIS-PERRY: Reese. That it was not cruel and unusual punishment to kill
someone by lethal injection but that was based on this three-drug cocktail,
which we now are not using. Does this mean there`s a way to challenge the
constitutionality of lethal injection?
GREENE: Absolutely. States that are currently engaged in executing their
death row prisoners are engaging in human experimentation at this point
using compounded drugs that are mixed in secrecy by shadow pharmacies. We
have a real problem. And we have all kinds of botched executions
resulting. The prisoners who are facing execution now are appealing to the
Supreme Court to be reviewed. And so far the Supreme Court has said no.
HARRIS-PERRY: Tell me why we should care. I mean when we look across the
world at the - kind of the map of countries that still execute citizens, we
find ourselves, you know, in a group that we might not normally want to be
in when you look at the other countries that still execute people. And yet
when you talk to many ordinary Americans, if I say, you know, this may be a
painful drug, and it takes 25 minutes. They say, well, who cared about
that person`s victim? So why should I care?
GREENE: Right. We should care because we are a nation of laws and because
our criminal justice system is ostensibly organized to be consistent with
the U.S. Constitution. And the Constitution forbids cruel and unusual
punishment, and pain and suffering during execution. Not the actual death,
but the pain and suffering during the execution is a violation of the
Constitution and prohibited.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, when we look overall at death penalty support, there`s
some big dramatic differences between parties, but also, and this was one
of the ones that I found most dramatic, by race.
HARRIS-PERRY: White Americans are much more likely to support the death
penalty, 63 percent in favor, whereas, only about a third, for example, of
African-Americans, only 40 percent of Latinos supportive of the death
penalty. Why do you think that this race gap exists?
GREENE: Well, I think people of color in this country are much more
conscious and aware and often have our own experiences of the failings of
the criminal justice system and so are more likely to doubt its perfectness
and its correctness and so when you are sentencing someone to the ultimate
punishment and eliminating them from the human community, we need to be
perfect. And we`ve now exonerated 144 individuals from death row. We`re
GREENE: And so, I`m not surprised that people who have experienced the
imperfection of American society are particularly concerned about this one.
It can also be noted that recent Gallup polls have shown that in that now
more - fewer people are in support of the death penalty than have ever been
since Gallup began doing this kind of assessment. Things are really
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, as part of why we wanted to just take a moment to
tell the story about lethal injection. Because I do think people believe
that whatever else the death penalty is, that lethal injection is just kind
of falling asleep. And the idea that it takes 25 minutes for someone to
die and there are witnesses saying that there was gasping for air and a
sense of pain might, in fact, alter how we think about it.
GREENE: Right. Right. Well, when we moved from the gas chamber to
electrocution to lethal injection, we thought that this was going to be a
more humane approach to killing, and it in fact has turned out to not be at
all. And the choking and gasping and turning blue and Michael Wilson in
Oklahoma earlier this year said that he felt like his whole body was
burning while he was dying. Dennis took almost 25 minutes to die and that
was to suffocate to death. Almost a half an hour of suffocating. This
notion that what`s happening is euthanasia like what happens with your pet
is not - it`s just not the reality.
HARRIS-PERRY: And this is not - this is not who we are. Thank you, Tanya
Greene for joining us this morning.
Coming up next, the real life hunger games. A new report reads like the
scariest futuristic novel except it`s happening right now.
Plus, my letter of the week.
And as we go to break, here`s more music from Aiden, our young foot
soldier. There`s more Nerdland at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, are we on?
Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. Sorry, Nerdland. Didn`t you
notice there for a second.
I got so completely engrossed in this compelling read during the commercial
break. You see, I am going through a dystopian future withdrawal. I`ve
already devoured the entire "Hunger Games", and "Divergent" series, watch
all the movies, and then I went searching for more dystopian series and I
got to maybe rent on those, too.
Which is why when I got my hands on this, ha ha, I cannot put this down.
It has all of the elements of the very best post-apocalyptic visions of a
future world, that is so engrossing. Spoiler alert: I can`t help but to
share some of the highlights.
So, here`s the story. Sometime in the not so distant future, mankind will
have set planet Earth on a collision course towards certain doom from which
there may be no turning back. The relentless drive of human consumption
has overwhelmed our world`s ability to sustain civilization.
And in this story, our negligence has completely transformed the planet and
in turn our planet transforms us.
Having long passed the point of stopping the disaster, humanity is left
with only one option. We have to adapt and no one is spared. There`s a
series of cataclysmic floods that eradicate coast lines, that devastate
cities, leaving many of us without the modern conveniences that we once
took for granted. There`s also, you know, no more electricity, or running
water, no more emergency services to come to the rescue.
Governments have completely failed to protect their most vulnerable. The
poor, the infirm, the elderly are left to fend for themselves. Drought and
extreme heat have rendered once heavily unpopulated regions unlivable. And
the inhabitants become displaced and as masses of them leave in search of
home they clash in violent conflicts over rapidly diminishing land and
And amid all the chaos, no, not a girl trying to figure which boy she likes
best, but countries on every continent struggling with an inability to meet
the most basic of human needs. There`s just not enough food to go around.
Scared yet? Ready to buy the movie rights?
If not, then prepare yourselves to be terrified because that chilling story
is actually not a fiction. It was a very abbreviated version of the
consequences of climate change predicted by this exhaustive U.N. report
titled "Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability." In
the report released this week, the U.N. tells a story of how we are quickly
running out of time to reduce carbon emissions enough to avoid the
catastrophic consequences of climate change.
And among a laundry list of bad news of what will happen if we do nothing.
Some of the reports of the most dire warnings are reserved to what happens
to our food. A decrease in the yield of crop yields could mean food demand
will overwhelm the supply. Global prices could increase anywhere from 3
percent to 84 percent by the year 2050.
And warmer, more acidic oceans could make fish harder to catch and more
difficult to feed those and eat the fish who survive. And, some crops
could even become less nutritious and filling as a result of growing in an
atmosphere with elevated CO2.
In short, the primary way that most people on the planet will experience
climate change is through food. What we eat, how much we pay for it, and
how available it will be for our consumption.
It is a bleak story that the U.N. is telling. The good news is that we
don`t yet know precisely how it will end, and it`s not too late to write a
new maybe more optimistic chapter, but what we do know is the U.N.`s
climate change story is ultimately a cautionary tale about worsening hunger
all around the planet. In that dystopian future, global hunger will not be
At the table now: Adrianna Quintero, who is the senior attorney for the
Natural Resource Defense Council. David Cay Johnston, contributing editor
of "Newsweek" and author of the new book "Divided." Also, Michael Levi,
who is senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. And Bjorn
Lomborg who is the director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center. And
according to the U.K. Guardian, one of the 50 people who could save the
Also with us from Boston is the head of the organization that prepared the
report, Oxfam president, Ray Offenheiser.
So, nice to have all of you here today.
ADRIANNA QUINTERO, NATURAL RESOURCE DEFENSE COUNCIL: Thank you for having
Ray, I want to start with you. Explain to me how food supply is the
central piece in terms of how ordinary people are going to feel with
RAY OFFENHEISER, OXFAM PRESIDENT: Well, thank you so much, Melissa.
Delighted to be with you and join the panel here from Boston. I think
what`s really important about this report is that it makes the link between
climate change and food unequivocal. In the past, the IPCC was a little
ambivalent. But this is a hard-hitting report which in some sense makes
the impacts of climate change on our daily lives very, very real.
I think it`s important for us to recognize we already face what you could
call a global food crisis in the sense that there are 1 billion people on
this Earth that are experiencing malnutrition and chronic hunger. And I
think the real issue for us now is that failure to act in the near term
could actually set back the fight against hunger even more.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So hold on.
Because, Adrianna, I`m interested in what he just said here about the
question of in the near term. So, I`m wondering how near the near term is.
I just had a baby. I want to know, are we talking in her lifetime, in her
childhood, in her children`s lifetime? How near is near? How soon will
this dystopic novel become reality?
QUINTERO: It`s starting to become reality now. I mean, we can see the
changes happening right now. That`s exactly what the IPCC pointed out is
that anywhere you look we`re seeing the changes.
What we all expect is like you`re saying, something really dramatic, some
cataclysmic event that`s going to bring it all to bear right away. But
that`s not the reality. The reality is we`re already seeing droughts.
We`re already seeing unpredictable rainfall. We`re seeing temperature
spikes. We`re seeing unpredictability in our agricultural system.
That`s terrible for us because we need to act now. We have an opportunity
now. We should have acted long ago, but we keep fighting about whether or
not this is true. We need to just move forward.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, Bjorn, I want to ask you a little bit about
this question of sort of this possibility of acting particularly around
food. So, we were just kind of looking at the U.S. and sort of where the
U.S. sits in the world in terms of food, in terms of our energy
The U.S. has 5 percent of the world population but we use 25 percent of the
world`s coal, 26 percent of the world`s oil, 27 percent of the world`s gas,
right? So, we are the great consumers of the world`s energy.
But we also basically eat all the food, right? So, when you look at global
calorie intake, the U.S. is the highest global calorie intake.
So, we have -- we`re using all the coal. We`re eating all the food. Is
that why we don`t act? Because we feel sort of well-fed and like there`s
plenty of resources?
BJORN LOMBORG, COPENHAGEN CONSERVATION CETER: There`s two parts to the
question. Remember, most countries would love to get to the same level. I
mean, if you look at China, they are now the biggest emitter of CO2, but at
the same time while they use much more coal, very polluting, much climate
impact, it`s also lifted 680 million people out of poverty. Unheard in
And most countries want to do the same thing. If we`re going to manage to
deal with that, we need to find clean energy that`s going to be so cheap
that eventually everyone and also China will want to use it.
I also think though that when we`re talking about, what are we going to do
about the fact that we want more food in the future? We`ve got to
recognize -- and these are one of the things I was very disappointed about.
They write there on the background reports. So, you read on the big
chapters, but they took it out of the main chapter, that we subsidize
biofuels, essentially burning food in our cars.
And remember, the U.S. alone uses so much biofuel ethanol essentially that
you are destroying about 5 percent of the world`s calories. You are taking
5 percent away from the world and burning it in your car.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, we`re putting our corn in our car and that`s actually a
JOHNSTON: Well, we have all sorts of awful policies that are driven by
short-run economic terms here. I mean, in ethical terms, where we`re
sitting in New York city is going to be under half a mile of ice again some
day. None of us will be here. It will be in the distant future.
We`re speeding it up, but it`s still going to happen, barring some
technological break through. In terms of energy, we don`t have a shortage
of energy in the planet. What we have a shortage of technologies to make
use of energy. So, we burn what`s easy and cheap.
Gasoline, we can transport it. If we can figure out how to get a battery
that will take your car not the 40 miles my wife`s Volt goes but 100 miles
or 200 miles at a reasonable price, then we can make a different use of
If we could put a solar device on every roof, the architectural community
is going crazy. We could stop burning a lot of fossil fuels. But we have
to make changes in depth.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So, but part of what happens when I hear you start
saying that, I hear, oh, OK, we`re going to do these sort of futuristic
things, then I get the eyes glazed over, dystopic novel moment again. I`m
like, that`s not going to happen.
But if you say to me, if we don`t do precisely this by this year, then your
food will cost this and there will not be enough, suddenly that feels like,
oh, wait a minute. That I need to know because my grocery bill feels real.
Solar panels feel less real.
MICHAEL LEVI, COUNCIL OF FOREIGN RELATIONS: So, part of what Ray is saying
is that while climate change is going to intensify these challenges in the
future, they`re with us today. People around the world have enormous
challenges with food. You know, for decades the big challenge around food
was it was too cheap. Farmers were having enormous problems.
That`s part of what generated policies like the ones that support biofuels.
But we saw in 2007, 2008 this return of a volatile food system, big price
spikes, big reactions, instability in countries around the world and people
being pushed back into poverty who have been lifted out of it before.
So, we have a challenge now to tackle. If we tackle effectively, it will
help us deal with climate pressures that will affect the food system.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. Stay with us. We`re going to do more on this
and on the report that says neither rich nor poor countries are ready for
this coming food crisis.
But, first, the latest news on missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
China`s official news agency reporting that a Chinese ship participating in
the search has detected a pulse signal in the southern Indian Ocean. But
there is no confirmation that it`s connected to Flight 370.
The Chinese state news agency also published photos it claims shows
unidentified objects in the south Indian Ocean. NBC News has not
independently verified this report. The search for the missing plane is
entering its fifth week. The batteries and the black boxes locator beacons
could run out any day now.
We`re going to continue to monitor the story and bring you the latest
information as it becomes available.
We`ll be right back.
HARRIS-PERRY: A global food shortage brought on by climate change may be
decades away, but a report from Oxfam America is warning that governments
are nowhere near ready to prevent that hunger crisis from happening. A
paper released last week by the organization found that both poor and
wealthy countries are far from prepared to cope with how climate change
will affect the food security of their populations.
So, with us from Boston, the president of that group that issued the paper,
So, Ray, I want to ask you about this big take away. You know, I live in a
place that is a disaster prone place. I live in New Orleans. We talk a
lot about disaster preparedness, but it tends to be like disaster meaning
the flood, right, or the hurricane.
How should governments be thinking about disaster more broadly,
specifically around sort of this food security question?
OFFENHEISER: Well, I think what we`re trying to say in the report is that
food is going to be the real challenge for populations around the world,
not only in the long term but actually in the near term. I think some of
your panelists have already indicated in various parts of the world the
climate effects are already being felt and our argument is that governments
need to be taking action in a variety of different areas.
And what the report tries to do is set out in some sense a framework
looking at basically 10 areas of policy action that governments can take
that will begin to put their countries in a position where they can deal
with the -- what will be the looming crisis around the food question.
HARRIS-PERRY: Are any countries doing it well?
OFFENHEISER: Yes, actually, as we looked at -- and we began to map
investments by governments and the kind of the political will that we`re
seeing of governments to take action, we saw countries like Ghana, for
example, Vietnam, and Malawi that actually increased their investments in
agriculture, for example, increased their investments in agricultural
research looking at what kind of crops they might have to be growing if
there were climatic changes in their particular national environments,
putting in place crop insurance systems, for example, to deal with periodic
drought phenomenon, increasing weather forecasting in the country where we
have a lot of weather forecasting technology in the United States, every
2,000 square kilometers. Actually weather forecasting in much of the
world, it doesn`t exist. And actually, investing more in their ability to
manage disasters of the sort, you know, on the scale of the sort of
experience you all have had in New Orleans but thinking about what that
might mean in a Bangladesh or sub-Saharan nation.
And then, finally, maybe just the whole question of looking at what the
donor responsibility is for investing -- helping those countries, invest in
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me bring you back to the U.S. for one second,
because listening to that, listening to the notion of just kind of long
term strategy, and I think, man, it is tough in Washington and even in most
state legislatures, to get appropriations right now even for clear
proximate crises. How do you build a political will to talk about
something that will happen after these officeholders are no longer even in
LEVI: One of the things you need to do is put in place tools now that can
help individuals, farmers, countries plan for the long term. So, if you
get all of these players access to the information, to the forecasts,
they`re not going to be perfect, but they`re certainly better than being
And they`re smart people. They can think over the long term. They know
they`re going to have their farm for a lot longer than current members of
Congress are in power. They can use that to plan more effectively.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So is there a long-term/short-term horizon problem when
we`re thinking about the food question, Bjorn? I mean, I`m just wondering
if I`m hungry today, do I want the investment dollars to be in making sure
that I have a pack of food to eat today or do I want the investment dollars
to be in climate change mitigation, ensuring that there is food to eat ten
years from now?
LOMBORG: I don`t -- fortunately I don`t think we have to make that choice
because in reality obviously as was mentioned before, there`s a billion
people who are starving right now. That`s mostly not about global warming.
That`s about poverty, that`s about getting these people out of poverty.
But in just a slightly longer run, it`s about increasing yields because if
we can increase yields, we can both help all the people who are poor and
starving not because of global warming, we can mitigate the problems of
global warming in the medium term and it will have a lot of other impacts.
Partly we know if you can grow food on the existing cultural land, you
don`t have to cut down so much more forests. That`s good for biodiversity.
That`s good for global warming.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So, when I hear you say that, the thing that starts
ringing in my head is the segment that we did several months ago on GMOs.
We had sort of a table of people critiquing genetically modified food,
particularly Monsanto and the policies in the U.S. to support it. And yet
that is what they say they`re doing, they`re creating higher yield food
organisms that are going to change the question of world hunger.
LOMBORG: Well, I certainly think it should be on the table. But in some
way, it`s one of those triggers that get people annoyed and worried. I
think much more we should focus on the fact that investing in research and
development into more high yields, whether that`s conventional or GMO is an
incredibly cheap way to do a lot of good in the future.
We actually estimate that for every dollar spent, we just need to spend $8
billion a year more globally, which is a very small amount, that could
actually do -- for every dollar spent, that could bring in $30 and $40
worth of good because it would make food more abundant. It would preserve
biodiversity and it would actually help global warming because we wouldn`t
be counting for us, which leads to more CO2.
HARRIS-PERRY: Ray, we have 30 seconds, but I want you to -- if I had the
ear of Congress for 30 seconds and there was one take away from Oxfam
report, what would you want the U.S. Congress to do about this
OFFENHEISER: Well, I think what the U.S. has a particularly responsibility
I think to think about the fact that we are -- as you said earlier, a major
emitter of carbon and that we do have a moral and I think you could even
say political responsibility to think about the consequences of not
addressing this issue. And what it means not only for our own national
security, but for security around the world. And I think investing in
mitigation strategies of the sort mentioned by some of your panelists, also
enabling countries to have effective adaption, strategies, largely focused
on, I think there`s a panelist. The last panelist said on investing in
agriculture, increasing productivity.
I think the one difference I`d make between just the idea of increasing
production is I think we need to be thinking about increasing we need to be
thinking about increasing also our ability to grow crops on marginal lands,
because I think what`s going to change in the future is where we`re going
to be able to grow food and under what circumstances.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Ray Offenheiser in Boston.
And up next, a rarity for Nerdland. A report on the royal family, Prince
William and Kate Middleton and what`s their vacation teaches about global
But, first, as we go to break, some more music from Aiden, our foot soldier
of the week.
HARRIS-PERRY: Last month, Prince William and Kate Middleton got away from
the stresses of the royal life in London with a holiday and a five-star
resort in the island nation of Maldives. Now, the duke and duchess left
baby George at home and enjoy a romantic getaway at a resort that boasts
the best experience that Maldives has to offer. White sands, waving palm
trees, crystal clear waters, only for the people who actually live in
Maldives, all of that water isn`t a paradise, it`s an impending problem,
because as the lowest lying country in the world, the Maldives is in the
precarious position of being a test case for the consequences of climate
change, while the country makes only a negligible contributions to the
carbon emissions that are heating up the planet, its ecosystem is already
being endangered by rising sea levels and temperatures.
The Maldives predicament also brings into focus how this global crisis has
the most severe outcomes for those who are most vulnerable and at rest.
So, you know, I mean, I`m sure I`m hating on the fact that the Middletons
get to get away and go do something fun, but it does feel maybe like there
is a global responsibility of what I will call former imperial nations
relative to the nations that they helped to economically under develop
initially in the 20th century and 19th -- is there a responsibility of what
we used to call the first world to the developing world as we start to try
to plan and mitigate for climate change?
QUINTERO: Absolutely. I mean, it`s not only about that. It really is a
global issue. There`s a reason we were calling it global warming even
though people kind of bristle to that term these days. Climate change
affects us all around the world. So, whatever we do here will affect them.
And so, there is a responsibility by the biggest carbon emitters to take
some action. Not only because it`s going to impact them, but it`s
impacting us. It`s also impacting our poorest communities here. Go and
look at our urban centers. Go and look at our agricultural lands. They
are going to be hit the hardest. They`re the ones who can deal least with
the changing temperatures.
I mean, even if you look at this winter, a heavy winter really, really
impacts poor people the most. A hot summer impacts old people and poor
people the most.
So, we have a global responsibility, period. Even if we want to be
completely U.S.-centric, what we do here is affecting us all, so we need to
take action here. That`s why President Obama`s climate plan is so
critical. We need to act on carbon and that sets us on that right path.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, David, let`s go all the way back to the start of the
show because you`ve been here since we started. If this is the discourse,
if what disaster and climate change do is to reveal to us the pre-existing
inequalities as we saw in Sandy, as we saw in Katrina, then I really am not
very confident we`re going to make policy around it, because we spent the
whole first part of the show talking about if it`s the big money who are
the big polluters, how do we develop the political well?
JOHNSTON: Well, one of the fundamental problems is lack of information to
people. There`s no shortage of information as a whole, but we have news
coverage, and I`ve spent my whole life in news, that is very, very focused
on some things and not others. So, we get a lot of attention for the Ryan
budget, not very much for the progressive caucuses budget, for example.
So the degree of inequality in this country, 47 babies will die in the U.S.
today unnecessarily. If we had as good a maternal -- infant mortality rate
as Sweden, Norway or Japan, 47 more babies would live. If we were as good
as Cuba, 15 more babies would live today in the United States.
How many people are aware of this? It`s in "Divided", by the way, my new
book. But, fundamentally, people are unaware of these facts. We have to
get a narrative and change the meme of our whole discussion of this, so
that we understand and we make smart choices.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, but politics in the U.S. does seem pretty impervious to
facts. Sometimes it`s on both sides, but I think specifically on the right
where there has been this kind of climate denial-ism, climate change
denialism discourse. Like is that -- is that sort of the battle within the
U.S. Congress ideologically about whether the facts constitute facts going
to take us to the land of a dystopic future?
LEVI: We certainly need a much broader consensus on the fact that climate
change is a big challenge and we need to confront it.
HARRIS-PERRY: That it`s real?
LEVI: I think thinking about it in terms of risk is critical to that. You
can be skeptical about this, that or the other prediction but we manage
risk all the time. We manage risk in national security. We don`t wait
until something is about to happen to us that`s horrible in order to try
and stop it, because we know that it`s going to be too late at that point.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, we`re going to preemptively strike instead of another
nation, this time preemptively strike. Although we`ve missed the
opportunity to preemptively.
So, I mean, we have 30 seconds. We have 30 seconds. Are there kind of
clear action plans?
LOMBORG: Twenty-five seconds. We have to fix a way to find green energy
to be so cheap that everybody eventually will adopt. It`s not about feel
good solar panels right now. It`s about making everyone adopt green
technology. That`s about innovation.
But if we want to avoid catastrophes like Sandy or like New Orleans, it`s
about adaptation. You know, remember, it`s not about have we done the
Kyoto protocol. Have we cut a few more tunes of CO2? It`s about building
that levee at the right height.
So, you know, there`s two very simple things, get adaptation now and make
green energy cheap in the future.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, you`re not going to get me to feel bad about building
the levees higher. I`m down with that.
Up next, putting a human face on environmental disasters. How one tiny
fishing community is still feeling the effects of one of the nation`s worst
HARRIS-PERRY: A new documentary film to be released this month takes an
in-depth look at a profoundly, personal consequences of the manmade
environmental catastrophe. "Vanishing Pearls, The Oystermen of Point a la
Hache" tells the story of a community of fishermen in Louisiana`s gulf
community whose way of life was almost eradicated by the 2010 Deepwater
Horizon oil spill.
After more than a century of relying on oyster fishing as both a food
source and a driver of the local economy, the fishermen are left facing
devastating cultural and economic losses. And the film follows one member
of that community as he leads their fight for justice and accountability
from BP and the government.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These people have suffered enough. We can`t let BP use
delay tactics to deny justice. I`ve been on these waters since I was a
child. I have never in my life saw anything so devastating as what`s out
there now. Nothing.
It has taken us generations to come from share cropping to being
independent and now between state policies and BP oil spill, this he have
destroyed us. For us to remain in this business, we have to go back to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The struggles the fishermen hit close to home for the
documentary`s director and producer, Nailah Jefferson, because their
community is just miles from her own hometown of New Orleans. And that`s
where she joins me today.
Nice to see you, Ms. Jefferson.
NAILAH JEFFERSON, DOCUMENTARY DIRECTOR & PRODUCER: Nice to see you. Thank
you for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely. So, we`ve been talking about kind of this broad
question of global climate change and food insecurity. But this is not a
story about sort of the long-term global climate change. This is about a
polluter who could in fact be held responsible.
Tell me. Is BP doing what they said that they would do along the coast
JEFFERSON: No. BP said that they would make people whole in 2010 when
this spill occurred. Now four years later, we see that BP is putting out
commercials saying that the Gulf Coast has returned to normal and that,
indeed, has not been the case.
They`ve also put together an ad campaign I believe in "The New York Times"
and "The Wall Street Journal", that have full page ads saying that they no
longer need to be held responsible and pay these claims and that, indeed,
is not making people whole like they promised that they would do when the
spill occurred in 2010.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you know, as we`ve talked a little bit about food and
the question of what will the cost of food be. I mean, I think for those
of us who live along the Gulf Coast, we have seen the immediate impact in
our seafood coasts in the post Deep Horizon world and your story hence to
explain why we have seen that change so swiftly.
JEFFERSON: Absolutely. And Lake Pontchartrain basin where they harvest
their oysters, since the spill, the number of the harvest has been down 71
percent. So, that`s a huge impact and that is resulting and impacting
consumers in the price of oysters.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, it must be stated that these are working class to
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s a predominantly African-American. Is that part of
the difficulty that they have been having in holding both government and
corporation, BP in this case, responsible for what`s happened?
JEFFERSON: I think so. I think that the African-American fishermen in
Louisiana have been under represented by our politicians. Before the spill
a lot of people didn`t know that this community existed. They didn`t know
that they had African-American fishermen. We talk about that in "Vanishing
Pearls." But now, I hope to give a voice to the voiceless community and
give a change and move towards the change that we need to get the help that
they need to move forward.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you mentioned local officials. And, you know,
obviously, one of the challenges for anyone who holds office in New Orleans
and Louisiana is that they are pretty beholden to the economic interest of
polluters or that the polluters represent, the gas and oil industry whether
you`re a Dem or Republican, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: These office holders are pretty much accountable to these
polluters. Is there any way to shift that they are instead accountable to
JEFFERSON: Well, what`s interesting is that they have all the power. They
hold all the power to make the rules but they are unwilling I think to make
these rules to stand up to oil and gas companies and say that you have to
be responsible, you have to be environmentally responsible so that we can
continue to live along the Gulf Coast.
If they`re willing to stand up and say that, I mean, these oil and gas
companies aren`t going anywhere. It`s the wealth that we have out there in
the waters is so much. They`re not going to leave. So, if they`re willing
to stand up, then I think a change can occur.
However, I don`t know why, but Louisiana politicians have been unwilling to
stand up to these companies and hold them responsible.
HARRIS-PERRY: My last question for you, Nailah, we sometimes talk about
the idea of a miner`s canary, that the miners would take the bird down into
the mine because those vulnerable communities would be impacted first and
then it affects everybody. Are these fishermen the miner`s canary in the
overall food system here in the U.S.?
JEFFERSON: Absolutely. I think so. They`re kind of at the bottom of the
totem poll I guess you could say. But eventually, we`ll feel the ripple
effects. We`re already starting to see it and we see along the Gulf Coast
with food prices rising, and it doesn`t seem like it`s getting better as
oyster harvests continue to drop because of the effects of the BP oil
HARRIS-PERRY: So let me pull out, Adrianna. We`ve heard now sort of -- we
have a clear sense of what this story is. Are these the kinds of --
Adrianna, are these the kinds of stories that can then be used effectively
before Congress or in impact work in order to actually move the needle on
the willingness to make policy?
QUINTERO: Absolutely. The human face is critical. We need to tell these
stories, and I think that this story is one of the most vivid.
The fossil fuel industry has a stranglehold on our government. I think
they have almost two lobbyists per member of Congress at this point.
That`s something that the public can never compete against. But until we
make that clear and bring these stories home, bring them to Congress, we
are not going to get rid of that stranglehold of these oil companies, the
coal companies. And, ultimately, it`s about controlling fossil fuels and
the carbon that they`re emitting into the atmosphere. We need to start
HARRIS-PERRY: So this goes back to the question of the short term versus
long term poverty. So, on the one hand, you have these oyster fishermen
who are basically in conflict with BP, but there`s lots of poor communities
where people are in the Gulf, where what people do is work for these gas
and oil industries.
If we ask them to behave more responsibly, do we take the jobs from one
group of poor people to another?
LEVI: So, we have to weigh cost and benefits in any of our strategies.
People are benefitting along the coast from the oil and gas companies. You
need to have the right rules for them. And part of the solution is to make
sure some of the rules, some of the standards are imposed at the federal
level where it`s at least a bit easier to enforce them.
Part of it is about switching from higher carbon to lower carbon fossil
fuels, displacing coal to natural gas. At the same time, as we push out
zero carbon fuels, renewable energy, both the tools we have today and into
the future. But that`s a sort of key point here is that we need to have
those immediate transitions and also build on longer ones at the same --
HARRIS-PERRY: But, David, Mary Landrieu is in a tough race right now,
right? So, like in a very real way, there`s a Democrat who represents in
the U.S. Senate Louisiana. If she comes out against BP, she loses her
JOHNSTON: I don`t think she needs to come out against BP. But she needs
to just point some ancient tradition that when you cause damage to others,
you pay for it in full. If you don`t do that, if you don`t require paying
it in full, that`s just not environmental pollution, that`s also economic
pollution that makes everyone worse off.
She should be promoting integrity in this process.
HARRIS-PERRY: Integrity, Louisiana politics.
HARRIS-PERRY: What madness you speaketh (ph) over there.
Nailah Jefferson in New Orleans, thank you for joining us this morning.
And also, thank you for the film, "Vanishing Pearls", which is going to
premiere on April 18.
Also thanks to Adrianna Quintero, to David Cay Johnston, to Michael Levi
and to Bjorn Lomborg.
My letter of the week is up next.
HARRIS-PERRY: On Tuesday, the Mississippi state legislature passed its own
version of the religious freedom bill that was vetoed in Arizona in
February by Governor Jan Brewer. That bill would have made it easier for
businesses to refuse service to LGBT customers.
The nationwide outcry from civil rights groups, LGBT groups, and most
impressively from the business community pressured Brewer into her veto of
the bill. But a version not far from what was too extreme for the governor
of Arizona, this is apparently just fine for the governor of Mississippi.
That`s why my letter this week is to Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant.
Dear, Governor Bryant. It`s me, Melissa.
You signed the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act on Thursday
and here`s what you said about the new law. That it will, quote, "protect
the individual religious freedom of Mississippians of all faiths from
Now, I`ve got to hand it to your party`s lawmakers, Governor. They were
able to avoid a national firestorm by making their bill`s language even
more vague than that of the Arizona bill. All the new Mississippi law says
is that persons can use their religious beliefs to challenge or defend
themselves against state law. It does not define person which the Arizona
bill did to include businesses. And it does not define the exercise of
religion beyond the first amendment of the U.S. constitution.
An earlier version of the bill which died in the outcry over Arizona had
defined religious exercise to include the refusal to act in a manner that
conflicts with one`s beliefs, like, say, refusing to take wedding photos
for a gay couple.
So, the whitewashing of the language was enough to placate the Mississippi
Chamber of Commerce which had originally opposed the bill. Therefore, it
But we see you, Governor. The ACLU says the bill will open the door for
individuals and businesses to use claims of religious freedom to
discriminate. We only have to look to Tony Perkins, the head of the Family
Research Council, who was at your side during the private bill signing to
get a clear example of just who the law will protect, like as Perkins said,
quote, "a wedding vendor whose orthodox Christian faith will not allow her
to affirm same-sex marriage."
Yes, we see you, Governor. And it`s not like the people of Mississippi are
under the thumb of onerous laws that protect LGBT people. Same-sex
marriage is banned in Mississippi by constitutional amendment. You can`t
even have a wedding for a vendor to refuse to work and you all -- can
already be discriminated against for your sexual orientation in
You can be fired or not hired just for being gay. You can be denied
So, Governor, what did you -- what you did was to make it even easier than
it already was to discriminate against LGBT Mississippians. To deny them
services available to everyone else. Basically you gave bigots yet another
avenue to dehumanize their LGBT neighbors.
That`s not all the religious freedom restoration act does. It also adds
the words "In God we trust" to the official state seal. Something that was
such a legislative priority that you made special reference to it in your
January State of the State address.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. PHIL BRYANT (R), MISSISSIPPI: With your help, the seal of the state
of Mississippi from this section forward will reflect the simple yet
profound words "In God we trust."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Governor, you made it a priority to add a few words to
the state seal, a priority for Mississippi where more than one in five
people live in poverty, more than any other state in the country -- the
state where people struggle more than in any other state to afford food,
the state with the shortest life expect tax si and the highest infant
mortality rate, the state with the second lowest high school graduation
rates and the lowest math and reading scores of any state.
In God we trust. But that goes both ways, Governor. The way God works, at
least in the Christian tradition which you and 84 percent of Mississippians
follow, the way God works is through his followers, feed my sheep, Jesus
said. So when you put Mississippi in God`s hands, Governor, you have to
hold up your end of the bargain.
HARRIS-PERRY: You have been listening to his music throughout our show
And now I want you to meet this week`s foot soldier, Aiden Thomas Hornaday.
He is 13 years old and started playing his brother`s harmonica at just 7.
During an impromptu jam session at the suburban Atlanta restaurant,
customers started tipping him by throwing money into his cap, much to
Aiden`s surprise. He collected $80 the first night and initially Aiden
says he thought about buying a video game.
But on second thought, he instead chose to help others and donated the
money to an international children`s charity. He soon became a fixture in
the community, donating his time and money to various charities and local
hospitals. He`s performed across the country, collecting and donating more
than $90,000 through his personal appearances and his Web site, Aiden
Cares. Very pleased to have Aiden Thomas Hornaday with me as today`s foot
AIDAN THOMAS HORNADAY, HARMONICA PLAYER: Good morning. How are you?
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, I have loved listening to your music. When did you
first begin to play? What drew you to this instrument?
HORNADAY: You know, it just kind of happened, I was 8 years old at the
time and I was snooping in my brother`s room, the one you were just talking
about, and I`m snooping around, you know? And, of course, he`s the older
brother so he didn`t enjoy me doing that and he said, I`ll make a deal with
you. If you leave my room right now, no questions asked, I`ll give you a
And I was like, all right, yes, I was going to leave anyway, so I might as
well get something and took it and ran. And before he could ask for it
back I started playing and fell in love instantly. And then it was the toy
and never left my mouth and since then, it was just kind of incredible.
HARRIS-PERRY: It is incredible, and as much as I could have you here, just
to talk about your role as a young musician --
HARRIS-PERRY: You are also a foot soldier, because the money you earn, you
contribute. Why make that decision?
HORNADAY: Because, you know, I feel like living to give is life`s greatest
answer and knowing that you`re really making a difference. And to where if
it`s children, adults, food, the earth, or no matter what it is that you
feel passionate about making a difference over, I just felt the need to
give, and just been incredible ever since.
HARRIS-PERRY: Tell me about Braden.
HORNADAY: Braden Martin is a little boy that we met, and I believe June of
the year of 2012 and incredible little boy. And we actually came through
him through Facebook, and got to love Facebook. And so we heard about him.
And I said, you know what, we`ll take him some harmonicas and visit him.
And we met him and he perked up and he said what have you got in your hand
and I gave it to him and he started playing and discovered they need a lot
more help than harmonicas. So we went to work and got a dealership to
donate them a brand new SUV.
HARRIS-PERRY: And that car is so his mom can go back and forth.
HORNADAY: And they didn`t really have a reliable car, and it was terrible.
They had to borrow the car every day. And it was awful.
And so we just wanted to really help them in the best way we could. And
it`s been great from the support of others we were able to make that
HARRIS-PERRY: Aiden, you represent in a million ways what all of us want
from our children which is that you have a talent and a gift, but even as a
young person, you recognize the need to share the fruits of that talent and
gift. So, it is lovely to have you here.
HORNADAY: Thank you for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you for playing for us today and thank you for being
our foot soldier.
HORNADAY: Yes, thank you so much.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you and you are welcome back to Nerdland any time.
Aidan Thomas Hornaday. That`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home
I`m going to see you tomorrow morning, 10:00 a.m. Eastern, when we`re going
to get into the debate that has been playing out largely online over the
past few weeks. It is a complicated debate about race in America. I hope
you will join us for that discussion. Ta-Nehisi Coates, the senior editor
at "The Atlantic" will be here, along with a number of other terrific
voices. We`re going to get into the great debate on this issue.
Right now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
Alex, isn`t he the best?
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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