Thomas Roberts   |  December 10, 2013

Closing the income gap

Ronan Farrow joins MSNBC to discuss the PR push for Obamacare, economic inequality and the GOP's economic agenda.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> pending host at msnbc, ronan farrow . we want to talk about a bunch of stuff. i guess you're in the group of young invincibles that this whole plan needs to bend the cost curve .

>> if you want a favorable risk pool and keep the costs down for everyone, that's the essential demographic.

>> have they been lost? can they be gotten back if they are lost?

>> there's a lot of partisan posturing on both sides. the reality is this wasn't the cataclysmic failure yet that republicans had hoped it would be. it also has not been the sound, immediate success that democrats hoped it would be. what people need precedent for this, romney care in massachusetts, showed us that we don't have any sense for sign-up rates until the end, because that's when especially those young, healthy individuals who don't urgently need the health care sign up. so we've already seen a radical change in the rate of sign-up in the first several days of december. we saw more people sign up than did in all of the previous two months. if that trend continues, it's not inconceivable that the white house could make its benchmarks. until then they still have egg on their faces but i think the fight is not over yet.

>> the whole fight from the republican side was not to get it entrenched so they could do something with it, but it seems like it's here and not going anywhere.

>> that's the thing that is for people who are opponents of this policy frightening. once an entitlement is in place, it's very hard to take it away from people.

>> income inequality , you probably saw "the new york times" cover story today which i have right here in front of me. it says more than 22,000 homeless children in the city of new york . now, according to the article, about 50% of kids in new york city leave near or below the poverty line. pretty shocking numbers. across the country it's one in every five. so i'm not going to just ask you how to fix the problem because it's a huge problem that's going to take a generation or more to deal with. where would you start?

>> i think the important thing to remember is that this administration is focusing on this in a way that is quite unprecedented. about five days ago president obama called this the defining challenge of our time, specifically income inequality . the upper 10% of americans is making 50% of the income in the country. all of those solutions are incredibly difficult to stomach. they mean increasing the minimum wage which in turn may mean more expensive goods for americans . it means reducing executive compensation , which means pissing off a lot of very powerful people. it means things like increasing revenues, which obviously is a very hard sell .

>> i came from cnbc, and when they talk about redistribution of wealth, they literally break out in hives and that's the type of thing. is that the only thing that can accomplish closing the gap? is that really -- you have to just do that? or are there other things like what bill clinton did with welfare to workers, some other things that could maybe do other than just that?

>> i think that a robust welfare state can actually create a safety net for people and that can allow people to pull themselves up out of the bottom percentage points we're talking about but all of those have acute costs associated with them. so americans need to balance when they talk about their outrage at that income inequality , are they willing to pay the piper.

>> there's the question who's the biggest barrier to income inequality and it refers to the top 2% of adults who become rich for part of their lives. they have outside influence on america's economy and politics. they're more liberal than lower income groups on issues like abortion and gay marriage , but when it comes to money, they're wary of any government role to close the gap . they're against extending unemployment benefits, against raising minimum wage , in favor of cutting medicaid and food stamps . you're more of a policy guy than a political guy. is it a policy problem more than a political problem?

>> it should be seen as a policy problem. the problem is, because it so closely resembles ideological touchstones like the american dream and retaining the wealth that you earn, it becomes a dogmatic issue and right/left issue. it should be seen as a cut and dry policy issue so when people aren't in school that is a policy challenge when people are less competitive. when people aren't getting jobs that's a policy problem because it creates strain on the state.

>> but congress, as you talk about it, is not doing anything.

>> it's not doing anything. this is the least productive congress that we've ever had in american history . i think until we create metrics for job success that are built into the structure of how we treat our members of congress, that's not going to change. warren buffett has come out and proposed that actual sitting members of congress be ineligible for re-election if they don't beat search benchmarks, like the deficit being beneath a certain percentage of the gdp. it's a lot.

>> or certain congressman who get a lot of air time like paul ryan and that's a taste of what we'll see pretty soon. ronan, thanks