Guests: Ryan Clayton, Justin Ruben, Rob Andrews, Ezra Klein, Marcus Baram,
CENK UYGUR, HOST: Welcome to the show, everybody.
We had a lot of protests over the weekend, in all 50 states, and then we had uncut protests. We‘re going to tell you about that in a second. I want to fill you in on everything that‘s going on.
First, the outrage of the governor of Wisconsin‘s brutal union-busting budget bill is still going strong. This morning, Governor Scott Walker‘s administration locked down the capitol. They‘re no longer allowing any protesters in.
Now, he took this drastic step after an astonishing weekend of rallies. Madison saw its biggest protests yet on Saturday. More than 70,000 people braved the snow and freezing temperatures to stand up for their rights. And they weren‘t alone.
Thousands of people showed up in capitals across the country to show their solidarity with the Wisconsin workers. In addition to the union rallies, this weekend saw the birth of a separate movement, of people-powered protests that some are calling the liberal version of the Tea Party because it‘s actually about real populism, not one paid for by billionaires like the Koch brothers.
Now, the movement is called Uncut and is modeled after a grassroots effort in the United Kingdom that publicizes companies that avoid paying taxes by staging protests designed to disrupt their daily operations. And the new U.S. group has plenty of potential targets to choose from. Why? Because a report from the Government Accountability Office shows that between 1998 and 2005, two-thirds of U.S. corporations paid no taxes.
Now, come on. What are the chances that two-thirds of companies didn‘t have to pay taxes? They made money. They avoided taxes. And in 2008, 83 of the 100 largest public corporations in the U.S. used offshore accounts—that‘s tax havens—to hide income to avoid taxation.
Now, look, when you don‘t pay your taxes, you go to jail. You‘re called a tax cheat and they say hay dare you! That is so immoral. When corporations do it, they‘re just avoiding taxes.
Well, isn‘t that pleasant? Wouldn‘t you like to avoid your taxes?
Too bad you don‘t have an offshore account in the Cayman Islands.
So, it makes a lot of sense for these Uncut people to say how about they pay their taxes, and then we could have real shared pain. And by the way, taxes shouldn‘t be pain. They should be normal. We all pay them. Why don‘t they pay them?
So, this weekend, the Uncut protests targeted Bank of America. Why?
Well, get a load of this.
Bank of America got $45 billion in taxpayer-funded bailout money.
Now, that‘s a lot of money.
Well, it turns out that in 2009, their profit was $4.4 billion. Now, I would make $4.4 billion, too, if I wound up getting all that money for free, basically. But by using various tax loopholes, they paid zero in taxes, nada, zilch, squat.
In fact, are you ready for this? They actually received $1.9 billion in tax benefits.
Now, how would you like to have tax benefits? I would love to have that, too.
Why, Mr. Uygur, you have received a tax benefit today. But unfortunately, I didn‘t buy any politicians, so I don‘t get that.
Now, Uncut members shoed up in cities from New York to San Francisco and had some success from their first time out. In San Francisco, dozens of protesters stood in line to cash fake checks that would cover Bank of America‘s unpaid taxes. That action alone resulted in the branch shutting down briefly saying, OK, OK, I got it, I got it. You bring in these fake checks.
And look, they wanted to disrupt their business to make a point. And they did.
Now, with the Wisconsin protests, and now these Uncut protests, liberals are finally getting energized, which I love. Real, middle class people are turning out in droves to fight for their rights.
We talked about it last week. Don‘t wait for anyone from D.C. Don‘t wait for any politicians. You get out there, you effect change. And now they‘re doing it all across the country.
So, now to help me talk about that is Ryan Clayton. He‘s the co-founder of the U.S. Uncut, and he was at the Washington, D.C., protest over the weekend.
Also joining me is Justin Ruben. He‘s the executive director of MoveOn.org.
All right, Ryan. Let me start with you.
Tell me more about U.S. Uncut. What is the main mission here?
RYAN CLAYTON, CO-FOUNDER, U.S. UNCUT: Well, hey, Cenk. First of all, thanks for having me. I‘m a big fan of the show.
U.S. Uncut is a grassroots organization that self-organizes through social media. And we call out corporate tax dollars so we don‘t have to go and cut valuable public services.
UYGUR: All right. Now, so you‘re calling these things out. What is your ultimate goal?
CLAYTON: Our goal is to have the politicians make the decision they should have made years ago, which is to pass the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act and make sure that, you know, companies like Bank of America can‘t make $4.4 billion in 2009 and then pay zero dollars in income taxes, because that is a real cost to us as the community. You know, if they pay their tax bill in 2009 alone, we could avoid $1.7 billion in early childhood education tax cuts and Head Start and Title 1 programs.
You know, I think that‘s a choice worth making.
UYGUR: Justin, I know MoveOn was instrumental in the Wisconsin protests and the protests across the country. You know, talking about Wisconsin, corporate income tax-dodging in Wisconsin alone apparently cost $113 million in lost revenue, and an Internet sales tax loophole cost $127 million in lost revenue. And, by the way, the budget deficit was only $137 million for 2011.
JUSTIN RUBEN, EXEC. DIRECTOR, MOVEON.ORG: And I understand that. You know, this budget crisis, they made it worse by actually giving a new tax break to corporations, you know, immediately before launching into this tax on worker rights that was supposedly because of the budget crisis.
UYGUR: Right. Walker talked about giving away about $140 million in tax breaks, loopholes, et cetera, et cetera.
So what do you make of this? Do you think that if people get together like this—I mean, obviously in Wisconsin, it‘s having some effect, because in Ohio and Indiana, et cetera, they‘ve stopped momentum of going after public unions. But with Uncut, do you think that they could have also a further effect in saying, hey, you know what? Maybe the giant corporations should also pay their fair share?
RUBEN: Well, I think what‘s happening in Washington and around the country is exactly the same thing that‘s happening in Wisconsin. It‘s that Republicans are so bent on giving tax breaks to corporations and to their millionaire backers, that they‘re willing to literally, in the new Republican budget, they‘re going to take food away from pregnant women and children who are hungry in order to safeguard their corporate tax breaks.
So, you know, I think what US Uncut is doing is great. We had over 150,000 people—at the same time that those protests were happening drawing attention to these banks that aren‘t paying their fair share, we had 150,000 people around the country just standing up to say look, the American dream is under attack. We are not going to stand for this anymore. And all of it really inspired by what‘s happening in Wisconsin.
UYGUR: So what‘s MoveOn‘s next plans?
RUBEN: Well, I think over the next couple of weeks, we have to turn our attention, even as we continue to stand in solidarity with the brave folks in Wisconsin, to what‘s happening in Washington, D.C., because Republicans have proposed this budget. You know, not only are they going to cut aid to pregnant women and children, they‘re going to cut education, they want to cut health care, all of it, to pay for tax cuts for the rich.
And they said they‘re going to shut down the government to do it. And we have about two weeks to stop that. And I think over the next couple of weeks, we‘re going to be working to raise awareness about what‘s happening and make sure all of that anger gets heard in Washington.
UYGUR: All right.
Ryan, you guys handed out $1.5 billion checks in San Francisco. Tell me what that was about. Why that number?
CLAYTON: Well, that was a great local organizer, Joanne Gifford (ph), who had a great idea. And they went and they kept cashing $1.5 billion checks at the Bank of America location, which effectively shut down the bank. And it was a great idea that we‘re going to replicate all across the country.
So, Bank of America, get ready. We‘re coming back, and we‘re coming back soon.
I‘d encourage everybody to go to usuncut.org. And if there‘s not local events in your area, create them join them. Be out there with us, because we‘re going to make this point that if they would just do this one thing, if they would just make corporations pay their fair share, we could solve every state budget crisis without cutting one more teacher.
We could fix the federal budget without touching Social Security. And we could put millions of Americans back to work and drive down unemployment. You know, we pay our taxes. Why don‘t they?
UYGUR: All right. Ryan, you know, a lot of people will say hey, wait a minute, disrupting businesses, we can‘t have that. That‘s un-American. How dare you? They‘ve got to keep making money.
How do you respond to that?
CLAYTON: I say cheating is un-American, you know? And billionaire corporations have already abandoned America for foreign tax havens. And they pay zero dollars in income taxes here in America, and they keep their profits in international banks, and they ship millions of jobs overseas. That is simply un-American.
UYGUR: All right.
Last question for you, Justin.
UYGUR: You know, I know that a lot of Democrats in the Senate are
already mid-buckle on these spending cuts. So how do you fight back when -
RUBEN: There‘s always hope. There‘s always hope.
UYGUR: OK, but how do you fight back? I mean, just maybe not even short term, but also long term? Because in the short term, the Democrats will buckle. Look, I‘m keeping it real.
RUBEN: Well, look, the debate over the economy has been really one-sided in this country for the last couple years. It‘s are we going to have massive terrible cuts or a lot of cuts. Right?
RUBEN: So, I mean, I think we have to come out and articulate the alternative, which is exactly what Ryan is talking about, that we should be investing in education, investing in health care, and, you know, making sure that corporations and the rich pay their fair share.
And I think the wave of energy that you‘re seeing around the country -
look, in Wisconsin, 14 Democrats stood up and did the right thing. And they did that because the people came out and demanded it. So I think we have to look to Democrats in Washington to do the exact same thing.
UYGUR: Right. Whether it‘s short term or long term, if you keep showing up, at some point somebody winds up having the courage to actually back you up.
So, Ryan Clayton from Uncut, and MoveOn.org‘s Justin Ruben, thank you so much for joining us tonight, guys. We really appreciate it.
RUBEN: Thanks a lot.
CLAYTON: Thanks for having us.
RUBEN: Yes, thanks a lot.
UYGUR: All right.
Now, the Republican war on jobs is worse than we actually thought. A new report just released says that their budget plan would kill 700,000 jobs.
Great jobs plan, Mr. Boehner.
Plus, a tragic story that needs to be heard. Two children die in a fire after budget cuts force a fire house in Philadelphia to be shut down.
See? Sometimes these cuts have terrible, real-life effects. We‘re going to tell you about that.
And armed on campus. Less than two months after six people were killed in Tucson, the state of Arizona, of all states, follows Texas in a push to allow guns on campus.
My commentary on why that might be the worst idea of all time.
UYGUR: Throughout the anti-union battle in Wisconsin, Republicans have been throwing out a lot of falsehoods so they can make the middle class shoulder the burden of the budget deficit. That‘s been their plan all along.
Now, for example, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels recently said public employees didn‘t deserve collective bargaining rights because they were the privileged elite. That‘s a joke.
Now, he double downed on that this weekend on “Fox News Sunday.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”: Question: teachers, public safety officers, the privileged elite?
GOV. MITCH DANIELS ®, INDIANA: Across America, Chris, we‘ve had a huge inversion. There may have been a time a century ago where public employees were mistreated or vulnerable and many—and underpaid. If that was ever a problem, we have over-fixed it. Not everywhere, but in many places. And as you know very well, public employees in America, most decidedly federal employees, but everywhere, are better paid than the taxpayer who pays their salary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: That is absolutely wrong. Governor Daniels is doing what Republicans always do on this issue, making a purposefully misleading comparison. He‘s comparing apples and oranges. Let me explain.
It‘s true that when you average out all public employees‘ salaries and compare them to private employees‘ salaries, public employees make a little more. But you can‘t legitimately make that direct comparison, because public employees, on average, are also more educated.
It‘s like saying, can you believe government workers at the Veterans Administration make more money than private sector jobs in, for example, plumbing. Right? Well, yes, I can believe that, because a lot of the government workers at the V.A. are doctors. Doctors make more than plumbers.
When you actually compare the earnings of a public and private employee with the same level of education, it turns out, of course, the results are the complete opposite.
In 2008, state workers earned 11 percent less than private workers who had a comparable level of education. And local government workers earned 12 percent less than their private counterparts.
So, that is, of course, the opposite of what Republicans have been telling you all along. Now you know the truth.
Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, the provisions in Governor Walker‘s budget bill would also amount to an equivalent of an eight percent cut in public employees‘ salaries. That‘s already on top of salaries that were already less than the private sector. And remember, the unions have already agreed to that eight percent pay cut.
Walker is still holding out on collective bargaining anyway, and he‘s saying if he doesn‘t get it, he‘ll lay off workers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. SCOTT WALKER ®, WISCONSIN: If we fail to pass this bill by Tuesday, we lose $165 million worth of savings. And if we continue down that path, we start seeing layoffs.
I know that was one of the most difficult decisions I ever had to make when I was a county official, was considering layoffs. I would go to almost any ends to avoid that. And my hope is, at least one of those 14 state senators feel the same way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: He can avoid that so easily by taking the deal. He wants to do it. You heard him on the Koch call. He‘s like, oh, I can‘t wait to threaten the layoffs.
So Governor Walker would rather lay off thousands of his state‘s workers than compromise even a lit bit. Even after the other size has already agreed to the pay cut.
But the same thing is happening on the national level.
Mark Zandi of Moody‘s Analytics estimates the House Republicans‘ $61 billion in budget cuts would cost the U.S. economy 700,000 jobs. If they‘re not cutting your salary, they‘re costing you your job. And these guys ran on creating jobs.
Now do you see what a joke that was?
Speaker Boehner, words you might be familiar with—where are the jobs?
Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Rob Andrews of New Jersey.
Congressman, why would the spending cuts translate into more jobs lost in the country?
REP. ROBERT ANDREWS (D), NEW JERSEY: Because these would cut education, they would cut vital services to the country on which the private sector relies to make the country go.
I‘ll use an example. They have hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to the National Institute of Health that does cancer research. When a cancer research grant gets cut—and 3,000 of them would be cut by this Republican budget—who gets laid off? Researchers at universities, at hospitals, at other institutions who do this kind of work.
This is not just about a bunch of public employees. It‘s about people working for corporations, defense contractors, universities, hospitals. And that‘s why we would lose 700,000 jobs in the economy if this went through.
UYGUR: Congressman, of course Eric Cantor does not agree. He says—let me give you a quote here—“I have seen several reports of Mark Zandi this morning saying that cutting spending would somehow cost hundreds of thousands of jobs. I would also note that Mr. Zandi was the chief proponent of the Obama/Reid/Pelosi stimulus bill that we know has failed to deliver on the promise that unemployment would not rise above eight percent.”
How do you respond to that?
ANDREWS: Well, Mr. Zandi was also chief economic adviser to the John McCain for President Campaign. He didn‘t seem to be such a bad guy then.
And look, I would say it‘s common sense. If you‘re helping people go to college and get a good college education, and they‘re better skilled to do a job for a company, is the company going to be better off or worse off if the employee doesn‘t get a college educate education?
And also, there‘s direct layoffs. Head Start teachers—one of the most absurd things about this is that we‘re handing oil companies at least $40 billion in taxpayers‘ money in giveaways. And we‘re laying off Head Start teachers and cutting back Pell Grant college scholarships for students? That‘s a tradeoff that Mr. Cantor apparently wants to make. We do not and the public does not.
UYGUR: Congressman Andrews, we just had Justin Ruben from MoveOn, on here in the last segment. And he says it seems like the battle is between Republicans saying they want massive cuts and the Democrats saying they just want a lot of cuts. He‘s asking whether we can change the conversation and go back to putting the tax cuts on the table and say, hey, maybe we should look at the revenue side of this and we shouldn‘t be so unbalanced.
ANDREWS: We want anywhere the taxpayers‘ money is wasted done away with. We think giving away money to oil companies is a waste. We think giving money to companies that outsource American jobs is a waste. We think building military bases throughout Europe by and large is a waste. And we are ready to do away with those things.
We understand we don‘t want a dollar of taxpayers‘ money wasted. But when you disinvest in education, when you disinvest in health care, when you‘re not doing the research and development of the future, then you‘re cutting jobs from the private sector economy in this country. That‘s why the Republican budget cuts are so reckless and lack support from the public of this country.
UYGUR: Congressman Andrews, how about a different proposal? Instead of going back to the tax cut issue, which I would love to go back to, but it seems like that ship has unfortunately sailed for the time being, how about we do the uncut model where they say, all right, look—and this is my proposal—let‘s do a deal? Right?
Now, you guys want to do spending cuts. I understand we need to do some spending cuts. But we will do those spending cuts if you go and agree to take the money out of tax havens that so many corporations -- 83 out of the top 100 corporations—are hiding in those tax havens.
Now, turn to the Republicans and say, you‘ve got to take that deal, right? Do you take it?
ANDREWS: We agree. And there was an amendment we had on the floor two weeks ago Ed Markey from Massachusetts put forward that said the following: there are oil companies that drill on publicly-owned lands for free. They pay no royalties because of a law done in the late 1990s when oil prices were $20 a barrel.
We said, look, in case you haven‘t noticed, it‘s $100 a barrel. You guys made $77 billion in profit last year.
We say, no more leases for you guys until you pay what they‘re really worth. And not surprisingly, essentially every Republican voted against that proposal.
That‘s what you‘re talking about. It‘s these oil companies that are getting a free ride at the expense of the American taxpayer no longer being able to do that.
UYGUR: Congressman, let me ask you one more question.
I know that the Republicans already won in the House. Is it possible that your colleagues in the Senate can say hey, listen, we‘re just not going to do the deal unless you agree to also have the pain shared by the oil companies, the banks, the corporations that are hiding the money off shore? We‘re just not going to do the deal unless you agree to that. Take it to the American people, and my guess is that you would win.
ANDREWS: You know, maybe they could. And they didn‘t win in the House. They passed a bill that was dead on arrival in the Senate. They‘re going to have to go back to the American public and justify this.
And my prediction, at the end of the day, the Republicans will blink, because two-thirds of the public doesn‘t want us to walk away from education, from health care, from the things that make this country go. You know, they‘re pleasing their base right now because they have to fire them up, but they‘re not pleasing the American people. And when people see the reality of these cuts, I think our side is going to win this argument.
UYGUR: All right. Congressman Rob Andrews, thank you for your time tonight.
ANDREWS: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
UYGUR: All right.
Now, coming up, Haley Barbour says he watched Martin Luther King Jr. speak as a teen in his hometown. Except King was never there. Did Barbour have a dream?
We‘re going to do a fact-check ahead.
And here we go again. Newt is gearing up for a run. So, naturally, he‘s talking impeachment.
We‘re not kidding. We‘ll tell you why next.
UYGUR: Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour‘s memory of the civil rights era might be a little hazy. In December, Barbour told “The Weekly Standard” that he was on hand for a 1962 speech that Martin Luther King Jr. delivered in Barbour‘s hometown, Yazoo City.
Just one problem. One of King‘s biographers, David Garrow, now says there are no records showing King actually spoke in Yazoo City in 1962. A spokesman for Barbour says the governor may have gotten the years wrong, but he did see him at some point while he was in high school. Barbour went to high school through 1965.
Here‘s the second problem. King wasn‘t in Yazoo City in 1962 or ‘63 or ‘64 or ‘65. King did finally make an appearance in Yazoo City in 1966 but he also didn‘t speak in public then either. He met with civil rights leaders behind the scenes. My guess is Haley Barbour wasn‘t at those meetings. Can‘t you imagine, budget civil right leaders and a teenager Haley Barbour comes, hey, how are you guys doing? No, that‘s not it went down.
And if you remember Mitt Romney had made up something similar to this in 2007 when he claimed that he saw his father march with Reverend King. That was also not true. So why do they do it? Because it‘s all they got. They say basically I don‘t agree with any of the civil rights leaders now and I don‘t agree with current civil rights legislation, but hey, I once saw Martin Luther King. Is that good enough? No, it‘s not. I once saw Jenny Craig. It doesn‘t make me skinny. Now, here comes Newt Gingrich again. He‘s reportedly forming a presidential exploratory committee, so of course, the game plan is to go more extreme. So he‘s going back to his olds playbook—impeachment. Last week, the administration announced, they will no longer be defending cases brought under the defense of marriage amendment. Here‘s how Gingrich responded to President Obama‘s decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: He swore an author on a bible to become president that he would uphold the constitution and enforce the laws of the United States. He‘s not a one-person Supreme Court. The idea that we now have the rule of Obama instead of the rule of law should frighten everybody. Imagine that Governor Palin had become president, imagine that she would announced that Roe versus Wade in her judgment was unconstitutional. And therefore the United States government would no longer protect anyone‘s right to have an abortion because she personally had decided, it should be change. The news media would gone crazy, “The New York Times” would have demanded her impeachment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: When asked directly if he was calling for impeachment, he said Obama‘s action, quote, “cannot be allowed to stand.” Now, of course, the Bush administration often chose which laws to defend or not in court. And the analogy of Sarah Palin and Roe versus Wade has absolutely nothing to do with this. But, of course, Bush was a republican, so talking about his impeachment would have been un-American. Impeaching Democrats for the same things or for no apparent reason, well, that‘s apparently an American tradition, at least according to Newt.
Now, up next, a serious topic. Sometimes budget cuts lead to tragedy. A fire in Philadelphia killed two kids and it might have been because there were, quote, “rolling brownouts of fire stations.” Draconian cuts have real-life consequences and we‘re going to tell you about them. And Philadelphia firefighter Mike Kane will join us live and a Washington Post Ezra Klein on why the republican cuts matter to you. That‘s next.
UYGUR: We talk a lot about budget battles on this show, whether it‘s in Wisconsin, in Washington or all across the country. But I want you to know that this isn‘t just about facts and figures. Real numbers have real consequences. Sometimes instead a teacher gets paid $5,000 less per year, as happened in Wisconsin and they can‘t afford to take their kids on vacation anymore. Well, sometimes it‘s even worse. Some of our current spending cuts have been so extreme, they have cut to the core of what our government is supposed to provide.
Remember, the government‘s core mission is to protect its citizens. Everyone can agree to that. Conservatives and liberals alike. For example, the government provides for national defense to protect citizens from threats abroad. The government provides for police to protect people from threats of violence at home. It provides for firefighters to protect citizens from disaster. Now, fires societal interest has been an individual one. This fire spread and your neighbor‘s bad wiring can take out the whole block, or in the old days, the whole city.
And then there‘s the FDA and the EPA to make sure your food and water don‘t kill you. And as you see, to make sure that the bankers don‘t rob you. It‘s all to protect the citizens. The government is supposed to protect you from foreign invaders and local muggers and poisoning your food, and your water, and your air. That‘s job one. So, can government be too large? Of course it can. But can it also be too small? Also, of course. But Republicans claim that governments almost always bloated, useless and freedom restricting. Look, that‘s obviously absurd but there‘s a reason why they do that. Just yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner called cutting government a moral responsibility.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOEHNER, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We have a moral responsibility to address the problems that we face. And that means working together to cut spending and to rein in government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Now, why do they want to cut government so bad? Sometimes it‘s because we have budget problems. Everybody gets that. But other times it‘s because a campaign contributor doesn‘t want top cops on Wall Street, or wants life regulation at the EPA, so they can pollute a little more to make an extra buck. And sometimes just because they‘re old fashion greedy and they want to pay a little less taxes no matter how much money they make. Now, ironically, Republicans flip it on its head and say that it is immoral not to cut government services. But do you want to see what‘s really immoral?
In New Jersey, Republican Chris Christie made a so-called tough choice to cut funding for police in the crime-ridden city of Camden. Of course, he did that rather than raise taxes on the rich. Now, do you want to see the results? As a result, Camden laid off 46 percent of their police force. That‘s 167 cops. They also laid off 60 firefighters at the end of last month. The result? The “Cherry Hill Courier Post” reports the number of shootings has doubled over the last year. Doubled. And other violent crimes have also gone up. One local Camden woman said, quote, “People are already getting jumped left and right because criminals know they can get away with it.”
Now across the river in Philadelphia, the consequence of budget cuts might be having even more dire consequences. A fire break out last week, at a home in northeast intersection of the city. The closest fire station is Engine 61, just over a mile away. But Engine 61 was closed on Tuesday. It‘s what they call a brownout and it was done to cut costs. So, the nearest fire station wasn‘t able to respond to the call. That meant the call went to Engine 51, which is almost two miles away. Normally that might be a distance that doesn‘t make much of a difference. Except in cases of fires where it makes a huge difference.
The fire trucks didn‘t get there in time and two little kids, a 7-year-old and a 9-year-old were killed in the fire. Now, did the budget cuts contribute to their deaths? Here‘s what firefighter Mike Kane of the Philadelphia Firefighters Union said, quote, “Whether that engine 61 being browned out, if that company was in service, they would have made a difference?” He doesn‘t know. “But nobody can answer that,” he said, “because we don‘t have a crystal ball.” What we can say is, “maybe if they were there, they would have had a shot. Maybe them kids would have had a shot.”
Cutting spending definitely has a moral component. I‘m just not sure it‘s the kind John Boehner was talking about. I‘m not just blaming this on Republicans. Look, Philadelphia is clearly a democratic city, but spending cuts do trickle down. When the federal government and then the state government keep taking away money from your budget, at some point you run out of money for vital, vital services. Cutting isn‘t always the answer. But when you‘ve cut to the bone and you‘re risking the lives of your citizens, maybe, just maybe, it‘s time to look at the other side of the equation and say, we need to raise revenue so that we can at least provide for the core mission of our government. That‘s protecting our citizens.
Joining me now is Mike Kane, the man we just told you about. He‘s a battalion chief of the Philadelphia Fire Department and also chairman of the trustees with the Philadelphia Firefighters Union. Mike, talk to me about the engines being closed down in different times here. Engine 61 was closed down on that date. What are they doing in Philadelphia exactly?
MIKE KANE, PHILADELPHIA FIREFIGHTER: Exactly what they‘re doing, Cenk is they have rolling brownouts. So one day, a company from maybe Oak Lane is browned out. The next day, it‘s from Allyne (ph), the next day, it might be north Philly. And they rotate that about every five days. Where that company has browned out, and basically what the city does in doing and that where the unions intention is, they‘re throwing a round in a chamber and they‘re playing Russian roulette with the safety of the citizens of Philadelphia, not only the citizens of Philadelphia, but also the firefighters.
Our union contention is very simple, fire spreads exponentially. That means a fire doubles every 30 seconds. So, not only is it more dangerous for the people whose houses are on fire or maybe trapped in a fire, it‘s also more dangerous for the firefighters showing up. Because instead of getting to a fire in its incipient stage in the very beginning, if we will have a two or three minute delay, then we might wind up going to a fire that‘s a well evolved fire, not only putting the citizens in danger but also putting our firefighters in danger.
UYGUR: Right. Now, you have cuts in Philadelphia over in Camden, they actually had laid off 60 firefighters. In one of the cases, two fires broke out at the same time. They couldn‘t get them both. Our neighboring city had to send firemen over. It took 30 minutes to get to a child development center. How much can a fire spread in 30 minutes if it spreads exponentially in 30 seconds, Mike?
KANE: Well, what you have to understand and invite your entire listening audience, everybody in this nation to go to our Web site www.iaff22.org. And on there, we have a video. It‘s called seconds count. And it‘s not some union video that was made with trick photography, United Laboratories did this study and they did this video to show just how fast fire progression is. And you will see a smoldering chair in a corner of room, and in two minutes the entire room is engulfed in flames. That‘s what we‘re talking about.
So, when you have those kinds of delays in response times, you know, that latest fire, that Engine 61, the Fire Commission have said that the first arriving units were there within five minutes. But what he didn‘t explain was the first arriving unit was a battalion chief. Now, the battalion chief comes up in an SUV. He doesn‘t have any water to put on the fire, he doesn‘t have any ladders. The ladder to get the people out of the fire, get out of the building. What he has is his communications. So, what he does is he pulls up, he gets on the radio, he gives natures and conditions and then he gives orders for incoming companies. He cannot do any physical firefighting.
UYGUR: All right. Mike, last question for you, real quick. Some Republicans have called you guys the elites because you‘re part of the public unions. How do you feel about that?
KANE: Well, my thing is when they talk about the money, what the people have to understand is for decades, firefighters and police officers have taken less money to ensure better benefits. And then we get to a point where, wait a minute, your benefits are too rich. The “Firehouse Magazine” did a study about a firefighter‘s pay in Philadelphia and we were about 35th in the nation in pay. So, our thing is, we have to understand is 33 years ago when I came on this job, there was 2,850 firefighters. Today, we have 1,900 firefighters and about 200 paramedics. In my 33 years, I have seen 21 companies close and that‘s not counting the brownouts that we‘re doing now. We‘re spread thinner than anything. When the Commissioner Ari went to a last city council meeting, at a budget meeting, he said, we are cut to the bone and then he turns around and offers Camden our help. If we can‘t protect our own citizens, how are we going to protect the citizens of Camden?
UYGUR: All right. Philadelphia firefighter Mike Kane, thank you for joining us tonight. A compelling story.
KANE: Thank you very much.
UYGUR: We appreciate it. Joining me now is Ezra Klein who writes about budget issues and domestic policy for the Washington Post. He‘s also an MSNBC contributor. Ezra, look, I want to try by this on a national levels, some of these cuts are not just for budget cuts, they have a political agenda when they cut the EPA or the SEC.
EZRA KLEIN, THE WASHINGTON POST: It‘s not just all about that money, unfortunately. You could see things that could plan parenthood cuts, you see that things like the EPA cuts, there are a number of things that we are doing in the budget and the spending bill the GOP has putting forward, that don‘t save a lot of money, but fulfill a treasured GOP objective. And those things can be a little bit dangerous. You brought this up earlier on your introduction when you said that sometimes, if you don‘t have say, financial regulators on the job, you can save a couple bucks in salary but then we have financial crisis and it costs the country trillions. And that‘s the sort of things we have to worry about here. It‘s one thing to talk about, not a government spending we need to do, and how we need to apportion it. But when we are using government spending, as an excuse to achieve other ideological objectives, you have to worry a little bit about how that‘s all going to come out in the wash if we even really discussed what the underlying intention really is.
UYGUR: And Ezra, one more thing. Well, the national cuts sometimes they affect state and local jurisdictions as well. Tell me about that.
KLEIN: Yes. So, the federal government is currently supporting a ton of state spending. But we‘re basically doing as we are handing states money and saying here, use this to not fire a teacher. When we take that money away, what do they do? They fire a teacher. Now, we think such a good thing and bad thing but we need to understand, that when we take that money, state and local budgets are going to basically collapse. Right now, Goldman Sachs is saying that the GOP bill would cut two percentage points, 1.5 to two percentage point from GDP growth in the latter part of the year.
That money is basically means we‘re going to have much less job growth, much as GDP growth and a worse economy as we go through it. So, when the GOP came in and said they‘re going to create jobs and now Goldman Sachs says, you‘re coming in, you‘re going to destroy—growth mark, and he says, you can risk for 700,000 jobs. You have to ask what he underlying economic theory is here. Could be ideological, could be about cutting spending. But whatever it is, it ain‘t what they said it was, we‘re just creating jobs, creating growth and getting the economy back on its feet.
UYGUR: All right. Ezra Klein, thanks for your time tonight. We appreciate it.
KLEIN: Thank you.
UYGUR: Up next, freedom comes with a cost. We expose ties between American business and Moammar Gadhafi. Why some people might not be keen on changing Libya.
UYGUR: Were some of our big oil companies keeping Gadhafi in power?
Amazing details when we return.
UYGUR: Defense Secretary Robert Gates gave a speech at West Point last Friday, he had some strong words for American officials who might one day think about using the U.S. military to fight a ground war. Now, take a listen to what Gates told the cadets.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: But in my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: But that‘s what we did twice. We went into Iraq, we went into Afghanistan. He‘ saying we should have our head examined. And by the way, we‘re still in those places, especially Afghanistan. We don‘t have a real withdraw plan now. That‘s our defense secretary. Are you saying President Obama should have his head examined for staying there? I don‘t know. It‘s an interesting question. The DNC also passed the resolution encouraging President Obama to commit to a speedy withdraws. ABC news poll just a couple months ago, 60 percent said the war has not been worth it. It‘s the defense secretary, it‘s the DNC, and by the way, Gates is a republican. It‘s the majority of the country, we‘re all agreed, let‘s get out of there.
All right. When we come back, we‘re going to talk more about Libya. Do our American business interests decide or help to decide what happens in that country? We‘ll talk about that. It‘s a really interesting story when we return.
UYGUR: The fight in Libya isn‘t just about democracy. It‘s also about giant American corporations happy to do business with Colonel Gadhafi. Corporations that are probably more than a little worried about what might follow his regime. Now, why rock the boat when you‘re making plenty of money with this regime? Now, these companies have been doing business with Libya since President Bush dropped sanctions against the country in 2004. In ‘05, they formed the U.S. Libya Business Association. The group included BP, which of course, a foreign company as well, ExxonMobil, Halliburton, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman. And guess what, trade with Libya in 2010 has blossomed all up to $2.7 billion. Now, that‘s a lot of money to protect. And Libyan government has also paid more than $2 million in ‘08 and ‘09 to these three lobbying groups. The Livingstone Group, White and Case, Blank Rome.
Since then, Livingstone group has been dropped. They say that they dropped Libya, Libya says they dropped them. But overall, these firms have vested interest in doing business with the current regime. They make money from it. And what are the consequences to making all these money from Libya? Well, you‘re investing to make sure that there‘s no change. Now, here‘s a quote from Ibrahim Sahad, he‘s the secretary general of the National Conference of the Libyan Opposition. He says, quote, “We found ourselves at odds with the pressure groups of these American companies.” And previous officials in other administrations that took part in these groups. They think about oil. They take their own interest into account. They don‘t care about human rights.
Now, some companies didn‘t wait until 2004 to wait to do business with Libya. One was Halliburton. Then lead by Dick Cheney. Before Cheney became Vice President, he was already pressuring the Clinton government to ease sanctions on Libya. Then in 1995, Halliburton agreed to a $3.8 million fine for violating a ban on export to Gadhafi‘s government. In fact, they sold parts for nuclear weapons. That‘s pretty bad. Now, here‘s what Dick Cheney said in 1998, just a couple of years later when he was CEO of Halliburton. Quote, “The good lord didn‘t fit see to put oil and gas only where there are democratically elected regimes friendly to the United States.” And that about sums it all up. Where there‘s money to be made, hey, you have to go make that money, even if you‘re selling nuclear parts.
With me now is Marcus Baram, he is from the Huffington Post and he wrote about this. Marcus, great story. We appreciate you coming on.
MARCUS BARAM, HUFFINGTON POST: Thank you, good to be here.
UYGUR: First, tell me about how some of these things might have effects. So, for example, in releasing the Lockerbie bombing suspect and Lautenberg amendment, how does this company has put pressure on our government to back-up Gadhafi‘s government?
BARAM: Well, basically, U.S. Libya Business Alliance along with the Chamber of Commerce, the National Association and Manufacturers. They all pressured the Bush administration to try and drop the Lautenberg amendment which basically called for the—and allowed victims of terrorism-related incidents to seize assets from those governments which about...
UYGUR: I mean, that sounds logically, you know, you want to help to be the families of the victims. But they didn‘t get helped. Why?
BARAM: And then what happened was the—through that pressure, basically the Lautenberg amendment did actually go through, but there was immense pressure on those companies to like just press on the administration, and at one point, Gadhafi even called in the Conoco Phillips CEO and browbeat him, according to a Wikileaks cable, which is just stunning.
UYGUR: And now, a lot of Americans might say, oh come one, they‘re not going to respond to that kind of pressure, but there‘s a lot of money in the line, right? So, are there a lot of examples of them saying, hey, you know, what? Turning around to the U.S. government saying, you‘ve got to help us out.
BARAM: Yes. I mean, there is humor senses of them lobbying the U.S. government, basically saying, look, it‘s brilliant in a line here, this is something that could impede our business practices in those countries. It‘s very sensitive right now, and mainly Gadhafi is so annoyed. He‘s going to kick us out. He even threatened at one point to kick all the U.S. oil companies out of Libya.
UYGUR: And that‘s how real politic works. A real quick here. Is there any reports or evidence that after the unrest has begun that companies are like hey, you know, what? Let‘s just ease off on going after Gadhafi in the beginning or no?
BARAM: There is a little bit in the U.S. Libya Business Alliance, that people I talked to who run the show there, they have actually taken down their Web site. They‘re waiting to see what happens and they‘re all very, I think, worried. I mean, obviously they‘re trying to get their people out of Libya and they‘re concerned that it might not be a friendly environment for them when.
UYGUR: Because they already have the contracts with these guys, they don‘t know who the new governments going to be and they don‘t know if they‘re going to get contracts with the new government. It‘s very interesting. Marcus Baram, thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciate it.
BARAM: Thank you, Cenk.
UYGUR: On this program note, tomorrow, “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano joins Andrea for a live interview. That‘s 1pm Eastern right here on MSNBC. That‘s our show for tonight. Thank you for watching. And “HARDBALL” starts right now.
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