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Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET, Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Guests: Tom Harkin, Ryan Grim, David Sirota, Bill Pascrell, Tony Carrk

CENK UYGUR, HOST:  Welcome to the show, everybody.  I‘m Cenk Uygur. 

Look, we are just three days away from a potential government shutdown.  And that‘s serious business.  And it appears that President Obama is finally drawing his line in the sand. 

Please, please let it be so.

He made a surprise appearance in the White House Briefing Room this afternoon after an earlier meeting with congressional leaders failed to produce a deal on the budget, even though the Democrats have already given the Republicans what they wanted in the first place.  And President Obama made that point very clear. 


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Their original budget proposed $73 billion in cuts.  We have now agreed to $73 billion worth of cuts.  We should be able to come up with a compromise in which nobody gets 100 percent of what they want, but the American people get the peace of mind of knowing that folks here in Washington are actually thinking about them. 


UYGUR:  Except, of course, the Republicans did get 100 percent of what they wanted.  The president just admitted that.  He said they wanted $73 billion, we gave them $73 billion. 

But you know how the Republicans are.  They have been pulled so far to the right by the Tea Party, 100 percent is still not good enough.  Now they want more. 

Now, even though Republican obstinance and unreasonableness has brought us to this brink of government shutdown, the president still refuses to hold them accountable.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Who should the American people blame if there is a government shutdown?

OBAMA:  I don‘t think the American people are interested in blaming somebody, they want people to fix problems and offer solutions.  They are not interested in finger-pointing, and neither am I.  What I want to do is get the business of the American people done. 


UYGUR:  That‘s a soft ball.  Please, please, can you say obviously they are holding this thing up?  No, no, no.  President Obama still won‘t blame the GOP for holding the budget hostage. 

Now, meanwhile, are the Republicans going to be hesitant to blame the Democrats? 


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER:  Now, we‘re not going to allow the Senate nor the White House to put us in a box where we have to make a choice between two bad options. 



REP. ERIC CANTOR ®, MINORITY LEADER:  The White House now has increased the likelihood of a shutdown.  It is the lack of leadership in the Senate that has brought us to where we are over the last couple months. 


REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN:  We believe we have a moral responsibility to step in and provide the leadership that the president has not been providing. 


UYGUR:  So, one side says, oh, let‘s not blame anybody.  The other side says it‘s him, it‘s him, it‘s Obama.  I can‘t believe he is going to shut down the government!  Look at Obama!  It‘s all his fault. 

Now, even after taking that relentless beating from the Republicans, President Obama still continued to talk about compromise. 


OBAMA:  I think what the American people expect from me is the same thing that they expect from every member of Congress, and that is that we‘re looking out for the interests of the American people and not trying to score political points.  I think what they are looking from me is the same thing that they‘re looking from Speaker Boehner and Harry Reid and everybody else, and that is, is that we act like grownups.  And when we are in negotiations like this, that everybody gives a little bit, compromises a little bit, in order to do the people‘s business. 


UYGUR:  But what did they give?  They haven‘t given anything. 

They originally wanted $73 billion.  Now they got $73 billion and they still want more. 

So, OK, again an offer of compromise.  So how did the Republicans respond to this gesture?  You know where this is going, right? 

So, immediately after the president spoke, Speaker Boehner came out and gave them this reply --  


BOEHNER:  That is not acceptable to our members, and we will not agree to it.  And we did not agree to it.  We‘re going to continue to fight for the largest cuts possible, and including the policy riders that we passed in HR-1. 


UYGUR:  Of course.  And sure enough, Republicans came out with a new compromise plan involving an additional $7 billion in cuts for a grand total of $80 billion in cuts from President Obama‘s budget proposal. 

So, look, I mean, I can‘t see how everybody else can‘t see this.  It‘s a million percent clear who is being unreasonable here.  No question about it, the Republican Party.  I mean, you saw it there with your own eyes. 

But is the president being too conciliatory and encouraging their intransigence?  You‘ve got to draw that line in the sand, I think.  And is this going to be it?  Will he finally stick to this and say that‘s it, we are staying at $33 billion, or the Republicans, are they about to get another couple of billion dollars in concessions? 

Let‘s try to figure it out.  Joining me now is Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa. 

Senator Harkin, is this a real line in the sand here?  Is that it, $33 billion?  The president came out and said it.   Or will there be more concessions on the way? 

SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA:  Well, I sure hope it is.  You know, as you pointed out, the Republicans came out, wanted $100 billion in cuts. 

Well, we wanted to try to compromise, and we first compromised at 50-something, and then it went to 60-something.  And as you pointed out, we are now at $73 billion.  In other words, we have come seven-tenths of the way.  So we have been reasonable. 

We have gone overboard in trying to reach a compromise.  But the Republicans keep yanking the football away from us, you know, and they are saying no, we got to give even more and more.  No more. 

We have cut as much as we can cut.  We are not going to hurt the middle class anymore and we are not going to hurt the low-income people that depend on programs like Head Start and other programs. 

UYGUR:  So, Senator Harkin, you just said no more.  Is that real?  Is the president and are the Democrats in the Senate going to stick to that and say that‘s it, no more, not a nickel more beyond this $33 billion? 

HARKIN:  I believe that we have are reached the limits of all we‘re going to do.  I can tell you, I chair the appropriations subcommittee that funds things like health care and education and Head Start programs and feeding programs.  And we have cut this down to way below where we were last year.  We can‘t cut any more, and I refuse to cut any more that is going to hurt the most vulnerable in our society. 

UYGUR:  So, now, the president seems to be responding to Republican pressure.  And realistically—in fact, in the beginning, in February—the Republicans had asked for, in essence, $73 billion in cuts.  Now, we keep going between $33 billion and $73 billion.  I don‘t want the audience to get confused, because there was an initial $40 billion in cuts that the president did on his own which the Republicans say don‘t count. 

But when you put them all together, they originally wanted actually $72 billion.   Now we are at $73 billion.  So it‘s past their original asking price back in February. 

So, now that you‘re at $73 billion, and now they want a little bit more, is the problem, Senator Harkin, that there‘s no pressure from the left?  And is it the responsibility of the Senate Democrats to put that pressure and say, Mr. President, even if you want to do that, we‘re not going to do it? 

HARKIN:  What I think what we‘re seeing here is a determined effort by the Republicans, led by the Tea Party vigilantes, to force a government shutdown. 

Keep in mind, last night, Speaker Boehner spoke to his caucus, and he mentioned—he said to them that he had instructed the administration, the House Administration Committee, to prepare for a government shutdown, and he got a standing ovation.  So, you know, when the president says we ought to start acting like grownups, he‘s right. 

Here is the House Republican Caucus cheering—cheering him on to shut the government down.  And all of the pain and the misery and all of the things that that would upset in our country, to go through a shutdown, yet that‘s what they want to do.  I think that‘s what the Tea Party Republicans are trying to do, is to force the government to shut down. 

UYGUR:  But, Senator Harkin, is isn‘t that part of the problem here, that they are willing to go all the way, that they are willing to, you know, shut the government down, but you guys aren‘t?  And so they know that and they keep abusing that? 

HARKIN:  Well, but all we can do is be responsible.  I don‘t think you can answer irresponsibility with being even more irresponsible.  I don‘t think so. 

I think what we have to do is be honest with the American people.  We know there‘s a budget crisis.  We Democrats have responded to that.  Yes, we have taken some painful cuts in order to bring that down. 

Now it‘s time—now it‘s time to ask the richest in our society, the wealthy, those who have gotten these huge tax breaks, it‘s time now to say, OK, it‘s time for you to start paying your fair share.  We need to raise some revenues and not hurt the middle class and hurt the most vulnerable anymore. 

UYGUR:  Senator Harkin, what‘s next?  You know, we‘ve got a deadline by Friday.  Do you think we‘re going to have a deal?  And if we do, is it going to be on $33 billion, or is the president going to move at all? 

We know the Republicans aren‘t going to move down.  There‘s no way in the world they would ever do that.  Is the president going to move closer to their direction?  Are we going to have a deal? 

HARKIN:  I hope that we have reached the end, that we will not have any more cuts than what we‘ve had.  As we have pointed out, we have come to $73 billion in cuts.  They wanted $100 billion.  I think that‘s going the extra mile. 

Now it‘s time for Speaker Boehner to be an adult and to tell his Tea Party vigilantes, that‘s enough.  We have gotten the cuts.  We have gotten more than a decent compromise.  And now is the time to sign the deal and not have a government shutdown.  It‘s really on Speaker Boehner‘s shoulders right now. 

UYGUR:  All right.  Senator Harkin, thank you so much for your time tonight.  We appreciate it. 

HARKIN:  Thank you.  Thanks, Cenk. 

UYGUR:  All right.

Now, up next, with a possible government shutdown looming, Americans are split on who to blame, the Obama administration or the Republicans.  I can‘t believe that.  Are they following the same budget battle that I am?  This is crazy talk. 

I‘ll make the case for why the Republicans are 128 percent to blame for this mess. 

And state workers are getting hammered by Governor Walker, but it turns out there is actually one that is actually riding high.  Now, how did he get such special treatment from the governor? 

We‘re going to take a look at Wisconsin‘s unbelievable cronyism. 

That‘s also coming up. 


UYGUR:  President Obama kicked the budget battle up a notch today by making it clear that he would not accept the short-term stop-gap bill.  And by emphasizing that Republicans have gotten everything they wanted, Obama may have thrown House Speaker John Boehner off his game a little bit. 

After the president spoke, Boehner could only manage a vague, sweaty, nervous-sounding press conference where he had this bizarre admission --  


BOEHNER:  The White House is proposing cuts that are far beyond things that we would imagine.  And so we want to get an agreement and we want to keep the government open. 


UYGUR:  Why did he just admit that the White House has given them more than they wanted?  But he‘s right.  They have given in over and over again. 

I mean, I‘m—I don‘t get it.  Like, if you‘re a Republican at this point, not like a Tea Partier, who‘s like, I want a billion, a trillion, a gazillion, a Brazilian, I‘m out of cuts.  If you were a real Republican—

I mean, if somebody hands you the queen (ph), why don‘t you take it?  At this point shouldn‘t you be frustrated at Boehner?  What‘s his real motivation? 

We‘re going to talk about that in a second. 

But even though it‘s the Republicans who are obviously holding up the budget, the American people apparently are split on who to blame if the government shuts down on Friday.  A Pew poll found that 39 percent of people would blame Republicans and 36 percent would blame the Obama administration, while 16 percent would blame both. 

It was even closer in a “Washington Post” poll, where Republicans and the Obama administration each got 37 percent.  I‘m stunned by that.  How could you—how can you look at those things and go, oh, yes, they are being as obstinate? 

Look, I have told you over and over again, we had at first, $40 billion given in by the Obama administration, got no credit for it.  And then $4 billion, and then $6 billion, and then $20 billion, and then another $3 billion.  And then Republicans haven‘t moved at all. 

How could it possibly be even?  Well, there is a second answer to that.  But, look, let me give you some perspective.

Democrats appear to be in much worse shape than they were leading up to the last government shutdown in 1995.  Back then, 46 percent of people said they blamed the Republicans and only 27 percent said the Clinton administration would be at fault. 

So, what happened here?  Why is it so much different today than it was back then? 

I‘ve got to be honest with you, it‘s because one side isn‘t making its case.  We showed you the clips in the first segment.  The Republicans come out and they‘re, like, it‘s their fault, their fault, they‘re being unreasonable, and they are shutting the government down.  You ask the president, and he is, like, I don‘t know, I don‘t want to blame anybody. 

But you‘re in politics.  You‘ve he got to make your case.  Otherwise, how do people know? 

And it turns out, look at the polls.  They don‘t know.  They‘re like, I don‘t know who is at fault.  Now, that‘s crazy.  Somebody‘s got to change that dynamic, and that somebody is the president. 

All right.  Now joining me is David Sirota.  He‘s a syndicated columnist and author of the book “Back to Our Future.”  And also with us is Ryan Grim, congressional correspondent for “The Huffington Post.”

Ryan, I want to start with you.  I mean, look, I keep saying it‘s crazy.  Boehner, you give him exactly what he wanted back in February, and he says, no, I want more.  You give him a little more, and he says, no, I want $7 billion more today. 

Does he not want a deal? 

RYAN GRIM, “THE HUFFINGTON POST”:  Well, first of all, he‘s obviously been paying attention to this White House over the past couple of years, and he knows that he can keep getting more and more and more as long as he drags this out.  But, fundamentally, what he‘s doing is he‘s crafting his budget with the audience in mind of his Tea Party caucus.  And as long as he is doing that, as long as he is trying to pass a bill through the House with only Republican votes, he‘s not going to get it through the Senate.

And this isn‘t a serious negotiation until he decides that he is going to have to pick up, say, 40, 50 Democratic votes and then start whipping Republicans hard.  Because I just don‘t see how there is a path that goes from 218 Republicans, and then over to the Senate, and gets enough Democratic support to also be able to pass there and then get to the White House, because the Tea Party is going to want too many cuts in order to—so—and the Senate Democrats aren‘t going to go along with that. 

UYGUR:  Well, Ryan --  

GRIM:  So, until he abandons that, this is just strange. 

UYGUR:  Right.  But does that mean, like—is there some chance he actually wants to shut down?  Does he want to say to the Tea Party, look at this, I shut it down for however long, two days, a week, two weeks, two months?  I don‘t know.  Then he goes back and negotiates, but gets his bona fides with the Tea Party? 

GRIM:  Yes, I don‘t know exactly what‘s in his mind, but that would make sense tactically, because then he can say, look, I did everything I could.  Senate Democrats wouldn‘t go for it, and we shut the government down.  So, that‘s some read meat for the Tea Party.

Then, after a couple of days of that, they see the ramification, and then he comes back, cuts a deal with some House Democrats.  It goes to the Senate, goes to the White House.  And then perhaps the Tea Party wing of his conference will kind of give him a pass for negotiating with Democrats. 

They‘ll say, well, the guy did shut the government down, we‘ve got to give

him that

UYGUR:  All right.

David, I want to go to you.  I mean, when you see the president here, and he comes out—and this was a big deal.  He wasn‘t supposed to come out, he comes out, and he says, look, $33 billion and that‘s it.

Do you believe him?  Do you think he is going to stand his ground at $33 billion, or do you think he‘ll give in more? 

DAVID SIROTA, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST:  Well, I don‘t understand why we should believe him.  I mean, this is a president who started out the budget debate by conceding the very terms of the debate by saying—the first position the administration took was saying we need to freeze domestic spending entirely.  So he has been giving and giving and giving and not drawing a line in the sand. 

And I think the Republicans, frankly, as a negotiating tactic, why should they stop?  Right?

The Tea Party folks are probably saying, why should we stop?  We‘ll pass the farthest right bill possible through the House, we‘ll ram it through the House.  It will go over to the Senate, it will get amended.  He‘ll go into conference committee, and they will be starting on the House side with the most extreme conservative position possible. 

So, in many ways, I think what we are seeing is that the Republicans really understand negotiation 101, and the Obama administration either doesn‘t understand negotiation 101, or is actually ideologically with some of the more hard-core conservative policies and ideologies of the Tea Party that is controlling the House of Representatives. 

UYGUR:  Let me build on David‘s point a little bit and give this question to you, Ryan.  I mean, this is the first time the president has come out in public and said, this is where I stand.  He didn‘t say that in the beginning where he—like, if he had come out and gave a big speech, I am giving away $40 billion in cuts, now the Republicans have to come to me, it would have been very public, right? 

And then when the Republicans didn‘t come to him, well, then they would have seemed unreasonable.  But he didn‘t do that in public and he didn‘t do that until now. 

And now that he‘s done this in public, if he doesn‘t concede anything more going forward, isn‘t he—I mean, look, I wouldn‘t concede a nickel, right?  But you know how President Obama is.  Isn‘t he going to feel like, well, in order to seem reasonable, we should give them at least a couple more billion? 

GRIM:  Yes.  I mean, whatever the administration has been doing for the past couple of months clearly hasn‘t worked, because we‘re now in a situation where we have, you know, almost nine percent unemployment, with a lot of economists saying that what we need is to stimulate the economy.  And instead, Congress is doing the exact opposite. 

So something isn‘t working. 

The administration has accepted the argument, as David said, that what we need are cuts now.  Just a few months ago, people were still acknowledging the fact that the economy could use more stimulus.  And the administration was saying, while we are for long-term cuts, we want to get the budget in order in the long term, in the short term we don‘t want to damage this fragile recovery. 

Now here we are, all of a sudden, talking about cutting billions and billions of dollars from programs that really do actually cut deep into what‘s happening, and they are—and it‘s not a controversial thing to say that these cuts will cost thousands of jobs. 

Mark Zandi, I think his figure was 700,000 jobs.  He was an adviser to John McCain.  So, this is like basic economics here. 

UYGUR:  No.  But, look, the thing is they are holding the economy hostage, because if the economy loses jobs, Republicans then turn around and say, oh, look, it‘s all Obama‘s fault, he couldn‘t create jobs.  And they try to get their guy into the White House, whereas Obama thinks he is desperate to create jobs, he can‘t risk a shutdown.  So, they have all the advantage. 

Given that, David, last question to you, you know, you see how this has developed.  You see what Ryan pointed out there, which is a great point. 

What does that tell us about what might come in 2012?  Because now we have got the giant battle, the $4 trillion, $6 trillion battle, coming up for that budget.  Is that a sign of terrible things to come in terms of concessions from the Democrats in that battle? 

SIROTA:  I absolutely think so.  I think that it‘s really tragic.  And I keep going back to the terms of the debate. 

We are not having a discussion about how to stimulate the economy.  We are having a discussion about how to cut, cut, cut, at a cost of what most economists think are going to be at least tens of thousand, if not hundreds of thousands, of jobs. 

Put that rhetorical frame into the super-heated cauldron of presidential politics, where the Republican nominee is going to be saying even more cuts, more cuts, more cuts.  And President Obama, who has said yes, yes, yes, I will give up these cuts, I will continue to give up these cuts, and we are in a political downward spiral that I think is going to have tragic ramifications for the budget and for the economy in the country in 2012. 

UYGUR:  All right.

David Sirota and Ryan Grim, thank you both for joining us tonight.  I really appreciate it. 

GRIM:  Thanks, Cenk. 

UYGUR:  All right.  Now, it pays to be a donor for Scott Walker.  Literally.  You won‘t believe the favor he did for a major campaign contributor.  That story is full of a thousand ironies. 

And for as long as Medicare has been around, Republicans have been trying to kill it, and they are at it again.  But this time, as you just heard, it just might work. 

Will Paul Ryan‘s latest plan to destroy Medicare kill the popular program, or will it hurt the GOP?  We‘ll discuss that. 


UYGUR:  Governor Scott Walker has cut a lot of state workers‘ pay.  You know that.  But there‘s at least one state worker in Wisconsin who, it turns out, has got an great salary and a big raise. 

So, who is this guy?  And why does the Walker administration think he is so valuable? 

Well, he‘s 27-year-old Brian Deschane. Deschane is a college dropout.  He has racked up two drunken driving convictions, and has very little management experience. 

But despite all that, he holds a pretty damn good job in Governor Walker‘s administration, where he oversees state environmental and regulatory issues and manages dozens of Commerce Department employees.  State funds pay Deschane a salary of $81,500 a year.  That is pretty large.  And in just two months, he was given a promotion and a 26 percent pay increase.  That‘s just in two months. 

Now, one might wonder, how did this young man who has no experience in environmental or regulatory issues get so lucky?  Well, you‘re going to be shocked to find out that it wasn‘t luck. 

It turns out that his father is an executive vice president and long-time lobbyist for the Wisconsin Builders Association, which, it turns out, was a major campaign donor in last year‘s governor‘s race.  Who saw that coming? 

Now, how big of a donor were they?  Well, the group‘s political action committee donated $29,000 to Walker‘s bid.  And members of the trade group contributed more than $92,000, bringing the contribution total to $121,652. 

That puts them in Walker‘s top five PAC donors.  So, while everyone else is getting their pay cut, this kid is getting instant raises. 

Anyone still think the cuts were about balancing the budget in Wisconsin?  And by the way, if you think that‘s bad, it gets worse. 

The anti-union law that Walker signed last month also included provisions that convert 37 civil service positions into political appointees chosen by the governor.  So, more qualified civil servants can get replaced by political cronies with no experience in the job.  And by the way, much higher salaries. 

That‘s the GOP vision of how government should work. 

Now, I hope that tonight‘s election for the Wisconsin Supreme Court sends them a different message, the message that Wisconsin voters believe in, the vision that they have for their government, which is the exact opposite, that it should work for the people. 

All right.  Now, Mitt Romney is the latest potential 2012 candidate to pledge support to the House amendment that would cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood.  Mike Huckabee, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, and the rest of the gang were already on board, but Romney‘s support is interesting.  Isn‘t this the same candidate whose wife donated to Planned Parenthood when he was trying to unseat Senator Ted Kennedy back in 1994?  And who has this to say about abortion rights during that campaign?


MITT ROMNEY, FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR:  We can believe what we want but we will not force our believes on others on that matter, and you will not see me wavering on that.  


UYGUR:  Of course, he did waiver and he did change his position.   Wow.   That‘s really surprising.  Now, his support for abortion rights when he was trying to appeal to liberal Massachusetts voters turns out to be a little different than when he is trying to appeal to Tea Party voters, oh, abortion, oh, no way, no way, I‘m totally pro-life.  

All right.  Even if that means, by the way, cutting funds that Democrats say, quote, “provides cancer screening, birth control and other preventive health care services to three million Americans every year.”  I think the late Senator Ted Kennedy summed up Romney‘s position best during one of their debates in ‘94. 


TED KENNEDY, FORMER U.S. SENATOR:  On the question of the choice issue, I have supported the Roe V Wade, I am pro-choice.   My opponent is multiple choices. 


UYGUR:  I always loved that line.  I have seen it like seven times and every time I laugh.  Yes.  If there‘s one thing Mitt Romney is consistent on, he is always multiple choice.  

All right, now for is as long as Medicare has been around, Republicans have been trying to kill it and Paul Ryan‘s budget plan is no different.  But will the GOP finally succeed this time around and what can this mean for the Republicans in 2012?  Could to be political suicide?           



LYNDON JOHNSON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern American.   No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that they have so carefully put away over a lifetime so that they might enjoy dignity in their later years.  


UYGUR:  That was President Lyndon Johnson on the day that he signed Medicare into law.  Ever since then, right up to the present days, Republicans have been trying to kill it.  In fact, the plan to block senior citizens from affordable health care began years before it even became law, with a former movie star leading the charge. 


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  We can write to our congressmen, to our senators, we do not want socialized medicine, if you don‘t this program, I promise you will pass just as surely as the sun will come up tomorrow. 


UYGUR:  Talking points from all the way back then.  The same talking points as always.  Yes, that was then-private citizen Ronald Reagan recording a message against Medicare proposal back in 1961.  Now, despite his efforts, Medicare became law on July 30th, 1965 with Democrats overwhelmingly voting for it and Republicans split just about 50/50 on it.  But once Reagan became president, the Republicans saw their chance to kill Medicare again.  This time, as part of the early ‘80s budget fights that just like now, dominated the news. 


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN:  The cost of health care increasing and Reagan administration proposing cuts of several billion dollars, many people, especially the poor and the elderly, could face serious problems.  


UYGUR:  Well, the Democrats fought back at that point and Medicare survived.  Flash forward to the government shut down of the mid‘90s, the law was once again under attack from the republican revolution.   Then House Speaker Newt Gingrich gave a speech on Medicare in which he said, quote, “We don‘t get rid of it in round one because we don‘t think that that is politically smart.  We believe it is going to wither on the vine because we think people are voluntarily going to leave it, voluntarily.”  That turned out to be, of course, not true, so once again, the Republicans failed and Medicare survived.  Now, it‘s under attack again, as part of the 2012 budget from GOP Congressman Paul Ryan.  His plan would dismantle Medicare and replace it with a system in which people use government vouchers to buy private insurance.  


REP. PAUL RYAN ®, BUDGET COMMITTEE:  The Democrats went a different direction in health care, they really believe in a government-run system and I think logic, proof, history shows you government-run health care doesn‘t work.  We want to harness the power of patient choice. 


UYGUR:  Even “The Wall Street Journal” admits, quote, “the plan would essentially end Medicare.”  So there is no secret here.  The Republicans have been trying to kill Medicare since before it began, we just showed you the tapes.  The problem, well, the American people love it.  A Kaiser poll from 2009 showed people on Medicare trust it much more than people with private insurance trust those companies.  That was 68 percent to 48 percent.  And last month‘s NBC poll shows three-quarters of Americans think it is unacceptable to cut Medicare in order to trim the deficit.  Now this looks to be an obvious losing issue for the Republicans.  The only way they can win is if the Democrats preemptively surrender.  Come on, they wouldn‘t do that with three-quarters of the country behind them, would they?  Are you sure? 

All right.  Joining me now is Congressman Bill Pascrell, a New Jersey democrat on the Budget Committee who was called Ryan‘s plan a quote, “Road to Ruin.”  OK.  It seems that you are not interested in surrendering, it appears that you would you like to fight for Medicare.  Do I have that right, congressman? 

REP. BILL PASCRELL (D), NEW JERSEY:  I never take a back step, you know that, Cenk, and we are not going to take a back step on Medicare. 

UYGUR:  Now, congressman, you and I have been talking about these issues for a long time.  You know my stance on this.  So, you got to understand my skepticism.  I have seen the Democrats give in time and time again over the last ten years, OK?  Now, are you positive that the administration and the rest of the Democrats are going to hold and say, we are not going to give into this proposal on Medicare.

PASCRELL:  The great majority of Democrats are going to vote no in any American, shape or form to privatize Medicare.  Republicans tried this on Social Security, six years ago, President Bush failed, they know it‘s a failed policy.  You notice they didn‘t even bring up Social Security in the 2012 budget which we‘re going to lay out tomorrow during our committee hearing.  Now, they are talking about Medicare.  And then, they‘re saying, here is the switch that they are trying to get us to think about.  Then, they‘re saying it is only going to pertain to people under 55 years of age. 

So, if you are over 55, your Medicare is safe.  They don‘t understand the issue of Medicare.  They don‘t understand how this was our greatest weapon against senior poverty.  Many seniors are living on fixed income.  These guys and gals don‘t get it and we are going to turn them back.  So, the road map needs a GPS right now.  They are stuck in the middle of the woods but they haven‘t decided which way to go yet. 

UYGUR:  Now, I know you said that you guys aren‘t going to go for private advertising and I believe that, but how about cuts to Medicare?  Do you think the president is going to hold firm and say no cuts to Medicare?

PASCRELL:  Hey, Cenk, here is the most insidious part of their entire proposal.  There‘s $550 billion that we laid out in the health care reform act which these guys are out to set and destroy.  They call this socialized medicine.  They call this rationing of health care, and that is exactly what we have now, which we can no longer accept.  The point being this $550 in savings, they assume it in their budget.  So, as much as they want to kill health care, or Obama-care as they call it so affectionately, what they really want to do is take the money and run.  They will stop at nothing and Republicans, you must understand, want not only to privatize Medicare but the next stop, they will try again on a stand-alone bill to privatize Social Security.  This is not our way out of the budget morass.  We got to have cuts.  There is no two ways about it. 

And the portions of the budget that we are, the president started us out.  Tomorrow, we start a second chapter on the republican budget and you‘re going to hear a lot of response and a lot of kickback tomorrow.  Hopefully folks will listen to watch what happens during the budget hearing tomorrow.  So, those people who have amnesia about 2001 to 2008, Cenk, they are going to have an opportunity to get a real face value of what happened and the debt that we brought to bear between 2001 and 2008.  So, they say we don‘t want to give debt to our kids, what the heck did they do?  They didn‘t pay for two tax, major tax cuts in 2001 and 2003.  They didn‘t pay for the two wars, they didn‘t pay for Medicare prescription drug reform.  Who are they kidding?

UYGUR:  All right.  I‘m interested to see what happens tomorrow and I‘m definitely interested to see what happens throughout that fight.  Congressman Bill Pascrell, thank you for joining us tonight. 


UYGUR:  All right.  Now, a new report shed light on how the Koch Brothers are using their wealth to bankroll the right-wing machine.  How they have bought so much of Washington is an amazing story. 

And the Tea Party hypocrisy, it is at its best.  They promise to cut government spending at any cost, but wait until you hear about the millions in government subsidies that they are taking for themselves.                         


UYGUR:  We‘ve got news for you guys.  Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is a congresswoman from Florida is the new head of the DNC.  She will retain her position of course as a congresswoman and Tim Kaine moves into a Senate race in Virginia, he will likely take on George Allen that should be one hell of a race.  

Now, when we come back, awesome Tea Party hypocrisy. 


UYGUR:  The Tea Party is supposed to be all about cutting government spending, right?  Except of course when it comes to federal agriculture subsidies that go to them.  According to a new report from the environmental working group, at least five Tea Partiers have taken government money for their own farms.   The biggest recipient, this guy, Congressman Steven Fincher, a republican from frog jump, Tennessee.  Got to give him credit for an awesome town name. 

All right.  He has seen over $3 million in farm subsidies from 1995 to 2009, that makes him the king of the Tea Party welfare queens.  On the front page of his Web site, he says, “government spending is one of the greatest threats our country faces.”  Yes.  Except when it comes to Fincher farms.  That is the $3 million for.  When asked if he would be willing to get rid of the shameless government spending, Fincher said, quote, “We need a good, better, we need better farm program and we need to streamline it.  We need to look at many, many options and that‘s a long way off.”  Yes, when it comes to cutting spending for the middle class or Social Security or Medicare, well, that‘s right around the corner, but when it comes to cutting Mr. Fincher‘s farm and  its subsidy, well, that‘s long, long way off. 

All right.  Now, up next, a new report sheds light on the Koch Brothers‘ vast network, and how they are using their huge resources to buy up think tank and politicians.  We will give you the numbers that show exactly how powerful they are and who they own. 


UYGUR:  Paul Ryan says the fight over the budget isn‘t some simple negotiation.  He says House Republicans aren‘t just trying to score political points. 


RYAN:  Look at these people, look at these new people who just got here.  You know, they didn‘t come here for a political career. 

UNIDENTIFIED MAN:  That‘s right. 

RYAN:  They came here for a cause.  This is not a budget this is a cause.  


UYGUR:  But what is that cause?  Is it ideological or is it really financial?  I.e., to help the richest people in the country.  Look, that is a not a theoretical question, it‘s real, because there are people in this country who have decided that buying our government is a really good investment.  And they are real people and two of them happen to be brothers.  Their names are Charles and David Koch.  They are the billionaire brothers who own Koch Industries, an oil and gas giant.  The Koch brothers are everywhere.  Now a new report from Tony Carrk at the Center for American Progress spells out the full reach of their political empire.  The story starts in 1980 when David Koch was the libertarian party‘s vice presidential candidate.  David Koch‘s platform was far, far right of Ronald Reagan.  He wanted to eliminate corporate taxes all together.  He wanted to abolish Social Security and are you ready for this?  Koch even called for getting rid of public schools entirely. 

But it didn‘t work out.  They lost to Reagan, who was far too much of a lefty for their taste.  So, the Koch brothers came to an interesting conclusion.  If you can‘t beat them, buy them.  Instead of trying to be politicians, they started using their money to influence politicians which proved to be a far more effective strategy.  First, they needed to give their extremist ideology, the veneer of credibility.  So, they began funding the so-called think tanks.  And the last 15 years alone, they have given $85 million to 85 different groups.  Some of the amounts are jaw-dropping.  According to the Center for American Progress, they gave over $13 million to the Cato Institute during that period, 12 million to the citizens for a sound economy, four million to the heritage foundation.  In other words, when you hear someone from the Cato Institute quoted in the news and he is casting doubt on global warming, keep in mind that Charles Koch actually founded the Cato Institute and that Koch Industries subsidiaries have paid millions in environmental fines.  

That‘s not some neutral objective report you are hearing from the Cato Institute, it‘s a report that was bought and paid for by Koch Industries for a very specific purpose, so they can make more money by avoiding pollution regulations.  The think tanks are to influence politician and it end the debate in D.C.  But in case that‘s too subtle, they also decided to actually invest a lot of money directly into politicians themselves.  They have given $11 million to federal candidates since 1990, 89 percent of that, of course, went to Republicans.  Seeing that the strategy is working, they have actually stepped up their spending recently.  Americans for prosperity, which reportedly gets millions from the Koch Brothers, spent $45 million in the last elections. 

In that last election, Koch Industries Political Action Committee gave to 62 of the 87 freshmen House Republicans.  And this is a Koch-fueled Congress.  The Kochs and their affiliates gave to 13 gubernatorial candidates in the last cycle.  Of course, ten of them were Republicans.  They also gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association.  The list of governors they helped to elect includes Scott Walker and John Kasich, both of them who just happen to be rabid union busters.  And that brings us to where we are in politics today.  Governor Walker attacks the unions.  House Republicans go after the EPA and now Paul Ryan targets those pesky little safety nets, Medicare and Medicaid.  The Koch Brothers are closing in on checkmate.  

Citizens United allowed them to pour an unlimited amount of money into political campaigns.  And now they have announced plans to spend $88 million on the 2012 election.  They figured out the matrix.  Our politicians are up for sale and it‘s a good return on their investment and the Koch‘s plan to do a lot more buying.  

With me now is Tony Carrk, he is the policy director for the Center for American Progress Action War Room and the author of that new report. 

TONY CARRK, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  Cenk, great to be with you. 

UYGUR:  Now first, it‘s great to have you here.  This isn‘t just about the Koch Brothers, the promise anybody can buy these politicians, and a lot of billionaires and millionaires do, but they are a perfect example here.  What I found interesting is the first thing they did was to go buy the think tanks, why do you think they did that?

CARRK:  I think they wanted to number one, keep their money under the radar, so they were funding the right-wing think tanks that could start building the policy case for the agenda that they are trying to push and that agenda is one that puts their business interests above those of middle class families. 

UYGUR:  And they seem to have really stepped up their spending these days and they have a lot more  public profile, partly because of some of the research that‘s been done on them, including by you guys, us, et cetera, but it seems like they were a little bit more brazen these days.  Do you think that‘s because of Citizens United, or they think what difference does it make, we can buy these, you know, these elections anyway we like?  Who care it is people know?

CARRK:  I mean, I‘m not entirely sure if it‘s, I mean, I think Citizens United is a part of that but I also think it was just the situation, the environment that we are in now, where there was a lot of public anger in 2009 after the economy was brought to its knees and they were able be to, you know, help organize the Tea Party  rallies and kind of use that public anger to help further their ideological agenda which is to get rid of government, and that will help pad their profits and at the same time, it‘s going to be hurting everyone else. 

UYGUR:  Yes, you know, it‘s I think a perfect storm.  You got the Tea Party coming in, you‘ve got Citizens United that lets them spend unlimited money.  And at the same time, this seems my God, this is a better return on investment than I imagined.  The Republicans are giving us everything we wanted, right?  So, when you put all that together, they think, OK, it is winning time, right?

CARRK:  Exactly.  And I think if you look at the success they had in the 2010 elections, if you look at now the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the Koch Industries is the single largest oil and gas contributory to that committee and that committee is also the one that oversees energy policy in this country, which also regulates carbon emission, things they have a personal interest in because that is also what their business interest is. 

UYGUR:  Yes.  You know, actually, I want to give the audience some facts on that, because that it is amazing.  They have given to 22 Republicans on that committee, a total of $279,500.  They have also given to five Democrats on that committee, a total of $32,000 because they are in the energy business, of course they‘re going to go buy the Energy Committee.  And, you know there is a note from “The Hill,” which is great.  House democrat Gerry Connolly says, he wants to change the title of the bill that would go after EPA to the Koch Brother appreciation act.  How accurate is that?  I mean, how swamped is that Energy Committee by Koch money?

CARRK:  I mean, I think the facts speak for themselves like the numbers that you just threw out I think show exactly the type of influence that they have on that committee.  And I would also add to that that the head of the Americans for prosperity co-authored an Op-ed with the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on just how bad the EPA would be to regulate carbon emissions.  So, it‘s money on one hand but it is also the access that they have with the lawmakers as well. 

UYGUR:  Well, we saw that access in Wisconsin, when the fake Koch Brother called Governor Walker.   Governor Walker spent 20 minutes with him, he‘s like, yes, let me tell you how we are going to bust the unions.   By the way, if you bust the unions, the start public and then you go to private, hey, that lowers the cost for Koch Industries because they have to pay their employees less.  So, it all works out for Koch at the end.  But I want to ask you about the Tea Parties.  You mentioned that earlier.  How much are they involved in the Tea Party movement?

CARRK:  Well, I think, I mean, a lot of this, I would like to say is been a lot of research done by my colleagues at Think Progress, just when the Tea Parties began and who helped organize them, who helped give them materials and show them the way that, you know, protest government and to make their voices heard.   When you look back at that, a lot of that went through Americans for prosperity which goes, you know, back to Charles and David Koch.  So I think from the—even one employee said that their job was to stimulate the Tea Party, that they didn‘t necessarily create it, per se, but they definitely helped it along. 

UYGUR:  Right.  And I got to be honest, it was a brilliant strategy, because I mean, they have got all these guys who are now doing them favors, they‘re trying to kill the EPA for the Koch Industries.  You know, it is money well spent.  Tony Carrk, great research.  Thank you for joining us.  Really appreciate it. 

CARRK:  Thank you for having me.  

UYGUR:  Thank you, man.  And by the way, you know that the protests are funded by the Koch Industries when the huge buses show up that they have paid for, all right?  Thanks for watching, everybody.   “HARDBALL” starts right now.

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