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Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET, Friday, April 8th, 2011

Read the transcript from the Friday 6 p.m. hour

Guests: Sen. Sherrod Brown, Rep. Diane Degette, E.J. Dionne, Ron

Brownstein, Earl Blumenauer, Ana Kasparian

CENK UYGUR, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Good evening.  I‘m Cenk Uygur.  Welcome to the show.  Coming to you tonight from Los Angeles.  In six hours at the stroke of midnight, the federal government will most likely shut down.  Now, if you believe the Republicans, it‘s because they didn‘t get enough spending cuts.  If you believe the Democrats, it‘s because the Gop is refusing to budge from a radical agenda that has nothing to do with the numbers and everything to do with politics, namely, abortion politics.

After weeks of debate, last obstacle to deal with is the Republican demand to cut title ten program that funds family planning centers like Planned Parenthood all across this nation.


SEN. HARRY REID, (D) MAJORITY LEADER:  They can keep their word and significantly cut the federal deficit or they can shut down America‘s government over women‘s access to health care.  If that sounds ridiculous, it‘s because it is ridiculous.


UYGUR:  Of course, House Speaker John Boehner is still trying to claim it‘s about the cuts.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER, ® HOUSE SPEAKER:  There‘s only one reason that we do not have an agreement as yet, and that issue is spending.  And when will the White House and when will Senate Democrats get serious about cutting spending?


UYGUR:  Of course, no matter how much you cut spending, John Boehner is going to tell you you‘re not serious enough.  So, where do we stand now?  Is a deal at a reach?  And what is the president‘s role in all of this?

Well, let‘s bring in Democratic senator Sherrod Brown from Ohio.  He‘s a member of the Banking and Appropriations Committees, and we‘ll ask him about it.  Senator Brown, how do the American people know who to believe?  Is it really about abortion and Title X or is it about that they want more spending cuts?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN, (D) OHIO:  As a fellow Ohio and I believe John Boehner, the problem is John Boehner‘s changing what he said.  He wanted the original number that John Boehner wanted, the Democrats, President Obama, speaker or Leader Reid met that number exactly.  Then, Boehner raised the number and we close to met within a less than a billion dollars, met that number a second time.  Now, he‘s saying that we‘re not meeting their number.  Of course, we are.

This is about a radical agenda they have.  It‘s about politics.  They‘ve never liked Planned Parenthood, even though, this isn‘t exactly about Planned Parenthood.  It‘s about Title X in funding women‘s health.  It‘s not abortion.  They‘d like you to think that.  It‘s not birth control or family planning, it‘s really about fundamental health care for women.  Three million women get their primary care in America from Planned Parenthood and millions of other women get it from other groups like Planned Parenthood.

So, it really is—it‘s an ideological thing aimed at women.  And I just don‘t get why—I know John Boehner‘s in a tough position with his freshmen who want to shut the government down.  So, he‘s got to do a lot of bobbing and weaving and dancing, and that‘s really what‘s happening.  I almost feel sorry for the speaker.  For my state, I‘ve known him for years, he‘s in a tough place.  

UYGUR:  Yes, you know, Senator Brown, I‘m going to have to respectfully disagree.  I think he‘s got you guys over a barrel for no apparent reason.  I mean, it‘s because he knows you guys don‘t want to shut the government down, and President Obama will try to avoid that at all costs.  So, I think he‘s being, you know, realistic in thinking, hey, I can get more out of these guys, so I‘m going to keep asking for more and more and more.

Who knows?  Maybe, they‘ll even give me Planned Parenthood.  And so, he just keeps playing that kind of poker.  It makes sense when you look at it that way.  So, my question to you is what is your bottom line?  What will you not give him?

BROWN:  Well, we‘re not going to give up on the 3 million plus women

who get their primary care in large part because of this funding.  That‘s -

at this point, no more.  That‘s not negotiable.  That is so important. 

We‘re not going to let them shut the government down or we‘re not going to let them play politics this way because of the radical agenda and cave in on it.  We can‘t do that.  It just doesn‘t make sense for all of those women, it doesn‘t make sense for our country.

That figure of 78 to $79 billion?  That‘s already been raised a couple of times when Speaker Boehner has gone back to his freshman.  They‘ve insisted (ph) it‘s gone up.  We‘ve even met that.  I think we shouldn‘t have gone that far, we did.  I‘m willing to support that, but no longer nor will other Democrats in our caucus go above that number.  Boehner knows what the number is.  He knows that we‘ve compromised on the budget cuts.  And it‘s time that they voted, their caucus came forward and voted for this.

UYGUR:  You know, Senator Brown, I remember when the number was 70 billion and it was outrageous.  I remember when it was 73 billion and it was outrageous.  Now, we‘re all the way up to 78 and 79 billion.  Should the Senate Democrats have drawn the line with the president earlier and say, hey, you know what, you keep worrying about whether Republicans are going to vote yes on this, but I‘ll tell you what if you go to any of these numbers, we‘re not going to vote yes.  Should you have held the line firmer on the president?

BROWN:  You can always say could have, should have.  I don‘t know at this point.  That‘s behind us.  I want to get this done so that the government runs for the next six months so that military families and others and all the people that lose—that are all laid off or furloughed all over the country and the services provided by government employees, I want that taken care of.  We‘ll have these debates in the next six months.

You know, I think then the president widens the debate.  If we‘re going to really go after deficit reduction, you‘ve got to close oil company tax subsidies.  You‘ve got to go after big agricultures huge direct payments that they get, that these wealthy farmers get, the big corporate farmers.  You‘ve got to do a millionaire surtax.  You‘ve got to look at defense spending.  We‘ve got to do all of these things.

We can get to way over $100 billion deficit reduction if we widen the debate, and it‘s a mix of taxes on upper income people just restoring what it was in the Clinton years, closing tax loopholes and then going after some of those entitlements like farm subsidies.  And we begin to move in the right direction then.

UYGUR:  Well, Senator Brown, let me press on that because—

BROWN:  Sure.

UYGUR:  Look, I think that anybody who‘s following this closely sees that the Republicans are being unreasonable.  I mean, you have to be almost crazy not to see that.  They keep wanting more and more and more.  It might be a reasonable negotiation stance, but as far as reasonable for the country, no way, and it‘s obvious that they‘re the ones that are being intransigent.  Everybody gets that, right?

So the question is how do you, guys, get what you want?  Because you want to get rid of the oil subsidies and the farm subsidies and you have an overwhelming percentage of the American people behind you, but somehow we never get to that.  We always have the Republican priorities, and we‘re always discussing how much we‘re going to agree with the Republicans.  When do you ever get the progressive priorities?  It‘s a literal question, how, how do we get there?

BROWN:  We‘re all frustrated with that.  I think a couple of things.  One is that the Republicans don‘t mind shutting the government down.  You ran this with a story that when it was either Speaker Boehner or somebody said something about a government shutdown and all the Republicans, most of them jumped to their feet and cheered in the Republican conference in their meeting of 200 or so House Members.

So, we know that, but the thing we need to do is the president needs to step up after this is done.  The government‘s not running for six months.  People can do what they need to do.  And the president needs to step up and lay this out that we‘re going to do deficit reduction.  We‘ll do more deficit reduction than they will do, but we‘re going to do it in part by the millionaire surtax and closing the oil loopholes and cutting some of these subsidies that have gone to these huge corporate farms in Arkansas and in Texas and whatever.

So that‘s—but we need the president weighing in, then I think he will.  I think the debate gets expanded, and then the Republicans are in a position that they‘re going to continue to do more—want to do more tax cuts and cut Medicare and go after head-start and go after college student grants to Pell Grants.  I mean, they‘re going to be in such a bad position, enough of them will cave to work with the Democrats to pass something in the House on the long-term budget coming this summer and fall.

UYGUR:  Yes, look, if those things actually happen, I might sing on this program.  Hallelujah -- 


BROWN:  All right.  We look forward to that singing.  And that for, we‘ve got to deal with the president—

UYGUR:  No, you‘re 100 percent right that we have to do that.  You know, I keep seeing powder that‘s dry and that we don‘t get to it.  We don‘t get to it.  Please, tell the president, at some point, he‘s got to fight for progressive values, progressive priorities.  I keep waiting and waiting and waiting.  And again, in this battle, we‘re waiting and we‘re arguing over how much we should agree with the Republican cuts.  You see how frustrated I am, OK?

BROWN:  Including me.  I understand that.


BROWN:  What‘s that?

UYGUR:  Last thing for you.  Look, here‘s the thing, right?  I get that you‘re at an institutional disadvantage, but here‘s what I mean by that, because if the government shuts down, the military families don‘t get paid, right?  And you know, now Jim Miklaszewski‘s reporting that, if god Forbid, some of them die, that we‘re not even going to pay for their funeral services.

You guys care about that.  The Republicans don‘t seem to care about that.  They‘re perfectly willing to shut the government down.  How do you get beyond that institutional disadvantage where you guys care and they don‘t care.

BROWN:  Well, I think you do it through presidential leadership and putting them in such a bad position.  Put enough that they won‘t care.  I mean, there‘s a slice of 30, 40, 50, 60 of them that are such far right-wing ideologues and so obedient to their tea party and corporate masters that they may not—may never get them, but you get enough Republicans with the Democrats once the president‘s put them in a position, the conservative, the far right in a position that they‘ve got to be more reasonable, and I think we win then.

But, I do think we can get to this budget this time in the next day or two, I hope still tonight, if not, in the next day or two, get the government back open for the next six months and then the real discussion and debate and battles begin, but I do think the president‘s going to lead on this now.  I am confident on that.

UYGUR:  All right.  Looking forward to it.  Can‘t wait.  All right. 

Senator Brown, thank you.

BROWN:  We can‘t wait to hear you sing then.  So, thanks.

UYGUR:  OK.  Hey, that‘s a win for everybody.

BROWN:  Yes.


UYGUR:  All right.  Thank you, senator.

Now, as Senator Brown and I were just discussing, this fight is not about the numbers.  It‘s about ideology.  A Republican agenda targeting women‘s rights through an attacked on Planned Parenthood.


REP. DIANA DEGETTE, (D) COLORADO:  You‘re putting women‘s health in jeopardy as part of these budget negotiations.

SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI, (D) MARYLAND:  We are heading to a shutdown not because of a debate over money, not because of a debate over cuts, but because the Republicans continue to want to push a radical agenda against women.

SEN. PATTY MURRAY, (D) WASHINGTON:  We‘re not going to be allowed—allow them to use women as pawns.


UYGUR:  Last year, $317 million were handed out to family planning clinics throughout—through the Title X grants.  Now, our deficit was six months ago and the fiscal year is $830 billion.  Can you see the discrepancy there?  Well, probably at $1.6 trillion before the year is out.  So, cutting family planning will do almost nothing to reduce the deficit.

In fact, it might actually significantly add to the deficit because there would be so many more babies that would have to go on Medicaid without better access to contraception.  Now, what—what it will definitely do, sorry, is to satisfy the Republicans‘ ultraconservative base for whom family planning equals abortion.  Now, of course, nothing could be further from the truth.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D) CALIFORNIA:  Federal funds cannot be spent for abortion.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER, (D) CALIFORNIA:  The Hyde Amendment governs this program.  Not one single dime can be used for abortion.


UYGUR:  Not one dime of federal money can be spent on abortion.  That is absolutely true.  It‘s actually the law of the land.  It‘s called the Hyde Amendment, and it‘s been in effect since 1977.  Abortions are removed from other services entirely.  They‘re in separate buildings with separate staff and separate funding.  Most of what Planned Parenthood does is actually health care for women, minorities, young people and the poor.

Last year alone, it provided family planning for 2.5 million women.  It had 1 million cervical screenings, and they also had 830,000 breast exams.  So, this is about health care and women‘s health, not abortion.  Now, the kicker is, if like most Americans, Republicans really wanted fewer abortions, they‘d support Planned Parenthood.


SEN. RICHARD DURBIN, (D) ILLINOIS:  Without access to family planning, they will have unintended pregnancies and sadly, sadly even more abortions.


UYGUR:  A 2009 study found that publicly funded family planning prevents 1.9 million unintended pregnancies every year.  It also prevents about 810,000 abortions.  So, why are Republicans pushing for legislation that could create 800,000 more abortions?  That‘s a really good question.

Well, let‘s now talk to Representative Diane Degette.  She‘s a democrat from Colorado.  Congresswoman, you know, if taking this money away actually might create more abortions, what are they pushing for here?  Is this a matter of semantics or do they just fundamentally, ideologically don‘t like contraception either?

REP. DIANE DEGETTE, (D) COLORADO:  This extreme agenda really says we don‘t want contraception or abortion, and we certainly don‘t want federal funding for those things.  And as you pointed out, the Title X money isn‘t for abortion at all.  No federal funding can be used for abortion.  It‘s for pregnancy prevention and birth control, but as you also said, it‘s for well-women checkups, it‘s for pap smears and breast cancer screening, it‘s for treatment for all kinds of cancers.  In some states like Montana, the only clinic for hundreds of miles is a Planned Parenthood Clinic.  And women go there for their wellness checkups.  .

So you know, especially in this economy, when we‘re trying to create jobs and we have so much joblessness, for many women who have lost their jobs or lost their insurance, the only way they can go get a checkup and a pap smear is to go to a clinic that has Title X funding.  So, to cut that is not an extreme ideological agenda that has no place in a short-term budget resolution, it‘s also mean spirited to women.

And frankly, I think it‘s part of a concerted attack that we‘ve seen since the first of the year on women‘s health.  Time after time after time.

UYGUR:  Right.  And actually, it‘s part of a larger pattern.  This year, you know that Republicans have introduced bills in 30 states to limit abortion or restrict access.  Some 362 bills in total.  Look, when you see all that, isn‘t it obvious that it‘s part of a larger fight against women‘s health than a woman‘s right to choose overall?

DEGETTE:  You know, the first vote that we had in Congress this year was a vote to reverse the health care bill.  And the health care bill had a number of provisions for women‘s health, for pregnancy prevention and birth control and screening.  It also said you can‘t discriminate against women in insurance policies because of their gender.  They voted to eliminate that, and I haven‘t seen any attempts to bring that back.

So, it‘s an all-out assault on women‘s health, not just reproductive rights but also health care in general.  And as you pointed out, it‘s a tiny little minuscule part of the budget, but yet, the Republicans seem to be willing to shut down the government over these very extreme riders.  I was standing here listening to Senator Brown, and I had a thought.

If it‘s really not about these extreme Title X riders and these other social riders, why doesn‘t Speaker Boehner just come out and say, OK, we‘re abandoning our desire to have these riders.  Let‘s talk about what we should really talk about, which is coming to some kind of agreement so that we don‘t shut down the government?

UYGUR:  Right.

DEGETTE:  In all of these statements, he never says, OK, we will abandon this right-wing social agenda and let‘s talk about the budget, which is frankly what we should be doing.

UYGUR:  Well, that would require him to be honest.  This is the same guy who is pushing this agenda, even though, he knows for a fact it has nothing to do with abortion funding, even though, he says the exact opposite, but we‘ve seen this movie before.


UYGUR:  Representative Degette, thank you for joining us.  We really appreciate it.

DEGETTE:  Good to be with you.  Appreciate it.

UYGUR:  I know you‘ve been a champion fighting for this.

DEGETTE:  Thank you.

UYGUR:  All right.  Now, the GOP claims that they have a mandate.  They always claim they have a mandate, but we‘ll show you how Republicans have continually overreached on their so-called mandates and fallen on their faces after elections and how it‘s happening again.


UYGUR:  Up next, the architect, Karl Rove, warns Republicans that they should compromise.  Isn‘t that interesting?  He says they have to be prepared to face the political consequences.  If they don‘t, that it might really hurt the Republican Party.  So, when we come back, we‘re going to take a look at the winners and losers of a government shutdown.


UYGUR:  With just hours until a possible government shutdown, one of the GOP‘s top strategists is warning that Republicans will pay a price if they fail to compromise.  In a memo on his website, Karl Rove reminds his party that the shutdowns benefited President Clinton in 1995 and 1996, and it could do the same for Obama.

He writes, quote, “The shutdowns helped improve Clinton‘s political standing, boosting both his approval rating and perceptions of him as a strong leader.  President Obama‘s ratings as a strong leader have slipped this year.  Republicans should be careful not to let him recover as he gears up for his 2012 election campaign.”

Now, look, I think he‘s right in this case, which is already enough of a surprise, but think about what Rove just said there.  Did you get it?  He says, look, if they shut down the government, Obama will look strong.  When he keeps negotiating and giving away more and more and more, he looks weak.  You see that?  The Republicans actually love that, but on the other hand, the Republicans also need to be careful because no matter what the fringe element of their party may want, most Americans want to avoid a shutdown.

A Gallup Poll out this week finds that 58 percent of Americans want leaders to reach a compromise compared to just 33 percent who said they should hold their position even if it means a shutdown.  Now, ironically, even the man behind the 1995 shutdown thinks a compromise should be reached, but speaking at an event today, Newt Gingrich couldn‘t help but take the opportunity to slam President Obama on the negotiations.


NEWT GINGRICH, ® FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER:  At some point, he has to actually be the president.  First of all, I would try to involve like a month ago, two months ago, I tried to work it out long before you get to this mess.  Second, I‘d try to—I would try to find a compromise to keep the government open.


UYGUR:  I think he‘s missing an irony gene.  You were the one who shut down the government last time.  How can you possibly claim that you would make sure the government wasn‘t shut down this time around?  It‘s unbelievable the stuff that he says without, you know, feeling any irony or hypocrisy at all.

Now, to find out what effect this will have politically on the GOP, the Democrats and President Obama, let‘s bring in my next guest.  Joining me now “Washington Post” columnist and senior fellow for the Brookings Institution, E.J. Dionne.  First, I‘m going to ask you a funny question, do you agree with Karl Rove that a shutdown helps the Democrats and hurts the Republicans?

E.J. DIONNE, THE WASHINGTON POST:  I guess, it pains me to say, yes as well.  I think he‘s right.  And I think if I can engage (ph) a little bit of Washingtonology here, Karl Rove is very close to Barry Jackson who is John Boehner‘s chief of staff.  I think one can interpret this as an indication of what most of us, I think, suspect, which is John Boehner does not want a shutdown because he knows they will pay.  Let‘s look at two paths.

If they don‘t shut down the government but get, you know, depending on how you want to count it, 38 or 79 billion in cuts, that‘s a great victory for Boehner.  The Republicans only control one-third of this process.  Democrats have the presidency in the Senate, yet they will end up with somewhere between three-fifths and two-thirds of what they wanted, in the first place.  And I do think that‘s part of the cost of the president choosing not to be involved in this fight until the very end.

If there is a shutdown, then, the fact that the Democrats went all this way to give in to the Republicans and they still shut down the government, I think that begins to hurt the Republicans.  So, as of this moment, I think a shutdown would be catastrophic for them keeping the government open with these cuts would be a great victory for them.

UYGUR:  I mean, at this point, when you look at the numbers, it seems to be, if you ask me, just like you said, if they do the deal right now, it‘d be a stunning loss for Democrats.  I mean, how much could they have possibly—even me who is incredibly cynical about the Democrats‘ negotiation strategy, I still can‘t believe how much they gave away.  So, I think you hit it on the head, but here‘s the trick, right, and here‘s the problem for President Obama, to be fair to him.

He‘s got to look reasonable.  Most of the country wants compromise, so he‘ going for compromise.  On the other hand, if you do too much compromise, as Rove pointed out, you look weak.  So, how does he thread that needle?  What‘s the right answer?

DIONNE:  Well, I think the right answer was to catch on to what the Republicans were doing early on.  When they did those early extensions, they already pocketed a whole lot of cuts, so they‘d already moved the discussion away from the Democrats.  So, that‘s the first thing they should have done.  And you know, if I—I‘ve said many times, I would not want the administration to negotiate for me on a new car or a new house because they have this strategy of preemptive concession.

And I just think if they had taken a harder line at the beginning, the middle wouldn‘t be where the middle is right now, but I think this Planned Parenthood issue has been harmful to the Republicans.  I mean, I think the best speech on this was actually given by a right to lifer, an anti-abortion Democrat, Steven Lynch, from Massachusetts who said, what you pointed out earlier, which is this can only increase the number of abortions in the country.

And what I heard—I was talking to somebody who was very close to this on the way here, that Boehner is now trying to negotiate a sort of fig leaf solution where they either have something in the bill that restates current law, that this money can‘t go for abortions, or perhaps, he agrees to a separate vote in the House.  He‘s trying to end this thing and hold on to his social conservatives at the same time, which is why he‘s doing a lot of public dancing right now.

UYGUR:  All right.  E.J. Dionne, thank you for your time tonight.  I totally agree with you.  You call it preemptive concessions, I call it preemptive surrender.  And for the love of God, at some point, draw a line.  And in fact, that point should be at the beginning, not at the very end.  It‘s—you know, look, I know I‘m being harsh, but I think they‘re the world‘s worst negotiators.  I would love to play poker with them.  All right.

Now, we got to go.  Just ahead, our Con Job of the day, Paul Ryan backed in his 2012 budget with items that have nothing to do with the deficit, as always.  Seems like a common theme for the Republicans these days.


UYGUR:  It‘s time for the con job of the day.  And once again, today‘s winner is republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.  Congratulations.  He‘s on a streak.  As we explained last night, his whole budget proposal is one massive con on the American people.  He transfers money from the poor and the middle class straight to the rich in the form of tax cuts for the very top brackets.  But today we want to focus on one particular part of the proposal that isn‘t getting a lot of attention.  Ryan claims his budget is about reducing the deficit which just like the republican attack on Planned Parenthood that we‘ve been talking about it all day.  He‘s targeting programs that have nothing to do with cutting debt all. 

Instead, Ryan would gut financial reform so that big banks can make more money while endangering our entire economy yet again.  Ryan‘s budget would stop the FDIC from dismantling failing banks.  The banks must be protected at all costs apparently, if you believe the Republicans, even if they‘re failing ones.  And would also stop the Federal Reserve from overseeing nonbanking firms.  Now, that would be firms like AIG that needed a $180 billion bailout because we didn‘t regulate them in first place.  So, why regulate them now?  We‘ll just bail them out when they get in trouble, right?

That‘s a terrible idea.  Now, chair of the Senate Banking Committee Ken Johnson says, quote, “House Republicans‘ attacks on the Wall Street reform law have nothing to do with cutting the budget and they have everything to do with gutting consumer and investor protections and letting Wall Street run wild all over again.”  So, Ryan‘s plans to eliminate parts of the Dodd/Frank financial reform bill will actually give much more power to the banks and it actually also eliminates revenue.  Get this ticker, according to the nonpartisan CBO, Dodd/Frank will cut the deficit by about $3 billion over the next ten years.  That‘s reducing the deficit.  Now, Raya would get rid of that cost savings and he‘d add to the deficit.  Why?  Because this isn‘t about the deficit.  Ryan‘s budget proposal is one giant welfare program for the rich and the powerful.  And the banks are on the top of that list.  This particular trick to help their wealthy donors is the republican con job of the day. 

Now, when we come back, Republicans are refusing to budge despite the fact that most Americans want them to.  Are they overreaching?  Well, they‘ve done it before.  And we‘ll going to show you exactly when they did it and how it hurt them, when we return. 



REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, HOUSE SPEAKER:  We‘re not going to roll over and sell out the American people.  When we say we‘re serious about cutting spending, we‘re damn serious about it. 


UYGUR:  They always say they‘re doing the will of the people.  You ever notice that whenever a democrat wins an election, they look for bipartisan compromise, and whenever Republicans do, they claim that have an overwhelming mandate and know exactly what the American people want, and that the Democrats better get out of their way.  Now, in this case, the numbers are clear, 58 percent of Americans want compromise.  That‘s the exact opposite of what Boehner has been doing all this time.  But 68 percent of Tea Partiers don‘t want compromise.  That‘s who Republicans are actually representing.  Now, that‘s a tiny sliver of the population, obviously, not the entirety of the American people as the GOP claims.  Mike Pence even slipped up and accidentally admitted it the other day.  Now, check out this video from Think Progress. 


UNIDENTIFIED MAN:  We‘re trying to score a victory for the republican people—for the American—for the republican people.  Trying to score a victory for the American people.  


UYGUR:  That was great.  The republican people—I mean the American people.  But look, here‘s the upside, as Ryan Brown (ph) of the National Journal points out, history shows that when the Republicans try to appeal only to others on the right, it ends disastrously for them.  Especially when they target entitlement programs.  The way Paul Ryan is doing right now to try to overhaul Medicare.  He‘s doing the same thing they‘ve been doing all this time.  Now, take a look at the brutal record of political missteps.  In the early 1980s, Ronald Reagan tried to lower the cost of living adjustments for Social Security. 


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  The entitlement programs that make up our safety net for the truly needy have worthy goals but there‘s only one way to see to it that these programs really help those whom they were designed to help and that is to bring their spiraling costs under control. 


UYGUR:  You know what?  Didn‘t work.  And the backlash was harsh.  Democrats gained 27 House seats in the ‘82 midterms in part because of a surge in elderly support.  Or go to 1995 when Newt Gingrich led the crusade to lower Medicare spending eventually triggering two government shutdowns.  


UNIDENTIFIED MAN:  The whole issue, the whole issue over this next month is how much reduction in Medicare growth and spending versus how big of a tax cut. 


UYGUR:  We know how that played out.  In the wake of the shutdowns, the voters spoke and re-elected Bill Clinton.  Or how about 2004, George W.  Bush promised to wield his political capital after beating John Carey. 

Bush‘s big dream was to privatize Social Security.  



The crisis is now.  We have a problem.  Workers in their mid-20s today will find Social Security bankrupt when they retire.  


UYGUR:  Now, that plan collapsed without even going to a vote in either the House or the Senate.  And then, in the 2006 midterms, there were huge gains by the Democrats.  Now, of course, Bush‘s inept response to hurricane Katrina also played a rule in those democratic gains, as well as George Bush‘s inept response to just about everything else.  But history is clear, when the GOP attacks popular programs that have been working for the American people for decades, they eventually get crushed. 

With me now is Ron Brownstein, editorial director of the National Journal Group, and democratic Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon. 

RON BROWNSTEIN, NATIONAL JOURNAL GROUP:  Actually, Ron, let me start with you because you came up with that interesting analysis.  Is there ever a time when they have tried to reduce Medicare or Social Security, the benefits that people got and it worked for them?

Well, it‘s very hard to change these programs on a unilateral one-party basis, you know, we are living in the narrow where the public is intrinsically distrustful of both parties.  And they are leery when politicians tell them they‘ll going to be improving broadly supported programs like Social Security and Medicare.  And I think really, the only way they‘re able to get public support for that is when they do it together.  The two counterexamples in the same 30 years, the only time they‘ve retrenched benefits on entitlement programs without a big backlash was 1983 when the Social Security deal raised the retirement age and the payroll tax, and have bipartisan support in Congress.  And 1996, when Bill Clinton and the Republicans agreed on ending the entitlements on welfare while increasing spending to child care and training. 

So, I think the key here, the lesson of this past 30 years is when you try to do this on a one-party basis, even for that matter, you know, the Democrats having to pass health care on a one-party basis, it‘s very hard to sell a change of that magnitude to the American people.  And what Ryan has come up with is a plan that, by definition, is going to have virtually no appeal to Democrats.  I do not think a single democrat in all likelihood would vote for this, would ever vote for voucherizing Medicare, and either the House with the Senate, whether you call it a voucher or premium support.  

UYGUR:  All right.  So Congressman Blumenauer, obviously, we go to you for that question.  Is Ron right?  Would you guys under no circumstances vote for this plan, whether it‘s voucherizing Medicare or making block grants for Medicaid?

REP. EARL BLUMENAUER (D), OREGON:  Well, bear in mind that this is a proposal that Congressman Ryan rolled out earlier in last year, and nobody prior to the election wanted to embrace it.  He had only a handful of representatives because, including his leadership, because it was too toxic.  Well, now they‘ve done that.  The cuts for everybody 55 and under, the block grant for low income people, these are things that are not going to be sustainable over time.  It‘s actually going to increase overall health care spending while it shifts it on to individuals to pick up more of the gap.  I can‘t see anybody in my party embracing it.  And I think there‘s going to be a lot of people in his party that are going to run away before we‘re through with this. 

UYGUR:  Ron, let me go back to you for a second, then.  Look, if the will of the people that they constantly refer to is to not cut Medicare and you see the polls, 75 percent say, under no circumstances should you cut Medicare, why in the world would the Democrats agree to that at all?  I mean, it looks like according to your analysis, they got the Republicans in a good spot.  The Republicans have basically offered them their jaw right there, shouldn‘t the Democrats swing away?

BROWNSTEIN:  Well, look, I mean, the basic dynamic in public opinion about spending in the deficit has been consistent for decades.  I mean, the American people are worried about the deficit and philosophically, generally if you ask them they support a smaller than larger government.  When you get down to the details of the specific programs, however, you know, the opinion often shifts.  And Medicare has been one of those.  This idea of converting Medicare from what is now a defined benefit program where you go to the doctor and you‘re guaranteed certain benefits into functionally defined contribution program where the government would only guarantee you a check every year to buy private insurance goes back to 1998, it was first hatched by a commission chair by John Breaux, a democratic senator and Bill Thomas, a republican House member. 

There was not another significant democrat who endorsed the idea until the last year, when Alice Rivlin, the former OMB director on the Bill Clinton endorsed a similar plan with Ryan.  But even she has renounced her support given the specifics of the Ryan proposal.  So this is a big roll of the dice for House Republicans.  They are betting that if next week when—will virtually all of them will vote for it.  They‘re betting that the broad support for deficit reduction will outweigh what is a clear I think reluctance on the public to change a program that affects this many people in such a fundamental way.  This really is ending Medicare as it now exists and replacing it with something else.  And at a time when Republicans won 60 percent of seniors in the 2010 election, we‘re talking about before, their best showing in the last 30 years, that is a big disruptive change even if you‘re telling people, you‘ll not going to change, you know, alter it for ten years doesn‘t affect anybody older than 55, it is not clear that seniors are going to hear that, or believe it if they do.  

UYGUR:  Right.  Now, Congressman Blumenauer, the conventional wisdom unfortunately in Washington is, all the Democrats should work with the Republicans on this so-called deficit cutting program and look to cut Medicare and Medicaid.  To me, as Ron explain the numbers and we see the history of it, that makes no sense whatsoever.  And you have again three-quarters of the American people behind you.  Can you assure me that the Democrats are not buying into the Washington conventional wisdom about working with the Republicans on this nonsense plan?  And I‘m not talking about just the vouchers or the block grants.  


UYGUR:  I‘m talking about cutting Medicare or Medicaid at all?

BLUMENAUER:  Well, bear in mind that we have already put in place a number of reforms to make Medicare more efficient and to improve it.  I come from an area of the country that has lower costs and higher quality than others where they‘re spending twice as much.  We know how to improve Medicare.  We‘ve got a number of those elements that used to be bipartisan improvements that are in the affordable care act.  What we need to do is to work to implement those.  It will save over a trillion dollars over the next 20 years and give senior citizens better Medicare.  We can strengthen it and save money.  That‘s the path we‘re on.  CBO has scored it that way.  And these are proposals that used to be bipartisan before the Republicans decided they were going to use it as a weapon. 

UYGUR:  Congressman, real quick, last question for you.  Have the Democrats learned a lesson from these shutdown negotiations, that if you give the Republicans some amount of leeway, that they will take and take and take, that it makes sense to perhaps draw the line much, much, much earlier?

BLUMENAUER:  Well, I‘m wearing my members pin from the 104th Congress, so last time we did the cutout—the shutdown.  I think absolutely we should have been more aggressive earlier and be more clear about what is involved with these billions of dollars that are being cut.  Allowing this to drift, this is anonymous now.  People have no clue about what is in the pipeline.  That was a mistake.  They have given us ammunition.  We should do a better job of spotlighting what‘s at stake because the American public, I don‘t think, agrees with this meat cleaver approach. 

UYGUR:  All right.  Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer and of course Ron Brownstein from the National Journal, thank you both, we really appreciate it. 

BLUMENAUER:  It‘s my pleasure.

UYGUR:  All right.  Now, still ahead.  Slick tricks.  Oil companies are getting billions in tax giveaways, thanks to outrageous loopholes.  And you‘re not going to believe all of the things that taxpayers could do with that money if things were fair and square. 


UYGUR:  Today in “Rigged Game,” we‘re going to show you what would happen if just one of the eight subsidies oil companies received were to be eliminated.  The expensing of intangible drilling costs was the first subsidy given to oil companies back in 1916.  According to the IRS Web site, it allows oil companies to deduct the cost of workers‘ wages, fuel, drill repairs, hauling equipment and, ready for this last one?  Supplies related to drilling wells.  That‘s right.  According to this subsidy, they can write off just about anything related to drilling their wells.  This subsidy is obviously archaic.  It was put on the books back in 1916 when oil and gas companies were in their infancy to help them grow.  But those days are long over.  They have grown and grown and grown.  They‘ve made a trillion dollars in the last ten years.  Just the top five of them. 

Now, since 1968, this subsidy has cost the U.S. treasury $78 billion in lost tax revenue.  That‘s 78 billion that could have been in your pocket instead of oil executives‘ pockets.  Now, if we did away with it today, it‘s estimated that we would gain approximately $8 billion over the next decade.  You know what we could do with that $8 billion?  Build about 19 new solar power plants that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 7.6 million tons a year.  Now, it‘s been 2,069 days since the last oil subsidy bill was signed into law.  And we‘re going to keep on this story until all Washington has to admit they make no sense whatsoever.  We‘ll be back. 


UYGUR:  Every day, we find out more and more about how Congressman Paul Ryan‘s budget plan takes from the middle class and gives to the rich.  The tax poll center has now released a study finding the major tax cuts in Ryan‘s plan will decrease revenue by $2.9 trillion over the next ten years.  This is a joke.  And of course those tax cuts are skewed to benefit the wealthy.  Ryan‘s extension of Bush tax cuts alone gives people making more than a million dollars average tax cuts of $125,000 a year.  That‘s an enormous gift to millionaires.  They‘ve got to be very grateful for the republican politicians that they have bought. 

But those cuts fly in the face of public opinion.  A recent NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll found that 81 percent of people support raising taxes on millionaires.  Despite these overwhelming numbers, Republicans are continuing their decades-long quest to cut taxes for the rich.  Next week‘s cover story on “Bloomberg Business Week” written by Jesse Drucker points out that between 1995 and 2007, the effective tax rate at the federal level for the 400 wealthiest American taxpayers dropped from 30 percent of their income to just under 17 percent.  And in 2008 alone, the top one percent of Americans saw their effective income tax rate drop from 29 to 23 percent. 

So, the rich have seen massive tax decreases and the richer they are, the bigger the decrease.  And Republicans think it‘s still not enough.  Let‘s give them more.  And by the way, how do they pay so little?  By taking advantage of a slew of corporate loopholes and tax avoidance strategies gift wrapped for them by earlier republican proposals.  As Republicans working really hard to make sure the rich get richer and richer and richer off your hide.  Now, do conservatives and liberals have different brains?  It turns out liberals do nuance.  Want to know what conservatives do?  We‘ll tell you next.                        


UYGUR:  Now, it‘s time for some political stories that we actually have fun with, after beating up Republicans and Democrats throughout the show. 

All right.  Let me bring in my Young Turks co-host Ana Kasparian who happens to be in L.A., and so, look at this.  We‘re together.  

ANA KASPARIAN, CO-HOST, YOUNG TURKS:  I know, how are you doing, Cenk? 

It‘s just like old times.

UYGUR:  Oh, yes.

KASPARIAN:  Well, a new study published in the journal of Current Biology, suggests that conservative and liberal brains have real anatomical differences.  Apparently, the liberal brain tends to have a larger anterior cingulate cortex, now, that‘s the part of the brain that helps process conflicting information.  And then the conservative brain actually tends to have a larger amygdala, now get this, the amygdala is a part of the brain that helps you better recognize threats or fear.  

UYGUR:  And I think there‘s a guy who knows a thing or two about creating fear among conservative brains.  Let‘s take a look at that for a second.  


GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  I will tell you this.  The world is about to be plunged into complete and utter darkness, despair.  Quite honestly, famine will follow. 


UYGUR:  Famine will follow.  Be afraid, be afraid!  But look, it‘s interesting because we always suspected that liberals do nuance. 


UYGUR:  The findings seem to say, liberals do nuance.  And we always suspected the conservatives largely run their campaign on fear. 

KASPARIAN:  Exactly.

UYGUR:  And this shows the biology of why they do that, it make sense.  

KASPARIAN:  Right.  So, Glenn Beck has a massive amygdale, OK. 

UYGUR:  Like a giant, giant amygdala, famine, the forms rating down. 

Hey, that amygdala didn‘t work out too well for him, though.  

KASPARIAN:  Didn‘t work out too well at all.  All right.  Let‘s go on to the next story.  So, Tim Pawlenty campaign worker, he ended up in jail this week after drinking a few too many beers.  Twenty-four-year-old Ben Foster was arrested for public intoxication and trespassing, after an Iowa family found him trying to enter a house at 3:00 in the morning.  Foster was clearly intoxicated and apparently thought he was entering his friend‘s house, but the best part of the story is that Foster is still employed by Pawlenty.  He only got a measly two-week suspension.  

UYGUR:  Ana, you‘re wrong.  The best part of the story is the mug shot.  It‘s always the mug shot.  It‘s like when you get busted doing something really stupid and you‘re drunk and the guy‘s like, oh, dude, what was I thinking?  I thought it was my house!

KASPARIAN:  Oh.  All right.  And then the last story, Cenk, President Obama‘s family trip to colonial Williamsburg has been canceled this weekend due to the possible government shutdown.  Now, it has to make you wonder if Sasha and Malia were hoping for the shutdown just so they can avoid a weekend-long history lesson.  

UYGUR:  Oh, come on.  Who wants to go and churn butter on a vacation?  I mean, I enjoyed Colonial Williamsburg, but if you‘re a kid, you‘re like, come on, give me a ride, give me a rollercoaster song.  

KASPARIAN:  Yes, look, for kids, it‘s definitely not the place to go.  Because you want to take people that have that curiosity, that intellectual curiosity.  And I don‘t know if a nine or an 11-year-old would like it.  

UYGUR:  All right.  Well, too bad for them either way.  All right.  Thanks for watching, everybody.  Stay tuned at MSNBC for continuing coverage of possible shutdown, “HARDBALL” starts right now. 

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