Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET, Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Guests: Bernie Sanders, Jan Schakowsky, Dana Milbank, David Sirota, Jim

Dean, Adam Green

CENK UYGUR, HOST:  Good evening, everybody.  I‘m Cenk Uygur. 

President Obama spoke earlier today, and he sounded like the man we voted for.  He outlined a progressive vision for the country, defended the idea of government, that sometimes we can achieve more together than we can apart.  I really like that.

He said he would also protect important social programs and fight for the middle class.  It was a very good speech to listen to, and it was, of course, this afternoon that he gave it, where he unveiled his plan for cutting the deficit and, more importantly, outlined his vision of America. 


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We believe in the words of the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, that through government, we should do together what we cannot do as well for ourselves.  We will all need to make sacrifices, but we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in.  And as long as I‘m president, we won‘t. 


UYGUR:  Progressives have been asking him to make his case for a long time.  And it appeared today that he was making that case. 

You know what else he did?  He also ripped into the Republicans. 


OBAMA:  I believe it paints a vision of our future that is deeply pessimistic.  It‘s a vision that says America can‘t afford to keep the promise we made to care for our seniors.  It‘s a vision that says up to 50 million Americans have to lose their health insurance in order for us to reduce the deficit.  That‘s not a vision of the America I know. 


UYGUR:  The president says his plan will reduce deficits by $4 trillion over 12 years, and the first step is rolling back Bush tax cuts for the rich. 


OBAMA:  We‘re (ph) $1 trillion worth of tax cuts for every millionaire and billionaire in our society.  We can‘t afford it.  And I refuse to renew them again. 


UYGUR:  Nice.  I like the word “refuse.”

The president also drew a line in the sand on Medicare, too.  He attacked the Republican plan to privatize it with a voucher system. 


OBAMA:  I will preserve these health care programs as a promise we make to each other in this society.  I will not allow Medicare to become a voucher program that leaves seniors at the mercy of the insurance industry. 


UYGUR:  So the speech in its totality sounded strong and it sounded progressive.  Again, that is a president that we voted for, and it was nice to see him actually make that case today.  So, very encouraging. 

But while the president‘s speech hit all the right notes, he was short on specifics in terms of how he would reform Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  Now, it‘s a little troubling as he hinted that the specifics might be basically dictated by the debt commission. 

Now, that‘s a cause for concern, because the debt commission, well, in my opinion and in the opinion of a lot of progressives, it took a lot from the poor and the middle class and still gave too much to the wealthy, as I said, for most progressives in the country.  Now, we‘ll have to see how this plan gets put into action—that‘s of course critical—and what happens once negotiations actually start with Republicans. 

Now, to give us a progressive perspective is Independent Senator from Vermont, of course, Bernie Sanders.  He‘s a member of the Progressive Caucus, and about as progressive as it gets. 

So, let me start really simple.  What did you think of the speech? 

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT:  I thought the president said a lot of the right things.  I think the devil is going to be in the details.  And, also, the question is, is whether the president is going to fight for what he believes, or is this just rhetoric? 

Cenk, what we saw in terms of the tax deal, you remember back in December, the president really basically caved in and gave the Republicans almost everything they wanted.  In terms of the continuing resolution, the 2011 budget, which I‘m going to vote against tomorrow, there were massive cuts in programs for health care, for education, for infrastructure, keeping people warm.  I think a very bad agreement. 

Now what the president is saying is that he is drawing a line in the sand.  And I hope very much that the president is going to say to the Republicans that if you refuse to raise the debt limit, if you are about to destroy or bring chaos to the international financial community, leading, perhaps, to a major depression, if you guys are prepared to do it, take responsibility.  But we‘re not going to cave in again, we‘re not going to be blackmailed again.  You are not going to dismember the government and cut back on programs that tens and tens of millions of Americans absolutely depend upon while, as the president said, you give a trillion dollars in tax breaks to the richest people in this country who, in many ways, have never had it so good. 

So the president‘s rhetoric was strong, weak on the details.  But the $64 question is, is the president going to really fight?  Is he going to rally the American people and say no, we‘re not going to bring hardship to the people without money while we give tax breaks to the very rich?  That‘s the issue that remains to be seen. 

UYGUR:  Well, Senator Sanders, it is apparent to me that you are concerned.  Right?  And towards the end of the speech, the president did say, I might not get what I want, so that, of course, opens the door for negotiations.  Now, obviously they have to have negotiations. 

I guess my question to you is, are you happy with where the negotiations appear to begin?  Because the president kept referring to that deficit commission that he put together.  What‘s your thoughts on that? 

SANDERS:  No, I think you make a very good point, Cenk, and I am not.  What often happens is we start off somewhere in the middle, or to the right of center, then the Republicans go into the extreme right, and we end up with a settlement that is very far to the right. 

I think the president should have been very clear in terms of Social Security, for example, in saying, excuse me, Social Security has not contributed one nickel to the deficit, it can pay out ever benefit owed to every eligible American for 26 years, has a $2.6 trillion surplus, it is not on the table.  We‘re not going to discuss it now.  That‘s for another day. 

In terms of Medicare, I think that, clearly, there are financial problems.  There are ways that, by getting rid of bureaucracy within the Medicare system, we can save substantial sums of money without doing the kinds of damage that the Republicans want to do. 

So, again, Cenk, the devil will be in the detail.  But I am not a great fan of that Simpson/Bowles deficit reduction commission.  I think that‘s a bad place to start from. 

UYGUR:  Right.  You know, one of my concerns with that commission is, among other things, they said Social Security retirement age would be raised to 69.  If that‘s the model we‘re using, you‘re not happy with that solution at all, right?

SANDERS:  And they‘re going to also, in addition to that, cut benefits for many, many workers.  It is not a good place to start from.

And also, most importantly, we have to separate the whole issue of how we deal with the deficit, which is very important, from Social Security, and how we make sure that that remains strong for 75 years.  These are separate issues, because Social Security is paid for by the payroll tax, has a huge surplus right now, hasn‘t contributed one nickel to the deficit.  And it is only Republican ideology and propaganda which is trying to bring these two issues together. 

UYGUR:  All right.  Senator Sanders, honestly, I didn‘t know where you were going to come out on this, and I sense concern from you.  That‘s what I sense.

OK.  We‘ll see how it plays out, obviously.  Thank you for joining us tonight.  Really appreciate it. 

SANDERS:  Thank you.  Good to be with you. 

UYGUR:  All right.

Now, a key part of the president‘s message today was for Americans to share the burden of our debt and for the wealthy to give something back. 


OBAMA:  There‘s a time when the tax burden on the wealthy is at its lowest level in half a century, the most fortunate among us can afford to pay a little more. 

And I believe that most wealthy Americans would agree with me.  They want to give back to their country, a country that‘s done so much for them.  It‘s just Washington hasn‘t asked them to. 


UYGUR:  Well, I hope he‘s right.  They‘re looking forward to giving back. 

Now, look, take a look at this chart.  He‘s definitely right about how low taxes are today. 

For example, you see that the taxes are at 35 percent now for the top bracket, which is, historically speaking, incredibly low.  Now, decades ago, the top rate was 70, 80, and even 90 percent. 

Remember the last Republican that balanced the budget?  Eisenhower. 

The highest marginal tax rate under Eisenhower?  Ninety-one percent. 

So, yes, there‘s no question the rich can pay a lot more, and apparently are not paying their fair share.  And that‘s why we‘re in part of the trouble that we‘re in now. 

So now let me bring in Representative Jan Schakowsky.  She‘s a Democrat from Illinois.  She was at the president‘s speech today, and she has an even bolder tax plan.  She‘s also a member of the Progressive Caucus and of the president‘s debt commission.

Now, let me start there, because I know you‘re a part of the commission and that you did not sign off on it.  What was your concern with the commission? 

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D), ILLINOIS:  Well, not only didn‘t I sign off on it, but I actually offered an alternative plan that said, yes, we can balance the budget, but we don‘t have to do it on the backs of the elderly and middle class and poor people.  But, having said that, there were a couple of things that I agreed with the commission on, and that was that we should go after what we call tax expenditures.  So it‘s tax breaks for wealthy Americans.  And number two, that the defense budget had to be on the table. 

And those were two things that the president said today that he also liked about the deficit commission, and that he also wanted to adopt.  So, I actually agreed with him on that, even though I voted against and presented my own proposal for balancing our budget. 

UYGUR:  So is it—you know, I know the president outlined today, basically, he wants to get a trillion dollars in reinstating some of the tax rates that were under Clinton.  He wants to get $2 trillion from spending cuts, so a lot more from spending cuts, and maybe save about a trillion dollars in interest payments if you do this plan. 

Do you think that‘s the right balance, or are you concerned about that balance?  And are you concerned that he is using the commission here apparently as his guide, something that you voted against? 

SCHAKOWSKY:  Well, let me just say this, Cenk, that what the president did today, rather than lay out all kinds of very specific items, was present a very different vision of America between what he sees and what the Republicans have proposed.  I think that was the context that is most important so the American people really understand what what‘s at stake, that the vision that they proposed was deeply pessimistic, that it was not the America that he sees. 

It‘s not the America that he sees that makes poor people and middle class people bear the burden of this debt, that seniors shouldn‘t have to pay.  And he talked pretty specifically about Medicare and Medicaid, that, yes we could reduce the cost of health care, but that doesn‘t mean that we had to do it by shifting those costs to poor people and old people in our country. 

I thought it was a very passionate expression of the very different ways that we look at it.  The Republicans have offered something that will absolutely exacerbate the disparity in income between the rich and the poor in our country, that ask the poor and middle class to sacrifice, even though as the president pointed out, the middle class income hasn‘t increased, while we‘ve seen this dramatic rise in the wealth of the top earners in America. 

And so I really applauded that speech.  We‘re still going to have to work out the details, but if he‘s coming from that kind of place, I have confidence on where we‘re going to end up. 

UYGUR:  All right.  You know, thematically, I couldn‘t agree more with you.  I thought he hit that note over and over in the speech, and it was really encouraging to see.  And I say that as a progressive.  You know, I‘m honest with the viewers, they know where I come from.

And speaking of which, I really like your plan.  I want to show people what it is. 

SCHAKOWSKY:  Thank you. 

UYGUR:  It would be 45 percent rate for every dollar above a million dollars, and it would be 49 percent for billionaires, for every dollar above a billion.  Now—

SCHAKOWSKY:  Right.  And I wanted to make that point, because people will say, a billion dollars?  Who makes a billion?  Well, yes, there are Americans who made $1 billion and more in 2010.  That was their one-year take for that particular year, $1 billion. 

UYGUR:  So should the president have been bolder, though and go with -

I mean, it seems like your plan, as much as you and I might like it, doesn‘t even get considered in Washington.  What‘s wrong there, that we have a Democratic president who isn‘t pushing the spectrum to the left there? 

SCHAKOWSKY:  Well, believe you me, I think that it would be wildly supported by the American people, who 81 percent said the preferable way to deal with our deficit and our debt would be to raise taxes on millionaires.  And I know Bernie Sanders, Senator Sanders, had a similar proposal for millionaires.

And so what I‘m saying to my colleagues, have the courage to follow, follow the American people.  They‘re telling us what they want us to do.  There‘s no risk involved.  We should, in fact, I think, even go higher, as my plan does, and tax millionaires and billionaires even more, not because of revenge, not because we‘re going to punish them, because of fairness. 

UYGUR:  Yes.  If you can‘t get politicians on your side to agree to a position that they ideologically agree with and 81 percent of the country agrees with, well, there‘s something wrong in Washington. 

But Representative Schakowsky is one of the ones that is trying to fix it. 

And we thank you for joining us tonight. 

SCHAKOWSKY:  Thank you so much, Cenk.

UYGUR:  All right.

Now, the fight for America‘s future is on.  President Obama ripped into Paul Ryan‘s plan, and that‘s a good thing.  And the way the Republicans responded was pretty sad. 

Dana Milbank from “The Washington Post” and syndicated columnist David Sirota will talk about that face-off, next. 


UYGUR:  Today, President Obama took pains to distinguish his vision for America from the one put forth by Paul Ryan and the House Republicans.  And in the process of drawing that distinction, the president also set himself apart from his possible 2012 contenders. 


OBAMA:  To their credit, one vision has been presented and championed by Republicans in the House of Representatives and embraced by several of their party‘s presidential candidates. 


UYGUR:  Ah, the race is on.  And that‘s smart, connecting them to Ryan‘s plans. 

Now, after he connected them to that plan, the president proceeded to tell the country exactly what he thinks of that whole vision. 


OBAMA:  This vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America.  There‘s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.  And I don‘t think there‘s anything courageous about acting for sacrifice from those who can least can afford it and don‘t have any clout on Capitol Hill.  That‘s not a vision of the America I know. 


UYGUR:  Now do you see why I liked this speech?  OK.  That was some good stuff. 

Of course, the GOP candidates jumped all over the speech.  Mitt Romney accused the president of digging into his “liberal playbook.” 

First of all, he‘s a Democratic president.  Second of all, what have you got?  You‘ve just got name-calling?  No substance? 

Oh, yes?  You‘re a liberal! 

Nice one, Mitt. 

And Tim Pawlenty said the president‘s plan wasn‘t serious. 

Were you listening to this speech?  The president called for $4 trillion in cuts.  How much more serious did he need to be? 

So, now is the time to talk about who wins and who loses out of this big national debate.  So let‘s do that right now  with our guests, Dana Milbank, national political reporter for “The Washington Post.”  And also with us is Democratic strategist and syndicated columnist David Sirota.  His latest book is “Back to Our Future.” 

All right, Dana, let‘s start with you. 

The president went on the attack a little bit, but then he said he‘s going to do the deficit commission.  Or didn‘t say he was fully going to do it, but that he was using it as his guide. 

First, is this smart politics?  Has he done a good job of casting himself in the middle here, if you will? 


think he has done a very good job here, because had he come out and say, look, I‘m going to give a big old hug to Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, and I‘m just going to give my blessing to their plan, you would not be having the same show that you‘re having tonight.  You‘d be pretty angry about this.

I think what he did is he said all the right words.  And let‘s face it, Paul Ryan gave him a real gift.  This was a gimme.  It was easy for the president to get up there and be the anti-Ryan, and thereby claiming the center, as well as keeping his base happy.  I suspect when you get right down to the details, it‘s not going to be so pretty. 

UYGUR:  Well, you see, that‘s really interesting.  So, overall, you‘re not buying it.  You‘re saying, like, he didn‘t want to mess with his base, that‘s why he gave such a greet speech on, oh, progressive vision, values, et cetera, but you think he‘s not going to do that.  You think he‘s actually going to be very much in favor of that commission, which we don‘t like? 

MILBANK:  When you talk to White House officials, that‘s what I‘m hearing.  All signs sort of point in that direction. 

I mean, there‘s a lot of jockeying going on.  And you were just talking with Jan Schakowsky.  I was at their event today. 

I think it‘s very smart of them to come out and say, hey, we can solve this problem with 80 percent of the money coming from tax increases.  I think it‘s good for the president to have that on his left as a counterweight to Paul Ryan. 

So, this is all about positioning right now, it‘s not about negotiating.  And I think while this will not come as good news to you, I think signs still point towards that Bowles/Simpson plan. 

UYGUR:  All right.

Well, David, let me get the progressive perspective from you.  Does that hearten you or does that really concern you? 

DAVID SIROTA, FMR. DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well, look, there‘s a lot of good things in this and there‘s a lot of bad things, as usual. 

I mean, I think the good thing is that the president now has a fight

over taxes and tax fairness on his hands, which I think is winning terrain

for Democrats, and I think it‘s winning terrain if you want to see our tax

rates become more progressive.  I think the bad news is, is that there is -

for every dollar raised from tax reform, there‘s $3 raised from spending cuts, and a lot of those spending cuts come from major programs that are both progressive and wildly popular in America. 

So what I would say is that I think that he‘s trying to split the difference here.  I do think he is somewhat in the middle.  And I agree with Dana, that I think congressional Democrats have an obligation to really stake out a much more progressive position, because if they don‘t, he‘s exactly right, the president will—he has in the past—he will run, my guess is, to simply embrace the Republican position even more than perhaps he already has. 

UYGUR:  Dana, is that a winning strategy, politically, for 2012?  You speak like a Democrat and act like a Republican? 

MILBANK:  Well, I guess so.  I mean, the president has been following this pattern all along, that he sort of sounds themes that excite his base, then he basically leaves the details up to Capitol Hill.  We saw that with the stimulus, we saw it with health care, we‘re seeing it again happening now. 

I mean, in the end, it‘s going to matter what is actually in this final plan, assuming they can agree on anything at all.  He aggravated liberals greatly with the deal struck very recently.  And I think the White House felt a lot of that heat, and I think that‘s why you got the kind of speech that you got today. 

And, incidentally, I think we should say the Republican presidential candidates are pounding Obama, but they‘re not really all that much.  The only one who is fully behind this Ryan plan is Rick Santorum, and we all know where that campaign is going. 

UYGUR:  Absolutely nowhere.

But let‘s talk about the more relevant campaign, which is Obama‘s campaign. 

David, do you think it‘s a smart strategy?  Because, you know, of course conventional wisdom is you want to be in the center, you want to be above it, and you want to say, hey, look, I‘m doing a bit of this and a bit of that, I‘m giving you some tax increases, because—although they call it—what is it, spending cuts from taxes?  Because they don‘t want to call it tax increases.

SIROTA:  Tax expenditures. 

UYGUR:  Yes, that‘s right.  And spending cuts.  Or do you think, hey, you know what, a more progressive strategy would simply be a better strategy politically? 

SIROTA:  Well, look, I think it‘s cynical.  Right?

I think the expectation on the Obama administration‘s part and Obama strategists has been what it‘s always been, which is we can say really nice things and our progressive base won‘t catch up to any of the details, because what they see on television when the president speaks is what they want to hear.  The question is, how much does this become a debate about the actual details in this plan, and how much of it just becomes traded sound bites? 

Typically, with budget politics, having worked on the Appropriations Committee years ago, typically it becomes, unfortunately, about sound bites, not about details.  But my guess is, that if the Republicans really dig in, if the Republican presidential candidates really dig in on this and make it a debate about big sets of details, then I think you‘re going to have perhaps somewhat of an erosion of grassroots support.  Not to say that that grassroots support is going to go vote for the Republican, but somewhat of an erosion of enthusiasm for the president when people realize that he hasn‘t taken on in this plan yet the major challenges in a progressive way that he could.

UYGUR:  You know, I‘m going to be honest with you guys.  You have discouraged me a little bit.  OK?  And I‘ll tell you why.

Because I listened to the speech and I‘m like, God, it‘s a good progressive vision, and he keeps talking about how important it is for everybody to pay their fair share, et cetera.  But I get the sense from both of you that you‘re not buying it, that it‘s just talk.

And, Dana, I mean, you‘re—tell me a little bit more about your reporting on that, because I think that“ really important.  Is he going to basically do that deficit commission?  Because if he does, that‘s not progressive at all.

MILBANK:  It certainly sounds that way to me.  And, you know, we‘ve seen this sort of movie before. 

Now, if you look at the health care debate, I would argue that whatever the president wanted to end up with, even if he wanted this plan, perhaps he should have started out saying, hey, actually, I do want socialized medicine.  Then they could have split the difference in a different place just as a purely tactical matter.

But the White House has been sending out all kinds of signs.  Bowles and Simpson were there today.  They‘ve been fairly encouraging.  You know, the president is supportive of this Gang of Six in the Senate that‘s basically mimicking Bowles and Simpson.  So I think signs do point that way. 

UYGUR:  Right.  Oh, well.  It was a nice speech. 

MILBANK:  Sorry.



The Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank and columnist David Sirota.

Thank you both for joining us.

And Dana, nice tie.  I have the same exact one. 

All right.  Ahead, did President Obama do enough to please his base?  Well, if you just listened to those guys, maybe not.  But we actually have two of the top progressives in the country.  They‘re coming up ahead, and they‘re going to tell you why it‘s basically a progressive country that we live in here. 

And Lindsey Graham, well, he‘s threatening to tie the Senate into knots, and it‘s a wonderful piece of hypocrisy.  We‘ve got that con job, next. 


UYGUR:  Welcome back.  For our con job of the day, we‘re looking at the GOP love affair with earmarks, otherwise known as Pork Barrel Projects.  Republicans talk a big game about getting rid of earmarks, except of course when they find projects that they like.  Take Republican Senator Lindsay Graham.  Graham‘s so angry at last week‘s budget deal cut a study on deepening Charleston‘s port that he says he will hold up Senate approval of Obama nominees.  Graham says, he‘ll tie the Senate in knots to get the funding, because, quote, “the squeaky wheel seems to get the oil.”  So, Graham is storing—to get a $50,000 item from a $38 billion bill.  He also claims that Charleston project isn‘t an earmark.  That doesn‘t make any sense whatsoever, but this isn‘t the first time that Senator Graham‘s gotten confused about earmarks. 


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  We do need earmark reform.  I‘ve voted to take all earmarks out but I will come back in the new process and put that back in.  I think I should have the ability as a United States senator to direct money back to mass as long as it‘s transparent and it makes sense.  


UYGUR:  So, Graham wants to reform earmarks except for his own.  He wants to cut spending, except for the money that goes to his projects.  He hates Pork Barrel spending, except when he loves it and he will hold up the entire Senate to get it.  Senator Graham‘s hypocrisy on spending cuts is our “con job of the day.”

And when we come back, Speaker Boehner and the Republicans speak about what the American people want.  They might want to look a little closer, because we have proof that they are dead wrong on what Americans really want.  Jim Dean and Adam Green on the fight to keep America progressive, next.  

And Michele Bachmann‘s deficit plans have started to look tame compared to her social views.  You won‘t believe what she‘s saying now.  Except you might believe because she is Michele Bachmann, but get a load of it when we come back.       



PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES:  Indeed to those in my own party.  I say that if we truly believe in a progressive nation of our society, we have an obligation to prove that we can afford our commitments.  


UYGUR:  Now, as we‘ve been telling you all day.  Barack Obama made a passionate case for progressive ideals and a speech on the deficit reduction today.  At the heart of his case, an argument about fairness in our society, especially when it comes to taxes. 


OBAMA:  In the last decade.  The average income of the bottom 90 percent of all working Americans actually declined.  Meanwhile, the top one percent saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each.  That‘s who needs to pay less taxes? 


UYGUR:  Do you see why, I like the speech?  That‘s a great point.  Please, please follow through on that.  Obama made it clear he‘s going to go after those Bush year tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, but even before Obama spoke, republican leaders today put their forward, their vision of America.  It‘s a vision that rejects progressive values, including the idea of raising taxes on millionaires. 


REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, HOUSE SPEAKER:  If we‘re going to resolve our differences and do something meaningful, raising taxes will not be part of that.  

REP. ERIC CANTOR ®, HOUSE MINORITY WHIP:  We don‘t believe that raising taxes is the answer here.  I think the American people understand we have a serious problem in this country. 


UYGUR:  So, the battle lines are clear.  Republicans don‘t even want to consider taxing the rich, but now check out who does like Obama‘s progressive issue.  The majority of Americans.  A new “USA Today”/Gallup poll finds that 59 percent of Americans favor raising taxes on those main over $250, 000.  That is exactly President Obama‘s proposal.  Seventy eight percent of Democrats, and 60 percent of independents are on board with that.  That‘s a big number.  Even 37 percent of Republicans agree, which is also a little surprising, right?  That‘s a big number for Republicans.

Now, according to a recent NBC/”Wall Street Journal poll,” when it comes to raising taxes on those who are making over a million dollars, it‘s even clear for Americans then.  Eighty one percent find the plan acceptable.  But it‘s not just taxes.  Americans are progressive on a whole slew of fundamental issues.  Now, let‘s take Medicare.  According to that Gallup poll, 61 percent of Americans would defend it, saying that accept only minor changes.  And a reason NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll found 77 percent of Americans have cut the Social Security in the name of balancing the budget would be unacceptable.  Seventy six percent say the same way about cuts the Medicare, and sixty seven percent wants to reject cuts the Medicaid. 

So, when you actually look at the numbers, what the American people really want is clear, a progressive nation.  But are we going to get one?  Certainly in Washington, that‘s the question we‘re going to talk about tonight. 

With me now is Jim Dean, Chair of Democracy for America, and Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.  Before Obama‘s speech, his group had circulated a petition warning the president not to touch Medicare or Medicaid or risk losing progressive support.  Now, having said that, Adam, let me start with you.  What do you think here after watching the speech?  Which, using—Medicare and Medicaid, are you guys going to withdraw support or not? 


first of all, the president rightly deserves credit for really well articulating the case for raising taxes on millionaires, and those making over $250,000, you know, all the praise in the world.  The problem will be on issues like Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, when the president has been consistently ambiguous about whether he will draw a line in the sand against benefit cuts.  You know, what he said was that the Paul Ryan plan to privatize Medicare is off the table.  He‘s alluded to finding some generic savings that wouldn‘t entail benefit cuts like, you know, if they could save taxpayers money by not paying as much money to the insurance companies, add more power to them.  But he‘s consistently been ambiguous about whether he would actually draw to a line in the sand and say, absolutely no way to benefit cuts. 

And I think, as he said before, you know, when literally trillions of dollars have gone to the wealthiest Americans after Wall Street has looted this country, it would be unconscionable to cut benefits for our grandparents, kids who need to see doctors and those with disabilities.  So, we hope that he draws line in the sand very soon. 

UYGUR:  All right.  Jim, let me ask you a tough question.  Because, look, one of the things that I do on this show is I try to show people real facts, numbers, and sometimes it‘s polling, sometimes it‘s things that have happened in the past, and you know, there‘s this conventional wisdom in D.C. that the country center right, nonsense, nonsense, nonsense.  It‘s not my opinion, it‘s the facts, right?  But yet, in Washington, we seem to lose the argument.  So, that‘s my question to you.  Why, if we‘re right and the country‘s progressive, why do we seem to keep losing in Washington?

JIM DEAN, CHAIR OF DEMOCRACY FOR AMERICA:  Well, I‘m not sure that I had the total answer to that Cenk.  Look, we‘re thrilled that the president is engaging and leading an adult discussion about solving a budget crisis.  By getting additional—by raising taxes and those that have been the beneficiaries of the taxpayers as well as its economy.  We‘re thrilled that he‘s taking to Paul Ryan‘s plan off the table.  But, you know, Washington is bubble as he have alluded to, and I think a lot of people feel that the statesmanship is  somehow between the rest of America and a small minority of people who believe in using the budget for their own ideological means.  And that‘s something that we‘ve got to work on a little bit.  You know, I think a lot of folks in Washington should spend a little bit more time in their own districts and a little bit less time in D.C.  And they would find that out very quickly and they would agree with your point very quickly.  

UYGUR:  Right.  And I don‘t want people to get the wrong impression.  But when it comes to politics, look, in 2006, the Democrats won overwhelmingly, in 2008 they won overwhelmingly, and there was a mandate to be more progressive, but when it comes to policy, oftentimes it looks like we‘re on the short end of it.  And part of the reason for that I think is the republican attack.  So, let me give you an example of that today guys, and we‘ll have you respond.  Of course, they immediately said that it was class warfare, the idea of taxing anybody, a nickel more.  Let me show you the tape on that. 


UNIDENTIFIED MAN:  This is the tired old way of waging class warfare, pitting one piece of our society against the other. 

UNIDENTIFIED MAN:  Going to everyone for the nation‘s fiscal woes but himself, attacking the path to prosperity budget and setting a new standard for class warfare rhetoric. 


UYGUR:  So, Adam, how do you fight back against that?  How do you respond?

GREEN:  Well, there is class warfare, there is republican class warfare against middle-class working families.  And what the poll numbers that you showed before should indicate to the president that he has the ammunition to end this war.  He has the public on his side.  And what we need is a bold fighter saying, absolutely no to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, benefit cuts, absolutely yes to increase in taxes on the wealthy, holding corporations accountable, and I‘m cutting military.  That would be a winning argument policy wise and politically.  And we hope he does it.  

UYGUR:  All right.  Jim, let me ask that question, then.  Do you think he did, I mean, for example, one of the things that pointed out here, and we had Representative Schakowsky on before, she points that out all the time.  Top one percent of the country have 34 percent of the wealth.  The bottom 90 percent of the country only have 29 percent of the wealth, that‘s startling, right?  But yet, anytime you say, hey, can we get the taxes to be fair for the top one percent?  They scream, oh my God, class warfare, class warfare.  So, now, the president did not go as far as Representative Schakowsky‘s plan to talk tax millionaires and billionaires, didn‘t go as far as Bernie Sanders plan.  Is that a strategic mistake that if you go towards the Republicans, and then you start the negotiations and you want to go further, that he should have put his marker further left, or, what do you think about that?

DEAN:  Well, I‘m less concern about whether put his marker now, as what‘s going to happen when they start these negotiations.  And, as you know, in the past, you know, given some of the past negotiations, there‘s reason for concern there.  And I really believe that the president really needs to stand up, he specially needs to stand up on preserving programs for the middle class, especially Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, I think if he does that, he‘s going to get a tremendous backing not only from own caucus but from the American people.  He needs to take this fight to the people, Cenk, and not play this Washington game of trying to split the difference again with a bunch of ideologues who have not been serious about passing the balanced budget in the past and again, are using the whole budget debate for their own social ideology.  

UYGUR:  All right.  Jim Dean of democracy for America and Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, thank you for representing your side today.  We appreciate it.  

DEAN:  Yes.  Thanks for having us on. 

UYGUR:  Yes.  And Adam also had a nice tie.  All right.  Just when you thought you heard it all from Michele Bachmann, she outdoes herself again.  Her ridiculous take on gay marriage next.  And did you know that she hit on the bushes near gay parade once?  And another time, she claims to be held against her will by lesbians.  I‘m not kidding.  We have the stories. 


UYGUR:  So you think Michele Bachmann is crazy?  Wait until you get a lot of these stories.  You don‘t know nothing yet.  We‘ll tell you when we come back.   


UYGUR:  Welcome to our first installment of “Meet your potential 12012 GOP candidate.  First up as you can tell, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.  Now, to prepare you for her candidacy which reportedly is going to take off in June, we‘ve got a primer what to expect.  As a founder of the Tea Party caucus, she‘s got to come out against any and all tax increases, a point she made clear on the “Today” show this morning.  


UNIDENTIFIED MAN:  Is raising taxes on the table?

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  I don‘t think it should be on the table, because tax rates are high enough already. 


UYGUR:  I‘m not sure she can close her eyes, tax, this are too high.  All right.  We just showed you of course a little while ago that tax rates are near all-time lows, but that would be facts.  But Bachmann‘s true radicalism really can shine when it comes to social issues.  Her extreme views are unfold this way, this week on Iowa, at a speech he gave to the social conservative rope family leader.  By the way, that gets under my skin.  Family apparently now means anti-gay in Washington, why is that family values? 

All right.  But back to Bachmann.  She‘s so opposed to gay marriage, he wants to prevent the U.S. Court System from even considering legalizing it.  


BACHMANN:  Something else that we can do to reinforce pro-marriage, pro-life, pro-family agenda is to limit the subject matter jurisdiction of the courts.  At the federal level, with what are called article III courts, article III of the United States constitution, we can limit the subject matter that justices can rule on.  We have it within our authority to decide what judges can rule on and what they can‘t. 


UYGUR:  I love that Think Progress catches the stuff on video.  Of course, her statements are not entirely true.  They can only limit their—jurisdiction of the Supreme Court for example, but those distinctions are lost on Bachmann. 

All right.  Tradition of separate powers for three different branches of government, ah, who needs it?  She then went on to say, quote, “anytime the people speak, they say with one voice that marriage is one man, one woman.”  The only way they say that with one voice is if you discount most of the voices in the country.  A recent poll found that 53 percent of Americans think same sex marriage should be legal.  Only 44 percent think that it should remain illegal.  Another poll found that when you include same-sex marriage and civil unions, 70 percent are in favorite, and only 25 percent think that gay couples should have no opportunity for any legal issue.  But the group Michele Bachmann was speaking to an Iowa isn‘t just against the marriage, the leader of the group has said, homosexuality is the public health hazard, Think Progress asked Bachmann if she agree.  


UNIDENTIFIED MAN:  Congresswoman, some groups have argued that homosexuality is a public health crisis akin to secondhand smoking.  I was wondering if you agreed with that. 

BACHMANN:  Um, I don‘t have an answer to that.  I don‘t have an answer.  Why don‘t I have another question?  


UYGUR:  What is this, a game show?  I don‘t quite how they answer for that.  Can I use a lifeline?  Can I call a friend?  No, OK, I‘d like another question.  Wasn‘t that hard a question? 

All right.  Michele Bachmann is also part of the movement against funding Planned Parenthood of course, and she may sure to demonize them as that same event in Iowa. 


BACHMANN:  Do you know that Planned Parenthood is a billion dollar a year entity.  They call themselves nonprofit, but at the same time the executive director of Planned Parenthood in Illinois said, they want to become the lens crafter of big abortion in Illinois.  


UYGUR:  You‘re going to be really shocked to find out that actually no one from Planned Parenthood actually said that.  What the CEO Planned Parenthood did say three years ago was, quote, “I like to think of Planned Parenthood as the lens crafters of family planning, not big abortion.”  Family planning which of course encompasses a wide range of health services.  But for Republicans like Michele Bachmann, family planning is synonymous with abortion.  Of course, all of this is nothing new for the Tea Party darling.  Her political resonates peppered with bizarre and outrageous actions and statement going back to when she was a Minnesota state senator. 

In 2005, she was caught crouching behind a bush, spying on a gay rice rally that was protesting her proposed state—amendment out long same sex marriage.  Her excuse for hiding in the bushes?  I had high heels on and I just couldn‘t stand anymore.  Yes, that‘s pretty good.  Now, another 2005 run-in with the LGBT community was even more dramatic.  After a meeting with her constituents, where she was challenged on her anti-gay policies, she filed a report with the local sheriff against two women she, quote, “believed to be part of the LBGT community or group, accusing them of holding her in the lady‘s room against her will.” 

Bachmann said in her reports, she had never been that terrorized before.  Oh, lesbians.  The complaint was dismissed and shockingly her claims of being held hostage by lesbians, never made it to trial.  But Bachmann has cover for her weird behavior.  She claims it was God‘s will that she become a state senator and then a congresswoman.  God seems very concerned about her, and if he chose her as his representative in Washington, it was a curious choice indeed.  And once Bachmann got to the nation‘s capital, her wacky ways just picked up steam, here‘s just the sample.  


BACHMANN:  I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America?  

The very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more.  

Obama-care as we know is the crown jewel of socialism.  

I am just not comfortable with the way this census is being handled.  

There isn‘t even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas. 

Not all cultures are equal.  Not all values are equal. 


UYGUR:  That‘s great stuff.  With that, consider yourself prepared for

Bachmann 2012.  And that concludes our first edition of “Meet your

potential candidate.”         


UYGUR:  During the recent budget negotiations, something curious happened.  One part of the recently passed health care plan was killed.  It was called free choice vouchers, and it allowed employees to opt out of employer provided health care plans.  And enter a more competitive insurance market.  Now, that‘s curious, because it didn‘t cost any extra money.  In fact, it was likely to have saved us money, and thereby reducing the deficit.  So, why was it taken out?  Well, because the special interests were united against it.  Both the business roundtable and the AFL-CIO were against the provision for their own reasons. 

So, it got killed in the middle of the night for a no apparent policy reason in the middle of an unrelated budget negotiations.  Now, that‘s the power of lobbies in this country.  Well, I don‘t know if you notice.  But money affects a lot of things insurance out.  For example.  I really like the chargers.  I grow up when Dan—was lighting it up under Eric Corriole (ph).  But once a couple of years ago, I was positive that they were going to lose a playoff game, so I bet against them.  I figured it was a win, win.  If the chargers win, I‘m happy as a fan.  And if they lose, I make some money.  Well, that‘s not how it turned out.  The minute that the game started, I immediately started rooting against them.  You know why?

Because there was money on the line.  We‘re human beings, we get influenced by money, often tremendously so.  So, if lobbyists pay or politicians, who do you think the politicians are going to work for? You guessed it, the lobbyist.  You see this in the story that we just told you about free choice vouchers, but you see it every day in a million stories in Washington.  That‘s the root of the problem.  We desperately need clean elections.  If we don‘t have them, our politicians will have a rooting interest against us and in favor of the special interests.  I learned my lesson and never bet against the chargers again. 

Now, in that case it didn‘t really help them.  The only thing that would have helped them is firing Norv Turner, but that‘s the conversation for another day.  By the way, in case, you were curious, on upside, I did win the bet.  Thanks for watching everybody, “HARDBALL” starts right now.

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